Tuesday, August 2, 2011


The Worlds is over.

It was a competition marked by controversy, tragedy, and the omen of change to the landscape of competition paragliding.

Myself, Keith, and Claudio thank all who supported us along the way: Family, friends, the HPAC, the AHPA, and even strangers who offered the moral and financial support that we needed and appreciated so greatly.

Thank-you, everyone.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Planes, Paragliders, Trains and Automobiles

Yes, I am still travelling. I had the most amazing stay in Switzerland with some great Friends. Thanks Anders and Susanne and the yet to be named child that has yet to arrive. Yes Susanne is due to have a baby tomorrow. I stayed in what will be the babies room so fittingly I slept like a baby in the room. I arrived on Monday night after many trains across 3 countries and a plane from Madrid. Susanne was there when I arrived as a South African family reassured me that if I could not find Anders and Susanne I was more than welcome to stay in there hotel room....haha. People are so nice sometimes it amazes me. I had many great conversations with the family as it turns out they were standing behind me when I arrived at the train desk in Munich and thought to themselves what a poor guy carrying all those bags and looking so tired.
So arriving at the pad in Interlacken to a very warm evening all I could think was maybe not being at the Worlds was not going to be so bad. One beer and then two beers and then SLEEP. I went to sleep at midnight and woke up at 10:30 the next morning not having woken up even once all night. Anders jokingly wondered whether I had actually died in his babies room.
Anders is a full time tandem pilot and does between 6- 10 tandems almost daily so he was very busy as its high season right now. At any given time there are about 20 tandems in the air at once. ITS CRAZY. they all land in a special field in town. The passengers range from 5 year old Saudi kids to extremely old Koreans. I thought the Golden guys had it tough till I saw what goes on here. They drive to launch then hike for 15 minutes to the launch. Every pilot has wheels like a luggage bag to drag there gliders up the paved path to launch. Each company is like a rafting company with about 10 pilots working for each company. They have a system worked out where the lay the gliders on top of each other on launch so as one goes the next can go and so on until they are all in the air together. They have all sorts of different ways to take pictures of the passengers with extra A lines connected to the camera so they dont even have to hold on to the camera. Most of the pilots here in a season do between 300-500 tandems in a summer.

Susanne decided I should fly so she took me to a Suisse bakery and let me get lunch then took me to the launch or as I referred to it the Golf Country Club. This launch was so grassy I felt bad even walking on it never mind laying my glider on it. After lunch I took to the skies for an afternoon sled ride. Upon Landing I looked over at Anders and asked if they turned off the lift just cause I was around. It turns out that just like Canada this place gets baked out too and when its that warm it becomes very soft.

It was now time to go to the Lake as the pregnant one decided she was to warm for this...haha. I was more than happy to tag along. We went to Lake Thun which is one of many lakes around but also the biggest. It was about 32 degrees so getting in the glacial water was more than refreshing and also the cleanest lake water I have ever seen so close to a city.
The Night ended with the biggest storm I have ever seen and I am not kidding. The winds reached 125km/hr in town and blew over trees that were over 100 years old. Some broke that were more than 3 feet wide and others just plain blew right over roots and all. It was crazy. I filmed it from various angles so will post some video when I get back. After the storm what do any normal people do but go walk around and check out the damage. Staying with Suanne and Anders is like staying with people with way to many friends...haha. During are walk we of course ran into other friends sitting on a patio overlooking the damaged town and promptly invited in for drinks.

The RAIN. Vincene warned me about the rain plagued alps but I never truly understood. I guess looking around at all the green grass should have been a clue. Think Vancouver in January with huge mountains surrounding you. It was biblical amounts. I ran from store to store and napped and napped and watched movies. After going to new levels of rest Susanne suggest we head up to Lauterbruan which is close to Wengen of ski fame. What a cool town where Anders took me hiking in the rain to see waterfalls and keep ourselves from driving Susanne crazy. She was happy sipping her coffee in a friends coffee shop.

