Jeff Goin’s 5th place WAG 2009 diploma (later changed to 6th place)

My First International Paramotor Competition | Final Scores (PDF) | Competition Chapter | Comp: Why Crashing Is Bad

Chad Bastian’s BLOG at Note: Scores revised June 19, 2009 (7th & 8th places changed)

Newspaper Article Done while I was in Italy from the Naperville Sun.

June 3: Getting There

40J will be my home for the next 8+ hours as I jet towards Frankfurt, Germany, then Turin, Italy. The other three US Team pilots, along with crew Dave Rogers and his wife Carmen, will be arriving after me. Thanks for all the well wishes.

I’ve been practicing my fool head off, putting the Miniplane and XS Pluto through their paces. Many muscles hurt. Who ever would have thought that paramotoring could be this taxing.

We’ll only have one chance at each task so it better count. Recent flights suggest about an 80% chance of getting the spot landing, 70% chance of getting the ribbon on a first pass (about 6 seconds), 95% chance of getting it on one of the first 2 passes, an  80% chance of nailing the spot landing and will do, in calm winds, about 49 seconds on the cloverleaf. So far, since practicing with the Pluto XS, I have yet to miss a launch

The Pluto does a great job in bumps, even when accelerated and trimmed fast. It’s got higher brake pressures than my Spice but doesn’t front tuck as easy while accelerated. Trust me on that one. The Spice is more efficient but Mr.. Miniplane, with its carbon fiber prop, has provided all the power I’ve needed. I’ve never mellowed a pylon turn for lack of push.

Playing Tourist

Stan, Chad and I hope to go to a free-flight site tomorrow evening. What a great way to start out the trip, with a quick mountain flight in the area. Then we’ll get back to the field on Friday afternoon to attend the pre-practice briefing. Our practice time Saturday morning has been extended to 3 hours. Way cool. Especially since it will be our first opportunity to fly around the 35 foot pylons and using their new ribbon for the ribbon catch.

That’s all for now, more updates depending on web availability and time.

June 5: Getting Lost & More

Losing yourself in Italy is only a romantic notion when you’re not driving. More in a moment.

I left my house in Chicagoland at 11:45AM Wed and arrived at the hotel in Turin at 4:00AM (11:00AM local). That’s 16 hours of total travel including a nearly 4 hours layover in Frankfurt, Germany. While waiting at the airport in Germany I realized the shirt I was wearing had WWII military aircraft on it. Ooops. No comments nor did I think anyone notice. At least an additional hour of travel came from accidentally touring Turin.

I arrived surprisingly refreshed, especially given that I didn’t sleep more than 20 minutes while traveling. But I did get a lot of animation work done!

A few hours after getting settled into my room I went to the airport for Chad and Stan. That trip went much, much better than the first although, on the way back, we got talking and I missed the hotel exit. Bad moooove! 20 minutes of wandering later we finally made it back. And no, you don’t just go to the next exit, cross, and get back on the highway. It doesn’t work that way, believe me.

Now, about driving in Italy.

The trauma available in getting around is impressive. Curvy, narrow roads that end in nowhere with signage in a different language makes the mere act of finding anything a competition victory on its own right. The big roads are great when you can get on them.

Do not, and I mean do NOT miss an exit. The one-ways and limited entrances onto primary roads form a conspiracy of frustration. I’m sure it’s part of a plan to reduce vehicle traffic. They clearly do not like letting drivers cross a lane of traffic.

The road map given by Hertz is more of a overall view that’s good for looking at but entirely worthless for actual navigation. Not to matter, though, because street signs are an endangered species. And when there ARE street signs, they frequently give the 4th or 5th name of the road that you’re on. Every locale must name their section of road for their own local hero. Very frustrating.

Then there’s the roundabouts. Two rules apply in these fiendish traffic contortions:1) the demolition car already in the circle has more right to hit you than you, and 2) some people don’t care about rule one. Don’t go slow while trying to figure anything out, either. You thought New York was bad? Even with a blinker on and while parking in a legal spot I got honked at. Admittedly, that was probably the only time I didn’t deserve it.

We tried to find a free-flight flying site and did, in fact, find the aerobatic task’s landing platform. There’s a great spot landing target, a foot wide pad in the middle of a 30 foot square floating platform. If only it weren’t for the motors I’d love to do spot landing comps on that!

