Thursday, 9 October 2014

Super Final - aka "French National Selection Championships" or Semih-Final

VIVE LA FRANCE!  What an amazingly brilliant and dominant performance by France.  Never has any nation been so completely dominant in Paragliding competition since... uh...  since uhmmm... well since the Swiss fairly recently I suppose.  Well whatever: VIVE LA FRANCE!!  

There I was being all pompous in my suggestion that the French had let things slip a little.  Nary had the ink dried on that scribble and they stormed the top ten with a vengeance as though the suggestion of their fallibility was intolerable!  I withdraw my slur unreservedly!  In my defence, I did tag Julien Wirtz as one of the favourites, but I guess so did everyone else right?

A french 1,2,3 in Maxime, Honorin & Julien as well as the ladies' podium with Laurie.  Truly magnificent!  Yassen almost upset le Tricolore triumph when he handed out flying lessons during the second last task jumping to within 27 points of the lead.  It was not to be as a desperate last task favoured the dogged determination of the ultimate victors.  It was fitting that this years' champion was the only pilot to make the end of speed section on the last day sealing an undeniable and emphatic victory leaving no-one in doubt about who deserved to win the most prestigious event of the year.

Two of my other picks made top ten (Francisco 4th & Andreas 9th) with Juri near the top too.

Now for those who suggest that the result was inevitable given that almost a third of the field were flying for France I say: Pish Tosh!  They have become far and away the top paragliding nation systematically crafting a method of identifying and developing talent relentlessly, and shaping them to be champions.  Other nations have done this in the past, but never on the same scale as far as I am aware.  Except for individual brilliance displayed by members of other nations, we can expect to see more and more French pilots dominating.

They may not play Rugby terribly well, but the French definitely know how to pull the strings!

Comp Controversy & Crucifixion
A number of people became increasingly critical of the organisation particularly during the first week when we did not fly at all.  The Oludeniz glider mishap resulted in a disproportionate degree of vitriol and invective.  

I was at the receiving end of rhetoric on several occasions: Hey Andre! why have you not crucified the organisation on you blog yet? They are useless!  So I sat and thought what was bad about the organisation.  


I asked what this particular person thought was bad and the conversation went something like this:
Angry Pilot: They keep screwing up!
AndreR: What do they keep screwing up?
AP: Well, like everything man!
AR: Really! Like what?
AP: The Oludeniz thing... and we're not flying you know
AR: and what else?
AP: well they  don't communicate properly
AR: Isn't that the PWCA's job?
AP: Well I guess it is...
AR: and we vote for the PWCA committee right?
AP: Ja
AR: so it's our fault then right?
AP: what are you like a lawyer man!!??

This brought to me to the following conclusion:

Semih Sayir might not have gone to De Bretts finishing school, but that he is a competent organiser is unquestionable and completely beyond doubt

If he was so bad then what are we doing asking him to run no-less than TWO super-final competitions in four years?  Why on earth do we vote him onto the PWCA committee and someone please put me out of my misery and tell me why we have trusted him as observer and organiser of pre-world cup and world cup events a dozen or more times in the last decade?

I'll tell you why! If you want to fly in Turkey, which can be full-on-hardcore-racing-in-ferocious-conditions, then you better have Semih there.  He appears to be on first name terms with half the population of Turkey and he will be the one to scrape you up when you smear your sorry arse across a rock face.  Also, who do you think will calm down the locals when you get into trouble because you can't hold your liquor?  or Who will get you to the airport at 2am because you saved fifty bucks on a cheap seat?  

Now that is not to say we should not find the Semih-Final pun hilarious or tease the hell out of Semih for the EPIC Oludeniz fail.  BUT!! lay off the man about his comp organisation skills.  His type are a rare species and I for one cannot fathom why he would repeatedly put up with so many whining paragliding prima donnas such as I! 

The world cup belongs to the pilots by definition.  If we, who are privileged enough to participate, are supposed to be the very best in the world and if we represent the leadership in our sport, perhaps we should behave with the demeanour befitting such high accolades... N'est ce pas?






Monday, 29 September 2014

Super Final - Fresh Hell Hath No Fury!

I am feeling enormous pressure to perform the impossible in explaining the absurd, but I will try...  In an unfortunate stacking of misfortune and through no fault of any one individual, we found ourselves collectively gutted on the promenade of the Turkish recreational paragliding Mecca of Oludeniz.

