04 October 2005


North Launch


Yeah so we have been launching from the rim of an ancient volcano. The centre of the volcano appears to be about 20km in diameter. The generally rising ground towards the rim produces complicated cloud development and wind patterns. The wind is generally 15km/h from some direction, and the opposite at cloudbase, and changes with the time of day, and the area.

I don't mean light and variable, I mean smoke flat on the ground from opposite directions within sight from cloudbase. I mean cloud shadows moving one direction and the smoke on the ground moving the other direction. It's crazy... for the last 2 days in a row we have begun our final glide with a 15km/h tailwind, and finished with the same but headwind!

I've given up trying to plan my legs because the conditions change too quickly. The convergence lines -there are numerous and they have different orientations- continually move or die and then regenerate. I just glide straight on course line and then make harsh detours once I'm closer.

The launch is technical too. The wind is all over the place and pilots are constantly changing their minds about which launch is best. There are actually 3 launches; if you choose the North or West launch, you have only 250m to play with to find lift. So on difficult days with a North wind, pilots often launch and then immediately try to fly around to the South side, through a dip in the ridge. Some make it, some don't.

The North launch faces into the volcano and the air tends to subside there, with development only along the fractured rim.

Yesterday, the 2 guys in front of me didn't make it, so they had to turn back into the high plateau, where you have much less time to find something, before having to land in the rolling hills, with less than optimum fields.

When my turn came, I took a few steps back, a deep breath, and gave her. In light air you need to launch efficiently to hold enough height to make it through the gully. Anyways, I made it. But by the time you get around to the South side, you've burned a third of your height. Kinda cool tho.

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