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.