The entire field happy and excitable as children in the bright sunlight and feather-like sea breeze caressing our faces as it slipped off of the turquoise water.  The search for a task had us up bright and early on the buses to Camil three hours south
That perversely optimistic plan was very quickly squashed in favour of a guaranteed free day of flying at Oludeniz (see previous post here).

Another hour or two on the buses saw us on the Oludeniz promenade slavering in anticipation at the thought of the three thousand meter cloud base, the cool water of the lagoon and the prospect of cold beer in the Buzz Bar.  The unthinkable news filtered through:  The gliders are not coming! Howls of anguish from disbelieving pilots drowned the Buzz from the Bar.  For some reason the truck carrying the bulk of gliders was not allowed to leave the Camil area, so it went back to Pamukkale.

Now let me try explain how it feels to be in a place like Oludeniz without a glider after a week of no-flying:  Ever read the book or see the movie Charlie and the Chocolate factory?
Imagine you were one of the kids with a golden ticket to see the factory with Willy Wonka and you are just about to take a dip in the chocolate river when the Oompa Loompas quickly drain the chocolate lake and hide all the sweets while you stare around in wonderment and Willy Wonka howls with laughter at the prank.


Don't get it?  Try this one: Imagine you somehow fake your way into heaven and stake your claim to a bevvy of vestal virgins only to discover the virgins are unionized and on strike for eternity so you get to watch re-runs of Little House on the Prairie.


Still don't get it?  Well nor do any of us!  I consider myself one of the lucky ones as I have flown there before, but I can tell you that the only thing worse than not flying for a week is watching a hundred other pilots descend from the heavens and flop onto the beach in continuous waves.  

and finally... we will go the Camil again tomorrow because hope trumps all! 


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Super Final Fizzle - Welcome to Paragliding Hell

The rain drained away any residual optimism that might have remained as it persisted relentlessly through the night.  The morning dawned heavy and dark with no-hope or pretense of flying activity as the day was cancelled by breakfast and alternate activities were planned.

Dantes Inferno Canto # 8 "Anger"

Yesterday ended after a frantically cancelled task moments before the first overly enthusiastic pilots could launch from the lower take-off as the ominous squall darkened the horizon and advanced on our puny position attacking the white cliffs with all of the fury and vigour that consumed the Byzantine community during the Seljuq invasion that spelled the end of the that era.
Mongol Hordes (sorry, no Seljuk Hordes to simulate approaching gust front, so you got Mongols, ok?)

The out-look for the coming week is twenty eight grams short of an ounce.  The current hope is that (ALL) the forecasting models are over-reading and inaccurate and that the organisors really will find flying sites that can handle fresh NE winds.  

The facts, though fascinating, can never deter our blind optimism!  

Veni, vidi, vici!!

(or maybe that should be: Veni, vidi, demerso)

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Super Final 2014 - Turkey - Cancelled days

Three no-fly days in a row...  It is not a good thing when a hundred and something pilots start to get bored.  The forecast for Sunday is not looking good either.  Monday might be on, but we can't be sure.  If Sunday is cancelled early enough, there is talk of going down to Oludeniz which is a couple of hours south on the coast.  For those of you who have not heard of it, Oludeniz it is a popular paragliding destination featuring Mount Babadag soaring 2,000m out of the sea.  The literal translation is Dead Sea but it is officially referred to as Blue Lagoon.  I went there with a group in 1999 and did my 25th flight from there which I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday.  There is something quite special about being more than a mile above the beautiful turquoise waters of Oludeniz in perfectly laminar air.  Flying into Butterfly Valley a few kilometres from the Babadag launch is a rare experience.  In my case it was particularly thrilling given my low airtime.  You fly in and take a boat out. 


Oludeniz



Butterfly Valley

I was flying a pro-design Relax (DHV 1/2) at the time.  The group I was with entertained themselves at the end of every day after landing on the beach by giving me a radio and taking turns to talk me through manoeuvres.  I blindly followed their instructions as they tried all kinds a radical things out on me.  I remember getting tunnel vision regularly in spiral dives and I was pretty familiar with the top surface of my wing by the end of the holiday.  I somehow survived, but I was convinced paragliding was too extreme for me until someone took pity and explained to me what was going on.  

