Piedrahita Open 2003
Competition Report

By Mike Aston

Day 1 & 2

The first day of the competition saw conditions change for the worse after three great warm-up days. The wind was over the back at launch but the forecast was for light S-SW’s. The wind carried on blowing undeterred by the thermals that would usually pull it back onto the hill. We had more of the same on day 2, with even lighter winds forecasted. Two local pilots got away from a very small west-facing launch, to the frustration of everyone sat on Pena Negra. Despite waiting all day the wind carried on blowing from the west and the only conciliation was that Lastra was also cross wind and blown out. That evening everyone drank to the sky gods.

Day 3 – Task 1

A perfect day. Spectacular dusties ripped across launch, causing panic and mayhem. A stuff sack was launched into space and a glider span into the air as if self possessed. Eventually we ended up with light winds on take-off and in the right direction this time. A 105km race to goal was set with a 5km internal start gate cylinder around launch and a turn-point 55km away at the antenna in Avila. Then back to goal in the new landing field at the Lavadero Bar on the main road near Villafranca. Weak conditions caught out many pilots who took off early including defending champion Steve Ham and 2000 champion Steve Purdie. Half the field went down in the first 15k. The predicted convergence set up nicely for those who waited a little longer and the ride from the pass to Avilla and back was fast for the many who used it. 43 pilots out of the 130 entrants made goal. A great start to the competition with many smiling faces from, until then, goal virgins. The Aussie Irishman and Manilla guru Edna Murphy won the day followed closely by Russell Ogden and Bruce Goldsmith. The top 6 all made goal within ten minutes of each other. Notable performances came from our Antipodean friends with 4 pilots in the top ten and the top Serial pilot was Kelly Farina in 12th. The top Woman was Kiwi, Jillian Borst in 36th.

Day 4 – Task 2

Another good day with a little more wind. The extra wind dictated a task within the Piedrahita valley and a 89km race was set around five turn-points. The start gate was a new turn-point on the ridge 6km in the direction of El Barco. The 3km external radius sparked many discussion that evening as it caught out more than one pilot who flew all the way there instead of returning 3k short. Those flying with 2 GPS’s were at a distinct advantage. After that came turn-point 4 the corralis, 5 the church in Hoyorredondo, 13 the Antena at the pass near Puerto de Villatoro, 6 the Red Roof near Santa Maria de Berrocal and back again to the Lavadero goal. A little more caution was evident as few were keen to be the first in the air, after what happened the previous day. Still the majority of the field made good distance along the course and after a very fast and furious race an incredible 60 pilots reached goal; Task winner Grant Middendorf from New Zealand, arriving eleven minutes ahead with a very impressive average speed of 28.3km/h. Our Russell Ogden came in second again followed by Aussie Andrew Horchner. 5 Brits got to goal in the top 10 including Bruce, Mark, Steve and Ulric. Steve Ham made it in 14th to regain his respectability! Top Serial pilot was John Bate in 15th and top woman was ahain Jillian Borst in 29th.

Day 5 – Task 3

Things were looking up as a third taskable day emerged. With similar winds in the west another task was set that avoided the pass. This time after the same start gate, corralis and church in Hoyorredondo, came turn-point 8 the church in Bonilla followed by an into wind leg to 16 the Petrol Station way out north beyond the flats. Then back to the bullring in Piedrahita and a final glide to the Lavadero goal. Everything was going well up until 16, but the best thermals were in the valley and the only clouds were in the east near 8. The leaders pushed from base to 16 but the usual thermal above the quarry following the road back, didn’t work and many of the leaders struggled to get back up. Ulric Jessop, Craig Collins and Enda Murphy were downed and the 2nd gaggle got kinder conditions but many still had to fight hard to get back up and make it round. Andrew Horchner kept the ball rolling for the Aussie domination by arriving first in another fast race of 26.2km/h. He was followed by Roberto Marchetti and Borja Rodriguez holding up the side for Italy and Spain. Brits filled the slots from 6th Mark Watts to 11th Kai Coleman and Mike Aston was the first Serial in 10th. 57 Pilots made it to goal and Marina Panyusheva from Russia fell sort by only 5k to come out on top for the girls. Russell Ogden was now leading the competition with two 2nd's and an 8th.

Day 6

More southerly winds had us rushing to Lastra only to find that it was blown out. Two local wind dummies demonstrated this nicely when they took off in a lull and were seen parked into wind on speed-bar for the next half an hour. Then Steve Ham proclaimed “I have a cunning plan, my lord” and off to Candelario we went. A spectacular ski area in the high mountains, behind the wind! We waited as the wind was 90 degrees off to the east and when it came on we deployed our secret mountain meteorological weapon, Ulric! After being directed to the most notoriously nasty parts of the sky by Steve, Ulric reported light winds and no bad air in the lea of the mountain, so we recalled the pilots from the safety of the valley to set about a task back to Piedrahita. Unfortunately as soon as they arrived the wind turned 90 degrees the other way, to the west this time and a task was impossible. Many pilots were relieved, as the landing options did look a little tricky.

Day 7 – Task 4

More southerly winds, so back to Candelario. This time we stayed in the town while our intrepid marshals discovered how unflyable it was. But what is this I hear “Ten gliders in the air at Pena Negra”. Back in the coach and buses to Piedrahita and up the hill we went. Conditions were still weak and the free flyers were not yet skying-out. Still plenty of time for a final task. A shortish 65km race was set to 18, the petrol station on the main road half way to Avila, then back to the bullring and into the Lavadero goal. Those who took the high ground did well while the others who attempted a straighter route met more of a head wind over and beyond the pass. Many were rewarded with good climbs near 18 but the return journey was crucial. Many of the lead gaggle returned over the quarry from a good climb just south of the pass. Grant Middendorf was already way out in front and at base over the high ground.

(“Seeing the others struggle I pealed off to take the longer route under the big clouds behind Villafranca knowing that this could turn out very bad or if I was lucky very good. I was rewarded with a strong climb. I left it early to carry on under the dark mass of cloud constantly gaining height. Never getting to base I left the lift with a 4:1 glide on the bullring. The lead gaggle must have needed another climb, as when I got there, there was only one glider ahead of me apart from Grant who was already over goal. The other glider, Felipe I expect, was much lower but I had a 6:1 glide and was in lift. I took a chance and full-barred it when I hit sink, slowing for lift as the 6:1 turned into 7:1. I really thought I had blown it as the goal line started to disappear behind the tall thin trees in front. I made for the small quarry beside the road and was saved by just enough lift to get me over the line, turn and land. Whoopee, 2nd in goal, on a Bagheera! Suby turned to me and asked “Are you in the competition?” yes? “On that!” he said. So it just goes to show if you take chances and do something different every now and again it can pay off. I’m sure Dave Snowden will agree!”)

1st Grant Middendorf, Mike Aston 2nd, Felipe Karam from Mexico came in third having stopped for a top-up and Andrew Horchner came 4th to end a very consistent competition of top goal positions (8th 3rd 1st 4th). 31 got to goal including Shelly Smith the top woman in 25th.

191 people in goal over the competition, four great tasks and lots of good friendly international competition spirit meant that everyone came away happy and contented. A Big thank you to Calvo, Ulric, Chris Harland, the marshals and everyone who worked hard to make the competition work so well. Judging by the amount of time we spent at various take-off’s you couldn’t possible say that we didn’t make every effort to have the best competition feasibly possible. Thanks again.