Italy, Here I Come!
2008-June-3 My First International Paramotor Competition |
Final Scores (PDF) |
Competition Chapter |
Comp: Why Crashing Is Bad
Bastian's BLOG at
TrikeBuggy.com. Note: Scores revised June 19, 2009 (7th & 8th places
Newspaper Article Done while I was in Italy from the
June 3: Getting There
40J will be my home for the next 8+ hours as I jet towards Frankfurt,
Germany, then Turin, Italy. The other three US Team pilots,
along with crew Dave Rogers and his wife Carmen, will be arriving after me.
Thanks for all the well wishes.
I've been practicing my fool head off, putting the Miniplane and XS
Pluto through their paces. Many muscles hurt. Who ever would have
thought that paramotoring could be this taxing.
We'll only have one chance at each task so it better count. Recent
flights suggest about an 80% chance of getting the spot landing, 70%
chance of getting the ribbon on a first pass (about 6 seconds), 95%
chance of getting it on one of the first 2 passes, an 80% chance
of nailing the spot landing and will do, in calm winds, about 49 seconds
on the cloverleaf. So far, since practicing with the Pluto XS, I have
yet to miss a launch
The Pluto does a great job in bumps, even when accelerated and
trimmed fast. It's got higher brake pressures than my Spice but doesn't
front tuck as easy while accelerated. Trust me on that
one. The Spice is more efficient but Mr.. Miniplane, with its carbon fiber prop, has provided all the
power I've needed. I've never mellowed a pylon turn
for lack of push.
Stan, Chad and I hope to go to a free-flight site tomorrow evening.
What a great way to start out the trip, with a quick mountain flight in
the area. Then we'll get back to the field on Friday afternoon to attend
the pre-practice briefing. Our practice time Saturday morning has been
extended to 3 hours. Way cool. Especially since it will be our first
opportunity to fly around the 35 foot pylons and using their new
ribbon for the ribbon catch.
That's all for now, more updates depending on web
availability and time.
June 5: Getting
Lost & More
Losing yourself in Italy is only a romantic notion when you're not
driving. More in a moment.
I left my house in Chicagoland at 11:45AM
Wed and arrived at the hotel in Turin at 4:00AM (11:00AM local). That's
16 hours of total travel including a nearly 4 hours layover in
Frankfurt, Germany. While waiting at the airport in Germany I realized
the shirt I was wearing had WWII military aircraft on it. Ooops. No
comments nor did I think anyone notice. At least an additional hour of
travel came from accidentally touring Turin.
I arrived surprisingly refreshed, especially given that I didn't
sleep more than 20 minutes while traveling. But I did get a lot of
animation work done!
A few hours after getting settled into my room I
went to the airport for Chad and Stan. That trip went much, much better
than the first although, on the way back, we got talking and I missed
the hotel exit. Bad moooove! 20 minutes of wandering later we finally
made it back. And no, you don't just go to the next exit, cross, and get
back on the highway. It doesn't work that way, believe me.
driving in Italy.
The trauma available in getting around is
impressive. Curvy, narrow roads that end in nowhere with signage in a
different language makes the mere act of finding anything a competition
victory on its own right. The big roads are great when you can get on
Do not, and I mean do NOT miss an exit. The one-ways and limited
entrances onto primary roads form a conspiracy of frustration. I'm sure
it's part of a plan to reduce vehicle traffic. They clearly do not like
letting drivers cross a lane of traffic.
The road map given by Hertz is more of a overall view that's good for
looking at but entirely worthless for actual navigation. Not to matter,
though, because street signs are an endangered species. And when there
ARE street signs, they frequently give the 4th or 5th name of the road
that you're on. Every locale must name their section of road for their
own local hero. Very frustrating.
Then there's the roundabouts. Two
rules apply in these fiendish traffic contortions:1) the demolition car
already in the circle has more right to hit you than you, and 2) some
people don't care about rule one. Don't go slow while trying to figure
anything out, either. You thought New York was bad? Even with a blinker
on and while parking in a legal spot I got honked at. Admittedly, that
was probably the only time I didn't deserve it.
We tried to find a
free-flight flying site and did, in fact, find the aerobatic task's
landing platform. There's a great spot landing target, a foot wide pad
in the middle of a 30 foot square floating platform. If only it weren't
for the motors I'd love to do spot landing comps on that!
wound up at an old castle (aren't they all old?) which was really cool.
