25 December 2007

Seasonal News

Yesterday morning we received alarming news. Farther Christmas was spotted in some troublesome circumstances at the infamous "Wall" of Finnish fortress island Suomenlinna, just in front of downtown Helsinki. That site is frequently used by Finnish paragliding pilots, but is known to require significant skill and even more carefulness, as winds can pick up very quickly and large vessels pass closely by causing furious rotors. Understandably Santa must have been in some hurry, and must have compromised his usual careful assessment of the conditions.
It was with great relieve that we only some 12 hours later received joyous reports from Iquique, Chile, where Santa landed safely on the beach and was welcomed by many happy children.

Lokkilok wishes to thank reporters Markku L. and Jussi L. and all others who must have assisted Santa in his yearly epic adventure.
Finally, we wish all our readers Merry Christmas!

12 December 2007

Finns flee to Spain

This time of the year the chances of getting some air under ones feet are slim, here in Finland that is. The days are short, the clouds plenty and very low, and the fields wet and soft. And this global warming thing doesn't really help until it warms up a lot. So Nordic residents get depressive and need therapy in the form of parties, alcohol or just light.
An even better remedy is to flee to a sunny place with good flying opportunities. Last week some 24 Finnish pilots enjoyed the sunny skies of Algodonales, Spain. Those who had to stay at home need more parties and alcohol to cope with the reports of nice 3 hour long flights. This (Finnish) report has a bunch of pictures. This week another delegation of over 10 pilots try to keep up the good spirit in Algodonales.
(the pictures here are by Mika Pousi)

15 November 2007

Meanwhile in Brazil...

...SOL Team pilots Frank, Rafaelo and Ceceu set a tentative new paragliding world record of 461,8 km. Congratulations!

13 November 2007

Extreme Parawaiting

So what do Finns do in November, when it is too windy to fly ? Well surfing of course! November storms sometimes result in a really good surf and that time of the year the sea is usually not frozen over, yet.
Finnish pilot and kitesurfer Hapa and friends enjoyed the conditions at Hanko last weekend....

21 October 2007

The next goal: Mexico

A week ago or so received an email notification about being accepted for the Pre-Worlds 2008. This is a competition that will take place in the famous Valle de Bravo in Mexico, in February. As the name suggests it is a kind of practice event for the real World Championships that will be organized by the same crew at the same place in 2009. For us from Finland the goal fro the Pre-Worlds will be to get as many people as high as possible to secure participation for several pilots in 2009.
Although the area is frequently visited by pilots from Finland I myself have not been in Mexico before. So good preparation is in order. Hence, when my son asked me if we could go to France during his autumn break it was an easy decision to go to our favorite Gréolières. Actually it was quite difficult to get decently priced tickets but in the end we got here on Wednesday night. Thursday we did a couple of tandem flights here at Gréolières, and I did a solo flight at Gourdon. All short ones as we missed the best thermal time of the day a bit. It is autumn and the good window is shorter now. Friday we went to Monaco and did a stunning tandem flight in perfect conditions. We simply engulfed the scenery and forgot to make some pictures! We landed just in time to catch the bus back up to launch to fetch our car. Only in France can they have excellent, cheap, public transport to serve paraglider pilots: the bus leaves from the steps that lead to the beach every day at: 10:00, 11:15, 14:00 and 15:15.
At the Roquebrune launch we actually experienced an interesting phenomenon: there were a dozen or so pilots, all waiting for the conditions to become "good", while as far as I could tell those conditions were just perfect. But you don't launch light-heartedly when the locals who fly there every day tell you that it isn't good. Especially when one of them is the president of the local club. But their explanations about why it wasn't good weren't very convincing and it really looked good to me so after half an hour I had enough and we took our wing out. I said that we were going to try, carefully, just straight out and then down to the beach. And nobody said we were crazy or so, and off we went. As expected it was all just really nice. Once we were on the beach the others launched of course and flew the thermals for an hour and a half or so.... Of course it is much better to e safe then sorry, but it is also silly to get trapped in group psychology where everybody waits for everybody else to take a decision.

07 October 2007

Ozone Fest at Nummela

This morning woken by the sun, and by an incoming text message that urged paragliding students (and instructors) to come to Nummela airfield asap. Before 11 we had a nice crowd there. Initially the wind was very cross and some low fog clouds prevented us from towing but gradually the sky cleared out a bit and the wind turned South, and the towing could begin!
I actually encountered buoyant air and even some small patches of lift, nice! Once I landed I noted that all gliders present were from Ozone, so it looked as if we had some special event going on. I'd to leave early to fetch some scouts from a weekend event but I'm sure everybody got a couple of tows in nice conditions.

26 September 2007

Autumn is here...

...but it is exceptionally warm this week and several pilots have been ridge roaring in the Saimaa lake district.

19 September 2007

Madeira in Madeira

We're on a short ad hoc vacation in Madeira. Today did a top to bottom flight from the Pico da Cruz down to the Lido. The wind was too light and too cross to stay up. Besides one flies right over all the hotels, and more scary, has to avoid 6 construction cranes. So not a good place to scratch the mountain. Instead flew out over the sea early and then back in over our own hotel, fun! Then concentrated on landing in the park at the Lido, which was actually easier then expected. All in all a nice way to end the day. And the walk up is a good workout.
So really feel that I deserve the dinner we'll have tonight. We'll do a Portugese evening tonight with fado singing and the local famous wine!
Later this week should try to fly the scenic north side of the island. The trade winds are northeasterly this time of the year.

11 September 2007

Grounded by flu

Apparently caught a flu in rainy Stockholm. Today barely managed a walk. Of course the weather was very good. Sun, little wind and nice cloud streets with a quite high base for September. Didn't hear about anyone flying though...