As to be expected with so much down time, speculation about gliders is reaching fever pitch.  No-one really seems to know exactly what Niviuk is doing about the CCC class but everyone some-how knows that there will be an Ice Peak 8.  The Boomerang 10 is expected soon with varying reports of how awesome it will be:  some say it is fast and stable, others say it climbs well with awesome handling.  The thing is that it takes almost an entire season before you get an accurate picture of glider performance with new releases.  So unless there is a massive advance (as was the case with the R10.2 & R11) it is hard to tell which wing is best. 

The Enzo 2 Large has gone into production with a couple of pilots reportedly flying them here.  Whatever the case, we will know soon enough.  I just hope that the controversy of this serial class era abates because it really has become tedious.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Zoopa Final - Turkey - Practice Day

There are several dozen French pilots here making this competition feel like the French nationals recently won by Charles Casaux.  Only one Swiss pilot has pitched up and Torsten is apparently getting the Boomerang 10 certified so he cancelled.  There is a lot of excitement in the Gin camp about the new wing and we hope to get access in the next month assuming they are able to certify it through DHV.  It is also interesting to see how many Niviuk pilots are flying Ozone.

The practice day looked a little dodgy with NW wind over the back a little.  Many of us ran off the spine on the west side of launch and managed to punch our way back to Pamukkale into the fresh breeze.



Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Paragliding World Cup - Zoopa Final! - Pamukkale, Denizli, Turkey

... and so the circus is coming to town for this years' culmination of cross country racing.  We return to Pamukkale in Turkey after a four year layoff .  The only difference is that we were racing open class in 2010.  Pamukkale, which means cotton castle in Turkish, is best known as a tourist destination.  It gets its' name from the Travertine terraces which are formed by the white carbonate mineral deposits resulting from the hot springs that emanate from the bowels of the earth beneath the Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hieropolis.  People have been bathing in the hot water pools for thousands of years including Cleopatra some would have you believe:


2014 Roundup
Looking back on the year we can reflect on pilots and gliders.  The first two events excluded the Enzo2 which was still "banned" in the aftermath of the 2013 Super Final Enzogate Scandal.  The results are dominated by Gin and Niviuk with a sprinkling of Enzo 1s in these obviously.  The rest of the season was dominated by Enzo 2 with Gin and Niviuk always represented by at least one or more top ten finishes.  Felix had steamer of a season winning two events outright and screaming up the CIVL rankings to fourth place behind Uli Prinz and Julian Wirtz.  Surprising to some, Torsten Siegel won the Euros on a Boom 9 after two top ten world cup finishes this year.  It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Torsten is currently ranked #1 in the world.  In a ranking dominated by Ozone this seems odd and has probably led to some conspiracy theory given Torsten's status as designer and test pilot for Gin Gliders.  It is likely that the relatively small number of Gin pilots are carrying their weight albeit hard to spot in the Ozone crowd.  

It is interesting to see how the French seem to have let things slip a little (if rankings are anything to go by).  It was not that long ago when they had seven in the top ten and a dozen in the top twenty or so.  

I guess the great glider debate is moot given the imminent arrival of CCC class and the expected arrival of the Boom 10 soon.  Who knows what Niviuk are bringing out and I find it hard to believe Ozone will bring out yet another new glider in time for Colombia.  

My estimate of the hot pilots at the moment are (in no particular order):  Torsten, Felix, Uli, Jurij, Andreas, Francisco, Carlos and any of the Swiss and French top three.  Come to think of it, there are so many good pilots I would not want to bet.  One thing is for sure, it will be really close as we have come to expect of late.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

World Cup Portugal - Last task (4)

The Azinha launch was chosen for the westerly forecast and relatively low base day.  It is possible to launch earlier from this there so we were able to put in a quick task in the flat-lands to the east in order to escape the westerly winds which were expected to strengthen during the day.  Chateau Marx arrived early at launch and led by Pepe we adopted the German tourist technique of turf domination by laying out as much of our stuff over a large area over a prime launch area as possible.  This ingenious plan was thwarted by a shift in wind direction, but at least we all managed to launch ahead of the wind.

The result was a fast and furious fifty five kilometer race in the robust conditions.  Cloud-base was at about 2,200m ASL with a mild inversion at 1,500m which split the field early into the race as some punched through the inversion and others scurried along beneath searching for lift on a blue thermal day.  The results tell the story with 108 pilots in goal and the first eighty within ten minutes of the task winner.  

