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Bassano 2009, day 1 and 2

Three weeks ago I hurt my shoulder, by throwing a snowball of all things, I stretched some muscles and a got an infection in a tendon. I’ve been on some drugs that have helped me get movement back and the pain is mostly gone now. I only did a few short flights on the training glider, and I was not sure if I would be able to fly the comp in Bassano.

We traveled to Milano on Monday, and arrived at the Garden Relais hotell at the landing site late Monday night to meet up with the rest of the Norwegian team that is here. I had already booked and paid tickets, so I might as well take it as a vacation if I could not fly much.

The weather has been really nice the last two days, sunny and warm with good lift. I flew both days, the first day I could not fly more than 30 minutes, today it was around one hour before the shoulder started hurting too much.

I will not enter the competition, as it means more aggressive flying and more traffic – not good for the healing process, but I hope to freefly where I can take it more easy and not overload the injury again.

We’re around 15 Norwegians here, and the forecast for the rest of the week is great. Looks like the comp will be well attended too, many top pilots are here.

Setup area

Finally – Flying

It’s been a wet and generally unflyable winter since I came home from Oz, so when the forecast finally looked good for the weekend it was time to get airborne again. I met up with Espen who graduated from the scooter towing course this fall, and he just need 3 good takeoffs from a mountain launch to get his license. The conditions at Sundvollen were calm with almost no wind, but Espen got his three flights, and did well.

I even got two flights, just sled rides down, but it’s fun to muck around in the floaters again.

Now seeing some of the takeoff it’s clear that pilots are rusty from a long winter without flying. (Been there done that myself, I popped the nose on my first takeoff from Mystic in the Bogong cup this year, windy and turbulent though)

It’s vital to make a good takeoff from the ramp at Sundvollen, especially when it’s nil wind. That guardrail on the road below is not very compromising. There is only one good technique – Get that nose down and hold it down while you run as fast as you can, using long strides. Look at the difference between these two takeoffs;

(Pictures by Bjørn Hammer)

No special trick or anything, just hold the nose down, lean forward and run down the ramp as far as you can. The point of a safe hangglider takeoff is not just to get airborne, it’s to get airborne with as much speed as possible. Speed is safety as you can trade it for manouverability if you hit turbuleunce, or extra height to clear the terrain. This also applies when it’s windy, just make it a habit to always get as much speed as you can before your feet lifts off the ground, and you will have safer and better looking takeoffs.

(Now I will probably stall off the ramp next time I try to take off…)

Bogong Cup 2009, day 5 and 6

Yesterday looked like a very good day, no winds and good thermals. We went to Mt. Buffalo and set up among the rocks there. The takeoff is a ramp off a cliff with nothing under it for a 1000 meters. Spectacular! I was number 3 to take off, as we have reversed the top 1/3 for the takeoff order. I did not think about the steep cliff launch until i looked back after I had launched and saw the vertical dropoff.

The task was 140 something via a new turnpoint on top of Feathertop(?) mountain, back to the top of Mt. Porepunkah at Bright, over to the Kiewa valley north end, and back to Mt. Beauty.

The air was rough again, and it was hard work in the start gaggle waiting for the start gate to open. The day was totally blue, with strong turbulent lift at times, handling the big RS4 was not easy. The air was just as turbulent when gliding as thermalling. Going with the gaggle would be the strategy for racing. I had a good run towards the first TP flying with the lead gaggle, but as I glided in towards the TP in sink we spread out, I was on top and went to the right and found the sink, bigtime. I was flushed off the ridge in 5-6m/s sink, and had to struggle for a long time to get back up high. The TP was at 1700 meters, and the inversion started at 1600, so it took 3 tried before I could get in there and get the TP.

I glided off back to Bright with 2 other gliders, the lead gaggle was long gone by then and nowhere to be seen. We struggled low at Bright and had to take some crappy lift to get back up over the mountain. The 2 other gliders landed at Bright, and I suddenly felt very alone in the air. Gliding back to the last TP in the Kiewa valley I finally spotted some other gliders, but they were low and struggling, I made the mistake of doing some turns over them instead of going straight for the TP that was 3 km upwind, from where I could have glided back to the small gaggle. I lost 200m there, and took the TP very low and started slowly drifting back towards goal stopping in every solid feeling lift. But the day was shutting down and I was low in the middle of the valley, so after 15 km I had to land, 20km out from Goal. Just one more thermal would have brought be in, and into the top 10 overall. But hindsight is easy…

Today we went to Mystic, in hope that the forecast strong northerly would not be too strong. We waited on the hill for a while, as the gusts got stronger it became clear that it was not very good. The day was canceled at 14:30, and we went to a nice spot in the river north of the Porepunkah airstrip.

Christmas day flying

With weak northerly winds, and high pressure systems we can get some super nice conditions at out local site close to Oslo, but more often than not it’s foggy below the inversion just under takeoff. There was a clear inversion yesterday too, but not much fog.

Midwinter sun at midday
Midwinter sun

I had kept Sindre’s Litesport that he bought from a German pilot, Sindre has been in Bergen studying law, and he’s not had time for flying. We assembled it from shortpack in the garage at work before heading out in the morning.

At Sundvollen the fjord was frozen, with about 5cm of steel ice – so the biggest nicest LZ is open. Good for Sindre on his first flight on a new glider. My Litespeed RS is at Moyes so I flew the Falcon. (I’ve sold my Malibu 188 to pay for the trip to Oz, and will get the smaller Malibu later in the spring)

It was almost no wind at takeoff, and periods with weak tailwind as usual at this time of year. We set up and got ready to run off in a still period. Sindre did a very impressive run, and got off nicely with the Litesport. I had to run with the Falcon too, but with that kind of glider it is a lot easier to do a good takeoff in weak tailwind.

Landing on the smooth and extremely slippery  ice is great, just slide in at high speeds.

What  better way to spend the day?

Fall summary

So, it’s been a rather long blogging hiatus for me, sorry for not updating much lately. I’ve been working, not doing much flying after the nationals, but we’re starting a new hanggliding beginners course now so I finally have a excuse to get out and get airborne again.

A short summary of flying related stuff since the last update;

The last day of the nationals was very good, with epic conditions and many happy faces in goal. We got a 91km task, with a FAI 50km triangle to start with, then back SE to Aasarbrua, via the bridge in the centre of Vaagaa and to goal. Conditions were a little slow in the beginning, typical late summer and not extremely unstable, but we got to 3000 meters towards the end of the task.

I got 6. place overall in the competition, I was not too pleased with my performance at the time, but in retrospect it was a fun competition to fly in since I was finally free of the organization, and could just concentrate on my own flying, then again maybe I was too relaxed and did not really push hard enough.

I also received my new Moyes Malibu hangglider, and I got to test it gliding down from Vole one late evening during the nationals, and I flew it at Tronfjell toplanding 9 times. The Malibu is a great glider, flies like a dream and handles even better. It’s extremely forgiving, landing and talkeoff characteristics feels superb. I just wish we had costal soaring site with top landing nearby. I should probably go looking for one…

Some photos by Stein Edgard Strandli.

After the nationals I was back in Vaagaa arranging a 4 day comp for the paragliders. It was fun, we got unstable conditions, but 2 days of very good flying. I flew the course with the paragliders, looking out for overdevelopment and filming a bit from the air.

Back in Oslo the weather was great, but was swamped in work and could not get out and fly much. The meet at Tronfjell was as aways in late August, and this year the conditions were super nice. Fantastic top landing conditions, 40-50 pilots, great thermals, cloudbase at 2500m, just perfect.

This week we started the next beginner course, so I will be getting out a lot more to fly and teach hanggliding.