09 September 2007

Sand, sun, and fun in Løkken

Thursday morning left the Netherlands with my navigator set for Løkken, Denmark. After enduring major traffic jams around Hamburg got there a bit before 6. I headed straight for the beach as conditions seemed excellent: sun, a nice northwesterly breeze and a couple of gliders in the air a bit more north.
So quickly got ready and launched from the beach. It was perfect and I soared all the way to Rudberg's Kudde, the higher hill approx. 8 km more north (in the far distance on picture). Flying back was a little slower as the wind had picked up a bit. But it was very smooth so easy to apply a moderate amount of speedbar. After some 50 minutes or so was back. An amazing flight and a really cool way to chill out after a day of driving!
Friday morning headed out early again, but by the time I was ready the wind was already too strong (see picture). I tried to do a bit of groundhandling and dry my wing, but only got it dirty with more wet sand. After breakfast with Danish pastries in the village, found a nice grassy and sunny field to dry and clean my glider. Once packed up headed for Frederikshavn, where I went for a swim, and sauna!, in the very nice swimming hall. In the evening then took the ferry to Göteborg and once there drove to Stockholm for a last ferry trip straight back to Helsinki. So after some 6000 km, 25 days, and a lot of flying back home again!

04 September 2007

Two more days in the sun

As the group left for Finland on Sat evening, I could fly on my own on Sunday again. The Norwegians who replaced the Finns and myself were up the mountain in Gréolières early in the morning and those that launched after 11 could stay up and get high. The conditions were now better than any of the previous days, with a nice cloudbase at approx. 2200m, but without over development. I considered flying cross country to Col de Bleyne, but decided that I could use an easy day and came down after 2 hours to have lunch. Then walked again up and launched a bit before 4 and had another 2 hours in very nice conditions. This time did 3 small triangles: from the start up and to the easternmost ski-lift, then south across the valley to the corner of the next mountain. From there to the Cipieres "castle" and then back to the start. I tried a bit different glide lines and different amounts of speed bar.

Monday morning drove to the famous St. Andre Les Alpes. I'd never flown there and it looked flyable, despite forecasts with strong winds. After a short briefing by the folks from the Aerogliss school, a nice French hangglider pilot drove me and a German paraglider pilot to the launch. There a huge group of German pilots were launching and after some 15 minutes they managed to stay up. I joined the crowd, but after a while felt that the maneuvers of the German students were a bit too difficult to predict. I also wanted to land early, before the landing field would get too windy. My XC Trainer computed ever increasing wind speeds aloft, and I knew it would be strong down in the valleys. After a nice half hour flight, landed nice and safely.
I've found the calculated wind speed and direction one of the most useful features on the XC Trainer; a vario combined with a GPS. Of course it is calculated, not measured, but after a couple of nice circles it seems to be quite accurate. As in this flight at St. Andre I really like to keep an eye on the wind changes during the day.

After a quick and simple lunch then started to drive North. Originally had intended to go flying in Chamonix, but all forecasts predicted bad weather there for the whole week. So instead drove to the Netherlands to visit family and friends. The current plan is to drive on Thursday to Løkken in Denmark to do soar the amazing dunes there.

02 September 2007

Finns Leaving Gréolières

The Finnish group of paraglider pilots enjoyed more good days all through the week. Tuesday with flights in Gourdon topped with evening flights at the stunning Roquebrune site above Monaco. It was not easy to start as landing is allowed only after 7 PM and at that time there is little or no wind from the front. But in the end 5 pilots managed to run themselves into the air and have a nice flight down to he beach.
Wednesday was cloudy with storm warnings and we went to the Gorge du Verdon where we enjoyed the scenery and watched how more than 20 huge vultures flew across the gorge.
Thursday morning again went to Groudon but the conditions were weak and turbulent. In the afternoon a few pilots joined me for an afternoon flight in Gréolières; and our walk up the mountain was rewarded with excellent conditions and long flights. It was actually difficult to get down! On Thursday I myself flew a demo Ozone Mantra 2 glider (see picture above). After some 20 minutes I got used to the light handling and started to make really use of the smooth excellent conversion of every movement in altitude; it is a very nice glider indeed. If only I could find a sponsor....
Friday was a Gréolières day again; the weather was no longer stable and the sky quickly overdeveloped (see picture below). But we had our timing right and everybody got a nice flight; and most another nice flight in the afternoon. In the evening we had our last dinner at the famous Barricade restaurant; with pizzas and various french alcoholic beverages! As the good weather continued we all had one last flight on Saturday morning. Then a quick shower and down to the coast. After a lunch in Valbonne and a quick swim at the beach in Nice it was time to get to the airport....

28 August 2007

Finns Hot in France

After a few more days of nice flying co-instructor Hapa and our group of 8 Finnish paraglider pilots arrived, on Saturday evening. The sunny weather continues, and it is getting ever warmer. Sunday morning had some west winds, not good for flying but in the afternoon everybody got a flight at Gourdon. Yesterday morning the weather was perfect and the group walked up to the start at Gréolières, no mean feat. It is some 250 meters up, a 40 minutes walk with 20+ kg of gear! And this in the blistering sun, at temperatures of 30+ degrees (Celsius). But again all got a nice flight, some short and some longer. In the afternoon again went to Gourdon where the conditions were a bit light, but several of our pilots made hour long flights.
And then we all went for a swim in the refreshing Loup; the local river. As the village suffered from a broken water supply we were accompanied by local sirens, virgins and maidens.....

23 August 2007

Sky High

Today made couple of really nice flights! First walked up to the Gréolierès launch early. That's good morning exercise it is 220 meter up and takes about 35 minutes. There was some overcast in the east but the western half of the sky was clear with the border being close and getting nearer over time. So an opportunity, or need, for para-waiting and enjoying the scenery. The local school was flying tandems and pilots from the top of the mountain, 600 m higher. But as everybody was just going down I waited a bit more. Later things clearly improved and I launched but still a bit too early as I could cling on for a little while but bombed out after 10 minutes. The weather looked really great now and top-launching pilots were staying up, so quickly packed up and walked up. Now it was easy to stay up, it actually took only minutes to fly up to the top and above. Cloudbase was at around a nice 2300 m! I tried to fly to Gourdon, but didn't have the guts to make the last transition, and returned to Gréolières, where I landed after 1.5 hours flying. Quite tired after all the walking and of flying in the strong conditions; thermals were 5-6 m/s strong.

After a short lunch break went to see if Gourdon would offer some nice afternoon flying; and sure it it did! Launched at exactly 16:00 and flew another 1.5 hours getting as high as 1700m. I'd never been that high above Gourdon it was truly amazing.

