Well I know this is a long time after the event now, but my planned daily blogging from the British Championships in Pedro Bernardo failed dismally as I was never near the bar with wifi with my laptop for long enough to upload photos on the pitifully slow connection, or to write anything. When I started writing this article a couple of months ago I thought I might write a sort of edited highlights, however given that almost four months have passed now, I think it’s going to turn out to be something else again, though I’m not sure what yet! Let’s see what pans out…
This was my second trip to PB – the first time was when the British Champs came to town back in 2008 – and having had a great week then I was keen to come back for more. As before, we stayed at Alan Russell’s eco-finca (farm) which is a five minute drive from town up the road to takeoff.
The A team arrived late on Friday night after an easy drive from the airport, however it wasn’t so easy for the B team who didn’t manage to pull off the motorway around Madrid in time to avoid a one hour traffic jam… The A team stopped for cervazas and tapas en route, then had time for another drink at the house in PB where Guy was staying before the B team caught us up 🙂
Saturday 30th June
The next day there was quite a strong N’ly wind during the afternoon but at 4ish it seemed to be dropping off so we headed up the hill.
Alex was first off and I followed a few seconds later into the rather rough air. Asked over the radio what it was like I replied “Ok, but a bit rough wayyeeehhheeeaaahhh”. I think that said it all 🙂 I joined Alex in a snotty climb which mellowed out as we got higher, and as soon as we were high enough we headed the 10km south across the flats to Buenaventura. We both had really nice lifty lines and arrived at the next climb with plenty of height.
We explored the area separately for about 45 minutes before heading back to the landing field. Alex made it back with plenty of height to spare (in fact he struggled to get down), however I only made it back to the river a few km short. Still, no worries, it was very nice to have shaken off the cobwebs and sampled the big Spanish skies.
Sunday 1st July
Sunday was the first day of the comp however the strongish N’ly persisted so a few of us headed over the mountains to Piedrahita where we enjoyed some typically boisterious conditions…
Now I don’t know if you remember but something else was going down on that Sunday evening… Yes, that’s right, the European Cup Final between Spain and Italy! We hacked back to PB in time for the match so that we all join in the partying…
Thanks especially to Barbara, Alex, Judith, Tony and of course our host country for making it such an awesome evening! Absolutely brilliant!
The only trouble was that the forecast was looking great for Monday so we were definitely going to have to commit aviation in twelve hours time… Still, you know what they say, “twelve hours between bottle and throttle”, so if we stopped now we’d time it perfectly for a 1pm window open 🙂
Monday 2nd- Friday 6th July
Over the course of the next five days we were treated to five pretty decent tasks (75, 79, 50, 52 & 51km), though a strong SW’ly wind during two of them put paid to my attempts at winning the Championships 🙂
I was up with the lead gaggle for most of the task, and it was only on the last turnpoint where we all arrived low and the promised thermal didn’t materialise that my luck ran out… Some of the leaders made it, but maybe half of the twenty two pilots who made goal were in later gaggles.
On task 2 I had a blinder of a start and was leading the field by a country mile for the first 10km. I found a nice climb over Buenaventura and waited at the top of the climb for another lone Sigma 8 pilot to catch me up.
We flew together for about ten minutes however he then headed off in the direction of the turnpoint some 20kms away whilst I favoured carrying on along the ridge before pushing forwards.
I don’t know whether he was plain lucky or had a pair of thermal spotting specs on, but by the time he was too far away for me to rejoin him he was a few km in front of me and very high! Meanwhile I had made good progress along the ridge but the trouble came when I tried to push forwards – the wind had picked up and was proving very difficult to make progress forwards. Every time you started thermalling again you ended up almost back at the same place! My thermal drift was pretty much matching my glide angle, agghh!! I battled on like this for probably about an hour, and got within 2-3km of the turnpoint before I finally had to concede that the game was over 😦 Meanwhile Daniel had made it around the turnpoint and it was only in the final few kms that he was overtaken. Goddammit, if only I’d realised who it was and stuck with him 🙂
Hey ho, I can’t complain too much as I was still in the top half of the field, and as Marcus was one of the less lucky plots who’d landed earlier, he’d got back to PB nice and early in time to buy some grub and make a fantastic hot pot for supper! Muchos gracias Marcus!
