St Jean Competition Report

The British Open was held in St Jean de Montclar from 16th to 22nd August 2009


All the results are available here

Note that the Serial and Open results are not available yet because of errors in the registration database

    2009 British Open - Final Positions after 9 tasks
     British Champs 
    1Adrian Thomas7978 
    2Neil Roberts 7603 
    3Craig Morgan 7276 
    4Steve Nash 7091 
    5Kai Coleman 7004 

News and Reports

During the competition we had live links to the Fastretrieve system developed by Chris Trow. This gives the route of the latest task and landing positions as pilots text their coordinates into HQ.

Also available was a 'leader board' display which was updated as pilots downloaded their track logs.

Day 1: Sunday 16th August, 60K Race to Goal.

Task 1 was a short race (60km) down the ridge, up across the lake to the Pic de Morgon, back south to the village of Seyne and then into goal at St Jean.

The climb out at the start was easy and we seemed to wait forever for the start to open at heights of 3600m! When the start did open it was a fast dash down the ridge to the first turnpoint. Turning back along the ridge into a poor air caught out many of the racing pilots who were pushing on low. Some of us went down here. Those that stayed high, or at least level with the top of the ridge, had a good run back.

By the time the field was crossing back over the lake there was a small gaggle of 5 gliders well in front of the rest. Luc Armont won the day, leading this group now consisting of 4 French pilots (one landing short of goal I believe). First Brit was Chris Harland in 5th place, and first serial wing was Alex Coltman in 8th (and first champs pilot) with Julian Robinson just behind in 9th as first sports wing.

Report by Jon Chambers

Day 1 was a welcome introduction to the incredible Dormilouse Ridge and the surrounding beauty of St Jean Montclar.

A 60k task was set to introduce competitors to the Ridge and the incredible rock of Morgins that overlooks the lake.

The early birds took the startgate at around 3200 meters and raced down the Dormilouse towards the Tet de la Strop. Taken at pace the return leg became a nightmare fight into wind, with strong thermals and nasty rotor. Half the front gaggle got flushed down the mountainside, including Mark Watts, John Ellison, Craig Morgan and Jon Chambers.

Neil Roberts gritted his teeth and fought through the rough to connect with the mountain, while Kai Coleman sensibly flew back to a previous thermal.

The good money was with the altitude gaggle who stayed high and back, taking turnpoint in space and gliding happily back along the ridge.

Racing to the huge rock of Morgins, with your eyes on stalks as you take in the vastness of this mountain. Again altitude paid on the return leg to connect with the main ridge. Neil Roberts made a nifty move to catch up with the main gaggle but not quick enough to watch the first guys taking goal. First 5 in where French pilots led by Luc Armant (including Chris Harland, currently a French pilot) First five Brits where Alex Coltman, Julian Robinson, Mark Hayman, Neil Roberts and Toby Colombe

Report by Neil Roberts

Day 2: Monday 17th June, 78.6Km Race to goal around 7 turnpoints.

A technical 77km task was set with multiple turnpoints around the valley. With everyone high for the start the dash to Seyne was fast but once we turned the turnpoint the route to the next was somewhat lacking in thermals. The first group got very low here. Most stayed in a weak climb that eventually drifted back to the ridge. A few pushed on further, those who were unlucky landed, but a few connected to a working ridge. Benoit Bayon got the jump on the whole field here and took the turnpoint 5mins ahead of the rest.

Coming out of the second turnpoint there was one main gaggle with Benoit and Mark Hayman ahead. The climbs here were awesome, with base at 4100m. The crossing to Pic de Morgon worked well for the gaggle who were rewarded with another screamer back to the stratospheric cloudbase. Benoit and Mark had been less lucky hitting it out of cycle, after the crossing back south Benoit went down and Mark was swallowed by the gaggle.

Staying high, the lead group more or less stayed together for the run down the ridge and back north into a now strengthening wind. The final glide looked very marginal from the final turnpoint but somehow we all squeaked in - by now a smaller group had broken away and Luc Armont had again led the charge to goal to win the day.

