Saturday, July 4, 2009

Italy takes the Gold

Podium finish ... L-R: Jonny Durand, Alex Ploner and Thomas Weissenberger

Champagne moment ... World Champion Alex Ploner with the Gold Medal winning team Italy at the awards ceremony in Laragne this morning

More pictures of the opening ceremony in this Flickr set

Friday, July 3, 2009

World Championship Winners!

Gold: Alex Ploner (Italy), Icaro2000 Z9

Silver: Jonny Durand (Australia), Moyes Litespeed RS 3.5

Bronze: Thomas Weissenberger (Austria), Moyes Litespeed RS 4

And in the Team competition

Gold: Italy

Silver: Austria

Bronze: France

Congratulations to all, and congratulations to the new World Champion, Alex Ploner. We've had a BLAST! Full results on

Friday 3 July: Task 8: 154km

10.30pm: Results coming very soon... waiting for one last guy to download then it's all official...

8.30pm: Alex Ploner has just been into the download room, above. He got to goal in 4hrs 1min.

See more goal pics in this Flickr set

Manfred congratulates Alex Ploner...

Manfred explains what happened to him...
But who cares? Manfred's been World Champion three times already, and now he gets the girl!

7pm: The drama doesn't stop here. Just when we thought it was all over Manfred Ruhmer appeared to congratulate the new World Champion (yet to be confirmed etc etc) and the other medallists. (Who will be third? It's in a GPS on its way to download somewhere...). Amazing scenes of great sportsmanship. I have a tear in my eye. When the Tour de France starts next week and the tales of drug taking, cheating and rivalry start to pour out, remember this as a true competition, where the best pilots have fought the best fight, and then they've sat down together afterwards to laugh about it as the sun goes down on a great day. Thank you for taking part and for watching. Results out later tonight. Come back for the aftershow party about 11pm French time... à toute à l'heure!

Ladies and gentlemen ... Alex Ploner has landed! Probably our new World Champion, but it will be close. Congratulations on a great competition. Results out later tonight...

Alex Ploner ... flies Icaro

6.30pm: Alex Ploner is coming over the line.

: Attila Bertok in. Antoine Boissellier next.

Jonny Durand is told he's getting more than a medal tonight...

Jonny coming over the line

Zac Majors, Team USA!

: Jonny Durand second. 'Nice day out,' he said. He took the first start gate. 'Pretty much everyone did.' Described the day as smooth and nice. Confusion over Manfred cleared up: he has definitely checked in, and it was probably Christian Ciech that Nene Rotor was flying with. He has the same colours. About half a dozen in, including two from the US team: Zac Majors and Dustin Martin.

Nene Rotor ... good name

: First across the line is number 95. Brazil's Nene Rotor. He said he was flying the whole course with Manfred Ruhmer and only outclimbed him on the last turnpoint. Which is baffling because Manfred checked in.. or so we were told. What's going on? Is Manfred still in the air? Can he still win?

Into the wind ... windsock outside the beer tent just minutes ago

5.50pm: Seems like a false alarm. Apparently they are still 35 km away. One rigid wing pilot appeared on the horizon but landed a mile short, caught out by the headwind. Tough day out there.

The Italian team leader is on the line talking to the Italian pilots over the radio, briefing on wind strength and direction. Final glide is close...

: Radio reports that pilots are on their way from Sisteron - less than 30 km away. Plus, Alex Ploner is 33 tomorrow ... and he is still in the air. Christian Ciech is also reported to be still in the air.

Can you see any gliders? The sky now in the direction pilots will be arriving from

Alex Ploner, Italy

5pm: Alex Ploner: 32 yo, factory pilot for Icaro, excellent hang glider and rigid pilot and no stranger to the podium in both disciplines. He won the World Championships in Class 5 (rigids) hang gliding last year. He was fifth in the 16th Hang Gliding World Championships in Texas.

In this comp he was second in task 1, sixth in task two, 10th in task three, 12th in task five, and ninth in task seven. This performance has put him in second place overall. If he doesn’t deck it today, he could take the title. But today has been a day of the unexpected: the Austrian Gerolf is down too.

: So if not Manfred, who? "Alessandro Ploner has got to be the favourite," says meet director Heather Mull, "But it's wide open."

: More pictures from launch today are in this Flickr set

: Jamie Wanders tweets: 'It also appears that Christian Voiblet [Switzerland] has landed here at the goal field...couldn't have flown the course yet.' Looks like the day, which started out difficult, with tricky launch and difficult conditions, could be shaping up to be a disaster for some of the big names.