Today is raining and blown out so the comp is over.  The house did well with three in the top ten: Pepe in third, Claudio in sixth, and Andre in eighth.  Guy, Emile and Nuno managed top twenty places and Chris not far off.

Prize giving is tonight.  I will write a more detailed wrap-up soon.

Many thanks to Arnold and Marie who were perfect hosts.  Visit their web-site (www.paraglideportugal.com) if ever you plan to come to this part of the world.


Thursday, 26 June 2014

World Cup Portugal - Task Three

The Linhares launch was selected for the third task.  The forecast was good with light westerly winds and a moderate cloud base around 2,000m rising to about 2,500m later.  A slightly more challenging task was set which proved to be too much for more than half the field landing along the way.  

The start was a mincing struggle with random cycles of ten minute duration determining the fate of many.  We were no more than twenty minutes into the task when two thirds of the field got shed like a summer coat with the resulting lead group flying all the way to goal together give or take a couple of moves at the end.  The inhabitants of Chateau Marx had decided the night before to hold a house briefing which proved to be a good thing.  The entire team made goal in the top twenty five positions.  Pepe is lying second by the narrowest of margins followed by Andre and Claudio in fifth and sixth position respectively.  Guy and Emile are in the top twenty with Nuno close and Chris in range.  The camaraderie is second to none in the house and we have every expectation of at least one podium finish if not more.  Marie Marx provided another meal from heaven which had Pepe remarking: 'I never hav to use ze salt or ze pepper ven she cooks ze meal'.  A greater compliment cannot be bought!

All in all a magnificent day of flying in mild conditions.

How we like it!


UFC - Unidentified flying Chicken

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

World Cup Portugal - Task 2

A good call by the organisers made for a lovely day of flying 75km to the south east under a gorgeous sky.  The cool moist air was trapped on the Celorico side of the mountains so we raced up to Azinha again where healthy clouds and a reasonable cloud base provided the entertainment.  The start caused a few problems for some as we had to cross over a blue hole and wait on the north side of a ridge.  Not everyone managed to get to cloud base but two main groups separated by about 2km converged to the course line favouring the cloud streets.  It was clear altitude was important today so the highest pilots dominated the race.  

The lead group suffered some serious sink 20km out from goal allowing the lag-gaggles to make up some time bunching the field up yet again.  A westerly cross-down-wind strengthened as we reached goal. Ten minutes separated the first forty eight pilots after two hours of flying.  This no longer amazes me as it has become the default result.  It seems to happen irrespective of the venue, type, duration or distance of the task.  Whatever-the-case another 80 pilots in goal with one crash at goal which resulted in a compound fracture of the lower leg.  Yoshiki took it from Felix, Carlos and Andreas.  Results here: http://pwca.org/results/results/

The ride home was really interesting seeing as I was privileged enough to have Nuno Virgilio as my personal tour guide.  Nuno is a Portuguese national pilot and world cup regular.  He also holds the site record of 314km from Celorico flying east past Salamanca in Spain a few weeks ago.

I learned a lot about this area during the ride home on the bus today.  Nuno pointed out an ancient Roman town called 'Idanha-a-Velha', birthplace of the the visi-goth King Wamaba along with the fourth century Saint Pope Damascus.  It is one of the oldest towns in Portugal dating back to 16 AD.  It has a cathedral built on ruins dating back to the time of the Suebi during the fourth century!  
Idanha-a-Velha
The area is also home to the Iberian Lynx which happens to be the worlds most endangered feline species expected to the first cat species to become extinct in 2,000 years.
"Morena", the oldest female (13 years old) of the captive breeding program of the Iberian ... rel=
Iberian Lynx
Nuno pointed out a volcanic shaped mountain in the distance with a medieval castle perched on the crest.  It is called Castelo de Monsanto and dates back to Roman times.
Castelo de Monsanto
We saw numerous Cork trees (Quercus suber) along the way and it turns out Portugal produces half of all cork in the world.  Cork is a renewable resource harvested from the bark of the tree every 7-9 years.
Cork Tree
The area is also known for a peasant dish called Chanfana which is a lamb or goat stew where the meat is soaked in red wine and paprika for two days in order to soften it up.
Chanfana
We passed through another village known for a breed of mountain dog called Estrela. 
As if this wasn't enough information we then went through a town which is known for its radioactive granite.  It turns out that Radon, which is a radioactive gas, is found in the granite of the region.  There is a higher incidence of lung cancer in Guarda as a result of people breathing the Radon in their houses.  A bit creepy!




