2015 Indian PWC

Bir, Himachal Pradesh, India
Bir, Himachal Pradesh, India (click to enlarge). Photographer: Local Indian man

The Paragliding World Cup Association arrived in Bir in Himachal Pradesh in the north of India on the 23rd of October. Bir is a small village sitting on the foothills of the Himalayas. Many PWC pilots had training flights over the Himalayan mountains (in the back) reaching altitudes as high as 5500 meters.

When I arrived New Dehli, my plan was to go by train up north. It’s about 8 hours in addition to a 4 hour bus ride on small mountain roads. I didn’t look particularly forward to this, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity I thought. I was greeted by a taxi driver outside the airport. Normally I’m very sceptical about being approached like that in a 3rd world big city. I asked for ID, which was shown to me. The taxi was unmarked, and it was fishy. But there were security cameras and police close by and the taxi driver (who didn’t drive – another taxi driver did) had shown me his ID, so in I went as most Scandivavians automatically trust you if you show them your ID. I learned from the taxi driver that I couldn’t get a train ticket at the train station. I had to go to a tourist office first to buy a ticket they said. So we left and after 20 minutes we ended up in some very obscure alley containing half collapsed houses, lots of garbage and car wrecks. My heart raced (it was 4 am), I believe my heart rate was 170-180 BPM. I was convinced that I was being kidnapped. We finally arrived in a small “governmental” tourist office. I still didn’t beleive I was safe and had vivid pictures in my mind of being locked in the basement and held for ransom. It took me about 45 minutes to realize that the people were genuine and worked for the government. All trains were full (this is India with 1+ Billion people) so you have to book in advance. Thing is, you can only book online if you have an Indian telephone number. The nice people in that small tourist office in that obscure alley arranged a flight ticket the next day for Dharamshala and drove me back to the airport. It didn’t come for free, but I was happy not to take the train after all.

In Bir we got a few training flights before the competition. Sunday and Monday were cancelled. We went river fishing for trout in the mountains. It was a 2 hour drive. Now if you have never been to India before you will be very surprised that they honk their horn all the time. Before a turn it’s mandatory. If you see a person walking, it’s mandatory. And if you have a car in front of you it is mandatory to honk the horn. And they have this rule that it’s not permitted to drive more than 1 second behind the vehicle in front of you. Seat belts are for losers and often they are disabled. This makes a 2 hour drive along narrow mountain roads with several hundred meter vertical cliffs on one side in a small car without seat belts, and with a marijuana smoking driver, very very exciting. I was happy when we came back to the hotel.

Thursday and Wednesday we had tasks. 100 km and 75 km. The first day I came to goal in the top 50, as 3rd Norwegian. Cold at cloudbase and a bit sharpy thermals defined the day. We had an interesting 15 km ridge to the 2nd last turnpoint where we could just ridge soar just above the hill to the turnpoint and back. Spectacular, especially with all the small temples along the top of the hill. Next day 75 km race to goal. It rained on the course line, and many pilots reported this on the safety frequency. Still the task was not stopped for some reason. I was kicking trees low over a hill for 30 minutes where many top pilots had to land. Eventually I caught a thermal and flew back to the mountains. I landed 2,5 km from goal as the Sun approached the horizon. Empty tank! I landed together with a Russian pilot flying a Nova Triton 2 and you can see the welcoming committee in the picture.

The next days I was sick laying in bed, shivering with fever. The doctor associated with the competition gave me 5 different medications including 2 different antibiotics. I was told I had a local infection most probably from food or water.

Sunday we went back to Dharamsala and I just layed in bed in the hotel. The next day, on the flight from Dehli to Moscow I filled 2 full air sickness bags. I just went back and forth to the rest room continuosly. Nothing to brag about but it can give you an indication of just how severe food poisoning in India can be.

When approaching Oslo from Moscow I was relieved and felt thankful to be back in Norway. All the things people complain about here were suddenly peanuts. I was lucky.

