Flatlands in the smoke

The thunderstorm that passed on the second day set off lots of fires to the areas around Mount Beauty. The Emu launch has been burning, Buffalo is on fire, and there’s a huge fire near Falls Creek just up the valley. The Corryong cup have also been threatened by the fires, last we heard the town was in danger of being evacuated. We are OK down here, but the valleys are filled with smoke, visibility is down to less than a km in some areas. It’s quite a sight at night, when you can see the flames over huge areas. I’ve got a few pictures of the fires to upload once I can get to a decent internet connection.

Our driver Carla had an accident on her motorbike. She was showing off doing wheelies, lost it on gravel, hit a ditch, and broke her leg. She is in Albury hospital after an operation to fix up the knee. Else Britt drove for us a couple of days, and two other local girls the last few days. All the drivers that are normally available are out fighting fires.

We still get to fly. All tasks so far have been off The Pines launch, which is a small 300 meter high hill near Myrtleford, 70 km drive from Mount Beauty. From there we have had task out on the flatlands, since there’s no way we can get back into the mountains with all the smoke and fire fighting aircraft around. For task 2 we all signed up for alternate launch to get off a little earlier, but that was before I knew we were to launch from such a low hill. With my luck i got drawn to be number 2 after Davis. Olav got 3 and Gordon 4. Suspicious… The task was 109 km out and return, back to the Brown Brothers airstrip. Davis was not ready so I got to get off as the first one. The conditions did not look very good as a few paragliders had all gone straight down. I waited for a while, but a pilot further back in the line started a push. Then all pilots ahead have one minute each to launch (one minute of launchable air), if you don’t launch you go to the back of the line. I took off and went to the right where I saw some of the wind dummies had found something earlier. The wind was quite string on the hill, but it was not possible to ridge soar, so i slowly lost height following the ridge. I turned, and told Olav and Gordon on the radio to try going left instead. Just over the trees in the bombout field I found some lift and managed a few turns in zero before I lost it. Landing in the bomb out I could see Gordon getting up to the left, and Olav fighting to get up in the same lift I had over the trees. I packed up, went back up and launched as one of the last one of the hill. I got to the TP and halfway back to goal before the day ended, it was quite hard with strong headwind on the last leg. I landed 33 km from Goal, Olav 26, and Gordon in Goal.

The next day was a much shorter triangle task of 65 km. After last bomb out none of us went alternate, and Olav and I got off and got up after being down on the treetops again. I made a mistake and misread my Galileo in the startgate I read the time as 15:32, we were circling up at the edge of the start circle, and thought we better get going as the day is getting late. The original plan was to hang around and go with the main gaggle. What i had seen was the timer for the start gate, showing 0:32, as the start opened at 14:30. The main gaggle had just left at 15:00, but it was impossible to see them because of the smoke.

Olav and I flew together most of the course, I glided ahead near the second TP and got away, only to get stuck low just outside the city of Warangaratta for a long time. The rest of the gaggle caught up with me and I had to glide cross and back on the course land to join up in the lift they found. I lost nearly 30 minutes there. The rest of the flight was good, the gaggle stopped to turn just before the last PT, while I went for it directly as the others would mark the lift when I went back. I got a good climb, and started on the final glide with my Galielo showing 300 meters above best speed glide. The air was really good, and I could not get down fast enough in the rough air. I passed the goal line with at least 400 meters. Olav 6-7 minutes behind. Our time was a little too slow, wish I had waited for the 15:15 startgate.