Tuesday, 24 June 2014

World Cup Portugal - Celorico da Beira - Waiting to fly

The playful mistress that is summer teases by hiding in the fringes of a front pelting the hopeful with frigid blasts of unexpected cold air while dangling the promise of her balmy embrace in the dying embers of the day.
The hours cruise by as anticipation builds in the collective demanding release from the earthbound chains of meteorological grounding.  Two days rest are enough.  It is time to fly...

A late afternoon flight brought sparse relief to some after another day off with heavy rain in the morning.  All are bullish about the rest of the week so we were festive as our hosts produced another feast by way of a classic braai South African style.

Guy and Emile, England's finest, had us in tears telling unspeakable tales of hobbits, mischief and misdemeanor while Arnold demonstrated his two finger pull-up prowess.  This trip is stacking up to be one of the best ever so let's hope the flying keeps pace!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Paragliding World Cup - Celorico da Beira - Day 1 - Task1 and a day off

I am staying with Arnold and Marie Marx along with German, British, Portuguese and South African pilots.  Their warm hospitality is unsurpassed.  I feel very much at home.  If ever you plan on flying in this area you should stay here without a doubt!  Marie cooks up a gourmet storm and Arnold knows the area better than anybody.  We managed to squeeze a late flight in on Friday thanks to Arnold spotting a shift in the wind direction before whisking us up to the Linhares takeoff area for a quick 40km evening romp down/cross wind.  Saturday was windy with rain and the forecast suggested that there would be no flying until Wednesday.

The previous day's rain and forecast resulted in a fair amount of pessimism before the mandatory morning briefing.   We were bussed off to the Azinha launch where the task committee hurriedly set a task for an early start in order to get us away from the mountain to avoid the thunderstorm threat.  The race started at 13H15 and comprised of an East-North dog-leg of 66km.  The field was surprisingly disciplined at the start mostly avoiding the white room as the clouds began to build.  We all went on course in a tight-knit bunch which fractured into multiple factions within ten minutes with four main groups and dozens of loners and stragglers spread in three dimensions.  The disarray was probably the result of the fretful early thermals that had not consolidated yet.  The lead group flew a bow to the east of the course-line presumably following the clouds.  

I got isolated somewhere between groups so I flew largely alone on the task line until I managed to sort my shit out.  True to form the famous flying Belgian camera man, Phillipe Broers, was flying circles around a scrappy gaggle in some broken lift trying to get some footage when we hit the two BIG climbs which put me into contention for a flat out sprint over the last 30km to goal.  FelixR took it from me by a minute followed by JacquesF and the rest of the usual suspects.  Noriko beat Laurie and Emi into goal in the women's category.  

Chateau Marx was very well represented on the leader-board yesterday with all of the inmates posting good performances.  This made for a festive evening feast of sea-food pasta and good company.  Peter Prukl and his father Dieter Memmert were visiting having flown in on their gliders from Spain.

Dieter Memmert Aviator Extraordinaire!
Peter flies a classic Motor-Valk motor glider and his dad a sleek racing Ventus 2CM with launch motor.  Dieter has ten thousand hours flying gliders since 1953.  He has more than a dozen world records to his name including a mammoth 13 hour 2,193km distance record which he flew in 2005 in Argentina @ altitudes up to 9,000m.  He recently set a new 500km out and return speed record of 224km/h at the age of 80!! We accompanied the father-son combination to the airfield to see them off on the rest of their journey together.
Launch time (photo Pepe Malecki)
The enormous yellow aircraft in the background is a fire-fighting amphibious air-plane called a Canadair CL-215 which first flew in 1967.  There are two stationed at the airfield here.  Powered by two massive radial piston engines which generate more than 2,000 HP each, this behemoth can scoop 6 tons of water into its tanks within seconds flying at eighty knots skimming the surface of the water. The pilot on call was kind enough to show us around.  






Thursday, 19 June 2014

Paragliding World Cup - Celorico da Beira

... It feels like an age since my last competition.  I am off to the World Cup on an eerily quiet A380-800 Lufthansa giant. Celorico de Beira is my destination via Frankfurt and Porto.  I am particularly fond of Portugal.  There are many reasons least of which is the fact that they have the most efficient and friendly visa service I have ever experienced in all my years of donating my hard earned cash to the impoverished schengen states in return for a piece of paper with a pretty hologram and my photo on it.  Two hours flat for a twelve month schengen visa has to be some kind of record worldwide!

A couple of things caught my attention going through the stringent airport security and customs at Frankfurt.  Every single black, Asian or Arab looking person in my queue was stopped for close scrutiny during the half hour or more that it took to get through the security screening area.  Now this could be written off to a random statistically significant but irrelevant anomaly in the way per capita consumption of chicken in the US correlates with total US imports of crude oil over the last fifteen years:

Alternatively you could argue that as a South African I have an over-developed or hyper-sensitive sense of political correctness after a life-time of navigating my way through the quagmire of inequality that constitutes pre- and post-apartheid South Africa.  I would not generally have noticed anything untoward seeing as I was shuffling along in Pink-Floydian drone-mode and I happen to hold most of the EU member nations in high regard when it comes to matters of diversity.  What caught my eye was a beautiful little Kenyan girl with braided hair, brightly colored dress, and a brilliant smile.  She was breaking out into fits of spontaneous giggling and could not keep her arms in the crucifix position while the surly matron trying to search her became increasingly agitated not realizing she was tickling the poor child.

The little girl and her entire fabulously well dressed family were searched from head to toe which caused a commotion while providing entertainment to the faceless masses.  Pity also the two fashionable young Arab looking teenagers who were fast tracked as first class VIPs only to suffer the humiliation of a prolonged and detailed scrutiny of every single item in their hand luggage.  I was convinced a cavity search was on the cards as I sailed through the gruff Guten Tag greetings which left me wondering if my eyes and crooked nose were previously under-appreciated assets of my dubious Aryan ancestry best suited to infiltrating airport defenses (hey, I could even become a spy and deliver a package or do some radical spy stuff!).

I shrugged off the uneasy feeling that there might be some ethnic discrimination afoot only to arrive at the constipated passport control queue which was backed up on account of the fact that: (you guessed it folks) the only African, Asian and Arab people in sight were all stopped and interrogated at length.   Yours truly, on the other hand, was greeted warmly in German and more-or-less waved through as I exhausted my German vocab nodding haughtily at my host and muttering Ja,Ja, Danke intermittently in my 'airport' voice.

Now I can't help wondering if the recent murders in Kenya and/or the Iraq re-crisis are somehow determinants for airport security behavior for inbound flights from Africa and the Middle East? If that's true imagine what it's like to be of Asian origin (because to airport officials 'they' all look like Talibanese suicide bombers right?)

I admit I love to feed the conspiracy rat in my chest from time to time.  Ignoring that for a moment all I really know is I would have experienced: deep resentment if I was subjected to the treatment I observed; and savage outrage if my daughter was treated that way.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - Were they thinking?

I would not be straight with you if I denied waiting in vain, hoping that the super-final glider crisis would reach some alternate face-saving conclusion.  Alas this has not happened.  I now face the prospect of my own conscience calling me a pussy for not being true to my own mantra of giving praise where praise is due.  The damage is irrevocably done and there will be no magical moments of enlightenment whereby all is explained and forgiven...

So here goes:

If I had won the super final on an Enzo2 only to be disqualified later, I would have the following dark thoughts:
"Sorry for the hassle" Really? I mean REALLY?!!  
Inching their way slowly and deliberately up the critically steep slope of design and innovation ahead of the competition they appear to have celebrated their dominance in crass and arrogant debauchery sliding around in the muck on the coveted pedestal they so famously claimed and notoriously defamed.  Diving, head first back down the now slippery slope of their own making in the lunacy of luge.  The winter Olympics have been a great metaphor for their recklessly rapid descent.  The consequences of their skeletal behaviour is witnessed in the bone-yard of shattered dreams with dozens of super final pilots robbed of hard earned positions.
 "We went too far..." Really? Are you f@cking serious? REALLY??!!
After insisting the glider 'conforms' (and forcing their own team to sign an absurd statement in support) the amateurish spin that ensued was embarrassing in a way that only John Cleese can normally achieve in Fawlty Towers. On what planet does a glider conform to a certification where practically everything that can be measured is found to be completely different?

Calm down already!  I am not one of those Enzo2 pilots so I can offer my opinion in a more measured way. Let us unpack it a little shall we?

When XCMag first responded to accusations of cheating they came out strongly in support of Ozone using fairly peculiar language.  Frankly it smacked of support-the-advertiser and pointed to a lack of editorial independence.  I would not have thought too much of it had half a dozen mates not commented.

XCmag wrote this on their FB page:
Certainly, when we rang the Ozone head office yesterday, the answer was clear: "No way is this an issue of cheating or supplying out-of-certification gliders on purpose, absolutely not."
The message was Ozone were working on getting to the bottom of the issue, and working on it fast.
That, at least, is a relief because the idea that a manufacturer would bend the rules to their own commercial ends in such a thin-lipped way would be anathema to all pilots in the sport – and would almost certainly damage the manufacturer's reputation beyond repair.
However, it does raise the possibility of an unprecedented manufacturing cock-up.
Alternatively, as one pilot suggested on the red-hot Paragliding Forum thread, it could simply be a case of a misplaced typo.
Could someone have mistaken an '8' for a '6' when transcribing hand-written notes onto a typed form early on in the process of certification? Turning the true measurement of 6812mm into 6612mm.
That indeed would be a simple answer, and could yet still prove true.
Weirdly enough the word libellous was used more than once in the bizarre article which somehow co-incided with alleged threats of legal action directed at the PWCA via Goran.  Sure enough, as 'predicted' by XCMag, Ozone declared the trailing edge discrepancy the result of a manufacturing 'mistake'.  Yeah right!

In-between a poorly timed, out-moded and inappropriate rant about paragliding not being a racing sport, XCMag then announced with misleading optimism that the Enzo2 passed a 'flight test' quoting Ozone in a long winded self-serving treatise of innocence (http://www.xcmag.com/2014/01/paragliding-world-cup-superfinal-2013-ozone-say-sorry-for-the-enzo-2-controversy/).  

XCMag continued to bat for Ozone with the benefit of the doubt:
Speaking from his home in England Ozone’s boss Mike Cavanagh said the longer trailing edge on the Enzo 2 was the result of a mistake.
He explained that the original glider that was tested and certified had several “pinches” in the trailing edge.
Pinches are sewn in to a glider during development to allow test pilots to fly the wing with slightly different configurations. Like putting knots in lines to alter the trim of a glider they help test pilots hone the wing.
However, in the case of the Enzo 2 the final pinches were not carried through into the production model. Around 100 Enzo 2s have been made.
The glider tested on Saturday morning in Switzerland was the original test glider with the pinches taken out to lengthen the trailing edge.
Mike said: “All Enzo 2 wings will have a longer trailing edge because we did not put the pinches into the production model]. It’s a mistake.”
He added: “It’s not something we would measure as it is not an EN requirement, and it wouldn't have been a PWC requirement either – it still isn’t.”
Team Ozone remained defiant about the trailing edge the whole way through their story:
When going to production we failed to replicate these pinches and produced the wing in its original length without any of the pinches. We now see this was a mistake, and we apologise for that, but we did not see (and the EN does not state) the trailing edge as a measure of conformity.
and again later...
Although we were unhappy how this new check rule came about we are also thankful that the PWC Organisation, under great pressure from others, gave the time to allow us to prove the longer trailing edge tolerance still conformed. That being said we are truly sorry that our mistake in not ensuring a matching trailing edge has led to such controversy for all concerned.
The pesky part lies in the fact that we now know that there are very few similarities between the super final version and the 're-un-pinched' homologated sample.  

The result of the post-super-final glider measurements were unequivocal (that's what they said...read it yourself!):
We consider.. .. all Enzo 2 M gliders ... are clearly and unequivocally not conform to the specimen homologated and archived by Air Turquoise.
The differences are such that they did not even bother measuring line lengths.  Zoller and friends concluded "..with such a differences in canopy construction, line length measurements and comparing in between SF13 wing and the archived wing is irrelevant."

The spin and self-righteous protests and explanations have pretty much dried up since then (go figure).

