Sunday, January 23, 2011

Post-PWC in Roldanillo

Well last night we had the awards ceremony for the World Cup; we had it at the same place we had the awards for the Roldanillo Open last week.  Full results can be found here. I expect Philippe will also have some videos up at some point.

I was able to get 100th overall, and 7th in the women's division.  Since this event also doubled as the American Continental Cup, I was able to get 2nd in the women's division.  Not quite enough for a for-sure invite to the Superfinal in Valle (they are accepting the top 3 women overall of this comp, plus the 1st place in the American Cup), but I'm hoping I can still get in either be attending another PWC and doing better, or maybe getting a spot later on if somebody else declines their Superfinal spot.

One note about travel insurance while visiting Colombia.  Apparently here the hospitals will only accept cash and not travel insurance, so you need a policy that will agree to reimburse you after you use your own credit card to pay for your medical care.  Make sure your credit card has a limit high enough to take care of any hospital bills!  A couple of pilots have been hurt while here and this issue has come up all the time, so make sure your insurance company will do this reimbursement of costs after the fact.  Hopefully next time there is a competition here the organizers will be able to arrange ahead of time with a certain hospital(s) to just care for any injured pilots and deal with the insurance later, rather than have the pilot waiting around for treatment because of confusion of who's gonna pay.

Most pilots have now left town, either for other flying in Bucamaranga, or to their airports of departure.  I don't leave until Wednesday but I'll likely spend the remaining days relaxing and enjoying the sun before I head back to Vancouver.  This place is amazing to fly.  This is supposedly a "bad" year because it's La Nina, but it's been flyable everyday since I got here, and over both comps we flew 12 out of 12 days, plus all the practice days.  I got a total of over 700km XC flown and 46 hours of airtime, so my glider is no longer brand-new :)  There is already talk of holding more major comps here, like a future World Championships or maybe even a PWC Superfinal at some point.

Friday, January 21, 2011

PWC Roldanillo Jan 21

More pics can be found here.

I had a much better day today compared to yesterday.  Didn't make goal, but got 98km and had an epic walkout from the back of beyond.

Last day of the comp and the organizers decided another monster task was in order.  So a 173km (110km actual distance) task was set for a cat's cradle of Valle de Cauca.

I was one of the first to launch and it was a good thing, since after I launched it started lightly blowing down and most of the comp gliders were unable (or unwilling) to forward launch.  Many blown launches, and much pushing ensued, while those of us who had launched early were circling around overhead wondering what the heck was going on down there.

The sky was so empty it was relaxing to get to the start and boat around before the armada got around to joining us over Roldanillo, so I only had to deal with the chaos of the start gaggle for 20 minutes vs. the usual 50-60min.  Once the race had begun it was a race north to La Union to tank up before hitting the turnpoint just north, and then it  was the long glide across the valley.

I got low at La Union which cost me about 30 minutes (important for later in the flight) and by the time I got out of there I was pretty much by myself except for a couple of other serial gliders.  On the way for valley crossing #1 heard on the radio that Keiko had tossed her reserve (in fact we had 3 reserves tossed today in total).  Jim, Daniel, and I flew together for the next 20km or so, until it came time to re-cross the valley for Bolivar.  This crossing was more difficult than the first one since it was into wind and there were less clouds to guide me across.  But able to cross and tank up over Roldanillo, which got me high enough to re-cross the valley for the 3rd time for the final run up north to Obando.

It was about 16:30 and the task deadline was 17:30, and I still had 34km to go.  The clouds were dying and it was going to be close whether I'd get high enough to get the last bit or run out of usable daylight.  17:00 and I was still 20km short of goal and I was sinking out in a small valley off the main Valle de Cauca, with little in the way of civilization.

As I sunk lower into the valley the wind picked up, so I was able to ridge soar my way another 8km or so but as I was doing this I knew it was at the expense of an easy retrieve, as I was heading deeper into no-man's land.  Jim and Daniel were higher than me and able to make it back into the main valley, while I landed out about 12km from goal.

But my landing zone was pretty remote.  I had sidehilled it at the bottom of the ridge and had seen a house a couple of km's to my west, but when I got there it was inhabited by 3 children (all less than 10 years old) and no adults in sight.  They weren't able to help me with a phone or directions to Obando (and there was no cell coverage, and I hadn't been able to get the Tigo network to accept Spot text messages), so I had to continue walking for another house I could see about 5km away.

