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The Millenium Cup

I took the following photos free-flying at the Millenium Cup, Valle de Bravo in January. Sorry, no in-task or gaggle photos- I hate juggling two cameras. So unfortunately no photos of volcanoes, massive convergence and good altitudes that we had in the comp. [12-13 grand was the norm, although they had 18 a few weeks earlier.] I'll leave that to your imagination... :-} But you get an idea of the superb scenery, and amazing consistent flying. Thanks to Apco, and to Erick, Karel and their team, as well as a great bunch of pilots for a super comp. Memorable moments- Matt Taggs flying most of one of the tasks with only one brake, the other line flapping in the breeze behind him. Chris Muller winning the first task- without a vario! The fourth task up the valley towards Toluca, right by a 5000 meter volcano. Its weird how low 3900 meters feels in that pass! The three hour trek out of there at 11000 ft after I landed, feeling a bit worse for wear with my sea-level lungs! Ripping climbs, making goal a couple of times, El Penon del Diablo living up to its reputation, more reserves thrown than I've seen in a while. Most of all, fast, high convergence flying.

XC-Files Comp Report:

Day 1. 42.3 km task called, with a tarp out in front of take-off, 1st TP at Las Trest Reyes, 2nd TP at the top end of a valley at Los Saucos, and then goal at "tanka de gas" behind the mesa. After getting the stress of the starting gaggle over El Penon behind, it was time to jump on the bar and relax for a while. A long glide over the rim of the mesa put me by the first turnpoint, but fairly low in the sunny lee side. With nothing but trees and a looong glide out to any clear ground. A yellow Bonanza just in front of me sunk out and landed, as I scratched lower and lower. Going down here and now would really suck. But no gracias, senor , as luckily a violent little core which felt about the size of a dinner plate came rocketing through, and after a while, got some full circles in the lift which drifted me nicely back along the mesa. More bubbles over some fields which came straight out of Zimbabwe tobacco country put me up onto a nice face just as the valley narrows, where I waited before a decent climb put me on my way to Cerro Gordo. I ridge soared up to the summit of this forested conical hill, where I hooked a screamer to cloudbase. From there I headed for the forming cloud street at the back of the mesa, which curved round marking a convergence line where the valley winds met. Working far more cautiously than ended up being necessary, I headed slowly up the valley to the 2nd TP, and after hunting around for a bit, thought I found it, but took photos of every building in sight just to be sure. Then it was speed bar pegged down the valley in continuous, strong convergence. A LOT of spiralling put me on the ground dizzy but pleased to make goal first day.

2nd Task: 58.1 km. Same start tarp, same time, but today a turnpoint ou in the town of San Pedro, then the Los Saucos turnpoint, a TP between Cerro Gordo and Valle, and goal at Premacion. Having got the first turnpoint, came back to the cliffs behind El Penon, but couldn't really top out as was possible yesterday. A slower day saw people working light lift in the middle of the mesa. I wasn't getting any higher at the cliffs so decided to try and connect with the small gaggle over some fields in the middle of the mesa. Bad idea- continual groaning from the vario put me on the ground smack in the middle of the plateau- with a long walk out. Doh!!!!!! Cursing my impatience, I had plenty of time to reflect on tactics as it was a three hour walk before I even saw a car, which luckily to me straight to the comp HQ. What would have been about 10-15 minutes in the air took me about 4.5 hours on the ground. Moral- don't land!! The walk and countryside was beautiful however- paragliding does show you some amazing places.

3rd Day: 51.5 km. Same tarp, same time, but with an extended task. A TP at the very end of the mesa at the radio towers, then goal was up towards Nevado de Toluca past Los Saucos and the Monarch Butterfly preserve.

The Monarch Butterfly rejoices in its position as the State Insect{!!} of Texas, although like the Paraglider Pilots they come from all over North America. All the Monarchs in N. America migrate to this one forest every year, although none have ever made the trip before. Seeing millions of them lining the roads is amazing. Their life cycle and the journeys across a continent make our Nylon Butterflies look pretty ineffective. Anyway, a slow glide into wind towards the 1st TP saw the field working low along spines in the lee- I eventually got a decent climb that put me around the radio towers, but the long battle into wind had taken a while. People were going down on the mesa, and determined not to do the same as yesterday, I worked every bit of lift, drifting over the back of the plateau towards Valle. Cerro Gordo to the right was an option, but i suspected that the convergence had already set up further towards Valle. A bird a few Km's away alerted me to a rocketing climb, and I headed out off track in search of lift. This proved to be the right choice, as I was able to circle round and get in under the cloud street, while the red Sigma I was with got low and landed right underneath the main cloud street. Heading up towards Los Saucos was fairly easy going, but the convergence was weaker and more long gone than before. I worked everything, determined to take height into the next transition. I topped out at 3600 meters at the top of the valley, thinking that I had to cross the next valley, until i looked down at the goal line and realised i'd been wasting a lot of time. I'd mistaken someone landing at goal for sinking out!!! Tiredness and slight hypoxia may have been a factor for my sea level lungs, as I can't think how I would normally have overlooked all evidence to the contrary. More spiralling and goal for a second time. The mental alertness certainly seemed to be a factor for another competitor on a white Bonanza, who inexplicably snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by piling in with a negative spin from 100 ft agl in the goal field. Luckily the ground was soft and he was able to limp away eventually, but after seeing the "attention" of the Mexican Paramedics, i made a mental note not to crash during the comp.

