Monday, 27 December 2010

A Win at the Winelands

An intimidating launch

So I came first in the serial class at the South African Winelands PrePWC in Porterville! But more satisfyingly I came 15th overall in the open class out of 120 pilots beating some seasoned competition pilots on their hot ships. I’m still somewhat amazed I did so well and am trying to figure out exactly what I did that was different to my last two competitions. It has definitely boosted my confidence somewhat which can only be a good thing. Because of some unusually bad weather we only had three tasks (63.9 km, 63.7 km, 66.8 km) but they were good ones with a little bit of ridge flying and a lot of flatland flying. This was great practice for me as I’m not so great at flying over the flats away from the consistency of the mountains.

Flying with Julian Robinson high over the flats

The launch was very small with only enough room for two gliders side-by-side, the thermals were powerful so we had to carefully time our launches to coincide with the brief lulls. While watching the R10 pilots launch I felt the usual mix of hilarity and horror that really did nothing for my confidence. Somehow I managed (with a lot of help from our meet director Rob Manzoni) to launch and once in the air I would do my ‘thank god for that’ and ‘I must do more ground handling’ mantra.

The open class winner - Paul Schmit from Belgium

Task-1: I got to goal in 11th place only 6 minutes behind the task winner Paul Schmit on his R10.2. I only took the strongest of climbs and found the elusive convergence line in the Citrusdal Valley. I was particularly pleased with my average speed for the 64km task of 31.38 km/h which is very fast for me.

Task-2: An elapsed time race where I came 14th overall. I was only a few seconds behind a bunch of other gliders but being an elapsed time race meant that I didn’t know this until the results were in as we all started at different times. If I had known that it was going to end up so close I would have tried harder to beat them. For this reason I’m not a fan of elapsed time races.

Task-3: To maintain my serial class lead all I had to do was get to goal. So I decided to fly conservatively and cruise around the course being careful. I flew like a plonker! I only just made goal in 42nd place and on several occasions I was just seconds away from decking it along the course and was even out of my pod harness with my landing gear down (my feet) only to be saved by the weakest of thermals. This was a real learning experience for me; I will from now on fly the best I can and stick with the better gaggles …

The long ridge north of launch

This was a nice way to end the 2010 flying season. In 2011 I plan to participate in another 4 FAI category-2 competitions; so let’s hope the learning process continues as well as it did in 2010.