Saturday, March 03, 2007

A new plan

Obviously Bill, Nicole and I need some incentive to stay in the air and go to goal. Today we had one of those "wow" moments and came up with a bold new plan--anyone who doesn't make goal has to eat an entire package of Vegemite. I'd heard of Vegemite before this trip, but never actually tasted it until I mistakenly put a whack of it on toast one morning, which sure was a waste of good toast. I'm not sure what Vegemite is made from despite the name implying that vegetables are used somewhere in the manufacturing process--I'm thinking used motor oil from rusting Soviet farm tractors, or maybe street scrapings from New York city, but it really is a mystery product right up there with "chicken" McNuggets. In any case, none of the usual incenitives were working in this comp for us, so the Vegemite gauntlet has been thrown down, game on. Today looks good if the wind doesn't pick up like it did yesterday.


PS--Does Vegemite explain the Australian accent? I found it very hard to talk naturally after eating it also... Nah, we love ya Oz, I'll for sure be coming back here, good country and people.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Worlds Task Two

Flying in the Worlds

Short report: A good task was had today, plenty of people in goal, and plenty just short.

My view: We've had two tasks, and I've suffered from the same attention deficit issue on both tasks. On the first one we sat around endlessly at base, I got bored and left with Bill. Today we sat around on launch waiting for it to blow in--I was laid out about third in the lines of gliders, and got frustrated at the wait. By the time I was in the air I was hot and annoyed, more so as a glider laid out in front of me as I got ready to launch. If I were really here to compete then I would suck it up and stay focused, but the bottom line is that I'm not all that mentally "in" this competition. That's a weird thing to say about a world championship, but the whole vibe just annoys me. Sit around, cue up, it's just plain aggravating. In the XC comp we launched and flew, and I was happy to be in the air each day. Here it's been a far cry from the sort of flying I enjoy. I'm used to competing in different sports and can normally focus on the task at hand (so to speak), but I just don't seem to have any competition mojo for this one.

After launch today the gaggle flying was really bad--lots of pilots in a small space, with a few people cutting through the gaggle randomly. I was nearly mid-aired twice, and kept leaving the gaggle to find something less messy. I'd get a climb on and then the gaggle would jump into it. That's OK when it's going up good, but the climbs were weak. I was in the lead gaggle to the first turnpoint, but didn't slow down on the way back along the ridge, there were just too many damn gliders to enjoy the air. Eventually I climbed out, then got mobbed again and left before topping out the climb. That was it, I went on glide into a blue hole and then landed close to a road, no enthusiasm left. You can't be flying to avoid other gliders in this sort of meet...

I've had this happen at pargliding comps before--it's one reason I didn't compete much for about five years. Too much time sitting around, too many politics, too many of the things I go flying to not experience. The contrast between this competition and the Manilla XC event is really jarring--good fun flying vs. clusters…

I'll have to figure out why I'm here and what the goal is, at this point I've about had it. I do better with a goal, the last two days I haven't had one and the results are clear. Keith did well yesterday, as did Josh and Tom, so Canada and the U.S. are doing well, good to see.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

PG Worlds Day 5

The thunderstorms started boiling about 7:00 a.m., and the first light rain just drove us under the awning at 9:15. The forecast is for improved weather starting tomorrow, we'll see. It's pretty cool to watch the landscape around here green up--after the worst drought in a century the rain is certainly needed. It definitely feels more like northern California here this morning than the blazing hot Oz we've come to love... We snuck a task in two days ago when I was sure we wouldn't get one so anything is possible, but it doesn't look good.

A friend of mine wrote and said that I should ignore the politics at the Worlds, the politics just get in the way of a good time. He's right. Individually, most people in paragliding are really good people. But somehow it tends to get sideways a lot at competitions--I'm going to just ignore the politics.

Looks like a full slate of running, training on the local swing set and work today...


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Worlds Day One

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.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Day Three Worlds

The Paragliding World Championships are underway, but we've yet to fly a task. People are starting to joke about the "Curse of Pinzgau," a town in Austria that hosted the Worlds a few years back. They flew two tasks there in dangerous conditions in two weeks... On the other hand we're getting caught up on work, running, rain, etc. The locals love the rain as there's been a serious drought on for years. When we arrived it was pretty brown, now it looks nice and green, a bit more like the province's name of New South Wales. There's even a fair amount of water in the formerly bucolic creek behind the campground.

There is, despite the lack of flying, an incredible amount of nationalistic bitching going on at the "team leader" and FAI levels. Various teams are conniving ways to get more of their pilots higher in the launch line priority, or whatever they can possibly do to improve potential position in the air. Our team leader, Nicole, comes back from the morning Team Leader meeting with tales that would warm the heart of the most cold-blooded lawyer. I look at the whole "National" competition concept a bit sideways--I'm proud to represent Canada and do my best for the team, but I'd like to think this is a more of a global gathering of good pilots to fly at a high level. Working the system for team advantage is somewhere between laughable and retarded. If we don't get to fly soon this competition will end up in Manilla's courthouse, or turn into a contest to race team vehicles up and down the launch road. We've got the best driver, Dave, so game on.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


After an insane week of flying, the best I've had in many years, the weather turned just in time for the first day of the World Championships. The development was big as we rigged up on launch, and a few of the wind dummies were getting parked up in high winds over launch. Hmmmm.... I decided to keep my flight clothes off and hang out in the shade. Five minutes before the launch window there were relatively few pilots in the launch lines and even fewer on launch actually ready to go. Keith was dressed and ready to go when they cancelled the day, and expressed his displeasure. I noticed that many of the older pilots hadn't even got their gliders out... The wind went ballastic as we drove down, so a good decision.

Yesterday afternoon we were treated to an absolutely insane thunder storm--one of our tents was floating. This morning Bill and I had a run in the cool conditions, pretty nice to actually feel slightly cool on the morning run. Conditions today look wet, we'll see if they send us up the hill or not. I'm still worked from the last week of flying, these rest days are nice. There's a surprising amount to do here even on non-flying days--yesterday I spent the afternoon tweaking my risers with Seoung from the Gin team and a bunch of other stuff. Today I'll update the Gravsports web site for ice conditions, sorry to be late on that, had some other writing etc. to get done.