12 December 2008

Pictured a new Airwave FR

Where I spotted a new Ozone Mantra on Monday, today met Bruce Goldsmith who unpacked a brand new prototype of the new Airwave Magic FR, version 4. In the very light conditions at Gourdon even Bruce could stay up only for a couple of minutes, but that included a bit of thermaling close to the launch so I managed to take some pictures.
I myself went back to Gréolières hoping for stronger conditions, but it turned out quite similar. Managed a 20 minute flight without ever getting above the launch, actually most of those minutes I tried to work a patch of light lift right in front of the ruins, only some 50 m above the landing field. I did a second flight but by now it was 3 PM and there was almost no lift anywhere, so I was quickly on the ground. Nevertheless a very nice day in the sun!

11 December 2008

Snowed in

Well not quite, but almost. Today a second day of continuous rain here in my private training camp in Gréolières. Last night the locals informed me that all the rain comes down as snow on the, higher, back side of the Cheiron and that the ski resort is open for business.
I believe that being in shape is an important factor in (competitive) paragliding as flights can take 4-5 hours and although the physical effort is rarely huge it is not negligible. I did fly a couple of times with a heart rate monitor and for me the physical intensity of flying is about the same as for walking briskly. To keep in shape I go running on a daily basis, usually for 50-60 minutes. In addition I walk a lot, and every now and then do really long walks. The rain now prevented me from doing any of that and the Worlds are getting ever nearer. So lots of reasons for me to check out the local cross country skiing possibilities this afternoon. In short: excellent!
There was lots of snow, at least 1 meter, and more coming down all the time. The cross-country ski lodge (Maison du Fondeur) rents nice equipment for a very reasonable 8 €/half-day. Due to the snowfall they had not been able to prepare the tracks very well and therefor waived their normal track fee (6,5 €). The 6,5km "blue" track was in quite good shape though. I did the course twice as it was so much fun, and so beautiful. The first 2,5 km was mainly uphill, so soon I was really warm. The second part then was flat and downhill, but without ever being very steep so it was easy to steer through the many curves. Especially as I had the whole track for myself; the only other skiers I saw were two Swedish women, I guess there's a reason it is known as ski nordique....

09 December 2008

Spotted new Mantra

Today the Gourdon region was overcast, but a steady easterly seemed to make some flying possible. Alas, once at the upper launch I decided that the wind was too cross, and went back to my car next to the lower launch. Just there Ozone's Dav and Russ were unpacking a standard Mantra M2 glider (I myself fly one) and a couple of prototypes of the new version. Soon both were in the air trying to get up a bit and doing comparisons between the current and new version; and a little later between different variations of the new Mantra.
The new version is very similar but with a sleeker shape and profile. It clearly performs better, and from what I could see handling and stability remains at least as good as the current M2. It clearly has quite a few more internal structures and the profile with brakes applied seemed quite different to me. Below Dav is scratching it in the Gourdon X-Mas landscape (more pictures). Write to Santa soon!
After two short flights even the Ozone boys had enough, and we all left. Later in the afternoon did a nice quicky at Gréolières.

08 December 2008

Training at Gourdon

After a short visit to family in the Netherlands to celebrate Sinterklaas I continued southwards to Nice, Sunday afternoon. At the airport Ben, the proprietor of my favorite Gîte du Cheiron, joined me and together we drove up to Gréolières.
This morning woke up to a crystal clear sky and set off to Gourdon. My goal was to get airtime and to try out, and adjust, my new Impress2 harness. When it is on at Gourdon it is easy to topland and make adjustments, or simply take a break. I was the first up there and did some 20 minutes of ground handling, to get some feel for my new setup. In addition I wanted to wait for some more pilots to be around. The harness seemed fine, albeit that looking up while ground-handling had became a bit more difficult as the back of my helmet bumps into the aerodynamic tail of the harness.
At 11 the first 2 gliders were in the air, and I was quick to join them. Things were working nicely with light ridge lift interspersed with good thermals, some surprisingly strong, up to 5 m/s. Soon the shy was filled with some 20 gliders, and this on a Monday morning! The ceiling was at approx. 1500m, which allowed for a bit of cross-country flying. At first I focussed on getting into my rhythm after a 10 week break, and used to the harness. With the new harness, and after this long break, I didn't feel for taking my camera along which was a pity as the super dry air combined with the snowcapped mountains for truly incredible fine scenery.
The harness felt just right, the settings I'd made while hanging back home seemed spot on. Likewise the speedbar settings were nice, with no slack at all. I can now go from 0 to 75% speedbar in one step and need the 2nd step only for the last 25%. I glided over to the next mountain with ease and a while later glided back. Then got low and had to work quite bit to get up again.
It was then that I spotted a pilot who had landed/crashed near one of the cliffs. I'd seen him earlier but he had seemed picnicking or so. But now he clearly needed help as he was trying to crawl. I tried to get up to topland and get him some help, but couldn't quite get there. Luckily another, higher pilot, understood the picture and managed to topland and get somebody to check him out. I then landed in the landing field and a bit later a rescue team came to pick him up. I think he only had a twisted ankle, perhaps badly or broken. But although close to the top of the ridge he was in a difficult spot to get out from.
That pilot was not lucky but I had a great day, 2.5 hours of flying in perfect conditions. At higher altitude it was of course quite cold, with snow on the tops (mobile picture below is the Cheiron), but in the landing field, it was t-shirt weather!

24 November 2008

Cool winter flying

On Sunday several people enjoyed a nice, but cold day. Friends from the Jyväskylän region reported about a nice day of practice on the local hill, before their pilgrimage to Aldogonales, Spain, next week. We are supposed to believe that the snow guns were no bother at all, just providing a refreshing shower.

Another group gathered at Hyvinkää airfield to attempt traditional towing. The club's towing car wasn't quite up to the task as it is not fitted with studded, winter, tires. But they got a replacement car and had a couple of nice flights. Instructors Mika and Mladen did a tandem when all of a sudden a cloud formed at very low altitude. Luckily it was only some 10 meters thick. It is always special to fly above some cloud, and makes for extraordinary scenery.

15 November 2008

A new look

If you read this you already noticed the new look and feel of this blog. This blog now uses the same style as the Lokkilok business site. At the same time the address was changed to a simple http://blog.lokkilok.com; the old address should still work, but you may want to update any possible bookmarks and subscription.
A similar face lift was applied to the Lokkilok blog on technology Between the keys, and to the blog on other non-flying topics named La Testa Millimetrata.

Happy reading!

