Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pico Agudo - taking off above the layer

The 3rd Stage of the Paulista Hang-Gliding Cup 2009, was scheduled for the weekend of May 22nd, 23rd and 24th. The organizers wanted many FAI registered pilots to attend in order to obtain the status of FAI event for this stage. The main reason was to validate the 2009 World Hang Gliding Championship participation of São Paulo pilot Michel Louzada and Rio de Janeiro pilot José Guilherme Lopes Lessa, since attending a FAI event was a requirement which both pilots hadn´t yet met this year.

Anyway, the spot was the Pico Agudo ramp - - on the city of Santo Antônio do Pinhal - - on the State of São Paulo. It´s also not too far away from Rio, only a 5 hour drive. This city sits very near the well know city of Campos do Jordão - - with only 15 Km separating the two.

Campos is a major weekend destination of the wealthy paulistans and not without a good reason: with both cities sitting above 1600mts asl, the weather is very cool, and makes for a alpine scene of sorts for us heat-stuck brazilians. Temperature at nightime was only 5 degrees Celsius which called for pasta, wine, fondues. Nice!

The weather was bright and one should expect good flying conditions, but I soon learned that this particular spot on the Mantiqueira range, is not very consistent, I wonder why that is, since it is actually pretty close to wonderful flying sites like the Pico do Gavião, in Andradas - ; Atibaia -; etc.

On Friday morning, the first day, the condition looked very nice, but once we drove to the top of launch, we discovered that the ceiling, on the direction of flight, was very low, much below take off... Looking towards the interior though, conditions seemed much nicer, with a higher base and a drier look.

I wonder why the Pico Agudo ramp doesn´t share this inland condition with its neighbouring launches. Maybe influence of the sea? But its still a long ways from shore, maybe 80Km or so. On the good days though, specially when the North wind brings the inland conditions all the way to Pico Agudo and beyond, really great flights can be made, like flying all the way to the coast. Local Marcelo Menin once flew all the way to Ilha Bela and back to the mainland, a flight well above 120Km!

The track log for this flight is at:

Anyway, I made a little movie of the launch on Friday. The interesting point is that we were launching above the ceiling, waiting for the cycles to clear so as to allow take-offs, and then gliding down to the thermic layer below. The lift was weak and the task was called for only 33Km, and even then no pilot was able to make goal. I finished 8th having been able to make the first turnpoint, not without a lot of struggle. Landed at the official LZ. It was to be my only flight there this weekend, since some family issues forced me to go back to Rio on the next day.