Manfred's winning smile
He was this high when he got to the line
6.30pm: There must be 30 here now. I heard someone ask for a vegemite roll, so some of the Australians have got in too. Results online at www.chabre2009.com later tonight. Check back tomorrow for some more of the same, as long as weather plays ball.
6.15pm: For the Brits watching, Carl Wallbank, Gordon Rigg and Bruce Kavanagh are here. For Japan, Norihisa Wada is here too.
6pm: We now have 10 pilots across the line. It's been so quiet I've had loads of time to research Manfred. Here's a summary:
Why is it important that Ruhmer has crossed the line first? Well, he has been World Champion before – in fact he’s won the title several times: in 1999, 2001 and 2003. As well as World Champ, he has been European Champion four times too.
Born in 1965 he started to fly age 15 and began competing in 1989. He came 44th in the World Champs in Fiesch that year before starting his rise and rise on the international comp circuit. He spent 15 years at it before retiring from the competitive hang gliding scene in 2004 at the top of his game, after dominating the sport for the best part of a decade.
He left to concentrate on flying his Swift and to spend more time with his young family. He went on to dominate the Swift comp scene as he had the hang gliding scene, and also wowed crowds with his looping and acrobatics at free-flight festivals like St Hilaire, France.
He then surprised the hang gliding world by coming back to competition earlier this year. He won the first comp he entered, in Italy, and was widely tipped to walk his way through this comp, scooping the title for himself and helping his team on the way to Gold too. So it was a shock yesterday when he didn’t even place in the Top 10.
Born in 1965 Manfred grew up with one sister and two brothers on a farm in the rolling hills of upper Austria, close to the Czech border.
He is known to dislike the attention that his performance brings. But he has told Dennis Pagen, in that author’s ‘Secrets of Champions’ series published in Cross Country magazine that he is a ‘very patient’ pilot who is ‘willing to spend an hour or more if necessary getting high before the start cylinder’.
He also adds much of his flying is done by feel: ‘Much of my thought process when making these decisions and especially when leaving a thermal and choosing a good path is not done consciously.
‘I think my flying is 60 to 70% intuitive. Even when thermalling I’m sort of on automatic pilot; my body does the right things to stay in the best lift while my attention can be devoted to watching for traffic and looking for signs of better lift or the best routes.’
He is extremely well regarded in the sport. A pilot’s pilot, and a deserving winner. Congratulations Manfred.
5.45pm: Two more across. Attila Bertok (current World Champ) then number 33, Dan Vyhnalik.
5.30pm: Tum te tum ... twiddling thumbs here in the campsite. It's quiet here, not like yesterday's fiesta atmosphere. No one else has crossed the line yet. It feels like we've been waiting hours.
5.15pm: Pilot 16, Manfred Ruhmer is first across the line. By a mile. Christian Ciech was second across the line.
4pm: A nice photo from launch today on Aspres, above. Beautiful site. A few more take off pictures in this Flickr set.
3.30pm: The sky outside the Laragne HQ looks like this, above. You can't see them, but there are pilots up there.
Launch pic from Jamie Wanders who is tweeting on launch
2.30pm: Update from the hill, via one of the organisation officials. Almost everyone has launched and is in the air. The gaggles are not going up fast, although they are getting height eventually. Hard work basically. The day looks good, with good clouds, but it's been a slow start. The first start gate has just opened. Going by yesterday's speeds, expect first goal arrivals around 6pm French time.
2pm: Jamie tweets: 'A bit crowded over launch, so they're holding for 2 minutes every 10 minutes or so. All the Brits in the air.'
1.15pm: Jamie tweets: 'Launch open in 15 minutes. More clouds than yesterday, chance of storms later in the afternoon. Wind dummies reporting nice strong climbs.'
1pm: 125 km task announced. Out and return from Aspres heading in a straight line first south, then back to landing at Laragne campsite. Take off opens at 1.15pm, closes at 3.15pm. Start gates at 2.30pm, 2.45pm, 3pm. Land by time of 7.30pm.
