Sunday, July 21, 2019

Pemberton Canadian Nationals July 21

I'm in beautiful Pemberton for the 2019 Canadian National Paragliding Championships!  This is the 3rd time hosting it in Pemberton, and every year we get more visiting pilots as previous years' visitors rave about the scenery and flying and pass that information on to their flying friends :). It's so fun having visiting pilots experience the scenery and awesomeness of the mountains here...it's just breathtaking with the ice, cliffs, and sheer prominence from the valley floor!

Pilot breakfast on Sunday.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.
As part of the task committee, it's our job to make sure the tasks are fun but safe for everyone, and given the range of skill level at this event (from first-time comp pilots to seasoned PWC pros), this can be a bit of a challenge!  We aim to make sure everyone is having a good time, to get a lot of people in goal, but make the race day short enough that if an incident/accident does occur, we have enough daylight/time to mount a rescue operation, so nobody is left on the mountain overnight (and these are big and remote mountains).  So we aim to have the races finished by 6 or 7pm, which gives us ~4-5 hours of race time available to us each day.

Forecast for today was for moderate south winds, reaching up towards Hurley Pass, which is a bit unusual as normally it would transition to west up at that end of the valley.  With this in mind, we set a 70km zigzag around Goat/Barbour/Camel Hump/Pauline area to keep us away from a possible Whistler Express and have goal at the Miller Beer Farm.

Also at this comp we are hosting a film crew from River Road Films, which is producing a TV series in collaboration with the Nature of Things and CBC on Wild Canadian Weather, set to air in Fall 2020.  For their filming in Pemberton, they are hoping to get some filming of paragliders thermalling up under a cloud, to illustrate the human equivalent of what raptors and other birds of prey do.  So for today's task, they were also in the air on a tandem (with Kevin Ault PIC) to film the start gaggle and part of the course line.

Film crew getting their tandem camera gear ready!
Nature cooperated and we had an awesome start gaggle at cloud base, right over the takeoff, with 100+ pilots milling about waiting for the start, and then we were off to Goat Mountain!  The flying was pretty fast in that downwind direction, and it wasn't long before we heard of a 2 reserve deployment, one close to launch, and one over the Owl lakes region.  The close-to-launch pilot was unhurt with their gear on the ground next to them, and were able to self-rescue and walk back to launch.  The Owl-lakes pilot was unhurt and hanging in a tree, so the task continued while the safety team organized a SAR helicopter to retrieve her, since there are no roads that reach that far in the Owl gap.

The crux for many pilots was the crossing from Goat Mountain to Camel Hump and back to Barbour, since Camel Hump had not much lift so it was a "tag and turn" kind of turn point, and many arrived back on the Barbour side of things quite low.  There was a lot of tree surfing below Copper before several thermals broke off and we were able to get back up to ridge height and continue the race, but many pilots were forced to land early in the fields below Copper.

I made a technical mistake on the final climb at Barbour before committing to my final glide to the Miller Beer Farm goal LZ.  I was watching my glide to goal ratio and when I had 3:1 I went for it, forgetting that that glide indicator was actually to the ESS part of the race, and not the actual goal field.  And since the ESS was 4.5km outside the goal field, that meant I was off by 4.5km!  Usually that wouldn't be an issue (3:1 is normally ridiculously conservative) and I would have just arrived at the goal field lower that I expected, but the south wind around the corner of Owl peak was creating enough of a headwind that going around the corner was more like 2:1!  So crap, I landed within the ESS zone, but 1700m short of the actual goal cylinder, along with about 10 other pilots!

The wing truck delivers your glider to launch, so it's ready to pick up when you arrive!
I wasn't too bummed out however, as we are using FTV of 25% which means I can toss out part of my worst day of the comp, so it's not an all-or-nothing competition where you are out if you mess up even a tiny bit.

Meanwhile the task was ongoing and was only stopped around 5:30pm when the SAR helicopter was en-route to rescue the Owl-lakes pilot and any remaining pilots in the air needed to land to give them room to operate (SAR had to contact and pick up one of their techs trained in tree rescue which took some time).  This was actually a great move by the organization as helicopters can sometimes take hours to mobilize, especially if the rescue-ee is OK and not in any immediate danger, so there's no point in stopping the race prematurely.  So in the end it was a very valid task with a lot of happy pilots in goal, and a large of slightly less-happy pilots just short of the actual goal field ;)

A great start to the comp and we're hoping to get some tasks out by Lilloet Lake when we have a less windy day so we can have a finish either at the rodeo grounds, or at the airport LZ to put on a show for the Pemberton townspeople!

Canadian Nationals Website with results and schedule

My track log from today.



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