Thursday, July 26, 2007

Audi Sydney to Gold Coast Race

40 hours to go until the Audi Sydney to Gold Coast yacht race.

Things have been very busy since getting back from the Nationals. Dealing with the post event depression that falls like a fog after a week of great flying has been no fun but work has made sure I didn't have time to think about it too much. Second place still stings a little but I have the bonus of at least knowing I am off to Austria in September 2008 for the Worlds without having to worry about second round invitations etc...

So this weekend it off to the Gold Coast. This will be my first ocean race with dad on Namadgi. It will be fun and an interesting way to spend time together outside of work. We have done lots of sailing together but only one race and that was with him as a guest on my regular boat, not his.

The other fun thing will be that my regular skipper, Mark Harding, is also in the race but on another Yacht, Zen. They will be a lot quicker than us and worth watching out for on the yacht tracker.

The weather is looking great with a spinnaker start in Sydney and light to moderate west to south west winds for the entire race. Just to add to the pressure, our fearless leader Rick, seems to have put dad and I in it when interviewed for the race website. You can read the article here and see what I mean....Very flattering but bloody hell, what a load of bollocks.

Not sure I will be able to update this form the deep blue sea so see you all when I get back.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ben Lee on Rove

Who said that Tv advertising doesn't work?

I was just watching ROVE interview Ben Lee while in New York. Ben Lee related a funny story about the cops cancelling their permit to shoot a video clip after only one take. Apparently it was something about naked skate boarders as part of the video.

He mentioned that some one had leaked the video to youtube and I did what every geek watching Tv with a laptop on their knees did - browsed straight to youtube to find it.

When I got there it had been viewed 38 times and had one comment. By the time I had watched the video and put a comment on it had been viewed 222 times and I was comment 98. A few moments later and it was over 200 comments and is still climbing.

Got to love the net for immediate action and reaction (and naked people on youtube). Anyhow, looking forward to the new album.

Bye Bye Moto...

I am back in Finland and loving it. Well a slight exageraton, not in Finland so much as Nokia land.

I love my gadgets but they have to work well or they just irritate me to the point of throwing them through the wall. In the past six years I have bounced from a Sony/Ericsson phone to a Motorolla. Both of them have been fee give always from Vodafone and both have been the worst phones I have ever had to deal with. The ads say "hello moto", I say bye bye!

In frustration I lashed out and bought a new Nokia 6300. I am in love again. It just works, the functions and buttons are where you expect to find them and it is just a little bit slimmer and younger than the phone it is replacing....

I am so shallow some times, but some things are worth upgrading.

Friday, July 20, 2007

$15 well spent??? Jury is still out.

Forgive me father, it has been six months since my last cinema outing.

Crazy stuff, my last trip to the movies was to see Blood Diamond about a week before I split with Miss T back in February. Six months! I don't know what is weirder, that I have been single for six months or I have not gone to the movies in that time?

Tonight I had the urge to get some mindless entertainment on the big screen and the plasma was not going to cut it.

I went for the most mindless thing that I could think of. The one film that I would not go to on a date or would ever expect to see with any self respecting lady. Transformers.

Yep, Transformers. A movie based on a bunch of Hasbro toys. Robots that turn into cars that turn back into robots and blow stuff/each other up.

Why did I do this? Was it $15 well spent? I am still figuring that out. Some times I was laughing out loud - always sad when sitting by yourself in a dark room full of teenagers but none the less a good gauge of value for money. Other times I was chin in hand waiting for the robots to stop shooting for a moment so something funny could be said.

The special effects were as advertised, spectacular in their mostly seamless integration with the live action. From a totally geeky perspective the texturing and lighting were amazing and there were a few moments that managed to suspend disbelief as much as huge robots blowing stuff up can do..

The movie was relentless. The action hardly paused so you could take a breath. In some ways it reminded me of the Speilberg/Cruise version of War of the Worlds with equal amounts of non stop action but a lot less fear and trauma. Speilberg was involved in this one too so what can I say.

An interesting thing out of all this is that I might have a new silver screen crush. My mate Steve did a very funny write up of movie babes a while back and I had to agree that the perfectly imperfect Keira Knightly has had my heart for some time. Tonight it was Megan Fox that sure quickened the pulse...Sorry Keira.

Anyhow, back to the point of this post...if you are a pre-pubescent, toy loving kid or feeling like a sad wannabe CG animator with nothing else on a Friday night but drool over other peoples work, then this movie is for you. If not, save your money and just google Megan Fox...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I've been every where man..

Time to pack all the toys away after the Nationals and clean off the laptops.

A quick look at the log file for the car computer came up with this track file for our week of competition. It may not look like we went far but those tracks in green actually total just over 926km of retrieve driving in just 6 days of competition.

