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!

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