Exhausted but jubilliant pilots in goal celebrated what had been a very hard fought and technical task.

With high cirrus coming over to shut the sky down, it looked like it would be difficult for the later gliders to make the last into wind turnpoint. In the end it was the stenghtening wind that was the biggest problem and the task was eventually stopped. With many pilots in goal the task will of course still be scored.

Report by Jon Chambers

Day 2 was a more adventurous 78.6k race around 7 turnpoints. Very technically demanding with lots of transitions across the flatlands. The lead gaggle got low in a difficult valley while once again the steady money was with altitude.

Adrian Thomas and Neil Roberts defending a 1st and 2nd position in the British Championships opted for the altitude route, which paid eventually as they glided over the main gaggle to take the front of the game.

Pilots were being dropped along the route with multiple low save stories. French pilot Benoit Bayon had an incredible lead on all of us at turnpoint 3 as he was higher than us and on his way to Morgins.

We had to let him go and concentrated on climbing, to incredible heights of over 4000 meters, which paid dividends on the long transitions at the later parts of the task. Unfortunately leader Benoit had a terrible glide back, getting nothing all the way to the ground.

Once again the speedy local French pilots got the jump on us for the final run into goal. Luc Armant again took the day. First British pilots in were Craig Morgan, Mark Hayman, Neil Roberts, Adrian Thomas and then John Ellison.

Report by Neil Roberts

Day 3: Tuesday 18th August - 70K Race to goal.

Blue skies in the morning, a few fluffy clouds in the afternoon, a little bit of NW'ly wind. Day three and task three of the British Open. After yesterday's tricky task, the task committee were keen to set a more straightforward task but with increasing difficulty later.

Finally a 70km tour of the area was chosen: a start 5km in front of launch, a race down the ridge, out to a turnpoint in the flats and then back to the ridge to the classic Morgon turnpoint. From here a push West to a turnpoint where the lake splits then several possible routes to get to the final turnpoint a few kilometres south west of the goal back at base in St Jean.

The start was classic: smooth 3-4 m/s climbs out of launch and pretty much everyone was on the edge of the cylinder at cloudbase (3300m) when the gun went. Bar out to the first turnpoint 5km from the ridge, bar back to the ridge and time to make the first decision: climb or glide? The lead gaggle elected to straight line it, but pilots who chose to climb first found they had a stress-free glide to the second turnpoint.

Next decision: when and how high to leave the ridge to take the turnpoint out in front? Once again, climbing high first took time but gave a comfortable glide out and back. Several of those who pushed on low struggled to reconnect with lift on the way back and a few big names landed here.

Next up: the Morgon. The usual classic climbs above launch whisked the gaggles up to 3500m but the glide across was sinky so pilots arrived at cliff height. Here the lead gaggle were lucky: a perfect cloud over the turnpoint and a convergence line leading to the next. Racing to base in smooth 4m/s climbs, no-one dared enter the clouds as it was patrolled by sailplanes! Luc Armant lead the way, gliding high and on bar, with fifteen pilots following. From here it was an easy glide in, just a few turns in the 4m/s convergence lift over St Jean, before racing in to goal. Luc Armant (Ozone Mantra R10) maintained his lead to the end, Steve Nash (Nova Triton) was one minute behind him, and Craig Morgan (Mac Para Magus) was third.

Later pilots didn't get the luck of the convergence line and flew back to St Vincent les Forts or on to lower ridges. A few went down, but many persevered and got in to goal an hour or so after the leaders. At the time of writing 39 pilots have made goal.

The local pilots are taking about tomorrow as the day of the year so expect a longer, more technical task after today's splendid blast.

Report by Tom Payne.

Day 4: Wednesday 19th August - Day cancelled.