We also wound up at an old castle (aren’t they all old?) which was really cool. It was great getting out of the car and thankfully Chad new the way back. After having to back down some stretch of back alley, I wasn’t keen on trying to drive up to it so we parked and walked, winding our way through the many alleys and cobblestone streets, going up until topping out at the castle. That was cool, walking through there. I’ll have pictures.

What a great place to let the imagination wander. I couldn’t help but think of what trauma took place up there during the many forced changes of occupants. Plus, it’s a great place to take in the valley’s broad splendor.

Saturday, June 6: Practice and Opening Ceremony

Yesterday was eventful.

As is common in huge endeavors like this, where plans fall prey to such mundainery and incorrectly parked airplanes and errant pylons, nothing went according to plan. Instead of trucks taking us to the launch area, they had us fly there. That’s a great thing, actually, except for the extra time it took.

Row One: 1 & 2) What we saw on the way here. 3) After arrival, low and behold there was a WAG poster to greet us. In most regards this has been extremely well organized with hotels and transportation all working pretty well. One minor bummer was having split hotels so I am at a different one than my team mates. 4) Looking West, this was our main area to hang out, near the sailplanes just south of the briefing areas. Just right of the sailplanes is where we launched from to fly over to the competition area.

Row Two: After the morning practice, we had time to spend so we headed out for some basic sightseeing near Avigliana, site of the paraglider Acro. These photos by Stan Kasica. The threesome is Jeff, Stan and Chad L to R.

What an amazing undertaking they’ve accepted, here. But the start was not very smooth. First, one of the 30 foot pylons collapsed. They fixed that only to be done in by improperly parked airplanes that were too close to use the cloverleaf. Eventually they concluded that we should just do the basketball slalom and dragon tail chase.

I got my perfect run out of the way. Picked up the ball right away, made it in the basket, got my ribbon on the first try and nailed the spot landing. Plus I got some aerial footage, probably the only that I’ll be able to since I’m not flying with the camera tomorrow.

Diego, owner of Miniplane, has provided my motor, which is identical to the one I own at home. He’s got a few extra innovations for competition, including a stick deflector, so when you hit the center stick, it won’t come flying back at you into the prop. Diego is a true gentleman and funny man. And the motor is brilliant, providing me plenty of power for what I’m flying.

Several pilots are flying very small wings, down to 16’s. I need to get me one of those. I’ve flown them before and really like the easy inflation, excellent speed and handling. I’d love an 18 probably since the smaller ones are faster than I like in no-wind landings. My Pluto 21 is good, but I don’t have much chance against heavier pilots flying smaller wings. I’ll sure give it my best!

When it came time to fly, they gave us the go and we essentially all took to the air, following a loose pattern and starting at the tasks.


Conditions were challenging. We didn’t launch until 10am so it was already thermally and the winds were variable from south, through west to north, making launch a challenge. In spite of that I only witnessed one missed inflation. This is quite the field of pilots.

One of the polish pilots took a collapse while slaloming and hit the ground. When he put his hand out during the fall, he sprained (or broke) his wrist as well as taking out the cage and prop. We’re down one competitor, it seems. There is a reserve Polish pilot here and I’m not clear whether she’ll be flying in his stead.

Flying Here

The field is huge and there are quite a few spectators and vendors. That I didn’t expect. This field has a control tower which keeps on eye on things but, pretty much, gives the entire airfield over to the games. Our cloverleaf, for example (not flown this practice) straddled the only runway and taxiway.

Weather was good for us with the expected thermals since we didn’t get off at 0830 as planned. The forecast was terrible, too, it was raining during our drive to the airport and forecast to rain all day. No surprise that the ground was so damp out on the field. But sunshine soon broke through and the rain didn’t come until later in the afternoon. Then it really came!

They’re relatively loose on what you can do with the admonition not to do anything stupid and don’t even think about flying over any crowds. That will get you immediately expelled, as it should.

Opening Ceremony

It felt like we are in the Olympics. Wow.

There was lots of waiting around but the scenery and camaraderie of pilots from all over the world made that easy. I absolutely loved talking with fellow passioned flying from aerial disciplines as diverse as ballooning and helicoptering and a bunch in between.

