Sunday, April 30, 2006
Day 1 The weather prediction was looking somewhat promising with light winds and some clouds. As we reached the top of the mountain we could clearly see there was a strong inversion well below hill height that would need to break before anything was going to happen. I was surprised to see so many pilots here for the comp I was beginning to think I was at a major international championship with around 80 kamikaze pilots. It is very difficult for me to understand much here so I am kind of in my own world, which sometimes is not to bad of a thing if you know what I mean. Noma explained the task to me in English, which was nice as there was no way I, would figure it out otherwise. We had a 60kms task with 4 turn points before returning back to the main landing field at the base of the mountain. I launched about 20th and soon found a good climb and managed to dodge and weave my way through the gaggle and climb to the top just in time for the first start gate. We the nature of the task I was planning to do the 2nd start but my boss Toru San told me the best thing to do is to follow Koji diamond San as he would be the one to watch out for this comp. Well I was in the right position for that at the start and he left just below me so I thought oh well I might as well go, it was a silky smooth glide as I think we were now above the inversion that had not quite broken on the flatlands. We glided almost 20kms to the first turn point before taking some weak lift and drifting into the sector. I left toward the 2nd turn point and found another shitty climb, at this point I was wishing that I had done the later start now as I knew it would not be difficult to catch up 15 minutes. Just before the 2nd turn point diamond san went back for some gliders turning but I pushed on and did the turn point and glided for the 3rd low. I noticed a fire that had started a little of course but I thought it would be the best chance of breaking through the inversion. Well it got me a little higher than previous climbs and I was now able to connect back to the clouds and was rewarded with a 600 up to 2,200m. There were about 4 others just below me 10kms out from the 3rd turn point we glided all they way there in like convergence and I was pressing on through good lift hoping to pull away from the others. I rounded the 3rd and headed back for the last turn point hoping that I would not have to stop and thermal again. The last turn point was only 6kms from goal so final glide computer did not work until I reached the 4th turn point. As I rounded the turn point I looked at my numbers and I was +200ft on my numbers so I kept going soon I found out that there was a much stronger wind lower and my numbers were dropping fast. I was now approaching the city and was not going to make it over so I tried for a low save and that just drifted me downwind until eventually I gave up 20 feet off the ground. Lucky for me the others were also there on final and did not make it either but that did not stop the latecomers from making goal. I believe there were nearly 25 pilots in goal with some very talented ones just short……
Friday, April 28, 2006
Windsports Flight School
Here is the garage that stores all of Windsports customers gliders. I think there over 200 gliders inside so if you come here without a glider I am sure you would be able to find one to fly just open up 1 of the 10 roller doors and take your pick. windsports is one of many hang-gliding schools that operates on the outer edges of Tokyo. These schools are very impressive as they all lie at the base of the flying site and each school looks after the past and present students. Because Tokyo is such a big city and cost a lot to live in many pilots don't have a car and they reley on their school to look after them. So the average weekend for a Japanese pilot would be to jump on a train for a 1:30 mins ride out from the city to their local flying site. Once they arrive they will spend the whole weekend here enjoying flying and flying related activities, drinking etc.. All their flying equipment is stored here on site at which ever school they belong to, that makes it easy on them and for their equipment. Windsorts I think is the second largest school in the area teaching many Kamikaze pilots to commit aviation and follow their dreams. This atmosphere here is just great it is like one big family every weekend and it feels like there is a lot more than just the flying they come for. When it comes to sleeping it is like one massive slumber party, you just grab a futon some blankets and find some floor space and get cosy next to the fire or big screen T.V.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Dalby Big Air
The comp has started and they have had some great flying already with 4 days flown. Dave seib is in front after winning 3 from four days so far. for results click here. This a picture Dave sent through to me after goal on day 3. Gabor did his first 100 mile flight so they decided to stop at Dulacca pub and celebrate and spread the wealth in the darling downs. Day 4 and the sky gods have seen fit to reward the sacrifices that were made last night in the name of Icarus and the Lord of the Pressed Ham. After a huge retrieve from Dulaca that became a pub crawl, there were many sore heads and a little bit groaning. For more of this story and the other days plus lots of pictures check out tex's blog here
Japan by Air
This is what the launch looks like,the cherry blossoms have just gone out of season unfortunately. This is a picture of my room at Windsports clubhouse. This is the Jonny fan club at the landing zone. This is taken high above launch looking out towards Mt Tscuba the furthest mountain in the background. The landing field is in the valley just out in front of me.
