26 August 2006

Pre World Hang Gliding Championship 2006

Results are here!



Gerolf reaches for base



Gerolf and Jonny talk tech in goal

On the road again... this time to the Pre Worlds in Big Spring, Texas.

Man, it's good to be here with so many elite pilots who are also my friends, to hang out and go racing. Comparing our latest gear and tactics is cool but what's special is that we understand each other and 'get' why we do this stuff.

Task 1

A 120km task with a 20km/h tailwind, base of 3000m and 3-4m/s climbs.

What an awesome day of flying! After 2 days of prep-ing gear, a good day of racing was just what I needed.

There were 3 startgates, 15min apart. Most took the middle start, and looking back it seems to have been the best choice.

Gerolf Heinrichs won the day with 1h 41min, followed closely by myself and Attila Bertok. When I saw Attila to my side, diving to goal, I was like 'it's on baby'... we kept trying to fly just a little faster than each other until it looked like we'd both land short. In the last 800m, I was able to pull ahead to cross a couple of seconds ahead. Flying into the goal field with a groundspeed of 120km/h at 100m was pretty intense.

All the Canadians made goal! Congrats Scott, Bernie, Mark, Jim!

Task 2



Texan Sky

We had the same task again... we could have flown 400km both these days but instead we had a 120km downwind race.

After an -off- start I was focused hard on pulling myself back into position in time for the finish. There was a point where I just kept gliding, flying through thermals, gliding more, passing up more... 2m/s was just not strong enough to stop for... as I fell deeper into the atmosphere, the radiating heat from the ground became sensible and I began to regret turning my nose up at the last mediocre thermal that I was gifted.

That creepy feeling that I might have pushed it too far and might actually land started to spread through me... then... the air developed this familiar feel that I've felt so many times before, and it was a good feeling. Even before I started to rise, I could tell it was going to be good and strong.

With a mad smile on my face, I banked into a climbing spiral, as my vario screamed at me. My 30s averager peaked at 5.6m/s (20km/h up!), my ears popped, the air became cool and cloudbase approached so fast it felt like I was going to collide with it. Not long after going on glide I began to realize that I had caught the lead gaggle!

The gaggle moved quickly towards goal and it came down to a final glide battle between myself and the crazy Hungarian, Attila. Our final was under a cloudstreet so the speeds were blistering. We exchanged best position countless times in the high speed, side by side glide, through the active air.

In the last 1km I managed to pull ahead to cross the line 5s ahead and take the day!

Task 3



Gliders packed into the hangar

This time it was a 160km FAI triangle, with a 20-30km/h wind. We had clouds but it still wasn't easy.

The first leg was downwind over farmland, the next crosswind leg was over a wild area with fewer roads and landing options. Swiss Nick tumbled trying to enter a dustdevil at 300m; he threw his reserve and landed fine, minus a sore ankle. When he hit the ground in a cotton field and looked up, realizing he was okay, he saw a cotton flower... and thought it was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen!

The final upwind leg was against a demoralizing headwind. Attila and I had split up on the middle leg but joined up again near the last turnpoint. I spotted him high near base, I wasn't very high so I could barely make out his colours. Then getting a bit lucky searching under a huge cloud yielded a 6.6m/s to base. Attila and I rounded the turn point together, Attila still a little higher.

The first glide into the wind almost put us on the ground. We approached a canyon that we couldn't cross with the height we had... one last field held some hope. At 140m above the ground, gliding against a 30km/h wind, my glider yawed 30 degrees and I knew I wouldn't be landing this time! Climbing out from so low, you can really sense the thermal pulling you away from the ground, it's an awesome feeling! It was only a 3m/s, but it was steady and did a good job at unsticking us from our little situation.

The rest of the last leg was done in relative calmness and ease, closer to cloudbase. Other then following an arc to intercept some clouds en route to goal, it was quite conventional.

I saw Andre take a more direct line to goal, in the blue, at an impossible glide angle. I thought... no way. But he did make it in a minute ahead of both Attila and I and won the day! Having said that, a few top pilots made a similar move and landed tragically short of the goal line. NenĂª was 10m short and Reisinger was 100m short, from what I remember.

No other Canadians in goal today, but Bernie and Scott were close. Scott landed behind our Motel and went for a swim before packing up... that's the way to do it!

Task 4



Wearing the Yellow Jersey

Big, big day! We flew 250km downwind, in the blue, in a predicted 25km/h tailwind that ended up being 5-10km/h!

With a 1 point lead overall and wearing the yellow jersey, I remember thinking to myself how cool it was to be here and now, flying in the Pre Worlds, winning, having fun with friends, and getting some of the best flying Texas and the World can give you! Waiting at the startgate, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes for a moment, and took it all in... remember this, Brett, don't ever forget.

This was a cool flight... more like an epic adventure with buddies than a Worlds task. Along the way we overflew two canyons, which was surprising to see, thinking that Texas was all flat. A bunch of us flew into one of them at a height that meant we'd be landing there without some lift. That was tense, but knowing that 5 friends would be with you with the same problem, made it an intensely cool experience. It would have been a real Survivor Texas show! Of course we made it outta there, since we're some of the best, supposedly.

Every 30min I did some quick head calculations to work out our current total average speed and the average of the last hour. Keeping track of how things were going, it looked like we might just get to final glide height in time for a late no lift final glide to goal at sunset. It was going to be close...

We flew in the blue all day but then a thunderstorm from the dryline convergence spread thick shade across the last 30km to goal. The lift dropped to almost zero, but thankfully the wind picked up again from 8km/h to 20km/h. Still it was really, really tricky. Only four pilots made it in; Seppi won the day, followed by Nils, Gerolf, and Glen. I landed 14km short, Attila 7km short to win the comp!

Attila is a kickass pilot and super guy, I'm happy to see him win. When I first met him in '98 he was 10ft tall. Now it feels good to be able to make him stretch a little in the air.

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