The Ceremony took place in beautiful downtown Turin. This place is right off of a postcard–a gigantic town square lined with 15th century ornate buildings, transformed by a gigantic stage, huge (30 foot tall) screen, mobile TV production studio and a surprise.

There was a marching band, troupe of flag performers, singing, and they paraded us up on stage while an MC talked a brief bit about each discipline.

The surprise came when a plane flew overhead and everybody was watching. They must have known something we didn’t, not surprising since most all the speeches were in Italian. Sure enough, as the plane passed the square, sky divers started popping out. “Where are they landing?” we thought, knowing there was no way they could land in the 10 acre square, completely packed with people! Guess again, Yankees.

They had apparently opened up a clearing of people and these skydivers, along with another half dozen later, all landed in that clearing. That was high end!

It’s been a great time with Chad Bastian, Stan Kasica, Scott Johnson and others. Now it’s time to get down to business.

Competition To Start This morning Sun June 6

Today is to be our first task. That I’m up early making this entry tells the tale of excitement.

They’re extremely optimistic of the times and hope to run a practice cloverleaf before doing the real one–all in about 90 minutes. We can only hope. I’d just rather fly the task, even if we’ve never had a chance to try it with the pylons. After all, we’d have the same advantage. Unfortunately for me, I’m going near the end when the air will be more active.

Sunday  June 7: A Bust

First the good news. David Rogers and his wife showed up this morning! Our crew and competition director for the U.S. Qualifier. It was great to see them but a bummer they missed the opening ceremony. David is one of our biggest proponents for competition in the U.S. and representation in world events. He was instrumental in getting us here, a fact that I am indeed grateful for.

Unfortunately, the morning was disappointing. Our 8am brief had been moved to 7:45am to help get started early and include a practice cloverleaf. That would be good since the schedule seems unrealistically tight. We arrived by 7:30 only to find a sign on the wall that the briefing was now delayed until 8:30am. No way. Our time slot ended at 9:50am and had yet to get our gear out to the field. Then run 22 pilots through the longest task? Bummer. This wasn’t looking good even if everything went like clockwork.

We waited.

The briefing got underway about 8:45am and it was nicely brief. Paolo offered a moment of levity with his self-answered “Are there any Questions? No, lets go.”

Mind you, I really appreciate all these volunteers and their dedication, doing their best while giving up personal time. It’s just frustrating, having run a competition myself, to see things start up so late by design. If the briefing was scheduled an hour earlier it would be plausible, but trying to do everything from a briefing that starts at 8am, with the desire of finishing 22 pilots by 9:50am, is asking a lot in the best of circumstances, let alone the complexity involved here.

They had us fly our gear over to the launch area which was fun. The 200 meter flight gave a few turns for all of us. They tolerated some brief play on this little flight (a limited tolerance as we found out later). Some did  foot drags across followed by some steepish circles to inspect our landing areas. It seems Mathieu Rouanet had to inspect his area staring straight down on it before swooping in for a long slide. So many tiny wings, so much speed. This is gonna be a struggle for me an my ‘huge’ 21 sq meter Pluto. The Czech’s 16 meter models would be perfect for me although snagging the ball would be a bit more challenging.

After we were all gathered at the field, we had to wait longer until the marshals were all in position. By the time of first launch it was about 9:30 am. Two pilots launched for their respective basketball slalom run, one on a south course and one on a north course. It took at least 10 minutes before they called the next pair to launch. Conditions were getting more thermally as evidenced by a dust devil that came through, rolling up several wings, including Stan Kasica’s, who was next to launch.

The task proved difficult, at best, given that 3 out of 4 pilots missed the ball on their first try. One took two launch attempts to get airborne. Winds were sometimes tailwind and, when the flag was raised, you had one minute to launch.

Then a motor glider took off from the runway, which our courses straddle, while the last paramotor pilot was still airborne flying his task on the north course. The motor glider proceeded to circle only a few hundred feet over the course. The glider was in contact with the tower (I was listening to the tower on an aircraft radio) and, although the glider pilot was scolded, he was told to hold until the field was clear. He held right over our course!

Finally, at about 9:50, the organization cancelled our task.

