The build up to the week was basically stormy and windy. Some flying started relatively early in the day, some from the North launch at Chabre and some at Saint Vincent Le Fort, but the days inevitably ended with a downpour. The ground is a tad wet and the rivers full... it's beautiful.
By Friday most of the competition pilots had arrived and the biggest topic of conversation was the weather (this part is copied from last year's report!)... would it be anywhere near as good as last year's competition? Only time will tell, but the forecast really is a bit grim.
As the practice day has proved so successful over the last two years, we wanted to have another. But the wind gods didn't smile and instead we had a grey and windy day of ground handling and walking GPSs around the camp ground.
Jocky got the field excited for the following proper task days by doing a talk in the evening, explaining the classic routes, how to do them and how to avoid the wedge of failure.Day 1, Sunday. another day, not to be.
The forecast was not too bad, with a light Northerly wind predicted, but the possibility of storms later. We were on our way to Sederon out west.
Once out west, the wind was southerley and no good for those sites, so we went up to the main launch back on Chabre, where it was northerley again; you just can't win.
We set a task around the local valley, but time was against us. After a re-brief it was decided that we couldn't get a full task in that would be fair, so we just declared a practice / free fly off the North launch, which is single file (2 gliders at best). The towering clouds and big grey sky encroached to a point of no return and the day got cancelled after about 30 pilots were airborne.
C'est la vie, so they say, locally.Day 2, Monday. The sun is here. t2 results
The forecast predicts a better wind but stormy later; so we are hoping for an early, short task.
Indeed, a 29km elapsed time task around 3 turnpoints was set with the launch window to open at 12:00. There was plenty of Alto Cumulous cloud and no wind, which made the first climb a little tricky for some.
Strong it wasn't.
A couple of pilots shot away early and had some good lift along the ridge to turnpoint 1 (col St Ange) and good clouds until turnpoint 2 on the ridge just past Orpierre. The long glide across the valley towards turnpoint 3 on the far end of St Genis was always going to be tricky and proved too long for the two leaders. The next group were not far behind and managed to get the glide from Orpierre to connect to the St Genis ridge.
Unfortunately the cloud above Orpierre just grew and grew to the point where the task needed stopping. Stopped it was, though those that had got ahead of Orpierre were on course for, and made goal anyway.
Everyone was retrieved and assembled quite early for a task debrief in the big tent in the rain.
Later Ulric Jessop re-lived his X-Alps adventure to a full house. How spectacular was that!
The forecast for tomorrow is very similar to today.. which is sort of good, and sort of bad.
Day 3, Tuesday. The sun is here again. t3 results
We believe that the forecasters were on strike today; our normal detailed forecast didn't arrive. We didn't need it; the amount of water on the ground and the heat of the sun could only mean one thing: The storms were coming soon.
After a rapid briefing we shot up the hill and watched as the clouds grew to the West and the East, but we had a blue hole.
The task was set for a short elapsed time 20km local course via 2 turnpoints, because of the possibility of huge storms later.
12:00 came and there was a flurry to get airborne and good climbs to a base of 1900m were available. The start gate was 1km away and then a long glide to the far end of St Genis, though not many went direct. The climbs in the valley were slow and difficult but once on the ridge it became easier. A few pilots got to the turnpoint as the task was stopped. The clouds to the west were just not to the west enough and the thunder and lightning was off-putting.
Everyone landed quickly and safely. Again, when the task was stopped there was time for the leaders to finish the task around Upaix church and to reach goal at Laragne camping.
The decision to stop was made in plenty of time and kept the competition completely safe. It did storm afterwards. There were 9 pilots who made more than 11km and were all very close together at the stop time. They all won the day. But actually, we were all winners as we all got to fly!
The plan for the evening was Pizza in Ribiers. A splendid night out in the village with a band and pizza and paella until you pop.
We've stopped looking at the forecast now. Tomorrow will be sunny and stormy!Day 4, Wednesday. The sun is here and its hot. t4 results
An early briefing today to get on the hill ready for the developing sky. No forecast because of the strike (you thought I was joking). We thought it would be a light southerly. No no no. The wind decided to be North to North Westerly and hardly a cloud in the sky. The organisation was perplexed and the task setters stunned into silence: The original plan to fly North was never announced.
Knowing that it would storm we decided not to try for another launch site and decided to split the field by class: some to the upper North (with the choice to go to the lower one) and some to the lower North. For those who don't know Chabre, the lower North is a bit more take-off friendly than the upper and neither are particularly large.
The task was set to be 28km elapsed time around 3 turnpoints with the window open at 12:00: we didn't need the early start because it was still blue. The first turnpoint was the lower take-off, so everyone in effect started from the same place. The early gliders fought hard to get up, but once high were rewarded with good climbs as the clouds started to form. Unfortunately some of the hard battlers spent up to an hour thermalling, but just couldn't manage to get high and slid down to land.
The clouds kept forming, building in the North, South, East and West. Our relatively blue hole was shrinking.
The next turnpoint was 12km West along the ridge at Col St Jean. Staying high was the best plan, with bases just above 2000m. The next waypoint was La Platte; across the valley to the East. The question was where to cross the valley? The leaders went straight towards the turnpoint, towards a nice looking cloud then split, one for the ridge the other direct. The direct route paid off and Mark Graham on his Axis Vega II was first in goal at Ribiers, followed by local girl Rachael Evans aboard her Ozone Rush.
8 pilots made goal before the task was stopped at 14:00 due to the ever shrinking safe hole to fly in. Then, oh yes, it rained again.
I wonder what it will do tomorrow!
Tonight is the famous Australian champion Craig Collings giving a talk on flat land flying in Australia.Day 5, Thursday. The sun is here and so is the wind.
Its windy at the moment, but lovely and warm. A task for today is not looking good.
We went to Sederon and sat on Bergies for a while to see if the wind would drop. We came back home and it was just howling.
We are hoping for another task tomorrow, but its forecast strong wind again. We will see.
Day 6, Friday. The sun is here again and the wind is strong.
The tents were flapping all night and by the morning it was obvious that it was too strong to fly. The competition is finished with 3 tasks counting.
Free flying at St Vincent Le Fort, which is usually flying when there is a Mistral.
Task reports by Mark Graham