*You can click all the photos in this blog to see a larger version.
** Please note that I am no champion spellar.
Click Here to view my photos on Flickr

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Sportavia Photos

I know I have not posted many photos from Sportavia this week but that is because there is nothing here to see. I already posted photos of the hanger, sailplanes, sky, river, and me flying here on flickr and that is about all there is to see.

Except this photo of a dog sleeping on the hood of a yute with playboy seatcovers while his owner was in the pub for Australia Day.

I am going to try to get a photo of the 100+ kangaroos that come out in the field across from where I am staying tonight.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sportavia - Day 7

Today's task was cancelled was cancelled - severe thunderstorms were forcast and as soon as we went out to the runway to set up the forecast came true and the sky blew-up. There was concern to fly in these conditions because the competition organisers spent all night (along with Melborne search & rescue and local authorities) looking for a Hungarian pilot who went missing. The story I have is that he was sucked back into some tree covered mountains near a thunderstorm cell, tumbled in rough air and threw his chute. He was found this morning by helicopter in the top of a tree where he had spent the entire night hanging in his harness. The pilot was un-harmed.

The story was all over town first thing this morning - I know this because I was at the drug store buying new sunglasses (I accidently dropped mine from about 8000ft yesterday) and an older lady asked me if they had found my "friend" yet.

Sportavia - Day 6

The task today was a 165km dogleg with plenty of clouds to fly. The first leg was down wind 89km which only took an hour. I found Kraig Coomber about halfway there and stuck with him - he was severely out climbing me but I was making up for it on glide. After the first turn point we did about 20km and found a nice big blue hole - we hung out for a while waiting for it to cycle up again and ended up getting low and just going for it. I decked it after about 10km and Kraig pulled it off getting a low (very low) climb. This was the first task in sportavia where I actually got to fly with someone...and not be alone. Kraig was a good person to learn from.

After we got our team picked up we met in a small town for a pizza party (it was Australian Day) and then had a swim in the river before heading back to tocumwal. Jack Simmons recommeded the swim and it was a GREAT suggestion; the river was cold and felt great. Jack and I piled in the back of his sweet camper van, our driver Mark did his job, and I put my headphones on and had a pretty amazing sunset ride back home.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sportavia - Day 5

Today we got to actually fly after 3 cancelled days. The task was for about 140km. Nice flat land flying over neatly plowed/patterned fields and crossing two interesting looking rivers. I broke a weaklink on tow causing me to re-tow and was last off the ground barely making the last start-tiime; and as a result I had to fly the entire task alone but I learned alot. I was trying to figure out how to get my ipod out of my harness to entertain myself midway thru the flight.

My last climb of the day was made in the sweetest dust-devil I have ever seen. The climb I was in was becoming very dis-orgaised at about 4000ft and I spotted the dusty about 3Km to the west and I went for it. It was tracking across the really smooth dry lakebed and perfectly formed. I reached it just above the dust level at 3000ft and KABOOM! Mouthful of dirt and 1100fpm climb rate to 5200ft.

It was close to the end of the day and I went on glide towards goal; I needed one more thermal to make it but was out of luck. I hit the deck 6km from goal. Another less-than-graceful-cross-wind downhill landing - my knees are never going to heal at this rate.

It was still an excellent flight - good times.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sportavia - 3 Task Cancelled

The last three days of this comp have been cancelled due to high and gusty winds. It's a real bummer.
This is why I have not been updating this blog. There is not much going on in this town and nothing of real interest to even photograph...not to mention it has been about 110degrees here.

I have been working mostly, but we have swam in the Murry River some, eaten out, taken naps, worked somemore, swam in the pool, BBQ'ed, and just been lazy in general.

It looks like the weather is turning around today and we should start flying again.

Thanks to all who have left comments and sent emails. Its nice to have the support of friends, family, and the hang gliding community.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Sportavia International Hang Gliding Championships

The SIHGC started yesterday. There are about 45 pilots in for this comp and the competition is just as strong as Bogong. The first task yesterday was a 119Km dog leg. We launch in New South Wales where the conditions just off tow were great - my first thermal was 800+fpm to 7000ft. We crossed the Murry River into Victory and the conditions changed dramatically; the thermals in VIC were 400fpm to 5000ft and some serious sink to go with it.

