Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Super Final Relief

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.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

2013 Super Final - Govenador Valadares - Task 9

In another bout of glider controversy, Lucas and Joel from team ABAC/Niviuk publicly withdrew from the competition in protest about the Enzo2 saga.  Lucas read a short and dignified statement at the task briefing.  Joel and Lucas are highly respected on tour and extremely likable.  They are not prone to hysteria so it has to be the most understated yet potent condemnation.  Lucas still flew with us to goal yesterday but did not submit a score.  Respect!!

Appeal to you all: Don't listen to all the garbage about how competition flying is dead or dying and pointless.  Those commentators clearly have no idea what we do and why we do it at this level.  They most certainly have not been drinking at the trough of abundance as we have in this task-laden competition.  

Yesterday was a flying festival if ever I have seen one.  We were sent downwind on a low-risk safety task of almost one hundred kilometers over some of the loveliest terrain below a gorgeous sky.  The gaggles were co-operative, generous and enthusiastic often yelling with glee just about every time we climbed to base in the potent and smooth thermals conveniently marked by every cloud.  

The lead gaggle was populated by many of the usual suspects and the first fifty rushed into goal separated by five minutes.  Two hours fourteen is quick for the distance and should give you some indication of conditions.  We flew this task a full hour faster than the previous day.  In the end Stefan Drouin inched Luca Donini out by a few seconds.

Team South Africa arrived early with Anton and Andre in the top ten.  Anton is clinging onto a top twenty position.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

2013 Super Final - Govenador Valadares - Task 7 & 8

My apologies for missing a day.  I was feeling in a celebratory mood after landing last at goal half an hour after the second last pilot so I was not in any kind of condition to write coherently. 

Yesterday's procession was won by Yassen followed by the armada.  I think my tardy goal arrival squashed the points because even the pilot in 90th position got 800 points.  Imagine getting stuck for an hour and watching 100 pretty gliders fly over your head when moments before you were with the lead.  It kinda sucks a little.

The good news is that the caipirinha seems to have given me some of my mojo back.  Today was a much longer challenge and I am relieved to know that I can still fly with the lead occasionally.   

The lead-out points tell the story but the day was eventually won by Jean Marc Caron followed closely by YannM and JulienW making it a clean sweep for France.  There were only forty four in goal and another eight agonizingly close and the rest dotted evenly around the course.  The day was mixed with shadow at times so if your timing was out or you got unlucky you landed.  Simple as that!

There has been a shake up in the top rankings with a number of podium hopefuls bombing out.  Stefan Wyss, LucA, RusselO LucaD, CharlesC and AndreasM all bombed today and dropped sharply down the ranking.  Joachim Oberhauser is leading the comp followed by YannM.

Seiko is ahead of Klaudia in the women and Gin is leading the team event.

It is fairly difficult to tell exactly who is positioned best at the top given the discards, but I think the ranking should stabilize after tomorrow making the last day fairly exciting.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Super Final - Chirp

Anyone follow XC mag?

So now we are told maybe there was finger trouble on Enzo 2 measurements... 

Maybe they hired these two guys in their quality control department:

Laugh a little 2

Luc at the super final.. "Mais Qui!! of course it ees ze same wing!"

Laugh a little 1 of 2

Zoller certifies Enzo 2

2013 Super Final - Govenador Valadares - Day 6 - Task 6

Another diabolical day!  You may have seen the leader-board by now, so let me tell you how it is:
Winning a world cup task is like the holy grail for most of us.  You hunt it and don't care how you get it.  Like a crack junkie, you just want the win and you'll take it good, bad or ugly.  

Then once you win your first one and the euphoria has worn off you think about how you did it.  How stylish was it?  Did you get lucky? Did you deserve it?  How many made goal that day and how exclusive was your win?  

Then you get to thinking about the ultimate hero-fantasy-task win where you are the only pilot in goal.  Well, let me tell you folks, Russel Ogden did that yesterday (albeit on an open class wing ;-).  He covered himself in all the glory with a magnificent solo performance that elevates him from sky god to THE big bad ass sky God (with a capital G).  The man rules!

As for the rest, the glider thang is getting a little stale now with no solution in sight.  It seems my little poll has the majority of respondents so far thinking Ozone cheated with the Enzo 2. 

Some mangy blogger poll hardly carries any weight, but if it is representative of what the paragliding community thinks then you have to consider that perception is just about the only thing that matters.  Legal threats, technical spin and gamesmanship does nothing in the face of perception.  I wonder if it was worth the gamble for Ozone (assuming they gambled that is).

Pilots are scrambling to get different gliders for Mexico because there will be no resolution in time and they don't want to run the risk of being disqualified on the Enzo 2.  

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Day 6 - The Great Glider Debate Continued... on another rest day

How about we get straight to the point:  Did Ozone cheat with the Enzo 2? (vote on the top left)

Sadly this is not so easy to answer and it will be debated to death.  The pilots flying these wings have been given some sort of suspended sentence for an alleged crime they could not have committed.  Now they must give their best and wait for some test pilot half a world away to confirm or deny them their place on the ranking (or podium as the case may be).  The innocent are guilty until innocent or otherwise (to be all perversely Hollywood about it).

Who to blame?  Take your pick: Ozone, Air Turquoise, FAI/CIVL, PWCA

I put the blame squarely at the door of FAI/CIVL (no surprises there).

All credit to the PWCA committee who, through Goran, have taken a strong and responsible position while communicating more than adequately.  The decision may not be popular or sit comfortably with everyone, but what else is there to do.  There is a rather ambiguous statement from Ozone that warrants that the Enzo 2 conforms to the certification which is hopefully sufficient to clear the PWCA of any liability should there be a flying incident involving the Enzo 2.

For those who do not know: the final results will remain provisional until such time as Zoller and friends confirm that the gliders on the podium are fair representations of the certified samples.  If they fail, the offending gliders are deemed un-certified and the pilot is disqualified given that the PWCA rules are clear about the fact that it is the pilot's responsibility to ensure they compete on a certified wing.

There was some debate about tolerances and in engineering terms, as explained to me by Francois the uber-engineer, this can translate into huge differences particularly on something like a glider where the stitching on ninety cells can cause 'tolerance stacking'.  It was very quickly pointed out that the Mylar strip on the trailing edge of most new gliders allows production techniques with very fine tolerances given that Mylar hardly stretches or shrinks.  This would probably explain why the differences between the trailing edges of the three Enzo 2s measured so far were less than 10mm over 6000mm (< 0.2%).  

The fuss is about 200mm difference (>3%) on each half so there can be little doubt the glider was designed with the dimensions observed.  This point is apparently not disputed by Ozone.  They simply claim there is no rule that prevents them from doing what they have done.  

I asked several people who know about these things and they are adamant that a longer trailing edge improves performance dramatically.  They also say shortening the trailing edge helps to get these wings through certification for an assortment of reasons.

So there you have it!  Take my spot poll if you want to shout out!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Glider Crisis and the Tolerance Loop Hole conspiracy

The Official position on glider mods attached below.  My knee jerk re-action is that the manufacturers can pretty much do as they please using the Tolerance Loop Hole (lets call it the TLH).  Roll on OPEN CLASS!!!!

Dear pilot,

After several meetings, here is the outcome :

Glider Checking

Some of the gliders so far tested have been found to have a trailing edge
longer than that of the glider submitted to Air Turquoise for certification.
As far as the PWCA can determine, this measurement is not specifically
mentioned in the EN norm and no tolerance is provided. In emails reproduced
below, both Alain Zoller and Harry Buntz confirm this. Alain also states that
it may not be possible to determine whether the glider conforms to
certification without further flight testing.

The PWCA is not a testing house and is not professionally qualified to
determine whether a particular glider is certified or not. Therefore there is
no option other than to continue the competition as normal, but to keep the
results provisional. The top ranked gliders from the three top manufacturers
will then be sent to the relevant testing house to verify whether they are
certified in their current configuration.

Alain Zoller Email:

That is tricky to answer, I'll say:
to have better idea of the real differences you have to compare the
measurement btw official user's manual from manufaturers, our measurement and
what you measured on the physical glider. Even check few gliders to be sure
about the production.

The consequences of such of difference can really make the glider out of the
certification, not really through the standards because I just realised is no
tolerance at all for these kind of measurements.

What is difficult to know if the tension of the glider in flight will make
the difference for to call the glider certified. I guess only the flight test
can actually show if the physcal glider have the   same behaviour as the
certified one.

My personnal point of view, this glider doesn't fit the sample how was

Harry Buntz Email:

we normally store only the tested samples. We do not measure the trailing and
leading edge in certification procedure. We store the glider as a sample that
we can compare it if there are problems, like now.

You have to ask the manufacturer which are the tolerances of the wingspans,
while we do not have anything to compare.

We could test flight the wings with different wingspans to tell you the
For sure there will be a small difference in the span, but we are not the
specialist of production tolerances.