22 September 2008

Before (the) dark

After a week of greyness the sun was out yesterday! And we were keen to make the most of it as of tomorrow the nights will be longer than the days...
Co-instructors Rami and Mika had already set up everything when I arrived at an ungodly 7:30 at Hyvinkää airfield. There was a strong wind gradient, which is quite usual in autumn and winter under high pressure conditions. Also the wind was a bit cross, but it luckily it was not too strong for our students. We towed the students as much as we could, and once it started to be a bit thermic took a couple of flights ourselves. The air started to be buoyant here and there and at the same time the airfield surface became a bit turbulent, of course. So at 11 we decided to break for lunch. Rami suggested we all move over to the nearby Kärkölä field, a dirt road between (harvested) wheat fields. I was a bit skeptic, expecting too much thermal turbulence, but if that would be the case we knew it would soon calm down this late in the season.
It turned out that conditions were just perfect for teaching. Moderate too light, and straight, winds, and some nice weak thermals. It was often easy to talk the students into thermals and every now and then they had 10-15 minutes flights! I did a couple of flights myself, the best lasted over 30 minutes and took me all the way up to the very thick inversion at 700m. All in all it was a truly beautiful day; some of our students (and of course the instructors) had the stamina to go on into the twilight and made some 20 flights!
Mika and Rami made a bunch of pictures; especially the landowner would like to have some air shots of his harvester.

14 September 2008

Camera in grey

After a week of strong winds today was a bit calmer. We used the opportunity to resume instruction to our paragliding students and went to Nummela airfield. Although the sky was completely covered lift was abound and even the rookies had extended flights. Sakari, an experienced pilot, came by and had a nice half hour flight.
The grey weather provided a good test environment for my new camera, a Panasonic DMC-FZ28. After a lot of research on the internet I concluded that it should be about the right camera for me: a lot of zoom power but still just about small enough to take along. Today I didn't take it on any flight, but used it to make some pictures and video snippets of our students. When students launch and land I have my hands full with radios for instruction and air traffic, so only took pictures from quite a distance using the maximum 18x zoom. The picture above shows Antti landing, taken from an approx. 150 m distance (unprocessed).
So far I'm quite happy with the results and very happy with the "usability", I could easily handle the camera with my gloves on. Obviously I have to learn and practice with it quite a bit more, but the "automatic everything" settings indeed seem to work very well.

25 August 2008

One more day

Sunday had one more excellent day at Gréolières, in fact it turned out to be the best flying day of this trip. After doing some chores in the morning I launched slightly later than usual at around 11:30. By this time there were already some nice little clouds and at least one glider was high up the mountain. The light southerly meteo wind combined with the normal south-east valley wind to create big strong thermals so I quickly reached the summit of the Cheiron. The cloudbase was a bit low still, but I set out towards Coursegoules. At times it seemed better to head out in front of the mountain as the cloudbase was a bit higher there. Just before Coursegoules I turned back as the clouds were a bit too low there. I then tried several times to fly south towards Gourdon, every time getting a bit higher over Cipieres and a bit closer to Gourdon. The cloudbase was rising but the headwind was increasing too. Nevertheless on my last try I could probably have crossed the last ridge before the Gourdon plateau (see track); I was quite much closer than a week ago (cf. track). But as this was my last day I returned to Gréolières (picture) and landed after almost 3 hours of intensive flying to pack up, clean up, and head out to the airport. When I drove out of the village at 17:30 there were still several gliders sky high!

For maximum contrast with this excellent week at the Mediterranean the airline offered a rye-bread hamburger with potato salad which set up my stomach, and at Helsinki-Vantaa airport it rained with a cold northerly breeze to boot. Surely made me longing for the next trip!

23 August 2008

A tricky trip completed!

Friday we went again to Lachens to attempt the flight from there to Gréolières. This time the wind was a bit more south-west, there were a bit more clouds and the base was a bit higher. Most importantly the guys now knew the route a bit better and had a better idea about the valley crossings.
So Juha continued in very good form and made it very nicely, in fact he arrived high at Gréolières and went on along the Cheiron mountain to the end of the ridge beyond Coursegoules and then came back (see track). Congratulations! Tomi made it approx. halfway and landed close to Col de Bleine. Jori and Jarmo did not get high right after take-off and as the wind changed to west soon after had to land at Lachens.
In the afternoon we all had another nice flight at Gourdon, the site wasn't suffering from the westerlies at all and offered surprisingly strong thermals and a somewhat unusual high ceiling. All in all we had a terrific week with lots of flying, sun and warmth every day, and of course good food!

22 August 2008

A tricky trip

Wednesday the weather reports forecasted strong westerlies, and when I returned from the local Gréolières bakery to our gîte at 8 AM we already had our first wind gusts. So we decided not to fly. Instead we went to St.André to meet up with the pilots that are flying the last round of the British Open there this week. To our surprise it was calm in St.André and a task was set. It was nice to see some 130 gliders take off and struggle along the ridge. We spent some time in the local paragliding shop and then saw the first people come down in the landing field next to the shop. That seemed a bit too fast and indeed, the task was stopped due to strong winds. In the end we left St.André with one new harness and one new helmet :). On the way home we went to see the ever beautiful Gorge du Verdon, and had a refreshing bath in the fast flowing Verdon river. And then had a walk around the little alpine town of Castellane, before heading home to Gréolières again.

Yesterday the weather was perfect again. We left early for the Lachens site. The idea was to fly from there back home via the Col de Bleine, a flight of 27 km. The weather surely was "on" in Lachens, and soon the boys were exploring the Lachens mountain for lift (picture). Initially the inversion was a bit low, but soon it raised and cumulus started to form. So after a little while all four left the mountain and glided towards Col de Bleine. It seemed that they all didn't cross the valley in a suficiently direct way and hence Jorma, Jori and Tomi landed near Seranon. Juha catched another thermal low there but then did choose a too difficult route and landed near Andon. Nevertheless nice 1-2 hour flights for all.
In the afternoon we all flew another 1-3 hours at Gréolières in very buoyant conditions. After a shower we analyzed the day a bit over dinner and decided to try the same trip again today (Friday).

19 August 2008

Busy days

We Finnish pilots have been very busy the last three days. On Sunday we first climbed up to our "home" launch at the Cheiron mountain here in Gréolières. We took off in good conditions but fairly soon the forecasted west winds were causing quite a lot of turbulence and we decided to land and have lunch. Later we went to check out Gourdon. Conditions were a bit weak there, but Tomi got into the air quickly and had a nice flight. The rest of us were too late as the wind changed again to west and even north-west, i.e. over the back. This was the trigger to execute the next step of our plan, which was to drive to the famous Rocquebrune site above Monaco. In the summer flying there is only allowed in the evening as the landing is on the beach, which is crowded during the day. A bit surprisingly the wind at Roquebrune was from the north-east so we had to launch from the rarely used east launch (see picture above). But that worked quite well and Tomi, Juha, Jarmo and Jori all had a beautiful flight. Which was crowned with a nice dinner at the beach restaurant.

On Monday we again climbed up to our home launch in the morning. This time it worked better and we all flew some 2 hours (picture below with Juha in front of Cipières) before conditions became strong and lunch sounded inviting. After lunch we set out for Gourdon again where we enjoyed an abundance of lift. In fact we all had to pull "big ears" every now and then in order to get down a bit to avoid flying into clouds.

Today we went to the nearby Col de Bleyne site with the goal of flying from there back home to Gréolières, a short but not so easy 11 km trip. Juha made "goal" and Tomi got quite far, whereas the others "bombed out". It was good we were out early as the wind turned west again, making any further flying unsafe. So once we were all together again we drove to the beautiful Valbonne village for a walk and lunch. In the late afternoon we walked down to the Loup river in Gréolières for a refreshing swim. Nevertheless back at the top of the steep trail, with 260 m altitude gain in 28 C, we were surely in need of a shower! And hungry, of course...