It was great getting out of the car and thankfully Chad new the way
back. After having to back down some stretch of back alley, I wasn't
keen on trying to drive up to it so we parked and walked, winding our
way through the many alleys and cobblestone streets, going up until
topping out at the castle. That was cool, walking through there. I'll
What a great place to let the imagination wander. I
couldn't help but think of what trauma took place up there during the
many forced changes of occupants. Plus, it's a great place to take in
the valley's broad splendor.
Saturday, June 6: Practice and Opening Ceremony
Yesterday was eventful.
As is common in huge endeavors like this,
where plans fall prey to such mundainery and incorrectly parked
airplanes and errant pylons, nothing went according to plan. Instead of
trucks taking us to the launch area, they had us fly there. That's a
great thing, actually, except for the extra time it took.
Row One: 1 & 2)
What we saw on the way here. 3) After arrival, low and behold there was a
WAG poster to greet us. In most regards this has been extremely well
organized with hotels and transportation all working pretty well. One
minor bummer was having split hotels so I am at a different one than my
team mates. 4) Looking West, this was our main area to hang out, near the sailplanes
just south of the briefing areas. Just right of the sailplanes is where
we launched from to fly over to the competition area.
Row Two: After the morning practice, we had time to spend so we headed
out for some basic sightseeing near Avigliana, site of the paraglider
Acro. These photos by Stan Kasica. The threesome is Jeff, Stan and Chad
L to R.
amazing undertaking they've accepted, here. But the start was not very
smooth. First, one of the 30 foot pylons collapsed. They fixed that only
to be done in by improperly parked airplanes that were too close to use
the cloverleaf. Eventually they concluded that we should just do the
basketball slalom and dragon tail chase.
I got my perfect run out of
the way. Picked up the ball right away, made it in the basket, got my
ribbon on the first try and nailed the spot landing. Plus I got some
aerial footage, probably the only that I'll be able to since I'm not
flying with the camera tomorrow.
Diego, owner of Miniplane, has provided my motor, which is identical
to the one I own at home. He's got a few extra innovations for
competition, including a stick deflector, so when you hit the center
stick, it won't come flying back at you into the prop. Diego is a true
gentleman and funny man. And the motor is brilliant, providing me plenty
of power for what I'm flying.
Several pilots are flying very small
wings, down to 16's. I need to get me one of those. I've flown them
before and really like the easy inflation, excellent speed and handling.
I'd love an 18 probably since the smaller ones are faster than I like in
no-wind landings. My Pluto 21 is good, but I don't have much chance
against heavier pilots flying smaller wings. I'll sure give it my best!
When it came time to fly, they gave us the go and we essentially all
took to the air, following a loose pattern and starting at the tasks.
Conditions were challenging. We didn't launch until 10am so it was
already thermally and the winds were variable from south, through west
to north, making launch a challenge. In spite of that I only witnessed
one missed inflation. This is quite the field of pilots.
One of the polish pilots took a collapse while slaloming and hit the
ground. When he put his hand out during the fall, he sprained (or broke)
his wrist as well as taking out the cage and prop. We're down one
competitor, it seems. There is a reserve Polish pilot here and I'm not
clear whether she'll be flying in his stead.
field is huge and there are quite a few spectators and vendors. That I
didn't expect. This field has a control tower which keeps on eye on
things but, pretty much, gives the entire airfield over to the games.
Our cloverleaf, for example (not flown this practice) straddled the only
runway and taxiway.
Weather was good for us with the expected thermals
since we didn't get off at 0830 as planned. The forecast was terrible,
too, it was raining during our drive to the airport and forecast to rain
all day. No surprise that the ground was so damp out on the field. But
sunshine soon broke through and the rain didn't come until later in the
afternoon. Then it really came!
They're relatively loose on
what you can do with the admonition not to do anything stupid and don't
even think about flying over any crowds. That will get you immediately
expelled, as it should.
It felt like we are in the Olympics. Wow.
There was lots of waiting around but the scenery and camaraderie of
pilots from all over the world made that easy. I absolutely loved
talking with fellow passioned flying from aerial disciplines as diverse
as ballooning and helicoptering and a bunch in between.
