Paragliding News 2004Home

This year proved to be a fantastic year for flying. Not because of the weather in New Zealand (which was awful and resulted in little flying time), but because of the number of flying holidays Andy and Kris (and now Chris) managed to do!

The year started with Kris attending the Wanaka Fun Paragliding Competition in early January. Andy was still battling sea lions in the Southern Ocean at this point, but only missed three flyable days. He arrived back to the mainland just after the fun comp, and in time for the first task of the New Zealand Nationals which ran back to back with it.

The weather was still atrocious, too windy for flying on most days (as evidenced by the lack of flying photos!), so a lot of time was spent at the Treble Cone café parawaiting! On one of the flyable days, Andy managed his longest New Zealand cross country flight, an underwhelming 15.5km, a whole kilometre further than his previous best!  However, his performance was good enough to be only a couple of places below the mid-point in the overall competition positions (his ambition is to get in the top half of the field!).

Better flying was to be had in the hottest, driest continent on Earth, the West Island of New Zealand (known to the locals as Australia). Kris and Andy flew over for two competitions back to back - the Aussie Nationals at Bright (P), Victoria; and the Manilla (P) Open in northern NSW.

Flying into Melbourne, we spent a couple of days with flying friends Sharyn and Kev, looking round the city. The pouring rain didn’t seem auspicious, but when we arrived at Bright in our hire car, we found the Victorian Alps in a state of drought (and heat wave). We had arranged to stay with our friends Craig Collings and Jill Borst, Kiwi pilots living in Bright. Our visit was very much overshadowed by the tragic death just a month earlier of Jill (L) in a paragliding accident, and though Craig was rebuilding his life, the house was empty without Jill’s presence. Perhaps we made it feel a little less empty for a week - I hope so.

The flying at Bright was great. The main launch site, Mystic mountain, was threatened with closure all week due to the fire risk, but luckily this didn’t happen. The launch site is a nice, friendly take off, into a bowl with spurs at each side, generating reliable thermals, oddly named Emily and Marcus!  Winds tended to be a bit strong, and downwind tasks weren’t possible, due to the landing-less Eucalypt forests clothing the Victorian Alps. This meant tasks had to be set  into wind, or triangles with turn points.

The first task gave Andy a lesson in GPS navigation - he learnt not to follow the navigation arrow to a turn point in strong wind! The wind drift meant he sailed past the first turn point before he realized it, then had to struggle back upwind, ultimately landing at the turn point.

Day two was even worse - the task was set with a timed start cylinder around launch (you had to be inside the cylinder at the start time). The problem was, Andy left the cylinder early, then couldn’t get back inside it due to the strong headwind - resulting in no points for the day!

The third task proved better. Andy gained lots of height in the first thermal, and watched half the pilots struggle below him, many landing in blackberry bushes and trees!  Flying towards the granite monolith of Mt Buffalo was a hard task with a strong headwind, but his 12km flight got him the best position so far, as few pilots did much better!

On the last flyable day, the task was set from Mt Emu, late in the day, a straight 36km race to goal. Andy had his most enjoyable flight. There was almost no wind, and ever so gentle thermals took him way above the forest covered ridge, topping up on each thermal for far too long, until the final 12km glide to goal. Yes, Goal!  Andy landed 200m inside the goal cylinder (Only just!), to come 62nd that day, and the very slowest pilot into goal! Kris, meanwhile, was having a much more exciting flight. Flying low over the forest, he heard a squealing noise. Must be pigs in the forest, he thought, peering down. Suddenly the source of the noise became apparent, as a wedge tailed eagle hit his leading edge with a loud Bang and flew off with a square foot of fabric! Kris continued to fly, landing 12km short of goal.  Kris flew with a plastic bag taped into the hole for the next day's flight - but this was blown out!  (It was repaired in Manilla with abright yellow patch!)

At the end of the contest, Andy finished in 70th place (out of 90), but still managed to get a trophy for being 5th intermediate pilot! (They’ll give trophies for anything, it seems!).

Some days at Bright were blown out, and we made use of these cooling off at glorious swimming holes, or visiting Mt Buffalo National Park, a fantastic 1900m granite mountain, with almost sheer drops on one side giving fantastic views - worth far more than the daytrip we gave it.

After the competition ended, Kris and Andy headed to Manilla - to arrive in torrential rain (for the second year running!). A woman’s competition was running for a few days before the main comp (we were free flying, though we did consider putting on drag!), but the weather was not great. The rain was followed by strong winds, so taking thermals off Mt Borah was rather committing! (We later heard that those few days were the best of the year in Bright - we should have stayed there!).

