Montalegre Competition Report, 24 to 29 July 2006

Task 1 (pdf)
Task 2 (pdf)
Task 3 (pdf)

Montalegre Open Championships Overall (pdf)
Teams (pdf)

All 3 opens results:
British Open Championships Overall
British Championships Overall (pdf)

Presentation Night

The second round of the British Open

The second round of the British Open was held in in the small town of Montalegre in Northern Portugal, 90km inland and just a few kilometres south of the Spanish border. The site of the Worlds in 2003, this quiet market town with its iconic 14th-century castle dominating the old town, is clearly keen to promote paragliding in this otherwise remote area. This year the Iberian Open, the British Open, and the Belgian & Dutch Open were held back-to-back, with much generous support from the local council, who provided retrieve vehicles, drivers, and a huge conference centre as competition HQ. The conference centre is also used for Montalegre's main annual event: a sausage and ham fair held each January.

Pilots arrived over the few days before the competition started, and were able to get some practise by flying the tasks of the Iberian Cup. The Iberians had been unlucky with the weather, with just two tasks, both on the weekend before the British Open. Consequently late arrivals were able to fly the competition for the bargain price of 45 EUR for the two days. Mark Hayman and Simon Foley finished top Brits, enjoying the two tasks of the 40km zig-zag to Chaves and the 56km cats cradle around the valley in buoyant air, and several other British pilots flew alongside.

The site itself, Serra do Larouco, is a few kilometres north of the town and, at 1530m, is the largest mountain in the area but only a few hundred metres above the surrounding plateau. Three takeoffs, facing South, West, and North West cover the prevailing wind directions, although it was quickly to become apparent that choosing the right one wasn't always easy! The take off areas themselves are grassy areas cleared and maintained amongst the otherwise rocky and scrubby ground and the dusty track to the summit provided thrills (and a couple of spills) for the hire cars.

Task 0Day OneDawned with a forecast of light S'ly winds and a small chance of overdevelopment. A straight race to goal from the south takeoff to goal at Vilar de Barne 47km north was set. The first group launched into good climbs to base at the big cumulus over launch. As the first twenty five pilots climbed the wind on launch switched to over-the-back and the majority of the field could only watch as the first gaggle flew around the cloud to head towards the start gate (with several pilots being enveloped by the rapidly lowering cloudbase). Finally the wind switched back on launch and the pilots were able to launch again. By this time the first group were battling weak thermals and unexpected light N'ly winds towards goal. Many of the later pilots were unable to make any progress towards goal and struggled to stay up in the valley. After about an hour the task was cancelled because that there had not been sufficient launchable conditions during the window (officially 30 seconds per pilot are required, i.e. 45 minutes total but only 43 minutes were deemed launchable). This was a relief for the later pilots, many of whom were already on the ground further from goal than the launch point, but caused grumblings amongst the earlier group, some of whom had already completed half the course. Retrieves were slow, a theme that was to continue for a few days but improved towards the end of the week.

Day Two Task 1
The forecast for Tuesday was for NW'ly winds. Laruco's NW'ly takeoff is too shallow to be usable as a competition starting point, so the decision was made to launch from Chaves, a small two-glider takeoff about 30km SE of Laruco. The cramped takeoff necessitated an ordered launch, with Calvo calling for a neat queue of bunched up gliders along the dusty track to launch. Sadly, less-than-honest behaviour from several pilots meant that the queue was less long and thin and more short and fat. Wind dummies were lobbed off at regular intervals, but it wasn't until late afternoon that they were able to stay up (top of the stack being by an old Spanish pilot on a battered old Ozone Octane with nothing but a canvas rucksack and a sleeping mat as back protection). The window opened at 4pm with a 43km straight elapsed time task to goal to the SE. Pilots launched quickly, with ninety pilots lobbing off into increasingly strong cross winds in less than 45 minutes. It seemed like a case of 'nice guys finish last' as those who played by the rules and followed the queueing system were met with difficult conditions on takeoff (several accepting a helping hand from Mark Leavsely who altruistically gave up several places in the launch queue to help).

Climbs out from launch were tricky, and conditions for the first 25km even more so: very weak thermals (0.5m/s) necessitated slow and patient flying until a booming climb in convergence before goal to 2500m allowed the pilots to race the last 15km kilometres into goal. Roughly a third of the pilots made it in, a third bombed near launch, with the remaining third scattered along the course. Larry Pino (ESP, Axispara Mercury) won the day with 867 points, with Mark (Wagga) Watts (Gradient Avax RSF) was the best-placed Brit in second place, just two points behind.

Northern Portugal area is lightly populated with bendy roads. The few, large retrieve vehicles were dispatched to mop up the downed pilots but this was to be a painfully slow process but with several retrieve stories. Toby Colombe reported landing (gently) in an olive grove and attempting to hide behind a tree from the pursuing farmer, only to be welcomed with open arms and plied with a three course meal and a selection of, er, interesting local cocktails (wine and coke mix, and beer and wine) at an impromptu village party before finally being collected five hours later. Others had similarly warm welcomes from the local population. Joe Jordan was picked up by a fire engine on its way to answer an emergency call: they then waited for him to pack up his glider before driving on to the blaze! Joe clung onto his glider in the fire engine while the firefighters put out the flames before dropping him off at the local village.