The Ceremony took place in beautiful downtown Turin. This place is
right off of a postcard--a gigantic town square lined with 15th century
ornate buildings, transformed by a gigantic stage, huge (30 foot tall)
screen, mobile TV production studio and a surprise.
There was a marching band, troupe of flag performers, singing, and
they paraded us up on stage while an MC talked a brief bit about each
The surprise came when a plane flew overhead and everybody was
watching. They must have known something we didn't, not surprising since
most all the speeches were in Italian. Sure enough, as the plane passed
the square, sky divers started popping out. "Where are they landing?" we
thought, knowing there was no way they could land in the 10 acre square,
completely packed with people! Guess again, Yankees.
They had apparently opened up a clearing of people and these
skydivers, along with another half dozen later, all landed in that
clearing. That was high end!
It's been a great time with Chad Bastian, Stan Kasica, Scott Johnson
and others. Now it's time to get down to business.
Competition To Start This morning Sun June 6
Today is to be our first task. That I'm up early making this entry
tells the tale of excitement.
They're extremely optimistic of the times and hope to run a practice
cloverleaf before doing the real one--all in about 90 minutes. We can
only hope. I'd just rather fly the task, even if we've never had a
chance to try it with the pylons. After all, we'd have the same
advantage. Unfortunately for me, I'm going near the end when the air
will be more active.
Sunday June 7: A
First the good news. David Rogers and his wife showed up this
morning! Our crew and competition director for the U.S. Qualifier. It
was great to see them but a bummer they missed the opening ceremony.
David is one of our biggest proponents for competition in the U.S. and
representation in world events. He was instrumental in getting us here,
a fact that I am indeed grateful for.
Unfortunately, the morning was
disappointing. Our 8am brief had been moved to 7:45am to help get started
early and include a practice cloverleaf. That would be good since the
schedule seems unrealistically tight. We arrived by 7:30 only to find a
sign on the wall that the briefing was now delayed until 8:30am. No way.
Our time slot ended at 9:50am and had yet to get our gear out to the
field. Then run 22 pilots through the longest task? Bummer. This wasn't
looking good even if everything went like clockwork.
The briefing got underway about 8:45am and it was nicely
brief. Paolo offered a moment of levity with his
self-answered "Are there any Questions? No, lets go."
Mind you, I
really appreciate all these volunteers and their dedication, doing their
best while giving up personal time. It's just frustrating, having run a
competition myself, to see things start up so late by design. If the
briefing was scheduled an hour earlier it would be plausible, but trying
to do everything from a briefing that starts at 8am, with the desire of
finishing 22 pilots by 9:50am, is asking a lot in the best of
circumstances, let alone the complexity involved here.
They had us fly
our gear over to the launch area which was fun. The 200 meter flight
gave a few turns for all of us. They tolerated some brief play on this
little flight (a limited tolerance as we found out later). Some did foot drags across followed by some steepish circles to inspect our landing areas. It seems Mathieu Rouanet
had to inspect his area staring straight down on it before swooping in
for a long slide. So many tiny wings, so much speed. This is gonna be a
struggle for me an my 'huge' 21 sq meter Pluto. The Czech's 16 meter
models would be perfect for me although snagging the ball would be a bit
After we were all
gathered at the field, we had to wait longer until the marshals were all
in position. By the time of first launch it was about 9:30 am. Two
pilots launched for their respective basketball slalom run, one on a
south course and one on a north course. It took at least 10 minutes
before they called the next pair to launch. Conditions were getting more
thermally as evidenced by a dust devil that came through, rolling up
several wings, including Stan Kasica's, who was next to launch.
task proved difficult, at best, given that 3 out of 4 pilots missed the
ball on their first try. One took two launch attempts to get airborne.
Winds were sometimes tailwind and, when the flag was raised, you had one
minute to launch.
Then a motor glider took off from the runway, which
our courses straddle, while the last paramotor pilot was still airborne
flying his task on the north course. The motor glider proceeded to
circle only a few hundred feet over the course. The glider was in
contact with the tower (I was listening to the tower on an aircraft
radio) and, although the glider pilot was scolded, he was told to hold
until the field was clear. He held right over our course!
about 9:50, the organization cancelled our task.