I got a late start as it was so my plan was just to stay in the air (not race) and make goal, which I did. It took me a while by I made it with Jack Simmons (Colorado pilot). When I got there I did a beautiful tail-wind landing and skinned my knee... ouch.

It is suppose to be 46 degrees here today... If you are in the US convert that and see what you come up with - fuggin' hot.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sportavia - Tocumwal, NSW

I am in Tocumwal, NSW now at the Sportavia Aerodrome. This facility was built in WWII and was created as Australia's last line of defense against the Japanese who were invading Northern Australia until they realized there was nothing up there - including water.

There is a huge old hanger here full of sailplanes that people from around the world have shipped here because of the amazing soaring weather (and many pilots are here from around the world to fly them - lots of Japanese and German pilots); and there are accomdations including a nice restaurant on the premises - not to mention a nice pilots lounge with internet connection and swimming pool outside.

Jonny, Tove, and Grant are putting on Top Gun Challenge right now but myself and a few other pilots are here just fun flying and resting up for the next comp. The sky looks amazing and I am sure we will have some 200km plus task during the comp. I plan on taking a few sailplane flights this week.

I have taken a few tows since being here just to practice and knock the dust of my bridle; I had a nice flight to cloudbase yesterday. I also flew over and around the Murry River which is the border of Victoria and New South Wales.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Bogong Cup Photos

Some photos of travel and the Bogong Cup. I need to purchase more space at flickr to get the rest up but I plan on uploading all the Bogong Cup photos I have and will also as Sportavia photos as I take them.
CLICK HERE for the Bogong Cup Photo Album

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Bogong Cup Day 8

Today was the last task for the comp. It has been an incredible learning experience and amazing adventure flying around the mountains and valleys in this area. I have had the priveldege of flying with some of the best pilots in the world and meet some really interesting people - pilots and otherwise.

The weather was looking not so great with a few high clouds in the area but a 130km task was called anyway. It would take me over some ridges and into some valleys I had never been in so it was interesting.

I almost sank out in the very beginning but scratched my way up with the help of two wedge-tailed eagles - I was relaxed and planned to just have fun. After a few hours of flying with the gaggle I hit the last turn point on the north end of the Kiewa Valley with Davis just as a high cloud moved in a pretty much shut everything down. We both turned out and had an epic glide all the way down the mountain range only turning in one light thermal for about 30km. I was about 2km ahead of Davis as we had goal in sight. There was no more lift so we just kept going...I landed 1.6km short of goal on the last day. It was an amazing ending to a great week.

I ended up in 19th place over all which I feel is pretty good considering I was flying with so many great pilots and I have only been flying a little over two years.

Hopefully I will take what I have learned to Sportavia and do a little better.

PS. At the awards banquette I was given the prestigious Bogong Cup "cock-up" award for nearly hitting the trees. Not what I came here for but hey...a hang gliding trophy is a hang gliding trophy. :)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Bogong Cup Day 7

Well, today was not my best flying day by a long shot. Let me start by getting the task details out of the way - I don't remember what the task was. I actually bombed out after about 30 minutes of scratching - I ruined my pretty good score this day. But this is not the story I would like to tell; actually I don't want to tell what happened at all but I am going to anyway.

Everything here has been going really well - launches, landings, task, etc. and from that I have gain more confidence in my flying skill and well... maybe I have gotten a little more complacent having lost sight of safety and some basic things I learned from my Jedi Master Joe Greblo.

So here is what happened. The weather forecast was for moderately stable air and we were launching from EMU launch which is a path cut thru a forrest of 50ft tall Eucalyptus down a hill - so basically you have a path off the hill thru a forrest that is about 30-40 yards wide. I launched just fine, flew out a little ways and hit some lift just to the left of the path and pushed out a bit to milk it and flew a little ways to see how big the thermal was, it was decent lift and I thought I should turn in it. I looked to down and to my left to see how much clearance I had from the top of the trees and felt I was good (I did not realize how much the hill sloped) so I started a right-hand turn. Just when I started the turn I looked down and saw that I was still above the cut tree path and then got dumped out of the thermal. I looked over my right shoulder to see where I was in the turn and was immediately horrified. I said really loudly "oh shit" (people on the ground heard this) because I was certain I was not going to make it out of the turn and was pretty sure I would hit the left bank of the tree path. I couldn't believe this was going to happen - I really thought I was going to plow into the trees. So did everyone on launch. I knew I had screwed up but I was still in the glider and still flying...I knew I had to fly the glider. I was scared but didn't freak out and push out or anything. Instead I pulled in a bit for speed and banked a little harder. I actually steered the left wing of the glider in between the tops of two trees and my base bar cleared a third tree top by inches... seriously... inches... I could have grabbed the tree.

