09 August 2007

2007 World Hang Gliding Championship

Time to fly, it's the Worlds!

Bernie and I flew to Dallas together with our carbon prototype gliders -not easy- and picked up our pimp'n ride.

Task 1

The first task was a 150km downwind flight in light blue conditions. It was difficult in places but flying with so many good friends, doing what we do best, made me smile many times during the flight. The long shallow final glide over bright green cotton fields was peaceful.

Many top contenders landed short of goal today.

The gaggles were congested at times; wide angle lens do not seem to convey how close we fly together.

Task 2

A 185km downwind dogleg task in difficult conditions. I landed short of goal in a soft part of the course. As I left a gaggle that was stuck in light lift I was feeling pretty confident that I would find something better further on; when I turned into a nice smooth 300fpm from 300ft above the ground, I smiled in relief but after only a few turns the entire thermal just disappeared.

It wasn't until I looked down at my feet standing in the soft soil of a cotton field that I realized I had landed. So much preparation, so much focus, so much effort... as I packed up alone in a pretty cotton field that I'll never see again, the reality of my imminent freefall on the scoresheet began to set-in.

I've had setbacks before but it still hurts every time. It hurts a lot.

Task 3

After a night to get rid of the grumpies in me, I was ready to start over. A 169km downwind flight to Levelland, via La Mesa. Slow and tough but still the best day so far. This time I was 9th into goal. An Italian beat me by one second as we dove into the airpot below treetop height at groundspeeds over 140km/h!

This hanggliding stuff is fun!

Task 4

Finally we had clouds and a decent cloudbase (10,000ft). The 150km downwind task was fun and the cool air at base was a relief. Most took the first startgate at 2:30pm but the gaggle split immediately only to join once again 30km from goal.

My playground today, or rather playsky.

Here's a short clip taken during the task. Team member Bernie appears below me midway through the clip. He has been flying really well, as have the rest of our team.

Every Canadian in goal today!

Task 5

Today we launched in Texas and landed in New Mexico, in a different time zone, having flown the largest task ever completed in hanggliding history... 285km!

45 of 109 pilots completed the task.

Happy pilots in goal

Task 6

Launching from a dolly via aerotow

A very hazy day and a 150km task with a final headwind leg that put all pilots on the ground. This video shows the low visibility.

Task 7

A 175km downwind task to the famous Hobbs, New Mexico, in epic racing conditions except for some soft areas early in the task.

Cacti at the Hobbs airport

Day 8

Dangerous Dean pummels us with rain so it looks like no flying today. Tomorrow looks bad too.

Day 9

Hurricane Dean continued to rage so the 2007 World Championship came to an end.

1st Attila Bertok (Hungary)
2nd Robert Reisinger (Austria)
3rd Gerolf Heinrichs (Austria)

Team Canada finished 12th.

Brett Hazlett: 22nd (5273 points)
Scott Gravelle: 62nd (3534 points)
Bernard Winkelmann: 63rd (3495 points)
Ross Hunter: 81st (2888 points)
Jon Orders: 91st (2185 points)

Attila's acceptance speech was emotional. He thanked ex 3-time-consecutive World Champion, Tomas Suchanek, for setting the bar so high that it took Attila 26 years to be the guy standing up there on the highest step of the podium.

During the flight back home, as I drifted in and out of sleep, images of the last couple of weeks of flying flowed through my exhausted and happy mind. It already didn't feel _real_ and, of course, it wasn't. It was only real when we were all out there in the sky, going for it.

The best things in life are temporary.

[VLOG] A Walk in the Garden II

Do we need a reason to fly?