The danger of Complacency

I broke my collarbone (also called the clavicula or clavicle). I was mountain biking (trail) in the woods. I was complacent because I was “only riding a bike”, while my competition pilot friends were in Brazil flying the Paragliding World Cup. I had brand new brake pads at the back, with less braking power as the pads were new. The relative braking power between the back and the front had therefore changed and I flew over the handlebars in a steep part and landed on my right shoulder. Complacency can be dangerous, not only when flying but also when biking, driving and cooking (!) Surprisingly many accidents happen in the kitchen.

Since 1996 and approx 1500 paragliding flight hours I have never been in an accident or used my reserve in a real situation (I’ve had a few close calls). I think this is partly because I never allowed myself to become complacent while flying. For example, before taking off I always keep in mind that this might be the day I need to use the reserve. I’m never ashamed of cancelling my flight plans if the conditions are too strong.

I believe it’s dangerous to believe that paragliding is safer than driving a car. Paragliding can be compared to riding a motorcycle. It helps to consider that your safety while paragliding is much more dependent on your own actions and judgements. Riding a motorcycle you are more dependent on others’ actions and judgements as well.

As for my collarbone, this is the first bone fracture I’ve had. I agreed to get a plate and 8 screws inserted 3 weeks ago in order to speed healing. I hope I will be back at cloudbase in 2-3 weeks and biking single tracks in 4-5 weeks. Or maybe I should only fly paragliding competitions. Much safer. 😀

Preparing for the Worlds

As the Paragliding World Championships in Colombia draws closer, November is a good month to do some preparations such as looking over the equipment, repacking the reserves and the like. I already ordered my new competition glider, the Gin Boomerang 10. I think it will be a very competitive wing especially in the weak stuff as the surface area has been increased in comparison to the Boomerang 9. Also as stated in the manual, Gin managed to increase the top speed “significantly” along with more solidity at all speeds. What more could you ask for. :-)
New year’s eve will be spent in Medellin before going to Roldanillo a few days before the competition in order to get some training and familiarity with the new wing. I hope we’ll have a good and safe competition, as Roldanillo is famous for delivering somewhat mellower and friendlier conditions. A good place to try out the new CCC wings.

New Toy

New Toy
New Toy

After spending quite some time & resources flying paragliders in competitions (well actually you have to sacrifice a lot to participate at the World Cup level), it’s good to know that it’s possibly to vary with other fun activities too. I recently got myself this beauty. Previously my attitude was “a bicycle is a bicycle” but after trying one of these carbon full suspension wonders, I’m sold. My new full suspension toy, Ghost AMR Lector 2995 E:I (German brand) has a carbon frame, full Shimano XTR, 29″ wheels, and a computer that controls the back suspension in real time. It measures riding conditions 10 times / second based on speed, how much the front fork is working and whether or not you’re pedaling. The result is a really smooth ride on bike trails here at Kongsberg’s woods. It climbs like a mountain goat, it’s almost a bit crazy. Combined with kitesurfing this bike will increase my exercise level significantly. :-)

150 hours in 6 months

I’ve been quite busy competing so far this year. After spending a month in Brazil (Superfinal) and Mexico for the World Cup in January/February, the Norwegian Cup started with a bang in May. To this date we have 11 valid tasks out of 17 potential ones around southern Norway. Still, there is one Norwegian round left with 3 more potential tasks. Currently I’m place 3rd overall. We had the Nordic Championships (combined with the Norwegian Nationals) in Spain in July. I placed in the top 5 overall and 3rd for the Norwegian Nationals. It was a fun event in Pedro Bernardo where most of the 100 participants got to fly 7 of the 7 potental tasks. To my surprise I realized I had 150 hours in 6 months and broke my previous record. There are other fun activities to try out too. I’ve been a lot on the water lately, kitesurfing. :-) It’s really addictive and you get more exercise than flying 😉