On one of those strong wind days, Andy was blown over the back of Mt Borah with little height, and no chance of getting back to the ridge. Finding a good landing field, Andy was then surprised to find it triggering a thermal! The low save was the start of a very nice, and quite fast 70km flight downwind towards Bingara, a personal best for Andy, and one of the best flights anyone had that day!

The competition went well for Andy and Kris too. Andy had good flights up to 65km, and finished an improving 105th (out of 140). As always, we stayed at the Royal Hotel in Manilla - and enjoyed the company of Vic and Tom, our hosts. Definitely the place to stay in Manilla!

After Australia, Andy had very little flying until months later- July- when Chris and Andy traveled down to Annecy in the French Alps for 10 days. Traveling through France by Citroen 2CVwas tiring but fun - 2CVs being rare in France, it got a lot of attention from locals. A worn out clutch added interest to the journey, power having to be applied very carefully to avoid the engine accelerating whilst the car decelerated!

Andy and Chris stayed in Doussard, at the head of Lake Annecy, at a beautiful old house, the Maison de Moulin, run as a paragliding B&B by Irwin and Joan Jehu. The scenery was fantastic, dominated by the 2300m limestone mountain La Tournette, and other sculpted peaks with descriptive names like Les Dents (The Teeth). The weather was mostly beautiful- though not always the best for flying - either too stable (no thermals!) or too unstable (thunderstorms!).

On non-flying days Chris and Andy descended a couple of gorges (Canyoning is a popular sport in France). One of the gorges was a popular commercially guided trip, and Chris and Andy caused much consternation amongst the tourists in their full wet suits, harnesses and descending gear by racing past with only thin shorty wet-suits and a tow-rope handline! (We did have proper gear in our backpack, but never actually needed it!).

Other activities included hiring a bike tandem for a circuit of Lake Annecy (and its much harder coordinating pedaling than it looks!), and visiting the town of Annecy. The old town is a most beautiful medieval place of narrow streets, waterways, and buildings with open, arched ground floors where cafes and restaurants flourished. Well worth visiting!

The flying, when Andy did it, was wonderful- though a bit scary flying in bumpy thermals over huge cliffs! Rather offputting was seeing a paraglider hanging from a tree half way down a 400m high cliff on a mountain called the Tete de Parmalon! A call to the emergency services ascertained that the pilot had been rescued unhurt a few days before. Not a landing site I would have chosen, though!

Andy managed a couple of XC flights around 25km during the week, and lots of shorter flights enjoying the wonderful scenery over the lake. Staying at the Maison de Moulin was wonderful - evening meals in the garden with wine and tall tales of paragliding deeds done flowing freely, with our hosts and other pilots,  made a great end to each day.

Andy’s next paragliding adventure was in India - at the Indian Open competition in Bir, Himachal Pradesh. For full details read the separate article in this newsletter (written for Airborne, the NZ hang gliding and paragliding magazine). Following the competition, Andy and Chris went to Nepal, where Andy went on a ‘Paratrek’ with Sunrise Paragliding (L), and Chris learnt to fly with the same company (see other article).

Overall, it was a fantastic year for flying. Andy clocked up over 70 hours flying (more than twice the usual!), and flew 5 flights over 60km (prior to 2004 his best was 51km), and made goal twice in competitions (prior to 2004 he’d been a goal virgin).

Chris learnt to fly, and will now be encouraged to continue by his partners - even if this means losing a retrieve driver!

Andy and Kris entered the Wanaka Paragliding Festival Open Competition in early January (photos). Despite the weather forecast being awful every day, the weather was rather good, with 5 tasks flown. Kris and Andy both made goal on the first day, with flights of 37km, personal bests in New Zealand for both. They were neck and neck in the competition all the way through, ending 12th and 10th respectively (good enough for Andy to win a prize!). It was by far the best result ever for both!   Kris and Andy stayed with Ruth Lyons at Hawea Flat in her wonderful new house - it has a ridge soaring site on the frount door step!  One evening we had a 40 minute flight - here are some photos of Bryan Moore flying later in the evening.

Kris stayed on after the competition and flew a couple of cross-country flights of 24km and 28km.  At the end of the second flight Kris sent Andy a text message: "Flew 28.6km.  Had hard landing."  Two vertebrae were compressed!  Here are the gory details! (A)