On Friday I went with Anders to fly the World Famous Grindelwald which was spectacular to say the least. I flew like a moron and not understanding how far they push into the lee side here and landed at the valley floor instead of flying home but at least I understand now why flying in the lee in Europe is so popular as its the only thing that works...wink.

More great dinners with new friends and old. Who would have thought in Interlacken they would have the best Thai food that I have ever had?

Saturday was spent hiking up in an ALP eating fresh cheese and chasing cows with bells around there necks. Good fun if you have never done it. They are so friendly we even pet them. But the bells do get annoying. The Alp was up at the end of the pass in Adelboden.

I now sit on another train headed to my european family house in Salzburg. Home to Rudi, Esther, Paul and Jakob. I look forward to seeing them all as everything on this trip is spontaneous as I should still be in Spain. I will spend Sunday through till Wednesday morning with them and head to Munich for my flight to Montreal and finally get to see Loic and Caroline.

Sorry for so many words but these trains in the rain are great for spewing words. Now I know why Gadd's posts tend to drag when he is on a train...haha

All the Best for Everyone back Home

Keith( still making the best of everything )

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bull Fights and Short Nights

The last 48 hours have been crazy. Deciding to leave Piedrahita after a very disappointing decision by the FAI left me calling Luftansa and being told fine we can get you to Munich Germany for 300Euros or all the way to Montreal for 2000Euros I decided Germany it is. I had already been talking with my Best European friend Anders and his Wife Susanne who is do to have a baby any day. I decided I would fly to Munich on Monday morning then train across Germany to Interlacken Switzerland.

Before that I was still in Piedrahita and some how had to get out. This is when KEITH'S LUCK finally struck. My flights were all changed by late Saturday afternoon leaving me time to join my adopted team the Americans for a swim at one of the local swimming holes.

Early Sunday morning chaos all begin with me packed and ready to go only to find out the one and only bus going to Madrid did not leave till 5pm which just simply was going to suck for my luck. Well up to the plaza to see if my Canadian Charm could get me to Madrid sooner. Well sure enough it did and in a very nice kind of way. Steve Ham mentioned that one of the drivers from the comp had just left in his personal vehicle to go home which was just past Madrid. A short phone call later and 5mins later I was sitting in a pimped out BMW travelling at close to 200km/hr at times across Spain to Madrid. Before long Benjamin and I were speaking and sort of understanding one another with many nods and pointing. I was lucky that my terrible French and his even worse French was still better communication than my english and his spanish. I managed to convey that I knew nothing about bull fighting and this was a terrible trip so far. He proceeded at speeds quicker than I have ever travelled in a car to get me into Madrid in record time. My new best friend then drove right through the trendy section of Madrid to the Plaza de Toro. Next thing you know I was the proud owner to a Seat at Sunday evenings Bull Fights.

Now time to find Brett at his Hotel which turned out to be no problem with a local. Now time to get Brett to the subway and with little convincing he was all the proud owner to a ticket to the fights.

Our Madrid Metro skills are top notch now and we were able to criss cross back and forth with little to no trouble at all around the city.

The fights I will not describe as they are certainly not for the faint of heart but the ambience in the stadium is like nothing I have ever felt before in my life. It was truly inspirational to be a part of and I am so glad to have gone. Brett and I got lucky again as the man next to me was the proud father of a young matador and was there with his family cheering on a female Matador who is 19. The rules are hard to figure out but by the end we were able to tell who should win and who sucks. The basics are that 3 Matadors and 6 bulls, with the matadors taking turns killing one bull each.

By the end of the night it was close to 2am when we got back to Brett's room close to the airport and with maybe 2 hours shut eye I was back up at 5am and in a 3 minute taxi ride that cost 17 euros to get to my 7:30 am flight. Europe is ridiculously expensive.

Its now Monday afternoon and I am sitting on the very packed train to Switzerland with plans for a cold beer and dinner with very good friends.

Germany is stunningly beautiful so far and I have managed to put a large grin back on my face after a disappointing trip so far. I guess all things happen for a reason but this is one that sticks out as strange. Between all the comps I did just to qualify then the support of all the local pilots here I am not competing at all and doing something I honestly never thought I would ever get to do and that is travel Europe. I am totally 100% relaxed and feeling all sorts of energy return. I figured this morning on the plane to Munich to just not worry about and to really enjoy myself.

