Wednesday, 8 September 2010

British Open. Saint-André-les-Alpes.

Gaggles forming after the start window opens
I've just returned from another competition, the second round of the British Open in Saint-André-les-Alpes in Southern France. This place has a rather fierce reputation and it lived up to it with ten reserve parachute rides and several crashes. I'm embarrassed to say that I was one of the unlucky pilots who threw their rescue parachute during a particularly weird day in which we had a lot of incidents. But I hasten to add there were no serious injuries.

In general I thought the competition was incredibly well run; we had six tasks (62km, 82km, 88km, 68km, 86km, 77km) during the week in which the first and last were stopped due to deteriorating conditions but still scored.

I didn't do so well in this competition as I was very inconsistent. In task one I almost made goal but it was stopped for safety reasons, task two I got drilled pushing against valley winds about half way around the course. In task three I went down on my emergency rescue parachute. Task four I did well and got to goal in reasonable time. In task-5 I took off too late when a huge area went into shade killing off all thermal activity. Finally, task 6 was stopped when I was half way around the course due to increasing winds. So in this open I only managed 104th place out of 150 pilots. This result combined with my Slovenian results meant that I was placed 26th out of 66 British pilots in the Championships which I suppose is OK for my first attempt at competitions but in reality I wanted to be in the top 20. Hopefully I will improve with more practice; the next competition I've entered is the South African open in December ...

There is no denying that this competition had way too many incidents but it is hard to work out why this is the case; was it to do with the venue, risk taking by the pilots, task setting etc? There is an interesting discussion about this on the paragliding forum here but as it stands there are no obvious answers. What I will say is that the organization was second to none. We were all issued with personal tracking devices so the position of all 150 pilots were known at all times during the race. There was a safely committee; a subset of pilots evaluating the conditions around the course on their own radio frequency. The main safety frequency was monitored at all times by a very experienced meet director. And we had a very sophisticated retrieve system which coordinated the retrieval of downed pilots throughout the course and brought them back to base. The support team was quite simply amazing.

Where I landed under my rescue parachute.

No comments: