Brits abroad: Mark, Nicky, Bruce, Louise, Adrian, Steve, Russell
World Championships Report, 24 Feb to 9 Mar 2007
Final results (in pdf format):
Report by Adrian Thomas
We had team orders in place for this task, because we weren't sure what was going to develop cloud-wise. Louise was ordered to go off as early as possible, which she did, climbing out magnificently while the rest of us shuffled from one launch to the other. Once we got to base she set off, and reported that it was working but weak. Then we sent Bruce and me off, then Russ and Wagga ten minutes later, and Steve 10 minutes after that. We'd been chatting at base, and realised the peak of the day had passed, so we were on course by 3pm. The main gaggle hung around at launch until 4.30pm - a serious tactical error, because by then we were on final glide, and the day was finishing. Bruce and I caught the lead gaggle at the second climb, then Bruce stayed with the gaggle and I led out - there were a few brave lone soles down track, marking good climbs (2-3m/s) under small Cu. Russ and Mark raced along trying to catch us (fast, those boys). I got the turnpoint about 7k ahead of Bruce and the rest of the gaggle, but was slow finding the climb to get me to the glide-slope. Eventually I met up with Steve Ham as he was on the way out, and he showed me the core. Then it was how-much-bar do you dare down a 7:1 glide slope from 12k out. I arrived with about 300m having seen a lot of hideous sink giving 4:1 between thermals and 100:1+ in the lifty bits. Bruce had a better run in and caught back up by 3k, and Russ did better still. Mark nailed it, but got caught in hideous sink 5k out and only just squeaked in. Nicky cruised elegantly to goal not far behind, Lou pushed on hard but landed a couple of k short. Russ 4th, Adrian 7th, Bruce 11th, Steve Ham 30, Mark 38? Nicky 44th, Lou 54th. Possibly the best ever UK task result overall.
The deluge cleared, so we went up with the sound of frogs getting it on everywhere, and mushrooms in the fields. Very weird. As were conditions on launch. Conditions being desperately weak, they set a short(!) 60.7k task along the ridge to the Tarpoli sink hole and back, then off to the chicken sheds south west of Manilla, across Manilla (to give the town show somethin other than stock and rodeo to watch), on to a Namoi park, then back in to Manilla goal field. The wind dummies climbed out, so the window opened, and it promptly switched to blow down on every launch. With elapsed time and 3 starts, separated by 30 minutes, we had planned to take the early start, going for departure points, and assuming it would take all th time to get round. As the second start went we were ALL still on the ground. Then a couple of pilots got off the North launch, a few off the East, a handful off the South, and we all trooped from west to south then back to the west to launch - the manilla shuffle. THe team arrived at base just as the last start time arrived, and we were off. Mark leading out, as usual, Me in the convergence on the ridge, RUss and Bruce out to the east over the valley. We met up at the end of the ridge, and dived out into the sink hole around Tarpoli. Mark was unlucky there (but then he was winning until he landed....). Russ and I were in the lead gaggle coming back, and the PWC red-mist descended hard. Climb fast, while its going, move on as soon as it slows, climb again. Fine when climbs are reliable, not ideal when the inversion is only just above launch height. Headbangers, the lot of them. Steve and Bruce were just behind, and above, brains switched on. When one of the climbs looked good they took it to base, and had a cruise from there. The inversion stayed the same height, but the hill came to meet it. THe lead gaggle split 'I'll go with the Swiss' I said diving into the lee side 'Looks too risky to me, I'll stick with the frogs' said Russ and went on to the sunny side. Famous last words - his gaggle went down almost immediately. I was with Chrigel and Pacher, in a gaggle of about 10, good place to be I thought, but boy were they slow - not pushing on at all, taking weak climbs for ages. I guess 100+ pilots had flown over us by the time we scrabbled back to launch. I pushed on to the Borah ridge, and CHrigel came too, and we found a climb beyond the gap south of take-off. 2m/s to base, but I could see that the climb was part of the convergence, and I was frustrated with how slow the gaggle was going, so I pushed on, climbing while flying straight. Eventually they came too, but by the end of the ridge I was at base, 3k ahead of them. Stupid, stupid, stupid - why would anyone with their brain engaged leave that gaggle? I had a great glide out to the chickensheds and back - 25:1 or better, and on the way out I could see the lead 3 gaggles all struggling