Flying the Corryong Open 2014 (Australia)

Flying the Corryong Open 2014 (Australia)

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After 7 weeks on the road chasing XC my summer was nearly over. The last week was to be spent in Corryong competing in the Australian paragliding nationals – the Corryong Open 2014 from 15-22 February. I hadn’t flown Corryong during peak of season since my first year of paragliding, so I was fairly excited to fly the comp and finish my season there.

The main site in Corryong is Mt Elliot, which is a west facing launch. The first day of the comp was forecast to be southeast however, and Task 1 was somewhat dubiously moved to an alternate site, an east facing launch called “Mother Wilson”. Mother Wilson is a bit off the beaten track, so just getting there is a 4WD-ing adventure in itself. The last section of road up to launch is best negotiated either in a serious 4WD or more preferably on horseback. So we opted to park my X-Trail and caught a lift hanging onto the side of my mate’s Hilux for the remainder of the trip up to launch. On arrival the signs were not promising for flying – the four windsocks were pointing in four different directions, hinting strongly that the wind had more south than east in it…

X-Trail

4WD-ing the X-Trail.

This highlights one of my reservations about flying in competitions. You end up flying in conditions that you would probably never normally consider flying in. Despite the indicators suggesting sub-optimal conditions, a task was called and launch was opened. The launch director then had the unenviable task of deciding when launch was ‘safe’, which resulted in opening and closing launch repetitively as the windsocks danced around. Fifteen pilots from the field launched into leeside rotor and many got their asses kicked straight off launch, thankfully resulting in incidents but no serious injuries. As the afternoon went on, the wind picked up and the clouds started to grow. Pilots out in the valley were either pinned into wind or going slowly backwards as they tried to get down for a safe landing. Despite all these indicators of unsafe conditions, the task was not cancelled. We all get a bit crazy in the coconut in these situations as we deal with the pressure to fly or not to fly, but in the end I reined myself in and didn’t fly. The task was declared invalid.

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Task 2 – final glide…

Task 2 saw a fantastic day of flying from Mt Elliot, in classic Corryong conditions. An 80km task was set that sent the field across Mt Mitta-Mitta, to Pine Mountain, back to the Light House near Towong and goal at Corryong Airstrip. Mt Elliot was working well and I got high on my Mentor 3 straight off launch. With half an hour til the start gate, I pushed out in the 2km start cylinder to find a climb along course. This did not  work and I soon found myself scurrying back to launch, which had since shut down. The start gate opened and as I grovelled around looking for a climb at launch height, the main gaggle blasted off across the valley on course. Goddammit again!!! I finally found a climb and got out of there. What followed was some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a comp day of flying – amazing lifty lines, stomping around everywhere on full bar and beautiful smooth climbs. I caught up with my mates Antje, Ronny (our towing guru from Deni) and Meredyth just before the second turnpoint and flew the remainder of the task with them. We had an easy run until just before the final turnpoint, where we had to push down a long valley and onto some low hills that were notworking particularly well in the late afternoon. I pulled on the handbrake and squeaked my way into goal with a very low, will-I-or-won’t-I-make-it style of final glide. Happy days – 20 pilots in goal!

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Task 2

Task 3 was forecast to be stronger winds and a smaller task of 46km was set, taking us from Mt Elliot, across Mt Mitta-Mitta, down to Cudgewa and back to goal at Khancoban Airstrip. If we could make the first turnpoint into wind, the rest of the task should be manageable. Unfortunately I fell victim to my recurring speed-bar stomping syndrome again and decked it 9km into the task, trying to keep up with Icepeak 7s on the into wind leg. There were 9 patient pilots in goal.

Task 4 was forecast to be another good day with light winds and an 82km task was called from Mt Elliot, to Walwa, to Maragle Creek, then back to goal at Khancoban Airstrip through Bringenbrong. The lead gaggle set a fair pace through the first 3/4s of the task, however the day shut down abruptly quite early and this put the majority of us on the deck at the second turnpoint, with no one in goal. The day was an interesting exercise for me, I test flew a UP Trango XC2 (designed as an EN-D, but certified as an EN-C) to compare it to the Mentor 3. My feeling from the flight is that despite being designed as a glider two categories above the Mentor 3, with the exception of into wind legs, the Trango offers indecipherable advantage in climb or glide.

Gaggle

Without doubt the highlight of the comp for me was the final 52km task – Mt Elliot, to Mt Mitta-Mitta (tagging the north end and then back to the south end), then to Pine Mountain, back to a turn point in the valley near Towong and finally goal to the north in Tooma. The forecast was for a light southwesterly and this would mean launching into leeside conditions on Mt Elliot. If we could get off launch though, it would be a cracking good day of flying. Sure enough by 1pm we were getting the odd cycle up the face of launch and by 2pm launch had been declared open. I jumped straight into the box early in the open window and then found myself standing on launch for 20 minutes, as the windsocks swirled around. Finally we got a straight cycle and I lobbed off into the slightly funky leeside airmass.

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Bar-bar-bar-goal!

The day was every bit as good as I had hoped and I set off on course. It wasn’t going to be all easy though. Almost immediately the lead gaggle got low at the first turnpoint and we had to frisby the wrong way down a windy valley before grovelling out in a sharp climb to get our task back on track. This put a few people on the deck, however I stayed alive and gritted my teeth to get the next turnpoint into wind, getting a bit of a spanking as I flew on full bar through the leeside of Mt Mitta-Mitta. Crossing to Pine Mountain there were a few stray gliders ahead of me that were struggling low on the shady side of the mountain and I chose to deviate slightly off course to ping out on a sunny ridgeline, before diving in for the turnpoint and heading out into the flats. The air around Pine Mountain had felt suppressed and I was preparing myself to pull the handbrake on, however to my surprise the flats were going off, throwing up stonking climbs for so late in the day. The task finished with a bar mashing frenzy into goal, flying through climbs and even snagging the 300m height bonus over goal. Nine pilots made goal in a great task to finish the comp.

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Task 5

The Corryong Open was my best comp result for the season – I came 11th overall and 2nd in the ladies. I have loved flying my Mentor 3 this summer. Over 8 weeks we have flown 100hours, 25 flights and 2200km across all kinds of terrain and in all kinds of conditions together. Not a bad summer of work for an EN-B glider.

My other notable stats from the summer?

– 43 Magnum ice-creams
– 56 litres of red Powerade
– 5 foot launch sites and 3 tow paddocks
– 18 times on tow
– 13,500km in my car
– 4 new tyres
– 1 speeding ticket
– 8 different retrieve drivers and
– no incidents or accidents…

Time to go back to work!