31 January 2009

Tragedy of an epic day

Sadly one pilot incurred a fatal accident early in todays 6th task of the paragliding worlds. He was seen in a bad cascade hitting the vertical rocks behind the Penon peak.
The day started beautifully with a start over the Slater hill. Today the cloudbase was higher and I glided back in front of the Penon and then to the launch which was a turnpoint today. From there quite many flew into the rough thermal where the accident took place. I was there earlier and didn't have any problems. Quite opposite, at that point I was joining the leading group. Together we climbed and drifted to the next turnpoint. There we were almost at cloudbase and then glided under the clouds towards Agila. We were shooting for the Magay mountain and many managed to just overfly it. Others were a bit lower but could get around it. Unfortunately my serial wings performance was in this case just that crucial bit worse and I arrived too low to get up at the side of the hill. Hence landed in a small peach orchard.
After a nice walk got into a retrieve car that continued to pick up many others that hadn't made the glide either.
A bit later we heard the tragic news. It's sad that this so far perfect comp had its first accident on the last day before the rest day. And even more sad for all that it was a fatal one.
Ari kept his excellent form and came into goal nicely. Jouni also encountered turbulence in the Penon area and decided to land when he was low after clearing a collapse.
Tomorrow we have a much needed rest day. Hopefully we Finns can put ourselves together and all start flying as good as Ari!

30 January 2009

A long run

Update: I wrote the first version of this entry on my phone while waiting in the goal field. Somehow the wrong picture got inserted above. Ari made lots of really good pictures that we'll try to upload on Saturday, which will be a rest day. The Team Leader of the Swiss, Martin Scheel, has also many good pictures on his web site.
Jouni indeed was in the trees again, but this time got his glider out of it allright, albeit that we got half a tree into our apartment. He'd done approx. 90 km before ending up in those trees, and many of those with a broken stabilo line, which made it difficult for him to fly straight.

Today the task committee finally came up with something really difficult: a 114 km task via Lapila to a point behind Valle and then once more over the valley and the plateau to Penon and then out to Llano before returning to goal in the main valley near Ramon.
Me and several others landed in the goal field on the way to Penon, after some 60 km. Despite the early landing I felt that my flying was much better than the previous days.
Conditions seen more stable then expected and 30 minutes before the task deadline there's nobody in goal yet.
But at least one pilot ben be seen gliding to goal... And a group of 20 or so following in the distance.
Turns out that Ari is in that group! Nicely in approx. 25th place. Jouni is reported to be in the trees again, but allright. Hopefully his wing is ok as we have no more spares.

29 January 2009

The good and the bad

Today another not so good day for me. Somehow was well established in the gaggle 2 minutes before the start but after those 2 minutes somehow 200m lower. Conditions were rather turbulent and staying aloft while avoiding all the other gliders took me too much energy. We flew to the antennas and from there to Monarca. Around the antennas I started to fly a bit better and decided to try a short cut to Gordo. I knew that this was risky; it worked on the first training day but it isn't sure. I lost a weaker but decent thermal halfway and then came some 100m too low at Gordo and only could try the back side, and low. That didn't work so that was it for me today.
Locals offered me a quick ride back to Valle where I could watch the pilots come into goal. Ari was in the first group approx. 5th! Jouni flew his old glider now and nicely made goal in approx. 30th place. It was a good day for the Brits with Jamie and Russell both in the top 6. They landed together in "tandem" on their identical Ozone Mantra R09 wings. I think Andy Aebi from Switzerland was first, but as the speed section ended at the other side of the lake it was hard to tell.
Many pilots are starting to feel tired, the flying is intensive and the days long. The Finnish team heads out for an early dinner (by Mexico standards) and then plans to sleep as much as possible....

28 January 2009

Bombed out

Today's task 3 of the paragliding worlds was a 94 km course with a start over Magay and then a leg south to Aguila and then over the plateau to Saucos and zigzag via Gordo to goal.
The air seemed drier today there were no clouds yet at start time. Today I had a very good start and was amongst the first to hit the thermal over turnpoint 1. We then glided back to the Mesa, some of the hotships could glide right over it, but most of us thermalled up on the "lee" side, which worked quite well. A big group then glided towards Aguila . I should have worked up a bit more altitude before that glide as I couldn't cross the smaller hills halfway and had to work quite a bit to get up there. Luckily I wasn't alone, many people ended up struggling low at Aguila . In the end I took the turnpoint low close to the ridge, on the backside of the actual mountain, and then dived into the little valley. There I and a few others found a good thermal that took us up to 3000m again and back into the race. I glided straight towards take-off, expecting a good thermal halfway. I fellow pilot missed that one, and landed literally seconds before I found it, some 80m above the ground. Like yesterday an congregation of sparrows indicated that something was there, and soon I was going up with 4 m/s back to 2800m. Then glided to the front of launch but now it was my turn to miss a thermal and after quite a bit of struggle landed right next to the road. Just when I had packed the retrieve car stopped next to me, perfect! As you can see I was not alone to bomb out. It was a difficult day and many pilots ended up in the fields. Nevertheless some 50 pilots or so made goal.

Just as I'm writing this Ari arrived here at the championship HQ and he thinks he was among the first 30 in goal! Jouni tree landed approx. halfway the task. He is fine but his glider has some damage.