A totally useless bit of information but at least explains why we seemed to be filling the car up every two days!

I will get the flight logs up soon so you can see where we flew - go on, tell me your excited?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

2007 Nationals photos

Photos from the 2007 Nationals are up on Aunty Monkey.

If you don't know about Aunty Monkey and you like balloons then get over there and sign up, otherwise if you just want to see the photos go and have a look.

We did the key grab this morning and made a fast pass just to one side of the pole. No one got it but it was great fun and nice and fast. Slept the rest of the day in preparation for a big night tonight at the Awards dinner.

UPDATE: Just found this cool slide show widget on Aunty Monkey

Friday, July 13, 2007

All over red rover..

The last flight has been cancelled due to high winds. The means that the flight this morning was it for the 2007 National Championship.

Looks like I am off to Austria in 2008!

I managed to pull in the points on Edwin and have unofficially finished in 2nd place about 230 points ahead of him. Paul pulled a few more points out on me as expected with a good morning and finished in first place.

It has been a fantastic week if not a little too short for my liking. Four days of competition is just enough to get warmed up, six days would be perfect.

Am I happy, to be honest not really. I never come to these things to come second. Losing the title after four years feels a bit sad too. We had a good number of challenges to over come and in the end to get past those and still hang in the top three should make me happy. Ask me in a weeks time I suppose.

Paul is a fantastic competitor and it was his week. Well done to him and his team - we are always pushing each other and that is half the fun, knowing we can't give each other an inch and this if we do then the game is over.

Benalla Flight 7

Friday morning, last competition day.

After the rain and wind yesterday, this was the last day in the chase. We were confirmed in third place and about 200 points behind 2nd and 683 points to first place.

With Paul and Edwin ahead of me it was going to require a special flight from me to get back those points.

Three tasks were called, pilot declared goal, fly in and fly on. The distances on the task sheet indicated that the flight was to be a fast one with just about the full stretch of the map from corner to corner likely to be needed.

The cold breeze on the back of our necks and the pilot balloons scooting over the horizon had us wondering if it was going to be possible to get off the ground, let alone get to the goals.

In the end a great launch site was found and surface wind actually eased a little. We had picked the flight perfectly and with just under 15km to run to the first goal we had lots of time to relax and get settled.

The PDG result was about 10m, the Fly in was about 6m and the final fly on was 23m. On most days a good result, but on a day when I was chasing Paul and Edwin, it was questionable if it was enough.

Paul was right there beside me the whole way so I know I had not caught him but I had no idea how Edwin went.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Afternoon cancelled too..

No afternoon flight today. The rain had mostly stopped and with some signs of convection and instability the flight was cancelled.

It is a difficult thing. We don't want to be sent off in stupid conditions but at the same time, right now I want as many tasks as we can get. For me it was acceptable for a flight. If out for a jolly I would have considered it, for some in the competition it probably wasn't. Such is life.

Interestingly, one balloon not in the competition was seen scooting along for a flight in the distance - I suppose we will hear from them if it was a good call or not.

It looks like we have three flights left so with some luck that is still 10 more tasks but more likely to be 7 based on the trend of 3 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon. Here is hoping for 10!

The rain got us...

The flight this morning has been cancelled due to low cloud and light rain. Bummer.

Fingers are crossed that the cloud lifts enough for a flight this afternoon. We were hoping to get off to the cinema but none of the session times fit in before the afternoon briefing.

Team spirits are high but we would rather be flying at this point rather than sitting on the ground.

Rain rain go away..

Day 4 of the competition and it is raining. We are on hold right now for the morning flight and waiting to see if the light drizzle out side clears.

I am really hoping for a flight and a dozen markers as we are now in third place and 683 points behind first. Yesterday really hurt us.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Benalla flight 6

After the adventures this morning, it was time for another single afternoon task.

The director called for a Gordon Bennett Memorial with the Benalla airfield as the scoring area. Variable winds again made launch site choice a challenge.

We ended up with a climb to about 5500 ft to get the required direction. With a lot of leaning to the left we ended up getting the marker down about 200m from the target and inside the scoring area.

Interesting is a recurring theme here, but with about a third of the field not getting results and such a large scoring area there are people spread everywhere and the results will be well, interesting.

I am pretty sure after this mornings stuff ups I am back down the pack by a few places but the weather looks good for flying all the way through the week so there is time to catch up again.

Benalla flight 5

Another great day for flying in Benalla. Not a really great day for me....

The morning flight was originally going to be a four part flight but very light and variable winds caused a change of tasks. In the end we had a three part flight with Pilot Declared goal, and two fly on goals.

