Friday, July 4, 2008

Competition winner: Scott Barrett

All the pictures from the Awards night: are in this Flickr set

Gold! Scott Barrett picks up the first place trophy

Scott Barrett: winner of the Laragne pre-World Hang Gliding Championships 2008

Scott Barrett on launch today.

Scott Barrett talks about his glider, an Airborne C4. This was recorded yesterday.

Closely followed by...

Second place was Balazs Ujhelyi from Hungary flying a Moyes Litespeed

Third was Dan Vyhnalik, Czech Republic, on an Aeros Combat

First woman was Daphne Schelkers from the Netherlands on an Icaro Laminar 12

And the Good Sportsmanship award - voted for fellow pilots - was won by Hans Kiefinger, Germany. Congratulations to all.

Team results: GB, France, Hungary

Team results are:
1: GB
2: France
3: Hungary

Carl Wallbank, captain of the British team, collecting the team prize.

The British team, with Gordon Rigg holding the basket of local goodies, collect their applause.

Task 7 winner: Attila Bertok

Smokin! Attila Bertok won the day in a fast time of 2hr 21mins.

The Oz Report on Task 7 at the pre Worlds:
The lead gaggle was slow, very slow. Scott would later mention how even with Andreas and Mario Alonzi, they just weren't taking any chances and he had resolved to stay with the gaggle. Balazs (who was in second place) had caught up with them starting at the second start time.We started turning on the north side of a valley on the lee side of a small ridge (the wind was 5 mph out of the northwest) here the lead gaggle had just been wasting their time. The lift was poor yet again... "

Task 7: 107km to Puismoisson

Airborne: Scott Barrett takes briefing notes at launch this morning.

Photos from launch: are in this Flickr set

8.30am: It's a beautiful day here in Laragne, and looks like it should be a good flying day. Scott Barrett might be in first place with a 200 point lead, but there's still everything to race for. Join us on this last day in France as we head into the home straight of the pre-World Hang Gliding Championships 2008! Someone give me a sports mic...

9.15am: Rebrief at 9.45am to decide which hill to go up. The wind is from the north, which means using the lower-north take off on Chabre, or going up Aspre and waiting until the afternoon for the southerly/westerly to kick in. Lots of "I don't know" going on in the HQ briefing rooms jut now.

9.50am: We are off up Chabre. To the lower north take off. Reports later and through the day, technology permitting.

3.30pm: A 107km task to goal at Puismoisson, south of Sisteron, is in progress. The first start gate opened at 2.30pm, with later gates at 2.50pm and 3.10pm. Launch was fairly hectic off the lower north, although a good wind ensured gliders could launch quickly. Conditions on the north side were weak, with slow climbs to around 1800m. Base is forecast to rise to 2,600m by 3pm, and in the south - the direction pilots are heading - that looks like the case. It's blue pretty much everywhere else. Launching earlier was better - later pilots found it hard to scratch up, and some bombed out while the earlier gaggles drifted lowish along the hill.

6.30pm: Initial reports from the goal field said 39 in goal. Secondary reports said 50. Lots sounds like a good bet. Initial reports/unfounded rumours also suggested current world champion Attila Bertok might have won the day - he left on the second start gate, and landed at goal with the leaders.

8.45pm: Pilots are arriving back at the HQ, which is decked out for the prize giving ceremony, with a band, buffet and local officials. Scott Barrett got to goal ... he just walked in to download his GPS. Now we have to wait and see if he's done enough to hold onto his lead.

9pm: GB team chat. They reckon they did OK. Carl Wallbank, British team captain, was first across the line. Pic of the download line at HQ right now:

: 32 goal pilots have downloaded their tracklogs. So we are still waiting for a few. The band has started. We have just had 30 minutes of speeches. Pic is of Ali Gali (left, with glasses), the safety director, who acted as interpreter for the head of the FFVL and Laragne's mayor, also pictured. It's an oddish scene. The band is playing soft shuffle jazz, while sunburned pilots stride up the steps of the salle de fetes with their GPSs, oblivious to the local political importance such an event holds. Vive la France, vive Laragne! We will have a winner soon.

9.45pm: I just had a talk with M Chaves, from Italy. He sort of blew it today, his instruments died, he got nervous, and he felt he was flying blind - he got first turnpoint and that was it. But he was happy. He said the flying was great, that it had been a dream for 20 years to fly at this level, that he flew a task during the week and ranked in the top 40. It's a reminder that it's not all about winning - it's the taking part that counts as well...