It was very frustrating being psyched for a task and then being unable to execute it.

We flew our gear back to the storage area which was one nice, little, energy release. I circled the launch deck on a foot drag and others did their own various fun tasks, usually sliding into the parking area. At least we flew a couple times.

At the debrief they apologized for what happened and explained that we would be sticking with the original schedule which means that paramotors won’t fly until Tuesday evening. We don’t know how they will squeeze in our basketball slalom.

Some went off to fly elsewhere, others of us went to see other events.

1) Briefing. 2) Chad launches to head for the takeoff area. 3) Pilots getting ready for their competition run. 4) Pavel of the Czech Republic is describing something of great interest. 5) Stan’s “Shut Up And Fly” shirt proved popular. Photos by Stan Kasica


These WAG ID’s are great since, if you’re a listed athlete, you can get into all the areas and see everything up close and personal. We made use of that when we went off to see the Acro event at a lake near Avigliana.

I personally have no interest in being that far above my wing but it sure is fun to watch what’s possible when it’s done by others. These were the world’s top pilots doing things that almost seem to defy physics. Their routines end by landing on a floating platform about 100 meters from shore. It’s a free style event judged by experienced marshals who are brought in specifically for this purpose so they know what to look for.

We copped a squat near the action and I laid back to capture some good, steady video of the goings-on. No doubt the best few seconds of that will end up on Master PPG, not to show how, but to show what’s possible with the right instruction. Of course that will be followed with what can happen when it goes wrong, too!

A strange coincidence was meeting up with Dennis Pagen, who I work with on the Powered Paragliding Bible. While watching the show, I heard his familiar voice and, sure enough, there he was! The only bummer was that I had planned on him shipping some bulk orders. Guess not, he was here until the 22nd. It was fun catching up with him, though, and Tim Kaiser has come to my rescue for shipping orders.

Getting Lost

We continue to get lost at a regular rate. After exiting a road in Italy, there is usually no way back onto that road in any meaningful way. More than once we’ve thought to “just go down that road” only to wind up in a parking lot. Even the parking lots are one way, sometimes ending at a wall that requires backing up. Crazy. It’s really not so much getting lost as it is “there’s no way to get there from here.” We know where we are, we know where we want to be, but the endless one-way’s and limited turns don’t allow getting there. Very frustrating. It appears they have devised a traffic system that avoids turning left accross lanes oncoming lanes and avoids turning across a lane when entering a road. For example, frequently, to make a right turn, you have to get over onto an entirely different street, adjacent and parallel the one you’re on. But if you don’t notice that fact then it’s too late to legally turn right from the main road.

Tommorrow we’re going to try finding a soaring site for a morning sledder then go watch some of the other air events.

Mon June 8, 2009

We headed for the hills. North of Turin, only about an hour away, are some free flying sites. It was more gliding than soaring since there wasn’t gonna be much lift, nor did we want to take on much, given my lack of a reserve and back protection. I’m using a tiny Alpine harness. Thanks to Chad for driving the car back down, allowing Stan and Myself to get a flight in.

The flights weren’t much, Stan launched first then I followed him down. I did actually work some lift to stay at one spot for a while but was gaining only a few feet then losing more when I moved away from the hill. I just wasn’t comfortable being near the hill with that harness in case something went bad. I wanted a bit of room to work it out. What a beautiful float down, too. Only mildly jiggly air allowed me to get some video on the way down, including Stan’s landing. Ahhh, that felt good.

Chad met us while we were packing up and we drove back up the mountain. Unfortunately, conditions changed and he wisely decided to skip it. Winds were occasionally blowing down the back pretty hard. Not good. So we drove up to find the higher launch and, with the help of Dennis’s directions and his I-Phone Google maps, succeeded. Ooooh this looks nice. It’s a better HG launch than PG launch but, with the right wind, will certainly work.

While out on the mountain, Chad got a text message. “Attempt at running task this evening, briefing at 4pm.” Good thing we had his working phone.

