The first Paragliding World Cup Superfinal took place in Poggio Bustone, Italy, from 2-12 September 2009, and was won by France’s Charles Cazaux, flying an Ozone prototype, the BBHPP.
Right behind him was Russell Ogden (GB), also flying a BBHPP. “The BB was the best wing in the competition,” Russell said afterwards, “any monkey strapped to it could have done well.”
True or not, the Superfinal was dominated by the appearance of this new wing designed, as Russell Ogden put it, “by hand, on scraps of paper with a pencil and slide rule,” by Ozone’s Luc Armant.
Billed as the highest quality competition ever, the Superfinal saw only four tasks scored and was hit by scoring controversy. And although bad weather meant the entire field had to travel to chase flyable conditions, it was the scoring system that delivered the lowest blow.
Task 2 was stopped, and, because of a scoring programme anomaly, the top 35 pilots all scored at least 991 points out of 1,000 – a score usually reserved for the top two or three pilots in a ‘normal’ task.
The nightmare ‘unfair’ situation for scorers, organiser and pilots alike had arisen: a badly scoring stopped task was set to have a big impact on the final table.
The event started promisingly. The first day, Task 1, saw 129 pilots signed up for a 79.5 km race to goal via a maze of eight turnpoints. Switzerland’s Stephan Morgenthaler won the day, just ahead of Russ Ogden.
Day two and three were cancelled due to high winds but day four, Task 2, saw a 75.8 km race that started at 1.40 pm. Storms on course meant it was stopped, with pilots scoring more or less where they were in the sky at the time. Cue upsets all round as leading pilots scored less than they ‘should’ have, and tumbled down the ladder, never to climb up again.
The result was mitigated somewhat by the ‘dropped task’ rule, where pilots can drop their worst task, but it again highlighted the debate over whether or not stopped tasks should be scored at all in the PWC.
Day five was cancelled. The field then moved to Norma near Rome, a three-hour drive, to try and catch better weather for days six and seven. Task 3 saw a 71.9 km race to goal, won by Italy’s Luca Donini, but the next day was cancelled again due to strong winds.
Back in Poggio Bustone for day eight, Task 4, saw a 74.7 km race to goal won by Russ Ogden. Days nine and 10 were too windy, while day 11 saw a task set but rain stopped play before the task could be scored.
Charles Cazaux won with 2,950 points, 10 ahead of second placed Russell Ogden. Just 27 points behind him in third place was Luca Donini, flying a Gin Boomerang prototype, one of seven Gin gliders in the top 20.
Japan’s Keiko Hiraki came top woman, with France’s Elisa Houdry second and Petra Slivova (CZ) in third.
Of the 24 nations, Italy (with 14 pilots) came top nation, with a combined score of 11,486 points, with Germany (nine pilots) in second and France (a huge 24 pilots) in third.
Superfinal 2009 Results
1 Charles Cazaux, FR, Ozone BBHPP
2 Russell Ogden, GB, Ozone BBHPP
3 Luca Donini, IT, Gin Boomerang Proto
1 Keiko Hiraki, JP, Axis Mercury
2 Elisa Houdry, FR, Niviuk Icepeak 3
3 Petra Slivova, CZ, MacPara Magus 6
This article was first published in the Surveillance pages of Cross Country issue 126 (November / December 2009)