In the evening feasted on a well-deserved pizza at the Barricade and for desert shared an apple pie that I'd made in the early evening with my hosts Karen and Ben.

22 August 2007

From Espoo to Gréolierès: arrived

Yesterday went to the Gourdon site early; where an instructor (Alain?) of the local paragliding school and I were the only people to enjoy the not great but flyable conditions. Actually soon the cloud formation was strong, but with very low bases causing cloud suck right in front of the launch. This combined with the SW winds created a bit more turbulence than I liked. So (top) landed after some 20 minutes. Later the cloudbase raised and the weather looked a bit less turbulent, but with strong conditions on launch. The Ozone test pilots came out (picture above) and went through their usual routine for a while but then decided that enough was enough. Jerome showed a proto of a very small (and light) ultralight that he tried with his own made "harness". It all looked really scary (see below) but it sure flew, actually quite well.
Today made an early flight at Gréolières but probably a bit too early, as some overcast slowed the thermal development, and I couldn't stay up. Later in Gourdon people were still flying but coming down to avoid the upcoming rain. The forecasts for tomorrow and especially Friday look much better.

20 August 2007

From Espoo to Gréolierès: in Annecy

Saturday afternoon drove to Annecy, where as predicted the weather was great on Sunday afternoon. The sky was busy with tandem paragliders; later, when the thermals kicked in, joined by tens of solo paragliders. I took an early flight down to get familiar with the place and then did a good thermal flight. In the landing field heard a familiar voice: Virpi and several other Finnish hanglider pilots are here too! Just to enjoy the scenery did another flight in the evening, there were still a few thermals and a lot of buoyant air, really nice flying.
Today the weather is bad, rainy, so it seems a good day to drive further down.

17 August 2007

From Espoo to Gréolierès: through Sweden

Wednesday left for Gréolières, one of those great flying sites in the Gourdon area, in the South-East corner of France. Harri Seppi and I will guide and teach a group of 8 pilots there later this month. I decided to turn the trip into a long vacation and drive down there, all the way from my home in Espoo, Finland. With the idea of flying in many places along the way, going along with the weather.

So on Wednesday tried to get a few pilots to go and fly in Kiikala, which is on the way to Turku, from where I had to take the Viking Line ferry to Stockholm in the evening. Alas, nobody could come to Kiikala but we got some some airtime at the Hyvinkää airfield. I left early, didn't want to miss the boat!

In Turku then had a couple of hours, so went for a walk and some food in the sunny downtown. I bumped into the new public library,and went inside to look at this new building, famous for its architecture. It was actually quite impressive, very nice indeed. As all good architecture it was interesting at various scales. Above a picture of the embedded handrail of the main stairs. The same wood and coloring was used throughout the building.
I had tea in the nice CafeArt and then hurried to the ferry. Where the art theme continued when in the taxfree shop noticed South African wine boxed in packaging with a Kaj Stenvall duck painting! And no, I didn't buy or drink any, what's the point of buying wine when going to France?

The next morning Stockholm welcomed me with a dark cloudy sky and along the way south I encountered a couple of very severe storms. Further south there were some sunny spells but the winds were very strong so decided to take a deep breath and continued all the way to my relatives in Dronten, the Netherlands. Looks like flying will have to wait till Sunday or Monday, when I plan to be around Annecy.

06 August 2007

Nice floating

Today a smallish group of pilots gathered at Hyvinkää airfield to enjoy the wonderful summer weather. With many Finnish pilots fled to southern locations such as Macedonia, and many others back to work, there wasn't the usual congestion.
With the stable high pressure system conditions were initially weak but the August sun still has enough power to cook things up. After 3 PM most pilots managed to stay aloft. I myself flew for 2 hours, practiced a few low saves and also tried to get away a bit. The northerly wind combined with the low ceiling made XC a bit too difficult though.
Eventually the thermals did develop into broad areas of lift but with small very strong cores up to 5 m/s. Some of these cores broke through the inversion, but due to the airspace restrictions we could go only approx. 70 m above the inversion. After 6 PM the thermal activity quickly died out, and many very happy people landed shorty after one other.

Google earth track

05 August 2007

Tandem license flights completed

Global warming, the EU membership, or some other cause? Fact is that it is August and only now the real summer weather is here, with a nice high pressure system settling in. Yesterday saw quite a crowd at Hyvinkää airfield; and as usual the paragliders had to squeeze their tows and landings in between ultralights and sailplanes.
I was out early and found accomplished pilot Artsi (thank you!) willing to be the passenger on my Ozone McDaddy tandem (two-seater paraglider). We made two flights, one short and one longer one with some thermalling up to the local ceiling of 2500 ft MSL. The best part was that with these flights I now completed my training as tandem pilot, so now are allowed to take friends, family and others for a flight! It took me a long time to make the required number of flights with pilots as passenger, as one need to find a victim, the weather must be right, and there better be an experienced tow car driver. It does not often all come together.
Happy as I was with this accomplishment the rest of the day I spent towing, and assisting Rami who did many tandem flights with curious novices.

02 August 2007

30 seconds...

Today finally got of the ground, after 4 weeks of rain, wind, work and business travel. Already yesterday I was ready to go to the Suomenlinna fortress island, but the wind was too strong. Today the forecast was for a perfect 7 m/s from the SW, and I took the 11:00 ferry. The island is just in front of downtown Helsinki and the ferry takes only 15 minutes.
Unfortunately the wind was dying rapidly. While I walked the 15 minutes on the island to the site it look still very good, and even as I layed out, but once I was in the air it was just a tiny bit too weak, or too much from the South. I managed to fly some 30 secs, doing one full turn and then scratching the south ridge (the picture above is from last summer). I tried once more without any ballast or other stuff in my harness, but too weak is too weak. And after all my running I'm some 4 kg lighter than I used to be. But it was nice the be out and I did an hour of kiting and other ground handling.