Eyes wide shut ... Manfred Ruhmer on launch this lunchtime

4.20pm: Manfred Ruhmer has landed. He has checked in with the competition HQ. Confirmed. Quite a crowd down here at the landing field. The weather is good still, with no sign of any overdevelopment on course.

: Unconfirmed news is comp leader Manfred Ruhmer (AUT) landed short of the first turnpoint. If correct the race has been blown wide open.

Very little news from the course line. Most seemed to have taken the first start gate. Heading down to the goal field to wait.

: All but two pilots have launched and are on course. It's been a difficult start to the last task here in Laragne, but with a 154km task ahead of them pilots will have to put that behind them and concentrate on the task in hand. Three hours from now pilots should be making goal.

: Just heard from one of the wind dummies (non-competing pilots who take off before the competition to show pilots what the wind/conditions are like). He's just landed and rang in to HQ to tell us it was tricky up there today. 'Hard to stay up.'

: Txt from the hill: 'NW winds on top slowing launches down in lane two.'

: Close observers will see that the final leg of the race will, if the forecast is correct, be into wind. The north west wind is forecast to increase in strength later in the day. Should make for some interesting final glides into goal.

Final glide explainer: Final glide is the last glide of the day - it is where pilots glide into goal, often from many kilometres away, not stopping to use another thermal or gain more height. The final glide calculation that a pilot makes - how high they have to be before setting out on final glide - can win or lose them the race. Get it right and the pilot will glide into goal and across the goal line with space to land easily and safely. Get it wrong and pilots will land short, or worse, stretch it out until they crash down within metres of the line. Final glide calculations are done with a flight instrument, coupled with the pilot's knowledge and experience. But calculations can be undone by unexpected conditions on route - for example stronger wind lower down that slows pilots down and degrades the glide. If the forecast is correct we can expect to see some of that today.

: Competition race leader Manfred Ruhmer (AUT) is 'pushing' to launch now. Conditions are trickyish, with pilots launching from both sides. The switchy winds are making it hard for pilots to launch, so while pilots are waiting for the wind to come up the hill and make it easier to launch Manfred is effectively telling them to get on with it when the wind comes on or get out of the way ... he wants to go now. Pilots are taking the hint and going when it's good. About 30 are already in the air - no one wants a repeat of Task 5 when conditions were difficult on launch and some got left behind.

: Pilots are launching now

View Task 8 in a larger map

A 154km task has been set, with three turnpoints and goal at Laragne camping. Launch window opens at 1pm, with start gates at 2.30pm, 2.50pm, 3.10pm and 3.30pm. This is a big task today - from here to Batie Neuve, then back to south of here, then home.

12 noon
: Tensions reported to be running high as pilots have to re-load gliders and head to the south launch. Parking needs strictly controlled here on the single track road and things have been fraught. Pilots are however now in situ and rigging their gliders.

: They have switched launches. They have gone up to the top launch, where they should be able to take off from the south. The wind has gone south now, but will probably be switchy. The two launches are about a mile apart, so things may well be a bit tricky up there just now.

Everyone is now on the hill, but the wind has gone very light - 3kmh from the north. Could make for a tricky start.

: Weather forecast

Summary: Hot and sunny, with moderate north west wind, and low risk of thunderstorms in the afternoon.

5,500m: NW 25knots, 50kmh.

1,500m at 2pm:
Aspres: 15 knots, NNW
Laragne: 15 knots, NW
5pm: Increasing winds through the day, slightly lighter to the south.

3,000m: Lighter winds, NW, 10 knots, 20 kmh.

Sounding: dry convective layer to 3,000 m at 2pm. Very convective by 5pm. Drier and warmer air above, with low risk of thunderstorms.

2-5/8 cumulus cover

Significant weather: NW wind at 15 knots, stronger after 5pm. 0C at 4,300m. Max temp: 33C.

Tomorrow: Hot, sunny, risk of thunderstorms in the afternoon.

Conclusion: We are going up to the lower north take off on Chabre

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wives and girlfriends

Victoria Beckham and Man United ... you can keep them. From launch on Aspres, July 2 2009. More WAG pictures here...