It was very
frustrating being psyched for a task and then being unable to execute
We flew our gear back to the storage area which was one nice,
little, energy release. I circled the launch deck on a foot drag and
others did their own various fun tasks, usually sliding into the parking
area. At least we flew a couple times.
At the debrief they apologized
for what happened and explained that we would be sticking with the
original schedule which means that paramotors won't fly until Tuesday
evening. We don't know how they will squeeze in our basketball slalom.
Some went off to fly elsewhere, others of us went to see other events.
1) Briefing. 2) Chad launches to head for the takeoff area. 3) Pilots
getting ready for their competition run. 4) Pavel of the Czech Republic
is describing something of great interest. 5) Stan's "Shut Up And Fly"
shirt proved popular. Photos by Stan Kasica
These WAG ID's are great since, if you're a listed athlete, you can
get into all the areas and see everything up close and personal. We made
use of that when we went off to see the Acro event at a lake near
I personally have no interest in being that far above my
wing but it sure is fun to watch what's possible when it's done by
others. These were the world's top pilots doing things that almost seem
to defy physics. Their routines end by landing on a floating platform
about 100 meters from shore. It's a free style event judged by
experienced marshals who are brought in specifically for this purpose so
they know what to look for.
We copped a squat near the action and I
laid back to capture some good, steady video of the goings-on. No doubt
the best few seconds of that will end up on Master PPG, not to show how,
but to show what's possible with the right instruction. Of course that
will be followed with what can happen when it goes wrong, too!
A strange coincidence was meeting up with Dennis Pagen, who I work
with on the Powered Paragliding Bible. While watching the show, I heard
his familiar voice and, sure enough, there he was! The only bummer was
that I had planned on him shipping some bulk orders. Guess not, he was
here until the 22nd. It was fun catching up with him, though, and Tim
Kaiser has come to my rescue for shipping orders.
We continue to get lost at a regular rate.
After exiting a road in Italy, there is usually no way back onto that
road in any meaningful way. More than once we've thought to "just go
down that road" only to wind up in a parking lot. Even the parking lots
are one way, sometimes ending at a wall that requires backing up. Crazy.
It's really not so much getting lost as it is "there's no way to get
there from here." We know where we are, we know where we want to be, but
the endless one-way's and limited turns don't allow getting there. Very
frustrating. It appears they have devised a traffic system that avoids
turning left accross lanes oncoming lanes and avoids turning across a
lane when entering a road. For example, frequently, to make a right
turn, you have to get over onto an entirely different street, adjacent
and parallel the one you're on. But if you don't notice that fact then
it's too late to legally turn right from the main road.
Tommorrow we're going to try finding a soaring site for a morning
sledder then go watch some of the other air events.
Mon June 8, 2009
headed for the hills. North of Turin, only about an hour away, are some
free flying sites. It was more gliding than soaring since there wasn't
gonna be much lift, nor did we want to take on much, given my lack of a
reserve and back protection. I'm using a tiny Alpine harness. Thanks to
Chad for driving the car back down, allowing Stan and Myself to get a
The flights weren't much, Stan launched first then I followed him down.
I did actually work some lift to stay at one spot for a while but was
gaining only a few feet then losing more when I moved away from the
hill. I just wasn't comfortable being near the hill with that harness in
case something went bad. I wanted a bit of room to work it out. What a
beautiful float down, too. Only mildly jiggly air allowed me to get some
video on the way down, including Stan's landing. Ahhh, that felt good.
Chad met us while we were packing up and we drove back up the mountain.
Unfortunately, conditions changed and he wisely decided to skip it.
Winds were occasionally blowing down the back pretty hard. Not good. So
we drove up to find the higher launch and, with the help of Dennis's
directions and his I-Phone Google maps, succeeded. Ooooh this looks
nice. It's a better HG launch than PG launch but, with the right wind,
will certainly work.
While out on the mountain, Chad got a text message. "Attempt at running
task this evening, briefing at 4pm." Good thing we had his working
This time the organizers
got it right. After a quick
briefing we were all ready to fly at 5pm but the weather wasn't
cooperating. North winds were 11 to 15 mph--enough that the pylons were
struggling to stay upright. The only organizational glitch was in
working with the control tower which is being overly strict about ground
movements and air movements. We were told to fly over (a flight of a few
hundred meters) but then, after 7 pilots did so, were told that we did
not have clearance. The tower was pissed. Paolo smoothed that over and
asked us to make sure we fly straight lines and down low to keep the
tower happy. Our little flights were a little too radical, apparently.