It was now dark and still no cell reception, so I kept walking until I came upon a truck that took me towards civilization and the retrieve which was looking for me.  Good thing I had my headlamp!  Back at HQ by 8pm to find out that about 85 people had made goal.

I'm pretty happy about my flight; even though I didn't make goal I had a pretty cool flight with all the successful valley crossings, and the walkout wasn't that bad.  And it was a nice end to the comp to fly the furthest I have so far in the several weeks I've been here.  The skies were epic today and the winds weren't too bad.  Had I not lost those 30 minutes at La Union I probably would have had enough usable daylight for the one more thermal climb I needed to make goal.

PS Man the PWC scoring system really kills you if you fail to make goal.  Almost 7 hours of work and 98km, all for 328 points!

Tomorrow is a free-flying day and the awards are tomorrow night.  I think I was able to stay in the top 100 overall, and 7th in the women's division.  The PWC pilot talent here is incredible, and it's very humbling and a privilege to be flying with such good pilots.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

PWC Roldanillo Jan 20

It actually rained on launch for about 20 minutes, so most people were slow about getting their gear out on the wet grass.  But it was task time and a ~78km task was set that took us south towards Tulua, back up north past La Union, and then back to Zarzal.

In the air it was a bit snarly, and the thermals had a definite bite to them that we haven't had in previous days.  And it was windy from the south again, which meant the first leg would be into wind.  Once again I (and most pilots) chose the mountain route, in my case to shield against the wind, and it was slow going with lots of nylon flapping around.  Many collapses and at least one reserve was tossed.

I kept looking out at the flats and didn't see anybody out there, and there were fewer clouds out there than previous days.  But we had to venture out there to tag the Tulua turnpoint and that's when I found the going difficult all of a sudden.  I was flying with Joanna when we went on glide for a cloud, and I wasn't able to stay high enough to connect while she did.  I could see some birds playing around so I flew over to join them, but strangely enough they weren't interested in soaring and just kept flapping and roosting in the trees below.  So I ended up landing in a sugarcane field and had a very hot time of packing up (it was only 1:30pm so the heat of the day) and getting to the main road.  It was weird...all of a sudden I was on the ground from being at cloudbase one glide ago, and couldn't quite figure out why.

I could see other pilots low around me but most of them seemed to get further downwind before I lost track of them and it appears many of them got back up and on course.  But there are many pilots in goal, something like 80 or 85, so my paltry 30km won't count for much.  Amir made goal, and Pawel and Jim had good flights getting 63-68km, good on them!  It was kind of a weird day for me, not like previous days where I felt somewhat competent against the rest of the field, and I'm not quite sure why the flats didn't seem to be working (for me anyways).  Oh well, tomorrow I have a chance to get another good flight in!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

PWC Roldanillo Jan 19

Another long task, ~115km, south to near Palmira in the eastern mountains.  Windy from the southwest meant it would be a long into-wind slog, and after the start (downwind of the antennas) many pilots had a slow flight back to over Roldanillo.  It didn't really look like the flats were working, so I opted to fly the mountain route as long as I could and use them as shelter against the wind, rather than battle it full-strength in the valley.  The going was slow and tough...we had to take every climb to the max in order to make a few km's upwind, and then do it all over again.

South of Tulua (where we landed yesterday) is Cali airspace, so we were restricted to under 2400m after this point (or else we'd get mucho points deducted, or get 0 points if we broke 2450m).  This just added to the difficulty since cloudbase was higher than this, yet we weren't allowed to climb that high to make the going easier.

Just south of Tulua the mountain range bends away from the eventual goal, and many pilots were leaving the mountains to try the flats and hopefully cross to the other side.  But the shade was approaching from the south, and it was actually storm clouds building on courseline.  All I knew was I was slowly going down in the valley winds and restricted altitude gains, and I saw many pilots in the same situation.  Eventually I couldn't make any more headway in the approaching overcast, so looked around for a LZ, and saw a nice soccer field in a small village just north of me.

As I came in to land a good portion of the village came out to watch and greet me.  The village was San Antonio de Piedras (population 300) and one of the village matrons practically dragged me inside her house where she proceeded to stuff me full of fried plantanos and pescados (fish).  For 2 hours she fed me while a huge crowd surrounded the house and was peering inside the windows and doors as she and her family and I attempted to communicate in broken Spanish.  We could see some other pilots getting low but none landed at the soccer field so I had the whole village to myself :)

Eventually I convinced them it was time for me to go and get into the retrieve which was searching for me.  They were kind enough to give me a motorcycle ride to the main road where I was able to flag down a retrieve bus and back into town.  Before leaving they asked me if I would return, and if more pilots would be landing at their soccer field anytime soon.  I told them perhaps next year the local competition organizers could make their village a goal for a task!