Task is from Aspres to turnpoint B25, then to Estoublon, which is turnpoint B92, then back to camping at Laragne. Straightline racing!
I'll try this Google Maps feature ... the route should be marked (updated, 1.45pm). Now, if only the pilots had tracking systems, we could follow this live...
View Task 2 in a larger map
Racing lesson number 1: Non-pilots might wonder about the difference between a take off time and a start gate. The take off time is when pilots are allowed to take off. Generally they will take off early and get established in the air - taking their time to relax, make harness adjustments, get in the groove and most importantly, get high and into position (they have a start 'line' to cross in the air, shown on their GPS). They are then ready to start racing, which they can do any time after 2.30pm today, when the first start gate opens. But tactics now come into play. To get the fastest time pilots need to cross the start 'line' the second their GPS-clock ticks over. Some pilots will also wait around until the second or third start gate because they want to use the early-birds as markers, so they can swoop through the course line and overtake pilots in front. Or they may simply wait for the next start gate because they think conditions will get better as the day goes on. Either way, the eventual time a pilot gets is from his start gate (2.30pm, 2.45pm or 3pm today) to the second he crosses the goal line. Hope that makes sense. If not, feel free to post a comment/question.
9.45am: Flip Koetsier just stood up and revealed there has been a ‘minor inaccuracy’ in the scoring. A new list will be published in the afternoon. He said pilots who missed the line yesterday should not get too excited - they probably will still have missed the line.
9.40am: The forecast briefing has just finished. Another good day forecast. Isolated thunderstorm risk later in the afternoon. Light westerly airflow: 10-15 knots at 5,500 m.
Temperature colder than yesterday because airmass is less stable. Lower pressure than yesterday. Light low level winds. Cus and cu-nims in afternoon.
1500 m: 2pm: west at 10 knots, 20 kmh.
1500 m at 5pm: 15 knots from the west. Late afternoon westerly winds will be stronger today than yesterday.
3,000m: similar to 1,500m.
Before noon might have 20 knots at 3,000m, but should weaken to 10-15 knots in the afternoon with a slight north in it. Strengthening lower level north north west wind today – will be important today. Weak inversion at 3,000 m. Wind consistent in direction at all levels today.
Hot and sunny, some cumulus over mountains, west north west wind increasing after noon, earlier westerly wind on take off than normal, some showers on mountains after 3pm/4pm.
So, the main story seems to be the westerly wind, which may kick in earlier than usual on Chabre take off, and will strengthen throughout the day. Cumulus cover will be greater than yesterday, with some chance of thunderstorms later in the day.
Overview for tomorrow: light winds, north west upper winds, possible cu-nim development in the afternoon.
Given the westerly winds, we are going to go to Aspres. This is further away from Laragne than Chabre - about an hour. The good thing is the parking is easier and the take off area is enormous.
9am: So everyone is tired this morning, but the campsite looks like this. Yes, that's right, it's the same photo as yesterday. So we may have more of the same today, although the wind seems to have a bit more west in it. The results were posted late last night and are online at www.chabre2009.com. Those poor scorers exist only on stress, beer and pizza - the last pilot only got back from retrieve just before midnight. There were two tree landings - both ok - and one hard landing where the pilot got checked out and is also 100% fine.
Jeff O Brien won the day - well done Jeff. Upsets included Blay Olmos (Spain) landing metres short, and Australian Curt Warren and Brit Carl Wallbank doing the same - by one lousy metre. Filippo Oppici (ITA) and Koji Daimon (JPN) also landed pretty much in the field but didn’t cross the line. Commiserations to all – after such great flying it must feel like murder to drop short. 51 made goal.
Meanwhile, Manfred Ruhmer crossed the line earlier than posted yesterday - he came in alongside team mate Gerolf Heinrichs to take spots 14 and 16.
Same deal as yesterday on the blog - we will post as the news comes in.