Macedonia Round 2018

2018 is shaping up to be a top season for the BP Cup.

Following on from the Pennine round in June (with 4 valid tasks) the BP Cup tried something different and put on a foreign  round in Macedonia.

The thought behind this was to hopefully guarantee some better weather and to introduce a new group of pilots to a foreign comp setting, with the different terrain, conditions and task setting that allows.

The week before the comps was billed as a guided training week. I didn’t go to this but sounds like it was a fun week of guiding and coaching, with both Dean Crosby and Gareth Aston helping everyone out. A good chance to sort out your thermalling technique and get to know the area beforehand.

Macedonia is a great choice for low stress competition flying. The geography is a perfect mix of mountains and flatlands in a friendly protected area. My experience here is that due to the range of options available to task setters it’s a good place to get interesting tasks, even if the weather doesn’t play ball. We had a week of less than perfect weather but still got 4 tasks in that were varied and challenging. Well done to Gareth and Martin for the task setting.

The general feel of a BP Cup round is one of a supportive environment with relatively low stress flying. It’s a step lower than some other comps such as the UK nationals type rounds, and probably more similar to the Gin Wide open type event, though on a smaller more intimate scale. On this round there were only 25 competitors, next year they hope to have 40-50 maximum. That means it’s one of the few events where you’ll get to know almost everybody.

Throughout the week there was formal and informal coaching, all the experienced pilots happy to share their knowledge. Gareth and Martin did post flight debriefs and the social side was great with a great event HQ (Hotel Montana Palace) just minutes from the take off.

The local scene was something different too. Macedonia is a relatively poor country, with a really friendly local population. Locals were very friendly when landing out, with beers and lifts freely given. Gary Stenhouse was even bundled into a shepherds hut and slightly over did it on the local schnapps.

For me it was my first comp after an 18 month break from flying, and so was a perfect low stress event to get back into the madness of it all.

So on to the flying.

Task 1 was a 35km task to the South.

It was a tricky day with not so great thermals. Base was about 8k but hard to get to. The crux was getting across the gap at about 15km downwind and this downed most of the field. The 5 or 6 pilots that got across with a bit of height then got back up and flew another 10km to the next gap where everybody finally got downed. I hung in the longest ,followed closely by Alan Ford, Ben Screen and Carl Foster with Toby Briggs just behind.

Task 2 was a 35k race to goal first along the ridge then out into the flats.

Good racing along the ridge, with Toby Briggs, Ben Screen, David Thompson, Gary Stenhouse and me making it out first into the flats where conditions really improved with great cloud streets. I made the 15km to goal without turning chasing a German who turned out not to be in the comp, followed closely by Ben, Gary and Dave. 11 pilots in goal. Great task.

Task 3 was a 45km task, mixture of ridge and flats.

Conditions were really good, with base at about 10 thousand feet. Good conditions on the ridge then harder flying in the flats, where it was hard to connect with the clouds. Most of us got very low at some stage. Those who got into the flats struggled for a while until 10km from goal where we all got the best climbs of the day and could easily make goal. Chris Blanchard was first in goal, followed by me then Carl F, David T and Martin Underdown. 10 in goal.

Task 4 was a short task to beat the thunderstorms.
A quick leg along the ridge then out into the flats with a turnpoint North of Prilep. Really fun racy task with a great climb over the Stork village. This thermal had at least 10 storks in it, brilliant. Quite a few in goal, Chris Blanchard was first, then Paul Winterbottom, I was third followed by Mike Humphries and Martin Underdown. 12 in goal and a few just short.

Last day we had a good task, but it was stopped due to rain on course and we all landed before getting wet.

I think all involved thought it a great success. Anyone thinking of doing it next year get your name down early as it’s going to be popular. I can’t think of a better trip to do as foreign comp first timer or as someone who just wants a low stress comp.

Thanks to Gareth and Viv for making it happen and for producing such a harmonious and fun atmosphere.

Again, a great big thank you to the sponsors – Beeston Brewery, Cross Country Magazine, Foster Knight, Ozone Paragliders, Superdesign and V12 Outdoors and not forgetting our Macedonia “Fixer” Martin Jovanoski and his wonderfully supportive team.

Jake Herbert