Saturday, January 29, 2005

Bogong Cup 2005 - Finished

Although it looked like it could rain at any minute, the day was not cancelled at the 9am pilots meeting. Instead we were told to come back at 10:30. At 10:30 we were told to go to Mount Emu and get ready to fly. As most of my close flying buddies know, I will fly in just about anything. However even I was wondering "what the heck are they thinking?". There were showers over the hillsides, clouds were below the tops of the mountains, and there wasn't a ray of sunshine anywhere. Oh, did I mention that the forecast called for showers all day? So Davis, Dean, Jim, Oleg, and I rush to call our 4wd taxi driver Brian for a lift up Emu. We even call on the radio when we get to the base to make sure we should still drive up. Even though it seemed obvious that we wouldn't fly, we were also worried about some people coming back down the dirt 4wd road once the rain really started. However, we were told to "keep going", so we did. Once at the top we could see heavy rain over the back, across the valley, and over the next range. We also noticed that the wind was 90 degrees to launch even though it was blowing in a little bit at times. I was worried how I would get back down if Brian left. Finally reality set in and the day was cancelled.

The results have not changed in a couple of days since we didn't fly yesterday or today.

Jim left after we had a quick lunch at the bakery while Dean and I headed up to Bogong village and the ski area for a little sight-seeing. The presentation dinner and awards are tonight. Tomorrow Dean and I head to Sydney.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Day 7 - Almost

The forecast for the day this morning was marginal but most of us had some hope of a good day. The sky was still totally blue when Connie, Dean, Jim, and I arrived at launch. It looked so stable and light that I withdrew my request to launch early in the alternative launch. As we set up our gliders a thick band of cirrus moved in an it looked like it might be too stable. Meanwhile the meet officials were getting high wind reports from other locations while we watched paragliders sled to the bottom. A task was called and the launch window opened. No one launched. We could see some towering clouds in the distance all around us, but nothing nearby. Finally the cirrus started to thin, the ground heated, and the thermals started moving through. After the task was shorten, pilots started to launch. The thermals were getting more numerous and stronger. However the wind was also getting gusty (probably from the thermals) and some of the launches were marginal. The pilots in the air were not getting extremely high and seemed to be spending some time trying to fly upwind. (The task was an upwind task since there is nothing but trees downwind of Mystic). After some conversations with pilots in the air and a couple shakey launches, the launch was closed and the task cancelled.

I heard that one pilot was already 1/2 of the way to goal by the time I left launch. Another pilot flew over the range to the Mount Beauty airport. Although it might have been my last flight in Australia for this trip, I didn't want to land in the bombout LZ in a strong wind. (Some local pilots were telling me it was not fun when the wind picked up.)

Many of the pilots invaded Bright and enjoyed the late afternoon chatting at tables on the sidewalk with ice cream cones in their hands.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Day 6 - Another Painful Lesson

Yep, did it again. I bombed out at the start circle. I was top of the stack at the start gate and decided to leave with Kevin and Corinna. We headed to the lee side of Buffalo towards a towering (but soft) cloud. About 3/4 of the way there Kevin turned and started turning in some weak lift. Since I was now in front, it took several minutes before I noticed he stopped in something. I turned around (losing altitude) and tried to find whatever he and a couple other gliders had. Alas i didn't find it so I continued on to Buffalo. I would have reached Buffalo at the top if I had not turned around, but since I did, I came into the mountain about 1/2 of the way up. I spent the next 2 hours struggling to get up and away but finally gave up and tried to find something on the other side of the valley. There wasn't anything there so I ended up landing. Bummer.

I did get to fly with an eagle that was screeching at me the entire time. I also got to fly close to a large cascading waterfall that was quite the sight to see. (Believe me, I was close enough to appreciate it!) I also landed on farm run by a gentleman named Manual. He was very friendly and showed me his pet deer, his old tobacco shed, and most of the rest of his farm. He explained how the entire valley was burned a couple of years ago. He also filled me in on his struggle with fox and dingos taking his chickens and goats.

The weather is starting to go downhill so we may not fly much more. The current scores and places might be final. I really hated bombing out today. I seem to have a problem at the start gate. I thought I had the problem under control, but I guess I don't! Just shows that I have tons of stuff yet to learn.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Looking out in front of the Mystic launch. Posted by Hello

Setup area on Mystic. Posted by Hello


The winds were turning around to the warm northerlies so we headed to Mystic. Mystic seems to be the main paragliding site around here. The lauch is totally covered with carpet. There is a huge slope to launch from. It was so large we had two launch lines but we could have easily had four or more.

