Last Saturday, 80 pilots kicked off the PG Open in Rotorua with great representation across the country & in fact across the world.

The morning of Task 1, we left a bluebird day in Rotorua and headed to the Paeroas. Halfway through the drive we hit cloudbase (or maybe cloudbase hit us?). Just a minor cause for concern. It was no problem though, because when we got to launch, we were above the clouds. No problem, right? In this case it was alright. The cloud lifted, but not very high, with base about 4500 feet.
Sea of Cloud
Photo: Rhys Akers

It was an interesting task, with a component I’ve never seen before – 2 waypoints along the ridge BEFORE the start of speed, which was an Entry around 24km from W63 Goudies.

A challenging day, mostly due to the big blue hole over the back of the range through a good part of the course line. Wayne Rohrs isn’t afraid of blue holes, flying straight through it and somehow finding lift to make him first to goal at W66 White Road. He was joined by a handful of other pilots, with lots more coming in just short.

Rob Boyle ran a Pilot Auction that night, somehow convincing a bunch of paragliders to open their wallets as he sold off pilots. If the pilot you buy wins a podium spot in the championship, you win big.

Matts Eliasson, a highly ranked Swedish-Australian pilot, was the most highly sought, going for $300. Middy was also hotly contended, going for $220 (and in the words of Helen Jeffery each time she upped her bid, “….well it’s Middy!”). There were a couple of bargains going, and it’s still early days, so at least one lucky bidder is going to be happy. I hope it’s me.

With pilots sold off, there was a little more pressure to perform on Monday, Task 2. The forecast was for big OD & rain on the course line in the afternoon, making the Task & Safety Committees edgy, nevermind the rest of the pilots.

The wise ones launched early to get to cloudbase & try to stay there until the Start of Speed, in what was going to be an elapsed time race. About half the field scratched along the face, mostly below launch height, before largely bombed out along the front of the ridge. The rain that was forecast did not eventuate, and in fact the day got better & better, especially as pilots got further south towards goal at W71, Forest Lookout.

The exciting bits were reported climbs over Ohaaki of 8m/s, and a four engine turboprop jet (C17? C130 maybe?) flying at about 300 feet within 100m of a pilot. Richard needs new undies, if anyone can spare a pair.

It was an unusual day from a results perspective, with a lot of pilots in goal, HEAPS in the bomby, and not many in between. Simon Houston, the Irish Australian import, won the day.

Hey, I wonder who bought him at the auction…?

Tuesday was a tough call, with a lot of cloud cover and more OD forecast. After a good look at the sky, the radar, the forecast, the task committee canned the day, and we decided to go for a Spot Landing competition.

A few people bulls-eyed it, but Hamish was reported to be the most graceful, whatever that means.

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The Hang Gliders had a successful competition, pulling out four tasks during the week.

John Smith won overall (that’s the third year running!), with Shane McKay & Hagen Bruggemann tied for second.

Hagen suffered some equipment damage after a dud launch (sounds like he deserved some gravy for that one). But the Nationals are the Nationals, and Hagen wasn’t going to let lack of equipment stop him from competing. He surprised everyone (himself included?) with the quickest ever purchase of a new HG. A few hours’ drive in the evening, and he was back with a new glider. It was worth it – the first day flying it, he won the task.

Congratulations, guys, good flying all around.