The wind started shifting while we were still 700m from the first goal and in the end it was about 300m. Not what we had ordered for the morning.

With the second goal being a fly on we were able to adjust the shifting winds but ran out of time on the approach. Unfortunately the three time keepers in the team - Me as number one, and everyone else, forgot about the 9:30 close of scoring period and we dropped too late making a 39m drop a no result. Really not happy with that but only realised it after the flight...

The final goal is what it was supposed to be with another fly on, good goal selection and a 1.88m result which with some luck will have won that task.

For the rest of the field there have been some horror stories as well as some good results so it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Benalla flight 3 & 4

Today was a good day. We started in 4th place and have finished in first place after the morning and probably will still be there after the afternoon.

The morning flight was another three part task with Fly in, Hesitation waltz and then fly on.

We got third place for the Fly in but a total of 986 points from the 1000 because it was close enough to the winning result. The last two tasks were average in terms of performance but fortunately better than those at the pointy end of the field, pushing us up to top spot with just under 200 points buffer to second place. Fourth place is not about 500 points behind so the gap is starting to form.

This afternoon was a Hare and Hounds task which was perfect for the light conditions. The hare balloon did a great job of making an achievable goal for the field and the results will show that with some luck. I am not sure where we stand exactly but again I am sure we did better than those we needed to better than.

We are off for dinner and lawn bowling tonight for a bit of a social event which will be a great way to unwind.

UPDATE: as of 9:55pm we are in first place still and have extended our lead to about 420 points. Going to sleep like a lamb ;-)

Benalla flight 2

The afternoon flight got off to a poor start. We were sent out to Goorambat to use the common launch point #2 for a pilot declared goal and fly on task. Unfortunately with all the rain, the oval was too soft to drive on and the task had to be changed.

The tasks were scrubbed and instead a Fly in was called, sending us all out into the country side to find our own wet patches to launch from.

It got interesting because all the met indicated that there should be an easterly to use at height but during the climb out we found a hard right turn that was not expected. This was at 4600ft. Everyone who found it balked and descended to about 3800ft which was about the best direction to the goal but was going to put those of us who launched to the east, well east of the goal.

In the end I calculated that I was going to be in the bottom half of the field if I stayed where I was and that I was going to miss the goal by about 1800m. Not good. I decided to put in a big climb and see what happened up high. It worked. The right hand turn was about 1000ft thick but it quickly came back around to the left and had us back on track.

I was really hoping that the other pilots down low would not see what I had done until it was too late for them. In the end it had to be obvious it was working for me and they started charging up behind me. At 6500ft I then had the challenge of timing the descent which even in a racer like the EX-65 was going to take 4 minutes. We were doing 24km/h so this is about 1200m of ground distance traveled while in the descent so getting the timing right is critical.

In the end I had to opt for a high drop from 5500 feet where if the marker is lost it is a no result. It was a high risk option but paid off with a result of about 260m which should be in the top five for the afternoon.

Great fun and good to have day one under our belts. Time for a sleep and do it all again in the morning.

Benalla flight 1 results

Result from the morning are in and we are in 3rd place. It is a little better than I expected but that is how it all washes out. The great thing is that we are withing about 200 points of the lead so we are off to a great start and well in touch at this very early stage.

Cows that love you too much..

Another funny story from this morning. I got molested by a cow! I have met lots of cows while ballooning and I really think they are cute in the way that only a bovine can get away with - it is all in the eyes. It is a little perverse to think that dinner is cute but there you go, I love my food.

Anyway, while measuring a marker today I got visited by a young steer that was obviously used to people or so young that he did not recognize me as the man who ate his mum at the pub last night.

Normally no matter how much I have wanted to pat the nice cows, they have smelt the HP special steak sauce on my shirt and run a mile. This little dude came right up and licked me, used me as a scratching post and followed me around the field like a long lost friend.

It was great, I got to pat a young cow and yes they are a soft and fluffy as they look. With my cow encounter complete, I don't have to visit the petting zoo at the easter show next year.

Benalla flight 1

The Nationals are under way. After one practice flight and a few days of 4WD adventure driving around the competition area, the rain has stopped and the sky is clear.

There is lots of water still standing on the fields and roads so high ground is the place to land if you can find it.

Flight one was a judge declared goal followed by two fly on goals. The launch from the Benalla airfield and was a little windy, providing lots of excitement for crews and spectators. We had the added challenge of the Honda having a moment of battery problems and would not start. Fortunately we realized this before I launched and we were able to perform probably a world first balloon assisted clutch start.

I got the balloon off the ground and dragged the car forward across the launch field, when we had enough speed, Steve popped the clutch and with the car started I popped the quick release and we were both off.