The air was rough over launch. It seemed like the sky was fully of little bullets tossing gliders around. I once again missed the first start gate so I left with a 17 minute handicap. Then I got low on Mount Buffalo and had to settle for a bit of ridge soaring. I watched the minutes pass as I waited for a good climb out of there. It eventually turned on and I had an easy glide to the first turnpoint. I arrived very low (harness unzipped) but managed to find a nice strong thermal back to cloudbase. I crossed the next big valley on a single glide, but (yes again) I was very low and found another ratty climb after I unzipped for a landing. I slowly worked up way up the lee side of a mountain flying further and further from any landing area. I finally connected to a strong thermal that allowed me to glide into the next valley, and yes, I was unzipped and prepared to land when I found a very weak climb along the tree line at the base of the ridge. I started to work the lift getting only about 1/3 of a turn in lift. One of the Japanese pilots joined me and we both jacked our way up the mountain side until it got nice and strong at the top where it met the thermal coming up the "front" side. From there I got the third turnpoint and dashed back to the ridge. I put to use the experience from all those flights at West Rutland working the light late evening lift right at tree-top level. I scooted down the ridge and finally slide into goal.

I was not very fast today because of the late start and the slow up at Buffalo. However, it was an enjoyable flight and a flight that I learned a lot from. It seems that I can move quickly when I fly by myself, but don't do so well when flying with a gaggle. I think I spend so much time avoiding other pilots or seeing who is climbing better to notice what is happening on the course line or where the better undiscovered lift might be. I plan to change how I fly with gaggles in future meets.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Day 4 - Mount Buffalo again

The winds were light ENE today so almost everyone wanted to go back to Mount Buffalo. I pointed out at the morning pilots meeting that no one stuck with the second start gate on the previous day made goal. Heather, meet director, promised to speed things up and Johnny, a member of the task committee, said he would try to adjust the launch and start gate times to give the second half of the field time to get to the starting line.

Our driver Connie, Dean, Jim Prawl, and I arrived at launch before the main crowd. I was assigned a shady spot down in the ravine but there was little room for me, my glider, and everyone else. Several pilots that arrived just as the launch window was opening were whining about where they had to setup. I suggested that they arrive earlier next time. I don't think they were happy to hear my advice!

It was another excellent task. We started in the mountains, flew out onto the plains, and then returned to an airport in the mountains. Once again, the flying and scenery here was simply awesome.

I had a good start with the lead gaggle. We were all together for several climbs but broke into a couple of groups after a needed climb didn't materialize. The top guns pressed on while me and most of the rest went into hunting mode. Once I got back up, I had a fairly straightforward climb, glide, climb, glide, etc. flight under quickly drying clouds. I was flying by myself most of the time with several gliders following behind me. I kept catching and then passing gliders as I didn't hang around when the lift started to weaken and would fly through the next gaggle into stronger lift on the upwind side of the clouds.

I finally lost everyone when I made a gutsy move by diving into the lee (but sunny) back side of Mount Buffalo. I dove into a rock face way back up a gorge. It was a long shallow glide back out. I finally found some trash that was mostly going up and trying to toss me upside down. I finally harnessed the bronco enough to get slightly above the mountain. The top of the mountain is a plateau with lots of strange looking rock formations. I was gliding over this bad lands area with no place to land and a real chance of not making the other side. I enjoyed the drama and the view as I was crossing. (There was not much else I could do at that point!) I dribble in some weak lift until I was sure of reaching the other side. Once clear of the mountain I started my dive into goal. I was almost knocked senseless by a strong thermal on the lee side of a ridge near the airport as I was screaming in as fast as I could. I slowed down after that wakeup call, but still made it into goal with a decent time.

I am really enjoying the flying around here. I like the variety that mountains, valleys, and the plains have to offer. The rock formations, mountain waterfalls, and wildlife are just too cool.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Dean waiting to snap some pictures of the wind dummies launching. Posted by Hello

Mount Buffalo setup area. Posted by Hello

Mount Buffalo

I'm very tired as I write this so excuse anything that doesn't make sense!

We launched from Mount Buffalo today. The setup area is similar to Ascutney, lots of rocks and trees and not a level spot in sight. I had a "choice" spot on a sloping rock overlooking a 50 foot drop off. At least it was in the roasting sun. Thanks to my "mountain upbringing" I managed just fine. However several gliders were ground up, banged up, or scratched to pieces.

