Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Last Post

Well the last post for a while as both Jon and I will have other priorities on our minds over the next couple of weeks but you can of course continue to follow all our exploits and those of the other competitors on including our diaries, and position.

So thanks for taking an interest in us so far and see you in Monaco.

Jon & Richard

Friday, July 15, 2011

Drug tests

I thought it was going to be a day of getting mundane things done.  The campsite this morning was full of teams sorting out their vans, doing washing and cutting toe nails.  All vitally important, but of course, rather mundane.

We went into Salzburg to check the first bit of the route out to the Gaisberg and bumped in Phillipe from FRA2 doing the same thing.  After our final bits of shopping we whizzed up the Gaisberg for a final check on the length of my speed system.  In two minutes I was airborne, checked it in the air, spiralled down to land and I was packed up in 6 mins, good for the fast packing/unpacking practise too!

Back in Fuschl we attended a medical briefing where we were informed all athletes would be tested for doping following WADA rules, and promptly lined up to give some blood.

That is about it for today.  Of to the dinner now!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Storms and briefings...

Weather took a turn for the worst here yesterday with a thunderstrom rolling through yesterday afternoon.  Following that we've had low cloud and drizzle... suddenly everyone seems to be contemplating the walking routes rather than discussing the intricacies of Salzburg airspace!

Still, briefings continue.  Of note we learnt that even the might of the Red Bull organisation has not been able to negotiate the use of Mont Gros launch for the final fly down when we get to Monaco - it seems instead we'll have to use an alternative take off, or, would you believe it, walk!  Details of exactly how this will work seem vague, but I expect it will become clear for those that get there!

This afternoons briefing was a technical briefing on how the logging data works for the live tracking.  It seems that the live tracking is massively updated this year with 1sec recording intervals, so you'll be able to see the minutae of our flights!  Given the data is sent in packets, there is a small delay though on what you see.  Try not to get too addicted!

As for us, we are feeling pretty relaxed and mostly on top of things.  We still have a list of stuff to do but we are onto the finer details now.  Next big events include the pre-race dinner on friday night, a press conference in Salzburg on Saturday morning and then of course the start itself.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sunshine Superman

No, Jon's not writing this blog it's the good looking one for a change. This is a picture from the official photographers during the pre-race photo shoot that we mentioned yesterday. It could almost have been the last picture the photographer ever took as he was in grave danger of getting a kick in the head. Still he survived fortunately so we have been able to post this.

Well another day nearer race start, a few technical problems to overcome i.e amending the speedbar (again!) and having to source a slightly larger reserve but with luck that's all taken care of now.

A host of technical briefings to look forward to tomorrow starting at 8 o clock for goodness sake, thought this pre race week was supposed to be a rest!

Equipment Checks...

I've spent the whole morning here in Fuschl doing equipment and branding checks.  The organisation here are checking every detail of everyone's gear - any modifications are being thoroughly checked - they seem to be being particulalry strict on harnesses.  Some peoples kit is very impressive - the most minimalist I've seen so far is Vincent Sprungli's gear,  including a very basic harness with no speed system, back protection, pod or even a stirrup!  I thought I was doing well with minimum equipment weighing in at 8.7kg, but it seems some people have got it quite a bit lower than that!  Still, the average is closer to 10kg so I'm happy.

Reserve loadings are being carefully checked, and here I need to move up to a larger reserve as I was a whisker over the maximum load for my reserve.  Doh!  The debate about 2-liners doesn't seem to be completely solved - it seems they are going to be allowed in the comp, but there may still be some hurdles for the pilots of these wings.  Last thing I know for sure was from speaking to Martin Muller (R11 pilot) yesterday afternoon he undserstood that competitors on 2-liners may need to do some additional in-flight tests.  Not sure that is actually happening now though as we received this email from Christophe Weber, race director this morning:

"Dear Athletes,
to solve the problem about not certified gliders competing in X-Alps 2011 we need a declaration of the manufacturer of the glider telling that you are having sufficient experience to fly this wing in the X-Alps competition.
Otherwise we have to force you to participate with a certified glider.
We will inform your manufacturer about this situation asking for the needed document."

Of course this is for all uncertified wings (which includes almost every pilot as we are all on lightweight versions of standard wings even where we are flying 'serial wings').  So for example my lightweight M4 is a standard M4 except in lighter fabric and different risers, but that means it is not certified.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A busy day in Fuschl

Busy day today - here is a photo montage of the day!
 The race office is open!  We aimed to be the first to arrive in order to get the paperwork out of the way (and to be in the habit of being first!) alas, Martin Muller, SUI3 was already there in front of us!

Registration - lots of stuff, including loggers, phones, cameras lots of clothes and another 3 (!) pairs of shoes.  Not sure where we can put it in the van, but we'll work on that (Dad says once he gets rid of me it will be easy!)
 Registration done, and we are on the Gaisberg for a pre race flight.  Lots of competitors are there, including Martin in the photo above, FRA 2 & 3, Max from Canada, Ogi, Pierre Carter and Honza Reijmanek.
 Launching - wind was light and the day was stable...
 Very stable - here we are thermalling in a weak climb below launch.  We never broke through the inversion and in the end only managed around 10km down route.  Still, it had been a good day and we headed back to Fuschl for a refreshing dip in the lake...
We thought our work was done for the day and we were just beginning to relax when, still dripping wet from our swim we were accosted by Ludwig, one of the photographers, and promptly asked to head back up the Gaisberg for a photo shoot.