16 August 2008

Going places

Saturday was really nice here in Gréolières. Together with Åke from Sweden walked up to the launch around 9:30 then relaxed for a while and took off after the local students and tandems. Thermals were strong and abundant and soon we reached the top of the Cheiron mountain. We had in mind to fly to Gourdon, but the southerly head wind seemed a bit too strong for that. On my second attempt I had a bit more height and found a much better line and it looked like I could make it but I didn't see any gliders over the Gourdon ridge. And as the winds were quite strong I deduced that conditions must have been too demanding at Gourdon.
So flew back and up again and now made a trip along the Cheiron to the east, to the village of Coursegoules. This was really easy: I never needed to turn in thermals but could simple fly a bit slower and then faster in the weak sink. On the way back curved over Cipieres and then flew back to Gréolières (see track) to land after 2 intensive hours. By now the balise (meteo station) at Col du Bleine reported already winds of over 40 km/h. Indeed the landing was already demanding, and it was very "interesting" to see Ozone's Dav land a recent Mantra R proto.....

After a quick lunch it was time to fetch Jori, Jorma, Juha and Tomi from the airport. Once back in the village we of course went to the famous Barricade for a really good pizza!

15 August 2008

Blown out!

This morning notorious optimistic pilots executed the plan that was designed last night at the Gréolières patron party: head out in the morning and try to fly Gourdon. So I collected Åke from Sweden, Simone from Gréolières, and John and Kerstin from England into the minibus and then we drove through Cipières to the Gourdon launch. Alas, our optimism did not suffice to counter the cold fact that the wind was already from the north-west, over the back. In addition huge clouds were building quickly and the front that was predicted to sweep by seemed quite a bit ahead of schedule. So back we went. Simone, John and Kerstin would pack and then leave for nearby St. André where the last round of the British Open 2008 will commence on Sunday.

I myself used the afternoon to check out a couple of the other sites in the neighborhood, Col du Bleine (picture above) and Lachens. Once I was at the top of the 1700m Col de Lachens, the post-frontal mistral was blowing with full force, it was actually difficult to stay put! The mistral did nicely clear out the sky so in the late afternoon it was all sunny, and hence nicely warm. So on the way back home I drove via Andon through the Loup valley and stopped near a trail that led to a very nice bathing place (picture below). All in all not a bad day at all, and there still is the village party to come!
The forecasts for the next days look very promising so we should have some good flying ahead of us.

Gréolières at Night

Yesterday arrived once again in lovely Gréolières, in southern France. Lokkilok organizes another guided paragliding trip, 4 Finnish pilots will arrive tomorrow evening.
After some hassle with my easyCar reservation for a minibus I got here around noon. It had been sunny all morning but right then a cloud cover moved into the area. Couple of people were flying though, so I quickly organized myself and started the 35 minute walk up to launch. The first time it always feels a bit hard and now it was midday hot and humid to boot. Soon after I'd reached the launch the local tandem pilots arrived with their clients. Soon after they'd left I took off. There were only small pockets of short-lived lift and after some 20 minutes I landed. In the landing I was welcomed by more locals who suggested we go back up again, now with the 4-wheel drive navette that was bringing more tandem customers up. As soon as we were on launch it started to rain a bit, and within a minute that drizzle turned into a hail storm. All but one local pilot and my ran back to the only larger tree for cover and then requested for the navette to bring them down.
But we that sat it out could fly down some 20 minutes later. The hail had lasted only for 2 minutes and we simple waited a bit for the ground to dry and the thermal breeze to pick up again. The flight down was short though as there was almost no lift and still areas of strong sink, probably left from that hail storm. With hindsight we probably should have waited a bit longer.
Back in the landing field the locals all talked about the ball that was going to take place in the evening. It turns out that every year around the 15th of August Gréolières has a week of music, dancing, games and parties. It is apparently an old tradition to celebrate the patron saint of the village. So last night a good band was entertaining all: children, teenagers and adults alike with all kinds of music, from tango to hardrock. The same band has come for this festivities to Gréolières for 30 years! Tonight they play again, whereas tomorrow there a DJ and a local heavy metal band will take care of the music.

30 July 2008


Perfect it was indeed, this day of flying with friends at Kiikala airfield. After Sämpy did a bit of work on a second towing car we decided around noon that it was time to get flying. I planned a out- and return task of approx. 76 km from the airfield to the little town of Pohja and then back. The idea was to fly downwind early in the day and then fight the headwinds when the thermals would be stronger and the cloudbase higher. In addition the sea breeze front might help a bit on the way back.

I took the first tow around 1 pm and quickly got up to cloudbase, which was near 1800 m ASL (Above Sea Level). I waited a bit but didn't see anybody quickly joining me so decided to glide south to the next cloud. There were good thermals to be had on the way south but there were a couple of bands with different winds , causing quite much windshear. So at times it was hard to stick with the thermal all the way up. After a while I got into the right rhythm and got Pohja in sight. The air was quite clear and the scenery as good as it gets: lakes, forests, fields, and the coastline all in one view! (picture above)
And it was possible to see the Hanko peninsula. Flying to Hanko is a wish of many, and I did consider it for a couple of minutes. But I saw that the clouds near the coastline were much lower and moreover that last line of clouds was slowly moving north. So I sticked with our task. I got a bit low just before the turnpoint but there was a good thermal where I expected it and so got high right over Pohja.

The way back was actually easier then expected. There was more lift now and it was a bit more organized in clear lines. So although at some altitudes the headwind was up to 15 km/h after a good 3 hours of flying I was close to Kiikala again (picture below). Only then did I notice some of the other pilots: Jonas, Sämpy and Sebu, who all had flown a part of the route. Around the airfield I had to pull big ears, do spirals and turn in sink in order to get down and land after 4 hours of flying. The others landed within a couple of minutes, all very happy indeed! We all upload our tracks to the XContest (my flight as Google Earth track).

28 July 2008

Pictures from Macedonia

Webmaster Sami has added lots of good pictures to his album on Facebook. Picture 26 is I think the first picture from the Nordic Open 2008.

Thank you Sami!

27 July 2008

Sad final

Update: the results are available at http://www.nordic-open.eu/results.html.

For this last day at the Nordic Open a short 40 km task was set, due to almost complete overcast. Sadly Finnish pilot Joni crashed fatally on a ridge. The task was canceled to enable helicopter traffic, but rescue attempts were in vain. Hence the results after task 2 remained as final. Ronny won the Nordic Open 2008 and our Karo (who in the end was able to retain her points for Task 2) was the best female. Congratulations.

Naturally the spirit at the comp is low and the prize giving ceremony and closing party were cancelled and replaced by a sober briefing with a moment of silence. The thoughts of all the pilots and organizers are with the family, relatives and friends of Jony. We can find some consolation in the knowledge that Joni was passionate about flying but we will miss a very joyful, friendly and helpfull pilot friend.

