The British Team 2009, L->R : Mark Hayman, Adam Hill,
Chris Harland, Neil roberts, Jon Chambers, John Ellison
The 30th Blériot Cup, the historical grudge match between the British and the French, was held in Oraison in Southern France.
Just south of it's better-known sister towns of Laragne and Sisteron, Oraison is well placed for access to several classic sites including Chabre, St Vincent les Forts, Dignes les Bains, and St Andre les Alpes.
For this historic battle both sides fielded strong sides of PWC competitors and National Champions. One hundred years after Blériot's crossing of the channel (la Manche to our francophone friends), the winner of this week will likely hold on to the large silver cup for good.
The British Team: Jon Chambers, John Ellison, Chris Harland, Mark Hayman, Adam Hill and Neil Roberts.
Thanks to Jon Chambers and Chris Harland for contributing reports and Wendy Griffiths for photos during the competition.
Pictures from The Blériot Cup 2009 are in the gallery.
Overall results for tasks 1-5 are now available
The task fo Saturday 9th August was set but cancelled leaving the French as competition winners.
Full report soon!
With moderate NW winds forecast and lots of cloud cover, we headed to St Vincent les Forts for the first task. After some delay as we waited for the sky to improve we were eventually set a 50km race around a number of turnpoints all within close proximity to St Vincent.
The window opened with soarable conditions but little thermal activity, but after about 10mins the sky improved and we all climbed with relative ease to cloudbase and pushed onto the St Jean ridge and out into the flats. Cloudbase seemed to lift and we found ourselves flying alongside and around the clouds as we tried to stay in clear air and get into a good position as far upwind of the start cylinder as we could. Finally, after what seemed like an age, the start opened and we all dived for the first turnpoint. With a blackening sky and severe cloud suck, the glide to the first turn point was only punctuated by people pausing to spiral off height in order to stay safely clear of the cloud (in a kind of bizarre upside down paragliding race!).
John Ellison was first to the turnpoint and his comment, elicited by an inquiry by Mark as to the conditions there, that he, "would not be there is it wasn't for Queen and Country" probably summed up the mood in the British team. We had the run on the French, though, as we led out to the second point but after a rather vigorous convergence the lift ended and dumped us all rather unceremoniously fighting low in very strong winds and rotor trying to find a way through to the next turnpoint.
Given the conditions most of the British pilots unanimously made the call to land whilst the French team claimed it was still taskable. Indeed, they were the most determined and the majority of their pilots were closer to the turnpoint than we were. Benoit Bayon won the day for the French as the only pilot to make the second turnpoint and cross the lake, and his winning score of around 400 points helped give the home team a 700 point lead going into the second day.
The debate about the validity of the task raged long into the night, but as it wasn't cancelled at the time the scores stand. Tomorrow is a new day and we live to fight a new battle.
Report by Jon Chambers
The second day of the Blériot found us on the familiar flying site of St Andre. Epic conditions with over 3000m bases had everyone enthusiastic for a great day. There was some N wind and so the task setting kept the route around the launch, with a 68km blast around the local area.
A surprisingly slow climb out eventually found the bulk of the field high near to the start. With 5 mins to go the lift disappeared and left us all circling gently in sink until the race started. The push to the first turnpoint and back to the aerials was straightforward, but the positions were more or less set on the push out to the next turnpoint when we had 4 Brits to 3 french at the front. However, lady luck was not smiling on us as John Ellison realised he had a GPS error and had to fly back to the turnpoint, 5km behind, in order to retake it.
The rest of us pushed on in the epic conditions. Climbs were regularly over 6m/s and we made great progress, John was pushing hard but wasn't going to be able to catch the rest of the field in time. We were in good positions for the last push to goal, but Simon Issenhuth won the day for the French, 2 mins ahead of Mark and Chris. Adam and I were a couple of minutes back from that but we were pipped at the line by one of the French racing in low below us. All pilots were in goal and we were better placed but unfortunately due to the GPS error slowing John down the French still managed to beat us by about 100 points.
With epic conditions planned again tomorrow, we discussed over dinner how much to ballast up our gliders. The subject of whether normal mineral water bottles were safe seemed to hinge on there ability to fail under extreme load. Tom challenged Mark to test this, which he duly did, by jumping on a full bottle. Inevitably the bottle exploded, spraying water over at least 4 tables of diners at our rather swish hotel. None of them were impressed.
Report by Jon Chambers
Nice conditions again. We set a 81km task from St.Andre to St.Jean Montclar, via the beautiful mountain of Morgan and back via Seyne.
Oh la laÂ .the day started badly with Neil getting a knot in his brake line. In trying to free it up the outer brake fan line snapped, leaving him with no option but to land and try and put it right. Very thermic conditions and difficulty steering Â Neil eventually landed in the St.Andre landing field, as far up towards the lake as possible to avoid the thermic activity.
