The afternoon of day two brought much improved weather conditions. The clouds had disappeared along with the fog to produce blue skies and hot sun; perfect for the next task of Pure Economy. The rules were delightfully simple; pilots were given 2 litres of fuel and had to stay airborne for as long as possible.
Once the fuelling control had been completed, the task window opened at 1515 local time with free take off until 1615. Competitors tried at every stage to conserve their precious fuel so take-offs were much more relaxed because of the reluctance to use full throttle once airborne. Pilots climbed out slowly and steadily, trying to make the maximum use of the available energy.
The display of canopies was fantastic; all 30 competitors in the air at the same time, all circling to the left above the competition site in order to guarantee safety and avoid conflict. It was a great show of colour and graceful flight, a point underlined by all the spectator cameras pointed skywards!
To win this event requires careful control of the paramotor, including the use of the engine but also careful canopy control inputs to increase efficiency. There was quite a spread in the performances; the average was around 35-40 minutes but 5 competitors achieved more than 50 minutes in the air – quite remarkable, given the very small amount of fuel in their tanks.
As the levels got lower, pilots chose to circle near to the prescribed landing area. The crowd could hear the engines start to falter as the fuel ran out, followed by the motor stopping, the propeller becoming motionless and finally the pilot gliding down the last few metres for a gentle touchdown.
The Korean Kiill NA was looking good for the top spot when he landed at 16:33 with a time of 58:02 minutes, but there were still other competitors in the air, most notably SHENG and MACAK. Who would stay up the longest? The 30 points on offer could make a big difference to the overall scores and the atmosphere became tense as teams looked on. Then SHENG’s engine went quiet and he landed with a time of 1hr 1:42… but when had he taken off? Team Thailand tried to remember the exact time that George MACAK became airborne to work out if he stood a chance of taking task honours.
George clearly realised his fuel was nearly out and he moved towards the landing area. There were several minutes’ wait as his engine refused to stop, but then he too fell silent before landing in the deck. Stopwatches were consulted, the marshals and scorers gathered to compare notes and then the result was displayed on the scoring display. China had done it! George managed 1hr 1:13 so Guangqiang SHENG had beaten him by 29s. The victorious pilot was greeted by his team with cheers and loud applause. The competition just got hotter!
Results are available at http://results.haiyang2012.com.
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