10.15pm: We are waiting for 15 pilots. "They are on the bus. They're probably going to be at least half an hour," said the scorer about 60 seconds ago.

Pics are of the room as it is, with drinks and canapes, and a hang gliding simulator, which the kids are loving.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Video: Meet Dave Matthews

British Champion Dave Matthews (GB) talks about winning Gold in Texas, the longest-ever flight to goal in Britain, and why he likes to fly. Camera shake, Tyler Rigg (4).

Photo: View of launch from the air

Bruno Jeannin took this great photo of Chabre launch on Sunday June 29. If you were there, can you spot your glider? Thanks Bruno.

You can see the original and another at this Flickr set. You can also download the original high resolution image from there.

Photos: launch

Local photographer Nathalie Fevez was on launch Monday June 30 and took these photos, now in this Flickr set.

Video: Scott Barrett, task 6 winner

Scott Barrett won task 6, and now leads the competition by some 200 points. He talks about yesterday’s flight:

0-60 seconds: “I won yesterday. I have to maintain my points lead. And yes, I can win this competition. Task 3: there were reports of a 90-glider gaggle at the first start gate. Thankfully I wasn’t in it.

1-2 mins: “I took the second start with 30 other pilots. We zig-zagged through the valley. It’s important to take good climbs on the headwind legs, take turnpoints quite low going headwind, and high going tailwind. These things make a difference.

2-3 mins: “Caught up first gaggle. Racing tactics are decided on the day. Depends on the day, and how long the task is. Best points are when you can leave the latest and arrive over goal just in front of the other guys.

3-4.5 mins: “You want to be in goal first. On Australia: I live in Newcastle. We do a lot of dune soaring. We race topless gliders up and down the coast on lower hills than here. We race in conditions like this in Bright. Flying here in Laragne is quite a lot like flying at home.”

See Scott's Task 1 winner's interview here

Thursday July 6 - it's raining

Rain stops play: Chabre this morning

8.15am: The weather's bad. Flying anytime today looks doubtful - although never say never. Scott Barrett must be chuckling under his duvet - he is leading the competition by nearly 200 points.

5pm: It's been the same all day. Some people went rafting, others looked round the local farmers' market, others read and slept. Tonight there's a free-flight film night.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Task 6: photos, blog reports

Photos of launch on Task 6 are in this Flickr set

Oz report
"Why do I start off with Scott Barrett winning the day? Because it is news! It is news because it is against type, against expectations. It shakes up our view of the world. It isn't supposed to be happening, but it is. This is a guy who has never flown here and he's flying on a glider from the smaller and less celebrated of the two Australian hang gliding companies..."


"At less than 300ft. with just less than a kilometer to goal, I start looking at any little open area for landing options. There are very poor options..."

Video: Meet Davis Straub

Davis Straub is a US team member and author of the Oz Report, the international hang gliding website and forum. Here he describes his flight on Task 1, landing in a creek bed ... scary ... and what the Oz Report is all about. Filmed July 1, Laragne camping.

Video: Meet Andreas Olsson

Andreas Olsson is on the Swedish team and won Task 2. Here he explains how he did it, and why the flying's much better here than at home. Filmed today, Wednesday July 2.

Task 6: 26 in goal

Up early: launch opened at 12.30pm, and most were in the air within 40 minutes. Luis Achille (Argentina) gets ready to fly.

9.30am: Most of the pilots have already gone up Chabre. Event director David Owen says the day could be better than yesterday, with less chance of overdevelopment. We'll report it as it happens. Fingers crossed.

8pm: An 80.5km task was set today. 26 pilots made goal. The route was from Chabre, to turnpoint 18 at Savournon, on to turnpoint 26 at Antenne de Roche, then turnpoint 29 to Crigne, next turnpoint 24 at Le Vireuil, before goal at Ribiers.

Launching was slow at first, with paragliders showing the inversion height by soaring along the ridge and not getting up. Slowly it broke and by 12.40pm hang gliders had started to make a move. First start gate was 1.40pm, and first pilots made goal about 4.30pm. Scott Barrett (Australia) took the second start gate at 2pm, and made goal third. Results aren’t officially out yet, but it looks like he won the day. Laragne didin’t escape the overdevelopment altogether today – the stormclouds broke about 6.45pm.

