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Sky Nomad Open 2008

Sky Nomad Open 2008

Day 1:
Task of 53km – first 10k in the mountains, then all 4 turnpoints in the flats.  At the air start the whole sky got covered by cumulus, so it seemed tricky to know if, and how much, the plains would be working.  I touched cloud base at the end of the ridge and pushed in front into the flats and turnpoint 1, finding a large zone of 1.5-2m/s lift and promptly using it back to base.  While my chasers were climbing about 300m below me, I pushed at 60km/h to the next point and back to the big gaggle and third turnpoint.  However, the chasing group chose a better line from turnpoint 2 to 3 and overtook me at 3.  I could already see who they were – Orlin Dimov, Dmitri Korolev, and Godfrey Wennes.  Around turnpoint 3 I pushed in the strong convergence harder than Godfrey and Dmitry and at the start of the next big glide to the last turnpoint I was just behind Orlin.  In front of us it was obvious that conditions were weak and difficult, so Orlin was optimizing glide, while I was overtaking him at higher speed from below.  After turnpoint 4, and on to goal, I was 300m lower than him and gliding 300m to the left of him, while keeping a close eye on my and his sink rates, as the good line was crucial if I wanted to survive this low.  And I did.  My line was the good one, and I found the next big zone of lift.  By the time Orlin came to me, I had made up the difference in height, and we were climbing together in the last thermal before final glide.  He left first and made goal 9 seconds before me.  Next came Dmitri, 2 min late, then Godfrey, 8 min late.  The others arrived much later.

Day 2:
87k – first about 12k over the ridge to the west, then 35k over the same ridge to the east, then south-west over some hills and flats, and finally back to the north-west over the flats and goal in Sopot.
The race started bad for me, because a line from my speed system got stuck in my Harken pulley, so I had to spend a lot of time trying to fix it.  When I did, I was about 300m lower than the leaders and a kilometer or two behind.  But it was ridge flying, and my speed system was fixed, so I started pushing hard about 100-200m from the terrain and lower than the others.  The air was very rough, but I feel my Magus well, so by the time we were coming back from point 1 to launch I had already sneaked in front. 
At the end of the big ridge I chose to continue over the mountain, while the chasing group continued over the hills in front.  Their choice was much better, so about 10 gliders overtook me before turnpoint 2.  Orlin was first, about 8k in front of me.  I thought it was over for the day, but in the flats before turnpoint 3 I managed to catch him, as he was stuck in some weak thermals, trying to get enough altitude for the big blue in front.  Balasz from Hungary was also with us in the thermal, and Marina Olexina was catching up too.  We circled in the weak thermal for a long time, then Orlin and I went first into the blue and the last turnpoint… and sank like packed reserves.  Very low, we managed to scramble off course back to some thermal hills and save ourselves.  We circled in the lift until it got too weak and we had something like an 8 glide ratio to goal, so we left together, only to find again that disastrous 4m/s sink.  Again very low, Orlin found some strong thermal which saved us both and which allowed him to make goal 1:10min in front of me. 
But in goal we found the big surprise of the day – it was Godfrey, who had beat us by more than two minutes!  The former world record holder had gone a totally different way from us and we hadn’t even noticed him the whole way!  Bravo!

Day 3:
The longest task of the comp – 92km – first 35k over the ridge to the east, then return to Sopot, last turnpoint 3km into the flats, and goal 6km later in the flats.
With 3 to 6m/s thermals over the ridge, I pushed from the beginning and by the first turnpoint I was leading the chasers by about 6k.  10k later I lost them completely, so I slowed down a bit.  Around the second turnpoint conditions were tricky – with similar, unusually strong areas of sink as the day before – so I found it difficult to choose a good line when leaving the ridge for turnpoint 2.  I could see my chasers were closing on me – I could see Magnus (he pronounces his name like “Magus”) from Denmark, Orlin, and Valery Tzvetanov coming about 5k after me. 
My mistake of the day was not taking enough altitude at the last turnpoint, after which I had to escape the 3-4m/s sink by returning back to the ridge, at 90 degrees off course.  Magnus came to the last turnpoint with the same altitude as me, but he risked more and went directly on glide to goal, and saved himself 2km from goal at 30m from the ground.  Orlin made it without circling after him. 
So I win the day in front of Magnus and Orlin.  The big time difference and the many leading points for the task give me the overall lead for the comp.

