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 ( 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:

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!  
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.
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.