Wind speeds from 200 ft up were around 40 to 50 km/h so we were rushing towards the North west corner of the map. I enjoy fast flights and the pressure of quick decision making so it was all good.

Results were not fantastic but should see us in the top of the pack. 36M on the JDG (3rd as far as I can tell), the fly on tasks were a bit average with 78m and 123m respectively for tasks 2 and 3.

As always it is time to just see how that sits with the rest of the field on what for most would have been a challenging morning.

Weather looks ok for the afternoon so fingers crossed we will be out there again soon.

The new toy - Motion Tablet PC

For this event I have been very lucky to secure sponsorship from Motion Computing with a LE1600 Tablet PC.

As many would already know I have been using a laptop in the basket for doing all my navigation work for some time and in 2004 for the Worlds bought another brand of convertible Tablet PC to use at the Worlds in Mildura.

It has done OK but there were a number of things that could have been better and all the better bits have been found in the the Motion Tablet.

The Motion LE1600 is a slate format Tablet PC which means that has no keyboard and is specifically designed to be incredibly light and mobile. It also has a spectacular battery life. I have used it today for the two flights including briefings, de-briefings, post flight retrieve and measuring of markers as well as downloading photos and doing these blog entries. It is still going on the one charge. They advertise about 8.5 hours life and it has to be getting close to that in actual usage time so far considering it first got turned on at 6am and it is now 9:20pm

Other cool things are the View Anywhere Display (VAD), just the size and weight (or lack of), and a really cool mounting system that makes putting it into the basket amazingly easy.

The display uses a transflective TFT technology that actually uses reflected sun light to brighten the display making it bright and crisp even in full sunlight and reducing power consumption. After using normal laptop displays for years I would never go back after this for any outdoor work.

The unit has a 12.1 inch screen but is so clear and easy to use that for once size does not mater. This is a big call because it has replaced a 14.1 inch screen in the basket which is a large amount of map area in theory. The reality is that it is so clear that by zooming out a little more I can see as much as before and it is actually clearer to look at.

Motion also have some really cool mounting options for their tablets too. I have used the simplest option which is basically a plastic clip that the whole computer just slips into. So easy it is not funny.

Anyhow, the more I use it the more I love it. It is by far my favorite piece of kit ever and for me that is a big call. It is easy to carry around, fast to use and more than powerful enough for the job.

Benalla 1.0

I have now got my wireless Internet account up and running here in Benalla so the blog is on! Hope you enjoy my antics at the 2007 Australian National Championship.

Posts will probably go up once per day and there is a bit of a back log here to start with.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The road to Benalla

We have arrived and the whole team is here and ready to go.

The trip down was a day later than originally planned but poor weather down here would have prevented any practice flying so a more relaxed departure was easier all around. As happens when driving for about eight hours by myself, I get bored. This photo was a small self entertainment challenge I set myself to show off some of the gadgets set up in the retrieve car.

It was poring rain most of last night so we opted for a sleep in – I am glad we didn't bother getting up, it is grey and windy with water everywhere!.

An amazing thing is how green everything is. It has become the norm that from just south of Sydney, all the fields quickly turn to golden brown grass and sun bleached dirt. Now there is green green grass as far as they eye can see. It is like another country.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Busy few weeks..

Well the count down is now on. It is almost my last day at work before the drive to Benalla for the National championship. I have just got back form probably my last night of dancing for a week or two which is a little sad. To all my dancing friends, have fun at the ball!

With some luck I will be on the road on Thursday and in Benalla for a few days of relaxation and preparation for the event. I could tell you all what I will be doing but that may be giving away secrets on the eve of the title defense!

What I can say is that I have a fantastic sponsor to add to my already fantastic self sponsorship - Motion Computing have come on board with a LE1600 tablet PC. More on this little beast in another post but suffice to say that is without a doubt the best dedicated tablet PC I have seen (other than the slightly newer LE1700) and I can't wait to use it in competition.

As if all that was not exciting enough, I have also locked in to do the Audi Sydney to Gold Coast yacht race a few weeks after the Nationals. Last weekend we had a day of maintenance, training and the final part of the Category 1 inspection on Namadgi to do. It was a great chance to meet the rest of the crew and go though some of the emergency stuff like setting tri-sails and storm jibs.

I have also just had confirmation of my entry for the 2007 Tochigi HAB International Championship in Japan. This is basically the Motegi event that I love so much. I think I will also get a confirmation for Saga in the near future too which will be great.

So there we have it. Never a dull moment.

I believe I will have access to the net from my little cabin in Benalla so watch this space for updates on the competition as it unfolds. Things won't really get started until next Monday but I should be able to set the scene once I arrive and start setting up.