After a 17-hour trip from Orlando to Japan I arrived somewhat tired and spaced out. I guess I was in my normal state then as some of you might think. I was met at the airport by Yushi san one of the instructors that teach at Wind sports hang gliding school. We made the 2-hour drive from the airport to Itajaki where the school is located just below the flying site. It was very cold last night around 6-7 degrees when I went to bed, with 4 blankets and a kerosene lantern beside me I managed a good night sleep. I woke up this morning and did not want to get out from the covers as it was still freezing cold so I dragged the computer over to my bed and did some emailing until it warmed up. We went up the hill at 11 am to test fly my new glider, which is a smoke inlay L S 4. It was not as cold as I expected on top of the hill but soon after takeoff when I climbed in a 4-500 up to 1200 m it was freezing again. Everyone else had bombed out and I was first to get up I flew around for a while enjoying the surroundings of Tokyo. The landing field is not great depending on which way the wind is blowing as it is surrounded by very wet rice fields you cannot miss the field otherwise it is a wet and dirty landing. Of course I managed to get it into the field without a drama but it is sure intimidating if you over shoot. I have now just come back home to make some vegemite sandwiches to cure my hunger. Above are some pics that I managed to snap off whilst I was flying today.
Florida from the tip
Well after some good last days of flying it has all come to a end. The infamous Oleg has done it again winning I believe his 3rd consecutive year at the Flytec championships. Brett Hazlett finished 13 points ahead of me to take out 2nd place after a close finish on the last day of flying. Sorry for not keeping you updated but I lost all the writing one night and it left me behind and unmotivated. It is now time to board the plane and head across to Japan for some cold flying.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
After a blown out day we were all ready to take to the skies to battle out a 109kms cross-tailwind task to Avon park. I launched early and found myself hanging out with Oleg and Brett at the start gate waiting for the first start to come around. We were about the only ones in position to start so we did as it was light lift with lots of clouds at 3,000 ft. We struggled a little a long the course especially when we got surrounded by the lakes about half way to goal. Oleg was the lowest then Brett and I was king of the castle at about 1,000 ft just hoping for a early christmas to come and there to be only 2 litespeeds left in the air. However the world champion does not give up and he manages after about 25 minutes to climb back up to Brett and I. We had now drifted back on to course line and could see some other pilots from the later start but a long ways downwind. we took a couple more climbs then in one cloud about 25kms from goal Oleg dissapears and pops out about 500 feet higher out the side of the cloud. I was waiting for him to like wind down to our height but instead he tucks his arms in and glides off. As we approach the next cloud he is still that high that he goes through the cloud and once again pops out the other side mean while Brett and I are forced to stop and climb. We are now 17kms from goal and it looks dismal straight on course line so Oleg decided to head for a cloud way to the right as he was now some distance in front and higher I decided to go straight line and hope for a miracle as this would be the only way I could win the day. Brett followed Oleg but much lower and they were rewarded with a good climb about 12kms out. I was now low and in need of lift to make it to goal in the 5-10 knts crosswind. At about 8kms out I hit a 150 up and take it as I watch the others gliding high pass me on final I am still forced to climb another 1,000 ft before going on final for goal. I got there easy and as soon as I landed Oleg came up to me an apologised for (accidentally) getting sucked up in the cloud.........ummm.... well what can you do I honor him for at least apologising and admitting that he did the wrong thing but it is still not cool.. Hopefully he will not pull this trick out of that hat again during the comp, but only time will see. We scored 750 points for the day with 15 pilots into goal.
Pilots in awe over the new gap parameters.... There has been a big discussion on the scoring parametres that are being used here in this comp. For some reason the have changed the parametres from 40 miles nominal distance to 60 miles nominal distance and a minimum of 2.5 hrs nominal time. We had this problem down at Florida ridge and I thought I made it clear to Davis how the system worked but he had a difference of opinion. I really did not think that we would have this issue here at such a well organised event like the Flytec meet. However someone got into david glover's ear before the meet and told him that he should up the parameters as the weather was looking good and we would fly long distances. Well their hopes were ruined on the first task where the longest flight was like 50 kms despite being in the air for 5 hrs we received only 300 points. This caused a huge up roar the next day and there was a big debate that lead no where, as the comp had already started there was no way to change the parameters for the up coming days. I tried explaining to everyone what would happen and it seemed that no one wanted to leave it as it was especially the top pilots who understood what effects it would have on the comp results. In a nut shell it will basically compress our scores and make it harder for the top pilots to pull away on points, yet at the same time it will not effect you as bad when you have a bad day especially if it is on a far from perfect day like the first day. We will be very lucky to see a 1,000 point day at this meet........ummm
The french combat team in style!!! As a wake up I see the trees swaying from side to side knowing that it was not looking good. I went to the task briefing with Davis and Glen and we checked the weather out only to find out that it was similar to yesterday but predicted to pick up to over 20 knts later in the day. We struggle to come up with a task and soon decide that we would only have to fly 30 miles out and return to make it hard enough to have only a few finishers. I also thought that this might tell the pilots that we should not fly today. everything went ahead and all the pilots were out on the runway all lined up to go and I was sitting in the clubhouse with my glider still packed laying down stairs on the ground. I eventually went out to the launch line to see what was happening and to double check that I should not be setting up. After some strong gust came through I was convinced I had done the right move and soon later the safety committee called the day off.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Quest Day 1
the weather forecast is not great with winds from the west up to 15 mph and blue sky's with max altitude of 4,500 ft. I get nominated for the task comittee with davis and Glen volk, given the forecast and airspace regulations we are faced to make a cross wind task of 102kms just over our nominal distance that was set by a unknown person. I knew that if we did not start early we would have no chance at making the task but unfortunately there was no one else that wanted to start at 1:30pm or that was in position to start. I did not want to go by myself cause that would have been very stupid given the conditions and the high risk chance of landing or getting caught up by the gaggle. I saw two more start gates go by before we started at 2:15pm and I was on top with Oleg and Brett. We headed for the first turnpoint and I got a little in front did the turnpoint and headed back into the strong cross headwind. I got really low and probably should have landed but there must have been someone else helping me out from way above the clouds. As I drift low across the lakes that make up florida I am slowly climbing but losing ground rapidly, but hey I am still in the air and have a chance at winning still. We had about 25-30kms cross-headwind to battle for like 65kms, I caught back up to Oleg and Brett among others. We played lets head but the wall for the next 3 hours before finally getting shut down by the see breeze and all landed about 9kms from the 2nd turnpoint. Oleg, Brett a nd Bruno will come equal 1st, I ended up 8th for the day about 1 km behind them but only 6 points separting us.
Forida ridge last day
With another strong wind prediction, they set a 90kms task to the northwest with a goal at an airport near the coast. It was a difficult day and most of the decisions were all made before the start gate. Once we started on course it was pretty well down wind as we managed to work up wind for nearly two hours before the start gate. Oleg,Brett and I all started together and I tried to go a slightly different way as I knew it would be hard to catch up 100 points on Oleg if I flew with him all day. Well it did not work out for me as I got low and they left me behind with no way to catch up before goal. Oleg will win the day followed closely by Brett and then me 10 minutes later. Once again we were sent to one of the biggest airports around the area and they were not very happy to see us. It was like Groundhog Day all over, with a very upset airport manager we manage to talk our way out without being arrested. Oleg moved into first and Brett in second with Curt slipping to third and me in fourth. We wait for the presentation only to receive a hat and some speed sleeves.. We all make the 3-hour drive back up to Quest and arrive there by midnight.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Friday, April 14, 2006
Day 4, 5,6
Well I would love to bring you guys some more flying stories , however it just seems that the sky gods are against us this week. We have not flown now since saturday so they have decided to extend the comp one more day to try and validate the U.S nationals. As I write this it is midnight and I am up at Quest air trying to decide whether I need to wake up at 6 am to make the good 3 hr drive back down to Florida Ridge for the last day of the comp. If the weather looks windy in the morning I might just take the gamble and stay here and fly and tune my glider for the next upcoming comp here. Brett and I just put Chris smiths glider together for him, Then went for some thai dinner at the thai nazi's resturant close by to Quest. After that we decide to make the 1 hr drive back to Orlando to pick Chris up from the airport and bring him to Quest. Well I think it is bedtime for me here on this side of the world. Wishing everyone a very Happy Easter over there in the centre of the universe.
