Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Think of it as a Game of Darts

This is me last weekend doing a tow launch at the Open National Paragliding Championships. Note the superb technique. It was my first ever flying competition, and I had a great, if low scoring, time. There were about 20 competitors, including some very fine flyers and at least one former world champion, so I was a bit out of my depth!

Think of it as a game of darts - and you are the dart! They mow a 10m radius target on the field, and the idea is for us to release from the winch cable, fly back to the target and land on it as accurately as possible. We got one practise and 6 competition rounds done over the course of the weekend. The sky-gods were making scores like 15 or 30cm. My best two results were 2.1m and 3.1m - that's right, a different unit of measurement for me. All the other rounds I missed the target completely! It is an incredibly subtle and delicate judgement - you are estimating your ground speed and sink rate, the wind speed and direction at various heights, not to mention the little thermals popping off the grass at random intervals. You have to be able to think very fast in 3 dimensions. It boggles me how the sky-gods can consistently make such tiny scores. Unbelievably skillful!

The feeling of achievement when I did manage to get my boots down inside the circles was amazing. It felt almost as good as buying a permanent train in 1830. I definitely want to get some more practise in next season, and compete again.

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