incredibly low East of Manilla, so low their shadows were obvious, maybe 80 gliders. Bruce said he'd been there for half an hour trying to get the height for final glide but bouncing off the still-standing 800m inversion. I searched for Chrigel and Pacher but couldn't see them, so I flew over the first gaggle, not even getting a blip, then went to the 2nd gaggle because they looked like they were actually climbing. I joined at the top finding 1m/s. Then I spotted Chrigel and Pacher diving into the bottom of the lead gaggle going into the lee side of the low hills east of Manilla at about 50m. Ballsy move. It worked for Chrigel who hit a 3 or 4m/s climb, climbed through the gaggle and through the inversion topping out at 1300m to go to the last turnpoint and glide into goal arriving with 200m, closely followed by Bruce. I topped out at the inversion, and went to the turnpoint hoping to climb again on the way back, but the climb had gone. My final glide calculator said 8:1 to goal, which was distinctly dodgy, but with nothing going up I had no options. 150m short. Steve was still working to climb and Louise was in there with him. Steve is the expert at eeking out climbs, but the day was ending. He landed a couple of k short, and Louise was down about 10k short. Nicky had flown well to get 30k, given that her stomach bug was making her throw up on launch. Strong. Overall, a hard hard day. Lots of shattered pilots in the goal field. Lots of glazed expressions. Bruce did well, through thinking. He is now 5th overall. I did ok - there were only 25 in goal, but I'm kicking myself about leaving that gaggle. Still learnt a lot yesterday - very very interesting. We can play with the big boys now, and the team have got good competitive wings... Chrigel and Pacher fell off the pedestal a bit for me yesterday, but then they proved why they are so good by that stunning late move that took them from the 100s to the top 20. Boy they were low diving into that lee-sider. Not sure I'd have gone with them anyway - big risk of going down, not a small risk of taking hits low down either. Hard day for the boys here - Mark got spanked for leading out. Russ flew team orders maximising the chance of one of us making it in fast, but it didn't work out for him, which is tough. THe value of having the steady boys around really paid off....
straight race to Tamworth, via three turnpoints intended to keep us east of the road and airspace. Good climbs over Borah had us all at base at the 3k start line 15 minutes before the start, then the lift died, and we were left scrabbling for zeros for 15 minutes. At start time the team were all about 200m below base, but at the line on time, and a quick 4m/s had us back to base. I left early and climbed in a straight line under cloud over the high ground. Lots of pilots were taking climbs into the cloud there - it will be interesting to see whether anyone gets penalised, Bruce was doing the tourist thing as usual and had good photos of the Brits showing us clear of cloud with others well up. Leaving the high ground meant a push into the blue - the flats were not warm enough to break the inversion yet. The first turnpoint was over manilla, and we all ended up scrabbling for half-up climbs, with the cloud-climbers coming in 300m higher. Lots of people went down there. Very slow going. Mark Watts pushed on towards a decent looking cloud, hoping to find a real climb, but nothing doing - he's having a shocker. Bruce, Steve, Russ and I were in the lead gaggle, climbing to the inversion and pushing on, making painfully slow progress, in very busy thermals - lots of midairs. I had two... a midair is always the fault of both pilots, but with pilots either side of me, and the glider arcing back into stall I couldn't see any way of avoiding the guy who scythed in from the right and used the back of his harness as a plectrum across my As. The guy who sat on top of my wing was a complete surprise - I didn't even know he was there. Scary. There were reserve deployments following midairs. After an hour or so we had moved on 10k and the extra hour had allowed the ground to heat up - the inversion began to break, and things got a bit more hopeful. The next climb (the inversion-release) was a nice 5m/s to base, then we were running along the edge of the high ground towards Tamworth. Steady going, still slow climbs, but working. After the last-but-one turnpoint we got within final-glide range. The lead gaggle was bout 50 pilots, and Russ, Bruce, Steve and I were still in contention, but Russ was in control. We've been analysing flights using SeeYOu, and somehow, every day, russ has had average climbs at least 1m/s stronger than the rest of us. Don't know how he does it, but that boy is seriously good. After his bomb on task 2 Russ said