It really scared me and I thought for a second I should just go land the glider but instead caught a 700fpm up and started circling and thinking about what had just happened. I got to 7000ft and was just flying around under a cloud amazed that I had escaped the trees.

Here is what I came up with very simply. I feel like I got the best instruction a person can get in modern hang gliding from Joe Grebo and all I could think of is Joe's instruction for immediate post launch procedure. Safety, strategy, then comfort. Very basic. I went straight into strategy and it was nearly a disaster.

After the one good climb to 7000ft. I didn't find anymore lift; I scratched for about 30 minutes and landed (flying under power lines that showed up as I was on final - I looked like Seabass at Ojai). I had the biggest smile on my face even though I knew I had just wrecked my score. I just looked up at the mountain and thanked God that I was not being hoisted out of that tree.

I probably scared every Koala bear in the forrest.

Everyone on launch saw it and I was called out in a humorous way in the pilot meeting the next morning and got the opportunity to talk about what I learned. Respect the danger and don't get complacent.

This comp. has several novelty awards given out at the awards banquet on the last day and because of my mishap I was nominated for several. The Koala Award, Boots with Roots Award, the "No shit, there I was " award, and the most prestigious of them all the Cock-up award. They even considered creating a special "Cock-up Koala" award just for me.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bogong Cup Day 6

The days are getting harder for me. I am a little tired, both mentally and physically, as this becomes more of an endurance thing vs. a pilot skill thing; and it is having an effect on my consistency.

Important comp. lessons I have learned this week - in a nutshell:
1. Know your instruments and know your equipment - these are things you don't want to be mucking around with on race day.
2. Hydrate and fuel your body - there is no resting in the air and no real carb. fixes and if you run out of muscle fuel you will degrade both mentally and physically and are sure to go down. The conditions may provide fuel for your glider but if you are too tired to fly it then....
3. Be in good shape - endurance is crucial!

Today's task was north to the mouth of the Kiewa Valley and then return to the Mt. Beauty airstrip via a mid-way turnpoint on the west side of the valley on the way back (around 110km). I made the first turnpoint after fighting the 10mph headwind for about an hour and a half. I was very low after tagging the turn point and was unzipped looking for a landing field in the valley floor then found a weak thermal (100fpm) that I worked until it was up 600fpm and I was at 7000ft. I left on glide to cross to the westside of the valley because that is where the next turnpoint was and got drilled all the way there seeing pilots on the ground everywhere just short of the turnpoint.

Me and another pilot are near the turn point and get another low climb. I was 200meters from tagging the turn point and made a critical mistake (because of my lack of experience), I took the climb first insted of tagging the turn point. The other pilot and myself worked this thermal and climbed back up but now I am in the middle of the valley drifting away from the turnpoint and I am now almost 4km away from the turnpoint insted of 200meters. I knew this was going to just get worse so my plan was to leave the thermal and go tag the turnpoint and try to come back to the climb - I tagged the turn point and never made it back to the climb and was on the ground minutes later (I saw jonny's red bull glider on the ground a few Km back so I did not feel so bad).

I later talked to Jonny who watched the whole thing unfold and learned what I did wrong. I should have let the other pilot mark the thermal for me while I went the 200meters to the turn point and then returned to the climb. I would have had the turnpoint out of the way and could have climbed in the thermal while drifting towards goal.

I am learning.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bogong Cup Day 5

Today was called because of rain which was nice because I needed the rest. It looked like it was going to clear in the afternoon so I called the local fly fishing guide. I used to fly fish in Seattle a lot and was missing it and thought this would be a great opportunity to see more of the "bush" in Australia.

The guide ended up being booked so me and Andreas drove up to Falls Creek on the top of Mt. Bogong and went for a nice 5k run on a mountain trail - it was absolutely beautiful.