10.15pm: Official results are out, but Task 6 doesn't seem to be posted on the website. Something to do with a network cable being cut and the scorer throwing his hands up in despair, apparently. His soldering iron will be out tomorrow (that's not a joke). Anyway, Scott Barrett won the day, and the overall results are:

1. Scott Barrett, Australia, 2717 points
2. Balazs Ujhelyi, Hungary, 2539 points
3. Dan Vyhnalik, Czech, 2513 points

Scott has quite a lead.

Pizza and paella - stolen by Irishman

It was the pizza and paella party last night, with tables and servers lined up in the square at Ribiers, a small village 12km from Laragne. The storms had passed, and the night was clear. It was also stolen by the Irish pilot Fran Denny, who took the stage, and the guitar, from the rather dirgy local band and played a superb set of Irish folk songs. Well done Fran. You were brilliant.

More pictures in this Flickr set.

Task 5: blog reports

The OZ report
"The rain was marching toward us from the west. As we headed out into the valley the shade came over the cauldron. Now it was looking bleak. Ali Gali, safety director, was on the radio talking with Scott, who was now at the second turnpoint. Scott was explaining to him how everything was fine where he was. A minute later Ali Gali was back on the radio and the task was stopped (the day cancelled effectively) and we were told not to go back to the campground LZ as there was a chance of a gust front there..."

Jamie Wanders
"As I was blogging inside listening to the approaching thunder and lightning, the task was being stopped and everyone was spiraling down to land as quickly as possible. Everyone here at goal managed to get on the ground before the rain and now they are huddled under their gliders sitting it out..."

Video: Meet Jeff O'Brien

Jeff O'Brien flies for the US team. Interview recorded Tuesday morning, July 1.

Dutch bloggers

Hello to the Dutch team, who are blogging at:

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Task 5: task stopped

Tue July 1, 8.45am: Looks like it will be Chabre again, but with better launch conditions.

Wed July 2, 8am: Yesterday was stopped after 30 minutes due to overdevelopment. Launch conditions were better as forecast, which meant all pilots were in the air waiting for at least 45 minutes while they could have been racing. That's free flight for you... Apologies for lack of blogging yesterday. I was with Klaus Ohlmann, one of the world's best sailplane pilots, on a five hour, 170kmph, journey through the Western Alps. You can do the same with him via his club, which is 20 minutes from Laragne:

Here's Klaus flying his twin (side-by-side) seater in the Ecrins yesterday:

Task 4: blog reports

Hang 6: "Things were getting tense. The pilots behind me weren't grumbling as they could see it was blowing tail pretty well. Suddenly the streamers behind me went dead, and the ones in front were trickling in. You're supposed to ask the launch director for permission to launch, but I was so focused, I just picked up my glider..."

Oz Report: "The conditions were quite poor. Robin Hamilton came to launch and now as the pusher he had to launch or get a zero for the day. He had a little better than nil wind and ran hard down the carpet onto the scree. Soon boulders were flying every where as Robin, who had been running hard all the way, almost plowed straight into the hill..."

Jamie Wanders: And this report-from-the-hill from Jamie Shelden's blog. She is blogging from an iPhone on the hill. Where's my iPhone? I want one!

Video: Meet Bruce Kavanagh

Great Britain won gold at the 2007 hang gliding world championships, and as such are the team to beat here and next year at the world championships. They are currently in first place. Bruce Kavanagh is a longtime team member. He was kind enough to indulge us when we ambushed the team at their dinner table late last night.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Task 4 - task stopped

Weather watching: Russia's Julia Kucherenko waiting for launch on Chabre yesterday ... more of the same today.

9.15am Monday June 30: The field is heading to Chabre. A light southerly is forecast. There is some high cloud to the west. Other than that it's a clear start to the day. Heather Mull comp director just walked past looking chipper ... a good sign? We'll wait and see.

2.30pm: Task has been stopped. Basically cancelled, as the first start gate opened at 1.40pm and the task was stopped at 1.48pm due to overdevelopment. The task that was set was 105km with a goal at Ribiers.

About two-thirds of the field had launched, and many were at base or on course towards the start when the task was stopped.

3.30pm: Heather Mull, Competition Director, on why the task was stopped:

Video: Meet Raymond Caux (French)

Raymond Caux is manager of the French hang gliding team. French language.