Meanwhile the task had been stopped due to storm clouds on courseline.  I got 64km, and the leaders I believe got close to 100km.  The whole flight was into a significant headwind so it was very tiring to be pushing speedbar all that time and my legs are kinda jiggly tonight :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

PWC Roldanillo Jan 18

I think after yesterday's long task with nobody in goal and long retrieves, the organizers wanted to give us an "easier" day.  So a 85km task was called and the start was about 1 hour earlier than previous days.

Since we were 1 hour earlier in the day, it was slower climbs at the beginning of the flight and I got low after the start, heading north into the antennas low and into the wind (not good).  But I was able to get myself out of the hole and back up to cloudbase (about 2200m) and get myself sorted for the flatland flying part.  Lots of cloudflying at the start, and I'm sure it was happening all over the courseline.

The TP/goalfield in Tulua was about 65km away on the other side of the valley, so people were choosing to cross the valley all over the place.  It was ODing in the mountains and raining just west of Roldanillo, so the majority of us flew to the east side of the valley.  I ended up flying the middle of the valley initially, then veered to the east side so I could surf the clouds over the small foothills on that side, and be close to the main road for convenience's sake in case I landed.

It was pretty much no wind which was a good thing, since the deal was, you had to tag the TP (Tulua airport), then exit it, then re-tag it from at least 15km away (from any direction), and then proceed to the same TP which was now goal.  This meant that we would have a chance to check the goal out before actually having to glide to it, look for obstacles, see what the wind was doing on the ground, areas of sink on the way in, etc.  I noticed as I was gliding in for the TP that it appeared to be quite sinky just north of the runway so I filed that away for the return trip.

Punching back north to get the 15km was easy, and the lead gaggle passed me as I was thermalling my way up to cloudbase which had risen to 2400m.  Returning to what was now goal was also easy, although I made sure to stay high because of the sink on the way there I had noticed from the time before, and ended up coming over goal with about 1000' to spare.  I'd rather that than landing short, as I watched at least one pilot ahead of me dirt it about 1km short.

It appears to be around 110 pilots in goal.  Many happy faces and the retrieve trucks were all full leaving the airport.  I was pretty slow, 3:11, but better late than never :)  It was a really fun task and the flatland flying was epic...clouds where you wanted them, plenty of lift, and multiple route choices to get to goal.  It was the kind of day where you could have flown 130km easy on the flats, had it not been a task day.  When it's on, this place is on!

Monday, January 17, 2011

PWC Roldanillo Jan 17

A fantastic day!  Even though I didn't make goal, I had a great flight and flew over some awe-inspiring terrain.

Task was 140km (122km real distance when you take away the TP cylinders) that took us across the valley to the other side, into the small hills, then deeper into the eastern mountains, over a couple of mountain passes, and then back into the main Valle de Cauca for a goalfield at an airstrip.

Initially my flying was very slow and I was low many times.  We had to cross the dreaded swampy area in the middle of the valley, where if you go down, you have a multi-hour hike before you get to a main road, and have to navigate the flooded sugarcane fields.  At one point I got very low in no-man's land and the only dry land I could see was a small hill that was sticking up out of the swamp, so I headed there and was rewarded with a climb up to cloudbase and a glide to the other side of the valley and civilization.

Pilots ended up taking different lines to the turnpoint...some stuck to the mountains and then did a 90 degree bend to cross the valley at it's narrowest, while others flew the flats from the get-go.  My group did a mix, sticking with the mountains until the large flooded lake, and then crossing diagonally.  It was pretty cool to watch all the various gaggles converging on the turnpoint from different angles and directions!

With the valley crossing behind me I was able to speed up and play catch-up.  Heading deeper into the eastern mountains I was able to stay with a gaggle and hop from cloud to cloud, making sure to stay high (cloudbase was getting higher the deeper we went).  As we were flying deeper and deeper into the mountains the underlying terrain started to change...it was starting to become coffee plantations and there was a steep plateau ahead of us we had to jump over.

I was initially below the plateau so didn't know what was up there, until I got a climb up to cloudbase (about 2700m) and saw it.  It looked like a Forbidden City out of an Indiana Jones movie.  It was so incredible to thermal up over this city and fly right over it, and see the plateau dropping off on the other side with the same amount of steepness of the side we had just thermalled up over.  It was so steep I could see spots where a pilot could launch from the city and instantly easily have 800-1000m of altitude over the valley below.