When I got home I found that the fly fishing guy had come by the place I am staying and dropped off a fly rod, waders, flys, polarized glasses, and a map of where to go fish - people here are incredibly nice!!! So I drove up the mountain and hiked a trail to a great little alpine steam and got my fish on! It was an epic way to end a peaceful day.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Epic Flying Weather

Those of you at Kagel Mountain in Sylmar, CA who are waiting for the wind to turn around may not want to open the large version of this photo. This was a few days ago at Mystic Launch. Beautiful flying weather.

Bogong Cup Day 4

The hardest day for me yet. It took nearly an hour to cross the valley in the headwind and really rowdy/broken lift - then nearly 2 more hours to make the 59km trip to the first turnpoint in a 12-14mph headwind. This task took us away from the mountains and into the flatlands for about 35km. The flatlands were working well though with steady 800fpm climbs to 10,000ft. MSL. After making the first turnpoint and turning around I thought I would have it made with the strong tailwind. I made it back to the mountains and then on the way to the second turnpoint made a critical bad decision not to go back for good lift. I was afraid the day was going to shut down AND I really had to go to the bathroom...so I pressed on even though I thought this was the wrong decision. I landed very close to the second turnpoint (in a rolling downhill paddock) putting me about 26km from goal very tired and a little heartbroken (I think I even said a few bad words when I landed). I am still in 13th place overall.

The land owner came out to meet me and make sure I was ok and invited me in for something to drink. Once inside the small farm house his wife got about 12 differnt kinds of homemade ice cream from the freezer (it was about 95degrees outside) and put on the table. I then sat at the table with Martin, Maryanne, Martin's 90 year old father, and jake the 15 year old dog and had some really good ice cream (they were having red wine with theirs ?) and talked while I waited on my driver. Just when we were finishing up the ice cream a enormous grey goose walked in the room from outside...I was shocked but didn't say anything - they just ignored it.

I have found myself in some very interesting situations while hang gliding cross-country - thats part of the fun.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Bogong Cup Day 3

Tough day today with high cirrus clouds shutting down the Sun's power. Spent the first half of the task which was about 30km upwind alone. I later hooked up with Jon from Norway at the Oven's Plantation and we got a nice climb to nearly 9k and then headed to the Kiewa Valley for the last turn point. I got a really slow climb in the middle of the valley but stayed with it trying to get enough altitude to make goal. I missed the next climb which was the one I really needed to make it in. After making it so far on a day that didn't look so great it was a real heartbreak to land 9km (about 5.5 miles) short of goal and I was really disappointed - that is until Gerolf landed right next to me. I still came in 14th for the day and am still in pretty good shape.

Nice OzReport write ups for me...


And this article that someone wrote in - you have to scroll towards the bottom of the page.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Bogong Cup Day 2

Today was amazing! The launch was a at the top of Mt. Buffalo and was very simply a wooden ramp straight off a 1500ft. shear cliff - my kind of fun. The setup area was also very interesting - 65 gliders set up on a field huge boulders. The day's weather was looking really nice with a moderate breeze coming straight in to launch and cummies starting to pop off here and there. More than anything I was just ready to run off the ramp!

After having a great position in the launch line I had a nice smooth launch off the ramp and got up right away. I found a nice steady 700fpm climb and cruised up under the first cloud to form at Buffalo Mountain. Jonny Jr. launched and joined me at cloud base and we had a nice fly around the clouds waiting for the second start clock - it is really too bad neither of us had a camera (his Red Bull glider was looking pretty cool at cloud base). We moved out from under the clouds as the second start time approached to check the conditions out in the blue sky and got a nice climb just on the edge of start circle with just a few minutes left. Start clock came and Jonny, Dave Seib, Davis, and myself left for the first turnpoint.

I raced hard and kept up with the lead gaggle for about 50km until we reached the second turn point at which time my vario said I made the turnpoint until after I turned for the next turnpoint at which time it said I did'nt make the second turnpoint and I had to turn around and go back about 500m. This put me behind the lead gaggle but I was able to find and hang with Gerolf for a bit. After pulling out into the Kiewa valley and getting a 1000fpm climb up with a beautiful Wedge-Tailed Eagle I stuffed the bar and went on final glide to goal trying to pull away from Ollie and Davis. I crossed the goal line while wathcing their shadows on the ground just beind me...exciting and close race.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Day One Results

Results from day one of the Bogong Cup can be found here - http://www.ozreport.com/blog.php#2006-1-7_10:45:55pm_AUSEDT

Bogong Cup Day 1

Today was the first day of the Bong Cup and I woke up very nervous. I am in the company of some really great pilots and was feeling a little un-sure of myself - was I in the right place?

