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MonteGrappa  (Bassano, Italy)          5th - 9th April 2009

High pressure produced a relatively stable airmass with cloudbase at just over 1000 metres - rising later on, each day, but still leaving little headroom above the ridge. Thermals in  the flatlands in front of takeoff were few and weak. On the hill thermals were less frequent than last year but more powerful (9 m/s recorded by one pilot at takeoff on Fri 10th) and small in radius, producing turbulence at the inversion layer and making flying close to the ridge a hazardous exercise. Numerous reserves were pulled during the week, but fortunately not by any of my comrades. Kelly (Farina) described conditions as some of the most difficult in his experience of the locality.

Nobody made goal all week, but we all gained something from the flying - one point that we shouldn't fly gliders that we can't cope with in agressive conditions like these. The DHV 1-2s performed best out of the bunch. I had my best day on Sunday (5th), battling vertical shears of between 11 & 12 m/s, but got airsick due to untoned abdomen muscles (first flight of the year) and had to land after an hour for fear of throwing up while flying. On the subsequent days conditions got more difficult and I never made the first TP (like most of us). Took a big hit on Thursday when I caught the edge of a strong climb, throwing me down into the left of my harness as the right tip was catapulted up. I reacted immediately to stop the defaltion and spiral by grabbing the right riser and pulling myself up into the loaded side of the harness, quickly regaining pressure in the left half of the wing before an asymetric could occur.

Came home disappointed in my XC performance but reassured that my bump tolerance is satisfactory for the strongest conditions I'm likely to experience in the UK this season.


For those who don't know, the British Paragliding Cup is an entry-level competition where unranked pilots can learn and experience FAI Category 2 competition paragliding by flying with seasoned veterans. For most participants, the shared common goal of going XC is as important as the tasks themselves. Tasks are either race to goal or elapsed time to goal.

Strong winds and rain blew out the first day, but Sunday dawned sunny and calm. After the 8 am briefing, two minibuses and other assorted vehicles left camp for a farm below a west-facing bowl just south of Broughton, and the short moderate carry began.

At 11:30 the task was set as a straightforward race to goal with no turnpoints (T/O to Hawick: 46.4 km at 130 deg) in what was supposed to be a westerly wind turning progressively north through the day. However the wind was already turning and only present during thermic cycles: at all other times the bowl acted as a massive area of strong sink. The takeoff horn sounded at midday, and nobody launched!

After losing precious time trying to find a workable launch point I took my chance launching from the bowl's shoulder at the beginning of a cycle late in the window but guess I turned the wrong way under the pressure of hunting lift alone, then sank like a brick into the bowl. Altho' the task tolerated multi-starts, I couldn't get far enough back up the hill to re-launch before the launch-window closed.
Only a handful didn't get away, but I was somehow reassured to see a mixture of experience levels amongst those of us left behind. Our one consolation is that there were more who scored less due to navigational penalties.

Another early briefing on Sunday saw us endure an hour-long hard carry up another hill to reach a site we already suspected would be blown out. Tuesday was forecast to be blown out for definite so the prize-giving was done in the morning then we disbanded until the next round.


Nant-y-Moel:  13th &14th June

Good flying experience for everyone who took to the air from here during the weekend - not because it was unpleasant but because it's a phenomenum that could possibly occur again. For most of us the fear overwhelmed the curiousity after a while - not understanding quite what we were flying through, thus having to react to collapses, canopy flexing & yawing, sharp variations in airspeed and moderate variations in g-force - rather than anticipating them. It was exhilerating but tiring on the ab muscles.

Nice to see so many SWWSC members here on the Sunday, and good to gauge the pilots I've not flown with before.

Nobody got hurt, and all who participated can be reassured that they can fly in that level of chop, whether intentionally or otherwise.

Hectic in the air, mellow on the ground. That's it, in a nutshell.


Merthyr - (Sunday 21st June)

Shared the ridge with Simon, Michelle & Dan during the morning. Launch conditions were pretty strong most of the time, making landing on top 'technical' (ie. choosing a safe spot and managing to descend rather than climb).

Plenty of lift around but only to roughly 200 feet ATO. Sky overcast with very dramatic looking wave clouds (even tho' the air was fairly benign).

Finished the day at 2pm after 20 minutes of trying to land on the ridge in light drizzle. The rain died off after 30 minutes, but so did the wind. Ho-hum !