Since the wind did not calm down they had to again cancel the task. Not
their fault. This time we had plenty of time to complete the task even
though we would have run over by 20 minutes or so. Other disciplines
were running late, too.
Thanks to Dennis Pagen for pointing out the sites. What an absolute
beautiful start to the day. Hopefully we'll be back there again.
What a bummer. So Tue we try again, possibly trying to run two tasks.
Hopefully the predicted rain holds off.
After dinner we headed for a huge indoor arena,
Palaruffini, where they put on the indoor radio-controlled aeromodeling
competition that's done to music.
If you've never seen this, it's amazing, truly amazing, and beautiful
to behold. I was truly impressed, especially as a hack R/C pilot myself.
It's obvious that boatloads of practice has been poured into some
talented folks. They were almost all very young, too, and like our
sport, almost entirely male.
They then put on demos which were fascinating. I had no idea models
could do all those things! During an intermission between events, they
brought out these helium-filled model blimps. They looked like fish
swimming around. It was well worth watching. And you gotta love these
athlete ID's--they get us into all the events free, including the
otherwise off-limits areas.
Tue June 9:
Finally, One In The Bag
It was a bad omen. While waiting to fly our gear to the launch, a
gust came through, caught my connected wing and started dragging my
empty motor. No damage was done but it was ominous.
At around 6:30pm
the airport opened up from other tasks and we got to fly into a good
solid "parawait" as thunder-goo emptied itself to the east. Conditions
worsened and the organizers put us on hold. A good call, most of us
45 minutes later, things improved, at least enough for the pylons to
stand up straight, and WAG 2009 got underway for us.
The first pilot to launch, Chris, did an admirable job, capturing the
ball downwind and whipping through the course. He missed both baskets
but that's actually a relatively small penalty.
Probably half the
pilots missed at least 1 of the two balls and a couple pilots missed a
ball more than twice which is essentially disqualfying.
At least two
pilots wound up going down, including my racemate, when the gust front
Yup, a gust front. He was on the north course and went
for the ball downwind. That would yield a better time but have more risk
of missing. I, on the south course, played it safer/slower by going for
the ball upwind. When the wind hit him, it was from behind, which sent
him sliding to the ground. The gust hit me just as I went for the
ball, rocking me upward. I came around to get it on the second try. I
did get both balls in the basket but, with the wind now very strong my
time suffered enormously. So did the last set of pilots who followed my
Us last four pilots had a huge disadvantage because of the
sudden wind. Such is how the ball bounces.
Hopefully I'll have the scores up by Wed night. It's a bummer because
this task represents, by far, the greatest amount of seconds in the
whole event, rendering it all but impossible to recover. My 3:15 time is
a full minute more than the first place pilot which makes the podium a
near impossibility. Even if I do INCREDIBLY well on the cloverleaf and
dragon tail chase, at best I'd get back 10 seconds. No matter, though,
I'll do my best.
Mathieu Roanet showed himself a class act. As he walked by he offered
that he was going to fight for an allowance to let the last four pilots
re-run the course. And it could serve to hurt his standing. He is
obviously all about trying to be fair. Unfortunately, the organizers
didn't agree and, I suppose, I can imagine that some pilots wouldn't
want it, either. We get what weather we get.
The organizers did a
splendid job this time around, getting the whole thing done in 48
minutes. Thanks also to David and Carmen Rogers for there help on the
Even in this world competition I'm amazed at the cooperation
and camaraderie. I didn't know what to expect but am thrilled to see how
everyone wants, above all else, for it to be fair.
Enough for now. Off
to bed, there are hills to be soared in the morning.
Chad Bastian and the others get ready to fly to the launch deck.
June 10: Not So Finally
Apparently the organizers saw the unfairness of yesterday's gusted
task. The sign this evening read "Due to an unstable weather condition
that made the last two pair of courses clearly unfair for the
competitors, Task 1 results are cancelled."
While that means we don't
have "one in the bag," it does mean those last four pilots are back in
the game. As bad as I had it, my racemate, who hit the ground when the
front came through, was worse. He took it up the butt. We will now all
try again tomorrow (Thur) morning.
