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!