Wednesday, 12 October 2016

World Cup La Reunion - Last Task

The last day had a low base and southerly wind after a day of wind and rain.  This implied a run to the south after a little bit of back and forward in front of launch before a over the plateau to goal.  As before there was a load of scratching over and around gullies, houses, and power lines: just much lower than before.  We visited the bridge around Trois Basin a few times battling into wind before scratching downwind over the plateau behind st Gilles. 

The goal was in the sugar cane fields north east of st Paul close to the Dos D'Agne gorge that is used for the Le Maïdo volcano flight.  

It was a bit of a crowd pleaser compared to the previous three tasks so the comp ended with a fair number of pilots in fine humour after more than fifty made goal.

Prize-giving was festival where the locals pulled out all the stops providing heaps of food and entertainment.

I don't recall when last I had this much fun at a comp.  The local people are friendly and kind in a way that you simply don't see many places.  In particular a shout out to Sébastien Coupy and Mathias Ioualalen who were the most gracious dinner hosts imaginable.

Friday, 7 October 2016

World Cup La Reunion Task 3,4, & 5

The third day was another turd day for most with only two making goal and another three going more than forty kilometers.  The rest of us could not get around the 'corner' as we have dubbed it.  The reality of La Reunion and paragliding lies in the lee (so-to-speak).  In short, we can fly in benign thermic conditions because we are sheltered from the prevailing wind by the towering mass of the island which tops out at over 3,000m at the Piton des Neiges volcano.  The other volcano, Piton de la Fournaise, is still active and the last eruption was last year in June.
Image result for la reunion volcano eruption

So the prevailing wind is Easterly, and we fly in the lee on the west side of the island.  The localised low pressure results in cloud and wind which curls around the northern and southern points of the island toward st Leu which is why we fly from that area.  The only problem is that the stronger the prevailing wind, the more intense the low pressure of the lee which in turn increases the southerly air flow.  So when you send the entire field south of st Leu beyond Entre-Deux, most land before they are 10km from launch as they slide down the shoulder from Le Tevelave to Piton Saint-Leu trying to get around the 'corner'.  

I managed to get around and back on the fourth task which just happened to be a thousand point day, but mostly people are a little tired of pushing full bar over power lines and houses.  
It came as no surprise to me, therefore, that level three calls were made when we were asked to do it again yesterday.  You could see the wind shadow as a northerly whipped white horses out of the sea before we had even launched and the southerly backflow was very much in evidence.  The task committee had no choice but to send us south again.  It was too much to ask,  Several pilots called it dangerous by the third time we had to punch toward the corner in a fretful back and forth multi-point task.  We had flown less than and hour, so the task was not valid.  There was some grumbling from people who were in strong positions needing points, but mostly everyone accepted it and flew out to sea over the reef.  A couple of lucky pilots spotted a huge manta on the reef.

Image result for la reunion manta ray

The picture below is of a Tropic bird.  These exquisite creatures mark all forms of lift on the island and have saved us daily by showing the way.  I had a close encounter on the fourth day on my return from the south just before the 'corner'.   One of these delicate birds crashed into my lines, bounced off, and tumbled below squawking indignantly as it recovered and flew off apparently unscathed.

Today, Friday, is a rest day on account of rain and wind.

Monday, 3 October 2016

World Cup La Reunion Task 2

Captain's Log: It has been three full days since our arrival in this strange place.  Six foot perfection thunders through at four waves every five minutes in the undulating precision of a rhythmically righteous metronome.  That makes more than six hundred un-ridden waves from sunrise to sunset at one of the best breaks in this hemisphere.  

Paragliding generally works better when there is terrestrial heating taking place.  Today was not one of those days.  There was no-sun, no-lift, and no-magical thermals on offer and yet we remained aloft for hours.  A handful of mythical humans with Helium in their veins kicked bushes around half of the course with the rest of the field landing after 10-15 km or so of a 63 km task.  

The picture shows the pilots who managed to gain some handsome height for the day.

(photo: KJ Bowden)

On happier days:

Sunday, 2 October 2016

World Cup La Reunion Task 1

st Leu: It seems absurd to go to a tropical island where you look out at one of the best left point breaks in the world from your breakfast table.  It is crazy to watch line after line double overhead perfection chasing through from dawn... unridden!!  In a previous life this was Nirvana.  As a student I fantasised about this wave: Warm water on my front-side as a goofy footer.  So here I am, thirty years later, with the place to myself.  The only problem is I have no board and surfing is more-or-less banned on account of sharks and I'm here to fly paragliders. It was with more than a little reluctance that I dragged myself away from watching a handful of locals ripping this peeling point perfection to go and compete in a paragliding competition.  

I was completely preoccupied with the surf which was visible all day from the air.  Imagine my surprise, therefore, as I stumbled into goal in the lead after 70km of to-and-fro.  I decided to treat the day as a ridge run.  Not really the best strategy after telling my compatriots to stay high, but there you have it.