Needless to say, I'm thrilled to
have a chance. Game on!
Also, there has been a scoring change that I
consider an improvement and makes it more exciting.
Here's more on the sidebar.
Today we didn't fly so Chad, Stan and I went
back to the soaring site that served us well Monday. Amazingly, we met
up with a large group of pilots from Atlanta Paragliding who gave us a
ride up the hill. They're touring Europe as part of an organized trip,
going from soaring site to soaring site. What great folks they are. Luiz,
the owner and Todd, an Advanced Instructor were an absolute pleasure to
be around and did a great job with their pilots, who ranged from
relative newbies to advanced.
Luiz has a 13 year old son who is
already an accomplished pilot, as evidenced by his launch and flying.
It's hard for me to imagine my life had I been able to paraglide at age
13. Lucky arrangement for both father and son.
After morning soaring,
we drove through the Aosta valley to Italy's entrance to the Mount Blanc
tunnel which connects Italy to France. What a gorgeous drive! Castles,
old villages, huge snow-pocked mountains and, just before going
under the mountain, a huge wall of ice that marks an active glacier's
terminus. We didn't go through because it would cost $60US each, take 20
minutes each way and we didn't have our passports. But the drive itself
I'll try stealing enough sleep for tomorrow morning's
7:30am start. We'll fly again in the evening at 1730 and the weather is
supposed to be good all day. Here's hoping they're right!
1) Stan ponders launch. 2) After nabbing a nice little bubble I captured
the town Andrate. 3) Our launch site. There's another one up high but
this did just fine. 4) Chad prepares for an evening flight.
Unfortunately, I was the driver because this one turned out to be the
sweetest slice of soardome served up. 5) Happy Jeff. 6) Luiz from
Atlanta Paragliding helps another pilot launch. 7) Can you believe this
view? Wow. I'm about 500 feet over the LZ.
June 11: First Scores
Yes! We all flew the task this morning in nearly perfect conditions.
It was light and variable by launch time, which meant that some competitors
(me included) had a small tailwind. But that's clearly part of the game
and all but one pilot pulled it off. My run was perfect, getting each
ball on the first try, making both baskets and getting on the speedbar
during the non-ball phases. But 9 other pilots were faster. They had
faster wings which is obviously critical, but they also had great skill
to get the ball and make the basket. So the fast wing is advantageous in
most ways and harder in some. Mathieu, for example, nailed every
element flying a small wing. That's tough. But the follow-on competitors also did a
great job and deserve their good times. I'm
now placed 10 out of 22.
we finished the organizers gave us some free flight time. How nice.
They're really trying to accommodate us.
We had one mishap,
in the competition but during that free flight time. Thomas Keller from Germany hurt his
foot (may be broke) and severely damaged his machine. It won't be
competing any more. That is a bummer. He apparently was doing a turn on
launch, had a bad step and fell. He broke his ankle in a few places, got
some pins in it here and will have some more surgery after returning to
As to the running of things, kudos to the organizers who have
obviously found their pacing, starting the task within a few minutes.
So here are the scores (at
left) after task one. Not surprisingly,
Mathieu Roanet had the best time but it was much, much closer this time
around. This was so much better that we all had about the same weather.
The top guys took it fair and square.
Time for the cloverleaf. This is the big one.
Some small (still quite civilized) drama in the briefing left me with a
solo run since Thomas was out. I would have no race mate since which
meant that I couldn't have a penalty. I thought that eliminating the
penalty for everyone would be the most fair handling, and so did the
organizers, but a majority of pilots wanted to keep it. Since I would
benefit from keeping the penalty I abstained from the vote--just didn't
With that resolved we went out and waited. Having all these other
activities, some of which were running late, meant that we waited until
probably 8:15pm. Amazingly, they ran a practice round before going onto
the real deal. Bummer since the sun set after about the 4th pair parted.
I was number 8.
So there I stood, motor running, all ready to go. The previous
competitors launch blew my wing around (which is my problem, not his).
David quickly reset my wing and I got ready again. Looking around at the
judge, awaiting a flag, but seeing someone else fly, I figured there was
something amiss on the south course.
