Tuesday, 15 June 2010

British Open. Slovenia June 2010

The all important task board
One of my goals for 2010 was to enter some competitions and I specifically wanted to enter the British Championships. This is a high level competition and as I essentially have no real competition experience I thought It would be a great learning experience for me. I was also keen to see if this would add a new dimension to my flying.

First I must explain how this competition is set up. The 2010 championships are made up of two separate competitions in Europe; one in Kobarid in Slovenia and the other in
Saint André-les-Alpes in France. These individual competitions are known as the British Opens and have up to 150 suitably qualified pilots of any nationality participating. They each last a week with as many daily tasks set as the weather allows. The British Championships are then just the combined results of the British pilots who do both of these open competitions. There used to be a UK round as well but this year it was dropped as historically the weather has been too unreliable to make it justifiable. So this year it started with Slovenia and it turned out to be a wonderful venue. It is a 70% tree covered and sparsely populated country with very little heavy industry and lots of mountains to fly over and fields to land in; perfect for free flying.

Green and not so rolling hills
Together with friends Tom Kane and Hugh Ginty we rented a lovely apartment just a short walk from the competition headquarters, it was the perfect place to relax after a hard days flying. We arrived a week early to get some practice in with local guides Brett Janaway of XTC Paragliding and Toby Colombé of Passion Paragliding. Although the week didn't start off great weather wise we did eventually manage some reasonable cross country flights and get a few lectures on competition flying from Toby. Importantly, it also allowed me to familiarize myself with my brand new glider, the new Gin Boomerang GTO. This is Gin gliders latest
high performance EN-D serial class wing, a real hot ship ...

Doesn't she look nice!
The competition went really well. We had great weather and managed to get in 6 cats cradle tasks in the area. High level winds meant our arena was somewhat restricted to a couple of valley systems but the tasks were of reasonable lengths (69km, 57km, 59km, 62km, 73km and 64km).

Some big clouds brewing
As I'm a competition novice my strategy was to keep it simple, not to race but just try to get to goal everyday. After two days of doing this and finding that 100+ pilots were getting to goal I decided to start racing; besides it's just so much more fun.

So in task three I went around the course at speed trying to race, amazingly I was in the first handful of serial class gliders to make goal. But as it turned out I missed the last turnpoint by a couple of hundred meters, I had inadvertently pressed the 'next waypoint' button on my GPS when trying to go to my final glide page. I got a good amount of distance and leading-out points, so I actually got the same score as if I had bimbled around the course; what a plonker!

Task four saw me get to goal pretty quickly in 37th place. Considering there were 20+ seasoned competition pilots above me mostly flying those ridiculous Ozone R10.2's I was very pleased with myself.

Task 5 was frustrating, I was racing too much, got low and ended up getting stuck for half an hour kicking trees finally making it in 60th position. Task 6 was slightly different, I had made a conservative decision to top up height between turnpoints and avoid getting low and possibly getting stuck like the day before. But it evidently wasn't needed as others jumped in front and pushed me down to 62nd place.

So some mistakes were made and only the experience of lots more competitions can help improve my performance. I certainly can't blame the glider, it's a great wing and has heaps of performance and provides a lot of feedback about the air I'm flying in - it honestly felt a bit of a handful at first but I've nicely settled in to flying it. In fact pilots who got first and second place in the serial category were flying the same wing. The overall results can be seen here and the serial class results here. I got 69th place and considering I'm new at racing paragliders I'm reasonably pleased with myself. Roll on Saint André!

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