25 July 2008

Still no task

Yesterday was the third day that we in the Nordic Open couldn't fly a task. The previous two days were spoiled by thunderstorms. And dominated by complaints and discussions about the airspace violations of Day 2. In the end the organization choose for a strict interpretation of the rules. Pilots that were less then 100m too high only received a warning others got 0 points for the day. For the Finnish pilots this meant that Jouni and Javis were no longer penalized but Karo now lost all her points and lead of the females.

Yesterday we went to another launch, behind the town of Prilep that we visited the other day. The last few km to the launch were dirt road and the trip up the mountain in the army trucks was exciting indeed.
At the top we enjoyed nice views over the valley, as the rains had cleared the skies. But an abundance of clouds, some with showers, kept our hopes for a task low. Some of us however used the opportunity to practice ground handling and indeed some soaring. A bit later the wind picked up and the day was cancelled. Only minutes later the wind was too strong for any flying. The forecast for today looked a bit better but we walked through the rain to the briefing.

23 July 2008

Rain points

Yesterday we went up the hill but soon it was clear that we would not fly. A front with strong storms was moving in, right on time according to the forecast.

The penalties for airspace violation were the talk of the day. On task 2 many people went clearly above the allowed 3200m. The organization allowed for a generous 2 % error and then spent the whole day checking all the tracks. In the end 24 pilots lost all points for the day and 3 were penalized 10 %.
Finnish pilots Ari, Jouni and Javis were among the unfortunate. Karo got the 10 % but nevertheless now leads the females!
Defending champion Ronny also got 10 % penalty but leads the overall results by 100 points.
Looks like the weather won't allow for a task today, yet....

22 July 2008

High and hot

So far we had excellent flying here in the Nordic Open 2008 in Macedonia. Sunday the task was to zigzag in front of the east launch and then fly south, for a total of 78 km.
I launched early and immediately had to struggle very low, but managed to find some bubbles and get back up. I started a bit late but the conditions were very good then and I could catch up a bit. Gradually it became clear that instead of the promised north wind we head to combat southerlies. In the final glide everybody made the same mistake to turn into the flats toward the goal too early where the headwind now was really strong, and thermals really weak. So nobody made goal. Defending champion Ronny got into the speed section cylinder of 1 km and won the day. I did 72 km for a 12th place.
The retrieval with army trucks worked well, with a cooling wind and nice views of the gorgeous sunflower fields.

Day 2 we launched from the tricky west side but most flew straight into a strong thermal. Many were quickly reaching the airspace ceiling of 3200m. The task was to fly east over the plain and then north and back with goal again into the flats, a 65km journey.
This time it was not a race but scoring was on individual elapsed time. So we pilots were more spread out then usual. The thermals were strong and the cloudbase high which allow the fastest pilots to complete the task in 1:48. Ari was the fastest Finn at 1:51 for an 8th place. I got myself into trouble a few times and needed 2:30, for a 34th place. Fellow Finns Jouni, Antti, Mladen, Javis, Kasperi, Make and Kimmo also made goal and Karo and Esa did some 50 km. All the results are provisional though as many pilots violated that 3200m ceiling.
The conditions were so good that several pilots flew back to launch and from there 10 km North while pulling "big ears" to stay below the ceiling. And then landed on top near a refreshing lake!

19 July 2008

Ready to go

As was to be expected my glider bag didn't arrive with me when I finally made it to Macedonia. So I spent Saturday watching people having fun in beautiful skies (picture).
Luckily my glider did find its way here to Krusevo last night so today I could practice.
The Swedes designed a nice 65 km task with legs along the mountain range as well as an out- and return leg over the flats. After 4 hours of very nice flying I arrived in the goal, apparently as the 15th or so pilot.
Tonight we complete the registration and have the opening party and then we're more than ready for the Nordic Open 2008!

17 July 2008

A flat tire

Update: once in Budapest I was informed that I'm actually on standby for the, overbooked, flight to Skopje. Sigh... Time to read up about the EU passenger rights! Luckily there is free and good wifi here at the airport.

"A flat tire" was the standard excuse for coming late too high school. In the Netherlands we actually rode bicycles to school, for me it was 12 km one way and flat tires did actually happen.

Well, today it wasn't actually flat but according to the captain of the Finnair Airbus 320 it was severely damaged and had to be replaced. Of course this was figured out just when I and everybody else had boarded this morning on the flight to Prague. I always wonder why nobody notices these things in the many hours that the plane is standing at the gate.... Anyway there was no other clever route available so I ended up in Prague more than an hour late and of course missing my connection to Skopje, Macedonia. Czech Airlines has me rebooked via Budapest but I need to wait 5 hours in Prague and another 4 in Budapest and will get there first after midnight. And from the airport it still is some 150 km to Krusevo, the venue for the Nordic Open. But hey, perhaps this time my glider comes along and I'll be able to fly a bit tomorrow...

16 July 2008

Warming up for Macedonia

This year the Nordic Open 2008 paragliding contest takes place in Macedonia. The Nordic Open is a very popular yearly event, this year some 130 pilots will combat in the skies above historic Krusevo. The majority of participants are from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, but are joined by large groups from Macedonia itself and nearby Serbia with additional pilots from Slovenia, Bosnia, Hungary, and several other countries even Australia.

The Finnish contingent counts 19 participants, this event also is regarded as the Finnish Championship. In addition quite a few more Finnish pilots will be helping out with the organization, and do some free flying of course.
Unfortunately here in Finland the weather did not allow for much practice, a large low pressure system sits rock solid over Northern Europe and brings winds and rain. Many Finnish pilots left for Macedonia already last Friday. We that stayed here did a couple of tows at Hyvinkää on Monday, under an overcast sky and found only small patches of very weak lift, at best. A week ago we had some good thermal flying at Kiikala, but with little possibilities to go cross-country. And that's all for July so far....

But tomorrow I'll fly into Skopje to meet up with many other Finnish pilots at Krusevo, the venue for the comp. The forecast:

Time to go and pack sunscreen!
If at all possible this blog will be updated daily for the duration of the event.

30 June 2008

Winds, clouds, and a couple of good flights

The last three weeks pilots in Finland were pestered with unstable weather with over development pretty much every day, and on top of it strong winds prevailed. Nevertheless, at times there were some areas with clearer weather and last week saw a couple of good flights.
On Thursday Ari "303" Sahlström was reported to have flown some 140 km from a private winch field in Vampula to Hämeenkoski. Winds were really strong that day and rumor has it that the in the upwind part of his thermal circles Ari was flying backwards (relative to the ground).
Next day hangglider pilots Kari and Vesa flew almost 200 km, from the Kauhajoki airfield to Hankasalmi. Kari told us that the first 80 km were flown in string winds with broken thermals under a blue sky, and that they were mostly only between 700 and 200 m above the ground. They then reached another airmass with good clouds and with a base of over 2000 m. He thinks that with a slightly different route for the last part they could have gone a bit further still.
I myself did only fly on Saturday at the Yötä Myöten ("throughout the night") event organized by the hang- and paragliding club in Jyväskylä, Pitkävuoren Liitäjät. Luckily I arrived early in the day and could fly for a good hour. I tried to fly to the North where the sky looked good but was to slow and got locked in between cloud streets that rained on both sides of me. With no landing possibilities in the open corridor north and a cloudbase of only 1100m the only option was to land on the last nice field and pack up quickly, just in time before the rain (see track).
Later this week a high pressure system is expected and that should give us some better conditions. Also this week the European Championships (in paragliding) commence in Serbia. As far as I know without participants from Finland, but I'm keen to follow the results from the Dutch team, as well as various other friends. Wish you all good flights!

07 June 2008

A Screaming Finish

The last day of the British Open in Pedro Bernardo offered all the excitement and drama that one could hope for. A northerly wind over the mountains and the forecast of cloudcover in the late afternoon prompted the organization to set a task of a 63 km with a first leg south into the valley system followed by an out- and return leg along the valley. The idea was to keep the pilots closer to the village for a quick retrieve to ensure a timely prize giving ceremony.
Today the launch conditions were much better than earlier in the week and soon after the window was opened most pilots were in the air. Only to find that one had to struggle quite a bit to get and stay up. The northerly winds caused turbulent, broken, thermals that were not easy to catch. The start line was some 10 km from the mountain and in due time people glided across the valley. Where they soon found out that lift was very hard to come by. I myself had left the mountain a bit low and had decided to go for the small hills a bit east of the route, whereas most people aimed for the village that was baking in the sun. I arrived very low on that hill but did find some lift and carefully drifted with it up the hill where it gradually gained strength. Fellow scandinavians Mads and Tor flew into "my" thermal some 150-300 meter above me and got up quicker. The pilots over the village were really struggling low with people landing every now and then. Some tried to come over to us but from that low altitude could not make it and landed too. One even had to land in between the trees on the slope and had to spend the afternoon clearing the glider out of the tree. Meanwhile we had drifted into the start cylinder a bit early so after the start time, once we had some safe altitude, had to fly out some 100 m and come back. The gaggle over the village still had to focus so much on staying in the air that several forgot later to get out of the start cylinder. These poor fellows flew for hours to find out around the first turnpoint, at 32 km, that their instruments didn't automatically switch to the next turnpoint, which made them realized they'd missed the start....
My little group had grown to 6 with 3 more pilots joining us from above and together we made it quite quickly to near the first turnpoint (picture above). In that neighborhood we had to search a while and that gave the fastest 15 or so pilots from the "village group" a chance to join us. From then on it became a furious fast race to goal with everybody trying to do only the minimal amount of thermalling. Just before the 2nd turnpoint we were all a bit low and the pace slowed down somewhat; an opportunity for a few more pilots to catch up from behind. But the thermal we found there turned out to be pretty much the last one of the competition. Once our instruments showed that we in theory could glide to goal we started to glide to the goal.
I carefully kept an eye on my estimated height of arrival. For most of the time it showed some 60 m, but at some point it started to drop to 0 and then -70 m. When I then hit a small but good thermal I decided to do 3 turns and to gain some 60 m height. I actually gained 80 and then screamed on to goal at full speed. Like many other I made it (see track), but barely with only 20 m to spare! The whole group landed closely after each other, I was 19th with a very good time for 801 points. Below Joakim (SWE) welcomes Stein-Tore (NOR) into the goal field. Many of the pilots that were very low early on eventually made goal, but as said several of those had missed the start. But even these admitted that they had a fantastic day flying over 4 hours in the sun; the predicted overcast was nowhere to be seen.
Several people that had trouble earlier in the week made the goal this last day which made up for all the frustration from before.
Craig Morgan won the week in convincing manner, he had been leading out most of the time. I ended up at the 23rd place overall, a good result. More importantly I learned to fly with the leading group several times and for short periods even managed to pull the field. This racing in the flats, combined with the level of the other participants, was the perfect setting to gain competition experience and confidence. Let's see if that shows in the Nordic Open this July.
The evening was characterized by speeches, lots of free beer and small amounts of food and various announcements that the minibuses for the airport were to leave 6 AM, no make that 3 AM!

06 June 2008

Waypoints and launches

Today we walked to the briefing of the British Open under a completely blue sky. It looked to become an epic day and to that end the organization had created two new waypoints; that could be used to set an interesting task. All pilots had to enter the GPS coordinates of those points manually into their instruments. Which already contained the 101 waypoints that were downloaded at registration.
Once we were up the familiar west launch the new waypoints were used to set a spectacular 108 km triangle task. Unfortunately, the light easterly winds didn't allow for the launch window to be opened in time, so a new shorter task was set: a 63 km zigzag course southwards.
When a bit before 3 PM we still couldn't launch the organization decided to move us to the eastern launch. Once we were there the winds were no longer favorable there either and word came in that now it was good at the western launch. So we packed up once again and moved back. Back at the main launch the opportunities to take off were still a bit slim but the window was opened and after some more minutes of waiting Danish Mads Syndergaard showed how to get off the hill. His perfect launch meant that the organization now no longer could make changes to the task and timing. Pilots started to take off in bursts whenever a good cycle came through.
The first part of the task turned out to be tricky, working through scattered areas of lift against a headwind. Once out in the valley beyond the first turnpoint things improved. Two pilots made a brave move and went far ahead of the main leading group. Their move payed off and Craig Morgan (UK) and Cecilio Valenzuela (ESP) arrived in goal in just 2 hours, some 18 minutes before the slightly drawn out main leading group.
I myself had managed to catch up with the main group, then lost them a bit but in the end catched up again (see track) and ended up 14th, a personal best!

04 June 2008

Over the plains

Today the task in the British Open was to fly 75 km over the plains. The previous days were characterized by over development over the mountains, with rain showers in the afternoon. Hence it was a logical decision to try a task out into the plains to the south.
The task was changed once before the launch was opened but due to a clear headwind and a more organized take-off procedure all 100 pilots were in the air earlier than before. The sky look good with plenty of nice cumulus clouds, but over the mountain the now familiar dark monsters were already building up. After the start time a bunch started gliding southwards, while many were still working their way up close to the launch.
The field spread out quite quickly; I myself took a route close along the lower hills to the east which worked quite well. Over the plains the thermals were weaker and at times not well defined. Combined with a bit of cross- and head wind lower down the going was a bit slow. Typically small groups of gliders that got a good thermal would rise to over 2000 m and then overtake a lower struggling crowd. Those would then hit something and overtake the overtakers. The bottom of the large shallow valley was a tricky area to cross. Many were grounded close to the lake and most others had to work for a long time to get out of it again.
I'd gotten a very nice strong thermal a bit before the lake and our group glided out towards the lake, but spread out. I took the east-most route which looked promising, but I ended up a bit alone there. Eventually got up quite well there, but the pilots that flew along the western edge of the lake got up quicker and earlier. From there on flying to goal was fairly straightforward; essentially hopping from thermal to thermal along cloudlines and along a ridge of smaller hills (see track). The fastest pilots made goal in approx. 2.5 hours, I managed to get there just before 3 hours, in 24th place.

03 June 2008

Clouds against the clock

Update: managed to upload my tracks, day 1 (task canceled), and day 2 (61st place). The results for day 2 are also online now.