This time the organizers got it right. After a quick briefing we were all ready to fly at 5pm but the weather wasn’t cooperating. North winds were 11 to 15 mph–enough that the pylons were struggling to stay upright. The only organizational glitch was in working with the control tower which is being overly strict about ground movements and air movements. We were told to fly over (a flight of a few hundred meters) but then, after 7 pilots did so, were told that we did not have clearance. The tower was pissed. Paolo smoothed that over and asked us to make sure we fly straight lines and down low to keep the tower happy. Our little flights were a little too radical, apparently.

Since the wind did not calm down they had to again cancel the task. Not their fault. This time we had plenty of time to complete the task even though we would have run over by 20 minutes or so. Other disciplines were running late, too.

Thanks to Dennis Pagen for pointing out the sites. What an absolute beautiful start to the day. Hopefully we’ll be back there again.

What a bummer. So Tue we try again, possibly trying to run two tasks. Hopefully the predicted rain holds off.


After dinner we headed for a huge indoor arena, Palaruffini, where they put on the indoor radio-controlled aeromodeling competition that’s done to music.

If you’ve never seen this, it’s amazing, truly amazing, and beautiful to behold. I was truly impressed, especially as a hack R/C pilot myself. It’s obvious that boatloads of practice has been poured into some talented folks. They were almost all very young, too, and like our sport, almost entirely male.

They then put on demos which were fascinating. I had no idea models could do all those things! During an intermission between events, they brought out these helium-filled model blimps. They looked like fish swimming around. It was well worth watching. And you gotta love these athlete ID’s–they get us into all the events free, including the otherwise off-limits areas.

Tue June 9: Finally, One In The Bag

It was a bad omen. While waiting to fly our gear to the launch, a gust came through, caught my connected wing and started dragging my empty motor. No damage was done but it was ominous.

At around 6:30pm the airport opened up from other tasks and we got to fly into a good solid “parawait” as thunder-goo emptied itself to the east. Conditions worsened and the organizers put us on hold. A good call, most of us thought.

45 minutes later, things improved, at least enough for the pylons to stand up straight, and WAG 2009 got underway for us.

The first pilot to launch, Chris, did an admirable job, capturing the ball downwind and whipping through the course. He missed both baskets but that’s actually a relatively small penalty.

Probably half the pilots missed at least 1 of the two balls and a couple pilots missed a ball more than twice which is essentially disqualfying.

At least two pilots wound up going down, including my racemate, when the gust front came through.

Yup, a gust front. He was on the north course and went for the ball downwind. That would yield a better time but have more risk of missing. I, on the south course, played it safer/slower by going for the ball upwind. When the wind hit him, it was from behind, which sent him sliding to the ground. The gust hit me just as I went for the ball, rocking me upward. I came around to get it on the second try. I did get both balls in the basket but, with the wind now very strong my time suffered enormously. So did the last set of pilots who followed my round.

Us last four pilots had a huge disadvantage because of the sudden wind. Such is how the ball bounces.

Hopefully I’ll have the scores up by Wed night. It’s a bummer because this task represents, by far, the greatest amount of seconds in the whole event, rendering it all but impossible to recover. My 3:15 time is a full minute more than the first place pilot which makes the podium a near impossibility. Even if I do INCREDIBLY well on the cloverleaf and dragon tail chase, at best I’d get back 10 seconds. No matter, though, I’ll do my best.

Mathieu Roanet showed himself a class act. As he walked by he offered that he was going to fight for an allowance to let the last four pilots re-run the course. And it could serve to hurt his standing. He is obviously all about trying to be fair. Unfortunately, the organizers didn’t agree and, I suppose, I can imagine that some pilots wouldn’t want it, either. We get what weather we get.

The organizers did a splendid job this time around, getting the whole thing done in 48 minutes. Thanks also to David and Carmen Rogers for there help on the course.

Even in this world competition I’m amazed at the cooperation and camaraderie. I didn’t know what to expect but am thrilled to see how everyone wants, above all else, for it to be fair.

Enough for now. Off to bed, there are hills to be soared in the morning.

Chad Bastian and the others get ready to fly to the launch deck.

June 10: Not So Finally

Apparently the organizers saw the unfairness of yesterday’s gusted task. The sign this evening read “Due to an unstable weather condition that made the last two pair of courses clearly unfair for the competitors, Task 1 results are cancelled.”