Video: Flip Koetsier on sprogs

Flip Koetsier, president of CIVL, talks about his ongoing research into sprog settings. He is measuring sprog settings on hang gliders at competitions in Europe this summer. "It's a safety issue," he says. "Everyone is very enthusiastic about it so far." Introduction to sprogs here and Denis Pagen talking about sprogs here. Apologies for wind noise half way through.

Video: Meet Flip Koetsier, president of CIVL (Dutch)

Flip Koetsier, president of CIVL, introduces himself. Dutch language. Translations posted in the comments box gratefully received.

Video: Meet Laurent Thevenot (French)

Laurent Thevenot, member of the French national hang gliding team, introduces himself, his glider and explains how hang gliding works. This video is in French. Translations in the comments box gratefully received.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Photos: all the pilots

All the official pilot-and-glider photos are here, in this Flickr set

Sunday June 29 - task cancelled

9.45am: We are going up Chabre. Forecast is south westerly light, cloudbase 2700m. Should be a good day.

1.45pm: A 70.2km task from Chabre has been set. The route is from Chabre north to turnpoint 51 (Banne), then out east to turnpoint 29 at Pic de Crigne, then back to the goalfield at Laragne. First start gate opens at 2pm, then 2.20pm, 2.40pm and 3pm. Launch opened at 12.30pm and pilots are in the air now.

The task is task B of two options today. Task A was a 100km circuit. The shorter task was chosen because of possible overdevelopment (storm clouds building quickly - not good for flying). This picture taken from Laragne at 1.30pm shows the current state of the quickly-building clouds.

2.11pm: Task has been canceled. Overdevelopment on course.

On launch at Chabre today:

Photos from Sunday's launch are in this Flickr set.

Task 2: results, reports, pictures

Task 2 winner: Andreas Olsson, Sweden

A full list of results is on

Task 2 photos: are on Flickr

Results from task two are:

1. Andreas Olsson, Sweden, 1hr 26 mins
2. Attila Bertok, Hungary, 1 hr 20 mins
3. Robin Hamilton, GB, 1 hr 27 mins.

28 pilots made goal in time. Lots more - at least 20 - came in soon after the task was stopped.

Observers might ask why Attila is second instead of first – after all, he got the fastest time round the course. The difference is in the leader points – Andreas got 63, Attila only 27. It’s a crucial difference – as explained by Brian Harris in his interview yesterday.

Oz Report Task 2: "The lift was scary and broken at the bottom, so it took a while for me to get into the core and I got just below the two Jeff's ... A good while after I landed Heather came up and said that the task had been stopped at 6:42 PM. And that the stop time was 6:27 PM. I came across goal at 6:26:02." Oz Report also says: "I figured at least fifty to sixty pilots would be protesting," because the task was stopped. This will make it interesting for the organisers today.

"We get to the first turnpoint, and again the tactical nature of Laragne demands that we go off courseline to stay above the mountains. I've been flying with many other pilots up to this point, and now I'm on my own. I wonder if I've made a poor decision..."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Video: Meet Brian Harris

Brian Harris is the competition scorer.

Video: Meet the Russians

Здравствуйте! (Hello!) There are 11 Russian pilots in the competition. It's great to have such a strong contingent here at Laragne. Many drove here - a fairly epic journey. Any Russian speakers who can translate, please do - leave it in the comment box. But I think it goes like this: "Hello, we're from Russia. We drove here. We like flying here. Goal today and hello to our friends in Russia!" 

Task 2: Saturday June 28 - Aspres

10am local time: Pilots have headed to Aspres again after a day of no flying yesterday. The wind is moderate north west now, and is forecast to go west later. Organisers expect to use the west launch at Aspres. Updates on the day will be reported as they come in on this post.

12noon: Wind on the south launch is north and on the west launch it's east, according to official telephone reports back from the hill. This means it is not flyable at the moment. "Pilots are in for a wait," said this blog's insider. Watch this space.

1pm: Still waiting

2.45pm: A 72.7km task has been set. The task is from Aspres to turnpoint 11 (St Genis), to turnpoint 35 (Gache), to turnpoint 31 (near Tallard airfield), then back to goal at Laragne camping. The window opens at 3pm, closes at 5pm. Start times are 4.15pm, 4.30pm, 4.45pm and 5pm. Turn direction is right. Paraglider wind-dummies have not yet launched. Wind on launch is said to be inconsistent - switching direction and occasionally over the back. There are three launch lanes. More as we get it.