The first two days at the British Open were all about timing. Yesterday the launch was clouded in early but it looked like it would open up later. And indeed after a long wait a task was set and the window opened at 15:45. It was easy enough to stay up and to make the start and soon a small group of pilots led in front of a larger group. However just when the leaders were about to start their final glide it was clear that it was raining heavenly in the goal area. From a very ugly looking huge black cloud. So the task was wisely stopped and everybody had to land as soon as possible. As nobody had made goal yet the day was unfortunately invalid.
I was in the large group, we all landed some 10 km before the goal. That was the beginning of another long wait, as the organization had some problems with the retrieval system. But in the end we all came home fine.

This morning we were welcomed by a beautiful sunny sky. Much nicer to wait at launch in the sun, as opposed to could windy fog. The clouds were also clearly higher and we could launch much earlier, the window was opened at 13:45. Launching was a bit difficult for some as there were only brief periods with a clear headwind. I myself was luckily to get off the hill amongst the first dozen or so. At the actual start time of 14:30 most of use were close to cloudbase at 2100m and started to race to the first turnpoint, some 17 km to the South. Some brave, and better, pilots went for a very long glide and got low. But this fast opening was clever as only those were in time to make the goal before the clouds again won the day, and caused shadows and even rain.
I flew quite fast up to turnpoint 2, but around there made the mistake to not use a decent thermal but pushed further. The promising area I'd targetted wasn't as good as I'd expected so I lost valuable time when climbing up slowly again. In the end I just made the 3rd turnpoint for a 58 km distance, some 14 km from the goal. I landed in the rain, and the complete final leg was in the shade; many pilots landed between turnpoint 3 and the goal. Luckily the rain stopped while I packed up so I could walk and hitchhike in the sun. Today the retrieve system worked well, but I was happy to get a ride from a very nice local person that took along 2 more pilots a bit further down the road. Thank you! Back home I enjoyed dinner with the Dutch team, who had 2 pilots in goal today.

See Tom's post for a report from the leaders point of view and some good pictures.

01 June 2008

Flight planning

Planning is an important ingredient for a successful flight. It is always good to think a bit about the "road" ahead: what weather, type of landing places, airspace restrictions, etc., to expect. And about some alternative routes at various points. I'm thinking about this on the day I arrived in Pedro Bernardo, Spain, to participate in the first round of the British Open 2008. So how did I get here ?
Well in similar fashion one should plan a bit on where to go flying. What weather and conditions to expect in a particular time of the year, the possibilities to get retrieved, etc. Competitions are good in that usually experienced people have this all sorted out for you. But it just so happened that I left Saturday a picture perfect Helsinki (see picture above) to arrive in rainy Spain. This Sunday was reserved for practice and quite a few people flew a bit before the rains made them hurry for the landing field. Several gliders are now drying in the competition centre (picture below).
I myself didn't fly today. As usual my glider my glider didn't make it to the conveyor belt. So I spent the night in an airport hotel and picked up my glider in the late morning. I missed the window today by a small margin, but didn't miss a great flying opportunity and my glider is still dry. Not really planned for that though...

21 May 2008

Snow, sun and fun

Today made a nice cross-country flight from the Hyvinkää airfield to Karkola. Around 1 PM a group of pilots had gathered at Hyvinkää to make the best of the promising skies. Like the previous days there were clear signs of over-development. This means that the thermals and humid unstable air cause rapid creation of largish clouds already early in the day, to the extend that those clouds grow together and block all sunshine. Unlike earlier in the week it didn't look like it was going to rain so we hoped that the sky would open up again.

Jony was first to be towed up and hit a thermal, but too early in the tow. I was second and had a bit more luck in that I managed to get back into a good thermal after my release. The sky was practically completely covered with clouds, but above 500 m the thermals were good. I had planned to fly to Selänpää, a good 110 km trip. That turned out to be vastly over-optimistic.
Once I managed to work my way out of the restricted airspace the weather started to change. As we had hoped the sky did break up, but this transformation was accompanied by snow showers high up. I could see that the virgae did not reach the ground, but I flew through snowfall several times; interestingly while in clear sunshine! The snow was not only cold but came with strong sink, up to 7 m/s. At one point I was less than 100 m above the ground but hit a good thermal above a hill. The hill was topped with a radio mast that I had to circle around a bit! Some 6 km and another snow shower later I was low again. After 2 hours I was really cold and tired now and did not have the energy to make the most of some lighter lift I found. So landed some 33 km from takeoff (see track). Nevertheless, a 2 hour flight in unstable conditions surely made my day. Tomorrow the weather is probably a bit better again, and we plan to get together earlier in the day....

15 May 2008

Warmth for some flying souls

Lokkilok spent last week with a couple of Finnish pilots in our favorite Gréolières. The weather gods welcomed us with sunny warm weather, that was with us for the entire week. Thanks to a rainy April followed by this warm spell, the spring scenery was absolutely gorgeous. This year was definitely the most beautiful since 2003.
Although the last 2 days were too windy we managed to fly a lot, mainly at the Cheiron, right above Gréolières. One day we practiced some small triangles, which was good fun. Another day 2 of us tried to start a serious XC trip but the strong wind and sink made us change our minds. We also had some nice flying at the famous Gourdon site, where we were lucky or wise enough to be early before it got blown out.
One of the highlights was for the guys to fly over Monaco in the early calm evening.
Those last 2 days were windy, but nevertheless sunny and warm, and we had some good sight-seeing and walking visiting the Gorge du Verdon, Antibes, St.Paul du Vence, and the old-town of Nice.

click here for some more pictures

27 April 2008

First XC flights

Yesterday I flew my first cross-country (XC) flight this season. In Finland, that is. Saturday, quite a few pilots gathered for the first day of flying at the Hyvinkää airfield. After noon the conditions became clearly thermic when a couple of pilots managed to stay up. I launched a bit before 2PM and after boating around a bit decided that conditions were good enough to try to get away.

Hyvinkää airfield is within the Helsinki main airport zone. This means that one can fly away only in northerly directions, and initially one has to adhere to a 4000 feet ceiling. So with a prevailing north-westerly wind, like yesterday, strong thermals that are not to far spaced apart are required.

And strong those thermals were! More interestingly there were long lines of strong lift. Once I decided to start my glide north, I expected to fly into strong sink but instead I just kept going up! The lift line didn't last forever but the next thermal wasn't far away. One more glide later I was out of the restricted airspace and could go higher. I never went higher than 2200 m and that was still over 300 m below cloudbase. Up there it was freezing though, so after some two and a half hours I started to feel cold and decided to look for a nice place to land. I noticed a large gas-station next to one of the national roads, which looked like an excellent place. Easy to arrange the retrieve and a possibility to get some warm food! So after a bit over 3 hours I was on the ground again, some 63 km from the airfield (see track).

Meanwhile Vesku and Samuli did fly approx. 50 km to a field some 25 km south from me. Our good pilot-friend Jony came to fetch us all, thanks! And the day was finished in style with a sauna in the middle of some forest, as our club had organised its annual meeting there. We missed the actual meeting, but were in time for the sauna and drinks!