The launch over the chasm was simple and easy. However, my score for the day was settled at 9:00 am when they announced no early launching. The start gate was just about open before I even launched. There were only 3 gliders with me at the next start gate 30 minutes later. The day shut down before I could get around the course. The flight was interesting for its variety. The initial climb over Mount Buffalo was quick and refreshing. The climb at the first turn point was also nice. After me and another glider failed to find anything on the way to the second turnpoint I took a right turn for another pass at Mount Buffalo. It took me a few minutes of diving around the bolders before I found another climb to cloudbase. The second turnpoint was tough, especially when I missed a climb that beamed my former "flying mate" to cloudbase leaving me all alone and low. I groveled around until I hit a smooth 1000 fpm to the top floor. That was the high point. I spent the rest of the flight circling in tiny lee-side thermals trying to work my way to the third turnpoint. The day was done, but I still had a long way to go. I did my best light air work and that is why I am so tired. I managed to squeeze out another 40k sliding over the tops of trees, ridge lines and power lines.

The weather should be more unstable tomorrow. I suspect we will go to another new site tomorrow.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A lizard soaking up the sun. Posted by Hello

One of the many birds in the mountains. Posted by Hello

Spider in our condo. (It is about the size of my hand). Posted by Hello


(This flight was dedicated to my little green buddy).

We went back to Mount Emu today. Kevin's flat tire was the only vehicle problem I heard about today. The wind was very light and some cummies were forming. Since I did so poorly yesterday, I was way back in the launch order. I wanted to get into the air early so I signed up for the alternate pre-launch. I was the 6th pilot to launch. (Dean was 4th).

I wasn't sure that launch early was a good idea at first. The several pilots in front of me had marginal launches and were just barely hanging on slightly below launch level. By the time I launched several pilots were slightly above launch so I decided to go. I had a good no wind launch and managed to climb to cloudbase right over launch. (I saw one blown launch as I circle overhead).

Since I was so early and climbed out so quickly I had the sky to myself. I flew from cloud to cloud down the ridge to the start gate and arrived about 50 minutes early. Since I was at cloudbase by myself with nothing to do for almost an hour I did some wangs and "almost loops" to keep myself entertained. (I didn't do any full loops since the air had some mild texture). Playtime ended when the rest of the field started showing up. I was soon playing hide-n-seek with the other gliders at the edges of the clouds as we all waited for the start gate to open. Someone was flying around with their feet on the basebar, others were doing loops and wangs, while others explored the "white room". Since the start gates were 30 minutes apart, almost everyone took the first start.

The first turnpoint was on the other side of the mountain valley near a gap in the mountain chain. I was with the lead gaggle until I took a bad line near the first turnpoint and then missed a good climb a few moments later. I almost followed a gaggle across the gap until I noticed they were falling like bricks from an airplane. I stayed on the other side of the valley even though it was further off course line. I was rewarded with a better glide and climb before crossing the next parallel large valley. I could have written this note on that glide; it was long and smooth. I was low by the time I reached the other side but found some strong but broken lift that slowly got me back up.

I had to wait until some late arriving pilots left that thermal so I could "water the countryside". (I should have taken care of business before launching!) Once back on track I made a long glide to the next turnpoint that was behind Mount Buffalo. After snagging the turnpoint I dove at a huge rock wall. I knew there should be something there and it was. The glide towards the wall was sucking my glider in every direction until I hit a rowdy screamer to cloudbase at 900fpm. I eeked my way slowly towards the 3rd turnpoint. From there I cruised into the goal from 22k out at 55 - 60 mph along the ridge top.

The scenery on this task was just simply awesome. I wished I had a video running during the flight. Every XC hang gliding pilot deserves a trip like the one we had today. Simply too cool to describe.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Mount Emu Launch Posted by Hello

Driving up Mount Emu. Posted by Hello

Climbing up Mount Buffalo. Posted by Hello

Launch at Mount Buffalo. Posted by Hello

Mount Buffalo near the launch. (Notice the man in the red shirt for scale). Posted by Hello


First, I didn't do very well in the competition today. I landed just a few kilometers into the start circle. (No one completed the entire task.) Second, I had one the most enjoyable flights since I arrived in Australia!
We flew off Mount Emu today. It was like flying a king-size West Rutland, VT. Davis hired a 4wd taxi that took us up the road to the top. The road is much better than the road up Jake's but it still had some rough spots. The Swiss team blew out a tire and the Red Bull car broke something underneath and lost all its oil on the road. Sound familar? The launch was a slot in the trees. The temperature was cool. The wind was light and cross, sometimes even blowing over the back. The sky was quickly filling with cirrus and the few existing cummies were drying up. Tom was like a kid in a candy store. I just couldn't wait to launch.
I spent most of the flight below the ridge working little bits of lift, sometimes in the lee sides of spines along the ridge. (Just like behind the ski area at Mount Ascutney back home). I was having too much fun to notice that a gaggle formed and climbed to 7000 feet. Oh well, I was having a good time down low. It was fun looking at the trees and birds as I flew over or beside them. I flew below the ridge line barely popping over spines as I moved along upwind. Its really clear to me now that I truly am a mountain pilot at heart. I am already looking forward to flying again tomorrow.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