During this time the task had started and we were on our way to Cheval Blanc. Chris led to the Lambrousse ridge, but the French team had instructions to speed ahead and to try and stretch us out. Simon Issenhuth set off on the difficult low, direct route. We hadnÂt watched him carefully enough but started to get excited about the difficulty he had getting out of the valley. Calls to Neil to make sure he got in were not going to do it, now the wind was so strong it was dangerous to launch and we had 5 v 6 pilots.
Simon Issenhuth (Fr) was now making good progress in the lower hills towards Tete de lÂEstrop. John Ellison was asking for help, surrounded by 3 French pilots. Jon Chambers made good progress by taking a sailplane filled line, Adam, Mark and I tried to make up ground towards the epic cliff face from the valley floor to the peak of Tete de lÂEstrop. We made up time and 5km further on were in 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 7th places. Now the ridge run to Dormillouse and straight over the top to Morgan. Great climbs were hard to find. Simon Issenhuth and William Markt were already around when the 2 Jo(h)ns and then the next 3 places arrived. Chris went straight for St.Vincent, then got stuck in the forest to the left of take-off, whilst the remainder got better luck and flew straight onwards and upwards to the plateau above St.Jean Montclar.
Now the tricky bit. From the top we had to travel 5km across the valley to Seyne, then back to the St.Jean Montclar landing field. With 2,500m at the start of the transition we hit big sink and keeping going wasnÂt easy. The run back to the ridge and around the corner to the landing field claimed John Ellison and Chris Harland. All of the French made goal, with Jon Chambers the first British in goal in 4th place, later joined by Adam and Mark.
The French scored 4,900 points and the British 2,800. We can definitely do better, and need to show it tomorrow. Quote of the dayÂ Jon Chambers ÂI am in SeyneÂ.
Report by Chris Harland
ÂEverything is possibleÂ. This was the statement on take off at St Jean. Task setting therefore turned into a bit of a game. Suggestions varied from each team picking alternate turnpoints independently to a simple random number game. However it happened, we ended up with an incredibly technical task, 70km around the valley in front.
The start was touch an go, but finally everyone was up and racing into the first turnpoint the other side of the gliding club past Seyne. It was still early and windy and there was very little working. The transition back to the ridge claimed Benoit Bayon (France) and Chris Harland and so it was a 5 on 5 race. I took a stronger climb at the turnpoint than the rest and jumped the field into a good climb with a sailplane which allowed me to connect back onto the main ridge with ease whilst those below were still trying to climb out.
I found myself with a 10min lead on the rest of the field round the next 3 turnpoints, with Mark and 3 French chasing hard. After Morgon we took a turnpoint in the middle of the lake (it seemed less amusing to fly round it than it did when we were setting the task!) and after that there was a choice of many routes. Being ahead I opted for the high risk direct route, and ended up stuck on a windy ridge trying to work very broken lift just to stay in the air. Simon Issenhuth (France) took an even wider route out to the front whilst Mark Hayman went for the slightly longer, but safer, route back via St Vincent.
With still a couple of turnpoints to take Mark and Simon stayed high and finally Simon cruised in to take the day (again) with Mark about 10mins behind. IÂd pulled myself out of my hole but got stuck on windy ridges twice more before finally getting back in the game. I came in with Adam Hill and John Ellison and the two remaining French pilots, the other two having already finished behind Mark. Neil Roberts unfortunately got drilled pushing out to one of the tunrpoints in the valley, so in the end we were 4 on 5 in goal and the French took another 800 points off of us.
Report by Jon Chambers
With storms forecast we went to the launch over Digne-les-Bains and set a short 41km flight, via one turnpoint back to Oraison, the base of the comp. With strong winds at take off only 3 of us launched, the rest choosing not to risk the CuNimbs which were developing in the high ground. All the French launched but two went down shortly after take off. Unfortunately John Ellison also went down in the high winds just in front of launch.
With 4 French against Chris and Jon, we found ourselves facing a head wind and a large area of shade due to high cloud. After about 10km Jon decided enough was enough as the Cu-Nim behind grew to around the size of a small country (Belgium?). He landed and then watched the French climb out to continue on their way under the high cloud. Chris headed right to find the sunlight behind the shade, got a good climb, but not strong enough to get across the Durance valley. He landed after around 15km. The French continued their course - Simon Eissenhuth winning again with 22km flown. The French took another 800 points from us, but as they say ÂCÂest la VieÂ Â those not happy with the storms didnÂt have to fly.
Highlight of the day was watching Mark stoke up with lentils and garlic tomatoes and then share the bi-product later in the hotel bar. NiceÂ !
Report by Jon Chambers
A task was set and the British team were in a very strong position with 4 British pilots 10K ahead of only 2 French pilots with the rest in trouble.
The task was then cancelled due to storms.
This left the French as clear winners of the competition.