While that means we don’t have “one in the bag,” it does mean those last four pilots are back in the game. As bad as I had it, my racemate, who hit the ground when the front came through, was worse. He took it up the butt. We will now all try again tomorrow (Thur) morning.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled to have a chance. Game on!

Also, there has been a scoring change that I consider an improvement and makes it more exciting. Here’s more on the sidebar.

Today we didn’t fly so Chad, Stan and I went back to the soaring site that served us well Monday. Amazingly, we met up with a large group of pilots from Atlanta Paragliding who gave us a ride up the hill. They’re touring Europe as part of an organized trip, going from soaring site to soaring site. What great folks they are. Luiz, the owner and Todd, an Advanced Instructor were an absolute pleasure to be around and did a great job with their pilots, who ranged from relative newbies to advanced.

Luiz has a 13 year old son who is already an accomplished pilot, as evidenced by his launch and flying. It’s hard for me to imagine my life had I been able to paraglide at age 13. Lucky arrangement for both father and son.

After morning soaring, we drove through the Aosta valley to Italy’s entrance to the Mount Blanc tunnel which connects Italy to France. What a gorgeous drive! Castles, old villages, huge snow-pocked mountains and, just before going under the mountain, a huge wall of ice that marks an active glacier’s terminus. We didn’t go through because it would cost $60US each, take 20 minutes each way and we didn’t have our passports. But the drive itself was amazing.

I’ll try stealing enough sleep for tomorrow morning’s 7:30am start. We’ll fly again in the evening at 1730 and the weather is supposed to be good all day. Here’s hoping they’re right!

1) Stan ponders launch. 2) After nabbing a nice little bubble I captured the town Andrate. 3) Our launch site. There’s another one up high but this did just fine. 4) Chad prepares for an evening flight. Unfortunately, I was the driver because this one turned out to be the sweetest slice of soardome served up. 5) Happy Jeff. 6) Luiz from Atlanta Paragliding helps another pilot launch. 7) Can you believe this view? Wow. I’m about 500 feet over the LZ.

June 11: First Scores

Yes! We all flew the task this morning in nearly perfect conditions. It was light and variable by launch time, which meant that some competitors (me included) had a small tailwind. But that’s clearly part of the game and all but one pilot pulled it off. My run was perfect, getting each ball on the first try, making both baskets and getting on the speedbar during the non-ball phases. But 9 other pilots were faster. They had faster wings which is obviously critical, but they also had great skill to get the ball and make the basket. So the fast wing is advantageous in most ways and harder in some. Mathieu, for example, nailed every element flying a small wing. That’s tough. But the follow-on competitors also did a great job and deserve their good times. I’m now placed 10 out of 22.

After we finished the organizers gave us some free flight time. How nice. They’re really trying to accommodate us.

We had one mishap, though, not in the competition but during that free flight time. Thomas Keller from Germany hurt his foot (may be broke) and severely damaged his machine. It won’t be competing any more. That is a bummer. He apparently was doing a turn on launch, had a bad step and fell. He broke his ankle in a few places, got some pins in it here and will have some more surgery after returning to Germany.

As to the running of things, kudos to the organizers who have obviously found their pacing, starting the task within a few minutes.

So here are the scores (at left) after task one. Not surprisingly, Mathieu Roanet had the best time but it was much, much closer this time around. This was so much better that we all had about the same weather. The top guys took it fair and square.

Afternoon Drama

Time for the cloverleaf. This is the big one.

Some small (still quite civilized) drama in the briefing left me with a solo run since Thomas was out. I would have no race mate since which meant that I couldn’t have a penalty. I thought that eliminating the penalty for everyone would be the most fair handling, and so did the organizers, but a majority of pilots wanted to keep it. Since I would benefit from keeping the penalty I abstained from the vote–just didn’t seem right.

With that resolved we went out and waited. Having all these other activities, some of which were running late, meant that we waited until probably 8:15pm. Amazingly, they ran a practice round before going onto the real deal. Bummer since the sun set after about the 4th pair parted. I was number 8.

So there I stood, motor running, all ready to go. The previous competitors launch blew my wing around (which is my problem, not his). David quickly reset my wing and I got ready again. Looking around at the judge, awaiting a flag, but seeing someone else fly, I figured there was something amiss on the south course.

