|Photo: Silvio Zugarini|
I meant to blog during the competition but I never managed it and I also didn't manage to take any pictures either but here is short post on the recent competition I did.
During the last couple of years Roldanillo in Colombia has been gaining in popularity as a paragliding destination and so I took the opportunity to do their Colombian nationals in early January. This comp directly preceded the Paraglidng World Cup superfinal and attracted a few PWC pilots wishing to practice for the big event, so the standard was pretty high.
Roldanillo is a small town of less than 50,000 people situated on the west side of the huge 'Valle del Cauca' some 40km wide and 200km long. Each side of the valley has reasonably high mountains and on the valley floor are flatlands containing large sugar cane plantations. Smaller vineyards and other fruit farms dot the edges of the valley.
The main take-off used by the competitions is locally known as ‘Los Tanques’ and is a pretty 45 minute drive from town. There are others like 'El Pico' which are much closer but are smaller, tend to get crowded and somewhat tricky to launch from. The flying day here starts early and you should aim to be on launch and ready to go at 09:30 and are usually launching an hour later when the first thermal breezes start to flow. However generally after midday a strong west wind arrives presenting a back-wind on take-off and quite rotary conditions close to the ridge. This obviously prevents late starts to the day.
During our competition we had the good fortune to have 7 tasks on 7 consecutive days (80.2km, 104.7km, 80.9km, 53.9km, 117.6km, 69.4km, 49.5km) and provided great racing both in the mountain ridge and a lot out in the flats. In general I flew pretty well and was up the front often with the leading pack on most tasks but I made a few mistakes that cost me places and so my result was a slightly disappointing 25th out of 134 pilots.
Conditions were very strong with average climbs sometimes 7+ m/s on the ridge and perhaps half that in the flats. Unusually we were on occasion getting close to 3000m at the tops of the climbs whereas in previous years the maximum heights reached was significantly lower. Apparently Roldanillo normally produces nice gentle thermals and so it was a shock to most pilots to be confronted with strong turbulent conditions. The cause of this was an incredibly dry season whereas in previous years it had been very wet making things much milder. I heard several stories of pilots last year landing in waist deep water in the fields, but this year the only water I saw was in the river or the swimming pool, even the irrigation ditches seemed dry.
All in all, including the practice days, I managed 500+km of XC and 32 hours of racing. Good practice for the PWC in South Africa.