The build up to the week was basically stormy. The flying started relatively early in the day, some from the North launch, but the days inevitably ended with a downpour.
By Saturday most of the competition pilots had arrived and the biggest topic of conversation was the weather... would it be anywhere near as good as last year's?Day 0, Task 0, the practice day. t0 results. Task Animation
As the practice day has proved so successful over the last two years, we went up the hill pretending it was a real task with the knowledge that we could make a million mistakes because it just didn't count.
The forecast said light north westerlies with a build up of cloud throughout the day and chance of storm later.
A short and fast 26km elapsed time task was set via three turnpoints. Those that were first off were greeted with a good climb to a fairly low base. The leaders pushed off as early as possible with lots of height. The first five or six got stuck at the last turnpoint but managed to get out for the headwind glide to goal. A couple of the front pilots landed just short leaving Mark to get into goal first. Then 28 other pilots arrived including Ruud, who had hung back and raced around the course in a very fast time, winning the day.
There were few errors; a couple of track logs not switched on and a couple of missed waypoints but in general everyone had a good day and the debrief by Jocky got the field excited for the following proper task days.Day 1, Task 1, Monday. Cancelled
The forecast was not too bad, with a light North Westerly wind predicted. The field were on launch and being briefed as the clouds grew and grew. A task was set and the first pilots flew off and up... down was the difficult option. Five minutes later the task was cancelled and the flyers told to land and go back up.
We waited for quite a while until the wind on launch turned west making it dangerous to run a task. Some flew down and demonstrated varying degrees of launch control.
Day 2, Task 2. t2 results. Task Animation
The forecast was north west so we went to Buc. The strongish wind on top died down by the time all the pilots got there, and a 31.8km task was set east along the valley to Ribiers via two turnpoints, the church at Lachau and the castle at Mison.
Weak thermic conditions early on saw pilots ridge soaring and climbing slowly. It got windy, the window opened and closed a few times but eventually everyone got off in good style. The strong wind on launch made pilots think and act for themselves, meet director Jocky Sanderson said later - a good thing.
The first gaggle dribbled off and got 10km. This set the scene for the day - because while climbs got better and many got to base, most pilots landed before the halfway mark. Four pilots made goal - two on DHV 1/2 gliders. Three took a route south along the hills, drifting downwind in slow climbs until they took off. The fourth got high and went down the valley, then high over the gorge to turn south to goal. He got there in orbit to fly around a bit before heading back north to land at the campsite. Well done Andy Davies, a true Brit battler. Dutch pilot Jos Vermeulen landed 220m short on his DHV1 glider, but he said "Never mind, at least I beat [teammate] Ruud!"
The day was won by Belgian pilot Etienne Coupez - Bravo Etienne.
Later, pilots gathered in the town square at Ribiers for paella and pizza - a party which went on long into the night. Acro pilot Felix Rodriguez talked the crowd through a video of himself infinite-tumbling while meet director Xavier Murillo showed uncut footage from the recent Paragliding World Cup.Day 3, Task 3. t3 results. Task Animation
Pilots woke to thick heads and thick high cirrus. But the forecast was for light south westerlies and a good day, so we went up Chabre. A 38.5km task to Aspres with four turnpoints was set, and conditions looked good enough to make it a race. A racing start 4km from the second turnpoint was set for 1pm.
The first turnpoint was 4km along the ridge at Col St Ange. Pilots started launching at 12.20 to take the first turnpoint and get to base. As one o'clock approached there were 60 pilots at base and above as they climbed hundreds of metres up the west face of the cloud building above Chabre. It was special.
On the stroke of the hour the field turned as one and raced for the first turnpoint. Jocky later called the start "as good as the World Cup" and congratulated the pilots on staying safe and good race discipline - gosh, you are spoiling us Mr Meet Director.
After taking the second turnpoint above Orpierre half the field then raced to the deck on the sinky valley crossing. If pilots made it and got to the hills at St Genis they survived, made the third turnpoint at Savournon and had a good chance of getting to goal.
Twenty-one pilots did make it, seven of them on DHV 1/2 gliders. Ruud (second) and Etienne (first once more - Bravo again Etienne) raced to the end, only separated by five seconds at the finish line. Rachael Evans (GB) came third on a DHV 1/2 - well done Rachael.
Jocky's comprehensive debrief later in the evening was interrupted by a large electrical storm which flooded tents, hammered the marquee with hail and briefly affected power supply. Despite that, the meet director cheerily soldiered on, rounding off a good day's flying with a thorough analysis of the day.
Day 4, Thursday, Ground handling comp
We went up the hill with a dodgy forecast, knowing that there was a slight chance of the Southerly wind dropping. We waited and the hangies flew but we didn't.
The comp day was cancelled at 1pm and pilots made their way back to the campsite for an afternoon groundhandling competition.
Pilots had to negotiate 'turnpoints' in the bottom landing-field in a relay race reminiscent of It's A Knockout. The comp was won by one of the Belgium teams, The Belgies - Bravo. Ozone test pilot Russell Ogden then showed how easy it could be made to look while meet director Xavier Murillo got the biggest laugh for his efforts - shortly to be YouTube's next hit.
A well-received talk on flying psychology by Jocky ended the day.
For those that don't know, when there's a bad forecast the only way to make it better is to stay up late, party and drink to the weather gods. We tried very hard. There was a meal at the camp site and a band played oldies music well into the night. We danced 'till we dropped, hoping for a nice day.Day 5, Friday, Sore heads
We woke up to thunder and lightening. The day looked toast and various talks were organised and a trip Karting with day prizes in the offing.
By 15:00 the sky had cleared and the day turned flyable. No one could have predicted it and France Meteo certainly didn't.
In the evening it was clear enough to go star gazing. A local astronomer Olly Penrice bought some telescopes over and we looked at some heavenly bodies. Some were early to bed as the forecast for the last day looked good.Day 6, Last Day, Task 4. t4 results
The forecast said West wind down low and West up high so Buc was the launch of choice.
We assembled on launch and waited for the thermals to start. The sky was looking quite good and a 42.8km elapsed time race to goal via 2 turnpoints was set. The first start was delayed as the conditions looked slow. When the window opened Mark and Russell launched and showed that the conditions were still slow and no-one else launched.
A few cycles came through and the field dribbled off launch; some into good climbs but some to the bomb out.... it was going to be a hard start. For those that got away the base was up to 2800m, which was a highly pleasant surprise, if not a tad chilly. Glides were quite long but some good climbs were to be had.
Russell was first into goal, getting high at the first turnpoint and finding it was downwind to the second and downwind to goal. Those lower down found headwind to second turnpoint and headwind to goal, some (me included, bah humbug) dropping short; its a funny old game. Shortly afterwards Ulric got to goal and won the day having flown the fastest.
With 41 in goal the day was a success, but there were a large number of bomb outs which was quite disappointing.
The evening saw the prize giving and prize draw, with good food and another rock band. I'm writing this report with a slightly fuzzy head, but am already looking forward to next year.... sign-up quick if you can, we'll announce the date in the near future.
Task reports by Mark Graham and Ed Ewing