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!