The next occurrence induced an emotion that’s difficult to describe. The marshal walked over and told me I missed my run. What? I had watched the guy before me launch, got the wing quickly reset and watching for the flag to go first up, then down. Never saw it up or down, neither did David. Never got asked if I was ready. Plus, the fact that another pilot was airborne meant, to me, that there was an operation still on the other course.

Turns out, they forgot that I was to fly alone. But even so, neither David, nor I, saw any indication that the flag was up, nor was I ever asked if I was ready. Your teammate is not allowed to touch your wing or gear but *IS* allowed to yell when it’s time to go. That’s important since the marshal flagging the start was nearly directly behind the launching pilots so we were turning our heads all the way around.

Thankfully, they let me fly the task right just after the wind switched about 130 degrees and came on stronger. It was nothing like the cancelled task of yesterday. Actually it was quite smooth. Who it really hurt was the pilot beside me (current European champion), got caught and missed the launch. What do ya do? I mean it switched almost as he was given the green flag. It was a big switch, too, both in direction and velocity.

I and my teammates pleaded with them that I was supposed to run alone but the marshal clearly wasn’t aware of that at the time. So thankfully, when he checked up on it, they let me do my run. It went well but wasn’t fast by these standards. Small wings piloted by skilled pilots will rule at this event.

But imagine the emotions cursing through me after being told “you missed your opportunity,” knowing full well you were completely stoked, ready and anticipating your one time on the stage. I’ve never felt that way in my life. It was an indescribable indignation. Once I got airborne that all went away and I concentrated on the task.

It’s never easy!

Tomorrow morning we do the final task that includes all pilots: the dragon tail chase. This task is generally only worth a few seconds so there is now almost no chance I can get in the top 8. I’ll do my best and see where the chips fall. These are exceptional pilots here, many of which fly lots of competitions. They bring the right tools and ability to wield them. Such is the requirement if you expect to win.

Off to bed for my nap.

June 12: General Competition Ends, Final to Begin Tonight

This morning we flew the dragon tail chase, our final task.

Results were mixed, as you can see, with some high standing pilots losing a lot of ground. It was tough to catch the ribbon with a fair number of pilots getting it in their lines. This task is minimized in importance by virtue of having a maximum time of 60 seconds, even for those who scored more.

Spot landings were also mixed. Thankfully, both my ribbon catch and spot landing went pretty well. The landing was tough since it was late morning. I flew last at 10:20AM and, after seeing a few pilots fall or hit their cages, played it more conservative than usual. I did not want to push too hard. The landing seemed like it was only a couple feet off but they called it 2.9 meters. I kicked the ball but first touchdown was off to the left and slightly early. The ribbon capture went perfect.

While climbing for my ribbon catch I took a moment to enjoy the incredible beauty. Limitless visibility under deep blue skies framed snow-capped mountains all around. It was a moment that I’ll cherish. After catching the ribbon, I continued climbing for the spot landing. After shutting off the motor, I found and started climbing in a thermal. It was an amazing place to be.

After a seemingly endless wait, the scores came out and my times put me in 5th place. When added to the others, it turns out that I’m number 7.

Number 7!

It might not sound that great but it’s enough to put me in the final round tonight. Not that I have much chance with my slowish wing, but just making it this far is thrilling. I’m hoping to fly with a video camera.

I’ve got a good idea how it will go since my practice cloverleaf, which I got to do in a very light wind, was timed by our crew member, David Rogers, at 53 seconds. Mathieu and Alex scored 39 and 40 seconds for perspective so you can see why I’m not expecting to kick anybody’s anything. And the other pilots are flying great times, too. Like everything else, I’ll simply to my best and enjoy the process.

It was so funny when Paolo, the microlight leader, came over, sat down, and calmly explained that “Jeff, you may need more fuel.” Yehaaaa!

An encouraging sidenote was that Juan Jose of Spain flew. But he couldn’t get his motor started so several pilots offered to help. When nothing could be done, Mathieu Roanet provided his own motor. His only motor. The motor that would need to carry him through the remaining finals. That is sportsmanship. If ever there was someone you want running a competition or being involved in it, my vote will go to Mr. Roanet. Officials asked for unanimous approval before allowing it, and told us they may still not be able to approve the flight, but they did let him fly.

