Friday, January 8, 2010

Local Knowledge

Well it might not have been the ball tearer of a day that was expected but it was still pretty nice. Probably the highest I have been since arriving and it was nice to be able to look down at most of the mountains for a change. The task setters are starting to play tricks, and set a couple of really high passes for us to negotiate. But the height was available, so all was good. Going north I had height at all the right times and eventually found myself working up to final glide (at 4400 metres if you don’t mind) with Carlos Rocca, the local Chilean ace. He then proceeded to beat me
home by 15 minutes. On final glide. He came 2nd, I was 12th. I haven’t looked at his trace yet to find out how he did it but I suspect he must know something that I don’t. Oh well. I guess if I had another hundred flights here I could figure it out too. It is likely that this will be the last blog entry before I get home; we are flying out tomorrow night (matters maternal are looming!!) and time may be pressing. This trip has been great fun, it has been educational, exhilarating and occasionally downright terrifying. Thanks to the Chileans for putting on a superb event; they are the most gracious and charming hosts imaginable. Thanks to Mark for looking after me and the glider, and thanks to those at home for all your kind thoughts.
Adios from Vitacura!!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Getting High

As promised, they invented a new turnpoint today which meant that a direct route was over some pretty high rocky stuff. And so it seems there were two classes today; those that managed to get high and fly straight(ish) lines, and those that didn’t crack a climb at the right time and were obliged to take the scenic route. Unfortunately I was one of the latter and finished just out of the points. But it was still a lot more fun than the last couple of days. Occasionally we even had altitude above the terrain. This airfield may be small and there certainly are issues with operating in a city but it certainly is well set up. And we are really well looked after…

Chilling before the launch

Other ways of chilling in Chile

Tonight we went downtown for dinner. Through the peak hour traffic and across the freeway interchange of death without even having to part with any more pesos. I don't think anyone here stays home to eat. There were quite literally hundreds of restaurants, most of them full to bursting. Quite a busy place. Tomorrow is promised to be a cracker of a day. Bring it on.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


The flight today was so far removed from my store of experience that it is hard to know what to say about it. The forecast was for possible storms to the north so we just went a long way south along the ridges. As it turned out it looked good to the north with cu all over the place but blue and stable to the south. When it gets stable here it is rock solid. The only way to stay up is to hug the terrain, using anabatic lift and the odd thermal bubble when you get lucky. The difficulty today was two fairly high passes that needed crossing. Well, high for today’s conditions anyway. I ended up being stuck in the bottom valley, along with one or two others. After 40 minutes or so going backwards and forwards I had to take the long way round but it was horribly difficult just to keep the glider in the air. Once zero points was inevitable I gave it away; it was extremely stressful flying, valley crossings being the only respite from being within a couple of wingspans from the terrain all day. On a lighter note, this was from the opening ceremony last night when we decided to “launch” Uli Schwenk’s glider….

Tomorrow they are talking about sending us "inside" for a task. That means into the really tall mountains in the guts of the Andes. Boy am I on a learning curve here!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Who's a naughty boy then?

I know I promised to fix my finish line indiscretions but I guess the penalty is punishment enough. Slightly more reliable weather today with a few cu around to mark the lift. The pack split into two very shortly after the start; those of us who stayed back in a modest climb to enable safe passage to the next valley got to watch from above as several gliders groveled about in the area that got me into trouble yesterday. Safely into the aptly named “valley of death” I had a nice climb all to myself, then had a trouble free run in and out of the first turn. A high point just past the second turn had me in front and in a great position to take the high passes back to the Santiago valley. I didn’t know it at the time but I probably had final glide at that point but I was a little conservative, took another climb, then watched Mario Kiessling sneak in front. He then gave me a lesson in how to run the ridges down to the south and home. Carlos Rocca also joined in the fun; we were 10 metres apart, wing tip to wing tip for the last 5 km. At the 3km mark I glanced at the final glide indicator, it said +150 metres. Ok, good, but I forgot that it takes into account total energy and I was so busy trying not to bump into Carlos that I didn’t look at absolute altitude until it was a bit late. So, second across the line but finishing low is almost a hanging offense in this comp so I dropped a few places. Tonight we had the official opening ceremony. At the end of day four. Oh well. It was OK really; lots of locals turned out, it was mercifully free of long speeches and there was a fantastic video presentation on the big screen featuring all the pilots. Weather is said to be OK for the next few days, so the fun continues. Opening ceremony
Glider line up at opening ceremony

Monday, January 4, 2010

A very short affair

Same scenario as yesterday; same area, same decision. Only difference was that it was early in the task. I am just not interested in being where my glider was pointed at the time I gave it away. Here is a short clip of the decision to turn around…

And here is a video of the launch at Vitacura. All in all an interesting place to fly.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Day 2: Too hard

I didn’t really enjoy the flying today. We were low all day, typically only 700 metres or so above the valley floor. The only safe outlanding options here are on airfields and at times the glide to the nearest one was a bit marginal. After about 200 quite stressful km of the task I found myself in a place where at my current level of experience here I wasn’t happy to proceed further. Mind you, not everyone seemed that worried. This is Sebastian Kawa about half an hour before launch:
Just a bit about Viticura Airfield. It is located on the north eastern edge of Santiago. Actually within the city itself. It is only about 400m wide and not terribly long. On one side is a river and a freeway (sorry, tollway) and a main road is on the other side. There are about 10 terrible second during each launch where the only place to go in case of launch failure is the river. Or its rocky bed. A broken glider would be the minimum result. After that a polo field comes into view. Not huge but better than the river. Then the tug flies over an escarpment, the ground drops a couple of hundred metres and you are over the central metropolitan area but there are lots of golf courses and such so all is good. Tomorrow I might post a bit of video of the launch and you will see what I mean...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Day one - a rude awakening

Well, what can you say about a day like today? You do 142kph and come last. Doesn’t happen that often back home. I had a slight problem in that I had no oxygen today. I saw a lot of guys up high, must have been close to 5000 metres. No way could I go that high. In fact I had to leave a couple of really good climbs because it wouldn’t have been too smart to go much higher. But the main problem is that these guys are really really good. Oh well, I will have to improve. But first, second or last it was a heck of a lot of fun today belting around in the mountains in those sort of conditions. Start over tomorrow.
Getting ready on day one