Stephen Flint (A GIN Wide Open Competitor)
Monday 9th of July
I only took up paragliding at 55 but still have loads of enthusiasm and the GIN Wide Open seemed like the best way of putting my paragliding “skills” to the test. I have flown in a few low level competitions and really enjoy meeting up with familiar faces and the challenge of what each day has to offer.
So here I am on day one at the GIN Wide Open in Ager. You prepare as best as you can – instruments set up; water; sun cream and anything else that you can reasonably expect to need. The trip to launch is always quieter as you would expect as everyone is somewhat nervous of what may lie ahead. Having set up my kit on launch, the briefing really starts to generate the excitement. The wind is picking up and clouds are forming .. The task is realistic – Toby and Richard have given every hint about how to best complete it, options available and safety factors to be considered.
Pick up the tracker and we’re off!! Take off was good, turned east, down the ridge looking for height. The top ridge wasn’t working at the time, so along with several others headed for the lower ridge for “house thermal” which wasn’t working either!! This wasn’t looking good : thermals were broken and bumpy and a growing sense of frustration as the start gate approached and seeing other gaggles high in the sky wasn’t helping.
All the best planning and briefing doesn’t help now when you are scratching around at 1300m (+/- 100) looking for 2000!! At this point I personally felt that as the task of the day was slipping through my fingers, however the reality of the beauty of where I was, what I was doing, stunning countryside and amazing views took over. Had I been in the UK 45 mins of ridge soaring in such surroundings would have been a delight. However, the wind was strengthening, the air was getting rougher and “beer suck” took over – the camp site beckoned!! One pilot made Goal and the debrief that evening showed that the task wasn’t that easy after all.
A thoroughly good day in great company and I’m looking forward to tomorrow!
Tuesday 10th of July
What a difference a day makes! We had the promise of great weather – which did not disappoint. After a cheerful briefing (during which I won a prize for wearing the right T shirt!) we went straight up to launch. Spirits were high and, after some deliberation, the task was set and it was anticipated that many pilots could make goal in addition to having a great XC flight. We waited for the ridge to start working and launched straight into great thermals up to base.
I had a great start from the wispies to the first turnpoint and then headed to the back ridge rather than straight down the valley – Pilots in the valley were not getting much lift so I was wary of taking that route. Dashing out and back to capture turnpoint 2 was relatively easy as it was getting more lifty in the valley. Then it was “over the back” at base, topping up occasionally and getting a good 50% collapse at the last turnpoint! Fortunately, I topped up to base and needed all of that height to make goal.
I was elated – although there were plenty of pilots ahead me I was met by Dave with a cold beer – Thanks Dave!!!
The bus back was cheerful company – exchanging stories and enjoying the moment.
To top it off, Toby had organised an evening flight which turned out to be smooth, boaty and relaxing.
What a great day – Thanks Toby and Team.
Wednesday 11th of July
A reflective day today. The day started with an optimistic weather update at the briefing. My friend Tommy won a deserved prize for “star dancer” at the party last night, a fine harlequin sandwich bag which perfectly matched his outfit! Off to the hill where the clouds were gathering but a valid task was set offering a promise of a good flight.
My take off into sink took me out to the front ridge where I managed base, but the race to the first turnpoint left me low. Scratching around above the campsite almost provided a recovery but died away and dropped me into the landing field.
Disappointment at the reality of landing afforded me the opportunity to reflect – I had had a good hour in the air but just couldn’t recover. So, off to lunch in a great restaurant in Balaguer – “Tastet del Reng” which I can highly recommend! The drive back via the Tremp road was stunning and we took the opportunity of parking up and exploring Camarasa.
So, although my pilot skills left a lot to be desired, I will be back on it tomorrow and I’ve had yet another wonderful day in Ager.
Thursday 12th of July
The weather first thing looked very “ify” so we quickly got up the hill to see what could be made of the day. On launch it didn’t look so bad and a task was set. Once again great fun prizes for the previous day were awarded – longest on launch; and one for the person who was thrown about most on launch!
After a fluff take off I noticed a suspicious character lurking in the bushes with a long lens, but it was only Barbara trying to capture us unawares! I reached base, after first slipping to the lower ridge, and set off in an orderly fashion, hugging the ridge as much as possible. Everything was going well and after the first two turn-points I was on the ridge going for base when I saw a reserve deployment and called it in. Fortunately the pilot landed safely in an accessible spot and is well. Then it was “over the back” and heading for Tremp. All was going swimmingly until the last turn-point after which there was no lift to be found and I ended up landing in the boonies well short of goal, but very happy.
A lovely 2.1/4 hr flight with challenges, a couple of tucks and some rather bumpy thermals – all in all a very unexpected and lovely day at the GWO. At HQ the tracker said I had done 32km – great!
Friday 13th of July
The debrief on Thursday evening was enjoyable and refreshing as the team pilots had not led the day and the presentation was mainly focussed on the three pilots who had done well. That and the daily photo competition made the evening fun and informative.
The weather forecast for today suggested a limited window and task, but in fact the goal north of Tremp made for an interesting task. Despite a late take off I made a good start and got good height above the main ridge and took the first turnpoint, staying high and racing towards the golden fields turnpoint. Having bagged that, my flight was effectively over experiencing some great sink all the way to the pig farm! I was not alone and many pilots were unable to make the transition over the ridge. I did manage to make the campsite turnpoint, albeit with meters to spare!
It was good to see the happy pilots who made goal and a special mention for Rod who would have won his class on task if his maths had worked better!
The debrief revealed all – I’m looking forward to tomorrow for the last day of task.