Saturday, July 4, 2009

Final stage of preparations, first glimpse of the race weather

Alex and I leave for Austria next weekend. In the meantime we're frantically getting together the remaining equipment. Last night we put a lighter set of risers on the glider (thanks Martin Orlik at Axis Para) and I test flew the glider with them this morning at the Saleve mountain near Geneva before the storms arrived and stopped play. The afternoon was spent putting stickers on the glider. There's a lot of them and the Red Bull logos are really fiddly. However, by the third sticker we were starting to get the hang of it and can now put them on quickly and cleanly.

On Wednesday I'll finally be able to collect the harness from Sup'air. I've chosen to use a third generation Altirando XP. Sup'air are producing a special version for the X-Alps which is a couple of hundred of grams lighter than the standard version. It's a really nice harness in the air, nicely aerodynamic with the removable leg cover and with some excellent back protection in the form of an airbag. Equally importantly, it reverses to become a very comfortable rucksack. I've asked for a couple of minor modifications to adapt it better to my rather skinny body shape. Stay tuned for a more detailed description of the X-Alps gear towards the end of the week.

Finally, the race start is just fourteen days away now. It's scarily close and the first long term forecasts have just been published. Two weeks is an eternity in weather forecasting and you can't really believe anything they say, but I can't resist peeking! The current forecast is that Austria will get quite a lot of rain the day before the race but race day itself will be dry with light winds at 1500m, which means that we'll be able to fly from the first turnpoint above Salzburg, the Gaisberg. The winds at altitude are moderately strong Westerlies, which could be a problem for making progress in the air. We're racing from East to West, against the prevailing winds and consequently the 'hard' way. This is the Red Bull X-Alps, after all...