The photo shoot took about 2 hours, including every item of sponsored equipment.  Here I am supposedly making a diary entry on our team Leica camera, whilst Oliver photographs me.  So you could say this is a photo of someone taking a photo of me taking my photo!

Monday, July 11, 2011

X-Alps HQ

Only days now until the X-Alps starts and we are now at the race headquarters in Fuschl am See.  We parked up in the team campsite with only the Romanian team already in residence but it wasn’t long before the Dutch team pulled up alongside us in their huge campervan, followed soon afterwards by Richard Pethigal from Brazil.  We’d bumped into Richard earlier in the day checking out part of the route at a place called Filzmoos close to the Dachstein.  We also saw Max Ferndl in town this evening, so a few others are beginning to arrive.

Tomorrow is the first official arrival day so we’ll be able to do the equipment checks tomorrow.  Hopefully I’ll get that out of the way early so I can still head up to the Gaisberg to fly later.  From Wednesday briefings start, so tomorrow will be the last chance to see what the XC route from the Gaisberg is like.

Dad and I spent today on the Dachstein glacier (for those of you who have been following this blog you’ll know we spent quite some time there in June).  Why were we there again, you might ask!  The reason is that we were sure there was a better walking route than the one we had already found.  Indeed there is and we finally found it, after going wrong on numerous occasions, even walking right to the bottom of the glacier at one point, only to have to hike back up!

I’ll try to keep you posted with what is happening here at race HQ for the next few days.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Chamonix again

Time is literally flying past and the X-Alps seems to be almost upon us.  Scarily it is now less than 2 weeks away and I just spent my last training weekend (let me write that again - last training weekend!) in Chamonix.

Arriving at Plaine Joux landing on Saturday morning, I walked up to the Plaine Joux take off (there was a French A-league comp going on there).  I took off but it was still very early on this stable day, so I flew down the east (leeside) face of the Prarion, mainly to see what the options for getting over the col at Les Houches were like and to check out the take off on the Prairon itself.  As the wind was blowing down the col (more or less as expected) I landed on the piste and walked up and over the top to fly again.  By now conditions were better and other gliders had flown across from Plaine Joux.  I flew around for a while before gliding over to Mont Joli.  I didn't really need to land here, but figured it was all good practise so I put it down in a tight little space and walked up to another take off just in time to join the comp task heading south.  Not for long though, as they pushed out east to a turnpoint and I continued south before crossing over Megeve towards the Aravis.  The wind was quite strong from the West and it was well into the afternoon so the sun was onto the west faces by now as well.  I wanted to have a go at crossing the Aravis from this side, a tough call with the lowish base in the lee and the shade but I fancied the challenge.  About 200m from the point I'd picked to cross the ridge and still at least 200m above it, I realised I wasn't going to make it - I hit the downwash from the rotor, I was literally being flushed from the sky and barely going forwards, so I did the only sensible thing and turned and ran back into the Passy valley.  I arrived too low to get back up on the otherside, so landed, walked to my van, filled up my drinks, grabbed some food and set off walking up to Paine Joux a second time.  This time I got to enjoy a lovely bouyant evening flight with Tom Payne, proud owner of a crispy new R11.  Boy that thing is fast. So, by close of play, I could count 4 flights and over 4 hours of walking up mountains for my labours!

After food and a bit of XC planning it was already late, so a good nights sleep in the camper van in Chamonix, followed by an early morning run up to Argentiere and back and I was ready for another day in the air.  This time conditions were supposed to be better.  On launch at Plan Praz it still looked a bit stable but, launching at 11am, Tom and I managed to climb through the inversion and head across to Plaine Joux.  Many other people were there in Chamonix, including fellow X-Alps competitor Clement Latour flying tandem with his girlfriend.  Along the cliffs at the back of Plaine Joux, Tom and I soon joined up with none other than Phiphi Barnier (X-Alps team FRA2) who'd walked to, and launched from, the Varan launch.  All three of us were stuck under the inversion, and after a bit of a battle, Tom decided to rejoin the competion by top landing at Plaine Joux (the day was not as good as we'd hoped for XC).  Phiphi and I eventually climbed out but went in opposite directions.

Crossing to the Quatre Tetes and the North end of the Aravis should have been fine, but it was still very inverted.  I came in low on the shallow grassy slopes and, skimming across the ground a few metres up, I disturbed a bushy tailed fox that went bounding off in front of me before diving down a fox hole.  It turned out I was just a little bit too low to get up from here, so after losing a little too much height scratching around, I landed and walked up a few hundred metres to where it was working and launched again.  It was working here but still painfully, painfully slow.  It took me an hour to climb out to 2800m above Point Percee, with its tiny summit crammed with a handful of happy climbers.

I thought things would improve now but my flight south down the Aravis was unbelievably slow, as each climb was weak and broken. It seemed to take an age to get to the Charvin, and looking at my instruments I saw it was already 4pm (how long had it taken!?!).  Passing L'Etale on my way back north it was as though someone had just switched on the thermals.  Crossing the col I took a great 3.5m/s climb to 3000m, pushed north, topped up to 3200m, crossed to the Varan, climbed again in a screaming climb to over 3000m and pushed back to Chamonix landing from there.  What had taken me most of the day on the way out took me two and half climbs and about 40mins to get back!

A good weekends training, but I was tired and wanted to be home, so jumped in the van and sped back to Geneva.

Friday, July 1, 2011

More photos from 26th June flight in Chamonix

Here is a link that has just come to my attention... when I was in Chamonix at the weekend there were lots of people taking pictures, and a pilot by the name of Jacques Vuffrray has posted some really great photos at take off and of me flying see