One last thing I plan to do after Interlacken is travel to see Rudy and Esther as I looked on a map and they are too close to not go see my favourite Austrians.

So thanks again for making this a vacation of a lifetime after a major disappointment at the comp.

I will try to continue my blog with the goings on around Europe. Oh the weather is great...haha but very humid here in Germany after very dry Spain


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Change of plans

So I have decided to go to europe as they wanted 2000 Euros for me to switch my ticket....haha. They only charged me about 300 to go to Munich on Monday then take my normal flight from Munich to Montreal on the 20th. So I will leave piedrahita Sunday afternoon and spend a night in a hotel in Madrid then take my flight to munich then take a train to Interlacken Switzerland. I will stay with Anders and fly around the alps and then head back to Munich and likely spend a day or two there before flying back to Canada. I have been invited to many dinners in suisse as the pilots found out I was coming which is super nice and bound to save me a bit of money.
I appreciate all the support as this not exactly what I had planned when you all chipped in for me to go to the World Paragliding Championship. I will at least get some flying and see a part of the World that I have always wanted to visit.
WIsh me luck on this new unplanned adventure

Friday, July 8, 2011


As most of you are aware we had the worst thing that could happen in a competition happen and it happened twice in one day. We lost two of our pilots to accidents yesterday. They were from Argentina and Chile. As you can imagine it has been extremely somber around here and there is much talk of abandoning the competition. I am unsure of my views as they are mixed and it depends on when you ask me. I took the day off and went exploring a 12th century castle in a little village then went for a swim with the team in a great little river spot. It was a great chance to discuss and reflect on why we do this. I was left with nothing beats a great day of flying with my friends. So for now I will stay and see what comes of the many meetings on whether this competition can be saved by using a different format. I also may just hang up my hat and choose a different way to spend my time while in Spain. I am lucky that I have the support of all of you back home and know that you will all hopefully accept my decision whatever that may be. But life is too important

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 1

It started off great as the team was all in relative good position at the start. We all got established on course and after about 75 km we ran into the first set of Airspace. After that we got separated so I will tell you about my day from here. I managed to still be with the lead group but choose a hard left line to avoid the airspace and that was maybe not the best choice as the pilots who stayed close to the edge of the airspace had a much easier time of it. With me now a little bit behind I instead of being patient with my climbs rushed myself to get back into the lead group which of course left me low over some trees with no way to go downwind so I fought the headwind back to clear terrain with a ground speed around 5-10km/hr. Once over land able terrain I got myself a great climb that the gaggles behind me of course joined so at least I was now with some company. We continued downwind again with ground speeds in the 80-90km/hr range so was making great progress. I took another giant climb up to the ceiling level which was 3048m so stayed under 3000 to be safe which left me not paying attention. I headed downwind as I was the top of my group and glided straight towards goal. At this point I thought to myself isn't there more airspace so I turned on my map page to find out that of course there was albeit a small piece and I was smack dap in the middle of it along with the rest of my gaggle. I did the best thing possible and fly back in to the wind to at least land outside of it and hope that it was only a don't land area and not a don't go here area. Wishful thinking on my part as I was told that it was a don't go area. SO it appears my first day will be left with a ZERO. Instead of getting credit for my 112km flight which only ended cause I figured out I was in airspace. The gaggle I was with got to goal early but they will likely get ZEROS too as they were in the space as well.

Claudio flew very well and made GOAL and I believe Brett landed around the 90km mark.

Tomorrow is a new day


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day One

With a predicted 20 km/h westerly and the top of lift at 2800 m the classic 154 km race to Arcones was called.

It was fun racing. I had some trouble managing the airspace and landed at the edge of one of the restricted areas, trying to get around it.. somewhere between Avila and Segovia. Keith landed at Segovia and Claudio made goal!

