Friday, 5 July 2013

Thursday 4th July 2013 - Practice Day and the Police

Thursday 4th July 2013

Practice Day and the Police

NEWSFLASH - New Pre Worlds Facebook Page

9am and off to briefing. Arriving at the Doussard Hall, we saw Kathleen Rigg who was just driving off - it was apparent that the briefing was now not going to happen until later with a new time of 11am was called. Neil,  Andy and Luke dropped me back at the mobilhome before heading off on a clothes shopping trip, to return an hour later with new gloves, speedarms and various other bits and pieces from a local cycle shop.

Back at the hall, and the briefing had been pushed back until 1pm so to kill the two hours we got our packed lunches and mingled with the other pilots. It was a good opportunity to meet some old and new faces, while some flex wing pilots rigged their gliders in the main hall to check sprogs. Enjoying the midday sunshine, I saw some faces I recognised from the Worlds in Australia – Dave May, Jamie Sheldon, Greg…. Apart from the flying, this is what I love about the sport – it’s like having an extended global family!

Landing Zone briefing. How many types of aircraft?
With the sky improving all the time, the boys were getting itchy feet to get flying, especially Skywalker who was keen to get in the air. 1pm and the briefing started with a gentle introduction by Jean Louis, the Pre-Worlds competition organiser. With the difficult challenge of briefing in two languages, the basic take-off and landing protocol was explained by his team. With some concern we listened to how, in the same field, there would be professional PGs landing with passengers,  free flying Paragliders, all three classes of Hang Glider landing, and, just to complicate things further, the Class 2 gliders would be towed up along the same strip… Not too much going on at the same time then. Some pilots, including Kath, and myself, voiced initial concerns. The organisers have made it very clear that they are open to suggestions to help run the competition well, and welcome pilot input. A good approach, considering the level of experience of international competitions that some of these pilots have.

Bomber's rigging view
Shortly afterwards we were on our way up the mountain to Col de la Forclaz - a long drive up a windy and narrow alpine road, passing through the most beautiful of villages, before arriving at top to be met by the most incredible of views across Lake Annecy. Wow. Spectacular. And I don’t have my glider… The team bagged themselves a good spot near to the intimidating ramp that faces North across the lake up to Annecy. 

A busy takeoff
As they rigged, the clouds were already starting to thin out and lift to reveal the mountain tops. Kath slotted in behind the rigids, creating a Team GB camp just by take-off. The Paragliders taking off from the slightly higher take off were climbing out to cloud base, less than a thousand feet above launch.

Bomber and Kath check instruments
A PG| climbs from launch

A briefing was called around 3pm and a short task set heading North and then back down South via a turnpoint across the lake, before heading back to the Doussard landing field. As instruments were being programmed, there was already some discussions happening about correct settings. Surely technology is not getting in the way of the flying??? This could be a recurring them during the competition.

Skywalker launches
Luke was soon clipped in and the first rigid to take to the skies, executing a perfect take off and immediately taking a climb just to the right of take off. Andy followed, again climbing first gently then calling an accelerating climb just behind take off. Waiting for a launch nearer to the Start Gate Neil ambled over to launch nearer to 4.30pm and then was soon storming down the ramp in to the predictable climb to the right of take-off, otherwise known as the “washing machine”. 

With all three rigid pilots safely away, Kath launched in to an improving sky. The start gate was a late 5.30pm which pushed the pilot’s patience who were hungry to get on course. But as a discipline for competition flying, everyone held back on the edge of the start cylinder -  after a radio countdown all raced off together.

Luke climbing 

Andy climbing above launch

Buzz arrives
Driving back down to the Doussard landing field I lost radio contact with the team, but could enjoy the spectacular view – well sort of, as I negotiated the hairpins and oncoming traffic. Back in the field I was back in contact with the team who were obviously having a few track issues, with various “where is the turnpoint?” type of questions coming over the radio.
Luke run-off
 Thank goodness for practice days. As the team started making final glides in to land, it was apparent that the field could get, as feared, very busy. Luckily there did seem to be a good sense of discipline with most pilots, both hang gliding and paragliding, clearing the landing zone quickly. Andy was first in, gliding in across the field to make a perfect landing, followed by Luke who opted to run off the speed in front of the waiting crowd.

A great place to practice inflations - not!
What happened next surprised me, but also at the same time, was almost inevitable. As more and more gliders were coming in to land a couple of paraglider pilots, donning funky sunglasses, not wearing helmets, and looking ever so cool, decided to practice “gonfler”, otherwise known as inflating their canopies. Having received assurances from the organisers that this would not happen ( a local law was in place with full backing of the mayor) and that it was everyone’s responsibility to stop it happening, I politely asked the pilots to move to the side and  explained why – I was met by some rather choice language and a dismissive shrug of the shoulders.

Bomber arrives
After a quick chat with Jean Louis and Yves, and my version of events being backed up by a French pilot, Jean Louis asked for the police to be called. Maybe this is what it takes to get the message through. The last I saw of Mr and Mrs Cool was them being escorted away. Oh well, at least the field was clear for Bomber Atkinson and Kath to come in to land. To be honest, Bombers landing was spot on, making a perfect flare in front of the bar. Bravo Bomber!

Smiling Buzz
After a refreshing end-of-day beer watching Manfred Ruhmer fly an electric twin prop trike and the Class 2 gliders make some late flights, we decamped back to base and de-briefed the day. Neil did an instrument training session to make sure that tomorrow the last thing the pilots are worried about is the technology, and we have set a procedure in place for making sure everyone has the instruments and course correctly programmed. 

With some good weather promised, tomorrow is the last practice day to iron out any issues before the competition proper starts on Saturday.

1 comment:

  1. well done Buzz, Bomber, Skywalker, Kathy and of course Woody