The next occurrence induced an emotion that's difficult to describe. The
marshal walked over and told me I missed my run. What? I had watched the
guy before me launch, got the wing quickly reset and watching for the
flag to go first up, then down. Never saw it up or down, neither did
David. Never got asked if I was ready. Plus, the fact that another pilot
was airborne meant, to me, that there was an operation still on the
Turns out, they forgot that I was to fly alone. But even so, neither
David, nor I, saw any indication that the flag was up, nor was I ever
asked if I was ready. Your teammate is not allowed to touch your wing or
gear but *IS* allowed to yell when it's time to go. That's important
since the marshal flagging the start was nearly directly behind the
launching pilots so we were turning our heads all the way around.
Thankfully, they let me fly the task right just after the wind switched
about 130 degrees and came on stronger. It was nothing like the
cancelled task of yesterday. Actually it was quite smooth. Who it really
hurt was the pilot beside me (current European champion), got caught and
missed the launch. What do ya do? I mean it switched almost as he was
given the green flag. It was a big switch, too, both in direction and
I and my teammates pleaded with them that I was supposed to run alone
but the marshal clearly wasn't aware of that at the time. So thankfully,
when he checked up on it, they let me do my run. It went well but wasn't
fast by these standards. Small wings piloted by skilled pilots will rule
at this event.
But imagine the emotions cursing through me after being told "you missed
your opportunity," knowing full well you were completely stoked, ready
and anticipating your one time on the stage. I've never felt that way in
my life. It was an indescribable indignation. Once I got airborne that all went away and I concentrated on
It's never easy!
Tomorrow morning we do the final task that includes all pilots: the
dragon tail chase. This task is generally only worth a few seconds so
there is now almost no chance I can get in the top 8. I'll do my best
and see where the chips fall. These are exceptional pilots here, many of
which fly lots of competitions. They bring the right tools and ability
to wield them. Such is the requirement if you expect to win.
Off to bed for my nap.
June 12: General Competition Ends, Final to
morning we flew the dragon tail chase, our final task.
Results were mixed, as you can see, with some high standing pilots
losing a lot of ground. It was tough to catch the ribbon with a fair
number of pilots getting it in their lines. This task is minimized in
importance by virtue of having a maximum time of 60 seconds, even for
those who scored more.
Spot landings were also mixed. Thankfully, both my ribbon catch and
spot landing went pretty well. The landing was tough since it was late
morning. I flew last at 10:20AM and, after seeing a few pilots fall or
hit their cages, played it more conservative than usual. I did not
want to push too hard. The landing seemed like it was only a couple
feet off but they called it 2.9 meters. I kicked the ball but first
touchdown was off to the left and slightly early. The ribbon capture
While climbing for my ribbon catch I took a moment to enjoy the
incredible beauty. Limitless visibility under deep blue skies framed
snow-capped mountains all around. It was a moment that I'll cherish.
After catching the ribbon, I continued climbing for the spot landing.
After shutting off the motor, I found and started climbing in a thermal.
It was an amazing place to be.
After a seemingly endless wait, the scores came out and my times put
me in 5th place. When added to the others, it turns out that I'm number
It might not sound that great but it's enough to put me in the final
round tonight. Not that I have much chance with my slowish wing, but
just making it this far is thrilling. I'm hoping to fly with a video
I've got a good idea how it will go since my practice cloverleaf,
which I got to do in a very light wind, was timed by our crew member,
David Rogers, at 53 seconds. Mathieu and Alex scored 39 and 40 seconds
for perspective so you can see why I'm not expecting to kick anybody's
anything. And the other pilots are flying great times, too. Like
everything else, I'll simply to my best and enjoy the process.
It was so funny when Paolo, the microlight leader, came over, sat
down, and calmly explained that "Jeff, you may need more fuel." Yehaaaa!
An encouraging sidenote was that Juan Jose of Spain flew. But he
couldn't get his motor started so several pilots offered to help. When
nothing could be done, Mathieu Roanet provided his own motor. His only
motor. The motor that would need to carry him through the remaining
finals. That is sportsmanship. If ever there was someone you want
running a competition or being involved in it, my vote will go to Mr.
Roanet. Officials asked for unanimous approval before allowing it, and
told us they may still not be able to approve the flight, but they did
let him fly.