We don't know who won the day yet but the results should be up in a few hours. The link above to the live tracking is apparently very exciting to watch. Realtime race action in 3D.

The weather for the next few days is expected to be good. We've been averaging one reserve deployment per fly day.


Official Practice Day

We had an official practice task for the competitors to test their equipment, the organization to test their systems, and the air to test our gliders.

A 60 km multi turnpoint task with goal in Piedrahita, wind at 15-20 km/h from the north, 2-5 m/s climbs, and base at 2800 m.

We flew the task with lots of speed and angry places in the sky threatened to take your glider from you. One pilot floated down safely under his parachute.


The opening ceremony was grand

Monday, July 4, 2011

Follow the Championships

Here are some blogs for the comp and feel free to pass along


My SPOT should be tracking plus they will have live tracking for the comp too. SO you could sit at home early in the morning and watch the paint dry if you feel so inclined.


The live tracking should be on

or search for it on http://www.piedrahita2011.com

Great test day today flew around for a bunch but took it easy too

Good Night All

Sunday, July 3, 2011

First training flight and registration

The morning started off with over 3 hours of registration.... By the time we got our equipment checked and our instruments loaded it was after lunch and we had not even had breakfast and had no time to eat lunch so it was up the mountain for me to check if my lines were attached correctly from my re-lining session on my single bed in the hotel room. Everything was fine and off I launched. It was a great afternoon with me getting over an hour with lots of climbs. It was my first chance to see how my new glider compared and lets just say I have nothing to worry about. The APCO Enigma will not be the problem if I dont have a good meet. This glider climbed very well against the latest crop of gliders and seemed just fine on the few glides I took that were close to others. Its always different when your racing with a glider but I feel confident that everything will be great. Landing was just a bit sketchy as the wind was blowing across town and the main landing field was in the lee with lots of rough air close to the ground. Claudio has great film of a guy losing his glider 30 m from the ground and getting it back over his head just in time but very close.
Upon starting my packing of course a few of the other companies test pilots and designers came by for a closer feel of the new glider with some hyms and hahs and of course nice compliments they still remain my friends...haha. That is one of the many things Paragliding comps are great for and thats the employees of the different companies always get along and laugh with one another over the tricks and crazy ideas. The world is just to small for tension. Tomorrow is the official Practice day then its work time as the comp starts Tuesday.

The big parade of nations was tonight so it was long night of listening to spanish dignitaries speak in a language I don't understand about topics I also don't care about so once it was ok to disappear we joined the US team for some pizza in the alley. Its sleep time so Good Night

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Lines done but no Flying

Today started off by looking really nice but we were told the winds were high on launch. After waiting around we finally decided to head up. Its 7 euros per ride so about the same as at home. We got out at launch and watched as various pilots dragged and crashed themselves all over launch to the jeering and laughing of all us happily watching. We waited around and came back down. So I now sit in an airconditoned bar in the hotel drinking a lemon cocacola and watching the tour de france live. This is GREAT. the spanish announcers make it seem like the stanley cup final at every turn and there is still over 100kms to go in the race. The bar patrons are cheering and screaming at the TV.

So far I have discovered a love for this country with the exception of two things with one being its expensive and the other is actually an extreme lack of vegetables with dinner. See ya tomorrow.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

We Arrived

24 hours of travel and here we are. So far from what we have seen its a cool little town that we will call home for the next three weeks. All the bags arrived which is kind of nice so now its just time to change the lines then hopefully fly tomorrow which is Friday. We are already dealing with the heat as its very warm temps here because the wind is coming from Africa. Must go eat then try and stay awake till at least 9 or even 10.haha

Back to the Gate

Well it's 1:45pm flight was suppose to leave at 12:55pm. 12 year old girl next to me has temper tantrum and wants off while we were staged to takeoff. Captain turns around and now were back at gate waiting for them to find their bags. Damn kids and their parents. Haha. Oh well zero chance of us making the connection to Madrid. Off to a great start. Haha

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, March 9, 2007

PG World Championships Awards

The entire main street of Manilla was closed to traffic for the closing ceremonies. We started off with a free steak BBQ at Vic and Tom’s, and then moved outside to the street party for the awards:

