Canungra Cup 2011 (Australia) – from Kari

Canungra Cup 2011 (Australia) – from Kari

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Hi Friends

Seb and I had heaps of fun competing in the Canungra Cup in SE Queensland over the past week. What an amazing place – spectacular views, technical flying across diverse terrain, beautiful air and a really social, fun comp. Unfortunately the weather was somewhat uncooperative – only 3 task-able days out of 8 with torrential rain, gale-force winds, thunder and lightening at inconveniently regular intervals.  Welcome to paragliding in FNQ (far north Queensland) where the brown snakes are cranky, ticks and leeches are in abundance and knee high boots are standard issue for sensible pilots who prioritise function over fashion.

Anyway, when we did fly it was fantastic!

Searching for lift over launch at Beechmont in the first task.

Searching for lift over launch at Beechmont in the first task.

The first task was a cracker and the pick of the 3 flying days – unstable conditions with a 2200m base (for anyone who hasn’t flown here that is a high enough base to be going places), +6m/s climbs and SE winds that picked up as the day progressed.  A 50km task was set from Beechmont launch (located in a mountain range close to the coast) to a goal at Boonah (out in the flatlands). Seb and I both got off the hill early and had no problems reaching base at 1300m. (Base is often lower over Beechmont and gets higher further back over the mountains and then flatlands.) The lapse rate and thermal strength/height then dropped off as the rest of the gaggle launched and pretty soon the air was thick with 80 gliders all yo-yoing between launch and 1000m, resulting in one mid-air collision. (One of the pilots came down under reserve, but was unharmed.)

We ducked and weaved amongst the gliders for the next 45mins-hour.  I must have reminded myself 60 times to ‘be patient’ as I waited for a good climb to come through. Eventually the area started to ‘breathe’ again and I climbed out to 1300m and began the drift in lift over the back towards the next set of triggers. The view of the steep, green mountain ranges and Brisbane in the distance was beautiful. At 1600m I left the climb and headed off on glide down a ridgeline, topping up in a great climb at the end, before crossing the valley to Hinchcliffe (another launch in the area).  At Hinchies I met up with Seb again and we climbed out wingtip-to-wingtip in a screamer that took us over 2000m. Conditions were improving all the time and we caught a free ride across the next valley under a cloud street, which took us over the final ridgeline in the mountain range and out into the flats – time to change down a gear…

I took a few turns in light lift on the way to a quarry, where I found a consistent 2m/s climb with a Kiwi pilot on a Delta. The wind had picked up and I was drifting well down wind of the course line, so I left the climb at 1500m and pushed on to look for a climb in some foot hills in front.  A few more climbs in increasingly windy conditions and I was on the deck, 30km into the course.  Seb also hit the deck a few k’s in front of me. It was a super fun day out flying and I was sad when it ended ;)

The second task was a hard day at the office – base only a couple of hundred metres above the hill, completely shaded-in, weak climbs of less than 1m/s… less than 20 pilots, including Seb, got up and away from Beechmont enroute to goal, 64k’s away in Moogerah. Seb landed after about 25k’s along the courseline, which was an awesome effort in light of the rubbish conditions.  I launched late and couldn’t get the height above launch to lob over the back.  Lesson learned: if it is possible to stay up on a day like that launch so that you are in the air when that one, lonely cycle comes through to take you up and out of there ;)

Preparing for task 3 at Mt Tamborine.

Preparing for task 3 at Mt Tamborine.

The forecast for the third task was far from inspiring – expected over-development with storms in the afternoon, potentially strong westerly winds, and a NE seabreeze in the afternoon. On Mt Tamborine launch they called a task to Rathdownie (41kms). Thermals were pulsing and there were periods when the sky opened up but also periods when the area was heavily shaded in.  I surfed my way out from launch in rough little bubbles and finally found a better formed core a short way to the north of launch that had me drifting over the back. I was watching out front like a hawk and made a bee-line for the first glider that cranked up in a good climb out, about a km away from me but on courseline. I connected with the climb underneath him and we made our way to base at 1300m at 3-4m/s. Seb had taken an earlier start gate and hit the deck out on course.  He reported base had been at 1100m when he was in the air, so the day was improving.

I topped up in another climb on-glide to the next ridge. There were huge, towering clouds around and pretty serious cloud-suck close to base, which had now popped up to 1400m. I was keeping a close eye to the northeast for signs of a seabreeze coming in, hoping for a convergence to carry me to goal ;) I made for the tree-line at the base of the ridge and connected with another climb. 1400m is not a lot of altitude, particularly flying cross-headwind, however climbs were closely spaced, strong-ish and I was able to stay relatively high and fly quickly. The stronger winds that had been forecast did not seem to be eventuating and I crossed the valley relatively easily, where I hit another climb that seemed to be triggering from the lee.

The ground had been shaded-in for a while in all directions within a glide and despite the slow-going in the cross-headwind I decided to keep following the cloud-street that was setting up in front to the west, to stay high, gain ground upwind of the course line and connect with the terrain up in front that was in sun. I had only gone a few k’s in my nice lifty line however when the enormous clouds that I was skimming along below started to rain. I made a 90degree left turn to escape, with the sound of rain drops on my wing and water running down my lines. I made a run for the sunny ground a few k’s beyond the end of the ridgeline I was over, hitting light lift but nothing worth turning in. It was a glide to the ground :( one of those flights where one minute you are cranking along at a good pace and feeling good about life, then two minutes later you are on the deck almost before you realise what has happened!  Low bases can be unforgiving for even the smallest error ;)

A big shout out to Seb – congratulations on your results for the week and it was great to fly with you again this week mate!  I’ll see you in Bright or Manilla very soon ;)  It is a shame that we didn’t have very good weather to really explore the area’s XC potential, but it is easy to see that great flights are possible.  Hopefully you get some good days for free-flying before you return to Melbourne.

There were some good results for NOVA pilots in the comp – Mentor2s took out 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the fun (EN-B) class and a Factor2 got 3rd in sports (EN-C) class.  I came 2nd in the women’s and 3rd in fun-class on my Mentor2 ;)

Notwithstanding the weather, the organisation for the comp and value for money were fantastic. Comp fees include an airport transfer, retrieves all week (even on non-taskable, but still free-flyable days) and lectures on meteorology, comp flying etc.  The task-setting on the days that we flew was great and allowed us to make the most of the conditions available.  The comp also provided a mentor program for new comp pilots. The mentor pilots went to incredible lengths to help their new pilots out during the comp, with a pre-brief prior to launch (on task tactics, route options and how they thought the day would progress etc) followed by a de-brief at comp HQ at the end of each flyable day (where they went through their crew’s flights and they talked about the decisions that were made, as well as their own flights and the decisions etc that they made). This was a valuable opportunity for new pilots to accelerate their learning curve in comp flying.

Good times, good climbs!  A big hello to everyone and I hope you all have a great time and good flying at the NPT meeting this week ;)