That was definitely the highlight of the flight...I was so busy admiring the view that I neglected to take photos and I hope somebody else did!  It was a sight I'll never forget, that city rising out of the jungle and us flying right over it and off the other side.

At cloudbase again we flew down the other side to the turnpoint in the next valley, noting that it was getting nice and downwind-y.  Getting back to the main valley would be tough as it would be directly into a headwind, with a mountain pass to get back over.

At this point I had caught up with Jim and we were flying upwind to the control turnpoint and the headwind was really catching up with us.  Another serial glider joined us and we tried to get high enough to punch upwind (we got to cloudbase about 2600m), get over the mountain pass, and to the windward side where we hoped there would be lift to get us high enough to tag the last turnpoint and make our way to goal.  But it was not to be as the headwind was punishing and we were getting flushed to the ground.  We tried soaring a small antenna near the pass but no joy and 4 of us landed next to the main highway, for a total distance of around 85km.

In the end nobody made goal (due to lack of lift on final glide) and the closest person was within maybe 1-2km of goal.  For myself, I'm very happy with my flight, not only because I made a respectable distance, but because it was one of the coolest flights I've down in years.  I would love to fly back over that city and explore that terrain a bit more, but you need a high cloudbase in order to get back there, and little wind so you can get back out.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

PWC Roldanillo Jan 16

Pics from last night and today are here.

Day 1 of the PWC and the weather was quite different from yesterday.  Lots of high clouds above the cu's, and it was forecast to be shady to the south and sunnier and higher cloudbase to the north.  So a task was set that took us south (into the shade), then back north to Santa Ana, for a total distance of 121km (or 90km once the TP cylinders are taken into account).

Launch was a bit a of a cluster as launching conditions were light, pilots were having terrible launches or full-on duffing, and then they were allowed to re-set up while the rest of us waited in line.  I would think you get one chance, and if you blow it, you go to the back of the line.  Because of this it took forever to get everyone off launch.

Once off launch it was very light conditions and patience was required.  We managed to make our way to the antennas (very slowly) and then we had to hang around La Union for the exit start.  Fortunately the cloudsuck was present which helped things a lot, and then the race was on.

The westerly seabreeze had come in big time and the mountains weren't working, so a bunch of us got flushed out towards the flats where it was working better.  Made our way south past Roldanillo and into the shade, where we had to get past the mine and to the giant lake that's the result of the local flooding.

I got very low at one point, and was reduced to having only enough altitude to make one pass on a small 100' hill before I would have to land, when I saw birds thermalling out over the hill.  Saved by the birds, and back up to cloudbase!  But the shade was fast approaching and after tagging the turnpoint, a couple of serial gliders and myself were running for the sun.  Not far enough when the lift disappeared and I was reduced to ridge soaring some small hills in the hopes a thermal would break off and get me out of there.  However the fields in the lee of the hills were either flooded or sugarcane, and I wasn't able to get high enough to make it over all these obstacles and continue onwards.  So, after ridge soaring for about 30 minutes but not getting anywhere in the increasing overcast I opted to land next to the main road and get it over with 40km under my belt.

So far it appears to be about 35-40 pilots in goal.  There's a large cluster of pilots who went down around the 50-60km mark, but if appears if you could get past that, you were in goal.  It was a slow day though, 2.5 hours for the leaders and over 3 hours for the last people in goal.  So far it appears I'm near the bottom of the results list for today, but that's OK and I have almost nowhere to go but up :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Roldanillo PWC official practice day



Today was the official practice day for the PWC, and most pilots took advantage of the free flying to explore Valle de Cauca by air.  It was perfect skies and light winds so pilots were flying all over the place.  I opted for a local mellow flight, flying along the mountain range to the antennas, and then flying the flats back towards Roldanillo, playing around over the small foothills that surround the town, maybe 20km.  It was going off everywhere and it was easy to stay up.

The place to be was the soccer stadium in town, which was set up for the official landing zone for today, complete with Red Bull tent, pumping music, and a crown of about 500 locals watching and cheering all the landings.  However, the soccer field was also very thermic and I thermalled out several times just to see if I could.  I also witnessed several accidents as pilots tried to put their gliders in the LZ and failed.  One pilot missed the field and ended up crashing into the nearby tennis/basketball court, with a metal fence breaking his fall (it was all bent when I walked by).  The other pilot was coming in behind me and crashed into the powerlines surrounding the soccer field.  As he hit the powerlines it flashed sparks and a small explosion as the transformer blew, taking out the power to part of the city.  But, both pilots miraculously ended up OK.

