31 März 2014

In Orlando with Sherry and Joe

When I arrived in Orlando tonight, I was welcomed by my friends Sherry and Joe Kittinger. It was great to be able to spend some time with them before they are leaving for Washington DC tomorrow.
The capsule and suit of the Stratos project will go on permanent display at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, where the team will have a celebration. How I would have loved to go there with Sherry and Joe, to meet Felix, his team and some Red Bull friends again! Always great to hear the first hand stories of these legendary aviators!

29 März 2014

Hello Mexico!

It was great to browse through the latest adidas collection in Herzogenaurauch at the adidas headquarter yesterday - I was reminded of the great trip to Mexico for the pre worlds, as the colourful patterns seem to portray south american culture - full of life! Perfect that the weather turned spring very early this year, with warm sunshine today :)
Just in time for this weather, my new adidas sunglasses, "Tycane", arrived - co-designed by sailors, these sunnies feature a new wrap around lense that allows an amazing peripheral vision - a vital bonus for every pilot as well! If you want to have a look at this brandnew sunglass development in Mexico, ask Rudy Gotes, he has a pair of these exclusive new "Tycane pro" sunglasses!

27 März 2014

The other side of Rio

I don´t know how many times Ive soared above the rock you see in the picture, looking down, catching the thermal rising from the hot air above one of Rio´s biggest slums. This time the weather was not flyable at all, first a strong, turbulent west wind which made launching impossible, the next day just rain.
In the morning, Konrad told me they are flying in Sao Conrado, so I jumped into a taxi with the Captain of my crew who wanted to try a tandem flight, packed my harness, and it took us about 20 minutes to get to Praia do Pepino. Unfortunately, the wind direction had changed already, and it was obvious that we would not fly for a while. At midday, I met a journalist from one of Germany´s biggest newspapers who also wanted to experience hang gliding in Rio. I took the guys up to the ramp at take off and explained the area and the normal launch procedure.
It is a beautiful view and a magical place even if it is not flyable, so we had a good time anyway, went back down to the beach and sat down at Carlinhos´ Cabana for more coconut water. Luizinho had already said hello, Mosquito, Rui and Konrad also stopped to say hi - and "no flying today, come back on Monday!"
Suddenly a Brazilian guy talked to us in German, saying that his father (who had emigrated to Brazil from Germany) had helped to install the Zeppelin connection between Europe and Brazil in the 1930´s. The three of us were listening with open mouths and big, fascinated eyes. Was this guy aware of having met the most appreciative audience in the whole of Brazil for his story about aviation history?
Turned out that he is working as a tour guide in Rio, and when he asked us if we wanted to see Roçinha, we all nodded quietly and got into his car, as he really seemed to know the area well and seemed to know what he was doing. After many years of travelling in Brazil, I finally went through one of the biggest favelas of the country, that I only knew from the air so far! It was impressive to see the density of the 150.000 people nestled on the pass between Sao Conrado and Ipanema.
Sure it is just normal everyday life there, with shops, kids in the streets, intense smells here and there, yet we all had a lot of respect, as there are many stories about crime and drugs. As there was a traffic jam on the road through Roçinha, we had a chance to have a close look at it, before our tour guide invited us for a drink to the German Club of Rio on the other side - what a huge contrast of surrounding, just within barely a kilometer of range. Sure the waiter who works in the club lives next door in Roçinha!
Thanks to Dieter the tour guide, we had a great day even without the flying, but I sure hope that I will be back soon and visit Roçinha from above again!

08 März 2014

Pre Worlds Valle de Bravo Awards

Christian Ciech (IT) won the pre worlds by a great margin over Zac (US) and Antoine (FR). I was the 1st woman, just managed to sneak up into top spot on the last but one day, as Françoise did really well over here in the strong conditions.
We were presented with the "Tree of Life", very interesting trophies, looking a bit fragile.
It was a great meeting with loads of flights and kilometers, I think Valle has never seen more hang glider pilots in this spot before! Thanks to the organizers, specially Claudia and Miguel, for turning their vision of organizing the hang gliding worlds into reality - I know it is a huge amount of work behind the scenes!

Pre-Worlds last day: 112km around 5 turnpoints

Yesterday Gerd, I and a few other pilots took the second startgate, cause it looked as if the conditions for our 112km task would be stronger a bit later. Most people went with the first gate and were faster than us, but we still had a very enjoyable flight. Around the 1st turnpoint, the wind got really strong (it was at 3300m of altitude), but luckily I got up again, while quite a few guys were flushed down there.
I was happy to get to goal in Amanalco, probably the biggest, flattest field in the whole area, at 2300m of altitude, but with a good wind to land. 33 people made goal, our whole German team got in, so did all the girls of the comp! A very nice finish, flying with beautiful clouds. Now Im about to go to the awards. You can find the results here, but the cumulative has not been published yet.

