State of Origin: Flying the Bion

State of Origin: Flying the Bion

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Hi friends!

The State of Origin paragliding fun-comp was held in Manilla, Australia over the Easter long weekend (6-8 April 2012) and approximately 150 pilots turned up from all over Australia and various parts of the world to compete.  The State of Origin is an open direction, open distance fun comp and pilots form crews of 5, including at least 1 Advanced Pilot (captain), 2 Novice Pilots and 2 other pilots of any category. The idea is for experienced pilots to help novices get away for their first XCs and this is encouraged through the crew-based scoring system – Novice pilots get 3 points/km for their crew’s score, Intermediate Pilots get 2 points/km, Tandem Pilots get 2 points/km and Advanced Pilots get 1 point/km.

The weather and conditions were pretty good for so late in the Aussie season and there were a lot of PB flights over the 3 days.

The first day of the comp was a good flying day and there were many happy faces amongst our novice pilots.  I flew tandem on a NOVA Bion with my brother Ben as my passenger.  We flew 50km, sharing thermals with many of our mates along the way. This was Ben’s second ever flight on a paraglider and his first XC.  I was a bit worried that he might get air-sick but he turned out to be a great passenger!  He handled the occasional bit of rough air like a champ and his enthusiastic weight-shifting had the Bion banked right up as we cranked up in climbs averaging 5m/s. We were topping out at +6000ft and on glide we were rocketing along at up to 70km/h at times.  I was very impressed with the Bion, in particular for its agility, climb rate and ability to absorb turbulence – it is a great tandem.  It was fantastic fun sharing the flight with someone and an absolutely magic day to introduce Ben to paragliding, the view at cloud base with all the beautiful big cu’s streeting out in front of us was an absolute sight to behold.

The second day of the comp was a harder day of flying, with a combination of high cloud (suppressing thermal activity in a 10km radius around launch), plus strong inversions at 4500’ and 5500’, making climbing out from the hill a more difficult proposition. Unfortunately many of our novice pilots struggled to get away in the difficult conditions early on, but still enjoyed some good flying with a small number getting away.

I flew my Factor2 and shared the flight with my friend Alex, who flies a Mentor2.  It was a mixed day for us.  There were times early on when it was so slow and rough I contemplated landing – it took us 2 ½ hours of slow, wind-effected climbs to 4500′ to fly the first 15km to Split-Rock Dam. However, the second inversion at 5500’ finally broke just north of Split-Rock, the day opened up and I realised we had a flying day on our hands after all. What a change! It was like two different flying days rolled into one! The high cloud broke to let the sun on the ground, the cu’s were pumping, the wind swung to the south and we were off. The next 75km was spent hopping from one cloud to the next and took less than 2hrs – it was great, fun, fast flying!! It was a good reminder that it is always worth staying in the air – anything can happen and a poor looking day can turn it on when you least expect it.

The third day was blown out and most didn’t fly, electing to move on to the pub in town for an early start to the presentation evening…  All in all it was a very successful comp and great to get some XC so late in the season.  Huge thanks goes to all the pilots who made the trip from Canberra to fly with us, to my brother for coming along and sharing the adventure in the tandem, to the comp organiser James Thompson for running another great State of Origin and to Godfrey for hosting the rabble at Mt Borah again ;)

Blue skies!!