Despite the sprinkles in the morning and the general air of, "No way in hell we're going flying," all of a sudden we're up on top of the hill as the air clears out. I hiked up today, needed to spin the lungs hard, it's been a while. Then I wanted to check my speed system out, so I went for a flap while the usual launch delay happened. Got back up on launh just as a task was decided upon, but a little rushed. Launched and spent the next 45 minutes doing circles at cloud base with the entire field--it was an individual start, and nobody wanted to go first. I think individual starts in paragliding are stupid, and this idiocy was compounded today by the fact that there were no points for leading or departure, so basically everyone was waiting at base for people to leave so the field could use the early pilots as thermal markers. I held off as long as I could, and finally gave in when Bill B. wanted to go so we did. It didn't work out for us so well, we landed after only a couple of thermals. About 15 minutes later the first monster gaggle flew over our heads, followed about an hour and a half later by another massive gaggle. I was having a rest in the shade while enjoying a long hike so I got to watch it. There was some poetic justice in that the gaggle that waited for most of the field to get on course didn't make goal as the day shut down. This puts most of the "top" pilots in a points hole for the rest of the meet. I have to laugh, what we call the "pimps" were owned today.
Individual starts, especially using the old GAP system without leading or departure points as we did today, annoy the hell out of me. There are various arguments for using them, mainly that it becomes more "strategic," but the field starts acting like the bicyclists at the start of a veldrome race instead of going flying. I can not honestly think of one situation where an individual start is preferrable to having a mass air start. Some people like individual starts because it theoretically spreads the field out more, but the goal of a paragliding competition is to put all the pilots into the same mass of air and have at it. It's called racing, not dicking about endlessly... Another reason people often want individual starts is to "reduce congestion," but all that ends up happening normally is that the entire field circles above launch waiting for someone else to start. And if the day is so poor that people can't effectively get up and fly then perhaps it's a junk day... I'm annoyed by landing early, but when the entire field is circling at base literally for hours waiting for people to get out on course to use as thermal markers, well, that's just retarded. Tomorrow is another day, and my goal is to become one with the individual start style, to be a good competitor you must deal with what is presented.
The good news from today is that Nicole made goal, and did so relatively quickly. Keith landed short (he went even earlier than I did, I wish I had gone with him but was trying to exercise patience), so Nicole is the top Canadian today, nice work Nicole! Josh and Tom made goal also, so North America is doing OK here.
The FAI/pilot politics continue, there are soap operas to be written about all of that. I'm starting to feel that perhaps big PG comps are missing out on the best parts of flying. I was reprimanded today for flying before the task--for me the flying is what I'm here for, the compettion is a reason to come fly in Oz. I knew the task would be delayed several times, might as well go flying while waiting to go flying, no?
Oz continues to amaze, saw a whole flock of parrots today as I walking out, plus the tip end of a snake and something that took a chunk out of my back when I lay down in the shade to rest. One thing for sure is that I'll be back here to Oz, it's got something that is special and good in both the people and landscape.