23 April 2008

Excellent April

After a couple of days with exceptional good flying weather in early April, we now have another very good week.
Friday we had a good afternoon and evening for towing our paraglider students. On Saturday I went to Jämi where it was too windy in the afternoon but in the evening we could open the season there too. I practiced hanggliding for a change; I keep my good old Airwave Klassic (picture above) there at Jämi. In the evening we enjoyed of course a sauna, together with the sky jumpers of the Tampereen Laskuvarjokerho. Their pilot was kind enough to share his hotel room with us, thanks!

Sunday we woke up to a sunny sky again and started to tow in the morning. It was calmer now but with clear signs of thermal activity. I did a hanggliding flight first and already could stay up for a while. A little later I took my son up for a paragliding tandem flight and we quickly went up to 1100m. Where it was freezing cold of course! But the views were nice and I was considering flying cross-country but then realized that we were not prepared for that. No wallet, no phone, no water and not enough clothing. So after boating around for half an hour we searched for some sink and then flew down, landed and warmed up ourselves again.
Later spent another half hour flying the, now weaker, thermals with my hangglider. Once back home had another sauna to truly warm up again, and surely had no trouble falling asleep.

Meanwhile some other pilots enjoyed very good conditions at Kiikala airfield. Below a picture by Kimmo who was at Kiikala for the first time and was up for several hours!

And the good weather has continued all through this week. This weather is so rare in April, perhaps that's why so far not sufficiently many of us have been able to escape the ground suck and get to an airfield. Friday seems to be our next possibility...

16 April 2008

Practice, practice, practice

Today afternoon went to our local "bunny hill" here in Helsinki. The morning rain was gone and the winds were easterly. Moreover the overcast blocked thermals, which in this place is good as it is turbulent enough without those.
This Malminkartano hill is a former dump of construction waste that has been landscaped. It is now an entry in the "our own town" series of the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper. The picture above with our Heimo launching on the main south-east slope made it into the printed paper last week.

Anyway, it is a good but challenging place to practice paragliding skills. Unless conditions are very calm the winds are almost always erratic. But the windsocks are very good, and there are 8 of them! There also isn't that much place to launch and in stronger winds it is easy to get blown over the top. Luckily that is not disastrous, the small bushes will catch you. Unfortunately the front, east, slope is rather forested nowadays. Still 5 years ago it was quite normal to launch straight east, you would easily fly over the then small trees. Within a couple of years the east slope will be "no-go".

After this winter with little flying I like all the practice one can get. Non-pilots, and new students, are always amazed at how much we practice ground handling, and on small hills like this. But every paraglider pilot knows that regular practice makes a huge difference. You get better at launching, so you can launch in less-than-perfect conditions, safely. You also get more precise in controlling the glider, which helps in light conditions, small thermals, tricky landings, etc. Above all practice gives confidence, of the good kind. Unjustified over-confidence is the enemy of safety, but true confidence makes you fly more, and fly more enjoyably. So we practice.

Over the last 5 years or so I've tried to be a bit systematic when practicing. I feel it helps, and makes sense, to make things deliberately more difficult at times; but in safe settings. Things like deliberately launching, or landing, in cross-winds even when there is room to head straight into the wind. So that when I am in situation where there is not such room I know what to expect and what to do. I also like to practice "low-saves", i.e. catching a thermal ever lower and see if I can still get up. And then go down again and try lower. Of course only when this is possible and doesn't impose an extra risk. At most of our airstrips here in Finland there is a house thermal next to the strip, so then there is plenty of place to land in case it doesn't work out.

Today the wind was mainly north-east-east and I did a lot of ground handling at the top. In 2 hours I only managed, and dared, to make two actual launches and flights. It required good technique and accurate timing, only after quite some practice I got it figured out. And I've been there many, many times before. What I did was to inflate a bit below the top on the east slope. As I could not really launch there, I backed up backwards and then steered to the right (south) all the time walking slowly with the glider inflated. Once I was on the south side of the stairs, and facing south-east-east I ran forward now with a cross wind of almost 90 degrees and launched. Once clear from the hill I could turn north, back to the slope side and into the wind. And today it was easy to get a bit above the hill again. But it was rough with the wind from this northerly direction, and that did not make it all that easy to stay high. Moving out front as usual only placed oneself into more turbulence, it was best to stay a bit closer to the hill and land on the bottom of the slope. Two hours busy and (only) 2 flights of perhaps 5 minutes each, but lots of fun. And good practice.

05 April 2008

The season is open!

Yesterday morning co-instructors Rami and Arto and myself had gathered most of our paragliding students at Nummela airfield. Very early in the year for us to be at an airfield. After an usual warm and sunny week practically all snow was gone and the field was dry. Only 2 weeks ago we were towing from the frozen lakes!
The prediction was for sunny and calm weather and we hoped to please all students with many flights. Once we started there was a bit more wind than we'd expected but not too bad. And up till noon we towed all students several times. Just when we were all getting hungry some students clearly floated in some thermal bubbles and stayed up for short periods. Likewise the erratic winds at our start indicated increasing thermal activity. Rami decided to check out the weather and stayed up easily. Then Arto towed me up and there were thermals everywhere. In fact surprisingly strong ones. In no time I hit the local airspace ceiling of 2500 MSL.
It was very easy to see the thick air laying above the greater Helsinki region. The air quality in recent days has been very poor, due to road dust (from the use of studded tires), fine soot (from fields burning in neighboring Russia) and pollen.
I glided a bit around the airfield and always found new thermals, at best a consistent 4 m/s up, with peaks of 5 m/s. As usual in spring the thermals were small and stingy, with strong sink adjacent to the thermals in narrow bands. After some 45 minutes I was really hungry and decided to go down. The lower 100 m above the airfield were quite turbulent now, and my rock ' roll in the landing approach convinced our students that we could not tow them now.
An hour later we instructors did some more flying and there was still plenty of thermal activity. But now with stronger winds and weaker thermals, so much more drifting.
After 3 pm I had to leave but Rami reported that later the winds calmed down and they continued to tow students, in the end some 50 flights were made.

11 March 2008

No Thermal Winter

Yesterday on the news here in Finland: for the first time since weather statistics have been collected (so in almost 200 years) the very south of Finland (including Helsinki) did not experience a thermal winter! This is defined as a period of at least 5 days with an average temperature below 0 degree Celsius.
Perhaps that serves as one explanation for the period of silence here on this blog. Other reasons include ground suck and illness. But in recent weeks several friends have been active flying both here and abroad.

Hapa guided a group of pilots to the sunny slopes of the Mont Blanc in Chamonix back in February. The picture above is by Jussi. More pictures (by Haukka) can be found here.

Several of the usual suspects have been making the uttermost of the few instants of flyable weather at the popular ridges at Junkkari, Porlammi, Hango and Suomenlinna. The not-so-steady winds resulted in quite some "tree-points". Finland is lucky to have lots of forest, but most flying sites have a few trees too many. Some pilots manage to do something about that....

Meanwhile I'm busy making plans for the summer, it is going to be full of interesting flying events. I plan to participate in round 1 of the British Open in Spain in early June. The next foreign event is the Nordic Open in Macedonia at the end of July. And at the end of August I'm going to help with a fun flying festival in Gréolières, in France, possibly taking a group of Finnish pilots along. In between those we of course expect many long beautiful flying days here in Finland; the days are clearly getting longer now. Everybody is hoping for a repeat of last year's spring, when we had epic flights in May.