The Suomenlinna island is low island and we use the fortifications as (very small) ridges. For various reasons it is a demanding place to fly but with the right precautions and guidance from local experts it is a nice addition to our smörgåsbord of sites.
In front is open sea so the winds are usually smooth, but the numerous large ferries and freighters pass by close and cause dangerous turbulence, and we always land before these vessels cause trouble. After all it never hurts to get extra launching practice. The landings require attention too, as there is very little space; and in the summer months there will be tens of tourists standing right where you want to drop your glider....
Of course all those tourists make pictures and videos. Heimo, the guru for this site, must be the most photographed paraglider pilot in the world. In may the Finnair in flight magazine ran a story about Suomenlinna which only picture was this:

19 July 2007

From Monte Carlo to Gourdon

Work brought me out to California this week, so no flying other then trying to survive in a crowded 747. Yesterday morning the Wall Street Journal that the hotel hands out had a large Land Rover ad titled "From Monte Carlo to Gourdon". Otherwise I don't care at all about large, gas goggling, status cars; I'm perfectly happy with my tiny-diesel powered Ford Fiesta. But that phrase struck me as both Monaco and Gourdon are famous beautiful sites for paragliding. I visit the area at least once a year: end of August my friend Harri "Hapa" (www.flyhapa.com) and I will guide a group of 8 Finnish pilots into La vie en France! We base ourselves at our favorite Gite in the Sun in Greolieres, but expect to fly almost everyday also at Gourdon. And hopefully we can get everybody to fly at least once above Monaco. That is a pilgrimage that every pilot should make once in a lifetime!
The Land Rover website has this short promotion video which shows the breathtaking landscapes. The picture above has me flying above Gourdon, whereas down below Hapa flies above Monaco (pictures by Hapa). Expect more news from these places in a couple of weeks!

12 July 2007

Attacked by the birds

For the last 10 days or so the weather gods have decided that we should not fly. So I've buried myself in work, but made occasional visits to summer-happy downtown Helsinki. Yesterday went to see an open air jazz concert on the Esplanade and bought myself an ice-cream at one of the classic kiosks. The servant warned about the seagulls but I had no clue what I was in for. Only some 10 meters from the kiosk a couple of seagulls dived onto my ice-cream and by sheer speed knocked the ball of ice-cream from the cone. Right when the ice-cream hit the gravel there were at least 15 gulls and also some other birds. In less then 3 seconds there was nothing left; I couldn't even take out my camera-phone let alone make a picture. One of the many witnesses of the event remarked that "That was some really good ice-cream!".

03 July 2007

Hanggliding at Jämi

This weekend went to Jämi to help out with a round of the Finnish Hanggliding League, organized by my club Jämin Riippuliitäjät. used the opportunity to refresh my own hanggliding skills a bit with 3 flights in the calm air on Friday evening, and 2 more in the lightly thermic Sunday morning. Nice to be flying like a bird again!
The competition did not enjoy the best possible weather; Saturday over-developed quickly and even with start windows opening and closing and changing runways it was impossible to tow all pilots up. The task was to fly out for 12 km (in any direction) and back and then again out and back to goal at the airfield. Only Antti Numelin managed to get away.
On Sunday conditions were better, and soon the sky was filled with hanggliders. Thermals were weak though and the cloudbase very low so several pilots droppped out and flew back to the airfield to try again. In the afternoon we got some impressive showers and a thunderstorm nearby, but some pilots managed to get away right before those. In the end 2 pilots had flewn out and back (once) and shared the 1st place: Jari and Heikki, several others flew out and partly back.

29 June 2007

Pictures from Spain

We Finnish pilots that were at the Nordics, Piedrahita, Spain, are publishing our best pictures here Check it out!

25 June 2007

Hapa flies 125 km

Yesterday Harri "Hapa" Seppi (right) flew125 km, from Jämi to Loimaa; adding another long flight to this very good XC season!
Hapa told me he flew on his own Ozone Addict R, and that conditions would have allowed for an out-and-return or triangle flight, but that he just continued going straight South without really considering alternatives. He experienced cold, bladder pressure and sickness, and flew the last section in a kind of trance but was very happy with this new personal best and join the crowd of 100+ km pilots!
The picture is from Gourdon in May 2006, just before Hapa and myself were going to test fly the then new Ozone Addict R.

24 June 2007

Epic finish

Saturday, the last day of the Nordics, offered an epic finish of the competition. The forecast and morning hours indicated stable air and light winds, but local guru Steve Ham was quite certain that the day would be good later and the task committee set a challenging 77 km task. Most pilots did wait when the launch window opened, even as the start was an exit 15 km from launch. With my confidence boosted by Fridays good flying I decided to launch when I saw most others waiting. I am usually good in working light stuff (helped by being a bit light on my glider) but to do that effectively one needs a bit of elbow room; something hard to get when in a gaggle with a tens of others gliders, right next to the hill. This strategy worked but it was really hard work.
With a few fellow early starters we worked hard around Villafranca to get up, only to see the later starters blaze high over us. Conditions clearly improved throughout the afternoon and those that got high early on had a relatively easy flight across the pass. I managed to work my way up and over the pass and from then on I could speed up towards Avila. By now there was a lot of convergence; from earlier flying in this region I knew to look out for that. At the turnpoint dropped a bit low again, but a furious thermal hunt yielded in a good boomer. Once I was up at 3000 m again I was quite sure I could make goal, a first for me in a comp! After 5:18 hours made the goal and a little while later landed in a field filled with happy pilots (see track). Thanks to the improving conditions over 40 pilots made goal !
On this last task the Finns did well with 7 pilots in goal: Ari (11), Antti (17), Make (19), Jouni (26), Robert (39), Kari (46), and Javis (46). The others all landed short of the pass, but Mladen and Kasperi went up the hill again to enjoy the conditions in afternoon flights.
Overall the comp was a nice event. Once the good weather kicked Mads, the director, and his committee set excellent tasks that made everybody fly a lot. In his report Mads concludes, and I agree, that Piedrahita is nice but not ideal for a comp like this, as the initial part of each task tends to be very difficult. Ideally the tasks get more difficult towards the end. However, I surely enjoyed the flying including the tricky phases even though I landed early in the first two tasks. I'm convinced that participating in a large comp like this simply requires experience, in addition to solid flying skills of course.
In the overall score I placed 80th, which given those first two bad days I can be quite happy with. Jouni was 3rd overall, and Antti an excellent 16 and 2nd Serial Class pilot (serial class gliders are certified, i.e. have passed some safety tests). Ronny Helgesen from Norway is the new champion and Anders Baerheim, Norway, 2nd. It is nice to see that the "foreign" participation could not break this Nordic hegemony, especially France and the UK had strong contenders.