Kudos to the Miniplane and Pluto which have performed splendidly. The
Pluto is a basic beginner wing--solid, maneuverable and sufficiently
clean. The Miniplane is, of course, a mere 80 cc's but packs the punch I
need, when I need it, right away.
Thanks to Diego of Miniplane for loaning me a motor for the event. It
ran flawlessly. I'm thrilled to give it one more flight!
Briefing at 1730, run at 1910. Here we go.
June 13: It is Finished
Wow. What a trip. There were some photo finishes for these final
rounds. I wasn't one of them, of course, and have learned a new respect
for the level of accuracy available to paramotor pilots. Accuracy at
high speed and steep banks. Just going steep is easy, going steep with
precision control over your ground track at high speed is a completely
different animal. Many pilots can wank and bank, the best pilots can do
it with extreme precision.
We had wind for this cloverleaf so all the
times suffered some. A number of 40 second runs were flown but the
numbers you see posted were from the start of launch to finishing the
task. Even the launch was interesting. Pilots launched north and
immediately banked towards the course. I actually crossed the line
first but, by Alex beat me to the first stick still and then proceeded
to soundly whoop up on me thereafter. He's a great pilot with a great
future. Besides which, he's just a great person to be around. I wish I
could speak French!
Mathieu and Laurent flew a final race and what a
show it was. They were within 2 seconds of each other and afterwards put
on a little show for everyone.
The awards ceremony starts shortly and I wouldn't miss it for the
world. I have compiled the results in a more meaningful form and placed
them here as a PDF. I will
hopefully fill in all the equipment and weight blanks later on. It will
be interesting to see what effect wing size, weight and power has on
outcome. See the sidebar, though, for a word of
caution about wing size.
bummer was when Polish pilot Piotr was doing his run, he took a collapse
that turned him enough to hit the ground just as he came around pylon 2.
I'm told he had no broken bones but did get a ride in the ambulance to
be checked out. Hopefully he's well, I'll find out more today.
[June 14 update] Piotr was back,
walking around and showing only one sign of any injury, a precautionary
1) We walked around and watched some of the other finals. These guys are
phenomenal at converting vertical drop into horizontal speed. It's a
dangerous game of drop, drag and plop with precision. 2) Our briefer and
CIMA president pass out the Diplomas. 3) The Italian formation team, 4)
Party afterwards for volunteers and competitors. David Sigier on left,
Diego on right.
June 14: Finishing
It was fun to watch our guys being recognized on the podium. What a
grand presentation it was, too. Mathieu took Gold, Laurent took Silver
and Alex to Bronze. Congrats to a deserving group.
Paramotors were the
first craft to fly at World Air Games 2009 and, as it turned out, the
last thing to fly. A team of 8 paramotor pilots from the local area
closed down the show with an attractive display of formation flying.
What was amazing was how the crowd absolutely loved it. They clapped as
much as they did for the beautifully flown Swiss formation team of
airplanes that started the closing ceremony. Organizers kept both groups
a surprise which, I think, worked out for the better.
After the awards
ceremony, we met back at our briefing area and they
handed out certificates to those who
made the finals, and Paolo gave us each a bottle of wine as a personal
"thank you." Nice touch. I'm a teetotaler so it'll be a real special
occasion when I do finally pop the cork on that one.
Many of the pilots had to pack up and head out but a few of us
enjoyed the show and a final party last night. The Russians, I think,
enjoyed the party more than most. I don't know what they were singing
but they sure belted it out with abandon! And when I went to video tape
their jubilations, they didn't even know I was there. Fun sure is
To the organizers: a big "thank you." It was an experience
to cherish, with a few lows and some very extreme highs. I was honored
to be in the company of some incredible pilots and exceptional humans.
I'll treasure my time here.
Sunday we set a more leisurely pace,
visiting the Egypt museum, watching the airshow and getting our packing done.
Being able to be on the air side of everything made the airshow a bit
better. What's funny is how we watched it by lying under the
shade-giving wing of a Sport aircraft . Even funnier was how, in the
midst of all that vrooming noise, with crowd milling about, vehicles
driving by, we all fell soundly asleep. Soundly. Lying right there
on pavement, three exhausted paramotor pilots took in high-end, high
powered acro through their eye lids. That had to be an amusing sight.
It's been a great slice of life, thanks for letting me share.
Here are the final results with
Pilot Equipment and Weights