We went up to launch a bit earlier today: thunderstorms were expected in the afternoon. A provisional 40km task in the flats was set but canned before the window opened due to concerns about the already-tall clouds. This turned out to be the right decision: a few moments later the first crack of thunder was heard and the whole area was plunged in to shade by the spill out from a distant CuNimb.

A few pilots elected to fly down quickly, many took the chairlift back down or walked. With three excellent tasks already complete, there was no pressure to squeeze another one out in dubious conditions. Better weather expected tomorrow.

Report by Tom Payne.

Day 5: Thurday 20th August - Day cancelled.

The winds were stronger than forecast. A task was set but postponed in the hope that conditions would improve.

When it looked like conditions had improved a new task was set and the window opened at 15:30.

However, conditons at launch were still strong and the the window was closed after only a few pilots had launched.

The day was finally cancelled.

Day 6: Friday 21th August - 69K Race to goal around 6 turnpoints.

Great task today. Start just out in the flats in front of the ridge, then north and across to the Morgon. Bit tricky pushing back on to Dormillouse with the SW'ly wind but once you got round the corner the conditions were epic with smooth 4m/s climbs out in the flats before racing down to the south end of the ridge, back out in to the flats and in to goal. Probably about 40 to 50 in goal with Luc Armant once again winning the yellow T-shirt with a time of about 2h02m.

Report by Tom Payne.

After two cancelled days, today we had another great day of flying, and a 69 km task. The course was interesting with turnpoints in the valley, on the main ridge as well as on the Morgan at the other side of the lake.

Returning from the Morgan was probably the most crucial transition, quite many didn't get up when back in the St. Jean area, others had to use a lot of time.

For once I got this right, realising that high up the winds were north I used a good thermal in front of the Morgan to get up to 3400m and then glided quickly along a convergence line.

As in the days before the comp the line bend a bit, and in my favour. So I could fairly easily get to the next turnpoint in the valley again. There the sailplanes showed another thermal and after that it was quite straightforward to connect back to the ridge and fetch the southermost turnpoint.

On the way back I tanked up height in the strongest thermals. In front was another cloudline but the upper winds had shaped the clouds into strange formations so I wasn't sure that would work. Actually it worked very well and I arrived over the last waypoint and goal with 1000m surplus altitude.

So could have finished 5-10 minutes earlier, now my time was 2:48, probably good for a 30-something place. Luc Armant once gain won the task, in 2:02, but today nr. 2 was only a couple of seconds behind. At the Morgan I was still "only" 3km behind those leaders, but they fly so fast that I have no way to keep up.

Report by Robert Aarts

Day 7: Saturday 22nd August - 41Km race to goal around 4 turnpoints.

Despite forecasts of strong winds the British Open at St.Jean was finished in style. The winds appeared to be managable, but due to rather stable air a short task of 41.2 km was set.

In addition we launched a bit later than earlier in the week. Around the start time cloudbase was just above 3000m. Most pilots tried of course to be at the altitude right at the entry of the start cylinder but most were a bit below that.

All raced towards the first turnpoint, north of the landing field and then quickly turned back towards the ridge and launch area. A couple of pilots, led by I think Craig Morgan and including myself, decided to "attack" and bravely raced towards the next turnpoint over La Seyne. This was risky as we would arrive there rather low. I myself thought that with north-west winds we had a chance of finding convergence on the way. In addition I did see sailplanes circling in the neighbourhood of the turnpoint.

After taking the turnpoint the two leaders immediately went north towards, trying to fly over the ridge that borders the village. I myself was very low over this ridge and made a crucial mistake when I thought to have entered a thermal, turned, and only went down 20 meters. A hundred meter ahead made the same mistake, and then could no longer fly around to the north-west facing end of the ridge, which borders a large valley (see track).

The two leaders and one Ozone pilot that had followed me did make it there and caught a thermal near the "castle" and then could finish the task, presumably rather quickly. Craig came in third at 1:08:54, exactly one minute after the p winner, Bayon.

Report by Robert Aarts.