The Nordics also included the Finnish Paragliding Nationals so here are all Finns (in parentheses the result in the Nordic Open):

1. Jouni (3)
2. Antti (16)
3. Ari (18)
4. Make (33)
5. Kari (34)
6. Javis (62)
7. Robert (80)
8. Mladen (89)
9. Kasperi (115)
10. Jari (126)
11. Esa (132)
12. Taina (136)

22 June 2007

Beautiful flying

Today flying commenced in a wonderful blue sky with no clouds. The task was again a zigzag through the Piedrahita valley, not unlike yesterday. And like yesterday the conditions were challenging with initially weak lift and a lowish inversion. Nevertheless the top pilots pushed hard and started on time, after making a zero turnpoint 8 km from the start. Like yesterday the field quickly separated in several gaggles, but most gaggles seemed smaller this time.
Today I did much better than the first 2 days, after 4 hours landed some 8 km short of the one-but last turnpoint. I flew the early phases very slowly and conservatively as I didn't want to be down early again. Later I got into the rhythm and could speed up quite a bit, overtaking several pilots by using convergence lines more into the valley (see track).
The Finnish pilots Jouni and Kari made goal, excellent! Antti was also very close to the goal. The results will be available later.

Kari "Karlos" Rämö

Kari "Karlos" Rämö is a ex-hanglider pilot with a thirst for long XC-flights. Kari is always prepared for those special days and has several times improved the Finnish records. His early early season flight of 155 km started the long-distance frenzy we saw in Finland in May. Kari is also a real engineer; he has always some beautifully constructed add-ons such as video-camera fixtures, and fixes everything even the screaming bunkbeds in the hostel of Piedrahita!

Here are Kari's answers to our standard questions:
Age: "37"
Occupation: "stock manager"
Gear: "Skywalk Magic, Advance impress"
Most memorable flight: "Catching a thermal with thousands of leaves."
Personal goal: "The trofee!"


On Thursday we pilots were welcomed by promising weather and complex task around 6 turnpoints was set, for a total of 70 km. At 13:30 the window opened and soon the sky was full of gliders. However the conditions turned out to be very weak, which required patience and very careful flying. Many pilots, including myself, "bombed out" (landed in a very early stage), however often after at least an hour of struggling low. The others flew a tight race, one could easily follow the gaggles (groups pf gliders) floating around the Piedrahita valley. Near every turnpoint the gaggles became smaller and near the end many pilots were flying alone, which is even more difficult.
After almost 4 hours nine pilots including Jouni made the goal, excellent flying! The results can be downloaded from the Nordics web site.
As for myself, it is time to get into the right spirit and fly to goal! To get in the mood I flew an early evening flight, as training exercise set myself a task to fly straight to the goal field. With some good flying and thermalling I managed to get there in 45 minutes which was a good, and much needed, boost to my self-confidence! Moreover the goal area is now familiar...

The Finns placed:
4 Jouni
20 Antti
28 Kari
33 Ari
44 Javis
63 Make
80 Mladen
106 Kasperi
108 Jari
114 Robert
121 Taina
121 Esa

20 June 2007

Finally flying!

After several days of waiting today meeting director Mads Syndegaard set the first task of the Nordics: via one turnpoint to Avila. Throughout the morning the sky was almost completely covered with low clouds, but the winds were finally only moderate and most importantly more west than southwest. After lunch at launch and a short clear briefing at 1 the start window opened at 13:45 and soon the sly was filled with 140 happy paraglider pilots!
I myself started early and soon worked my way up to a bit above launch and for a short while was on top of the stack together with teammate Make. Soon that spot attracted many other gliders but the thermal was dying out. So moved to the east a bit but there had great trouble staying up and after a short while landed halfway down next to the road. Unfortunately my wing landed in a thorny bush, it took me an hour to clear the lines carefully. Then quickly packed up and started walking to launch. Luckily got a ride from the non-competing Norwegian pilots and soon was in the air again. This second time manged to soar along the ridge, at times gaining some more height from thermals. Before I started the valley crossing to the first turnpoint wanted to gain some more height, but soon noticed that the windspeed had increased and I was almost being blown over the back. So flew out to the front but could just not quite make the glide at this shallow slope. My harness slided over the low bush and something got stuck. Due to the headwind my ground speed was almost zero so I could put my legs down and effectively toplanded. Then launched again and now flew straight out. A cloudband could be seen and a flew to it, encountering a line of weakish lift perpendicular to the wind direction, perhaps an indication of wave activity? I continued along the line which at times drifted eastwards, toward the turnpoint. Meanwhile the winds seemed to increase ever more, at times I managed only 4 km/h against the wind. But soon made the turnpoint and then turned downwind in the direction of the goal. Again found some lift lines and occasionally a thermal, but it was too difficult to track those. Near the antenna in the pass air became more turbulent, as I'd expected. By now there were clear signs of wave in the air (see picture) and my aim was to cross the antennas high and then land somewhere high to avoid rotor, and before the closure of the reporting time. After 1:23 of airtime it was good to be safe and sound at the ground. Of course a bit disappointed about missing the task (due to re-launch and toplanding), but very happy for being tenious and for having flown 2 hours in total. Here my track for Google Earth.
The pilots are now all downloading their tracks and the score will be available later, but Jouni was one of the few to make goal! Ari landed approx. 4 km short, the others Finnish pilots did not fare as well.

19 June 2007

Wind and more wind

The Nordics continued ot be plagued by strong winds. On Monday it looked like there was a small chance for a task and all pilots were transported to launch. Unfortunately it was blowing over the back and getting stronger all the time. Up there it was quite cold, most pilots were dressed up in full flying gear and seeked shelter from the wind. In my opinion the French team used the waiting time in excellent style. They used the aluminum foil that was used to wrap the lunch sandwhiches to construct petanque (aka "jeux de boules") balls by wrapping small stones. And then played many rounds of petanque at times improvising extravagant techniques and different "balls". At noon commpetion director Mads cancelled the day and requested that everybody did a it of rock clearing (see picture).