It was decided this morning at the pilot brief that we would be launching the Emu launch because of the conditions, so we loaded gliders and headed up. The launch list/launch order for the first day was decided by world ranking for the first 25 positions and then the rest of the list was randomly sorted and I ended up 40th in a line of about 80 people - not too bad.

After setting up on launch we were given the day's task and set up our instruments. The task was 115k (about 75 miles) and had a total of three turn points. There were no CU's today so that actually made me feel a little more confident as I am a mountain pilot and we never have clouds - so the site and conditions were what I am use to.

By the time it was my turn to launch I had settled down a bit and felt confident with my equipment and my skill level. My game plan for today was not to race too hard - just stay in the air and complete the task. The wind was straight up the ramp and I had a nice take off.

Big smooth thermals all day long with altitudes up to around 6500k. I realize once in the air that since I had the right equipment now that I would be able to get with a group of pilots and stay with them. This worked really well and I was in about the middle of the pack on the way to the first turn point. Midway to the second turn point I had already left the group I was with behind after getting a great climb over the valley and then found myself thermaling with Jonny Durand Jr. - was this really happening? I ended up in the lead gaggle for a while which included Davis, Steve Moyes, Jonny D. Jr., and kevin Carter...I was pretty stoked. These guys are long-time champions and my position with them only lasted to the second turn point at which time my arms felt like rubber and I lost the ability to thermal and climb as good as I needed to stay with them.

To make a long story short I slowed down a bit and made my way back the the Kiewa valley to the last turn point before heading the 29km to goal. At the last turn point I was only about 1000ft AGL and joined a pilot who was thermaling at about 500ft AGL and climbed to 6k. After a few more climbs I had goal in site - I also had Kevin Carter in sight and he was behind me. He and I raced down the valley and I thought I had him beat and lost site of him - until he passed me about 200meters before the goal line...it was very close. I belive he beat me by about 20 seconds.

The good news - I MADE GOAL! I was very stoked. The results have not been posted yet but I believe I was about 17th into goal. This will put me in a much better launch position tomorrow.

The game is on.

ps. You can click any image on this blog for a larger version.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Down Under

Some of you know and some of you may not but I am in Australia right now for some hang gliding competitions. I will be competing in both the Bogong Cup and Sportavia International Hang Gliding Championships - and in a 5 day clinic in between.

Anyway, I flew here New Year's Eve leaving just before midnight which was pretty cool for a New Year's Eve and got to Sydney on the second of Janurary.

Moyes was kind enough to arrange for me to be picked up at the airport and then taken to the factory to re-assemble my short-packed glider and do some fine tuning - nice place and very very nice helpful people at Moyes. After getting all sorted out at Moyes I hooked up with Jim Prahl from Quest, we got a car, made a rack, and were off to pick Andreas Ohlsson up at the airport - we then drove 8 or 9 hours to Mt. Beauty.

We have now been in Mt. Beauty for 2 days getting gear together and a lay of the land.

The first day here in Mt. Beauty Andreas and I went up the mountain at the last minute (at about 6:30PM) and took sled rides just to fly. Today I had a great flight winding though a maze of valleys and making my way to the airstrip next to the place we rented to stay. The flight covered about 50k and was really really fun - its a mixture of mountain and cloud flying. Its summer here and the flying is really nice; there are about 10 different launches here to choose from based on the weather conditions and today cloud base was around 8k.

I have already gotten a wealth of information from Andreas and the other pilots (from around the world) I have met and I am really excited about how much I will probably learn from this experience.

Tomorrow we have another day to fun fly/practice and get our gear dialed-in; after the flying day we have pilot check-in and then Saturday (USA Friday) the Bogong Cup begins. I plan to have my gameface on for these comps but at the same time I will be flying against some of the top-ranked pilots in the world...so...umm...cross your fingers or something.

Yesterday just after I landed three Kangaroos came out of the woods to watch me break down; the animal and bird life (flocks of pink cockatoos and parrots) here is really interesting.

I will try to update this daily with pics and storys.