Posts by louisejoselyn
The final task is finished with three pilots in goal - in fact the same three pilots who will stand on the podium to collect their medals tomorrow. First into goal today was Jacques Bott (FRA) who will take the silver medal tomorrow. Second into goal was Franz Pacheiner (AUT), who will be presented with bronze tomorrow. And third into goal, taking it easy, is 2017 FAI World Hang Gliding Class 2 Champion, once again, Manfred Ruhmer (AUT). The fourth contender, Steve Cox (SUI) landed out today.
The weather conditions were tricky in places, starting with the launch. Thermal gusts and dust devils on the airfield, with the wind veering between north and west made take off very difficult. In fact the task for the Class 5 pilots was cancelled on the ground. In Class 2, half the field launched in increasingly turbulent conditions. Two pilots decided not to start. The remaining two pilots launched as conditions allowed. Once airborne, the thermals were strong and most were at a good height when the race started. Unfortunately, Guenther Obweger (SUI) suffered an instrument failure and landed soon after.
In the early part of the task, Steve and Manfred were together and a few kilometers ahead of Jacques and Franz. Then they came to the crux of the task: a windy section close to Ancel where the north wind was strong through the venturi formed by the valleys north of Gap and through the col Bayard. Manfred said: "That was hard core hang gliding! It was very interesting flying in the leeside against a 50kph wind. We had full-on turbulence and lots of lift." However, Manfred said he felt secure strapped into his Class 2 hang glider! Steve, however, felt differently. "I came in low, I was in the lee, it was bumpy and there was a strong wind. I managed to get just above the top of the mountains, but it was still very bumpy. I chose to fly out from the hill, and then rather than go back in there in my 20 year old Swift, I decided it was Level 3 for me, so I went to land." Jacques knew he needed height at this point: "Or I would be in the lee in a 50kph wind!" He said that last year he lost time on a task on the same route by taking a more round-about but safer course, but this year, in full competition mode, he chose to fly direct. "And today was not the day to do that!" He was grateful that on his more modern Swift Light he had rudder control in the turbulence. Franz, meanwhile, only found it rough at the launch and the start. "I was lower than everyone at the start, so I started late. But I managed to catch up, and was surprised to come in second! My navigation skills have improved too," he added.
Provisional results are already published, thanks to the super fast scoring provided by the trackers. There will be a barbecue and rock band tonight and closing ceremony and prize-giving tomorrow morning at 10am.
Today will be the 8th and last task of the 20th FAI World Hang Gliding Class 2 Championship. Sunshine once again, although the wind has turned north west and is forecast to increase at the end of the day. A task of 271km has been set, heading south to Col St Jean on Laragne-Chabre, east to Tromas, then a long into-wind leg to Taillefer, returning to Aspres via Aujour. Following yesterday's race, there is a real battle for second place between Jacques Bott (FRA) and Steve Cox (SUI), with just two points between their overall scores to date. Gold for Manfred Ruhmer (AUT) is almost guaranteed, unless he makes a big mistake today!
With the northerly breeze this morning, and thermals starting later, pilots will start launching at 11.30 and the race will start at 12.30.
For the Class 5 pilots, now on their fifth and final task, a reasonable 160km task is planned, flying out to the east with goal today set at Laragne-Monteglin. The pilots will start launching at 12.00 and their race will start at 13.00.
Well! Conditions turned out much better than forecast. No sign of showers or indeed any over development - a perfect looking cross country day! First into goal today was super speedy Steve Cox (SUI) on his 20 year old Swift Brightstar, in just under 4hours 10minutes. "Yes, it was faster today," he said. "But there was a huge amount of sink in the final stretch," he added, shaking his head. Today Steve was 15km ahead of Manfred Ruhmer (AUT). "I thought I was pretty fast, but this guy Steve has arrived in front of me again!" he jested. "Maybe I went a litte too far west between the last two turnpoints, a little mistake maybe. But it was a very nice task in good conditions," he added.
Third to arrive in goal was Jacques Bott (FRA). "Extraordinary and very interesting," he declared. "I just couldn't find many good thermals, flying long stretches fast and low. I just couldn't seem to get high." He admitted that on the stretch between Dormillouse and the Cheval Blanc there are always thermals, and today was no different. "But I was at a decent altitude so I didn't take them, so as not to lose time!" Jacques was amazed that the sky looked so good but for him, it did not deliver strong thermals.
Fourth into goal, Franz Pacheiner (AUT), however, found conditions pretty good. "I got to 3700m a couple of times," he said. But he too found a dead area when overflying Aspres towards the last turnpoint. "Then I had to look for thermals because I was low, and it slowed me down." Franz also identified another reason for not flying the course as quickly as he should have. "I must pay more attention to the turnpoints and my instruments," he admitted. "I set the course, say 20km away, and then when I get there I find I've drifted off the line a couple of kilometers and have to go find the turnpoint again. The others obviously get it right first time!"
The Class 5 gliders were arriving at goal at around the same time today, making it more interesting for spectators.
We will have to wait until the results are posted later to see how today's scores impact the overall classification.
For today, the weather concern is not strong winds, but possible showers. The task and safety committees have studied various models and some say rain and some say not! So, tasks have been set hopefully to avoid the areas where showers may occur. The Class 2 ultra-light gliders have a 290km task taking them north east of Chorges, then due south to the famous Cheval Blanc on the way to St Andre les Alpes, then north west to the monastery at Notre Dame de Salette, south to Col St Jean on Laragne-Chabre, and the final downwind race to goal at Aspres.
All eyes are on the top four pilots today, after Steve Cox (SUI) and Jacques Bott (FRA) were able to close the gap slightly on Manfred Ruhmer (AUT) yesterday. It is Manfred's birthday today, but his rivals will not giving him any leeway for that!
The Class 5 pilots have set a shorter task of 159km, staying in the Buech and Durance valleys.
Launch opens at 11.00 for Class 2 and 12.00 for Class 5.
Three pilots dominated the race today, and it truly was a race right around the course. Manfred Ruhmer (AUT) led from the start, closely followed by Steve Cox (SUI) and Jacques Bott (FRA). In fact, by keeping an eye on the Live Tracking, gave those of us on the ground a much better view of what was happening in the air than the competitors themselves could see! First into goal was Steve: "It was a very exciting race!" he said, looking around the airfield. "Where's Manfred?". On hearing the news that he was some kilometers behind, he smiled broadly. "I had Manfred in my sights for most of the course, but I lost him two turnpoints back at the lake Serre-Poncon." Conditions were very varied, Steve commented, with some ridge soaring with hardly any wind, and some very strong thermals.
Second into goal was Jacques. His broad smile evaporated when he found that Steve had arrived before him! He had beaten Manfred, but he was in second place. "I think I was lucky today," he said. "It was very shady over Gap." In third place came Manfred. "That was interesting" he said. "Conditions were good, except for the area around the last two turnpoints - very shady. I took the route into the higher mountains thinking it would work better, but clearly it didn't!"
The shady area around Gap has already caught out Philippe Bernard (SUI) who has landed out near the city.
And now the Class 5 pilots are on the return leg to goal over the same area, so we will see how they fare.