We woke to thrashing trees tormented by a nagging north wind. There is wind most mornings just not as strong. Some people saw forecasts that suggested increasing wind to 50km/h but we went up anyway. The organisers confidently set a task despite the howling breeze citing a favourable forecast. It was to be a 75 km downwind dash with a couple of kinks along the way.
The wind dropped on cue and the race was on! It was total dog-show at the start with a hundred pilots struggling to stay in front of the ridge. The last two minutes were crazy with undecided pilots caught between cycles flying in all directions avoiding one-another like a three dimensional Asteroids game.
Diversion: How many of you remember Asteroids? I was the Asteroid king in junior school spending every afternoon at the local cafe until closing time in '79 to the disgust of my mother. Catch this dorky review of Asteroids on YouTube if you want to understand why I can fly paragliders.
Where was I? Ah yes, the race.... After sorting out the start we got more or less organised along the course line and romped our way around at a moderate to middling pace. We all arrived at goal more or less together. This has become the standard at high-end comps . The bulk of the field clusters up and cruises behind one or two markers in a sloping wedge formation taking very little risk feeding off the leaders. It is an effective tactic, but a failed strategy when the conditions get weak or very good at opposite ends of the spectrum.
In the end the first sixty pilots were separated by ten minutes and almost the entire field got to goal. This means the day was really social as you had company all the way. It was especially pleasant given the collaborative mood of the competitors. This might have had something to do with the stern warning delivered by Ulrich at the task briefing after complaints of unruly behaviour in the air on day one.