2013: Paragliding Competition Season Recap

I know I post way too seldom here, I think both Facebook and the flight log book are main culprits. Anyway, I’ll post an overview of the competitions I’ve attended this year. Also, during last year I’ve been manager of the Norwegian Paragliding Competition Committee (KKPGxc). This year, the Norwegian league got 0 (ZERO) tasks out of 10 possible in Norway due to bad weather. KKPGxc had to do something about it so we planned (with 30 days notice) to have a combined Norwegian and Swedish Cup together with the Swedes in northern Sweden. Although some pilots didn’t like the short notice, we would make the same decision again given the circumstances. In the end, only 6 Norwegians participated in the Swedish/Norwegian combined comp and hence, the Norwegian League 2013 podium looks like this:
1: Ole Jonny Rønneberg (Ozone Enzo)
2: John Bjørnback (Niviuk Icepeak 6)
3: Øyvin Nyjordet (Gradient Avax XC3)

World Cup, Erzincan, Turkey 31 August – 07 September
Erzincan is not a spot for entry level competitions. The conditions were very strong with cloudbase initially reaching 5000 meters. Nevertheless we had 5 tasks which were very challenging and interesting. Some of the tasks went over to a remote valley Northeast of Erzincan. This made for some interesting valley crossings. I felt that my perfomance during the competition was quite good and I think I can attribute that in part to a new, more aerodynamically efficient harness (Woody Valley X-Rated 6) together with my trusted Icepeak6 which really made a difference in these types of conditions. Very edgy thermals and small cores made the IP6 stand out in climbing abilities. All the pilots got free food and accomodation. The hotel and the food were quite impressive. I shared space with my friend Magnus E from Sweden and Juan Sebastian from Colombia. We had some nice debriefings after some local Raki… :-) Congratulations to Manuel Nuber (DEU) for 1st place! Overall I was 27th which I’m quite satisified with.

World Championships, Sopot, Bulgaria, 13-26 July
It was 2 great weeks together with the Norwegian team consisting of Jan-Richard, Einar, Ole Johnny, Bjørn and myself. We had all in all 5 tasks with 4 more potential ones that were cancelled due to strong north winds (the main takeoff faces south). The 3 first tasks were challenging with large areas of shadow. This made for some pretty tactical flying. The last 2 tasks saw booming conditions with cloudbase over 3000 meters. Ole Johnny was best Norwegian at 27th. I came in 2nd best Norwegian at 50th. A big congratulations to Jeremie Lager (FRA), 2013 World Champion.

Nordic Open in Vågå, Norway 8-15 June.
We had 5 nice tasks in which I won the 2nd one. The Norwegian King Harald’s goblet was at stake for the first price. Since paragliding competitions are all about self control (and a little bit balls and luck), I bombed out on the last 2 tasks because I pushed too hard. In addition, flying the Norwegian valleys is pretty different in terms of tactics than, say, Roldanillo, Macedonia, Piedrahita etc. In these places the flats often work better than the mountains. Not so in Norway. In Norway the mountains work best. Always. In terms of results I could do much better (I know!). A big congratulations to Rolf Dale (NOR) who became Nordic Champion (and Norwegian Champion) 2013!

2013 started with the World Cup Superfinal in Roldanillo – Colombia, 15-26 January
A total of three Norwegians were qualified (myself, Ole Johnny and Jan-Richard). Roldanillo is known as a pretty soft spot in terms of thermal strength, with pretty easy conditions. That was my experience as well, apart from the fire thermals which some pilots used (abused?) to gain altitude quicker (in fact, a lot quicker. Some pilots reported 20+ M/s inside the columns of smoke). I observed some of this flying and it didn’t look good. In fact, it looked like the gliders were twisted inside out. I flew as close as 20 meters from a smoke column and there was a lot of debris which could potentially still contain glow from the huge grass fires below. I didn’t opt to fly into it, it felt wrong on an intuitive level ;-). We had all in all 8 nice tasks, many over 100 km. In some tasks I flew in the lead gaggle all the way to goal which is always fun. The margin for error is very small. If you make a mistake and lose the lead gaggle you are most often left out for the rest of the race, especially with the current EN D gliders we fly at these events. After the comp, which put me at 53th as best Norwegian, me and Jan-Richard headed north to Medellin (a city with 2,3 million people) where we had a “magical” 50k flight to Santa Fe, northwest. Magical because of the terrain. Some pictures here. A big congratulations to Aaron Duragati (ITA) who became the 2012 World Cup Champion.

