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.