2013 Super Final - Govenador Valadares - Day 5 - Rest Day

So it rained all night and drizzled all day giving us a rest day with a really optimistic forecast for the last four days.  I took the time to go for a hard swim at the local club and then I put together a little video to the sounds of my favourite blues guitarist, Dan Patlansky, wailing on a Strat playing Only an Ocean off the album Real / Standing at the Station (1999/2006).
If you are a paragliding pilot you may enjoy my wing dancing to the sound of the vario boosted by a sublime signature guitar solo from Dan about 2 min 40 secs into the clip followed by a sheepish smile and a couple of really deep breaths :-)

2013 Super Final - Govenador Valadares - Day 4 - Task 4

The results tell the story.... A difficult day from the start and then it deteriorated with the front sending thick cirrus (or was that alto stratus?) to blot out the sun round about exactly when everyone needed something to complete the task.  Pepe Malecki squeezed a few extra meters more than everyone else out of the day to win the task, but other than that nothing much to say about the flying.  Stefan and Seiko are leading the comp in the individual sections and Gin is leading the team section.
Before you think things are cooling down.... there are some ominous rumblings about gliders and threats of lawsuits directed at the PWCA.  In another bout of 'here-we-go-again' it turns out that the Ozone wings of task winners Stefan Wyss and Yasses Savov do not measure up to the certification specifications.  The trailing edge is significantly longer. 
Several problems immediately jumped out before the alleged mudslinging and law talk started.  First problem has to do with the fact that there are no clear rules about tolerances on the length of the trailing edge which are generally defined by the manufacturer.  Then the person measuring gliders works for an opposing manufacturer.  The fact that he happens to be a stand-up guy and beyond reproach does nothing to mute cries about conflict of interest.  Then there is the rumour that one manufacturer will sue if the association applies penalties and another will sue if they do not.  Anybody remember what happened with the America's Cup in sailing? 
The test houses have apparently been contacted and I guess the question to them must be: would you certify a glider without testing it again if it had a different plan-form to the reference glider that was used to gain EN-D certification?
Personally I don't really think the Enzo 2 has any sort of advantage.  The pilots who have excelled on them in GV so far have done so by sheer skill and determination.  This is not a place where the glider matters so much.
... and the saga of the EN-D of Open Class continues.  Don't you just hate the faceless bastards who dreamt up this Faecal Farce of Taurean proportions?  I sincerely hope the FAI/CIVL crowd along with the working groups are paying close attention here:  Rules mean admin baby so better have very few, or enough to cover every single little minute detail without any conflict or ambiguity.
I hope this little hiccough doesn't derail the entire competition....

Saturday, 18 January 2014

2013 Super Final - Govenador Valadares - Day 3 - Task 3

Isolated thunder showers were predicted so the task committee set a task offering maximum route options.  This was a task that represented the first real challenge with only thirty pilots battling their way to goal in under three hours with many more who made the end of speed section but not goal.

The scoring system permits task discards by deducting 25% of your worst task(s) everyday.  This explains why some pilots have jumped the rankings by fifty places or more both up and down (in case you were wondering).  In effect we will drop one task in four, so expect wild variation on the leader board until we have flown at least six tasks.

Team South Africa had a mixed day with Anton continuing in fine style and Francois midway with Andre mopping up the tail.  I caught up with Russel Ogden (Interview here) from UK and quizzed him on glider testing protocols.  Imagine my astonishment when he explained the '25% brake on full speed bar test' for EN-D.  The test requires that the glider should not collapse if 25% brake is applied at full speed!   I ask you with tears in my eyes: Unless I'm missing something, which imbecile on what planet would apply 25% brake on a two line racing snake while flying at full speed!!!?? The mind boggles at the absurdity of the idea.  

There may have been a time when this was appropriate (like a million years before the Cambrian explosion), but anyone with a buckled brain knows you hang onto the balls on the B's when you push the speed bar on a modern 2 liner.  Like Doh!

The point of this outburst is to (further) highlight how the bureaucracy of paragliding administration affects us.  I think you all know how I feel about this topic so I'll move on to say that the positive outcomes of the last three years of serial class design has led to a safer wing with the same performance as the R11 at the same speed according to Russel.  The R11 is still faster, but everything else is converging apparently.  

Adrian Thomas points out that the biggest difference in the proposals for 2015 will be the speed limit @ 65km/h.

The test pilots attending this comp are all a little coy about the manufacturer's plans, but I think good things are coming to town!!  

It is rumored that Torsten has the next Boomerang proto here in GV with him... 

Friday, 17 January 2014

The Great Glider Debate...

It seems everyone is dying to know about gliders... the short story is there is not that much difference and if there is we will not really know for another week or so... clearly I am not objective, but I will try be honest about it when I have a stronger impression.

For what it is worth and results notwithstanding, everyone I have spoken to so far is happy on what they've got and the same people are complimentary about what the others have.  This generosity of spirit is seldom seen at the world cup.  

For me it is not relevant given that this will probably be the last season of this particular class of glider.  We will be flying wings significantly different in the near future, so rather ask which manufacturer is best positioned to dominate the next generation from 2015.... 

2013 Super Final - Govenador Valadares - Day 2 - Task 2

I think I will bore the readers if I go on about how awesome the day was, but then the day was truly lovely:

'A geometric lattice of perky young cumulus permeate the picturesque sky;
Cloud base soothing and cool with unlimited visibility in the crystal clear air
Vibrant views of the rolling hills clad in a thousand hues of green'

In fact the mood in the air was amazing too.  You would not think that one hundred world cup pilots were racing around the 80km task on near full bar, fiercely competitive and yet oddly calm and co-operative even tolerant?