Thursday 2 July: Task 7: 113km: Stopped

All the photos from take off and goal are in this Flickr set

Jonny Durand wins the day

10pm: Jonny Durand (AUS) won the day. One point ahead of Antoine Boisselier (FRA). Jon took 2hr 5min 4 seconds, while Antoine took 2hrs 10 mins 20 seconds. No lead out points for Jonny as he took the second start gate and raced through the rest of the field. Pic shows him crossing the line at Ribiers, with the last turnpoint, the ruin at Mison, in the background. Congratulations Jonny! Read about it and watch the video on his blog when it goes online here.

The win pushes Durand into third place overall, with Italy's Alex Ploner in second and Manfred Ruhmer (AUT) in first. Ruhmer leads by more than 200 points, and Ploner also has more than 200 points between him and Durand. With one task to go on Friday the gold and silver medals seem assured, but Durand's position isn't so comfortable. Given the forecast - good - there is still a lot to play for tomorrow.

Antoine Boisselier (FRA), first in goal but one point behind

Encroaching storm from the east as a pilot arrives in goal

In the fields

5pm: All go here as first at least 30 pilots made goal. Notable exception was Christian Ciech (ITA), who wasn't there. Attila Bertok didn't get there either - in fact he didn't even make the first turnpoint. He took the last start gate, skipped three thermals and says he knew he was pushing his luck. 'The worst hang gliding task of my life,' he said.

The first two pilots arrived in goal in a nose to nose race finish at just before 4pm. Antoine Boisselier is rumoured to have taken the second start - unconfirmed - which would make his a very fast time. Lots landed short as a stiff and strengthening cross/head wind set up. A couple in the fields.
Manfred Ruhmer was in the first dozen or so.

Once the first 10 or so were in though it was clear things were developing rapidly to the east, and the storm to the west that had been there all day was finally making itself felt. The task was stopped at 4.31pm. The task will be scored back by 15 minutes (this is the interval between the start times). That means not all who think they will score goal points will actually do so. Again, an interesting night of results ahead.

The Task has been stopped, due to thunder storms on the course line.

About 25 pilots in goal now and they are still arriving.

Pilots are arriving in goal thick and fast. Already in are Antoine Boisselier, first to cross the line, then Gerolf Heinrichs from Austria. Also in are Curt Warren from USA and Jonny Durand, Australia.

The day looks great out there. The big clouds are to the west and the course is clear.

Flying in front of Aspres

Still looking good. No dangerous-looking over-development so far.

View Task 7 in a larger map

A 113km task is set to Ribiers landing field taking in turnpoints B35 just north of Sisteron, B52 at Malaup at the end of Aujours ridge, then B43 Longue Dent near Chabestan, south to B36 at Sigoyer near Vaumeilh then hopping over the Durance to the fort at Mison with a final glide from the north into the Ribiers landing field.

Starts: 1.45pm, 2pm and 2.15pm
Landby time 6pm

The field launched swiftly, and they are all in the air. With the first start gate in just a few minutes, they will be streaming south

The key today is to miss the storms - we hear the clouds are already building on Beaumont.

: Weather forecast for today

2pm Aspres: West, 10-20kmh
2pm Laragne: W 10-20 kmh
5pm: WNW 10-20 kmh

NW 10-20kmh, increasing from 5-10kmh earlier

Laragne sounding
2pm: Bit of an inversion at 2,500m
5pm: Inversion broken, strong climbs

Summary: West or north west winds, getting stronger by the afternoon/evening, storms from 4pm. Sunny until 2pm or 3pm. After 4pm risk of isolated storms.

Tomorrow: Still hot and sunny, very weak risk of thunderstorms in the afternoon. Increasing NW flow up high. ‘Probably’ a good day for flying.

Conclusion: We are going up Aspres

Photos from Wed 1 July

Photos from launch on Wednesday

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

World Championships photo competition

More photos from yesterday and Monday taken by Getty Images sports photographer Michael Steele

Cross Country magazine is running a photo competition during the World Championships. To enter, simply send your three best photos (high resolution, jpgs, non-Photoshopped or manipulated) from the competition to:

Include your name, address, email and short caption. Prizes include a basket of XC Mag goodies, plus publication in the magazine.

Photos must be un-published and taken during this comp. Deadline for entries is July 15 2009. Photos that do not win but are used in the magazine anyway will be paid at the magazine's normal rate. The editor's decision is final, etc etc...

Not in the rules, but a heavy hint from the magazine's editor, Bob Drury: 'In-flight photos preferred...'!