Today was looking even windier than yesterday with the prediction for it to decrease later in the day. We had the pilot briefing and they decided to wait until 11am and check the winds and go from there. Well they were wrong it actually picked up to 20-30 knts so yet another day was cancelled. A bunch of us decided to go canoeing through the everglades and check out the alligators that Florida is well known for. We drove about 40 minutes to a small town that had a river well actually a creek, as it was so dry here this year there was not much water in it. That did not stop the thrill-seeking pilots from exploring though as most of us wanted to see the alligators up close and personal. We all boarded our plastic canoes and entered the waters of the unknown and paddled down stream in search of alligators. We saw about 5 alligators in our travels and I was a little scared but they were only about 4-6ft long not enough to eat you but enough to finish your Hang gliding carer
Well as I wake up I look out the window to see dark low-level clouds blowing quickly past us. After some breakfast we head over to the pilot briefing to find out that we would not be flying due to over development and low cloud base. There was some quick discussion about what formulas to use for the scoring and it was decided that we would be reducing the nominal distance to 50 miles and the nominal time to 2 hrs. Not much else happened during the day just laid around doing very little. We went shopping in the afternoon and had a Mexican dinner party at our cabin telling stories and talking about the usual things Hang Gliding. Curt Warren wins the first day followed by Oleg then Raul from Ecuador and I will end up coming in 4th for the day.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Day 1 Florida Ridge
Well as the weather prediction was not so great Oleg, Jamie and I decided to stay at Quest and drive down to Forida ridge in the morning. We woke up at 6am for the 4hr journey south into the everglades and Gator country. When we arrived at 10am everyone was setup and they had already a task of 122kms set on the board with the window opening at 12 noon. Oleg and I quickly setup and registered, as there was not much time to muck around. The winds were already quite strong from the south and predicted to get even stronger and swing more west as the day went on. Everyone quickly moved over to the other side of the field for staging and assessed the weather conditions. As this was my first time here I was kind of watching the others to see what they would do. I thought the weather would get better and that the last start would be the one to take however it turned out to be the opposite. The line up for launch looked more like 20 pilots line dancing with a lot of confusing as there was no real line up and priority. There was some amazing stunt work by Bobby and Rhett as they maneuvered the dragonfly’s to land as close as they could to the launch line. It was some of the most amazing flying skills I have seen these guys do just to get us up in the air as fast as possible. I eventually got airborne behind Rhett and towed to 2,000ft asl before releasing into a 100 up. Brett and Dustin joined me as we climbed to 3,000 ft we were now down wind of the field and drifting quickly as it was 20 knots plus of wind. I tried to push crosswind to get a little upwind of course line before the start as we still had nearly 20 minutes to wait and 10kms to fly. Dustin decided to go downwind for a cloud and join the others and Brett and I just drifted in zero waiting for the start to tick over. We ended up being a lot lower than the others who started at 1:30pm and were instantly 10 minutes behind having to struggle in light lift after the start. I watched Oleg and a few rigids disappear into the distance towards the first turn point. I was now flying with Brett and Davis and we soon found a good climb about 25kms out from the turn point and I could now see Oleg some 10kms in front and high. We joined up with Dustin at the turnpoint and I had now lost sight of the leaders again. I decided to go more south into the blue as there was still like 50 degrees crosswind for our next 25km leg. Brett and Davis went more straight under the some clouds and were now climbing good downwind of me. I held my line and hit one low which took me back up to 4,700 ft the highest I had been all day, this set me up good for the turn point. Brett and Davis were in front of me low as I rounded the second turn point still high. I went more upwind again to the west as we still had 50kms to goal with still a strong crosswind component. Dustin followed me and we had a pretty good run until about 15kms out from goal we got a little low and I hit some lift and stopped, Dustin kept going and soon found himself standing on the ground in the strong 25knot wind. I left for final glide over the intimidating trees just before goal knowing there must be a landing there somewhere. As I got closer I spotted a field of gliders and started to stuff the bar as I was going to get there high and look stupid. When I was about 3kms out I realized that they had actually landed about 1.5 kms before the goal and I actually had to cross another group of trees to an airstrip that would be far from ideal for landing on a day where the wind was so strong. I was not left with much choice, as I did not have enough height to fly back to where the others had landed. I set up to land cross to the strip as this was the wind direction not leaving much room for error. This was one of those landings where you are at the mercy of the gods and really to in control. I used all my piloting skills to control my glider through the rotor zone behind the 100 ft high trees and into ground effect before pulling up about 10 meters before the tree line. When I hit the ground I could not believe I was standing there holding my glider on my feet. I started walking my glider out of the airstrip towards the landowner’s house before being flipped upside down by the rotor. As I got near the house I could see them out side watching Brett land on the other side of the trees in the big field with everyone else. I thought wow these people must be into flying after all they live on the airstrip and I started to notice a shady area out of the wind on green grass just in front of their house thinking this could be a reward for having to land in such a shitty area. As I approached the house in my flying gear carrying my glider I see them peek through the window then they came outside with broomsticks in their hands. Interesting the wife quickly says to me “where did you land” I said over on the airstrip. She quickly replied as she lifted the broom over her shoulder you get out of here now and go where the others are. Wow this was not quite the reply I was expecting so my dream of packing up on their front lawn was obviously was now out of the question and I continue walking out their front gate. She went back inside and then came out with a camera and began taking pictures of me as I was on their private property. I found another area about 50 meters from the others with green grass and shade now on the main road so I decided to pack up there. They jumped into their car and raced out of the driveway towards me so I hid in the bush, they stopped at my glider took a few more pics then continued down the road to all the others. I packed up as fast as I could in the 25knt wind and then started walking down the road to see how the others were handling the landowner’s. Just as I got there so did the sheriff and it took a while for us to talk our way out of trouble. The next few days are not looking good for us as the wind is predicted to stay around.