Competition hots up on Lithuania’s frozen lake

Now half way through, the 4th FAI World Paragliding Accuracy Championship, being held on Lake Galves, Trakai, Lithuania, is shifting gear, as individuals and teams run a closely run competition. Six of a possible 12 rounds have been flown as we move into Day 5. Although Slovenia leads the team competition, there is not such a huge gap between them and second placed Czech Republic and UK in third. Former champion, Matjaz Feraric (SLO) is leading the individual competition, with surprise newcomer Tzvetan Tzolov from Bulgaria in second, and Andy Webster of UK in third place. Another rising star, Irina Avane of Latvia is leading the womens’ competition. Day 4, Tuesday 13th February, 2007 After an enforced rest day on Monday due to strong winds, Tuesday’s weather was not only better than forecast, with lighter winds and blue skies, but a practically balmy –4C. The warmest day so far! Three further rounds were completed, with plenty of competitive spirit showing through. The Lithuanian winching operation soon got into its stride after an early problem was sorted. It truly is a slick operation. The Launch Marshall and Safety Director worked well together to launch pilots from four gates, with just the right intervals to ensure the Judges had a steady flow of competitors approaching the target, but not too close together to cause problems. Team mates helped launching pilots, making for a friendly and supportive environment. High scores were recorded for Slovenian champion, Matjaz Feraric, and for Bulgaria’s rising star, Tzvetan Tzolov, both with 2cm. They were closely followed on 3cm by Abdullah Yildiz of Turkey, definitely a pilot to watch. Team mate Faruk Bozkurt also scored 3cm, as did home grown Lithuanian star, Vitalis Bogdanovicius. Japan’s Hideaki Monji scored 5cm, his second pad score. Among the women, Ana Joleska of Macedonia put in a neat 63cm, while Irina Avane of Latvia did well with 148cm. Pilots were enthusiastic to start Round 5, after which they could drop their worst score. Sadly, top Dutch pilot, Huub Coumans, first to fly the round, landed badly damaging a thigh muscle, and causing him to withdraw from the competition. Meanwhile, in the leadership stakes, Feraric dropped a disappointing (for him) 14cm, enabling Tzolov, with 5cm to overtake (albeit briefly) and UK’s Webster to catch up with a 6cm score. Other high scorers for the round included Dusan Gorenc from Slovenia on 4cm, Oleksiy Rakov of Ukraine, also with 4cm and team mate Volodymyr Yavorski on 6cm. Croatia’s team leader, Zdravko Jakop, and organiser of the next World Championship in 2009, put in a 15cm pad score. The girls struggled on this round, though Latvia’s Avane, once again scored well with 24cm, and beating all of her team mates! Pilots grabbed a hot lunch between rounds, while a couple of promotional tandem flights provided some excellent footage for the national tv station. The organisers have excelled in media coverage, with reporters on site most days from national and international tv programs and newspapers. One team was reporting for South Korea! Pilots, too, are taking advantage of the excellent communications facilities to report back for sponsors and their own countries’ media. Round 6 kept the pressure on, and by the end of the day, combined with the penetrating cold and slightly increased breeze started to take its toll on some pilots. Experience showed, as veteran Slovenians, Feraric (4cm) and Rafael Kerin (5cm) demonstrated. UK champion Andy Shaw was back on form with a classic approach giving him a 2cm score for Round 6. Latvian, Girts Locmelis put in 3cm, UK’s Don Bodill took 5cm and Croatian pilot Roland Veble dropped in a very credible 6cm. First pad score (15cm) for the women was achieved by Latvia’s Olga Lonina. By the end of the day, accounting for the dropped (worst) score, the leader board showed Matjaz Feraric (Slovenia) back in familiar territory in 1st place, followed by Bulgaria’s Tzvetan Tzolov, and UK’s Andy Webster in 3rd. Once again, it is interesting to see eight countries represented in the top ten, with two – Turkey and Ukraine – making a first appearance in a World Championships. Serbia, host of the first European Championship next year, is closing the gap with Zoran Petrovic in 11th place. The womens championship is still very much open, with Irina Avane from Latvia taking over the top position from Marketa Tomaskova (Czech Republic) and Funda Durusu of Turkey not so far behind. In the team rankings, Slovenia jumps into the lead, over Czech Republic, followed by UK. Neighbours, Lithuania and Latvia are battling for 4th and 5th places, while Macedonia chase behind. Back at base, pilots were relieved to find that new stocks of beer had arrived at the HQ hotel, as it had run out early the night before! See the photo gallery and additional reports at: www.pagaukveja.lt