New Years in Manilla (Australia)

New Years in Manilla (Australia)

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Hello friends!

I have just spent 10 days in Manilla – the perfect venue for long cross-country flights with your mates ;)  The weather this season in Australia has been quite mellow and inconsistent by our standards – lots of rain has meant moisture in the ground and la nina is still hanging around, which is good for the farmers but bad for paragliding!  Prior to our arrival in Manilla pilots reported that there hadn’t been as much flying as usual for this time of year and rarely more than two or three days in a row.  Fortuitously this trend changed from the date of our arrival and my mates and I scored 8 fantastic flying days in a row…

To be honest, it took me a few frustrating days to get into the groove of the slower conditions and an XC-style of flying.  Much of my flying in the last 12 months has been done in ‘comp mode’, with an emphasis on flying set tasks quickly and efficiently over 2-3 hours.  As a result I am in the habit of pushing and at the start of the trip I was definitely pushing too hard, and landing early as a result.  It took 4 flights between 30-60k’s in the first 3 days to work out that I needed to find the hand-brake (I am a slow learner!!), but I finally adapted my style to suit both conditions and my goal – to fly 100k’s.

However, on day 4 I eased my foot off the gas and came very close to achieving my goal – I flew 95k’s and landed in a town called Bingarra when I ran out of day.  I flew much of the flight with another pilot who is on an Omega8 (and has been flying since Moses was in short shorts), and I found that the Factor2 was able to keep up with him up to half-bar on the O8.  If we had been flying head-wind this might have been another matter ;)

Having come so close the day before I was feeling very optimistic that day 5 would be a good day for us ;) I launched with two of my best flying buddies, Matt and John, who are also flying Factor2s.  The forecast had been for ESE winds, but as with previous days the forecast bore little relation to the actual conditions and we found ourselves tracking up the northern route again in a southerly.  We got low and slow early in the day over Tarpoly, a notorious sink-hole about 10k’s from launch, but this was really the only section of the flight where we struggled and after 6 hours we again ran out of day and landed at 145k’s.  It was a very memorable flight and I shared just about every thermal with my two mates – there was a lot of yelling and yahooing at the end!  It felt great to have achieved my goal for the trip ;) I was very happy!

Day 6 looked average and I took a rest day to regroup.  Day 7 didn’t look much better but I decided to fly anyway and my mate John and I launched into a slow day.  This flight was far more ‘character building’ and difficult than my previous flights – I learnt a lot of good lessons on how to fly patiently ;)  Winds were different directions at various altitudes and it was interesting to assess the Factor2’s performance in predominantly cross-wind conditions.  Climbs were slow (2m/s) with the occasional screamer (5m/s).  There were also long stretches of strong sink – sometimes several k’s of 2-3m/s down, and we had to find several very low saves at various points along the route…

The start of the flight did not bode well – John and I spent over an hour getting sufficient height to leave the hill and the rough conditions were at times stressful, particularly with the high number of very student pilots and their ‘unconventional’ climbing methods over launch.  Finally we drifted a little further over the back and found a lee-side core that took us to 1800masl – it was time to get out of there!  We lobbed over the back due east and linked up with the start of a short street running south to north, topping up in three cores before taking a longer glide towards Tarpoly.  We topped up in another climb over Tarpoly and pushed on to the next town, called Barrabar.

After the slow start at launch we were making good time and when conditions slowed down again over Barrabar I was caught by surprise and was lucky not to find myself on the deck.  The usual triggers to the west of town were not working and now down to 800masl (only several hundred metres agl) I drifted over town.  My mate John snagged a 1-up, which turned into a 2-up and he climbed out of trouble, while I was forced to drift in zeroes and 0.2s in the hope that something would come together and trigger at the river to the north of town.  My climb improved to 0.5-up and I wound my way slowly back up to 1200masl.  A few gliders caught up to us and one started climbing about a kilometer away to my southeast.  My own climb was petering out and I pushed out to try to connect with the better lift.  Unfortunately I came in underneath it and this sent me hurrying back to re-find my 0.5-up back over town.  I was back at 800masl again and very low – I re-established in the 0.5 and kept drifting over paddocks to a farmhouse, where I was hoping better lift would trigger off.  As I approached my glider accelerated.  With great relief I went hands up and got sucked straight into 3-up and back to safety at base ;)  Quite a few gliders were not so lucky and hit the dirt in this trickier section of the flight.

John joined me  and we pushed on, topping up in 3-4 more climbs before we took a long glide into the start of the Bingarra valley.  We were over the 60km mark now and needed another climb.  We paused in light lift above a farmer plowing his paddock, hoping that something would trigger off.  We gained about 100m before the lift trickled out and we were forced to push on to the next trigger.  We arrived at the next climb around 700masl (100m above the ground) and were again forced to drift in 0.5s and less.  Our goal was a ridgeline covered in rocks that were cooking up in the hot sun and facing into wind.  Well before I was confident that we had the height to push onto the ridgeline our climb ended and we sprinted in very low, just over the top of the trees and rocks.

The first section of ridge that I arrived over was bubbling, but only quietly and I decided to press on to the next spur line.  It was bubbling far more violently!  I started figure-8s to get some clearance for 360s.  The glider was surging and accelerating and finally I had the height to drift over the back a little further looking for a core in the seething, erratic area of lift.  I was working hard to keep the glider open and copped a whack on my way into a beautiful 5-up.  Half the glider collapsed and the Factor2 started to go nose down.  Having already experienced this behaviour a few days before (first time around the glider spun me 180degrees before I managed it) I was better prepared and rolled my weight out the back on the opposite side to keep the glider on course.  In the turbulent air the other tip also collapsed and cravatted.  The first asymmetric popped out quickly and easily and I was left to pump out the cravatte with the brake, still on course and going up at 5m/s – absolutely wide awake now.  John and I wound up together in the tight, rough core – my best climb of the day.  Half way up we were joined by two wedgetail eagles, who were bickering playfully with each other as we climbed out.

After a quick discussion with our retrieve driver it was agreed that we would fly to 100km and land.  Due to the long periods in the flight spent low and slow we had not made very good time and 100km was going to push the flight over 5hrs.  The last 30kms was the easiest however – it was late in the day and we made it with one more climb and two 15km glides.  It was a slow day of flying, but very satisfying to have successfully navigated our way through some challenging sections at low altitudes.

I am finding the Factor2 to be a beautiful glider to fly.  I am really liking its sensitivity and the ease with which it finds the best lift in the area.  It is also fantastic in strong, tight cores and I think it really excels in this type of lift.  And the performance on bar… yes, I like this glider a lot!!

Good times, good climbs!  I love flying in the flats!  The weather has gone bad again so time to head back to the real world… :) My flights for the trip are at: Leonardo

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!  And blue skies!