Sunday, 17 March 2013

Paragliding World Cup: Porterville, South Africa

PWC South Africa from Colin Hawke on Vimeo

I've become terrible at updating my blog and should have written a post much sooner about my recent experiences at the first 2013 Paragliding World Cup (PWC) event in Porterville in South Africa.

The first task was literally over before it began. The conditions were quite rough and unfortunately Japanese competitor Akira Horiguchi managed to lose control of his glider before the start and cascaded into the mountainside, without deploying his rescue parachute. I witnessed with horror the whole thing and was convinced we would be dealing with a fatality but with relief eventually saw a pair of arms flailing about. Medics were already on stand-by on launch so were scrambling to locate him aided by aerial cameraman Philippe Broers who was circling above the accident site. They gave the critical first aid needed while the rescue helicopter was on route to medivac him to hospital in Cape Town. A very professional rescue indeed and I'm glad to say Akira is back in Japan and expected to make a full recovery. Philippe documented some of it in his video below.
Porterville rescue ops.. from Philippe Broers on Vimeo.

The next day we had a great task, I say it was great because I won it!! But in reality it was a 57.4km task in strongly inverted and very windy conditions entirely out in the flatlands; it was quite frankly a very difficult flying day. In total only 20 pilots made goal, but it was especially fun and rewarding for me getting over the line in first place. It was also my very first task win, I have been third and fourth on occasions but never first and not at this level, so it was a bit of a confidence booster for the future.
Crossing the line for my first task win ever

The next two tasks were incredibly frustrating because of the strong wind. We never really seemed to get any downwind legs as the wind changed direction making every glide against a headwind. A typical situation is as follows: I'm 5km out from the turnpoint and very low and in need of a climb desperately, I find a low save and milk it back to a decent height only to find I'm now 12km from the turnpoint, having drifted downwind with the thermal. So I go on glide again and get back to where I was, 5km from the turnpoint. But now I'm very low again and I need another climb, repeat, repeat ... I'm sure you get the picture.

The next two tasks saw us all finally rewarded with great racing conditions, we also crossed into the Citrusdal Valley for a change of flying scenery with a goal line in the stadium at 'Constriction'. I was quite pleased with my performance on these tasks and often caught up the leading pack when needed and on occasions I even got ahead of it.

By the final task I was still in the running and was close in points to the leader and with a chance of a podium place, so I became determined to really push for a win. The goal field was set in the Clanwilliam rugby field, about 88km distance in total. Unfortunately I had a bad start and was well back in the field for the beginning of the task but I managed to claw my way to the front by the last turnpoint. I was in the leading gaggle 12km from goal and decided to make a break from the pack with a 9.2 glide ratio needed to make the goal on final glide. My idea was that there would be some lift somewhere on that final glide and I could use that to get over the line if I needed it. But I never found any lift, nothing at all! So although I got to the End-of-Speed section with one of the quickest times I didn't make it over the goal line, landing short by a few hundred meters. Literally a few more turns in the final thermal could have put me on the podium, but instead I got 33rd place overall. That's one to chalk up in the experience category! I'm not in to the 'could've, should've, would've' mentality and all I can say is that I learned a lot on that task at the front and will certainly try and work on my final glide calculations in future.
Over Citrusdal in Task 4. Photo: Arnold Frankenburger
Overall I'm pleased with my performance and am delighted with the task win. I seem to be developing a 'flying style' where tactics and decisions are becoming more intuitive rather than analytical. This year has started very well and if I count the free flying, 7 tasks in Colombia and the 7 tasks in South Africa I've managed close to 70 hours airtime since the new year. That's not a bad start to the season.

PWC South Africa: A quick climb-out above launch from Colin Hawke on Vimeo.

No comments: