Day four… the finals.
The pilots were tired; three days, 6 tasks and three different sites. Even so, from somewhere enthusiasm was dug up and the boys opted for the traditional dune gooning day – after all, this is the Wilderness Wizards hang gliding championships! Now dune gooning is a lot of fun but it can also be a bit of an energy sapping affair. Playing on the sand dunes with a hang glider might sound romantic but after one carry to the top the idea of romantic is pumped right out of the brain in a matter of a hundred heart beats in less than 30 seconds. Of course the boys where all grins afterwards and recon it well worth the effort.
We started with a thriller – the tandem team task. The rumours of such a task have done the rounds over the years so the pilots looked forward to it but with much trepidation! Only Dirk was qualified as a tandem pilot, for the rest it was a matter of “oh mother!” Of course it proved to be worthy of reputation and no one walked away disappointed, or mentally unscathed. Surprise winners were Richard and Anthony who were the only pair to do a foot landing. They showed the experienced old boys how it’s done and amazed one and all (Including themselves!) by landing a mere 5 meters past the spot!
Richard and Anthoni going for the spot in the tandem task.
Wally and Dirk on the way to the top of the dune busy with tactical chit chat.
Then there was a dune time trial which entailed a flight from the top of the dune to the spot but with a time limit of 60 seconds flight duration. It meant you had to use the lift but only for a very short while or else you will fly for longer than 60seconds! Conditions where perfect. What struck me was that even though the whole of Paradise ridge was littered with danglers, not one of the pilots flew off for an extended soaring flight. Instead they opted to fly the tasks joining in the spirit of the comp. The buoyant conditions made for tricky approaches and the time penalty added an awesome tactical dimension to the challenge. The old boys thought they had it in the bag when Dick and Pete managed to land perfectly just 2 and 1.8 m from the spot with good time bonuses too but then, and once again to everyone’s amazement, Richard landed perfectly on the spot. It made the old boys almost ‘dik-bek’ and to cool off they did a quick impromptu skinny dip in the sea. Almost everyone joined in on that one and it turned out to be a highlight of note!
Pete about to hit the spot.
Summer time beach weather and a hang gliding competition – what a cool combination!
After lunch and a bit of a siesta we all headed off to Sedgefield for a late afternoon glass of flight. Dirk was off first with the task a simple max height gain and then spot to end off the day. Dirk did well with some spectacular speed glide sessions past take of which made one and all, danglers, spectators and hang glider pilots take note. The new T2 sure looks pretty and sounds absolutely awesome! Of course it was late in the afternoon (around 5) and lift was scarce and weak but Wally managed to luck into finding the convergence section on the ridge and long after every other pilot had landed he still managed to buzz take off and then head back to the convergence and climb another easy 500ft ATO or so for another fly past.
That evening we had a chilli con carne speciality prepared by Vangi, Pete’s wife. This has become a tradition for the Wizards Champs and those that have experienced this delicacy in the past always make sure not to miss out. We had the prize giving which was a fun affair. Filled with wine and beer everyone chilled with chilli con carne while we relived exceptional moments of flying with the help of those tiny little camera’s – the go pro. For this season, Anthony of course was the highlight with perfectly positioned and timed camera moments. Anthony has achieved cult classic status along with greats like Richard “Boom” van Niekerk for their epic adventures captured on film. Everyone present had to wipe tears of laughter from their eyes after watching their perfectly executed but unrehearsed performances of what hang gliding often is but should not be like. They are without a doubt our favourites.
Of course the big question is who walked away with the prize of being crowned the Wilderness Wizard Champion title of 2011. This closely fought contest between Pete and Dirk for first place and then the tussle for third between Richard, Anthony and Wally was a pleasure to follow. In the end only one man can be the victor even if it felt like we all were winners. Anthony just got piped from 3d at the very last moment by his impressive wing loading while Wally’s discovery of the late evening convergence gave him a nudge enough to match Richard “boom”s impressive spot performances. Wally and Richard both tied for third place which is probably a very fair result. Well done to the boys.
And then the clincher of the lot – the race for the Championship title and what a contest it was this year. In the words of the new Champ, “the best contest we have had in 5 years”. For runner up in words that epitomises the idea of good sportsmanship he congratulated the Champion by saying, “I did my best and you beat me fair and square but I will get you next year!” A worthy congratulations to our new Champ, Peter van den Berg who out flew most pilots almost every day. So much can be said for experience. Well done Pete!
And then to all the other competitors and visitors – Roelof and Arne from Gauteng, Dick, Grove, Greg and Lennox from the Cape who flew on some of the days and to the ladies who helped with retrieve and some scoring – you are all just awesome. No doubt you will let one and all know what a cool event this is. We hope to see you all again next year, same place, same time.
Wilderness Wizard hang gliding champs 2012 role on!
Peter van den Berg - the new Champion!
Wish you where here!
Wish you where here!