Day 4:
82 km around the Rose Valley.  First point to the east (first over the ridge, then the hills), second to the flats in the south-west, then to the end of the valley in the west, and finally back east over the big ridge and goal in Sopot.
During the fist part of the task we were about 5 pilots in front, working the weak conditions over the hills and over the flats before turnpoint two.  3k before point 2 we could see the big blue in front once again, so we were trying to maximize our altitude in the last thermal before the dive.  Valery dove first, then Marcus, then me, then Orlin, then the others.  After turnpoint 2 came the big decision of the task – go back 10 km at 90 degrees off-course to the main ridge, or go straight to turnpoint 3 following the line of villages below the smaller ridge.  Most pilots, including Orlin, Magnus, and Valery in front, chose the first option, and were flying high the whole way to point 3.  Led by some small cumulus clouds, I chose the other option and was leading the way straight to the next turnpoint.  In the beginning I got an OK thermal to 2300m, but then went into free fall in some 3-5m/s sink all the way to 30m over the ground, where I finally found some rising air.  It was low, broken, and drifting with the wind, but I was flying my Magus not very loaded, so I could work the bubbles well and feel the baby thermal until it matured at 4 m/s.  At that time Daniel Dimov came to my thermal and later even overtook me, but he made two big mistakes around the final turnpoint and was out.  The last four km before the last turnpoint were amazing – the sink area we found there was even stronger than the ones from the last three days – it was between 4 and 9m/s!!!  Amazing!
At the last turnpoint I could see Valery and Orlin coming from the main ridge about 2k in front of me, and higher, so I had to push hard in the final 15k to goal.  First Valery made a big mistake, went out of the convergence line and landed.  So now it was only Orlin.  He was still about 2k in front and 400m higher than me (which meant he was going to have also less head wind than me), so I started pushing hard and low, but below the convergence line.  In the last 5-6 km I was pushing very low over the ridge, just working the waves of lift and sink with the bar and floating through.  That was the only way to catch up on Orlin and not let him escape by too much. 
He beat me by about 4 min, but I had much more leading points for the day than him, so in the overall it was under control – we had exactly the same scores, about 500 points from the third – Marcus. 

Day 5:
As with Orlin we had the same points in the overall ranking, way ahead of the others, Day 5 was the one to decide the first place.  I was hoping for a duel, but even without one I was happy and content.  Conditions were not looking good – with gusty winds, an inversion, and sinking wind dummies – so at the takeoff most pilots, including me, preferred not to have a task.  I was happy to share the first place with Orlin, as both of us had flown well the whole comp.
But the task committee chose to give us a task – elapsed time with 15min gates, just like in Serbia.  Shit.  And just like in Serbia it didn’t work well.  The first gate was scheduled for only 15 min after window opening, so only the pilots who managed to launch in the first minute (four of them) managed to take it.  Unfortunately for me, my opponent, Orlin, was among them, and the ones who started with him were some of the fastest pilots, so he could use them and fly fast.  On my part, I was not so lucky with my launch position.  Several seconds before window opening the wind switched from the direction it had been blowing the last three hours, and became cross to my position.  So I launched 5 min late and missed the first gate and the fast group.  So that meant I had to fly much faster than them, so I could make up for the missed leading points.  On the way I thought I was doing OK with time, because I thought it was Orlin I was seeing in front of me.  But in goal I found it was probably another pilot I had been watching.  I had flown too slowly and missed Orlin by too much time.  It was a similar mistake to the one I made in the last day of the PWC the week before, and which to a large extent cost me the podium in PWC Bulgaria.  A good lesson for PWC Brazil, I hope
So in the overall Orlin’s first, I’m second, and Marcus (a.k.a. “Magus”) quite far back at third. 
Next – PWC Brazil.

Yassen Savov

Sky Nomad Open 2008
Sky Nomad Open 2008

 Photos by Niki Yotov (Sky Nomad)