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!

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