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Craig Morgan - St. André

I went to St Andre lying in 1st position overall in the British Championships after recording my 2nd win of the season in Pedro Bernado Spain. The first was winning the Polish Championships in Pieve D’Alpago Italy. We should have had the 2nd round of the British Champs in England in July but the weather was terrible with wind and rain stopping us from flying at all.

Task 1, was a 70.6 km race to goal and was difficult for me as my nerves were making it difficult to make good decisions. As the day developed, Russell Ogden led out aggressively using his local knowledge to good effect. After tp 1 he had established a strong lead and Wojciech Maliszewski and I were chasing him down hard. Too hard in fact and as Russell crept around a mountain to climb from the windward side ‘Mali’ and I came unstuck on an into wind ridge. We both landed early and proceeded to kick our helmets around in different fields !!!

At this point I had dropped to 2nd place overall, being overtaken by my good friend Mark Hayman. I was worried that I’d blown the Championships but knew that our discard policy (1 from 5 or 2 from 8 ) might help me out. 211 points was not a good start.

Task 2. 61.6 km race to goal started with 2 gaggles approaching tp1 from different directions. Bruce Goldsmith lead a downwind group along the ‘Coupe’ ridge, Russell and I attacked crosswind and more directly. Bruce’s group established a lead which they never relinquished; however, I managed to catch 2 or 3 stragglers within it. With the final glide to goal they managed to retain a 4 minute lead. My Magus stayed solid and fast throughout and with a little more local knowledge I feel I could have flown quicker and connected to the lead gaggle all of whom knew this area well. On the positive side I made good points back on Mark Hayman.

Task 3 should have been a 67.8 km race to goal. Having started the race the lead gaggle got flushed into the valley behind the Lambruise ridge. The wind had swung from the forecast Northerly to more Westerly and as we went into strong rotor all the pilots took a good beating. My Magus pitched, stalled and took several deflations but I was always able to keep her operable and when I finally hit a strong lee sider, she ripped up out of the turbulence with a huge sigh of relief from me and several other pilots with me. Shortly afterwards the task was stopped with due diligence for safety reasons.

Task 3
proper was St Andres ‘jewel in the crown’ – the much fabled ‘Dormillouse’ run to St Vincent Le Fort 99.5km. An alternative, less demanding task had been set but at the last moment, and possibly with the appearance of Bob Drury, the Dormillouse run was discussed. Conditions are rarely perfect for this run and despite them being good today, the risk and retrieve issues made Calvo, the Meet Director, edgy. But we were there to race take the St. Andre challenge so the ‘Dormillouse’ run was set.

After several long transitions I was in a comfortable position with about 6 pilots in front of me. Through the high alpine we came to the first huge forbidding rock pillar known as ‘trauma’. I screamed up the front face with Mark Watts concentration half split between the magnitude of the sheer face and centring the Magus which was straining every line & every stitch. Before base we moved on to the next rock pantheon. The ogre known as Tete de L’Estrop. We were slightly downwind at this stage and trim speed was about 50 kmh. There was no need to thermal as it was clearly expedient to soar these massive faces. Prior to Pic des Tetes we passed a massive black bowl known as the ‘eater of gliders’ due to the fact that it occasionally erupts vertically in 60 kmh wind gusts. Fortunately we were high and well out front of it. The long and no less challenging ‘Dormillouse’ ridge then took us down to the fort at St Vincent.

At the turn point we swung through 180 degrees and individually our hearts sank as ground speed dropped to single figures. Unknown to us the safety frequency burst into life regarding the dubious possibility of the return leg. However, steadily our ground speed improved and once into the bigger mountains we returned to an acceptable 25-30 kmh. Once past the big threatening peaks the pace quickened and I thought it prudent to get to the front. With a 5 minute spell on full bar I managed to connect with Mark Watts on his Mercury and Steve Nash on his Nova Triton. Immediately we hit an 8 metre climb and with some fortuitous thermal interpretation I managed to climb away from both of them and lead out. After a further 10 km I was joined by Neville Hewlett but Mark had pushed hard forward beneath us. With 2 ridge options on final glide lady luck deserted us as we chose the Maurel option behind original take off. It turned into an into wind struggle with scrappy thermals and all 3 of us made slow progress. At this stage 2 gliders appeared from behind, avoided us and chose the cross wind take off ridge. Soaring in far quicker they beat us to goal by a minute or two. I managed third position and Mark Watts landed 130 metres short after 100 kms of brave flying !!!!!!! Ronny Geijsen took the win.

My close Championship rival, Mark Hayman, came in some 10 minutes later and again the harsh PWC 2008 scoring system rewarded me handsomely putting me back in the overall lead by some 111 points.

The penultimate day saw a task started and stopped due to strong winds which put several people in the trees.

The final day saw a strong Mistral affecting us but Calvo was adamant we would fly if the window of opportunity that the locals said might occur presented itself to us. For 2 hours we waited patiently and I readied myself for a cautious race in the knowledge that I simply had to avoid disaster and make goal in a sensible time. It would have been the 8th task and my 2nd task drop would have strongly favoured me. However Championships have been won and lost on the last day before.

In the end the day was canned as the wind strength increased and I was able to celebrate my sweetest victory yet.

I would like to thank Rob Arnold from Mac Uk for his support this season and Peter from Mac Para for producing this awesome Magus. I am positive it is the best race wing on the market and I look forward to competing on a Mac Para Magus next season.


Craig Morgan