Monday, September 20, 2010

The deed is done!

I have just put my entry into the X-Alps in online.  As I mentioned in an earlier post my father has agreed to be my supporter.  I can't think of a better, or more qualified, supporter, espaecially as he is about to run a 200km jungle ultra marathon in Brazil next month!  Still, I had to laugh because when it came to enter his date of birth on line the selection list did not go back far enough!  It seems the X-alps team think he is too old for this!

Lets see if I get selected now...!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

More running than flying....

I decided to run to take off again, but this time by the path that comes up the West face.  To get there I had a 25 minute run round to Moniez, the village in front of take off, before I could set off up the mountain.  About 5 minutes up the mountain I passed a sign saying 1h 30mins to the summit.  The path was a bit steaper than the one on the south face, which suited me fine, but was also a bit more exposed with strong sun beating down.  30mins after passing the sign I popped out at the take off, chuffed at my speed and having thoroughly enjoyed the romp up the mountain.

Today's flying was to prove interesting - it was windy and the task had been set carefully with that in mind.  Personally I struggled a little, getting low and scratching back up in strong winds which were blowing thermals apart low down, but the conditions did not concern me greatly, even with a number of lenticular clouds around indicating storng winds high up too.  After a 5m/s climb out with Ruud Van de Heijden and around the middle fo the field I suddenly realised everyone was heading down to land.  My radio was down but the task had obviously been cancelled.  I continued in the direction of St Andre with the intent of flying back, whcih was certainly possible, but the route was not particularly friendly and I decided after a while that I'd land in the big field with the other 100 gliders at Thorame Haute.  Not far out from St Andre, I bundled my wing onto the back of the first bus and set off running back.  The run was pleasant enough (although slightly longer than I'd thought!) and was punctuated with firnedly beeps and waves from the mini bus drivers shuttling back and forth.  Despite the 16km I ran, I think I still made it back before the last bus!

So that ends three good days in St Andre.  X-Alps training is going well, I'm loving the running and walking up mountains as much as the flying.  Now I just need to get selected!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Another day in St Andre

Another Day and another walk up to take off.  This time Chris Miles joined me and we walked and ran up.  I enjoyed the company and learnt a thing or two about mountain marathon running at the same time.  Thanks Chris!

The plan for today had been the same as the day before - take off as wind dummy (surely there is a better term for this) and fly the course.  I decided I'd take the start with the gaggle today, feeling emboldened by newly regained pleasure for flying in competition gaggles.  It didn't work out well.  Boating around high and pretty on the edge of the start cylinder, just keeping my nose out of the rather low cloud, I felt confident of my plan.  I was at the aerials and it seemed the place to be.  However after 30mins of waiting around at base I suddenly found myself in a sinky cycle and ended up low in fornt of the aerials.  Desperate attempts to get back up ended in vain and the start merrily opened whilst I was grovelling around near the valley floor.  Doh!  Many others had ended up in the same predicament - with perhaps a dozen being too impatient and ending up on the deck.  I was now in bottom gear - 'survival mode' and found a weak 0.2m/s climb that I spent an age in drifting north in the valley wind but all the time gradually, gradually climbing.  I finally dribbled onto the mountain the British call, 'the cheese' and was back up and running. 

I short cut the first turn point (I wasn't in this race after all), joined the main lead gaggle and stayed with them for the next 10km.  The performance of the R10's was showing and I was being left behind - the gaggle was established on the Cote Longue as I came late and low, in danger of being dropped from this group.  Still, a small cliff looked like a obvious trigger and I went for it with another glider (Mark 'Wagga' Watts) - we screamed out from there and were above the gaggle before they could dive in below us.  I wasn't going to let my good fortune go to waste so I led out across towards the next turnpoint, only to be overtaken by an army of R10's who left after me, overtook me and were now arriving before me and above me.  Competing on a serial wing is defiantely not what it was a couple of years ago when I could stay in touch with most comp wings.  Now I don't stand a chance!

A great run back across in front of the take off ridge under convergence took me to the last turnpoint and easily into goal.  The instinct to race was back again and I was pushing my wing as fast as it could go.  Suprisingly on the last part of the glide into goal an Ozone Delta pulled along side me.  I did a double take - this short lined fat wing was flying at the same speed as my Niviuk Peak, still one of the best EN D gliders on the market and I had three-quarters speed bar on!  What is more he was solid as a rock and I was having to work to keep my wing steady at this speed in the thermic air.  I needed no more evidence today of the great leap in glider performance that has taken place this year!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Britsh Championships in St Andre

I arrived in St Andre late last night, after driving down after work.  The competition had been running since Sunday - I was keen to catch up with old friends and fly for the next few days.

As part of my continuing fitness drive I decided to start the day by walking up to the launch.  I dumped my glider onto one of the competition vehicles (I'd offered my services as 'wind dummy') before heading off up the hill.  I took a few wrong turnings, without a map it seems suprisingly easy to go the worng way, but finally after about an hour I popped out at take off, just in time to see the task set for the day.

I sorted my stuff out and launched before window open, reporting back the conditions.  I took the first turnpoint before the start had opened - I'd fly the course but try to get ahead a little as the leaders would surely catch me up quickly.  Looking back at the mighty bee-like swarm of gliders circling together as one waiting for the start to open I smiled happy that I could fly out on my own in clear air, happy not actually competing for the first time in the last 4 years.  I crossed the start gaggle as they were gliding into the first turnpoint - the insanity of what I was doing hit me only when it was too late - I was going one way and about 130 gliders were coming in the opposite direction at the same height...  Arrrgghhhh!  Still, it all passed quite sedately and my plan of staying in front was soon foiled by getting stuck.  After 10 mins the gaggle was back and with the help of about 100 other gliders we quickly found the strong climb whcih had been elusive to me on my own!. 

Now I was in the thick of the lead gaggle and in total contrast to what had been going through my head 20mins earlier, I slipped effortlessly back in to racing mode.  Climbs weakening, quick, push the bar - who has the best line?  I was loving being back in the thick of the gaggle and racing again.  Still I soon realised that my 3 year old serial wing was absolutely no match for the speed of the Ozone R10's.  Wow, they are fast.

So, I got left behind, but reminding myself I was not actually ion this race I tried some different routes, and found out why we never go that way!  I ended up extremely low (lining up to land if the truth be told) before scrapping out again with my mate Martin.  I rolled in to goal, slow and happy not to have this one scored!