24 April 2017

Be comfortable on Speed bar

For XC flying, even on the latest,best EN A gliders, use of the speed bar is a big benefit. In summary:

  • It helps you improve your glide over the ground in sink and in a headwind.
  • It helps you reach obvious climbs quicker.
  • It improves your XC speed and therefore your distance.
  • It might be needed to keep up with other pilots which will allow you to work with a gaggle rather than alone.
  • Many gliders stiffen when you press some speed bar so actually feel nicer on the glide as they cut through minor turbulence better, rather than getting bounced around. 

Of course using the bar has potential downsides such as the glider being more prone to collapse and it being more dramatic when it does go. Flying full speed is generally more stressful, especially in active air.
So... is there a balance to be struck for pilots not pushing at the front of a high level competition task? I think there is.
The most obvious first thing is to allow yourself enough terrain clearance. What comprises "enough" depends on a lot of individual factors but generally would be: enough height to recover a collapse. After that, a good starting point is to use 30% - 50% bar on every glide unless there is a good reason not to.. This setting gives you a healthy gain without the disadvantages stacking up too much. The rewards are less in downwind XC flying and greater if you are following mountain ridges. At the FlyFuther event in Slovenia, the pilots getting more from the days will be gliding significantly faster than trim whenever they feel it is safe to do so.

It takes practice and mental acclimatisation but if it becomes your new default, your flying can only benefit. You can build it into your on local soaring flights, so that you ready when the big day comes.
And remember - never apply brakes whist you are on the bar!

02 April 2017

Choose your climbs

In tough, weak conditions, even experienced XC pilots might choose to climb in every bit of usable lift. To make more of the day, using the better lift definitely helps you progress along your route quicker.
Even on quite average days in the mountains it is possible to cover many km at a time following good lines, without doing a single 360 turn. Flying from the Tolmin area of Slovenia is a great example of this. At the FlyFurther event there should be great opportunities to put this into practice.
You might be above the crests of the ridges following a series of well formed thermals or very often you can fly along in the anabatic flow alongside the ridges.

This picture is actually from near Annecy but illustrates the point well.
Your aim is to reach the crest in the middle distance next to the lake (Verier), ready for the next section of your XC. You can probably identify three or four places that would tempt you to stop and climb along the way.

Below are typical places where good thermals release.

What often can happen if you climb in these places to well above the summits, is that your glide takes you through sink and back down below the tops.
There is another way!

Along large sections of the route there will be a light anabatic flow up the hillsides. Provided you are close enough you can surf along, maybe without stopping at all.
The day of the picture was pretty stable but even so there was enough gentle lift to make it most of the way without stopping. I climbed just once - just before the transition to Verier.
One of the French pilots I was with managed to find such a good line that he made it all the way to Verier before climbing. He was already crossing the lake in orbit as I arrived at Verier and hill top level.
You can imagine how far ahead he would have been if I had stopped two or three more times!

25 January 2017

FlyFurther - a new cross county event in Slovenia

I am really looking forward to a brand new event "FlyFurther" which I am privileged to be involved with in June.

FlyFurther is a cross country flying event aimed at helping pilots learn more, improve their PBs and have adventures flying in the wonderful Julian Alps in Slovenia -  a location of many record flights over the years. 
I'll be working alongside:
- Brett Janaway of xTc Paragliding (who is also chair of the BHPA comps panel, many time meet director and one of the most experienced fly-guiders around)
- Alistair Andrews (exceptional XC pilot and guide)
- a wider team of seasoned professionals to help with all the organisation, transport, retrieves, instruments etc.
There will be coaching, talks and advice throughout the week-long event. Every day we aim set three tasks of different lengths (generally out and return or flat triangle) but following similar routes. You choose which you want to attempt each day after you have heard the extensive briefing from Brett who knows the area like the back of his hand. We expect that 100km+ flights will be done by quite a few of pilots on the better days.Each day you will be able to down-load your track logs and get an "official" distance for your flight. There will be a post-flight debrief where we will unpick a selection of track logs (with the pilots' permission of course!) to see what worked well and explore areas to develop.
To compare FlyFurther to a competition, there are similarities and differences. Like a competition, there will be a group of enthusiastic pilots with broadly similar aims; you will be flying with others so it will help you make route choices and find thermals and there promises to be great social side. Unlike a competition there are no stressful start gaggles, complex tasks to programme into instruments or competitive rankings published each day. And most importantly there will much smaller numbers to ensure that everyone is looked after and gets much closer support.
Registration is now open and is filling up fast. At this stage everyone is on the waiting list and the final selection will be made soon (probably in the next 3-4 weeks but possibly sooner - so don't delay).You can find out all the information about the event here: https://flyfurther.org/about.html
I will be blogging regularly as we lead up to event here.
Hope to see you in Slovenia!