Saturday, June 4, 2011
Ozone Chabre Open - Practice Day
Chabre launch, Laragne France
We woke up to a very grey practice day here in Laragne for the Ozone Chabre Paragliding Open. Nevertheless we got ourselves organized and ready to be at HQ by 9:30 for the pilots meeting, hopeful that the sun might come out long enough to get at least a quick intro flight at this new site. I had quite a bad headache so popped an ibuprofen before leaving our place, and on the drive over could see cloud base was about 5 meters off the ground so took a couple more, figuring there was no point in having a screaming headache AND not being able to fly.
At the meeting, organizer Brian read us the weather report (which actually didn't sound quite so bad with his English accent). "Forecast - cloudy...with more clouds as the day goes on...with embedded CuNims...oh, and a dose of hail for good measure". A lot of booing ensued and we voted to hang around for 15 minutes before calling the day off completely. You know...just in case. Sure enough the clouds parted right above us & people started getting excited. Maybe 100 pilots believing that the weather will improve can actually make it happen!
Brian & Mark then told us that even though they were 95% sure we wouldn't be able to fly we could go up to launch & "have a look". Ten minutes later we were all in the shuttle buses making our way up. Once at launch, pilots immediately started prepping their kits and laying claim to their launch space while Derek & I looked around trying to figure out where the landing zone was. Another newbie to Laragne was getting a site intro so I listened in, and the local kept repeating, "if you're going to land at the bail-out make sure you don't set up too far downwind. Lots of pilots end up in those trees". Shakespeare would have called that foreshadowing...
Soon the meet organizers were also on launch & gave us an unofficial task - 17 km, 2 or 3 turnpoints, just to make sure we had all our gear sorted out and short enough to get us on the ground again before the storm came in. To be honest, the weather at this point looked beautiful with blue skies and puffy white clouds. The first 20 or so pilots launched & besides a couple of lucky ones most of them sunk to the bailout field...with one landing in a tree right beside the field. Derek was flying/landing in that first bunch, but luckily (?) for me I was duffing launches all over the place and gave myself a time out to figure out why. It was like I was drunk or something...or maybe the 3 Advil I'd taken less than an hour ago had kicked in? Sheesh, that was it!
After a little break and seeing pilots were now thermalling a bit over launch, I had a nice takeoff and joined a few other gliders out front. I got 200 meters over, but was still feeling a little off so figured I'd head out to the bailout with everyone else and call it a day. We weren't getting scored today anyway so it was an easy decision. As I was coming in to land another pilot was close behind me with big-ears on, so I was surprised when 30 seconds after touching down that the red wing hadn't landed yet. I heard a shriek and then - crash!!!- right into the trees beside the landing field again. She was ok and could easily climb to the ground, but it looked like it would take a long time to rescue the wing from the tree. Then as we were piling into one of the vans to go back to HQ, another wing came in really low over the trees that lined the road into the field. We all started shouting as it looked like he was going to land right on/into the van, but he turned at the last minute to land right in front of us....in another tree! We helped get him out as paragliders rained into the landing zone. The "task" had been stopped as the clouds were now moving in so everyone was landing at once, and sure enough the skies opened about 40 minutes later and gave us (well are still giving us!) an impressive lightening show.
Spot the glider in the trees!
Looks like more rain for tomorrow, but rumour has it Monday will be flyable. Despite the tree magnetism today, a handful of people made goal or got close and this really does seem like a great site to fly. Hopefully everyone will take away their lessons learned during the brief window today and the rest of the competition will involve a lot less vegetation :)