2012: Nordic Open, PWC Macedonia and the European Championship

As most of my thoughts go into my electronic log book (see link above), and/or on facebook, I will just give a quick overview of the last competitions I attended.

European Championships, St Andre, 3. – 15. September:
I just got home after 2 weeks of racing the French Alps. We got 7 flying days of which 6 scored (one was cancelled before the start because of overdevelopment risk along the course). The flying was great, with some wonderful moments flying above alpine mountains, strong thermals on the right spots, and tricky valley winds that could blow north or south. In some situations, this could produce some challenging leeside flying. Especially the task we had to Digne and back was memorable, getting low on the way back and ridge soaring all the way up the mountain south of Digne… Also, very interesting final glides flying the main takeoff ridge low, back to goal. Interesting task setting with the End-of-Speed and Goal cylinders in the mountain side east of St Andre. Coming in low when the wind was from the south could produce some pretty dangerous leeside conditions. They finally put the goal over the takeoff instead, which was good. Overall, the Norwegian team got 11th with Kjell-Harald as best Norwegian at 30th. I got 76th which didn’t come as a surprise because I was a bit more cautios in this competition after the experience at the World Championship last year. Especially the start gaggles were often pretty agressive.
The best briefing we had was when the meet Director said: “As you can see, we have a problem with the winds at takeoff. The wind is too strong. And then there is a problem with the wind in the goal field. The valley wind is too strong. And then there is a problem with the air…. (everybody laughed). But don’tm worry, we’ll soon send out the wind dummies.” A big congratulations to 2012 European Champion Yassen Savov from Bulgaria

Paragliding World Cup Krushevo, Macedonia 04-11 August:
I can only say: Great flying, great scenerey, great people, great food, beautiful women and some pretty nice tasks. I’d like to refer to Macedonia as the “Valle de Bravo” of Europe. Especially cruising 3500 meters over the big flats where 3 of the 4 biggest cities in Macedonia are located… Congratulations to winner Olivier Michielsen (FRA).

Nordic Open, Ager, Spain 23-29 July:
Some very nice racing here. I did pretty well on many of the tasks including the last one which I won. Unfortunately, I ate something that made my stomach feel like it had knifes in it so I had to pass one day. Too bad, since a podium position was on the horizon… Overall, I would definately go back to Ager. :-) Congratulations to Juan Carlos Becerra (VEN) for taking the Nordic Open away from the scandinavians. 😉

Portugal PWC day 7

The World Cup concluded with a 80 km race to goal southeast. The conditions were very racy with good climbs above the inversion layer at 1200. The trick to fly fast was to stay above the inversion layer. Most pilots landed in goal. Know where the inversion layers are, and stay above them. When conditions are weak, stay a little back in the pack. :-) Congratulations to winner Yann Martail (FRA)! :-)

Portugal PWC day 5 and 6

Yesterday a 93 km race to goal task was set, but soon it was apparent that the wind enroute to the first turnpoint was becoming dangerously strong. I landed in a 40 km/h wind. No scoring for this task.
Some pilots asked the meet director by radio if landing on the Chaves airfield was allowed. The first reply was negative but soon a special permit was given to land there.

Today no task was set because of lack of thermals (strong inversion layer). PWC dinner tonight. Hopefully we’ll have a final task tomorrow. Cheers!