Task 3 should have been a doddle, but that pesky SW’ly had me decked with Tony Blacker and Joanna Di Grigoli before I even got to the first turnpoint, which was only a couple of kms past Buenaventura. It wasn’t like I didn’t try hard – I struggled like a gud’un but it was the same story: glide angle = thermal drift. Bollocks! My problem was that again I got a great start, this time with Alex alongside me, and we headed straight for the ridge next to Buenaventura which had worked so well the day before, but we got a lousy line arriving very low. Meanwhile everyone else had headed straight for the town and got a nice lifty line arriving over the town nice and high and finding a thermal straightaway whilst we struggled on the ridge. Alex eventually managed to climb out but I got stuck in the increasing wind.
Still, every cloud has a silver lining and all that, and sure enough we eventually found a small bar where I was able to buy some of the local aqua vitae 🙂 Result!
Task four on Thursday was an altogether much more successful day, finding me in goal in 25th place! Yehah! First time in this comp and not before time!
That evening, to celebrate my success (!), we had a big party back at the finca with the rest of the Avon crew… Much fun was had by all!
Friday’s task was pretty much a repeat of Thursday’s, and although Adrian Thomas warned us at the briefing that conditions weren’t as good as yesterday meaning that it was going to be harder, actually the conditions were great and lots of people made it to goal, myself included, although I very nearly didn’t!
The previous day the last three kms into goal were very lifty, and as my Flymaster was saying I’d arrive with 200m spare, I decided to fly straight through the big 5 m/s thermal I encountered just 5km from goal without turning even once.
Big mistake. Today the last three kms were sinky the whole way and I saw my arrival height decreasing steadily towards zero then underground! With about 100m to go and being about 10m up the sensible thing to have done would be to turn into wind and land nicely, albeit just short of goal. Did I do the sensible thing? Like f*!k I did – I carried straight on and ended up doing a messy downwind landing right on the 400m cylinder. Idiot. Fortunately nothing was broken apart from a few scratches, but I really had no idea whether I was in or not. If I was, then I could almost justify it and argue that it was the perfect final glide. If not, well, I was just plain stupid!
So it was with a bit of trepidation that I queued up an the HQ to download my tracks. Right, let’s try the Flymaster first… Outside. Bugger. Now for the Garmin. Quicker this time as it records fewer data points… Inside! Yay!!! Phew! It was worth it, sort of. I’m just very glad I didn’t damage myself or any of my kit as it wasn’t exactly a textbook landing 🙂 Note to self – remember, it’s just for fun, so don’t take any extra risks!
That evening there was a meal for everyone at a restaurant just out of town, and seeing as 58 people got to goal everyone was in high spirits.
On the menu for some was roast suckling pig, and I have to say it was quite superb, but the highlight of the evening for me was seeing the look on Tony Blacker’s face as his plate was handed to him – it was the head of the pig! Sadly Tony didn’t quite consider it the delicacy that the locals clearly thought it was 🙂 Being a decent sort of chap I offered him some nice meaty chunks from my my plate which he gladly accepted! I did try a bit of the brain myself but it wasn’t quite as good as the rest of the beast…
We were hopeful to get a final task in on Saturday but sadly the evil wind goblin, Toby, spoiled it for everyone…
Yep, sadly the task was cancelled after it became apparent that the SW’ly wind had picked up too much to fly the task safely. Quite a few people opted for an exciting flight down to the landing field, but most of the deep fincas opted to pack up and head back to the finca for some R and R.
Later on we strolled into town for pre-prizegiving drinks and tapas at the other mainly Avon house where Graham, Rob, Wayne, Dave, Guy and Steve were staying (thanks chaps!) before heading to the square for the main event.
It was a great evening but sadly I can’t remember much more about it! I can’t think why 🙂
The last day…
With slightly sore heads we breakfasted, packed up and cleaned the finca before heading back to Madrid where I spent a pleasant couple of hours in the company of Kussy and Yuki before we met up with the others for some culture (yes, we visited the Prado – crazy I know!) and a meal.
So, all in all a great week with some excellent flying (seven days out of eight) and lots of fun times with good friends! If you’re an Advanced Pilot and haven’t been to a round of the British Championships yet then I’d thoroughly recommend it!
More photos on flickr here. Results here.
And once again, thanks very much to Alan for letting us descend on your wonderful finca again!
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