Thursday, February 22, 2007

Manilla XC Wrap

We're heading up the hill in a minute for the first practice day of the worlds, but a few wrap-up thoughts:

Our driver, Daniel, did a great job chasing us down and getting us back without hitting any Roos. Having a good driver is really important in an XC comp, thanks to him.

Flying here is incredible. We've had an epic, stonking week of conditions. Yesterday it rained hard in Manilla for the first time in weeks, but people still flew until early afternoon. This site is right up there with the best I've ever flown anywhere in the world, a combination of flat-land flying and hill terrain. It reminds me most of east Texas in terms of topography (hill country area).

The locals here have been super-friendly. They don't exactly speak English as we know it, but getting to understand the dialect is part of the fun.

Our team, team Dirka Dirka (if you haven't seen the movie Team America: World Police then rent it right away) placed second. Pretty solid. Funny to hear all the super-serious team names read off, then "And in second place, Team Dirka Dirka!"). Part of the fun of any comp is hanging out with the people there, it was fun to fly and hang with Keith, Tom and Nicole.

This wasn't an XC comp like any I've ever been to--the field was extremely strong. The spread between first and 20th was only a few hundred points. It's one thing to drift downwind for 6 hours, quite another to be holding as much bar as possible on every glide and working desperately to max climb rates. Each day felt like a task because it was on course line, and the competition was fierce.

I'm simply blown away by the level of flying I've seen here. When I show up to compete in North America I know there are maybe 10 pilots flying at a pretty high level; here in this comp there were at least 30 flying at a level I didn't know existed. I learned from them and am happy with my result (eighth place and close in points to the podium), it would be arrogant to expect to be able to beat these guys with the relatively limited competitition experience I have. Part of becoming a better pilot is to admit my own limitations and then try to expand them. We can all start thinking we're pretty good when we look around at our local scene, but the reality is that the true world level of competition flying is VERY high. Take any good competition pilot and put him in an XC comp like this and he will rock it. The same isn't true of XC pilots (I'd put myself into that category) at a world-class competition. As with any sport, competition defines the pinnacle of pure technical skill. That said, going fast all the time is not what paragliding is always about to me. In fact, I'm not sure it's the best part of the sport at all. For me flying is a method to explore the atmosphere, new places/people and my own head. Competition is extremely useful for honing the technical skills of moving well in the atmosphere. When XC flying you can make a poor decision and blame it on luck, but when you're racing with 30 other pilots who make a different decision and do better, well, obviously you made a bad decision. I learned a lot last week, and am really looking forward to taking those skills back to my home sites and seeing how they work...

OK, up the hill to practice for the worlds, yeah!



Anonymous said...

I've been checking your blog every couple days to try and keep in the loop. The flight reports have been insane with the distances you've been flying. The drool factor is extremely high on this end. It's great that you've taken the time to give those of us that couldn't be there an insiders view, especially after the crazy-long days you've been spending in the air. Thanks for the great blogging and congrats on a great finish. Team Dirka-Dirka kicked a**! Hopefully I'll see you guys in June.

Dean Stratton

Vedran said...

Greetings Will !! I couldn't believe that I’m finally able to express my fillings to sick son of a beech like You :)). I always admired you para records, sense of safety and sense of humor. I don't know, you like a reborn Chuck Yeager to me ;)) I’m flying since 97, and I’d flown +150km in the alps, even with the top pilots of the PWC in Tolmin, but.. to fly such a distances in the flatlands.. It must be special feeling. If you see Damir Biondic (+260km), or Karlo Bonacic (HR), say that Vedran is cheering from Croatia. Very good friends, i couldn’t go with them because of terminal disease. Clinical lack of money and time ;)). Blah.. to much to say with to little words. Yeah, and you 3 stage story of termik, triggers and collectors is like bible here in Croatia.
If you coming on PWC in Slovenia or Croatia, I’ll buy you a drink there.

Well, cheers everyone down there and Gad speed!!

Jedrzej said...

Hi Will, we've met last year in Hedley - I am the "Polish Andy", one of them wheelchaired pilots :)
Great to read some competent reports from the field, thank you so much for investing some of your time&effort into this. Together with Nicole you're painting pretty complete view.
Looks like coming comp will be rare opportunity for Polish pilots to score reasonably, with our flatland experience. Krzysiek just scored a fantastic 4th in the XCOpen - looks I'll be torn in my kibitzing :)
Good luck!