Some more pics are now up...you can find them here.

Registration is currently underway, and we've got a dinner party later on.  As part of the comp we'll be issued live trackers after the task briefing tomorrow, so you'll be able to watch the race live at the PWC website.  FYI, last week the race usually started between 12:15 and 13:00 local time (GMT -5), so use that info to figure out when the races will roughly start in your time zone.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Free flying day in Roldanillo

I ended up missing the ride to the coffee plantation, but met up with Pawel and Jim who were going up to a new launch over town.  Decided to check it out; it's the front lawn of a local pilot.  But we got there quite late in the day for the site (another morning site and we got there at 12:30), so Jim and I sunk out on opposites sides of a small valley, sidehill landing since the valley bottom was all jungle.  Oh well, not a big deal since we were so close to town and I can now spend the rest of the day relaxing like I originally planned.

Last night's party/awards ceremony was held at a swimming pool resort.  Full results can be found here.  We had a fun time getting back to town as our bus driver disappeared and we ended up cramming 21 people in a Jeep.  Like a clown car!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Roldanillo Open January 13

The last day of the Roldanillo Open and many PWC pilots are now in town and free flying today.  Task today was about 84km long, and we thought it would be mostly downwind according to what we saw for winds in the valley from launch.  Wrong!  The winds at first were light north, but as we were waiting for the start south of Roldanillo, the winds turned to southwest as the shade approached.  What I thought would be a pretty easy task soon turned into an into-wind slogfest complete with increasing high clouds.

One of the turnponits was pretty deep into the foothills on the other side of Valle de Cauca, and had it been light winds it would have been a fun place to explore.  But with the SW winds it was a bitch to get back out of there after tagging it, and many pilots didn't make it, dirting as they tried to re-enter the main valley.  Jim and I and a bunch of others managed to scunge our way back out to the main valley to be greeted with lots of shade, dissipated cu's, and looking very dark to the south where goal was sitting about 20-30km away.

The wind was picking up and it was getting harder and harder to find lift, so a bunch of us (including Amir) landed next to the main road, about 4.5km away from the last turnpoint, and about 23km from goal.  It looked like a bunch of people tagged the last turnpoint, but nobody made goal.

The awards ceremony is tonight and I think I'll retain 4th in the women's division and top 10 in the serial class, and hopefully stay in the top 50 overall (that would be nice!).  I really enjoy the flying here; it's a nice mixture of mountains, flatland, and small foothill flying, and there's a healthy local pilot population; today we had a bunch of tandems and students flying before the window opened, and the public comes up the mountain to cheer us on as we launch over their heads.  Even though the weather is not as good compared to last year, we're still flying XC every day.  Now it's time for a couple day's rest before the PWC starts on Sunday.  Tomorrow the organizers have arranged a visit to a local coffee plantation where we can watch coffee production in action, taste-testing, and buy some local coffee.  I'm looking forward to a couple of rest days!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Roldanillo Open January 12

A fantastic day with sun and cu's; it's drying out!

Pics are here.

Task today was south to past Roldanillo, back to the antennas, across the valley, and to goal in Zarzal, about 87km.  I found the task quite easy...maybe it was the mindset of just flying XC with my friends, and having a fun day.  It wasn't hard with the perfect skies, cu's, light winds, and 150+ pilots to mark thermals.  Jim and I flew for a lot of the flight, and we made sure to tank up when we needed to, especially over the flats.  In the end I made goal along with about 80 other pilots, in 2hours 14minutes.  Jim was with me at the end until he kept flying away from goal since his GPS was telling him the wrong thing, and ended up coming in late.  Amir and Pawel also made goal, so all the Canucks were very happy to be in the goal field enjoying the landings.

In the goal field it was switchy winds, and a thermal broke off just as I was on final, causing me to come in downwind.  Of course the landing strip was covered with pilots packing up, so I aimed for what I thought was the grassy median on the sides, only to find it was a ditch full of water, hidden by the grass.  Once again I had a water landing, up to my thighs!  But the glider stayed dry and the important parts of the harness (ie. the reserve) stayed dry too :)  But I have another gear explosion going on in the hotel room as I'm cleaning mud and drying everything else off :)

This is what the flying in Roldanillo is supposedly like according to those who have been here in previous years.  Hopefully this is the start of a dry spell, and we'll have more fantastic days like today.  We could have flown another 50km easily, the flying was that easy!  In fact a bunch of people made goal, and then thermalled out and flew back to Roldanillo to save the retrieve in the goal bus.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Roldanillo Open January 11

We've had a couple of dry days so the valley is starting to dry out and cloudbase is going up accordingly (yesterday I got to 2300m, and today it was projected to get to 3000m to the north of us).

