Saturday, April 30, 2011

La Muela F3F Eurotour: the good, the bad and the ugly

We came home from Spain yesterday evening after six days family vacation between Madrid, Guadalajara and, of course, the famous slopes of La Muela near the small village of Alarilla. On the program in short, we walked through the city center after arrival on Wednesday afternoon and in the evening, we tried to have dinner on a terrace before very heavy rainfall pushed us inside! On the next morning, we visited the very nice Museum of Americas exhibiting beautiful collections of Mesoamerican archaeology, arts and crafts and explaining the Conquista in large. In the late afternoon, we arrived in La Muela to discover the slopes and we met many pilots already training hard for the next day's F3F Eurotour event. I watched them for quite some time but kept the glider safe in my sportube in the car's trunk!
In the evening, we settled for the comfortable Tryp Hotel in Guadalajara, some 25 minutes drive from La Muela, where many international pilots had their quarters. This second evening, instead of a long chuleton evening, we had a Chinese buffet "à volonté" with Alexis' family. This was much more fun for the kids wo ate, discussed and played together, and so we adults had some time knowing us each other better.

La Muela hill near Alarilla
On Friday morning, it was competition day 1, so we moved quite early to La Muela for the first pilot briefing. I could drive along with Andreas and Alexis (thanks for the lifts, guys!) The weather was as forecasted, mixed, with some wind but also with may patches of heavy clouds announcing moderate and localized rainfalls. In fact, we were able to fly five rounds during this first day. The first round started with light conditions, but the wind  increased somewhat after the first few pilots. Since I flew in those first fews, I did not get much air and flew only a quite clean 50.67 sec (827 pts). Kevin Newton got the first 1000 pts with a very fast 41.91 s on his brand new and slender Baudis Fosa painted to his fetish color scheme. With this fast flight, he managed to put the second fastest pilot some 100 points behind!
Kevin Newton pre-flight discussion with Espen Torp. Both fly the new slender Baudis/Fosa
The second round went to the local pilot Gerardo Plaza with a fast 42.01 seconds. I did cut during my flight and got only 55.51 sec and 757 pts. The result of both first rounds were quite regularly spread, showing that conditions were not too irregular as a whole, although some better and worse air were met by some pilots.
Then started the third round with a menacing rainfall clouds upwind. Miguel Guttierrez won this third round flying  44.85 seconds. On my side, I had quite good air but cut again badly, finishing with 58.54 sec! Before the rain came in on La Muela, the wind was always stronger and pilots had to add ballast in the last moment in order to keep up with better speed and control. A first round break occurred because of heavy rain during round three. right after the rain ceased, the wind was gone as well and some pilots had hard times trying to achieve some 55-65 second flights.
For the fourth round, conditions had stabilized again and Alexis Maréchal flew the fastest lap of the contest, finishing 10 laps in 41.06 seconds with his Aeromod Alliaj HM! His French buddy Allan Cohen was almost as fast with 41.33 seconds, also on the Alliaj HM. Andreas Fricke needed three more seconds to do his flight, also on Alliaj HM. This fourth round was 100% French in pilots and gliders! I flew in very good air and was expecting a great time with my Cyril F3F, but as one could expect... I cut again for the third consecutive round and finished with 50.32 seconds. This would for sure have been a very good result without the mistake. Overall, this round was also quite regular with a quite "normal" result spread.
My Cyril F3F

