Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wilderness Wizards Champs finals.

Richard "Boom" doing what he knows best!

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!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wizard Champs day three

Richard just over shooting the spot. notice the disappointment! ;)

Day three…
I have to start by saying that I have never laughed so much in my entire life as I have done during this competition. Who would have believed that a hang gliding competition could be so much fun!? But the truth is these little go pro cameras are just so awesome – personal funny moments become public property to be enjoyed over and over again. There is some landing moments that are all time greats and it is not just me that think so. :)))
Day three saw the morning start with beautiful cumulous clouds popping along the coast which indicated that the day should be unstable with good thermic flying conditions. The first task then was a cross country run from Sedgefield to the Map of Africa – a distance of about 20km. The flight takes the pilot over lake and forest areas; something that makes the flight far more challenging than the ordinary. Of course for those wishing not go XC the usual height gain and spot landing option as available.
As it turned out the wind quickly backed to the South East, which was not forecasted and the day became rough and turbulent. Less than one hour later everyone had landed, opting to go for the spot bonuses that were up for grabs. Much to Anthony’s own surprise he managed a magnificent approach landing within a wing span of the bulls eye making him the spot victor. At this stage it looks as though Pete might have claimed the height gain prize for the morning flight but not after a close chase from Dirk who is in second place.
After lunch we all headed up to Gerrickes point. Here the awesome view greeted us with a good south east wind – conditions were perfect. An open cross country task was set with a height gain section and then for those that thought flying distance from a coastal sight not possible, the usual spot was made available. Of course competition leaders, Pete and Dirk where the only two that opted for heading out on a cross country flight and from just 1200ft headed down the ridge. Low and behold they both landed within 2-300m of each other, near the klein krans car park after a milky run down the Paradise ridge. It was a brawn over experience moment with experience proving to be the victor – Pete walked away with this part of the contest.
Richard “boom” van Niekerk, our first day leader has been suffering from a bit of sunstroke which has put him slightly on the back burner but I have no doubt that we will be seeing much more of this very talented pilot in the future. Richard is currently in joint 2nd place with our multiple Wizard Champion, Dirk van Loggerenberg – it does seem as though Pete has managed to hang onto his lead going into the 4th day. In the end it seemed that hang gliding was the victor – the many personal best moments for every pilot far outweighing the personal gain of the individual.
Tomorrow shows cross country promise. Who will be the Wizard of the day? Stay tuned to find out. Role on day 4 of the Wilderness Wizard hang gliding championships 2011!

Wish you were here!

Richard "boom" on Gerrickes point showing the long Paradise ridge in the back ground - Dirk and Pete went cross country down that part making almost to near Wilderness.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day two Wizard Champs 2011

This is Peter van Den Berg. Leader on day two...

So day two of the Wilderness Wizards hang gliding championships have come and gone. It was spectacular to say the least and one and all nodded their heads in agreement to having flown two great tasks for the day.

It did start with some rain of course, well, a drizzle to be more precise but we were unperturbed and headed to the Map. By 10 all were rigged with not one dangle in sight - heaven! The wind suddenly came up and I having first thought of a speed glide to the bottom decided to allow the pilots to get some airtime. This was something that later on might just become impossible when all the danglers decide to crawl out from under where ever they take refuge at times when there is no wind or if it is blowing a storm. 30minutes elapsed time from the start of your run until your feet touches the ground plus max height gain, plus the dreaded spot - something that has proved to be a slight embarrassment for many of the top pilots. Of course Mother Nature had to throw us a curve ball. Just after everyone got in the air a few clouds upwind along the coast started to produce rain again. This in turn effected the soaring conditions and suddenly it became very light and the pilots had to scratch to stay up. It made for challenging flying and tactful decision making in order to be able to glide in and still make the spot – which most pilots did not make.

On launch again at 13:00 after everyone had a quick lunch. This time around the wind had really switched on and along with that so did all the danglers. I contemplated cancelling the task because of the danger of having a mid-air collision during the pressures of a comp. We all secretly cursed the mother who gave birth to the inventor of this popular inflatable fabric wing. The pilots rigged and we waited, dragging our toes – well at least I did while contemplating a task. Finally the wind was up proper and most of the danglers were grounded so I called it on. One hour elapsed time, max altitude and spot. It turned out to be a great task with conditions dropping slightly towards the end of the time sequence but before the hangies had to battle airspace with the danglers the time was up and they had to go for the spot. I have to say that the afternoon landing efforts where a definite improvement on this part of the contest so far – the calibre of the landings leaving a lot to be desired for at this stage of the game!

The pilots contended valiantly, not just with each other but also with themselves, even if just to improve on yesterday’s achievements. Our early leader was taking things just too casually and lost the lead after task three. Richard “boom” had to make place for Peter van Den Berg. Even in the lower ranks positions shuffled around. Noticeably was the performance of Anthony Divaris who found himself in second place after the first day’s task. Unfortunately he too had to make place as the more experienced pilots started to show their metal.

I have to mention Hanneke and Van Zyl who both, as a husband and wife hang gliding team, did superbly today. Each had their first soring flights which were in the order of one hour and at good altitudes too. Not surprising they were delighted during the customary beer time after all the action.

Well done to the pilots! Really wish you were here! And role on day three of the Wilderness Wizard Championships 2011!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wilderness Wizard Champs day 1

Richard "boom" near the clouds, or white room as we call it. He is over our Sedgefield landing zone.

We are running the 2011 Wilderness Wizard Hang Gliding Championships. It is a small, informal and social hang gliding meet from the 27th till the 31st of December, aimed at having fun and just promoting the sport in general. We have been doing it for the last 4 years and believe it or not have had the same winner every time. Could this be the year of an upset? The competition between the competitors are certainly getting better...

The following days will be a report on this fun and friendly event.

After the innitial long term forcast of rain, the fiirst day turned into a boomer. At first we thought we would not even get a leg off the ground but ended up running two full tasks. Sedgefield was the choice and the very large field of 6 pilots made their way to the top where they were greated with a beautiful view - not one dangler in sight. Of course it did not last but for a while it was good. ;)
Our task was simple. Get as high as you can, fly for as long as you can and then do a spot landing. Of course you needed to get airborne first and in what was probably a first in SA (and almost a hat trick for Mother nature!), first Dirk and then Wally broke an upright on their launches. What can i say - rookie mistakes... (Thank goodness that was all that got broken). The result was that Anthony followed with a very nervous but good launch and finally the day's task was under way. Soon Richard, Pete and Anthony were climbing all the way to cloud in what was innitially good lifting skies. After about half an hour everything shut down and they were forced to go for the spot. After collecting these three pilots we were back for task two. It was simple once again - another go at the same thing; get as high as you can, stay up for as long as you can and then do a spot landing.

This time round flight times were much longer and Lennox, Wally and Dirk joined in the fun. Dick in the meantime arrived at the beach hotel and opted for a flight there. He did ok in the light conditions and scratched at take off height for 15 minutes before landing on the beach and climbing those long stairs back to the car park. Meantime plenty of white room time was had by the gang at Sedge and then some very interesting landing approaches to say the least. Anthony mentioned breaking many personal bests - good one Ant! The evening was rounded off with beers and a braai and of course watching the many gopro videos of the days happenings (Great fun!). We will see what the scores are for the day but rumour has it that things are very close with Richard "boom" in the lead. Tomorrow looks to be even better with more pilots joining in the fun. See you up there!

And yes, wish you were here! Wilderness Wizards 2011! Go man!