Today's task (103km) had a hiccup at the beginning...a pre-start turnpoint at the antennas that we had to tag, before flying south to the start which was about 25km away.  Now, I launched about 10 minutes after the launch opened and was one of the first gliders in the air, and yet, after tagging the antennas turnpoint and then boogying it south to the start, I only got there with 4 minutes to spare.  So, many of those who launched later were probably f*cked for getting to the start in time.  I think the rationale behind the pre-start turnpoint was to spread people out a bit, but I think people were spread out a bit too much.  Given that the start radius was 8km, I'm pretty sure a direct dash to the start area instead would have still resulted in enough of a spread to reduce congestion.

Anyways, Amir and I were at the start in time, got high, and were at cloudbase when we left for the valley crossing to the next turnpoint.  Jim was a few minutes behind us and followed.  In retrospect, our gaggle of about 20 pilots or so started the valley crossing at the wrong time.  There was a band of high stratus coming through which was starting to shut things down on the other side, and we were caught in the middle of the valley when it came overhead.  I was stuck searching for lift, any lift, about 100m above the ground when I hit 0.1-0.2m/s.  It was fickle and not well-formed, and the shade was getting thicker.  I could see that the sun would return in about 20 minutes if I could just hang on and survive.  But nope, it was not to be and the slight lift turned into 0's and then sink, and I ended up sinking out in the middle of some sugarcane fields about 2km from the turnpoint.

PS when landing in sugarcane fields, make sure to land on the tractor-access roads instead, even if the sugarcane looks low enough to land in.  I landed on an access road which is a good thing, because upon closer inspection, sugarcane plants are sharp-looking and, by the way, are sitting in standing water, and would be a bitch to extricate a glider from.  And if you land in the tall stuff (10-12' high) then you are truly in trouble since you'd probably get hung up above the ground and rip up your glider pretty good while getting it out (assuming you could even reach it).  Add the fact you're potentially far from people and it's 30C+ out, you would not have a fun afternoon!

Jim was in the same predicament and ended up landing too, but closer to the train station that marked the turnpoint so he wouldn't have to walk with his gimpy knee.  I, on the other hand, had a 45 minute walk before I came across some kids who gave me a ride to the train station on their dirtbikes, where I met up with all the other unfortunate souls who had been shaded out.

Meanwhile those who managed to hang in there (including Amir) either boogied to the turnpoint, tagged it, then ran for the salvation of the sun, or were able to hang out for the 20 minutes or so before it got sunny overhead.  Of course the next few gaggles that came through also had sun on their side and continued on.

However, it wasn't an easy flight from the turnpoint to goal...it was about 50km of upwind flying (there was a noticeable north wind), and many pilots ended up landing along various points along the 50km.  Apparently pilots going to goal chose one of two routes: either the direct line to goal over the flats, or back to the mountains (which were in the lee of the westerly seabreeze by this point) and using it as shelter from the valley wind.  Preliminary reports are of 10-12 pilots in goal, so most of the field who made it past the turnpoint must have been culled by the upwind flying.

Pawel had a good flight; his best of the comp so far, and landed just past the turnpoint.  And he's flying with 2 gimpy arms :)  Amir flew to within 14km of goal, landing because he essentially ran out of usable (thermic) daylight.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Roldanillo Open January 10

We weren't very optimistic today because it was socked in at launch and there was a low layer of clouds below us covering the valley.  The task committee called a task but delayed things since cloudbase kept lowering to below launch and we couldn't see anything!  But eventually it cleared up enough and off we went.

Today it was another back-n-forth along the ridge, followed by a valley crossing and then goal in Zarzal.  Once in the air the day felt different...it was sunny on the range and thermals were plentiful and strong, so it was easy to stay up.  It was only on the way back along the range back to the antennas that it started to shade out and Jim and I had to slow down.  One pilot got into trouble and tossed his reserve, coming down on a spine in between launch and Roldanillo.