View of Mount Bogong outside my back window. Posted by Hello

Foothills on the way to Mount Beauty. Posted by Hello

Embedded storm near the town of "Howlong". Posted by Hello

The British team at their morning meeting. Posted by Hello

The sky on the last day at Hay. Posted by Hello

Mount Beauty

I managed to stay awake until 2:30am last night when the winners were finally announced. Oleg got a very nice standing ovation when he was named the world champion. The crowd also cheered on the home team from Australia when they were named as the number one team. (Team USA placed 5th after Australia, Austria, France, and Italy).

Dean and I drove from Hay to Mount Beauty today. There were severe storms all around us during our 5 hour drive, but we were lucky and missed them all. It was hard driving with the wind that was howling across the open plains. Our PVC glider rack passed the stress test with flying colors. (Many pilots get a chuckle when they see our front brace made of PVC, but it cost less and was easier to build than just about anything else Ihave seen.)

It is nice to be back in the mountains. The place I am staying has fantastic views of the mountains out the back windows. It rained a lot here yesterday and last night so everything is nice and damp allowing you to smell the trees and grasses.

Registration is tomorrow and then we start competing the next day.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Crash and Burn

We had the most beautiful looking sky I have ever seen. I had a nice tow, got off, sniffed around a bit and found a boomer that took me to 9500 feet at 900 fpm. The wind was blowing about 40 degrees off the course line so I decided to head west around the edge of the start circle so I could just fly down wind once the clock started. I had another nice climb in the cool air at cloudbase and headed off to the west. Four of us picked a bad line that had us flying through air going down at 1300 fpm. I had enough of that and turned 90 degrees upwind hoping to fly out of the sink. Instead the sink continued until I was well under 2000 feet. I groveled around still sinking and finally landed about 13k west of the course line. I have never been so disappointed, upset, and just downright ticked off about landing. The perfect day for racing and I was on the ground outside the start circle. :-(

Luckily I fell out of the sky near a road and Belinda soon had be back to the campground so I could hide my head in shame! I ran into one of the British team doing laundry that was one of the other victims. Misery loves company! After looking at my flight records, it looks like I was crossing a strong sink line. I was probably most of the way across the line when I turned right which kept me right in the line. I never figured out what was going on until I was too low to recover. A hard earned lesson in flying tactics. I am not sure what I should have done differently. I will talk to some sky gods this evening and see if they have any advice.

Any hope of pushing my way into the 50s is gone; I'll be lucky if I am in the top 80 after today's antics.

The rest of Team USA made it into goal. I don't know how fast they were so I don't know how they placed. This is Dean's first trip to goal and he is very happy.

We have the presentation ceremony this evening and a party afterwards. Tomorrow Dean, Davis, Belinda, and I head to Mount Beauty for the Bogong Cup. The timing is perfect since tomorrow is supposed to be wet and stormy. It should be flyable again once the Bogong Cup gets underway.

I don't know what type of Internet access I will have there, but I will try to keep posting. I will also try to post some pictures of the sky I took this afternoon. Freakn' Awesome!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Plenty of Airtime

I was exhausted last night after 5 hours in the air. I was the second to launch yesterday and had to hang around the tow paddock for 1.5 hours before the task started. I finally had plenty of time to get in position for a good start. However I missed the 4th or 5th climb and the gaggle got away from me. Since I took the second start, there were not many pilots behind me so I flew by myself for awhile. I slowly started catching the slower pilots and eventually caught some of the slower pilots from the first start. The lift really became erratic after the 2nd turnpoint. At one point I was in a gaggle of 30 pilots that were low and trying to hang on in 50-100 fpm lift. It was here that I caught up with Dean. The rest of the way in was slow going. The gaggle kept dropping pilots here and there on the way in. I only think 7 or 8 of those 30 pilots made goal. The air was smooth enough coming into goal that I finally had a chance to buzz in with the wires singing their song.

Dustin, Davis, and Dean landed short. Curt, Kevin, and I made goal.

Today is the last day. It is already hot. Another "lovely" day in the tow paddock.