I also understand the real Enzo2 might be certified soon.  Ozone defenders may be feeling relief and Ozone themselves may be tempted to celebrate some kind of victory and claim vindication.  Sorry for you, but it simply doesn't work like that and you would be a fool to follow any argument along those lines a second time.  Just leave that one alone and save yourself further humiliation.

Then there is the paradoxical claim that became an argument: "Everyone is doing it so why pick on Ozone?"  There are several problems with that one it turns out.  The other manufacturers never got caught doing anything remotely as obvious and blatant (and Niviuk can be forgiven for struggling to make two gliders the same).  This prompted an even more dubious argument that the other manufacturers are also cheating but you just can't measure the things they are cheating around. Huh?  

Most puzzling of all is the relative lack of lash-back and vitriol although I have not been following the forums.  There has been very little direct criticism save for the splendiferous satire of Nick Greece.  I suspect the French and German speaking community may have been more critical but who knows?

You should know that I share my bed with a goddess.  Fernanda is the mother of my children and a fabulous cook.  She also happens to practise law in the high-court most days of the week.  So besides the fact that I have never actually won an argument in our house, I have had some interesting pillow talk about the Enzo-Enzo debacle. I asked her what she thought.  Her first response was that she 'does not practise criminal law'.  After I insisted she apply her mind she observed the following:
  • If you get caught speeding in your motor vehicle there is no point in telling the judge other people do it too
  • misrepresentation for financial gain is normally considered to be fraud
  • there are no laws against: interpretation of rules; arrogance; nor stupidity
  • technical loopholes are only relevant in criminal cases
When I asked her what she would advise Ozone if they were her client she remarked that they do not appear to need legal representation, but that they should fire their spin doctor or PR person and read a good book about ethics in cinderella sports while heeding the wisdom of Mark Twain:
"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything".

If you managed to read this far, you must surely be laughing, crying or seething in anger at my bla bla bla.  A message to all the seethers: I asked around and people I respect say Mike is a stand-up guy and would never take a stupid chance with his business.  In addition he more-or-less owned the problem from the start and, ignoring the spin and some lame sewing yarn, he kinda said sorry quite genuinely.  So what are we to think of that?  My best guess is that he may not have been completely up to speed about the plans surrounding the Enzo 2 and/or he said "push it a little boys" not realising that just how far les enfant terribles would push given the pressure to repeat the R10, R11 and Enzo magic rabbit-in-the-hat trick.  

In my opinion the Ozone team should all go for a beer and have Russel Ogden remind them of the one great truism in world cup paragliding that trumps all: "Don't believe your own bull-shit".
Then they should get back to creating awesome wings for the new new new Comp Class. 

Memories are short, tempers cool and I wager that Ozone sales will not notice this whole furore.

Time will tell...

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Super Final Relief


Headline: 
Manufacturer feeling the Pinch!  World Cup Pilots to help.

2013 Super Final - Govenador Valadares - Task on the Last day

The last day was arguably the best of all so it was almost a pity that we only flew a short fast and furious race which is typical of these big comps.  Not that there were any complaints given the feast of flying we have enjoyed these last two weeks.

In the end a fresh young pilot Francisco Javie Reina Lagos from Spain took it from Joachim Oberhauser and Stefan Drouin.  Keiko beat Seiko and Nicole in the female section with Ozone taking the team event ahead of Gin and Kortel.

France was the top nation ahead of Italy and Switzerland.  

Interestingly enough, there were seven Enzo 2 and three Boomerang 9 gliders in the top ten with the first IP7 Pro in 15th position and only two of those in the top 20.

Everybody wants to know about gliders.  My own opinion is that Ozone is closer to Gin and Niviuk has fallen behind.  One of the forums offered a simple way to calculate relative performance so I made a calculation based on relative % performance of the average per glider type and this is what came up:


This is without doubt overly simplistic.  Perhaps the most we can take away from it is that there is probably little difference between the Enzo 2 and the Boomerang 9.  

Now I wonder what the designers have in store for us in 2015????

I am waiting for all the dust to settle and the spin to rest before I offer my final opinion on the glider thing (for what it's worth).  

One thing is for sure, there is much hornswoggling and petitfogging afoot.  

My grand-daddy always said: A closed mouth gathers no foot!

Only time will tell who put the biggest foot in their proverbial mouth.