19 July 2014

An Emerging Star wins the Nordic Open

Pedro Bernardo on the South side of the Sierra Gredos in central Spain delivered 7 tasks out of a possible 7. Not that the flying was easy and many good pilots found consistency eluded them.
A big test came on the last day for the day 6 leader Manuel Quintanilla. A strong westerly flow and a cross wind task was going to be a test of skill, judgement and determination. The young Mexican had a 150 point cushion, but probably needed to get to goal to be sure of the win. There is little doubt about his temperament: at the Spanish Open the previous week he had suffered a full bore blow out, deployed his reserve and broke both his C-Pilot Pro instruments on landing. From the way he would fly 7 task, you would never have known!
The crux of task 7 came on the final crossing of the flats to goal. To many, the obvious route was to max out the final climb and use full bar for the cross/into wind glide. Manuel thought differently. He chose to fly directly into wind hopping over ridges to work his way west, before attempting the southerly push to goal with less of a headwind component. He will have met strong wind and turbulence as he crossed over ridges to try to reach the windward side and the hoped for climb. He will have been closer to the terrain than the flat land route and he will have demonstrated how to fly a paraglider at or close to top speed in uncomfortable conditions
Pilots taking the first option spoke of needing 6:1 for goal and getting nowhere near. Manuel crushed the opposition, winning the task and the event. Salut young man!
Manuel Quintanilla on top step of the podium. (Photo Gordie Mucklow)

05 July 2014

3 days of rain then classic!

Friday was simply beautiful, with nice cumulus, convergence and comfortable winds. 101km flight to goal and lots of happy faces, including me. Bold moves were rewarded fairly often so it is easy to feel excited and pleased. I was nearly crying after final glide needing 12:1. I diverted for a low save which cost a few minutes. The feeling was one of relief rather than frustration! Now at 9th in the over ranking, I am looking to fly a similar way on the last task. Conditions look great again and with a stronger SW wind in should be quick...

02 July 2014

The perfect strategy

On the second day of bad weather, it has been possible to reflect back on the Spanish Championships task 2, 157km  elapsed time race.
The earliest starters were at 13.50. I started at 14.10 and winner (Francisco Reina) started at 14.25. Reina made the classic elapsed time strategy work by storming through the field to arrive only a few minutes behind the first to finish in 3hrs 48. Another top 10 pilot who started 35min earlier only got 14 more lead out points despite being in front quite a lot. I finished in 4hrs32 for 800+pts. So leading paid less handsomely than being fast and catching/overtaking pilots later in the race.
I had let, what seemed plenty of pilots, get going in front of me, but there were very few fast pilots amongst them. Their general lack of confidence in decisions, couple with quite weak conditions made it hard to press on without risk. Meanwhile the later starters such as Reina were able to get on the pace straight away.
Approaching Avilla the conditions improved and the pace was good. I eventually formed a group with an Enzo 2, Enzo and IP7 and we supported each other well although could have been faster to leave weaker/weakening climbs and we should have been prepared to glide deeper in the search for the strong climbs. It was noticeable how I am not holding as much speed through turbulence as some others, so as is usually the case for me it takes a while to get into a good racing mode. 
It was stable after Zegovia and we had to slow right down with 40km to go. I left for finals needing 14:1 and was rewarded with comfortable glide in. There was still life in the day and pilots were still arriving 3/4 of an hour after me. The later start was clearly a good strategy today and even pilots without Reina's relentless pace would have enough time to complete the race AND would be blessed with lots of high quality markers.
For those who like numbers, the results can be found here.

01 July 2014

Spanish Champs Day 2

Pre-frontal conditions gave the chance of a classic long flight to goal just shy of 160km. Sensibly an elapsed time task was set to cut down on time spent waiting in potentially windy lee-side conditions.
I delayed my start a bit as climbs were weak in the early afternoon, although I didn't play too much brinkmanship and rejected the idea of waiting for the final gate. It was a really mixed flight with tough bits and fantastic bits. About half way through the task I became part of a nice group of 4, with an Icepeak 7 and two Enzo 2s. We could have been quicker but we made progress without risk so it was better than going alone. I was really happy with my climbing and the handling of the Icepeak 7Pro in the rough stuff.
Classic Piedrahita and view of the Kobo (Richard Perks)
At around 120km goal was looking very achievable so I pushed on from the group twice only to be caught again when the strong climbs I'd hoped for didn't materialise. The third bid for freedom worked and a decent final glide had me into goal in the first few, of the coach load the eventually arrived. The score sheet will reveal who got the elapsed time strategy right!
Thanks to Richard Perks for allowing me to use a picture.