07 März 2014

Pre-worlds Day 6: 125km around 3 turnpoints

Six consecutive days of flying, mostly over 100km which is quite far for the area and conditions - we have to land by 17.30 or earlier to be retrieved before sunset, like in Turkey. Francoise had to wait a while at a road, and sure enough some cops turned up and asked her (not in a friendly way) what she is doing on the side of the road in the dark. Lucky that they retrieve drivers picked her up soon after!
It was blue yesterday, and as I missed the start gaggle, I was too slow to finish the whole task in time before the end, so I cut off the last turnpoint and landed directly in goal at Piano.
I talked to Zippy about the task setting and he was open for changes. I very much liked the idea to fly over to the high flatlands south of Toluca, and when they announced goal at Rudy's father's airstrip, I was happy as. 125 km around 3 turnpoints, with a difficult crossing after about 45 km. Once we flew to the east, we reached clouds and got up to 4300m, just south of the volcano Nevado de Toluca.
After the 2nd waypoint, I entered the highway to goal - a beautiful cloud street formed right in front of me. Dolphin style flying for 30 km was the reward for all the hard work the days before! The safe height also allowed some sightseeing, cause the area looks spectacular, lots of big cliffs, rugged mountains and little towns.
About 40 pilots made goal today, with Zippy winning the task. We were greeted by the officials from the local town Cuatepec, and everybody got a big serve of fruit salad that was freshly prepared in front of our stunned eyes. What a treat! The Mexicans are really the most hospitable people I've ever mat!
I'm writing this as I'm driving home in Rudy's car. It takes 2,5 hours to get from goal back to Valle, as we have to go around the volcano. Unless you get lost like Jamie, then it can take 4 hours as well.
Tomorrow is the last day, looks like Christian Ciech is still in a comfortable lead over all. I was 2nd woman behind Francoise, but today I might have gone back into lead. Let's see what kind of day we get for the final.

05 März 2014

Pre-worlds task 4: 98km around 4 turnpoints

After an overcalled task yesterday, we had a shorter one today. Nice looking clouds paved the highway along the sky today, and despite stronger wind it was a very enjoyable flight across our competition area with goal at the Piano bombout. I got drilled at the „Elefante“ turnpoint and fell behind, trying to get back up. There must have been about 40 pilots in goal already when I finally arrived. My whole team got to goal today, first Gerd (he was 4th of the day!), then Achim and me and Jörg as well.

Paris Williams won the day, he is a legend and well known for racing fast on days where you can fly on your own and without a gaggle.
Task 2 was scored, as the complaint had been turned down.
Unfortunately I dropped my camera when I took off, I hope I can find it tomorrow on take off. Quite a few people saw that I lost something. So no new photos today!

04 März 2014

Pre-Worlds Day 2&3: over 100km

Day 2 many pilots arrived at goal, while I had an interesting landing high up at San Simon de Guerrero. All good, but it wasn´t an easy place, high up in the mountains. I was warned for task 3, which also took us into the terrain that just doesn´t offer safe landing options at all.
When I faced the third turnpoint in tiger country yesterday, I got up really high and glided towards it, but as it was shaded by cirrus, I had to fly against a head wind, the terrain was rising and there were no landing fields in sight, I finally stopped the task for me, turned around and just flew to goal directly. Not many people there, maybe 10 who made the whole task, Gerd Dönhuber from our team amongst them. Jörg also flew to goal, but like me, without that dangerous turnpoint.
I hope the set a safer task for us today, would be more fun if the flying doesn´t depend on who has the strongest nerves.

02 März 2014

Valle Pre Worlds Day 1: 125km around 4 turnpoints

About 78 pilots started into the first task of the pre worlds yesterday, amongst them 5 women: Kathleen Rigg (GB), Francoise Dieuzede (FR), Sasha Serebrennikova (RU), Claudia Mejia (CO) and me. Jamie and Linda (US) are here, but not competing. Almost the full Italian world champion team is here, and they showed us their skill yesterday – Christian Ciech won the day by an incredible 18 minutes on the 2nd pilot!
Also the French have their top team pilots here, so do the Swiss. Must be about 45 pilots from the top 100 in the world!
The task started at 13.15, as the finish cut off is already at 17.15 to allow for a retrieval in daylight. We flew in blue conditions with the highest base at around 4100m close to the Nevado volcano. Many pilots have trouble adjusting to the height, they don´t sleep all that well, a few got sick. The strong climbs and sinks also create a turbulence that can be quite overwhelming for flatland pilots.
I flew a lot of the course on my own and really enjoyed the nice views. Flying above the Monarch butterflies was amazing! I found a nice thermal just above the millions of butterflies on the mountain. I was stoked to get to goal, even if I didnt have the fastest of times. About 25 pilots were there already, a few came in after me. Gerd and Jörg from my team were in goal, so we did score well for the team results!
Going back to Valle, it was the usual weekend chaos in the village – just too many cars and people everywhere, as Valle de Bravo is a very popular place for a trip away from Mexico city. Clean air, pretty views, nice craft shops.
Today we might go for a goal close to Toluca, up on the high plains. That means we will land at 2500m above sea level, higher than we took off from (2300m)!
No results up yet.