After that people took off in various directions. Esa, Kari, Kasper and myself went for a real nice hike in the Gredos mountains. In the mountains the winds were very strong indeed, we were happy to be on the gound.
Later in the evening the weather started to calm down, and we Finnish pilots went to check out the conditions at the antenna launch. A bit before 9 PM Ari and Mladen got in the air and enjoyed buoyant air and the last thermals of the day. Jouni and I started a few minutes later, too late in fact to get up but it was nice tet some air under our feet after many days of waiting!

On this Tuesday both the forecast as wel as the sky indicated more strong south-west winds so the day was cancelled at the morning briefing. All forecasts predict that the classical Piedrahita weather will be with us tomorrow....

16 June 2007

Waiting for weather and equipment

Parawaiting prevails here in Piedrahita, one day before the Nordics commence. As seems to be the rule rather than the exception for me, my glider did not show up on the conveyor belt at arrivals in Madrid. After an hour of waiting and reporting the missing bag (together with many, too many, others) Esa, Kari, and Kasperi met me in the arrivals hall. They had spent the day in Madrid as Thursday was a rainy day in Spain, no flying.
Friday morning we were welcomed by sunny blue skies, but soon we noticed that it was very windy. Spent the morning making phone calls to figure out if anybody had any clue about my glider, but to no avail. At Finnair, and many large organiztions like it, individual employees while friendly, seem to avoid all responsibility. It would have been so nice if one would have said "Sorry to hear that, let me found out and I call you back in an hour", as opposed to referring ad infinitum to other people that should take care.
We had breakfast at the hostel and did some shopping for supplementary food. Late in the morning we drove to the antenna lauch, as rumour had it that some Norwegians would try to fly there. Norwegian paraglider pilots have a reputation of being trul adventurous, so one tends to believe such rumours. But we didn't see any and with the strong winds that was understandable. So we contined to Àvila where we of course met a lot of other pilots. And had a really good lunch, followed by touring the famous and truly impressive medieval city walls. The strong winds snapped my brand new Fjällräven hat and dropped it onto one of the roofs next to the wall. So the excitement of the day was my climb over the wall onto that roof. Especially crawling over those old brittle roof tiles provided for the minium daily required allowance of adrenalin.
Later in the afternoon we hunted some shops and shopping centers for outdoor shoes for Kasper. Meanwhile I repeatedly tried to call to the lost luggage department at Madrid airpoort, without ever being able to get though. Now, on Sat morning, the latest news is that the glider bag has arrived at Madrid and that I can come and pick it up. That's just fine as today is another rainy day with the forecasts promising more of the same for Sun. Hopefully on Monday the waether will be good and I will have my glider...

10 June 2007

Strong and nervous at EFIK

This Sunday the ESV (Paragliders of Southern Finland) activists had decided to bring the ESV towing car to the Kiikala airfield (EFIK) in Southwest Finland. Kiikala is well known for its very reliable thermals, often conditions are really strong. Around 11 some 10 pilots had gathered at the airfield which welcomed them with a surprisingly strong notherly. Luckily the main Kiikala runway runs exactly norht-south. And some small cumulus were eagerly noticed. These developed quickly into nice clouds which also then dissolved quite quickly. Morevoer the clouds seemed reasonably high and didn't seem to move very fast. In short looked like an epic day!
Soon everything was ready and the early wind had calmed down significantly, indicating thermal activity. I was the the second pilot to be towed up. Halfway the tow it felt like I was in a thermal so I released, at 250 m AGL (above ground level). Sure enough I had caught a thermal, a bit weak so it required careful tracking but I slowly worked my way up and it didn't drift as much as we had expected. Above 600 m MSL (above mean sea level) it got stronger and better defined and a while later arrived at cloud base at approx. 2100 m. Interestingly further south, to where the wind was blowing me, cloudbase was clearly some 500 m lower.
I had taken off with Nummela airfield (EFNU) set as goal, but didn't know if that would work as it would require fighting a head- or crosswind. The upperlevel winds were some 10-15 km/h from the north so I decided to go with the flow until the big main road to Helsinki and then decide what to do next. Once I was there it looked like the upper winds had become less strong, and further south one could already clearly see seabreeze influence, so I decided to go east towards Nummela; sticking close to the main road to assure a quick and easy retrieve as I had to be home in time today.
After a mere 9 km or so encountered a strange phenomenon, a rather low cloud band formed a "wall", blocking the straight route to the east (see the picture). Above it was very high, strong cumulus that threatened to become a CuNimb (a thundercloud). As the forecast had warned for occasional local thunderstorms I quickly decided to stay away from this system. It looked liked I could fly around it on the north side, and as clouds looked good in that direction I changed direction to the north. But first had to work my way up again as I was getting really low. Now thermals were stronger though, a 4 m/s piped me up quickly. To my surprise lower down the wind was absent now, or slightly south. Higher up it was still north though. I glided a bit more north, going east didn't look attractive at all. After having gone some 8 km north I was a bit lower again, and down there the wind was clearly southwest now. I hit a realy strong thermal, but soon after that some real bad turbulence too. As the Kiikala airfield seemed within reach again I decided to leave the shitty air and go west. While flying straight west I actually was going up. After a little while not far form the airfield I noticed a few whiffs of moisture coming towards me from below. Within a mere 20 seconds these had formed a sizeble cloud below, and behind, me. I had barely escaped it by a mere 20 m or so, and felt a bit what it must have been like for the pilots in Australia that were quickly caught in clouds early in the year.
What seemed to be going on was that the southerly seabreeze was mixing with the main northerly at a layer between 900 and 1300 m MSL. Above that layer there was a nice convergence band; whereas in that layer things were really nasty. As I was now above this layer I could easily fly back to the airfield actually going up all the time until I was just west from the airfield. By now the turbulence and cloud threat was more than I'd like to encounter in a season, so when I hit some sink I quickly circled and spiralled down. Some 150 m above the airfield there was some more really bad turbulence, but I flew through it and then had nice constant sink in strong southerly winds and landed sound and safe 2:25 after take off, effectively having flown a square with sides 9km long. My friends in the field had seen my encounter with the cloud and the turbulence down low and none of them was eager to fly.... But were helpful in fetching me from the other side of the airfield and bring me back to our launch. Thanks!

