|What an awesome location for an airfield
|Towing out on a clear day with Monte Rosa dead ahead
|A good fleet of Stinson L5 tugs thanks to the USA leaving a few behind in 1945
|Poor visibility dogged the first few days
Day 5 the final glide was from the West and the Director advised that during the last 10 kms the best option was to ditch in the lake. Given that the scorer had done 2 water landings himself and that there was an ASH25 in the hangar being dried out after a recent ditching we all took heed of this advice.
The competitors were a very talented bunch: Giorgio Galetto, Mario Keissling and Tilo Holighaus to name just three. The competition ended with a cruel twist as Mario, who went into the last day leading by 5 points had a nightmare and missed the first turn only to realise this 90kms later at turn 2 - so he went back to get all the TP's but consequently finished last for the day and dropped to third overall. Giorgio won the event with Tilo second.
We had two days into the higher mountains. Day 5 went North, behind the Monte Rosa and then down to the South West. The turbulence on this day was some of the worst I've ever experienced and made for some exciting times on the ridges. I crossed a couple of cols lower than comfortable and popped out into the South East end of the Aosta valley and into reasonable wave. I met Christoph Nacke here and we chatted on the radio as we climbed in 6 knots to 3700m. Christoph's first radio call said it all: "Hello Jon - do you have a dry mouth as well?" "yes Christoph, and I need to remove the seat cushion when I land". Sadly we then had to drop down to below the airspace limit for the next turn and wound up starting the engines. Only one finisher for the day - master comedian Ugo Pavesi, who used local knowledge and impressive skill to run back on weak ridges before jumping the last col to scrape home.
|Monte Rosa towering above the cloudbase
The last day, day 6, was a stunner. 260kms in the mountains to the North in a forecasted Northerly wind. Most of us climbed in weak wave to 2500m in the start area before dropping down to the max start altitude of 2000m. Turn one was on top of a mountain and involved climbing on the ridge to get into the sector. I then followed Giorgio North into rotor climbs before watching him burn into the stratosphere and off into the distance. I bumbled along and worked my up before finding really strong wave near Locarno. 10 knots up to the competition ceiling of 3800m and track along towards turn 2. I dropped downwind to the turn, ran back to the wave but failed to connect so pushed on to the spur where I thought the 25 knot wind would work - and it did, and how. I ran this ridge West, working up the slopes and towards Domodossola. One clenching moment to get across a col (get that stick forward for speed - 90 knots minimum, watch to see the col is going down in the canopy, a little pull up to get over.... and relax) and I popped out into the wide valley behind. I ran across towards the last turn at Varzo and couldn't ignore the 8 knots just before the turn. I was now 500m above glide with 50kms to go and headed for home, pushing the speed up to 130knots all the way home. 108kph gave me 6th for the day and 11th out of 15 overall. A poor result but my goodness what a learning experience the last 2 days were and I really treated this competition as a holiday.
|Ugo Rafaelli, Giorgio Galetto and Pino Dal Grande: trying to combat the stress of competition
|Until next year - thankyou ACAO Varese