We are seven South Africans at this event and it is shaping up to be a blast.  The entire team made goal and we are in third position as a nation!

pics to follow

World Cup - st Andre les Alpes, France - Task 4 - Stopped and General impressions

It was as though they were willing me to win creating another ridge-run similar to the first day.. just shorter and more definite on a day where the organisers did not even want to go up the mountain which invited some hind-sight critique.  

You see, the task was stopped due to thunderstorm development over st Andre seven minutes before the one hour five minute minimum task validation time!  This was right about where three of us pulled away from the field by a few hundred meters.  I do not normally subscribe to the "could've, would've, should've, but didn't" school of life... my castle for the seven minutes that would have validated the task! Dream-on loser!  

Anyway, I walked away with an epic task win and thirteenth place overall in a place that delivered some of the finest conditions I have ever played around in.  This is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick I guess.

Yes, everyone wants to know about the Zeno, Enzo 3, and Boomerang 'Next'.

So here's a reality check.  
Fact: Luc designed and flew the Zeno onto the podium.  

Conclusion 1: the glider must be amazing
Conclusion 2: the pilot must be amazing
Conclusion 3: the combination is amazing
Conclusion 4: the guy lives there, he should have won on a Mantra
Conclusion 5: the conditions favour the pilot and the glider
Conclusion 6: let's have a look at the data

I chose 2, 4 & 6 in order to validate 1, 3 & 5.  The reason being that the glider looks fairly straight forward and stubby compared to the higher aspect of the E2 & B10.  It reminded me of the IP6 when Luc was fooling around with it on launch.  So, if it has benign flight characteristics it would be good in st Andre that required some attention to stay inflated at speed for hours at a time.

The data?  It is hard to compare glide performance in a place like st Andre given that you are being spiked by potent thermals all the time and there is nothing to say on the ridge except that technique obscures glider performance completely.

The third task does give us a better chance of comparison.  The glide to goal was into the flats from around sixteen kilometers out with a cross/headwind.  The following guys were in front together so I compared them from the end of the lifty section after the last climb at about 14km out for each:

Position # Pilot Glider Glide Speed Distance
2 12 Honorin HAMARD Ozone EnZo 2         7.6           52.6 14.2
2 37 Maxime PINOT Ozone EnZo 2         6.9           52.6 14.6
4 16 Felix FERNANDES Ozone EnZo 2         7.1           52.9 14.0
6 18 Torsten SIEGEL Gin Boomerang 10         7.6           51.0 13.9
7 11 Luc ARMANT Ozone Zeno         6.8           51.1 13.8

This one is interesting because, from what I can see on the tracks, Honorin & Maxime flew side by side as did Torsten and Luc.

If we were to conclude anything, it seems that:
1. There is something very wrong with Maxime's glider (did I mention he won the comp?)
2. There is something very right with Torsten and Honorin's gliders
3. the Zeno is up to a full point behind the Enzo and Boom 10 on glide

We would have to interview the pilots concerned to find out if this is anywhere near the truth.  
The data also suggest that two of the guys on the podium got there with inferior glide. HAH!

The conclusions that can be drawn resemble the routine of an acro pilot on LSD.  It is clearly pointless doing comparisons without dozens of samples if at all.

More to the point: Fly the damn glider and stop worrying about performance!

A simple logic check: what are the chances a low aspect glider will outperform the current crop of performance wings on glide?  There appears to be no giant leap forward in technology or construction advantages or we would have heard about it.  The much vaunted hundred-and-plenty-cell technology is slow out the blocks with the biggest gains being that of projected price point!  I'm told you can optimise a wing for a point somewhere on the Polar curve, but it seems unlikely that the Zeno would take down the E2 or B10 on glide through the entire speed range.  

Whatever the case, we are waiting with baited breath to see what we will fly at the super final and the worlds next year.  It also appears that the manufacturers may be playing cat and mouse with none wanting to release an inferior wing, so we wait until somebody pulls the trigger.  

In the mean-time we can amuse ourselves by speculating and spreading ill-conceived rumours.  Have you heard about:
- Piezo-electric lines, rods and fabric that tension the whole structure dynamically in flight reducing weight and improving efficiency of new air-foils and even harvesting power from movement?
- giant one-piece 3D wing manufacturing machines
- assisted in-flight wing trim 

It seems we have a lot to look forward to ;)

World Cup - st Andre les Alpes, France - Task 3 - Wow, Wow, and Wow!

Once in a while you get a day that is just about the flying and you sort of forget you're in a competition and rather soak up the experience because you just know it is rare and remarkable.  Most world cup events, excluding Chelan, have at least one highlight that everyone raves about and remembers.  The second task was in that league, so the third task was a gift.

The bulk of the field took the safe route over the Coup west onto the plateau toward Digne before heading north into the complicated confluence of valleys from La Brusquet to Barles and Authon.  It was in this area that we felt like cloudbase kings floating around in our airborne thrones.  Someone won but it didn't seem to matter as we excited the mountains into the flats for a twenty kilometer glide to the west.