09 June 2007

"Iso" Esa Alaraudanjoki

Esa and his new Trango
After some delays Lokkilok presents some of the Finnish participants in the Nordics. First is Esa Alaraudanjoki whom we got on the phone just before he leaves for Piedrahita.

Having lived and worked in places like CH, UK, Nepal, and now Lapland, Esa is surely the most international oriented pilot in the Finnish team. And as he has been the Finnish alternate delegate to FAI meetings for some years and a couple years back been the national coordinator of paragliding competitions in Finland he also is probably best known abroad. Esa was one of the five enthusiastic organisers of the Nordics in 2004 in Laragne.
He's first contact with paragliding was in France 1994 in Clermont-Ferrand. He got interested in competitions while helping out at the Nordics in Kössen 1999, and saw the second week of the rainy Worlds in Bamberg and Neukirchen.

Esa is a really great pilot, if not on the results board then at least when he stretches his 2 meter tall body at
take off before launching. Among the Finns he is known as "Iso Esa" ( iso means large).

Here are Esa's answers to our standard questions:
Age: "40"
Occupation: "developmental psychologist"
Gear: "UP Trango2, Vamp, Iguana helmet, Aircotec XC-trainer, Crispi boots, Supair reserve"
Most memorable flight: "Landing in goal first time in the Porterville competition in 2004."
Personal goal: "Take off and land in goal before you ;-D. And to break one day my personal record of 59 km, which I've flown three times already."

A tricky day at EFHV

Today I went to Hyvinkää airfield (EFHV) with the hope of getting some good thermal flying before the Nordics commence next week. Hyvinkää is the towing fields that is closest to the Helsinki region and hence popular. However it is also a popular field for sailplanes, ultralights, autogiros, etc.

Today the main upper level winds were very cross and as usual the thermals bubbled off the center of the field, so we encountered the usual tailwind on all starts. Of course there were short but good start moments, but these tend to occur when a plane is landing or taxiing, and one cannot start a tow...

Nevertheless I managed to make use of some of those moments, albeit that I sometimes had to wait more than half an hour. Standing in the blistering sun, dressed in flight suit and with my helmet on. I guess that was also good preparation for the Spanish heat! Actually we had "Spanish" weather, almost 30 C, clear sky and dry thermals, at times quite strong approx. 5 m/s. Due the closeness of the Helsinki-Vantaa airport EFHV has a ceiling of 2500 ft MSL which with the Northerly winds did not allow for any XC flying. But I got in some good practice picking up thermals low, every time a bit lower. Once managed to get up from some 80 m, but when I later tried that from 50m didn't succeed. All in all a good 2 hours of flying and 7 hours of heat and sun exposure, so I think I'm getting ready for Piedrahita!

02 June 2007

Team Finland at the Nordics

It's only two weeks before a staggering 140 pilots will get together in Piedrahita, Spain. The Paragliding Nordic Open will see pilots from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, England. and yes Finland! Earlier in the season the Finns had a period that allowed for impressive long flights, and rumour has it that the Swedes and Norwegians are a bit nervous.
The last two weeks most of Finland has been troubled by strong winds so there was not much to report. But just in time a nice high pressure system is setting over Finland, which is predicited to offer great training opportunities this weekend and next week.
As usual the participants in the Nordics are a mixed bag of experienced and feared competitors, new talents, and old men who will never learn. LokkiLok will try to present the members of the Finnish team during these last two weeks of countdown. The Finnish participants are:
  • Antti Jutila
  • Ari Sahlström
  • Esa Alaraudanjoki
  • Jari Takanen
  • Jarkko Siikanen
  • Jony Blomberg
  • Jouni Makkonen
  • Kari Rämö
  • Kasperi Karhapaa
  • Marko Leino
  • Mladen Milevski
  • Robert Aarts
  • Taina Takanen
(apologies if I missed someone. Send a comment and I'll correct it asap)

Check out this space for details about these fine pilots!

19 May 2007

Arska flies 303 km!

As reported a few days back Ari "Arska" Sahlström flew an astonishing 303 km on Thursday 16 May. Here some more details from Arska (as reported on the forum of ESV, the club of Paragliders of Southern Finland).

In the evening of Wed 15 May Arska suggested that a group of pilots would get together in the morning at the Oripää airfield. They declared Selänpää airfield as the goal. Oripää is located not far from the west coast in the south of Finland. The weather prognosis indicated a westerly flow and good thermals in a west-to-east corridor, approx 100 km wide, in the southermost part of the country, but some 50 km north of the coast. This is close to ideal as it is north of the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, but enables flying south of the other major TMAs (airport zones) and MIL CTAs (military zones). Thu 16 May was also a bank holiday which means that most MIL CTAs were closed. As is quite common here the pilots contacted air traffic control and informed about their plans so that the controllers would know what to say to inquiries....

Arska reports that conditions looked good, but that in the early phase of the flight it was difficult to stay up and that he was down to 500-600m several times. He also had to deviate a bit from the course. The cloud streets didn't really work well, there was typically very strong sink between the lines up thermals. But those thermals! They were strong for Finland, the best ones averaged 6 m/s.
Apparantly the goal was too difficult to reach (a bit too far north ?). Jouni, the other pilot that tried the task, came to within 15 km of the goal. Arska flew south of Uti airfield (picture), with a lot of parachuting activity.
Arska decided to forget the goal and fly as long as possible, in the direction of Lappeenranta (picture after 264 km). He radioed the airport control but control was closed and there was no traffic at all. Meanwhile cloudbase had gone from the initial 2000m up to 2700m. Such a high cloudbase is rare, and in our flatlands allows for long glides. So conditions improved all the time and once Arska had crossed the 300 km mark (picture, see bottom of XC-trainer on the left) after almost 8 hours of flying, he still had 1000m height and had to "work" his way down to land a bit.