27 January 2009

A hill to far

On today's second task of the Paragliding Worlds the organizers decided to make things a bit more difficult. This as on day 1 a whoppy 109 pilots made it to the goal. So a task of 91,7 km was set including a tricky leg from Lapila to Aguila and from there back to the antennas and then over the plateau followed by a final valley crossing to goal.
In the (early!) morning Team Leader briefing the organizers got permission from the FAI delegates to use the proven launch procedure where during the first 10 minutes anybody could launch and after that period the launching would be by current standing in the championship.
I myself, and teammate Jouni used this opportunity to launch early as we wanted the ensure a good position at the start, a 6 km exit cylinder from launch. I had to clear a knot after launching but then quickly got up and was the first pilot to establish a nice holding position above the wall just at the edge of the cylinder. Before long that area was of course crowded with almost all 148 participants, plus the marshalls and media tandems. There were also clouds and everybody was trying to avoid bumping into each other and from flying into the clouds, while at the same time trying to stay high and close under those clouds.
At start time the whole armade glided towards the first turnpoint. Quite some pilots had managed to get higher between the clouds and soon formed a leading gaggle. I was not so high and wasted some time trying to get higher after a few km. Such a fairly small gap quickly resulted in me flying far behind the lead all of the course. Especially the second half of the leg to Aguila took me a long time. I then flew all alone back to Piano, where I catched up some pilots. Then it was a bit slower again to the antennas, where I found a last good thermal. I glided towards Gordo but didn't quite get there and had to land 10 km short, after more than 5 hours of flying. Much later met with Ari and Jouni who had made goal, but in the end of a second group. The leading group had split on the way back with one group taking a more direct route which turned out faster than the route over the mountains. Results are not in yet, but it is believed that at least 80 pilots made goal, so we can expect an even longer task tomorrow.

26 January 2009

Of Ups and Downs

Update: Ari actually placed 2nd! on this first day. Jouni was 79th and Robert 98th. Finnish pilot Heimo happened to be in Valle last week and made some nice pictures of us in the opening parade, and of Ari landing into goal.

The last couple of days the Finnish team at the Paragliding Worlds experienced a variety of ups and downs.
On Friday the Swedes had set a 53 training task. Not all pilots flew that task but Robert was 2nd to make goal! Ari and Jouni bombed out. Jouni used the opportunity to train walking, a good 10 km.
Friday night Robert and Jouni turned ill and stayed in bed most of Saturday. But we managed to participate in the nice opening parade.
Resting payed off as we were a bit weak but fit to fly the first task today. Conditions on launch were gusty and this slowed things down. Launch order on this first day was by world ranking order and this caused Robert to be really late at the start.
Ari was on time though and flew fast with the leaders and then choose a good line over the Mesa towards Ramon and then on to come in goal in an excellent 3 place!
Jouni and Robert were much slower but both made goal so overall the Finns opened the championship well.

23 January 2009

Hot Practice

After a long, but smooth, flight and a couple of hours drive we arrived last night in Valle. After a good night of much needed sleep we woke up to beautiful sunny weather, just as it is suposed to be! First thing to do was to move to Posada Doris, where we stayed last year, and which was much nicer than the place we had booked from home.
After the standard Valle breakfast we took a taxi to launch. Jouni is really serious about training for the X-Alps, so jumped out and jogged the last mile up the hill. At the launch we greeted many friends; there were some 60 pilots there. I also just managed to say hello top Heimo before he took off. He is visiting Valle this week as a "tourist". Most competition pilots waited till about 11:30 before taking off.
My plan was to fly a couple of hours and get used to the landscape, the strong conditions and to the abundance of gliders around me. The meteo wind was notherly which is opposed to the thermal induced southerlies so much turbulence was to be expected. It turned out not to be so bad, but I made sure to stay far from any tricky place.
After launch quickly gained height above the launch and then waited a bit for the other Finnish pilots. When I saw a couple of gliders getting up over the Mesa I started to work my way to Penon, Mesa and then onwards to the antennas. Near Magay was a bit low but then it worked really well and I reached the antennas more easily then I'd anticipated. I was a bit alone there and decided to wait a bit, slowly gaining more height. A couple of pilots dove over the ridge but seemed to go down very fast. Many others didn't quite fly to the antennas but turned back towards Maguay. I decided to try to make it to Gordo. And that actually went quite well. The clouds over the high plain were low but it all worked quite well. As I didn't want to tire myself tomuch I then turned North over the lake towards Valle and went to the Valle launch, which every now and then is a goal point. I boated a bit on the ridge there and then slowly let myself drift down to the landing zone. After some 2,5 hours itwas nice to pack the gear while sunbathing!
Ari landed almost at the same time, but Jouni flew quite much longer and landed a bit further away and then walked at least 10km. He wanted to train more "walking with glider" for the X-Alps.... Tomorrow we willhave the first official training day for the Worlds and I expect we' ll try to fly a task.

21 January 2009

Taking off

It's 5:30 in the morning and a good snow storm makes the idea even more surreal, but we're taking off in a minute. We are Ari, Jouni and Robert, the Finnish team for the paragliding world championships that will take place the coming weeks in Valle de Bravo.
Ari and Jouni are true Valle veterans, they were amongst the first European pilots who "discovered" this wonderful place some 10 years ago. Both are also experienced competition pilots. And will bring brand new competition gliders.
For me it is the first categeory 1 competition and I'm very exited to participate. I'll fly my trusted Ozone Mantra M2. If all goes well we should be able to practise Thu-Sat; we surely can use some good air time!

03 January 2009

Lokkilok organic T-shirts

We start the year with some blatant commercialism: Lokkilok now offers really nice, cool, organic, T-shirts imprinted with the Lokkilok logo. All of the profits (approx. 20% of the revenue) are used to support this blog and paragliding activities; notably to help pay for participation in the upcoming World Championships!