It was around 6 and something PM that the round 5 started. Rainclouds were spilling rain in the plain upwind and everybody knew the scenario of round three could repeat itself. Fortunately enough, I was to fly before the first raindrops fell, when the wind increased. I just had time running back to my bag grabbing some additional fuselage ballast. The air was very good and, fortunately too, I was able to do my laps without the traditional cut ;-) More than that, I flew my perfect flight path quite aggressively, the Cyril was fast on track, and so there I had it: my first sub-fifty of this eurotour, 42.41 seconds. This conjunction made me very happy. At least I knew I can do it and only have to avoid those bloody cuts. French pilot Sébastien Périclou was flying right after me and got the same strong air and managed to beat me by almost half a second with 42.05 seconds. The organizers let further pilots fly at their choice even when the first rain drops fell. but at some point, the rain was considered too strong and a break was ordered. Exactly half the pilots had their round 5 flight over, and the other half knew conditions would be much more difficult after the rain shower! The break lasted for some 20-25 minutes. When it was considered over by the CD and although some pilots asked for a group scoring with good reasons, it was Pierre Rondel's turn to fly. There still was some wind, but it had already calmed down quite much. Pierre flew a 53.67 sec and was quite disappointed, which was understandable. The pilots after him had worse and worse conditions and the flying times increased up to 75 seconds. All pilots in this second "post-rain" group gathered very low points compared to the "pre-rain" group. Since both groups were equal in number of pilots, it would have been a perfect example for a good application of group scoring. The CD followed the FAI rules "à la lettre" instead of applying the solution that would have enabled a fairer result comparison. As one can expect, this decision got mixed consideration from the pilots.
It was early evening when this fifth round was terminated. It was time to move to Guadalajara for the contest banquet at the Tryp Hotel. After the "apéro", we moved to the banquet hall where nice round tables were set up for us. As the preceeding evening, we grouped both families which had kids along so they could enjoy each other and play together after their meals. The food and wine were fine and plenty. They were served at the tables by the hotel waiters. After eating, each banquet attendant received a number disributed at random by the contest organizers. The raffle began to give away four MKS owing servos, some MKS servo key chains, some Graupner caps,, and miscellaneous stickers and t-shirts. Our family table was very lucky: my son and Alexis each won a wing servo and I got a key chain! Since our table seemed to have more luck, a neighbor came to sit with us and it did not take long before he also won some prize! It was a funny moment. It was late that everybody joined its quarter to get some rest before the second contest day.
The second day showed very calm weather and the forecasts were not very appealing in terms of wind. We were in La Muela around 10AM and the briefing confirmed we were going to have good weather with very little wind during all day. The day started with free flight and those who had some e-converted gliders could go on thermal hunt without fearing landing in the fields far below. The thermals were not always on the right side of the hill and some pilots were trapped far away with negative lift. Even two lightweight DLGs couldn't fly back to the edge and had to land near Alarilla!
The thermal chasing went on and on until 3PM when the organizer polled the participants to know if we should cotinue to wait for better conditions. It was decideed to wait some more, but around 5PM, the contest was announced closed and the result ceremony could take place.
The three winners of this year's La Muela Eurotour contest: Gerardo (2), Andreas (1), and Andoni (3)
French pilot Andreas Fricke took a well deserved first rank for his regularity throughout the five rounds. His times were 48.42, 43.9, 47.92, 44.18, and 43.67 seconds. Second rank went to the local pilot Gerardo Plaza Lozano who also flew very constantly. Andoni Gorrinobeaskoa took the third rank. With the prize giving and words of gratitude for sponsors and staff, this year's Eurotour in La Muela ended... And the wind started to blow again around 6PM allowing some to do some free flight and even some DS.
We were unfortunate not getting flyable conditions on the second contest day. But for some of us, the vacation wasn't over yet and the wind forecast for the upcoming Sunday was more than encouraging!
I arranged to drive back to the slopes on Sunday with Philippe and Sébastien Lanes who had their flight back home in the late afternoon. The conditions were very good from early on and we could do some nice training. During the preceeding evening, I asked Gerardo if he could bring the timing system along to maybe set up some informal F3F training contest. Again our Spanish mates did great and in the early afternoon, we could fly international F3F again with 10 concurrents from Great Britain, France, Spain, and Switzerland! Some clouds cut the thermals during those 4 rounds during which all pilots had to rush to the base after their flight for buzzing the next few pilots. Kevin Newton won this informal contest with his Fosa. Unfortunately, the handwritten result sheet disappeared after the contest, so I do not know how bad I flew...
Informal international F3F contest on Sunday. Kevin Newton almost ready to start!
After the contest, the wind increased drastically and the flying speeds along the edge were crazy! I spent quite some time sharing the slope in alternance with Michael Evans for more maybe half an hour of pure fun. It was the first day I flew the Cyril F3F I received second hand three days earlier and the base settings were just very good. When it came to landing, I went quite far backwind and pulled the crows too much, bringing the glider to halt in the strong rotor! Bad situation... The glider was lifted to one side and fell strongly on the right wingtip. The right wing half broke through completely at aileron-flap junction! I knew I'll have quite some work to do in the coming evenings when I get back home.
On Monday, our family moved to Madrid where we visited to enormous zoological park. The late afternoon and evening was then spent in the city center enjoying walking around, shopping, and eating Tapas. On Tuesday morning, there was some time left for shopping before we drove back to the airport around 1PM to get our flight back to Geneva.
Well, this was a great vacation in Spain. On F3F side, the Good was Andreas first place, my personal result, the great Sunday flying like mad, and the many good contacts and shared moments with many fine pilots and nice people. The Bad was certainly the uneven wind conditions during the contest. The Ugly was without a doubt me crashing my second Cyril stupidly.
One is sure. If I can join again next year in La Muela, I'll do!

PS: I did not shoot many pictures. The few ones are here.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry I missed La Muela this year, did not know it was on! Must have missed out on email system?

    Tony Robertson