Back at the antennas and it was getting weaker, and Jim was about 20' higher than me when he hit the thermal that got him out of there.  I didn't take the thermal (which I should have but I didn't want to drift back behind the ridge into the lee that low) which meant while Jim got to cloudbase and continued onwards, I was stuck ridge soaring the antennas for about 30 minutes waiting for another strong-enough thermal to come through.  Gah!

Eventually I was able to get myself out of there and high enough to start the valley crossing, but I was mostly by myself at this point.  Slowly made my way to the other side where I figured the low hills would make things easier, but not really.  I wasn't really able to get high enough to feel comfortable with long glides, and I eventually landed 8km short of goal.  I could see the goal field with pilots landing there but I just couldn't reach it; I just needed 1 more thermal!  Gah again!

Anyways, my main mistake was not committing to the climb with Jim back at the antennas, so by the time I got out of there I was by myself which is never good for looking for weak climbs in the valley.  I had originally thought 50-60 pilots had made goal, but apparently most of the lead gaggle landed short of goal, and in the end there were only 30-ish in goal (from gaggles #2 and #3).  Jim and Amir made goal so they'll get good points for this task.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Roldanillo Open January 9

It was sunny in the morning, which meant it would probably OD in the afternoon due to all the moisture in the valley.  Task was to the antennas again, then to Toro launch (another launch to the north of our launch), then southeast across the valley to goal at an airfield about 75km away.

It was still quite shady on the mountain range so it was slow going to the Toro TP, and I made sure to stop at every chance and tank up.  I could see the sun coming from the north so it was just a matter of surviving until the sun hit Toro, and then it went off everywhere.  All of a sudden it was more racy conditions, both for the comp and also because it was gonna OD at some point and shut us down.

There was a huge fire in the middle of the valley (locals burning a maize field) so I headed for that, and was rewarded with a nice climb to cloudbase.  While going up I was being hit with charred bits of maize plants and I could see bits being sucked into my cell openings.  But it was rapidly ODing too and we still had about 30km to go.

Amir and I continued southeast on the flats but the shade got us about 20km away from goal.  It had started raining in front of us so we knew it was getting close to landing time.  Amir and I chose different LZ's...I saw one further along with pilots already landing, and was rewarded with a nice mud-water-landing as the tall grass was hiding the fact it was a flooded field.

Fortunately my sneakers took the brunt and I was able to keep the glider mostly dry and clean :)  It was a race to pack up before the skies let loose, and we were able to get under cover at a roadside convenience store before the deluge started.  Thunder and lightening and torrential rain for about 30 minutes and we were glad to be under cover!  I had seen a couple of pilots land way out in the middle of fields, away from any cover, and knew they were getting wet!

It was still raining by the time the retrieve bus came by and we got the news that about 10 people had made goal.  There were 2 reserve tosses: a Colombian pilot chucked near the antennas, and Stefan Wyss chucked on final glide into goal.  Both are OK!

I think I did pretty well for the day landing about 20 km short; I think only a few made it past me (other than the goal-makers at least).  I had a lot of fun flying the flatlands today; it was a nice change to have clear air all around me and not have to worry about terrain or powerlines.  Fun task!

Pics can be found here.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Roldanillo Open January 8

Day 1 of the Roldanillo Open and we started off with an adventure as our truck got a flat tire on the way up to launch.  At first we thought we were gonna have to walk the rest of the way since we didn't have a spare, but the next truck coming behind us had one that we could use, so we eventually made it to launch.

Similar conditions to yesterday, low cloudbase and it spit on us a few times on launch.  But it was clearing up (slowly) so a task was set that took us back and forth between the antennas to the north and Roldanillo to the south, followed by a valley crossing and then into goal (about 77km when you take away the TP cylinder radii).

It was very light conditions so it was important to stick with a gaggle as by yourself there was a good chance of going down.  I got low with Jim Orava once but managed to get myself back up to cloudbase and back in the game.  I didn't see him until later on so I know he got out of there too.  Many people decked it early either right at the start, or on the way to the 1st TP.

When it's overcast conditions, one thing I like to do is hug the terrain to get as much lift as I can.  But between launch and Roldanillo there is a set of high-tension power lines that you have to keep an eye on (see the photo up top).  If you don't and continue to hug the terrain, you can find yourself on the wrong side of them, too low to get over them!  On the way back towards launch from Roldanillo I was terrain-hugging and lost track of them until I saw them, not too far away below me, and had to abandon my hugging plan so I could get to the proper side of them.  At this point the mountain range had completely shaded out and it was the glide to the ground along with most everyone else.