4th Day: 67.2 km. A great task, tarp, TP at Las Tres Reyes, then a long run over the mesa, up the valley, ovre the 11000ft pass at Nevado de Toluca and down over the flatlands to Toluca City. Got the TP, got low again, got up again from the same place. Back over the Mesa with the second gaggle, I was further up in the field than I knew at the time. Passing them by as I deviated to Cerro Gordo while they went straight and got low, I was in business. Now this was flying. Straight to the cloud streets in the valley to the east of Los Saucos, I again deviated way East, almost onto the slopes of the volcano, while others who went into the blue hole in the middle of the valley got low and mainly bombed. Creeping up the valley was intense, as the ground ate up all your ground clearance as soon as you went on glide up valley. Pretty tired and/or hypoxic at 3900 meters, another big frontal had me laughing at myself and my slowed reactions. Time to get serious. Passing over Jocky Sanderson {Matt, wake up!!...time for school!!} I could see Toluca and all that beautiful ground clearance and glide to goal just waiting for me just over the pass. Having flown well and cautiously, I now made the one stupid move that is required to put you down. Trying to cross the top of the valley to a nice face where the leading 4 or 5 pilots were ridge soaring, I bombed out in a totally desolate field at 10 000ft. Amazing views of the volcano, it had to be as I had an absolute epic walk out- tired thirsty and low on Oxygen, I climbed up through the pass and down towards the main Toluca road in a 3 hour hike from hell. Focussing on staying airborne will never be a problem again, I believe. But except for the last mistake I was happy with how I flew and this ended up being my best position of the comp, despite not making goal.

5th and Last Day: 51.2 km. Same tarp, same time. TP at Sane Pedro, 2nd TP near tanka de gas, 3rd TP at Cerro Gordo and goal at Premacion. Day of contrasts. Got the first TP and another good climb out of the same spot on the spine over town. heading back to the cliffs, I was in business, or so I thought. While wave after wave of pilots passed to the west, I got bumped around in windy crap over the cliffs, never really getting up. After an eternity, I decided that El Penon had to be working better than this. Bad idea. By mid afternoon, El Penon is cooking and is really, really rough. In a month from then, nobody flies during the heat of the day, so rough is the air. They stick to thermalling at 8.30 in the morning......

I glided in over El Penon, and felt like I had flown into a tornado. Without warning or even the usual ominous jet-engine wind noises, the glider went to a ball and stayed in that vague configuration for a good few hundred feet, as I proceeded to go through the complete SIV training course in one easy step. Every time it seemed like I could get the glider back in control it went ape again. The air felt like a high speed blender. Throwing the reserve is not a good option above the Penon, so I fought pretty long and hard. Anyway, after some serious kung-fu and up-close inspections of my center cells, the nylon bag made a welcome return to being an aircraft. The Bagheera is a really solid wing, so i feel this could only have been a massive dust devil. Now low and not in a fun place, I turned tail and fled towards take off, thoroughly chastened. El Penon's bite is every bit as good as its bark!!! To the west of takeoff now and with the wind howling, I decided to turn and run up towards the 2nd TP. Ready for some more aerial Kung-Fu imitations, I rocketed down past the Pinitas, where strong, shredded lift bumped me along towards the Turnpoint, where i got low, and more importantly, demoralised. Once you entertain the possibility of not getting back up, it always seems to happen in this situation- goes to show what a psychological game flying is. To add to my woes, when pinning in at the Headquarters, i discovered I had missed the last turnpoint on my photo on day one by half a centimeter. I was in sector, and seemed to have photographed the entire valley except the TP. DOH!!! It ended up costing me 350 points and 5 places, which I suppose is cheap at the price as long as I don't do it again. I ended up finishing 12th Serial Class, but the scenery and amazing flying of this place will no doubt have me back for more. Gracias, Mexico!

Las Tres Reyes-a common turnpoint in the comp. Tree landing if you get too low...

To the East, from the middle of the Mesa.

Cerra Gordo, {always seems to work} on the PG autobahn back to town.

At Cerra Gordo

Jedi, I am your father.

Looking back toward the mesa and El Penon launch.

Obligatory Valle de Bravo foot shot.

Life is good...

Over the landing at the lake- yes, that sliver of sand in the middle.

Over the central square, the church and my hotel.

Saw some great water {crash} landings. No names, hey Nico?!!? Top source of entertainment on the beach.

The main church in Valle.

La Torre launch, with Jocky, John and Chris getting ready to film some aeros.

From La Torre launch behind the town.

More of the town.

Chris being interviewed by Mexican TV. Note "Canada Kicks Ass" t-shirt.

Prize-giving, open class. Chris Muller in first, followed by Josh Cohn.

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