Saturday, 11 June 2016

World Cup 2016: Gemona del Fiulli, Italy - Grazie e arrivederci Italy

So the rain persisted through the night and into the morning.  As expected the last day is cancelled and prize giving is at 10am. 

I admit I was here to enjoy the scenery and Italian hospitality with the hope of a top thirty finish.  That would maintain my national ranking with a view to an option to attend the World Championships west of Gemona next year.  

Finishing in the top ten was an unexpected bonus albeit two task only.  Russel managed top thirty so it was mission accomplished for the part-time South African world cup paragliding team!

A huge cheer for the victors AndreasM, YuriV, and HermanP.  They showed us how to do it!

If you have never been to Italy I would recommend it very highly.  

The Italian Dolomites remain high on my flying bucket list.  We drove toward that part on a non-flying day and I could feel the butterflies of anticipation jumping around excitedly at the prospect of flying in that magical place.

I will write more about the world cup and my impression of gliders once I am home.

Friday, 10 June 2016

World Cup 2016: Gemona del Fiulli, Italy - Task 2

Star Wars
I recall a post about a gloomy day during the 2013 Bulgarian World Championships where the entire field bombed off the mountain and flew a task in a completely shaded valley.  I think I called it the valley-of-death-glide.

Well today was one of those epic battles between light and dark forcesThe dark force claimed the mountains and foothills as far as the river engulfing the entire course.  The light force held the line steadfastly along the river offering competitors a glimmer of hope as they skirted the fringes of the course.  This allowed brave pilots the opportunity to launch raids into the dark territories snatching turn-points before scurrying back to safety as gloom gnawed at altitude.  At least half of our number were overwhelmed by the dark.

A bit dramatic I know, but it really was an epic battle.  An average speed of about 23km/h around the 68km course tells the story just as well.  

I personally had the lowest flat-land save of my life and I am convinced my brand new Naviter Oudie 4 was instrumental (sorry - bad pun) with its inertial electronics assisting the barometer in a way that I never could have imagined.  My trusty old vario just simply isn't up to the task of goading me to maintain altitude less than two hundred meters above the ground the way the new Naviter did today.  I had to turn the volume off on the old vario which was groaning erratically in the barely detectable lift.  

Many thanks to Jost Napret for delivering the device to me on launch.  It took all of sixty seconds to copy the terrain, maps, airspace, and task off of a micro-sd card a few minutes after the task briefing and I was set.

The Russian team pilot, Yuri Mashanin, won the day in 2h55 beating the small chase group by five minutes.  Thirty made goal.  I am delighted to report I bumbled into goal in sixth position after a diabolical start.  This was particularly satisfying given that I was stone last climbing in a medium thermal halfway to base when the entire field took the start at the top. 

My travel buddy, Russell Achterberg, was not far behind into goal which is amazing considering he has not flown at all this year.  I mean zero air time under cloth and string.  


Thursday, 9 June 2016

World Cup 2016: Gemona del Fiulli, Italy - Task 1

I wrote da Vinci day as the heading for task 1 on the Gin blog.  This is probably because we visited the da Vinci museum in Venice and it rhymes with 'day'.  

It is also true that the whole experience was a thing of science, beauty, and invention.  For those who are used to the Alps it might be that they are a little blase about the playground.  For the rest of us it is a rare privilege to be present when the stars align and the heavens clear paving the way to a glorious flying adventure in an incredibly beautiful environment.  

There is always the risk of rain in the Alps which is why I have largely stopped traveling to competitions in alpine environments.  The hit rate is too low when time is limited.  That is not to say that the yearning for towering snow-clad mountains diminishes in any way.  This is why it was enormous relief that we would fly at least one glorious task.

The task committee got it totally right with a healthy mixture of flat-out ridge-racing, a tricky valley crossing and a slower period of joining-the-dots in the flat lands.  The start was almost comical with ninety percent of the field rushing back to the launch ridge several kilometers off-course before jumping onto the back ridge to fetch the second turn-point.  

The ridge I am referring to runs eastward all the way to Kobarid and Tolmin allong the Socha valley in Slovenia.  This region probably bears the weight of more out and return world record attempts than most ridges anywhere else if I were to guess.  
The current out and return world record of 284km from Sorica (Slovenia) to Longarone (Italy) and back was set in the area in 2012 by the Italian, Arduino Persello.  Gemona del Friuli is roughly halfway.  Nicole Fedele holds the female O&R world record in the same region from Sorica.

Having flown a piece of the ridge that was most likely used for those records, I can understand that such mammoths flights are possible: we were all going more or less flat out on that part during the race on Tuesday climbing all the way in both directions for around 30km or more.

The task was almost 90km long and involved crossing the river twice: once from the mountain and a second time in the flats.  Yuri Vidic won in the end in just under three hours with another thirty pilots within six minutes so we all got maximum points with another forty finishing within another hour.

As for the rest of the week... rain, rain, and more rain...