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. 


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.