Conditions were looking to be 11G13 at the outset of our day which is darned perfect for our purposes so Ben and I started atop southside at 0800 with some kiting practice.
The big takeaways from this earlier portion were manifold:
- I need to be in a deep stance when launching a large wing in windy conditions.
- I need to be maintaining staggered feet positions so I can take long and powerful steps instead of machinegun baby steps as I get dragged by the wing.
- When setting up as in (2) I need to take care not to step into lines dangling on the ground.
- I need to kill the reflex to put my weight on the brake lines if I start to tip backward as this spoils the lift and exacerbates the problem.
- I need to take the time to re-check the airspace when relaunching after a failed launch so I don’t impinge on someone else in a vulnerable position coming in for a landing.
- The ability for the lines to find the tiniest gap in my helmet once more is truly insidious.
After an hour up top we headed down to the training hill where I got in a couple of really nice flights.
The most problematic part of my first flight was the launch and in a way analogous to (4) from the above list. I brought the wing up in a reverse launch, spun to face forward, and immediately the wing started dropping to my right. This loss of lift caused a slight loss of balance and I reflexively caught myself by putting weight on the right brake line which took out even more lift and exacerbated the problem. “LOOK LEFT” I heard Ben shout, and so I did, the problem began to correct itself, and running I went.
Unlike previous flights I sustained a gentle pressure on the brake lines and so managed a smooth and constant ascent. “Pencil pressure”, Ben kept saying, and in the moment I knew I had heard this elsewhere yet could not place it, but now I remember it was from an instructor in a lock-picking course describing the appropriate touch on the torque wrench. Nearing the end I heard “a little left to avoid team purple” and so gently turned that way, then “turn right to face into the wind” which I did, and then I flared for a very satisfying landing. Without the latter instruction I suspect I may have forgotten to align with the wind before touch down.
Ball it up, hike it up, and let’s do it again.
Actually getting to the point of a second launch was the messy part. First someone above me decided to launch just after I brought my wing up and nearly collided with me but Ben, providing a second set of eyes and reacting quickly, jumped on my brake lines and brought the wing down before things got messy. I may have failed to shout “LAUNCHING!” and need to be more reliable about that. During the next attempt I put in too little break pressure after bringing the wing up which allowed it to sail over my head and then collapse, this being the result of my over-compensating for earlier mistakes where I applied too much brake pressure and caused the wing to fail to get up in the first place. Happily the third time was the charm and I quickly got into the air.
I had charted a course where I would be running against the fall line into the wind to launch, then veering leftward to aim toward the parking lot, and then finally veering rightward to realign with the wind before touchdown. It all went pretty much according to plan modulo one minor maneuvering issue at the end plus the oddity that I would swear I never heard any instructions on the radio. As I was finishing my rightward turning track and just short of flaring I found I could not get the wing to come around as far as I would have liked and I landed with a bit of a leftward trot but smoothly enough. As Ben came walking down I shouted up “did our radio link cut out?”. Ben remarked that he had been talking the whole time and I had done everything he said. So either I was in such a trance that I did not consciously register what he was saying or maybe Ben was mashing the wrong transmit button. Either way it was really Zen and I kind of like the idea that I did everything I ought without being told even though it’s too early for radio-out flight to be a great idea.
In discussing the issue I had at the very end Ben noted that in those situations I have to be more aggressive with my inputs. This is counter to the problem I’m having launching where I’m often applying too much brake. I noted that it is also counter to what I would ever do with a yoke during powered flight. Ben remarked that in those circumstances I have not just a yoke but also pedals with which I can make such inputs but while paragliding I’ve got just one set of inputs and thus have to be comfortable with making much more versatile use of them. That makes total sense.
And thus concludes another great morning!