A 80km task was set which resembled an isosceles triangle with the base leg extended as an out and return.  There was a little bit of confusion at the start with a number of pilots missing the first turn point as they were tagged onto the lead gaggle like fleece to velcro (baaaahahaha).  It was amusing to see them realize the mistake and scurry back never to catch the lead again. 

The racing was fierce with just about everyone flat out on the transitions.  The lead changed a few times as the gaggles split and got out of synch leapfrogging and cutting corners. As expected, the first fifty pilots were separated by five minutes after two hours of intense racing.  It is what it is, to quote a good friend, and we can expect more clumping if the conditions continue to be this good.  Yassen deserved the win flying in front with RusselO and PeterN.  Three awesome pilots rewarded.

Anton is on fire in the top ten with Andre some fifty points back on the overall standings.  Francois is hanging in there but taking severe punishment on his slower wing: 'Hoe maak mens die A-lyne korter?'   

photo: JF de Villiers

photo: JF de Villiers

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Super Final - Brazil - Day 2 early report

Looking even better than yesterday!

2013 Super Final - Govenador Valadares - Day 1 - Task 1

What a fantastic start to the comp (albeit predictable)!  A great day for racing with a 70km out and return with the requisite final glide sprint that saw most of the field finish within ten minutes of one-another.  

One or two gambled at the end and took a few minutes out of the rest.  Positions 5 - 92 were separated by 100 points... It seems flying in the bunch is rewarded and taking risk early is punished.  Having said that I think the lag gaggles would have been punished more severely had the lead (mass) gaggle not got low and slow 5km out of the end of speed section.  whatever-the-case, I hope we get a little more variety or we will see the same procession we had in Colombia last year.  Good news is that the cloud flying wasn't so bad yesterday.

First impression of the gliders: Enzo 2 a little faster than before... IP7 the same as before, and Boom 9 - L has better glide ;-)

More detailed reports to follow as I catch up on my sleep.

2013 Super Final - Govenador Valadares - Practice Day and snow cones

We were in GV in 2005 for the World Championships.  That year we had ten tasks, we flew every day.  The big buzz on the mountain is about gliders as you can imagine.  

The release of IP7 and the Enzo 2 has led to speculation and broad claims of perfection and 'a new level of performance'.  In truth I believe GV is about the flying and not so much the glider.  It was no surprise that the practice day did not show any obvious leap in performance, but we will know more after two weeks.  In my personal opinion, on my LARGE boom 9, the new wings have only closed the gap a bit....

Much more controversial is the great cone debate.  The greatest headache for administrators, and probably the catalyst for the demise of the open class, is the damned final glide.  The top comps have pretty much congealed into a clump of 'sticky' pilots who appear inseparable until the last glide whereupon up to a hundred pilots push as much as they can out of their equipment to cross the line with the fastest glider winning by a few seconds and the group spread over a few minutes.

The inverted cone finish was invented to stop this practice and it was used during the practice task as a precursor to debate with the possible implementation during this comp.  As is always the case, there are strong lobby groups within the world cup and those not in favor of any proposal almost always shout the loudest.  In this instance I wonder if the groups are aligned along good and evil lines?  If you know how to go faster than anyone else (see this blog entry) then surely you would be opposed, and conversely if you can't be bothered to tweak your glider and devise methods to go faster than the designer intended you would prefer a more sedate finish.  Whatever the case:  'there will be no cone here, but the cone is coming' to quote our beloved chairperson.  

In my humble opinion I believe we should trust the executive to make decisions in our best interest irrespective of the hypothetical consequences because administration by consensus is almost as bad as FAI style bureaucracy.  Paradigm shifts can be refreshing and stimulating.

2013 Super Final - Govenador Valadares - Commute, Commute, Shoot, Commute

Hello everybody... sorry about the delay, but I am now well rested and able to type again after a bit of a tedious travel plan.  To cut a long story short, 10 hours to Sao Paolo, 4 hour layover before 2 hours to Vittoria and then a 12 hour lay-over at the Vittoria bus terminal before another 9 hours on a bus to GV.

oh yes, and they managed to lose my glider for a few hours, so add that...

what else?...and did I mention the shooting? I watched a cop shoot a civilian in board-shorts!!! holy crap!

Not that I think Brazil is a dangerous place.  I have been here half dozen times and every single time I am filled with optimism.  There is hope for South Africa (and the African continent in general) if we could emulate some of the magic that Brazil has achieved as a developing nation.  So one random shooting does little to dampen my spirits or diminish my appreciation of a welcoming country and favorite paragliding destination.