1st Nation: Czech Republic
2nd Nation: France
3rd Nation: Switzerland

Canada 19th Nation

1st Women: Petra Slivova(Czech)
2nd Women: Viv Williams (Australia)
3rd Women: Harmony Gaw (New Zealand)

1st Men: Bruce Goldsmith (UK)
2nd Men: Jean-Marc Caron (France)
3rd Men: Tom McCune (USA))

Canadian rankings:
Keith McCullough: 51st
Will Gadd: 77th
Nicole McLearn: 114th

All in all Canada did better at this Worlds compared to Brazil. All of us made goal at least once, and the conditions here were very difficult compared to the usual Manilla flying. I learned a lot more about comp flying and am very glad I came, but now I’m ready to go back home and fly for fun. Everyone is leaving tomorrow; I’ll be in Sydney for a few more days and then back in Vancouver next week. Hopefully by then the rain back home will have ceased!


Oodles in goal, but not me

It was pretty easy to cancel the day yesterday…pouring rain all morning and early afternoon, probably as much as 2” in the end. We took David and Lee out to lunch since they’ve been so nice to us, and they returned the favour by making a farewell party (also Will’s birthday party) in the evening. Lots of drinking ensued, and later on ridiculous games. All in all a good time was had by all.

This morning it was sunny and those pilots who were hemming and hawing about leaving had an easy choice to stay and fly the final day. The task was a 53 km downwind dash to Gulf Creek, past Barraba. Cloudbase was extremely low, about 1300 m, and the lift was light to nonexistent. Once again the launch gaggle grew and grew, and nobody was able to leave, until well after the first (and second) of the start gates had come and gone. A few pilots even left at basically ridge height, since getting high around launch was practically impossible.

I think the highest I got was around 1200 m at one point, and had I known what was to come, I would have left with that height, regardless of the start gates, if the gaggle was going, or if people were getting low ahead of me. But I thought I could get higher so I stuck around launch in that hope, but in the end I got flushed and landed in the west bombout.

Now I have been here for 1 month and never bombed out, and I was quite proud of that fact (given that Mt. Borah is only about 1000’ high). So I was really annoyed that this happened on the last day. But the Basher was there to take me back up to launch, and I relaunched before the window closed. But fate (or bad luck, or lack of skill, take your pick :) decided I should land there again, which I did, about 5 minutes after the launch window closed. So after 1 month of no bombouts, I get to do so twice in one day.

So no chance to relaunch for this task since the window had closed by then, and it means I’m officially the suckiest pilot for today’s task. I certainly didn’t see any other comp pilots land there after the window closed! But looking at the bright side of things, I got to pack up on nice green grass (thanks to the rain) and have a leisurely drive back to Manilla, and not have to rush back like the oodles of people that made goal today. And when I downloaded my GPS I didn’t have a huge lineup of people, since I was back first :)

Apparently, if you were able to stay alive past Tarpoly, it got easier and whole bunches of people made goal today. Will (even hung-over), Keith, Josh, and Tom all made it. Kari and Bill went down about 20-25 km downrange. Brian Webb and Steve Ham went down in the same general area too. So the standings will change once again; today was yet another example of survival in light lift while avoiding mid airs, absolutely no racing involved, and huge amounts of luck in who stayed in the air and who didn’t. Tom has a shot at the podium since he was 5th going in, and word is that Crigel didn’t make goal today.

Will report on the overall standings and final party later!