Spaghetti night at Chateauneuf de Chabre

Tuesday night saw the competition field head to Chateauneuf de Chabre for spaghetti and dancing. It was another funny evening - one of many. Photos of the night are all here

To download a high resolution version (for free) that is suitable for printing:

1 Click on the photo you want
2 Click the icon 'All sizes' at the top
3 Click 'Original'
4 Click 'Download the original size'
5 Print it from your home printer or email/take it to a photo shop

Wednesday 1 July: Task 6: 89.4km: Cancelled

2.30pm: Pilots all over the sky above Laragne. All landing at the camping field for an early bath. It's all over until tomorrow.

2pm: Task cancelled.
Big storm development over the mountains to the north (Pic de Bure) mean the task has been cancelled. Many pilots in the air will probably head home to the landing field in Laragne. What a massive shame.

: OK, sounds like it's a big rush to get in the air. No wonder after yesterday's slow launch. Get up while the going is good. Aspres is also a much easier/friendlier place to launch from than Chabre. So all good in that regard. Although the clouds are said to be getting bigger already behind Aspres.

The task as detailed below is confirmed.

The launch window is open from 12.50pm to 2.30pm.

Start gates are at 2.15pm, 2.30pm and 2.45pm. Anyone taking odds on who will hang around to take the second start gate today?

The deadline for the task is 5.30pm. Quite early, presumably in an effort to beat the storms that are forecast for later on. The goal is a 300m cylinder - no physical line to cross today.

: Launch is open and pilots are now taking off. Conditions are good and unlike yesterday gliders are getting off easily.

Tweet from the hill: 'Super quick launches in perfect conditions ... Very crowded over launch.'

View Task 6 in a larger map

: A new provisional task, above, has been announced. 89.4 km via three turnpoints. Taking off at Aspres and landing back there too.

: A provisional 114 km task has been called

10.15am: Michael Steele, a sports photographer for photo agency Getty Images was on launch for the past two days. His photos are here. Jose Herrarte is the pilot against the clouds, but who is the pilot on the Combat? Post a name if you know. Getty Images sends pictures to media organisations around the world, so the pictures end up online (for example here, as a photo of the day) and in newspapers around the world.

Weather forecast summary: Hot and sunny with thunderstorms. We still have the NW flow.

2pm winds at 1500m: 15 knots (30 kmh) NW
Aspres: WSW 5-10knots
Chabre: slack wind, virtually none
Valley breezes SSE up to 2,000m around Laragne. With storms from 4pm.
5pm: winds disturbed by cunims. Possible storms.

Max temp: 33C
Cloudbase at 2,400m – 2,600m

Chuckle went round the hall as a slide went up showing convective clouds at 5pm – basically everywhere, with lightning strikes all around.

Pretty much the same as yesterday: good, then storms later.

Tomorrow: Hot and sunny with less risk of thunderstorms.

We are going to Aspres. Pilots will wait at the main launch until it is decided what the wind is doing.

: Nice day outside today. But heavy weather remains from yesterday's task, which scored 1,000 points despite being stopped. Provisional results were posted last night, (on with official results expected later today.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tattoos on launch: 2

The second in an occasional series of bird tattoos spotted on launch. More pictures from today's launch here

Phil Lardner

Phil Lardner has taken the World Championships by storm, scurrilously blogging his way to newfound fame in the hang gliding community and – according to his own well-founded reports – beating the Oz Report, the best known English-language hang gliding blog, at its own game. But who is he?

According to his profile he is 41, single, lives in Bray, Co Wicklow, Ireland and likes beekeeping, astronomy and hang gliding. His hang gliding CV shows he has held a number of responsible posts over the years, including being the Irish Hang and Paragliding Association’s training and flight safety officer, their webmaster and their sites officer. The IHPA is a sponsor of Team Ireland at this World Championships and links to Lardner's blog from its website with the instruction, 'Failure is not an option - national pride is at stake.'

Lardner is also the FAI alternate delegate for Ireland. However, not much else is known about the mystery Irishman. Professionally, the Irishman has revealed he is a systems analyst who for the past two years has worked on maintaining his family’s Edwardian estate in Ireland.

Passionate about astronomy he used to build telescopes, before the overcast Irish skies dampened his enthusiasm. He took up hang gliding in 2000.

Lardner in dancing mood

Lardner in mystery clinch

Lardner in Team Leader mode

Lardner in a chicken hat

Lardner in shorts

Tuesday 30 June: Task 5: 130km: Stopped

5pm: Tom Payne watching from Geneva posted a good question:

'How does the scoring work when a task with multiple start gates is stopped with no pilots in goal? If you score it up to the point that it was stopped then pilots who chose a later start gate will have had less time on the course.'

The answer according to the scorers is that the task will be scored on distance only, and to 20 minutes before the task was stopped: so as far as the pilot got at 3.24pm. And yes, that means people who took a later start gate will end up scoring less. The pilots knew it was likely to storm early. They knew the task might be stopped because of storms on course. Savvy ones got up quick and set off on the first start gate. Those playing for tactics by waiting in the air to race through the pack after taking a second start gate will probably have lost out this time.

Comp leader Christian Ciech is in the campsite bar having a bit of a sit-down and an orange juice. He looks pretty knackered to be honest. How was it Christian? 'A little bit windy, around the first turnpoint.' Nothing more. Everyone will just have to wait and see.

4.15pm: Some 20+ pilots have now landed in the goal field after flying straight here once the task was stopped. More coming in. Manfred Ruhmer landed around the number 25 mark, well after Christian Ciech, Attila Bertok and Jonny Durand. What does this mean? Who knows. It could mean he was way back in the field when the task was stopped, or it could mean he went for a bit of a fly after the task was stopped, or he took a later start gate to try and race through the pack ... Results should make interesting reading tonight.

: Task stopped at 3.44pm. Rain was reported - via radio - on course by at least one pilot, Gordon Rigg of GB. Big overdevelopment - storm clouds - pretty much everywhere now. Smells like rain here at the goal field. Non-competing pilots who have landed here in the last half an hour are now quickly packing up. No competition pilots in goal.

Explainer: The task today was stopped because storms started to develop near to where the competition pilots were flying. Storms are dangerous to all pilots. Read here what happens when glider pilots get too close to thunder clouds.

3.30pm: The sky looks like this just south of Laragne camping and landing field. Big clouds all around now.

: Launch pictures in this Flickr set

Bill Moyes, above, of Moyes Gliders is here with his team of Moyes pilots. 'Could do with a bit more flying, but pretty happy with the gliders.'

Took a while but all the pilots are off now. Some biggish-looking cloud development around, but nothing too serious yet. Pilots are out on course now, with the first expected to arrive in goal around 4pm.

Jonny Durand (AUS) launches from the North side of Chabre

Dust devils on launch, pilots are now taking off from both north and south launches, Manfred Ruhmer (AUT) and Jon Durand (AUS) just went off the north side.

12:35pm: First pilots have launched and are getting high, winds are very light and switchy so launching is a little slow, the sky is looking great with lots of cumulus clouds.

A 130km task is called exit circle 20km around B36 then 114 (Villeperdrix), B29,then north to B56(Valdrome), east to B44 and then goal at camping. Launch opens at 12:20, with 4 starts 13:50 14:10 14:30 and 14:50

: Wind is south east on Chabre just now, which is good. Hopefully a decent breeze will set up and pilots will get off easily today. Twitter posts from launch are here

9.50am: In the meantime, the competition has been on French TV, above. Watch it here. Fantastic in-air footage

: Yesterday saw us sitting on a west launch in a north wind – not good. The reason this happened, we are told, is because of a strong inversion at 2,300m that kept the north wind trapped below it and blowing past us. The expected local westerly flow never really happened. Chabre was flyable, but tricky to launch – meet director tells us only one in five gliders got off there as well. Tricky everywhere, is the message.

Today’s forecast has been done for both launch sites, and is also tricky (NW flow is the hardest one to fly here):

Winds at 1500m
Aspres at 2pm: NW 8knots, 15 kmh
Chabre at 2pm: WNW 4 knots, 8kmh
Aspres at 5pm: NNW 27kmh
Chabre at 5pm: WNW 23kmh

3000m winds: N, 3kmh – very light

By 6pm: southerly winds at 6pm, coming from storms to the south east.

Local breezes will dominate. Less likelihood of thunderstorms today

Inversion at 2,300m. This trapped northerly flow beneath the inversions yesterday.

Drier, more stable air than yesterday.

Summary for Laragne
12noon: SW at 10 knots, 1-2/8 cu, base at 2,400
3pm: WNW wind, cb at 2,700m,
5pm: Could be big cloud devpt, possible rain showers

High risk of thunderstorms in mountains to the east and north east. Showers over Pic de Bure.

Conclusion: we are going to the top south launch at Chabre with an early briefing of 11.30am.