Posted by Jenni
It was a good job we had something to drag us away from Annecy, otherwise we may never have left. Last time I was there, I fell in love with the place.
I love the atmosphere. It’s all about enjoying life and enjoying the outdoors, particularly staying with Joan and Irwyn at the lovely Maison du Moulin. People are friendly and want to talk and give advice. In the flying community, everyone looks out for each other. You can hitch around the place with ease and meet interesting people – often who will go miles out of their way to get you back to your car! The pace of life is perfect. The days are so long that you can take it easy. For flying, this means you can choose the flights and conditions you want – not like in England where you have to seize a small flyable window because you don’t know when the next one will be. And if it isn’t flyable, there are 101 other things to do with the day!
I still feel like I learn something on every flight here. My flights from Marlens and Plan Fait in particular gave me the chance to work on thermalling in quite tricky conditions – mapping the edges of the lift, planning where I’m going to want to turn before I get there, speeding up and slowing down the rate of my turn to make the most of the lift (yup – definitely still working on that one), watching the other gliders in the thermal to work out how and why they are getting more or less height out of it, when it’s more efficient to circle in lift and when it’s better to fly figures of eight and the concentration involved in keeping the turn on – particularly keeping my weight into the turn – when the thermal is trying to spit me out.
Another thing Annecy seems to help me do, more than most other places I’ve flown, is setting and achieving goals. Flying home from Semnoz in completely different conditions to the last time I’d flown it was a real buzz. But not quite so exciting as getting onto and climbing up Tournettes for the first time – such an amazingly beautiful awe-inspiring piece of rock – and I was only one of three pilots there.
I also decided to attempt to glide back to the Plan Fait landing field across the lake from Rocs des boeufs. This was a special moment as it was something I hadn’t thought of doing before. So I set off, continually assessing my height and glide. After a while, I wasn’t 100% confident I had the height to make it, so decided to turn back and landed in the field I’d already picked out as my back-up option. Good decision making is essential for good flying and I was very happy to have made both the decision to go for a challenging glide and the decision to abort in favour of a sate landing when the conditions were a little uncertain – ready to come bad and do it next time with a bit more height and a slightly better line.
Now I have a list of goals for different days and take offs and conditions. As well as coming back to do the glide to Plan Fait, I’m trying to do all the bits of the grand tour du lac separately, before putting them all together as one long flight. I want to get onto Parmelon – another stunning rock face. I have a couple of places to try and get to when I’m sat on top of roc des boeufs wondering where to go next. I want to experience an evening restitution flight. And even when there’s no lift to stay up in, I can practice my spirals, wingovers and getting the best glide from my glider in different conditions.
And even the “unsuccessful” flights teach you, as I proved with a bad landing at the foot of Entrevernes – where I got a collapse as I was making my final turn into wind and ended up swinging round into the ground. So from this I learnt not to fixate on a spot at the cost of setting up my approach nice and early – the official landing field was surrounded by other lovely fields – and also how early I need to set up my approach. While I may be able to turn in late doing a nil wind landing at Caburn in England, I won’t always get away with the same thing in a potentially thermic field in France. I also learnt to *always* counter the collapse immediately. I didn’t do this, probably because it was turning me the way I wanted to go, with the alternative being a cross wind or slightly down wind landing. But it was an uncontrolled turn, and when I tried to stop it, that fact sunk in – too late. A controlled downwind landing would have been better than any uncontrolled landing. And then finally, I didn’t even thing about doing a PLF as I came in – so that’s something I need to practice. But I walked away with just a mildly twisted knee (which has stopped me doing very little) and a slightly stiff shoulder (now better), when it could have been a broken leg, so I considered myself lucky and just tried to absorb the lessons.
So, away from Annecy, feeling happy and with some amazing flights under my belt. But probably only for a few days – it certainly won’t be long before I’m back to play in my favourite playground in Europe