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Another light lift task day

The day didn’t start out looking great, lots of high cirrus clouds and more clouds expected to move in, but it wasn’t windy and that was good enough for us, so we went up. On the east launch a task to Baanbaa was called (60.8 km) with multiple start gates to allow people to choose when to start the task. After the hoopla over the 1st TP on the last task, I didn’t really want to be involved in a massive gaggle right over launch in light conditions (which they were, according to the wind dummies not getting very high over launch), so I opted to wait until almost all the other competitors had launched and gotten away from the hill, even though by doing so I was pretty much shooting myself in the foot as far as keeping up with the lead gaggle. But I figured safer was better, and yep it was a good decision since there were 2 mid-airs over the mountain in the gaggles that did form up. The first one I witnessed while still on launch; a Japanese pilot on a Boomerang 5 and an Omega mid-aired right over the south launch. It took a very long time for them to separate, while those of us watching were saying under our breaths “throw, throw, throw”. Eventually they separated and the Boom flew away cleanly, but the Omega was in trouble and Caroline from France ended up throwing her reserve. It opened cleanly and she controlled her main glider as she drifted very slowly behind launch onto the west side, where she landed gently part way down the west launch slope (and OK). The other mid-air I didn’t see, but it was Renata from the Czech Republic and Tracey from South Africa that mid-aired right over the east launch. They both tossed their reserves and landed at the split rock hairpin turn up to launch; Renata was OK, Tracey was taken to hospital with a back injury.

There was also a treed pilot right off the east launch, and a pilot that broke their leg landing at Godfrey’s (not a comp pilot). So there was a lot of carnage in the beginning, which made me glad not to be in the air right then.

When I did launch, I did so with Bill and then we chose the 3:30 pm start gate. The going was slow since the climbs were weak and disorganized, and nobody really wanted to land out on the plateau to the NW. We actually stayed more to the south, and finally got a good climb to 2000 m just as we hit the Boggabri Gap. But the shade was coming, and there was a storm cloud forming just to the north of the Gap, and rain was coming out of it. I could see some pilot diving underneath that cloud in an attempt to find lift, but I didn’t feel like playing that game and stayed well away from it. Unfortunately all around that cloud was a lot of general shade, and a bunch of us spent the last few minutes searching for little pieces of lift just before the Gap. It didn’t work, and about 6 of us landed in the same field at about the 28 km mark.

Turns out all of us were women; after we took off our helmets and realized this it was quite funny. Then a guy landed in the field with us and destroyed the symmetry of it all, but he seemed pretty happy to have chosen that particular field to land in :). And just as we were packing up and leaving, Russel Ogden came in and landed too.

Keith and Bill landed a few fields over from us; a lot of people went down in the same general area. Adrian from the UK team and Brian from the Oz team also landed nearby. Petra didn’t do so well today so she will drop in the standings too. In fact a lot of rank-swapping is going to take place after this task! Josh and Will landed 1-2 km short of goal and walked the last bit as penance, while Tom and Kari made goal (yay!).

All in all, it was another non-typical Manilla day, with lots of weak climbs. With every day being non-standard, flukey, and practically no racing taking place, there is more than the average amount of luck being involved. No clear winner is emerging as far as consistency goes. Definitely not what the Worlds are usually about!

The Aussies hosted a party at JJ’s tonight for all the English-speaking pilots…$5 for a BBQ steak and all the fixings, and then we watched episode 16 of Heroes on the big screen. By the time we get back to Canada we’ll be all caught up!


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

World Championships, Day 9

As predicted, today was very windy from the southeast. We’ve been told that when it’s SE it’s very rarely blown out here, but today seems to be the exception (it’s the Worlds after all :). We were all very surprised when we were told to be on launch by noon, since it looked pretty obvious that it was not taskable, and barely flyable. But we went up anyways...yep it was windy.

We waited all afternoon in the hopes that it would die off enough to allow for safe enough launching conditions off the east launch. A few wind dummies did indeed fly earlier on in the ridge lift, before it got too strong, and during the wait period Crigel flew too, although that seemed to be more a photo op than anything else. Most other people opted to not even open their glider bags in the 35-40 kph gusts. Finally the official word came at 3:30 pm that the day was cancelled, and we all breathed a sigh of relief that now we could go back down the mountain to some shade and a shower. But at least we weren’t rained on!

On a different note, both David and Lee Menzie have been absolutely fabulous towards us...last night they made us a huge dinner, and will be having another farewell party before we all leave. But it may only be a temporary farewell...they are making noises about coming to Canada next summer, to coincide with the PG Nats in Golden. They want to come out and visit, and help out with the meet!