Competition Dates

 

WWGC Practice, Club, Sports & 18m Nationals 2018

31st December 2018 to 11th January 2019 

World Championships

 01-03 January 2020: Official Practice Days
03 Jan January 2020: 19:00 hrs Official opening
04-17 January 2020: Competition Days - 14 in total
18 January 2020: 10:00 hrs Official closing ceremony.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of soaring planes,
Though I don't care much for Victoria,
it's freezing when it rains.

That hopefully is the limit of Australian culture for this website but what's written there is the truth. Australia can be hot in summer. Damn hot. And while the country gets sunburned, you do not want to.

Unless you have spent some time somewhere south of the Mediterranean, you may not be prepared for quite how strong the sun can be in Australia. For sure, it's one reason why we have such great gliding conditions but it's also the reason why we have to be so careful when we're out in the sun. 

The average day temperature at Keepit in January is 34º which with our normal low humidity, is quite bearable. The record stands at almost 49º which is not. Regrettably, extreme temperatures do not make for extremely good flying. But on an averagely hot day, when you can expect to be above 7,000' for most of the day, the temperature in the cockpit is fine. It's on the ground that you have to be careful.

The first thing is, wear the right clothes. This mostly means dressing in light, long-sleeved clothes with good UV protection and wearing a broad-brimmed hat. Wear plenty of good, high protection sun screen on any exposed skin, especially if you are light-skinned.

The second thing is to drink lots of water. Most people carry water in a hydration pack or bladder wherever they go on the airstrip. Most water at Lake Keepit comes from the dam. In summer, if the dam level is low, our tap water can contain bugs like giardia which can give you an upset stomach for a while so only drink boiled tap water. Rain water is available at several points around the club and at the launch points so this is the best place to fill your water bladder.

If you're drinking lots of water, you're going to need some effective 'pilot relief system' in the glider. If this doesn't work brilliantly, don't worry. The humidity at Keepit is pretty low so things dry very quickly! 

It's a good idea to get your glider ready in plenty of time, before briefing and before it gets hot. Ideally, your crew does this for you while you relax in the shade.  

A good tip, whether you wear a terry towelling hat or not, is to soak it with water just before you get in the glider. Then when you shut the canopy and the temperature starts to climb, you can have a cool head until you have reached a cooler altitude after launch.

 

Of course you are not going to outland, but you'll need some advice to give to those who might.

One of the things which makes Keepit a great place to glide is that there are many easy outlanding options. The area around Lake Keepit Gliding Club is known as the North West Slopes and Plains. Slopes and plains. What this means in practice is that there are a lot of outlanding places around… the plains either side of the slopes mostly. 

Though the region isn't really the outback, the local country isn't sparsely populated unlike much of Europe. Paddocks are large and may be some distance from a road. If there are small rivers around, then cars may not be able to drive into a paddock without a long detour. If there are dry crops, cars may not be allowed into fields at all in case they start a bush fire. You need to try to contact the farmer before you organise a retrieve and the farm house may be a long hot walk away.

Though there are unlikely to be tasks over proper remote areas, many pilots carry a personal tracker like an InReach. This type of device can not only broadcast your location via satellite and SOS messages but it can also send and receive messages via satellite tagged with your latitude and longitude. 

Australia, especially in the bush, rejoices in a third-world phone network. There's only one network to use in most of the country, Telstra, which works in most of the bush but there are areas where reception is patchy or there isn't any reception at all. It's a very good idea to radio in that you might outland while you are still airborne so you can concentrate on the circuit and landing in case there's no radio or phone on the ground.

What all this means is that you may be in a field for quite a while before you're picked up and that means you should be prepared and carry a survival kit in the glider. Well, let's call it an outlanding kit.

The list which follows contains items we normally carry in our outlanding kit.

  • A fully charged, working phone is the top of the list. Ideally it should have a mapping app installed with the local area map. Many of these apps such as Navmii are free or very cheap. This means you will at least be able to let people know where you are… if there is a phone signal.
  • Food. You may be there some hours. Normally something like nuts or  muesli bars are OK but be careful of salty stuff which makes you too thirsty.
  • Water. You must carry a water container which is separate from your in-flight water. The best are MSR Dromedary bladders because they are strong and very flexible so they're easier to stow.
  • A space blanket. The temperature drops at night. Normally it doesn't get colder than 15º but it can, especially after thunderstorms.
  • A woolie and long trousers. If you fly in a tee shirt and shorts, you might need a thin jumper and something over your legs when it gets cooler.
  • A torch or two with full batteries. Head torches are a good idea to help you walk out at night but you should mark the position of the glider with another flashing torch or strobe. The elastic band on a head torch can be used to attach it to a wing tip.
  • A small emergency first aid kit including plasters and aspirin.
  • A signalling mirror.
  • Insect repellant and sun screen.
  • Something to read. A friend used to find some travel book such as a Bill Bryson on Australia, and tear out a few chapters for his survival kit.