Meanwhile, the pilots in goal, faced with an unknown wait dispatched a runner to search the nearest village for a bar. One was quickly found and with a few minutes the previously empty bar was overwhelmed by thirty suddenly happy pilots making the most of the cold 40p-per-bottle beer and rapidly sourced crisps. The bus finally arrived four hours later at 10pm and it wasn't until 1am that it pulled in back at HQ. Suby Lutolf had had the presence of mind to phone ahead for food, and John at the Piano Bar back in Montalegre very kindly re-opened his kitchen at 1:30am to feed several tired and hungry pilots. The scoring committee worked through to 4am in the morning processing the results following computer problems.

Day Three
Wednesday saw fickle conditions with the unlikely combination of high cloud, towering cumulus over launch and no lift! A pilot lost control of his wing while ground handling on the edge of launch and smacked into another pilot who was unpacking his wing. Luckily the victim was only lightly injured, and this was to be the only injury of the competition. Despite a quick Larouco quick-step (changing launch from S to W as the wind veered to the west) conditions did not improve. Entertainment was provided by Phillipe Broers (BEL) scratching around launch in the Aircross UX proto. With an incredible 9:1 aspect ratio it looked like reality had been photoshopped and evoked stares from all, and several under-the-breath mutterings of "you'll never catch me flying one of those things" were heard. Another suggested that such high aspect ratio wings were inherently unsafe due to the low levels of overhead sun protection in flight. With no hope of further improvement, the day was canned and the pilots returned to Montalegre. Certain braver souls tried some of the local delicacies: octopus, chicken stomachs, and pig's ear. A party in the Piano Bar with a couple of free drinks tickets each and a poor forecast for the next day kept several up until the early hours of the morning, and the disappointment of not getting a task was mitigated by the energy of Calvo's dancing.

Day Four
Indeed, the forecast was correct and Thursday woke to low bases, poorly defined cumulus and strong winds. Calvo's spies in Chaves reported a blue hole and equally strong winds, so the dreaded Chaves launch was avoided and the day was canned without even driving up to cloudbase. Pilots were left to explore the local area or simply catch up on sleep.

Task 2Day Five
Friday, dawned with an excellent forecast and the classic task of a race to goal to Mirandela, 60km SE, was set. The task committee would have liked to have added another 30km, but they were already flying to the edge of the map! High cloud expected later in the day meant an early window open and this was to make for difficult conditions at the start, with large gaggles forming to work very weak and disorganised lift. Once beyond the ridge at Chaves the airmass improved markedly and pilots reported strong climbs and excellent racing conditions. Well over half the field made goal on a 1000-point day, but with many top pilots falling short. Paul Schmidt (BEL, Aircross Ultima) won the day, with Mike Aston (Airwave Magic 4) in second place and top Brit. Paul Schmidt took the overall lead of the competition, with John Cardiff (Ozone Mantra) assuming the British lead.

Day Six Task 3
The final day saw good conditions again and was to make for a dramatic finale to the competition., After another Larouco quick-step change of launch (twice), an elapsed time below-nominal-distance 29km task to Verin via one turnpoint was set. The task committee would have liked a longer task, but the wind direction and available turnpoints left few options. With the SW wind cross on the W'ly launch, the Meet Director announced that multiple attempts were to be permitted. This was to be a lifesaver for several pilots who bombed out in front of launch who were then whisked back to takeoff for a second (or third) go. Getting away from the hill turned out to be painfully slow for some, while others climbed straight out. A second difficult climb connected the pilots to a convergence line running the rest of the course, with Ramon Morillas (ESP, Advance Proto) leading out on his own to complete the task in a blistering 37 minutes, proving that he can motor without a motor. Richard Bungay (Gin Boomerang Sport) was the fastest Brit in 40 minutes and 3rd place, and reported taking only about ten turns after having entered the start cylinder. Again, over sixty pilots made goal and thus speed points counted. Drama was provided by overall leader Paul Schmidt who had a big blow-out racing over the final ridge to goal and entered a cascade. Just as the glider seemed to recover, Paul's steerable reserve popped out which he directed towards goal. He crossed the 1km cylinder to win distance points, and landed safely but short of the 400m need to activate time points and thus lost the Open. John Cardiff was also unlucky: as leading Brit, many had their eyes on John to repeat his earlier successes in this round. He left his last climb with a 7:1 downwind glide to goal only to fall short and see his overall British lead slip away.

Back to the Piano Bar for the final night party, barbecue and prize giving. The free drinks vouchers were exchanged for beer, wine, and generous gin and tonics that had Neil Roberts begging the tempremental Portuguese waitress for neat tonic to render them drinkable. At the end of the day, Dave Smart (Advance Sigma 6) won the Sports class (and an impressive 11th overall), Bernard Kelly (AUS, Nova Tycoon) took the Serial Class (and 3rd overall), and Louise Burnham (Mac Para Magus) was the top woman in 32nd. The top Brit was Kelly Farina (Airwave Magic FR2) in 5th, pipping Kai Coleman (Gradient Avax RSE) by just one point, with the overall title falling to paramotor maestro Ramon Morillas.

1 Ramon Morillas ESP 2356 1st overall
2 Ronny Geijsen NLD 2296 2nd overall
3 Bernand Kelly AUS 2270 3rd overall, 1st serial class

4 Larry Pino ESP 2222
5 Mickele Farina GBR 2168
6 Kai Coleman GBR 2167
7 Paul Schmidt BEL 2161
8 Frank Rensse NLD 2108 2nd serial class
9 Steve Ham GBR 2101 3rd serial class
10 Adrian Thomas GBR 2060

11 David Smart GBR 2044 1st sports class
15 Hagay Lerman ISR 1887 2nd sports class
32 Louise Burnham GBR 1626 1st women
40 Nia Harland GBR 1330 2nd women, 3rd sports class

Report by Tom Payne