Monday, January 17, 2005


I just found out that the contested day was dropped. Its hard to see a good day that I did well on lost, but that's life. :-(

Today looks like a nice flying day. Blue skies, light winds, but a low ceiling. Time to go fly. Yippee!


We headed to the paddock today not sure if we would fly. The sky was blue but the wind was borderline for a comp. (It was fine by my standards). We waited on one tow strip for about an hour and then were told to move to the SW strip. We set up still not knowing if we would fly. Finally a late day (4:15 start) task was called to Ivanhoe. This was the third task to the small airport. Luckily, I know the way.

I passed on the alternate launch today since I wanted to launch drift right into the start gate. Things worked out as planned and I was one of the first half-dozen gliders on course. The thermals were uneven today; some were nice strong 650 fpm while others were weak 150 fpm. I push a little too hard and had to stop for a weak climb while the smarter pilots moved on to a stronger climb. That happened one other time during the 100+ mile flight and it put me almost 30 minutes behind the leaders.

Dustin was the first USA pilot in and I was second. Curt landed just short of goal, Davis a little ways out, Dean back a little further and Kevin landed downwind past the airport. Team USA will take a real hit today with only two pilots in goal.

Davis (and Team USA) protested the results from the previous day. The goal line was not where the GPS coordinates said it would be. It would better for the team to have the day cancelled. I am willing to "take one for the team", but it will hurt since I moved up 10 places with my relatively fast flight. I think the officials will rule on the protest soon.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Tip Wands

Marcello asked me to forward more information about the correct installation of carbon tip wands on Moyes Litespeeds. I talked to Johnny yesterday and he told me how to find the backbone of the wand. There are two blue threads that are wrapped around the outside of the wand. The two threads terminate near the small end of the wand. One thread is wrapped one way, the other the other way. Where the two threads "end" is the backbone of the wand. Johnny puts the backbone towards the trailing edge to keep the trailing edge stiffer. Craig puts the backbone up to keep the tips from curving up. Personally I think it is most important to be consistent so your glider doesn't have turns that appear and disappear. I hope this helps.


I awoke to rain this morning, so it is obvious we will not be flying today.

Dustin was the top scoring pilot for the USA yesterday. Although he started 15 minutes after me, it caught up with me near the end of the course. We shared a few climbs together before he headed out lower than I wanted in the strong wind. It turns out he had a better idea were goal was and made it in before me. I wasted about 10 minutes on a climb I didn't need since the GPS goal and the actual goal line were not in the same place. This is the second time that I have wasted precious time because I was not clear where goal was. I am going to work to prevent this in the future.

The wind was very strong at the end of the day. The setting sun was starting to be blocked by clouds of dust When Belinda, Davis, and I were searching for Dean. The wind made it hard to even carry a folded up glider!

We flew far enough yesterday to actually see some hills. The scenery was so pretty after seeing nothing but the flat Martian surface around Hay.


Strong lift, strong wind, and plenty of LZs ... I was in heaven! It was too windy to spend much time at the start gate, so I basically launch, did one upwind glide to kill time and then off to the races. The entire field covered ground quickly as the wind picked up. An inversion at 4500 broke and we soon beamed to 7000 feet. I got a little too aggressive and got low at the first turnpoint. The gaggle that was following me took a different line and flew about 3k beyond me; just too far for me to reach. I sniffed around over a vineyard when I stumbled onto a 800 fpm up thermal that took me up over the pilots that just flew over me. Sweet revenge!

I made it into goal. Curt landed at the start gate. Davis was the first in, but left before the start gate opened. It will be interesting to see the scores in the morning.

P.S. The glider is finally flying well.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Living in the Nozzle of a Hair Dryer

The saying among many pilots is that flying in Hay is like "living in the nozzle of a hair dryer". That description was right-on today. It was hot and windy. We were all guzzling 1.5 liter water bottles and looking for more. The launch was suspended when it became apparent that a front was approaching. After a couple of delays, the day was cancelled by the safety committee. They feared strong winds behind the front. Many pilots towed up anyway to fly back to town or do some flying photography, or to do some aerobatics. Later this evening the winds did pick up and everyone was glad there were not in the air.

Boneyard LZ. Posted by Hello

Typical house in Hay. Posted by Hello

The "real" Australia. Posted by Hello

Land office in Hay. Posted by Hello

Grocery in Hay. Posted by Hello

Signs at the edge of town. Notice that herds can cross the main bridge. Posted by Hello

Goal at Ivanhoe. Posted by Hello

Curt at goal. Posted by Hello