3pm: All times have been put back an extra 15 minutes. Window now opens at 3.15pm, closes at 5.15pm. Starts are at 4.30pm, 4.45pm, 5pm and 5.15pm. Move made due to variable conditions on launch.

5pm: The whole field is now in the air. At 4.30pm there were only four gliders left at launch. Hence the delay in blogging - all our marshalls/reporters were busy launching gliders. The window opened at 3.30pm, and all times were put back accordingly. The first start time was at 4.45pm. The last will be 5.30pm. There are a couple of big clouds outside, so this might affect how things go. It should be a quick blast for lots of these good pilots.

The route:

5.30pm: 45 minutes in and the first phone-ins are coming into HQ. For those who don't follow hang gliding competitions, pilots have to phone in to HQ very soon after they land. This is for safety reasons - so HQ knows where pilots are - and it helps with organising retrieves. Any pilot phoning in this early into a task will be annoyed at themselves - they've bombed basically, landed early and not managed to get round much of the course. This doesn't mean conditions are bad though, at the first start time there were reportedly an estimated 80% of pilots at 2,500m waiting for the off. This blogger is off to the goal field to try and catch the ones who make it.

6.20pm: Superb! The first pilots started coming in 10 minutes ago. A lead gaggle of five topguns roared in overhead whistling like freighttrains. They are arriving thick and fast now, just as the first rumbles of thunder drift across the landing field from a raincloud to the south. Looks like it will be a close thing - this blogger isn't going to call it, we'll have to wait for the results later tonight.

6.42pm: Task stopped at 6.42pm. I just heard the meet director say over the radio. Presumably because of rain/storms.

6.50pm: This guy was first over the line. He was high. Results out later tonight on

7pm: Session closed. Off to see check-in at HQ, via Le Bar. More from Laragne, France, tomorrow.

7.50pm update: Unofficially the goal line crew say Pilot 51 was first over the line - Robin Hamilton of the UK. Some 60 to 70 pilots made goal in time. GPSs are still to be downloaded, and all results are to be confirmed.

Friday night party...

It's midnight and it's ongoing. Under the stars, opposite the campsite. Music has gone from YMCA to Europop to dance. The fire in the square is the only one I've ever been to with a firefighter in attendance - when the flames got too high he stepped in. Pic two is of meet director Heather Mull and Dutch team members. 

Friday, June 27, 2008

Video: Task 1 take off

It's just a flavour ... with apologies to's Classic Opera CD.

Video: what pilots do... when it's windy

With thanks to Queen. 

Yvon: sports massage

Plug-time: Pilots in Laragne this week who need a sports massage look out for Yvon, who has her table with her at the campsite. A 30-minute massage costs 20 euros, a 60-minute massage 40 euros.

Video: Meet Pedro Montes

Hola Mexico. This is pilot 72, Pedro Montes. Here’s a rough translation of what he says in his 90 seconds of blog fame.

“I’m Pedro Montes, from Colima, Mexico. Today’s windy, but yesterday was great. Wow, what a pretty place to fly! Excellent. I think one of my best flights ever. Lakes, incredible views, mountains – precioso! I did 76km. Tomorrow, I make goal! Hello to everyone in Mexico – come fly in Laragne, France!”

Day 2 - too windy

OK, so maybe 'big day' was optimistic. The wind was strong north and getting stronger at the lower north launch. When the fence got blown over and marshalls had to hold it up against the wind, it was time to leave. A party of pilots and marshalls repaired the launch, forming a chain gang to ferry gravel to the lower end of the ramp. Good on you guys!

Day two

Never a dull moment at the pre-worlds. The competition HQ has generously been given use of the salle de fetes, or town hall, for the duration. It’s been decorated with flags and posters and looks great. Yet someone doesn’t think so. Some poor (drunken?) soul vandalised the flags last night, taking out half a dozen. The mayor arrived this morning to inspect the damage looking fairly furious. And the tourist office immediately set out to repair the damage and get new flags. It is very untypical of the welcome we receive in Laragne. Fortunately most people didn’t notice – we are too absorbed with briefing and getting up the hill. The field is heading to Chabre this morning, with the possibility of using the lower north take off.