Kudos to the Miniplane and Pluto which have performed splendidly. The Pluto is a basic beginner wing–solid, maneuverable and sufficiently clean. The Miniplane is, of course, a mere 80 cc’s but packs the punch I need, when I need it, right away.

Thanks to Diego of Miniplane for loaning me a motor for the event. It ran flawlessly. I’m thrilled to give it one more flight!

Briefing at 1730, run at 1910. Here we go.

June 13: It is Finished

Wow. What a trip. There were some photo finishes for these final rounds. I wasn’t one of them, of course, and have learned a new respect for the level of accuracy available to paramotor pilots. Accuracy at high speed and steep banks. Just going steep is easy, going steep with precision control over your ground track at high speed is a completely different animal. Many pilots can wank and bank, the best pilots can do it with extreme precision.

We had wind for this cloverleaf so all the times suffered some. A number of 40 second runs were flown but the numbers you see posted were from the start of launch to finishing the task. Even the launch was interesting. Pilots launched north and immediately banked towards the course. I actually crossed the line first but, by Alex beat me to the first stick still and then proceeded to soundly whoop up on me thereafter. He’s a great pilot with a great future. Besides which, he’s just a great person to be around. I wish I could speak French!

Mathieu and Laurent flew a final race and what a show it was. They were within 2 seconds of each other and afterwards put on a little show for everyone.

The awards ceremony starts shortly and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I have compiled the results in a more meaningful form and placed them here as a PDF. I will hopefully fill in all the equipment and weight blanks later on. It will be interesting to see what effect wing size, weight and power has on outcome. See the sidebar, though, for a word of caution about wing size.

One real bummer was when Polish pilot Piotr was doing his run, he took a collapse that turned him enough to hit the ground just as he came around pylon 2. I’m told he had no broken bones but did get a ride in the ambulance to be checked out. Hopefully he’s well, I’ll find out more today. [June 14 update]  Piotr was back, walking around and showing only one sign of any injury, a precautionary neck cushion. 

1) We walked around and watched some of the other finals. These guys are phenomenal at converting vertical drop into horizontal speed. It’s a dangerous game of drop, drag and plop with precision. 2) Our briefer and CIMA president pass out the Diplomas. 3) The Italian formation team, 4) Party afterwards for volunteers and competitors. David Sigier on left, Diego on right.

June 14: Finishing Touch

It was fun to watch our guys being recognized on the podium. What a grand presentation it was, too. Mathieu took Gold, Laurent took Silver and Alex to Bronze. Congrats to a deserving group.

Paramotors were the first craft to fly at World Air Games 2009 and, as it turned out, the last thing to fly. A team of 8 paramotor pilots from the local area closed down the show with an attractive display of formation flying. What was amazing was how the crowd absolutely loved it. They clapped as much as they did for the beautifully flown Swiss formation team of airplanes that started the closing ceremony. Organizers kept both groups a surprise which, I think, worked out for the better.

After the awards ceremony, we met back at our briefing area and they handed out certificates to those who made the finals, and Paolo gave us each a bottle of wine as a personal “thank you.” Nice touch. I’m a teetotaler so it’ll be a real special occasion when I do finally pop the cork on that one.

Many of the pilots had to pack up and head out but a few of us enjoyed the show and a final party last night. The Russians, I think, enjoyed the party more than most. I don’t know what they were singing but they sure belted it out with abandon! And when I went to video tape their jubilations, they didn’t even know I was there. Fun sure is universal.

To the organizers: a big “thank you.” It was an experience to cherish, with a few lows and some very extreme highs. I was honored to be in the company of some incredible pilots and exceptional humans. I’ll treasure my time here.

Sunday we set a more leisurely pace, visiting the Egypt museum, watching the airshow and getting our packing done. Being able to be on the air side of everything made the airshow a bit better. What’s funny is how we watched it by lying under the shade-giving wing of a Sport aircraft . Even funnier was how, in the midst of all that vrooming noise, with crowd milling about, vehicles driving by, we all fell soundly asleep. Soundly.  Lying right there on pavement, three exhausted paramotor pilots took in high-end, high powered acro through their eye lids. That had to be an amusing sight.

It’s been a great slice of life, thanks for letting me share.

World Air Games final scores