Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bouncing up and down in excitement

The start of the X-Alps gets ever closer.

With less than two weeks to go to the start, my training plan starts to ease off dramatically in something that athletes know as 'the glorious taper'.  As I start to train less I started to think about all the people who have helped me with the physical side of my preparation.

Firstly, I have Fred Gazeau to thank once again for putting together a great training plan for me and to Laurent at New Concept Sports for sponsoring me again and providing plenty of advice.  In addition Nicolas Dominik, my physio has kept my body working properly even when I've tried my very hardest to damage it!

However, I wanted to mention someone else who has given up plenty of his time and facilities, not to mention his huge expertise, on working on my strength and co-ordination.  Fellow local pilot Pierre-Eric Thierry has spent one evening a week over many weeks building my core strength and co-ordination through circuit training and trampolining. Jumping up and down on a trampoline might not sound like the most logical activity for X-Alps training, but actually it complements the rest of my training and hopefully my improved core strength will help avoid injuries during the race.

So I wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has helped me to get to this point and particularly to Pierre-Eric for the gruelling Wednesday night sessions!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Low cloud, wind and showers

Sounds like an X-Alps flying forecast!  So I went out flying again under the new wing, what else can you do when you have a new toy that is itching to be flown??

Needless to say conditions were not to most peoples taste, in fact virtually no one else was out on the Saleve, our local hill near Geneva. After walking up the north end I took off at the telecabine and then flew south, but big black ominous clouds just above the top made me cautious and I stayed well out from the hill working the clouds rather than the ridge.  Still, I managed to get about a kilometre past the tower at the very south end before coming back north under a rather big ugly black cloud.  I could see sun the other side so I pushed the speed bar and made it through.  It still managed to rain on me a little though!  With the cloud suck now contributing to the wind which was off to the north, I could not make headway against the wind back to Veyrier so landed at Coin before hiking up and walking across to the 'table d'orientation' launch.  Once again I had the take off to myself, so took off and, just for completeness, flew north this time right up to the very north tip of the 'petit saleve'.

What a lovely and surprising evening of flying.  The air time is quickly adding up under my new wing and I am feeling more confident on it now, even at full speed! 

Sorry no pictures today - forgot to take the Go Pro! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

First Impressions

Thanks to Tom for posting the photos from yesterday's flying.  I know many people are eager to know that the LM5 is like in the air so let me give you my first impressions from flying it yesterday.  Firstly some context - it was a windy unstable day with a low cloudbase, creating conditions Tom described as 'sporty'.  The conditions were demanding, not necessarily a first choice to try out a new wing but in fact this meant that in the 6hours and 30mins I flew the wing for, it had a pretty thorough test!

Let's first talk about the feel in the air.  Compared to my LM4 the brake pressure is much higher and the brake travel relatively shorter.  This means the handling is more direct and more precise, which is great but took me a bit of getting used to at first.  It turns beautifully, no tendency to turn out of the climb and easy to bank over tightly when needed.  In really knarly thermals (and we had a few yesterday) it was possible to be very aggressive when handling the wing - it always felt like it wanted to fly and never hung back like the LM4 could if you tried turning too sharply. 

The speed is very good, so much so that I was nervous about using the whole speed range.  On half bar it felt comfortable, despite the impressive speed, and I was happy to cruise at this speed but full bar felt extremely fast and unstable - this is probably just feeling, so I need more practise at this speed.  One thing I did notice was that there is a lot of pressure in the C risers so controlling and steering on the C's when on speed was difficult (especially with the skinny risers!).

Overall performance is of course difficult to judge.  The friends I normally fly with all fly R11/12's Icepeak 6's or Enzo's and frankly on my LM4 I simply couldn't keep up.  Yesterday when flying the LM5 next to Tom on his R12 I felt remarkably close in performance - at one point pushing into a strong headwind both on about 50% bar there was not that much difference in speed.  Glide we couldn't judge as we were on different lines.  Clearly the R12 is a higher performance wing - but I felt like I could 'stay in the game' which hasn't been the case earlier in the spring on my LM4. Net, I would say a huge jump in performance!

So, I still have a lot to learn but given the day was not great it is testament to the wing that I could just get on it and fly places.  The first flight was a morning flight from Plan Fait.  After the photo shoot (see previous post) I climbed up to the cloudbase at 1600m, followed the clouds to Veyrier and did a little local triangle when only 2 other wings had even scraped up to the teeth! Landing at Tailloires, more photos and lunch, and then we headed back up.  This time I set out on a 'Tour du Grand Lac' with Tom (tracklog is here).  The crossing from Veyrier to Semnoz was challenging with the low base and very strong SW wind on the north end of Semnoz.  It took forever to establish here and work south along this windy ridge.  I was having to us the bar to push low over windy ridges in turbulence (focuses the mind)!  But the glider was solid.  Once established on Semnoz, I continued to Croix de Nivelles, before dropping back into the Bauges and flying back past Annecy once again going north past Parmelan and back into the headwind to home.  Not a bad little loop to take my new toy for a spin and testing enough with such a low cloudbase (mostly around 1700m).

So awesome wing.  Thanks Ozone.

The wing in flight: photos

We had a fantastic day in Annecy today playing with our new toys. Jon's wing - a most awesome Ozone Mantra LM5 - arrived earlier this week and today Jon flew it for the first time. Jon will write up his flight and impressions of the wing in another post, but it's safe to say he rather likes it.

Here are a few photos from the day.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sticking Sticky Stickers

After more than 2 days of stress caused by DHL losing my glider, I finally received it yesterday.  We immediately set to work putting the logos onto the wing.  With the help of Tom Payne, Quentin King and my long suffering wife we thought we'd get most of it done in an evening.  We were wrong - we are probably only half way there - what a lot of logos!!!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Testing, testing, testing...

And so finally, all my X-Alps gear is starting to arrive.  Our sponsors have done us proud with some great bits of kits, so here is a quick round up of what's here, and what's not quite here yet...

First up, I have a new helmet, enforced by the new rules which stipulate we all have to have an EN certified helmet.  Fortunately Plusmax have done us proud and provided a special X-Alps limited edition version.  I was expecting them to send me one helmet, but when I opened the huge box they sent I was surprised to see two helmets - one for Tom, my flying supporter, too!

Next the reserve.  Skyman have given me a great deal on their lightweight ultra-cross reserve, weighing in at less than a kilo, but still rated up to 100kg (more than ample for my 85kg all-up weight).  They even sent me a lightweight bridle to connect to the harness (with 12gr dyneema connects of course - no metalwork on this set up!).

This brings me neatly to the harness.  Ozone have created a superb lightweight model which is a real joy to fly. It is comfortable in the air and very sensitive to weight shift, making it really lovely to carve big wingovers and play around in the air in front of the Saleve.

Finally, my wing is in Geneva.  This is the much anticipated LM5. I know it is in Geneva from the DHL tracking website, however it is still clearing customs.  All going well I will have it tomorrow.  As soon as I get a chance to fly it I will post my thoughts here.