14 March 2009

Valadares Open 2009

Valadares Open 2009 from Brett Hazlett on Vimeo.

The Valadares Open 2009 has started and the flying has been just beautiful. The typical Valadares skyscape: Puffy white clouds, silky smooth thermals and green rolling hills as far as you can see.

Day 1: A relaxed 80km flight via 2 turnpoints to Dom Cavati. My final glide numbers fell apart and I had to claw my way out from a little bump only 5km from goal. There were urubus to help me but the lift was so light it took forever to get the 200m I needed to make it in. Here in Valadares I have noticed a dramatic change in conditions after 4pm; it seems difficult to still be in the air past 4:30pm. The last 5km into goal were stressful and I wasn't sure I would make it until I cleared a small hill and some palm trees just before goal, with just enough height to do a low 360 on landing.

Day 2 and 3: I kind of blew it. After leaving the startgate on Day 2 I decided to land because two thunderstorms were approaching courseline. There was also a front approaching from behind as well. But as I was hiking back to the hotel I could already see that the the monsters had tamed and changed course. I must admit, though, that the frustration of landing early and losing points is easier to swallow than the horror of finding yourself exposed to the power of a cumulunimbus. I have stories and don't need any more.

That night the storm hit town and at 4am I had to wake up to close my windows because rain was blowing into my room. Thunder and lightning filled the sky and I was convinced that we wouldn't be flying the next day. Since I was up late working I slept in, only to wake up to an alright looking sky. It ended up not being a very good day of flying but I still missed it.

Day 4: Today I decided to just have fun, enjoy each day of flying and to forget about points. It was one of the more enjoyable XC flights that I can remember.

A 60km task via turnpoints with some high cloud spreading in from the West. I took light climbs and topped up often as I approached the shade. In the end the conditions were fine and my caution brought me into goal slow but happy to be there.

Day 5: A classic Valadares day but the task was stopped when a thunderstorm spread over goal. I was doing well in the lead gaggle, with Frank Brown, and we were starting to get close to final glide when the announcement was made. This means that each pilots' location at the official task stop time will be used for scoring. There will be about eight of us with essentially the same score.

Once the task was stopped I turned around and tried to make it back to town. A few thermals later and I was there. The thunderstorms had been chasing me towards town and as I zipped up my glider bag I felt the first cold breath of a gust front. By the time I had finished my coconut it had started to rain. Light at first, with massive raindrops and later a tropical downpour.

It was a really fun flight with a dramatic low save from 200m with the help of some urubus. It is amazing how cohesive the thermals are here so low to the ground.

Update: I just found out that since no pilot was in goal at the moment the task was stopped, the task was not scored. Bummer.

Day 6: Today started out looking wet and unstable but not long after arrving at launch conditions began to improve. A 50km task that ended close to town was called and everyone rushed to get in the air. There was more turbulence than the previous days, making it less convenient to film, and there were parts of the course that were really soft, but mostly it was another nice day of flying.

I think I was the first pilot to leave on final glide, immediately after taking the last turnpoint, with Frank Brown just a little lower and behind. The main lead gaggle was still a couple of kilometers short of the last turnpoint but much higher.

As goal approached I really was not sure if I would make it, although I was feeling confident. I looked behind and saw that Frank had stopped to climb and above me the lead gaggle was closing in with more height and more speed. But all that I was focused on was getting into the goal cylinder. I flew through two light thermals and each time I decided not to turn after gaining some height by just flying straight and slowing down, and each time I regretted not stopping. At launch I noticed that the goal cylinder intersected the main road so I had something physical to aim for. It was going to really close.

On the other side of the road there was a wire fence that I needed to fly over to be able to land in the field. As I approached I stayed laid down in my harness for minimum drag and as I lifted my feet to clear the top wire, the boot of my harness hit the wire and was thrown aside. At that very moment my instruments began beeping, indicating that I was within the goal cylinder. I flared immediately and my glider lay down across the fence, my instruments still beeping. I was stuck in shoulder deep grass but so happy to be there. A local boy came over and helped extract my wing from the grass; it would have been very difficult without his help.

It was the tightest goal finish I've ever had.

The gaggle that was higher made goal comfortably and past me before goal. It looks like I finished 15th today out of 150 pilots.

Day 7: The final task. Conditions looked weak but once again the Valadares Surprise carried us to cloudbase and we were on course and pushing bar. The area around the first turnpoint was soft and put a number of pilots on the ground but after that point it was more reliable. The second turnpoint was fairly smooth going but the final leg back to the city was complicated, with the mountain -Ibituruna- in the way. A group of us went around the West side into the shade but only half of us made it through to the front. Once I made it around enough that I could see the goal field by the river in town I was flying straight and still climbing at 2m/s.... I could have used a little of that earlier!

It was such a pleasure to end the comp by making goal in the middle of the city, chatting with friends about the great week of flying and enjoying some coconut water before walking back to the hotel.

I was in the mood for some post-comp R&R so I hit the beach for a few days. Life can be simple, if only for a while.

Dune contemplations

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