I landed short of the antennas in a small vinyard; I found a small bare patch to put down in so I wouldn't get hung up in the vines.  A very nice boy, Michael, came out to help me and gave me several bunches of grapes from the vines, yummy!

Jim had a close encounter with the power lines as he was terrain-hugging too: he threaded the needle and flew *under* the lines to get to the other side of them!  Those lines are placed in a dangerous spot on the mountainside...just tall enough that they're an issue to cross over if you get low while close-in to the mountain.  It's something I'm gonna have to keep an eye on for the next couple of weeks.

Jim landed a couple of kms away from me, and Amir landed near Roldanillo.  Pawel landed early too.  Nobody made goal today, and only about 20 people made it past the antennas towards the last TP.  I saw it raining over in that direction after I got picked up so I'm guessing had anybody actually made it over there, they would have been landing close to the rain.  So probably a low-points day, but fun nonetheless and the glider is treating me well.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Reconnaisance flight at Roldanillo

It's a good thing Nicky told me that rain in the mornings is common, otherwise I would have been discouraged by what I saw when I got up.  Cloudy and sprinkling.

We didn't actually head up to launch until well after 9am; we're on Colombian time!  And when we got to launch it was socked in and lightly blowing down.  But we were here to fly so wait we did.

Launch is a grassy slope and you can launch from up top, down below in the bowl, or on a small knoll to the north.  Launch faces pretty much due east, so it's a morning site.  The locals have built brand-new bathrooms on launch and running water so you can even get your ballast up top and not have to hoof it up the stairs.

It eventually cleared, but late for this site, after 11am, and I didn't actually launch until 1pm.  The skies were clearing but ODing at the same time so it was a question of whether to fly down, or drive down (the road was washed out in many spots due to recent flooding and mudslides).  Even though it was mainly overcast, it was plenty thermic close in and easy to stay up.  I flew south to Roldanillo (about 10km) and landed at the soccer field in town, within walking distance of the town square and my hotel.  Children galore and as you come in to land you have to dodge the kids.  As soon as you touch down you're surrounded by them and can't even get to your glider.  But they know the drill and know to stay off the lines.

The thermals (on this day at least) were smooth, wide, and perfect.  About 2m/s today; Amir says they get to 3m/s on sunny days.  Cloubase varied :) from just above launch at 1600m to 2000m.  And I was completely comfortable in shorts, t-shirt, jacket, and uninsulated gloves.  I could get used to this!

I'll be posting pics too.  You'll be able to find them here.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Traveling time again

Well I'm finally in Roldanillo, after about 20 hours of traveling and connections.  The first thing I noticed when I stepped off the plane in Panama City is how warm and humid it is!  Compared to Vancouver at 8C, it's about 25C but feels more like 30C with the moisture.  I immediately feel like I'm on vacation, and I haven't even gotten to Colombia yet!

The plane ride to Pereira was short and Andreas was at the airport to greet me and take me to Roldanillo.  It's apparently quite easy to get from the airport to Roldanillo but since it's my first time in Colombia, I thought I'd do it the easy but more expensive way until I get myself sorted out.

Oh yeah, the pineapple here is superb!  Andreas and I stopped at a roadside pineapple plantation (the trees were behind the store) and the folks cut us some pineapple to munch on during the ride.  Much sweeter and juicier than the stuff we get up North.  I may have to have one every day while I'm down here :)

Pretty much everyone is here already; there are 4 Canucks here for the comps: Amir, Jim Orava, Pawel, and myself.  Plus the Americans are here and also a bunch of Europeans.  And of course it's Colombian pilots all over the place.

Those who were here yesterday had good flying today.  Some of the Americans did a 60km triangle while others buzzed 20km back and forth getting used to the place.  Cloudbase is lower than last year (so I've been told: 2600m vs. 3200+) due to the very wet weather recently.  There have been many mudslides, flooded roads, sinkholes, etc.  Many fields are green instead of brown, and I've already heard stories of pilots on final to a green field, only to find out it's flooded and they're about to land ankle-deep in water.  So the message is: land in brown fields, or land on a green bump and then walk down so you stay dry.

Roldanillo is small enough to walk around in, smaller than Valle de Bravo and Governador Valadares.  It's a 5 minute walk from my hotel to the town square where we get our rides up to launch (it's a morning site so no sleeping in allowed on this trip!), HQ, and all the foodstalls and general nightlife.  Pilots and gliderbags sitting in doorways are everywhere, and banners hung everywhere welcoming pilots to both comps.  The town is certainly behind these events!