Competition: Trofeo Monte Grappa

What it’s like to race at the highest level and fly with the pros

 
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In my second competition of the season I found myself in the North of Italy amongst the top 150 pilots of the world. I was given the opportunity to fly in the Monte Grappa Trophy when the committee presented me with a wild card as my current ranking wasn’t going to get me in through the usual selection process, for this I am grateful.

Before this race I hadn’t really flown with many pilots of this level and definitely not in a competitive environment. To put their level into perspective, the leaders of the task don’t make many mistakes and if you do, they leave you dusted with no chance of catching up.

The race started on day 1 with what the committee called a warm up task of only 89km. The flying in Monte Grappa is big mountain flying with strong thermals and ridge running, both of which is more suited to my style. In the first task I learnt the technique to keeping up with the gaggle was to only turn in +4m/s and push 100% speed bar at all times except when thermalling. Making one mistake when pushing too hard over the flats to keep up with the gaggle had me finding myself low and alone. I now knew the flats in Monte Grappa didn’t work when I found myself landing out near goal but not in it.

Day 2 began and the task was pushed up a notch to a 106km out and back route. It looked like I didn’t learn that the flats don’t work well in Monte Grappa when I tried to push out again, instead of heading back to the mountain to ridge run before flying out to tag each point. The task ended the same as day 1, near goal but not in it.

The third day was a spectacular task that took us all the way to the Dolomites and back on a 156km route. The winners that day completed the task in just under 4 hours and I came into goal 5 minutes later, which seperated me and the leader by 40 places. Flying at an average speed of 37 km/h really shows how hard these top level pilots are pushing to win, only turning when absolutely crucial. I was stoked with this days results and really enjoyed flying to in the Dolomites, experiencing its beautiful scenery and catching +10m/s thermals.

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After the long task on day 3, the task for day 4 was set at 91.5km as the conditions worsened and the air was very technical. I still made goal but decided to play the day safely. I knew that my performance from the first two days was going to set my overall score back anyway and I didn’t feel like pushing hard in bad weather with the leaders. Instead, I enjoyed the race at a calmer pace and got myself safely into goal.

The final and 5th day of the race was cancelled when the wind picked up and was too strong for a task. With that, the comp results were released. I didn’t place particularly well but flying amongst true pros and being in the leading gaggle many times through out race really helped build on the knowledge of racing I already had. Congratultions to the winners who all flew consistently given the weather conditions that week. Hopefully next year I’ll make it back for the race with enough to FAI points to qualify following this season.

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