he would be flying for the team, because he no longer was in contention for a podium place. That is what he did in task3 - pushing on hard, stretching the lead gaggle out. Bruce and I were with him, but at the last-but-one climb the lead gaggle split. We had pushed on and got a climb, but a stronger one kicked off behind us, and the 30 or so pilots trailing into it got the jump - getting 100m or so on us. Russ was fast getting into that climb, and led out on the way to the speed-section end, with Bruno Arnold and Chrigel - pushing for an early final glide. He had beenleading til they got a better climb behind hin, but he was still 3rd through the end of the speed section, pushing on down a marginal final. He dragged the whole of the lead gaggle with him, and they went down before the finish line! Top effort ruskie, stunning team flying - win or bust, either come in the top 3, or drag the gaggle down. Fantastic. Bruce and I took the climb to the top, and when it stopped I left requiring 8:1 to goal, I squeaked across the line with just enough height to make a turn and land. Bruce came in a few seconds later. He had been certain we wouldn't make it and was considering waiting for the next cycle, but then he came anyway when he saw the good line I had (microlift, gotta love it, teetering along that invisible updraft all the way in). Steve ham did take the next cycle, all the way up after we radioed him to just make it in. He cruised in majestically just before goal close to finish 11th. I was 8th, Bruce 10th, Russ 15th, the team are back up to 2nd overall.
Well, team tactics have their downs, as well as their ups. Weak conditions, a 60k race to Baanba, through the Bogabri gap West of Borah, the inversion breaking slowly. Repeating our successful tactics of the first task we opted to send people off two by two, so Mark and I (and Lou I think) went off at the second start, Russ and Steve at the third, and Bruce and Nicky at the last but one. Although in reality, the game was to go when you were at the inversion and in a good position, and there were sufficient thermal-markers also going. Mark and I were in prime positions at the second start, so off we went with about 60 others. A reasonable gaggle, with a scattering of top pilots in it. The first climb after the hill was slow, and only went to 1500 - the inversion hadn;t broken, but there was a shower down track, on the high ground north of the boggabri gap, and it was obviously spreading out. My feeling was that this would shade out the ground on track, and the race was to get through the shade. That was indeed the crux, but racing wasn't the best answer. Our gaggle worked its way towards the hills and trees at the gap, taking climbs to 1500 then pushing on hard, and getting low. As the shade increased the going got slower and slower, and the start behind caught up. Mark took a long glide into the last sunny spot and got through. I topped up and got stuck. Russell came in to the bottom of my thermal, and we searched around fairly effectively pushing on another few k towards the gap, taking a weak climb again to 1500. Then russ radioed over 'we've got to get out of the shade', the shower had fully spread out, and the shade was pushing out above us in all directions faster than a glide. We split, Russ went left and ended up ridge soaring in the shade for an hour and a half, eventually gliding to the edge of the long forest crossing for a couple more k. Steve was down in the same area - MeeHi. I went right, hoping to ridge soar out to the sun to the south. Nothing. As I came in to land kangaroos hopped off in all directions. About 50 pilots decked within a km at that point. Just as I landed Bruce came over. He had been listening to the plaintive cries from the team out front, and waited, with Chrigel, Jean Marc Caron and Denis Cortell, until the last but one start. Then they set off, getting 5m climbs to 2200m along the same line we had taken. They climbed to base just before the shade and glided through, clearing the last ridge-line, and the trees, by 100m (in fact only those with good glide cleared it - Steve Cox had to find a clearing in the forest). They hit a lee sider just beyond the last ridge, boomed to base, and pushed on for one more climb. Chrigel went South towards the quarry, Bruce and Jean Marc went North to a decent looking cloud, where they got 5m/s to base, for a 25km final glide at 10:1. Bruce made it in with 100m to spare beating all his main rivals. 26 in goal, but a bad day for the Brits. Mark was nearest to goal, having crossed the gap but only found one further climb. Still, we clung on to 3rd. I think if we had been flying individually today more of us would have waited for the last start - it would have worked today, but it didn't on the first day. Ho hum....
