Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Monday 8th July 2013
A Canned Task and Cunims
"Monsieur Meteo" Joel Favre
An early briefing at 9am and everyone congregated in the Doussard Hall. With the promise of thunderstorms the organisers wanted to get everyone together just in case we needed to drive off to another site. After an excellent weather briefing again from Joel Favre, the take-off at Semnoz would allow the pilots to fly out in to the valley away from the CuNims that were forecast for the “massif” of the mountains. With a travel needed to the site on the west side of Annecy, we delayed my presentation on My Cloudbase’s Tracker app until tomorrow.

The route to Semnoz was meant to take us on the road that I had used for retrieve for the last few days, heading South West down one of the valleys toward Chambery. Having silenced a car debate started on the best route to take I ignored  Andy’s advice and took the windy Tour de France road which I knew having used it before, much to the annoyance of the pilots.  Very quickly my decision was questioned, with observations made about how straight and easy the other road looked and there was a chance that Luke was going to throw up. Time to eat some humble pie. “OK Andy, you may have point...”. Well, he was reading the map and GPS and as we joined up with the main road the circus of hang gliding cars was zooming past.

Wolfi's sticker

On arriving at the foot of Semnoz, we starting driving up the long road to the summit. Unfortunately about 3km from the top there was a “Route Barre” sign. Not a problem, we thought, as it was probably left over from yesterday stage of the Tour. Squeezing past the barrier we then drove on up to the top. Well, not quite to the top. About 2km from the summit we came up against a  road roller. Great, the road was being re-surfaced. There was no way we could get through the road works, even after I pleaded with the gang leader.

Now listening to Andy’s navigational advice, we drove all the way back down the mountain to get round to the North side and to go up the summit road from the other side. As we joined the main road once more, I thought we were being subjected to a road rage incident, but it was in fact Jean Louis who overtook and flagged us down to make sure we knew where we were going… Poor organisers, they are trying their best to make everything run as smoothly as possible, with updates from all the local authorities, but how can they plan for impromptu road works?

Missing my glider? Surely not...
Forty minutes later and we arrived the summit of Semnoz and were greeted with a spectacular view. And by our friendly traffic marshal. Asking him not to hit the car again, he the told us  go home to our own country. There’s always one. Thank goodness he is NOT representative of the how the competition is being run – a friendlier bunch of people you could not hope to meet so as Lord Sugar would say “You’re fired!”

Cloud base was still below mountain height so we were looking out on to a sea of clouds. Pretty as it may be though, it did mean that flying was looking quite dubious. It was likely that by the time the base lifted, the thunderstorms would be building. There was only going to be a small window of opportunity to fly a task. Rigging by the last of three ramps to the North, the alpine cows showed too much interest in the gliders and continually had to be chased away, with one nearly putting a hoof through a line of neatly lined up rigids. That would have been very expensive bag of crushed carbon.

At 12pm, a briefing was called. A task had been set along the ridge and out in front to the relatively flatter terrain, creating a flat triangle course. As the cloud was still low, the launch window and start time was to be announced at a second briefing at 1pm. 

Team GBs task planning map.
Sorry, Blogspot keeps rotating the pictures.
Kath and the girls

Kathleen took the opportunity to study the terrain out in front, or tried to as the clouds completely obscured any view. DIscussing pilot tactics, Kath produced the quote of the day: "Gordon needs to be in a high state of arousal to perform well. Like most blokes!" 
Andy launches

Task cancelled. No surprise really. The cloud out in front of take off was stubbornly refusing to lift, and the CuNims to the in the massif were starting to build quickly. Andy and Luke opted to fly the 9km back to the Doussard field while Neil packed up –  a rest day is no bad thing after five days flying.

Having watched individual “cells” of clouds building, the sky to the south was now becoming one big spread out storm that was starting to tower. “Ben to Team GB. Clouds to the south spreading out quickly. Don’t hang around. Get yourselves down to Doussard as soon as possible”. “I hear you Ben”. With his flying experience, Andy was all too aware of how flying conditions can change rapidly for the worse. “There is a big blue hole over the lake” came Luke’s reply. “Ok Luke, but stay with Andy and land as soon as possible”. A storm the size of the one we could see growing can create a gust front a long way out in front of it, causing severe changes in wind speed and direction, not something you want to experience near to the ground.

Driving back to Doussard, I received a text from Andy saying that they had landed, and asking if I could bring the hacksaw over as his harness karabiner was jammed shut. I later found out that he had been performing some high speed wing overs and the stress on the karabiner had caused it to twist.

Later that evening we enjoyed one of Andy’s superb meals before joining some of the French team on the banks of Lake Annecy at the edge of our campsite for an impromptu soiree. Beer, wine, Pastis, more food, guitar, fun company - a great evening with a spectacular back drop.

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