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!