03 February 2008

Finns finished before the finnish

Unfortunately none of the Finns made goal on the last day of the Pre-Worlds. The task was a short 56 km but with a few tricky places along the route.

Jouni was most unfortunate as after a twisted collapse he had 7 broken lines. Luckily he had the altitude and skills to get it all sorted out and land safely in a field.

Ari was in the leading pack but didn't find any lift near the Colora turnpoint. This area was a hurdle for many.

Jari fared better and almost made it to the next turnpoint.

Esa bombed out before the start and just went up again for an afternoon flight.

I myself (Robert) was doing very well up to the Gordo turnpoint but choose a bad line from there and didn't get up any more.

All in all team Finland could and should have done quite a lot better, especially Jouni and me. But we all surely learnt a lot and above all enjoyed the sunny sky, and the friendly atmosphere. We will be back next year, well prepared and with a lot of finnish sisu!

02 February 2008

Euphoria and trees

Another really nice day to fly. The task was a whoppy 101 km. In the afternoon nice clouds formed and some 40 pilots made goal where all were welcomed with cold beer and fruits.

Amongst these happy people Jouni who came nicely back after yesterdays early landing. Unfortunately Ari did not quite made it although he led the pack for the first half of the race. Jari and Esa did over 40 km.

Today it was my turn to have a really bad day. Shortly after launch I had a collapse while scratching low over a ridge. It was easy to clear the collapse but due to the strong thermal I couldn't turn away from the ridge fast enough and landed between the trees. Luckily without any harm. I managed to get my glider out of the trees and hiked up to launch. Once I had cleared all the lines from knots and checked the glider I took off again. And flew through the beautiful sky straight to the goal to meet Jouni and those beers!

Tomorrow we fly the last task and should try to improve our team score. Ari did indeed make goal yesterday, but with my adventure today we probably drop a bit in the nation ranking.

31 January 2008

A bleak day

We're chilling out in the patio of the HQ of the Pre-Worlds. This fourth day was tricky for most but could almost be called disasterous for us finnish pilots.
Only minutes after the start gate was opened Jouni and Esa discussed over the radio the exact whereabouts of their landings.

I myself (Robert) meanwhile was fighting only 20 meters above the ground at the foot of a small hill. Like many others I had lost vast amounts of altitude on the way to the start and first turnpoint. This was aggravated by unnecessary wandering about in sink in the mistaken believe that the start cylinder was 3 km, like yesterday; it was only 1 km so I should have gone straight, and fast, to the turnpoint.
I managed to get up from that tiny hill but with the headwind now stronger I still did not make the turnpoint and once more had to scratch at the same hill. Now got higher and could glide to the turnpoint, one hour late. Even though I glided furiously fast back to the ridge I was low again and had for the third time to fetch a thermal from the same tiny hill. By now I knew how to get up quickly and then could continue fast to the next two turnpoints. But all alone I did not find a new thermal and landed after 29 km (see track)

Jari didn't fly today and at the time of writing we don't yet know if Ari got to goal, 73 km. Hopefully he can save the day for us!

Strong winds

Task 3 in the Pre-Worlds was a hefty 93 km long. Early after launch it was a bit more difficult than usual to get up as the southwest winds caused thermals to drift quite much. Likewise pilots encountered strong head winds in the first leg to the antennas. Here it was beneficial to be high. The legs into the plain to Lapila and back to the plateau were fairly easy but the final 33 km leg into the valley to goal was too much for most.

Our Jouni led the leading pack but stranded some 20 km before goal. Ari however did very well, he was among the first 20 in goal. At goal pilots reported 50 km winds! Jari and Robert (track) landed early in the final leg.

The competition is now halfway and the Finns now place:

Ari 10
Jouni 41
Jari 108
Robert 109
Esa 142
Finland 8

30 January 2008

Breakfast before task 3

Like every morning the Finnish team in the paragliding Pre-Worlds enjoys breakfast in a local restaurant. A meal with juices, yogurt, fruits and coffee carries a pilot a long way. Just to be sure some add a hamburger or two,

Yesterday a very different 71 km task yielded very similar results. Ari and Jouni once again made it to goal, in the top 30. Robert did 61 km and Jari only a little less. Esa improved and now flew 15 km. The Finnish team could now hold the 8th place.

In the evening I compared and analyzed some tracks and concluded that I should fly still a bit faster and above all more decisive. With that in mind we're off to the launch again!

29 January 2008

Windy day one

Pilots are dropping in here at the HQ of the Paragliding Pre-Worlds. The first task was flown in at times rather windy conditions, which caused quite some turbulence.

Finnish pilots Jouni and Ari (in the picture) flew the 73 km to goal. Jari and Robert landed after a good 50 km. Esa bombed out shortly after the start.

I lost unnecessary much height at the start and then had to struggle a long time to get across the plateau to the antennas. Later I could speed up but the last leg was completely in the shade once I, and many others, got there. After 4 hours of intensive flying everybody seems really tired...

26 January 2008

Warming up

The last two days have been an excellent warm up for the Pre-Worlds for me. Yesterday flew my new Mantra for the first time. A 2 hour flight in the turbulent Mexican air gave ample opportunity to get used to the feedback and to learn how to deal with collapses. Later had another flight in the very smooth late afternoon which gave me a chance to actually look at my new wing.
Today a flew the same task as the competitors in the Monarca Open; and after 60 km and 4 hours made goal and landed in the village!
Finnish pilots Jouni, Arska and Kasperi all made goal today. With two more days to practice we should indeed be in good shape!

23 January 2008

A long journey

My trip to Mexico started early this morning. At the airport changed into a light jacket and sandals. Here in Helsinki we now have light snow and frost but after some 20 hours I expect Mexican sun and 30 degrees. Well not quite as I wont arrive before the evening.

On the picture the ever crucial luggage tags; let's see (and hope) that this will be the first time that my glider arrives together with me at a major comp...

18 January 2008

More prep: improving a harness

After my October trip to France I noticed that one of the rings that conduct the speedbar lines had come loose from my SupAir Vamp harness. The harness is covered in neoprene and that simply seems to flexible to hold such rings just like that. A local sail maker came up with a very nice fix, as shown in the photo above. On both sides of the neoprene a circular patch of cloth holds a heavier patch in place. The heavier patch is also glued to the neoprene. A new ring was then put into this sandwich. The circular patches should not affect the movement of the neoprene and hence not impact the streamlined shape of the harness. This turned out to be quite a bit of work so the sailmaker didn't fix the ring on the other side (which hasn't come loose yet) but gave me a DIY kit instead.

Last week I had a change to test the fix, as well as my new leg fairing, on a couple of flights. And yes it all seems to work fine. And flying with my legs "inside" felt very comfortable indeed. But I have not yet found the ideal setup for my instrument deck yet.
After a lot of trouble with a broken car engine I finally came home from France, almost a week later than planned. Nevertheless, after obtaining some crucial insurance statements today it looks like I'm getting ready for the Pre-Worlds now....

The first group of Finns should be in Mexico now to participate in the preceding Monarca Open and we're eagerly awaiting for their first reports.