Despite good preparations, but in line with Arska's style, his GPS logger didn't save a single track point... However he found some witnesses for his landing (picture). But then, for him this was only a training flight, to prepare for a world record attempt!

All pictures by Arska himself as published on the ESV forum.

17 May 2007

Record week!

The last 6 days saw a number of extraordinary long flights in Finland. On Friday 11 May Kari "Karlos" Rämö flew a personal best of 155 km. This inspired Ari "Arska" Sahlström and myself to attempt a Finnish record on Sunday 13 May with a 235 km task. That didn't work out, but I flew a personal best of 152 km in not-so-easy conditions (see picture by Arska). The best part however was that this flight started a lively discussion about the possibilities to make long flights here and about being prepared for good days.
Today was such a good day and top-pilots Jouni and Ari arranged to be ready for early towing at Oripää airfield. Word just came in that Jouni did over 200 km and Arska an incredible 303 km. Congratulations!

Where does "LokkiLok" come from ?

People ask me about the name of this blog. "Lokki" is Finnish for (sea)gull, a bird that I admire for its soaring skills. They are really opportunistic and use everythig from the slightest turbulence to dust-devils to get up. "Loki" (with a single k) is informal Finnish for the English "log", from which "blog" is derived.
I was looking for an easy name to remember that somehow could be associated with flying and that was not taken already....

14 May 2007

New personal best: 152 km!

Sunday 13 May doubled my personal distance record, to a whoppy 152 km. A small group of pilots met at Kiikala airfield. Top-pilot Ari "Arska" Sahlström thought that it could be record day as the predictions were for good thermals, a cloudbase of almost 2000m and a moderate south-easterly winds that would change to south later in the day. Thus the winds would help to fly around the Tampere TMA and he suggested we set ourselves the challenging taks to fly to Kauhajoki, 235 km to the north.
Arska was towed up first but didn't catch any thermals. Some 20 minutes later it was my turn and I got a reasonable thermal and started to work my way up. The thermal wasn't very strong and drifter northwards but it felt good enough to hang on and leave the airfield.
The sky was overdeveloping quite fast and soon virtually all the surface was in the shadow. Nevertheless thermals were quite plenty albeit not very strong. It didn't take vey long to pass Somero. In the neighbourhood of Jokionen found a small stretch that got some sun and by following that made a bit faster progress for a while. When I'd passed Humppila I could see the charicteristic waters around Vammala in the distance and headed for those. Most of the time flew between 800 and 1800 m, and often encountered light hail, funny enough usuall when going up. Before Vammala was really low for a while only 300m above the ground, but luckily found a thermal again over some rocky terrain. That was a great joy as I realized that I would now anyway pass the famous 100 km mark, a first for me.
From Vammala it was easy to navigate northwards to Jämi, in more familiar terrain, but everything was still overcast and thermals were getting fewer and weaker. I choose to take the easterly route to Jämi, as opposed to the westerly lane of fields to Kankaanpää. This as the Tampera TMA to the east was baking in the sun, and as it was getting later and making it to Jämi would be really nice. Moreover the Jämi ridge usually works at the end of the day. If I only could get there. Near Suodenniemi got low again, but once again could get up, but only to some 1300 m. And that was enough to make it to Pirttikylä, 4 km south of Jämi. After 5:40 hours I landed 152 km from my starting point!
Getting home wasn't very easy but also not too difficult. Tanneli from the Jämi hotel arranged for somebody to pick me up. And ordered me a taxi from Jämi to Ikaalinen where I was just in time to fetch the last bus to Tampere. In the bus heared how Finland lost from Canada in the ice-hockey world championship final; the roads were really empty! In Tampere then took a train to Helsinki and finally a bus home to Espoo. It took as long to get home as to fly!
I'll try to create a Google Earth track later this week.

12 May 2007

Physical condition

Throughout the years I've noticed that allthough paragliding doesn't require a lot of energy, being in a good shape helps a lot. Long flights require stamina, and being able to run out a landing after several hours of flying can avoid minor injuries. Likewise being able to walk up a hill with all the gear without getting exhausted increases the possibilities to practice.
I've always done some running and almost always ride my bicycle to work but I was not nearly in as good shape as I could be. So 7 weeks ago I started to make more runs, and make them longer. Now I run almost every day and usually approx. 10 km at a reasonable speed, 14-15 km/h. Throughout the winter I also went swimming once a week to train my arms a bit more; and for the variation.
I feel quite good about all of this and have decided to keep up with this regime until at least the Nordic Championships in Piedrahita.

01 May 2007

Groundsuck remedies

As a 44 year old father of 2 teenagers and with a real job I encounter the usual amount of "groundsuck" (the term pilots use for all mundane duties and obligations that keeps one on the gound).
However, I've found a couple fo good remedies. First, I've managed to get work with a high level of flexibility. Often, but not always I can work more when the weather is bad, and quit early or for a whole day when the weather is good for flying. Second, since 4 years I've been fortunate to be able to work part-time, only 4 days a week. This gives me on average one day a week more for flying or for those other obligations. I am very grateful to my former and current employers (Nokia, Trustgenix and Hewlett-Packard) that have been so accomodating.
Finally, I've often involved our children in the flying activities. When they were smaller just coming along to one of the Finnish airfields, e.g. to Jämi, always was an adventure. With camping, campfires, etc. And at Jämi there is always something going on: parachute jumping, model planes, expiremental planes, and of course hang- and paragliders.
Now that the children are teenagers they, as well as my wife, like to come along to flygin trips abroad, such as to Southern France or Denmark. And I've learned to fly tandem paragliders and the children really love to come along for the ride! Soon they will probably learn to fly....

17 April 2007

Preparing for the Nordic Championships

This summer the Nordic Paragliding Championships will take place in Piedrahita, Spain. This location offers good weahter and a good launch and excellent opporunities for long distance flying. Last year I went to the same place for some flying on my own and had very nice flights. And as I have not been to such an event in a while decided to it would be fun to participate. The Nordics are a serious competition but at the same time the atmosphere is nicely relaxed as most participants are there to enjoy themselves.
Encouraged by last years good flights I've decided to prepare somewhat seriously for the competition, and I will report on those preparations and the (lack of ?) effects here....