Flying conditions around Lake Keepit in summer are mostly great and often outstanding. There's little in the way of other traffic and airspace to worry about and with an interesting topography and lots of places to outland, Keepit has a deserved reputation as being one of the best places to fly in Australia.

Typically, the cloud base is 6,000-8,000' with occasional days up to 13,000'. Thermal strength is 4-5 knots on a bad day and can your can often get a rowdy 11 knots on good days. Most thermals are marked by CU and there are plenty of easy outlanding fields.

There's controlled airspace to the east around Tamworth so most tasks are set in the 180º semicircle to the west which stretches about 3500 km towards the Indian Ocean. Outside controlled airspace, there's not a lot of traffic. While all gliders use Flarm, it's see and avoid for the the other traffic.

So generally, it's a great and relaxing place to fly.

By January, there are very few insects in the air so your wings stay clean and fast. Visibility is normally over the horizon except if there are bushfires around the country when it can get a lot less.

The topography is nicely varied, especially compared to some of the other often boring flatland sites around Australia where you can do a single turn in a thermal and find yourself lost. This makes flying more interesting and makes it harder to get lost because after a few flights, you can orientate yourself using the local ranges and towns.

Keepit itself is ringed by several ranges of hills, the Carrols, the Kelvins, the Mount Kaputar ranges and Mount Borah. Mount Borah is an internationally well known launch site for hang gliders and paragliders and can get busy over the weekend, especially in January. Mostly these gliders fly downwind but be aware that they're likely to be around.

The highest point in the region is Mount Kaputar to the north west, which towers almost 5,000' above the plain and is snow covered for all but 364.95 days a year. To the east of Kaputar, there are several valleys heading towards the Queensland border mostly a few kms wide with good outlanding fields. To the north east, the ground slopes gradually up towards the Northern Tablelands. Though tasks are not often set far in this direction, you can often find great convergence there.

Like much of the high ground in the region, there are plenty of escape routes to the plains either side which makes our high ground rather more relaxing to fly than other high ground such as the alps.

Our region can have 'big weather' in Summer.

You can get localised overdevelopment and storms in the afternoon on unstable days in the hot months. Occasionally, these storms will join up with remarkable rapidity into a large storm front covering a huge area. These are to be avoided. The German or Polish paraglider glider pilot Ewa Wisnierska achieved a world record height gain while practicing for the 2007 paragliding Worlds close to Mount Borah. She and some others tried to get between two storm cells. The cells rapidly joined up, along with two or three other to form a massive storm front. Ewa was sucked up to over 32,000' and was very fortunate to survive.

It can be a hoot flying storm clouds but sometimes, even flying close to VNE, you're still going up at 10 knots while trying to escape and things can turn hairy very quickly.

If you're into dangerous animals, Australia is the place to come. 

We've got the most of them… and the best! From sharks and crocodiles, brown snakes, death adders, taipans to dugites, and diamond pythons. But wait,  there's more.  Redback and funnel-web spiders,  dingoes, stone fish, blue ringed octopus, and box jellyfish. And that's not close to the complete list.

Of particular note are the dangerous birds. Australia magpies can give you a good pecking when they're in a bad mood and regularly attack cyclists at the club, sometimes drawing blood. Wearing sunglasses and a good helmet is recommended. 

Australian cicadas are as big as a small aircraft and can generate sound pressure levels which can cause permanent hearing damage. Fortunately they're not much of a problem at the club. 

Australia's reputation for deadly animals is so good that we've had pilots from Europe at Lake Keepit who outlanded and were too afraid to leave the cockpit. Unfortunately, the truth is more prosaic.

The fact is that you are far more likely to die after falling out of bed than from all these animals put together. The most dangerous animals in Australia are in fact cows and horses involved in farm and road accidents. 

The lake at Lake Keepit is mainly formed by the dam and while it's not a good idea to land in the lake, it's not sharks, stone fish and crocodiles you need to fear. There are sharks in the sea and crocs in the rivers hundreds of kilometres to the north of Keepit but the chance of meeting one is very small indeed… about 30 times less than the chance of drowning while swimming. 

There are probably snakes around in the bush though very few of us have seen one. Snakes are more frightened of you than you are of them and if you make a noise walking, then they'll slide away.

There are a few spiders around, especially in the hangar doors so it's not a bad idea to get into the habit of looking at the dark side of a hangar door before you put your fingers in there. Under the dunny lid used to be a favourite spot for spiders in the bush but with the new luxury toilets all over the place at Keepit, the bush is hardly the bush any more. 

What you do need to keep an eye on is roos on the road. Kangaroos are meant to come out at night and in the bush they're a menace on the road at night.The area around Lake Keepit is not too bad for roos and in 99% of cases the roo will come off worst but there are places where locals just don't drive at night. 

 

 

 

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