Yesterday supplied some fairly good stories, of which only rumours have reached this office. Two landed “in water” – rivers rather than lakes. And both pilots were mainly concerned with their tracklogs and keeping the GPS dry. Another landed “in a gorge” which sounds exciting. Several had tricky retrieves, arriving back at HQ at 2am. The scorer went home at 1am, so they had a long wait. We are off up the hill for another big day.

Task 1: pilot blog reports and photos

Oz Report. Task 1: “It was a fourteen mile glide to try to get higher into the mountains. The safe landing areas had long gone and now it came down to getting over this mountain. But just as I got to the side of it, the shadow from the large high cloud shaded the mountain side and everything around it. I found lift on the north side but the air was tossing my glider around and I was just barely holding on at this point…” A great report. Task 1: "I cruised around for over an hour playing, and things started to get serious near the first start time. It seemed as though everyone was keen to take the first start, and there were 100 pilots driving around cloudbase. It was collision avoidance for sure. When the time ticked over, we indeed were on our way. The first two thermals were death defying..." Great report and great pictures from the flight. The picture here is from Hang6's post - it shows pilots on glide to the Dormillouse. Brilliant.

Task 1: results

Official results for task one are on the website. Seven made goal. Top three were:
Scott Barrett, Australia, 3hrs 28mins
Gary Wirdman, GB, 3hrs, 49mins
Klaus Peter Wilming, Germany, 3hrs 53mins

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Video: Meet Scott Barrett - Task 1

Scott Barrett (Australia) crossed the line first today. He flies an Airborne C4. Official results aren’t out yet, but we jumped the gun and asked him about his flight anyway. It’s a long video – seven minutes. If you don’t have time to sit through the whole thing here are the highlights. Despite his shy demeanour he’s a racer – as soon as the camera was switched off he said he was looking forward to his winner’s interview tomorrow. Australia – he’s done you proud.


0-60 seconds: “First time in Europe and having a blast. Had a good day charging through the mountains. Relaxed at start. There were a lot of guys racing before the race had started.”

1-2 mins: “Most took the first gate. I watched, waited. Started on second clock. 20 minutes behind most. Able to jump three thermals to the second turnpoint.”

2-3 mins: “Turnpoint 3. A good racing ridge. Pushed along in strong lift. Made one big climb at the end.

3-4 mins: “Got low at second turnpoint. Just under the lead gaggle. Flew with Gordon Rigg (GB) on an odd line. Shade cut down lead gaggle progress.”

4-5 mins: “Shade turned whole field over. We came over the top of a lot of guys on the first clock. Some guys at the top raced to the deck.”

5-6 mins: “We made a move. Went for the sun, not turnpoint. Then raced, overtaking a lot of guys ahead. Final glide. No one prepared to follow me on a 15:1 glide. I led out alone.”

6-7 mins: Valley works in the afternoon. I got in at least 20 minutes before others. GPS showed I didn’t make goal. Second tracklog said I did. Phew.”

Task 1 - pilots in goal...

Pilots above launch today. Photograph: J Pagram

The first pilots from today's 132km task landed at goal at 6.12pm. Scott Barrett (Australia) and Gary Wirdnam (GB) were in first. More will follow before the land-by time of 7.30pm. These results are not 1,2,3 positions - those will be decided much later tonight after all pilots' GPS tracklogs have been downloaded. So far 38 of the 120 pilots have reported in as having landed out. The race is on...

Video: Meet David Owen

Video: Meet Heather Mull

Task 1

Pilots flew from Aspres today, about 45km north of Laragne. The wind was north, expected west later, and this is the best option for those conditions. A 132km task via four turnpoints was set to Gap, then the Dormillouse, then back to the Laragne campsite. No pilots in goal yet, and only 14 have checked in as having landed short. Pilots are expected to start crossing the goal line around 5pm. The window closes at 7.30pm.

Pictures show the set up on top of Aspres, the briefing, and the briefing board.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Attila Bertok: not 100%

Attila Bartok is the world champion and the one to beat. But he’s not feeling up to much today. “I’ve got a viral infection,” he said this evening at the comp-opening party. “I’ll need Panadol to get in a flying state,” he said, adding they only last two hours. He’s flying Moyes. “Basically a factory glider,” he said. “Just a bit of tweaking on the sprog settings.” Sprog settings are a hang glider’s favourite topic – all about preventing tumbles. See here for more.

Spotted: Bob Drury

Bob Drury, editor of Cross Country magazine passed through this afternoon. Here he is talking to organisation director David Owen.

Opening ceremony: press release and photos

Opening ceremony was tonight. Here's the official press release. English only.

Headline: Set for take off: 120 of the world’s top hang glider pilots descend on Laragne for a 10-day international competition

June 25 2008
For immediate release
Laragne, France
Issued by the press office


One hundred and twenty of the world’s best hang-glider pilots gathered today in Laragne, France, for the start of the 17th Pre-World Hang Gliding Championships.

With blue skies and sunshine greeting the pilots after weeks of stormy weather Event Director David Owen said he couldn’t be happier with the welcome that Laragne and its people had given to the visiting pilots.

“Laragne is one of the best places in the world to fly hang gliders. The combination of good weather, mountains, wide valleys and welcoming people make it perfect,” he said. “We wish all pilots a safe and exciting competition.”

Launching the event with a band, speeches, and an exhibition of hang gliding inspired art at an evening reception hosted outdoors in Laragne on Wednesday June 25 the mayor of Laragne, M. Auguste Trupheme said: “Welcome to Laragne and to the Pre-World Championships. We’re very glad to have you here, and thank you for coming.”

Competition Director, Heather Mull, who is Australian, welcomed the pilots and said: “I hope you have a great time, with lots of fun and safe flying.”

The event was also attended by Bruno Lagier, president of the committee of the Communes de Ribiers, as well as representatives from the Conseil General des Hautes Alpes, Conseil Regional de PACA, and the president of the flying organisation the FFVL, Jean-Claude Benintende.

Flip Koetsier, president of CIVL, the international gliding organisation, was also in attendance. Officially opening the competition he said: “This is a unique championship because it has an international organisation – French, British, Dutch. Thank you to them for all their work.”

Some of the world’s top hang glider pilots also attended the opening. Current World Champion Attila Bertok told organisers he was looking forward to flying in Laragne. He said: “The biggest challenge is to keep the pressure down from my own expectations and take it easy in the first few days until I really got into race mode.”

Also flying at Laragne this week will be the British team. They won Team Gold at the 2007 World Championships in Texas, USA.

British team captain Carl Wallbank said: “I've flown in Laragne quite a few times. I love the place. It is quite technical so I still have a lot to learn here, but I always have hopes for a good result.”

School art competition

As well as the hang gliding competition Laragne and the region has hosted a children’s art competition over the past month.

A record 229 schoolchildren entered the painting competition. They had to draw or paint a hang gliding inspired picture on one piece of A4.

Announcing the winners at the competition opening ceremony last night, Sylvie Revel from the Office de Tourisme Laragne said: “Congratulations to all the winners – the standard was very high.”

The winner of the elementary school prize was Pauline Contesse, 9, from CE2 Laragne.

Second place was Lea Moreno, 11, CM2 Laragne. Third places was Sylvain Grimaud, 10, CM1 Laragne.

The winner of the college prize category was Jahinava Gargallo, 14, 4e College.

Second prize went to Mathilde Aurenty, 14, 4e College.

Third prize went to Helene Gutierrez, 14, 4e College.

The evening closed with a concert and aperitifs for the 120 international pilots and their friends.

Editors’ notes

The World Hang Gliding Championships are held every two years. They were last held in Texas in 2007.

The Pre-World World Championships are being held in Laragne, France, from June 24 2008 to July 4 2008.

Pilots will use the mountain near Laragne, Chabre, to launch from. They will fly distances of up to 150km each day before returning to the landing field at the Laragne campsite. Spectators and press are welcome to visit both launch and landing.

A full press pack and more information on the competition is available at (English and French) and the competition blog (in English) at

High resolution digital photographs are available on request from the organisation. Please email: Photographs from and the blog can also be used free of charge by the press.

The Oz Report in Laragne

The Oz Report is in Laragne and blogging great stuff here:

Alain Chauvet: exhibition

Alain Chauvet is three-time French hang gliding champion. A local pilot he runs courses from Laragne and also paints. An exhibition of his hang-gliding inspired work is being held as part of the Pre-Worlds competition. These are his paintings, on display at the competition HQ in Laragne.