last task, final day, short 60k straight along the ridge to the North. Bruce in 1st overall, 60 points clear of Caron. British team in 3rd, with no chance of catching the Czechs or French, and the Swiss 200 points behind. Team orders: we have to help Bruce. We need to tell him what is going on down track, and we need to keep an eye on the opposition. Russell decides to mark Chrigel, Mark heads off with the Valics. Lou and Steve are doing their own thing, aiming just to make goal. Nicky struggles to get away from launch. The race is elapsed time, with 4 separate start gates, at 20 minute intervals. Conditions look weak, with decent cumulus, but a lowish cloudbase. Bruce gets up early. The rest of us have to queue for what seems like ages. Then we are off. It is surprisingly hard to get up, and none of us is in a good position at the first start, or even the second. Eventually, in time for the third start, forced, with no choices, we are off. I am in the gaggle with Bruce and Jean Marc Caron (I think), and Russell is in a different gaggle with Chrigel. We struggle along the ridge, fighting for climbs. Then, at the notorious Tarpoli gap sink-hole I find a lifting line that runs straight across the gap at cloudbase (or even higher) and straight towards a climbing gaggle. I'm trying to lead out for Bruce, and help finding climbs, but he keeps outclimbing me. Then I find a good core after the gap, marked by a Wedge-tailed eagle, and the gaggle comes over and we cruise up to base in 2m/s. The cloud is streeting towards goal, and we cruise along climbing above base. Russ comes over the radio to say that he is working a low save, and Chrigel has landed. With Bruce on Caron's shoulder it all looks good to me. The cloud street turns off to the left slightly, and we have to descend to get under it and head on for goal, needing one more decent climb. Having worked our way down under the cloud (well most of us, anyway), we set off towards a glide climbing near sugarloaf mountain (more of a pimple really). The sink is horrendous, and it becomes clear I'm not going to make it to the climb, so I head to the hillock instead. I'm 10m lower than Bruce when we arrive. I might be able to stay up if I work it really aggressively - which makes no sense with Bruce struggling so I land. Bruce and the rest of the gaggle soar thermo-dynamic lift for 30 minutes, gradually sinking out, then Bruce spots another Wedgie climbing, heads for it and climbs out. 5 minutes later the Niviuk I think is Caron and 4 others also climb out. Bruce is on his own, and struggles to find the core in the next climb, the gaggle finds it quicker, and they get to goal quicker. Bruce makes it in 6 minutes after Caron - and with the complexities of Gap scoring neither knows who has won. Back at checkin they process the GPS logs, and Bruce clings on to the lead by 17 points, to become World Paragliding Champion. The team drop to 6th - it seems those who left early had a really easy run through to goal, with Aljaz Valic reporting cruising along a cloud street at full bar, and having to spiral down to cross under the cloud on final glide. So starting late was a bad decision for us - but essential for Bruce, who knew who he had to beat. I guess he would have done it anyway whatever we did - but we had to try and help out as much as we could.
Overall, apart from Bruce we had our worst set of individual results for years, and the team were gutted to have dropped from 2nd (after 3 tasks) to 6th at the end. Nevertheless teamwork paid off in some ways - it has been 10 years since we have had as good a team result, and 10 years after John Pendry won the Worlds we have a new British paragliding World Champion: Bruce Goldsmith.
The after-fly party is a bit of a blur. Apparently we danced all night to Drum and Bass and the tunes from Ramon Morillas.