Airways Manx TT Competition 2006

For those of you who could not make the Competition here is a little run down of what happened.

Once in a man’s life, he will feel the need to run a paragliding competition.  It’s an unnatural urge really, fraught with huge logistical and metrological risks.  An urge so abhorrent to most sane people that it probably takes a little bit of madness mixed in with an irrepressible dose of optimism, coated with a dream like hope that everything and everyone will not let you down, finally topped off with a hopelessly misguided thought that success will put something back into the sport you love.  But hey, as a pilot you have to be a pretty optimistic sort of person.  You have to have faith.  If we thought it was not going to work we would never take off.  So I took off.

Getting a paragliding competition up and running needs publicity.  The Isle of Man Tourism Board Special Events team kindly offered to underwrite us for the cost of the advertising in Skywings.  Colin at Skywings offered to sponsor us with a great deal in the Magazine.  Full colour page, the works.

Chris Dawes at Airways agreed to come over and take control of the task setting and supply the main prizes.  He was a godsend.  Other prizes and funding were provided generously by XC magazine, Microgaming and Peter Jenkins.  Swales Flooring agreed to provide a sponsored bus to transport pilots around. The Snaefell Mountain Railway people agreed to provide a free tram and trailer to the summit of Snaefell for each day of the event.  All these people were more than generous with their help and enthusiasm.

St John’s Ambulance agreed not to turn up but that’s another story.

When Colin’s full page colour ad appeared in Skywings there were a few raised eyebrows – surely the Isle of Man never gets THAT sunny! Little did we know that the competition weekend was going to be even sunnier!!

When first conceiving this endeavour, over a year earlier, I had a few little tasks drawn up in my mind. Mount Stupid to Hibernia was one of them.  Mount Stupid to Maughold was another.  Yes I’ll be happy with that if the weather plays ball…. Well I’’m allowed to dream aren’t I?

Ever so slowly entries began to arrive and when I say slowly I mean slowly.  Eventually the drib of entries turn into a dribble which in turn became a trickle and we ended up with about 15 UK pilots entered… along with a potential 15 Manxies we would have approximately 30 pilots – nice number, not too many head aches…

Keith, Si and Jamie kindly took over the welcoming party on Friday night – promptly getting thrown out of the Claremont hotel and relocated to the Amber Bar.  A fine collection of pilots greeted me on Saturday morning wide-eyed and raring to go.

Wide-eyed bus driver Big Al then turned up and was briefed to go to Snaefell.  By this time my scouts (Chris, Ean, Phil, Jamie and Northy), who were liberally sprinkled around various hills, were all telling me the same thing.  It was windy low down and light high up with a very pronounced inversion (20mph at the coast- 8mph on top of Snaefell) – mmmmmm… wierd things these inversions…… Snaefell it was then. We loaded up the tram and trailer and decided on a vol biv type task to the north.

Dawsey took control of the launch. I placed myself on Clagh Ouyr to check if any pilots actually made it across the gap. Chris Misselbrook was positioned on Mount Stupid to do the same and Ean and family along with Jason Hyatt were placed patiently at Hibernia to find and set up a goal field with spot.

Pilots had to fly off Snaefell, slope land or touch a marker on the hill and then head off north to Clagh Ouyr.  If they landed (and they all did) they were allowed to hike up to me and take off again and fly on towards the Mount Stupid range and beyond to North Barrule and then goal.  As the first pilots began to take off it was obvious that the high-pressure was making things very difficult. On the section of ridge I was on it was blowing a nice steady 16 mph and seemed very soarable but amazingly, it was not working.

Eventually a steady stream of pilots flew off Snaefell, landed short and were soon huffing and puffing up to me. A few complained but most seemed happy if a little bemused.  After they had taken off again, it was good to see their progress as they flew up the ridge towards the north into a quite strong looking easterly.  As more and more disappeared out of sight towards goal I began to rest easy…. Today’’s task was going to be a success.  Eventually the last pilot came through and Chris and I were able to take off and follow them, making sure no one was left behind on the huge expanse of rock-strewn ridge. Conditions must have improved considerably for us ‘sweeper uppers’ as lift was everywhere and the trip along the ridge was a real doddle. What a fantastic stretch of ridge we were flying along.  Hard to believe it’s never really been flown in the past.

Made goal with stacks of height and landed to a cheer. 24 very happy pilots made it to goal…. A successful first day.

Saturday night  –  beer and more…… beer.

Sunday morning had a pretty vague forecast. The scouts were on Snaefell with no wind but a steady SE down the bottom.  The met were saying that the inversion would break at 2pm……. Back to Snaefell with the bus and straight to the top on the tram.

A duration and splat (spot) was set with the NW landing field as goal, with a spot landing to boot. Breeze up both sides of the hill had pilots taking off from both sides at regular intervals.  No one found any lift although several got close to the spot.

In the mean time Northy was off trying several hills to see if we could find anywhere better. The last I heard from him was a text off Slieau Ruy – something about heat stroke. We never saw him again….

Cumulus began to appear above Snaefell which seemed to focus people.  Something was happening, so the decision was made to go up Snaefell again.  Robbie the tram man crammed us all on the tram, minus trailer. There was barely room to breath. On the way up we saw the other tram had been stopped on account of a rail that had buckled due to the heat! We arrived at the top – had some chips and a lovely para wait amongst the huge crowd that had formed on the summit.  Spectators!

Dawesey set the task as open XC much to everyone’s bewilderment. The only option seemed to be a long glide down the Laxey valley. There was no wind and again pilots were off on each side. Just as everyone had resigned themselves to the east side glide a lonely glider began to climb out on the west side. Not many noticed him at first but as he got higher pilots started to rush over to the NW side to have a go…. Dust devils started to come through (minus the dust) – one very big one made a right mess of Jamie’s wing.

Another lucky few connected with weak lift but only one managed to climb all the way out to cloud base and soon he was off towards Mount Stupid and out of sight. We eventually found out that he got to Maughold, a truly fantastic effort.  I heard his grin was nearly as wide as mine. The remaining pilots left on the hill then all seemed to go for a last ditch effort towards Laxey.  These all seemed to be Manx pilots, desperately grabbing points before the competition ended.

So then we had a pretty hectic task of getting all these pilots back on the bus and back to Douglas.  It all went pretty smoothly – everyone mucked in.

The Presentation was back at the Amber Bar.  A UK pilot won, Watty was second and Noel was third. There was a very good atmosphere and everyone was smiling, which sort of made my weekend.  Most of the UK pilots were trying to sign up for next years comp……. Mmmm we will have to see about that.

Thanks again to all who helped, especially Colin at Skywings, Chris Dawes at Airways,  Special Events, the tram people, the goal people, the retrieve people, the welcoming people, Microgaming, XC mag, Peter Jenkins,  Swales Flooring, Big Al the bus driver and anyone else remotely involved or sunburnt.

I took off and I flew and it was great – well worth the effort. Thanks to everyone who kept the faith. I hope you all got as much out of it as I did.


PS after seeing all that paragliding and not one single deflation… will Martin the HG now please seriously consider buying himself a wing and joining the fun?