Some thoughts about Masterclasses. Laragne and Sant Andre shots.

This chapter is about non-competition flying in Masterclasses.

This summer I got amused being asked for several times – why do I again take part in a Gerolf’s masterclass. Although there might be many things to see behind the question, if answering in essense I would say – because learning to fly is endless and hopefully I am long before the stage where I wouldn’t see flying with good pilots as one of the best ways of improving. On a side of it I encountered a thought that flying in competitions is the most effective path and if you make it to the first sheet of the list why would you need a free-flying course. Which is a bit illogical because in many aspects at least for me these two types are just different. So even though of course there is an overlap, they still more complement rather then repeat each other.

This is a shot from a task in Masterclass to Lac de Sante-Croix this year in Laragne. Not many of competition tasks are set from Digne (when it is not flyable in Laragne) with the goal at this splendid lake:

Or this one from a cool flight which we squeezed out of conditions taking off from Oraison, 40 km south from Laragne, unlikely to get a comp taking off from a merely 200 m hill:


I lately realized that somehow, so far, a substantial part of my let’s say effective free-flying experience was in Gerolf’s Masterclasses. Not that it was a product of thorough planning, but as I see it now, a beginner eager to develop flying skills naturally wants to have a good guidance. You just do not know too many things and feel that exploring all of them by yourself out of competition borders might be as great, as interminable on the other side. I like to learn things all the time, even more I like to do so effectively.

These courses is a good and definite opportunity to get qualified advice. Not surprisingly that each time I take part in a masterclass, I get heaps of new quite personalized and addressed criticism at my own flying. Not that I am a masochist liking to hear comments, which can be quite itchy at times, but this is what good flying is about — getting over your ego problems.

And I find, this is one of the reasons why the one would go to these courses – flying with a group headed by the great pilot willing to fly with you. Not competing but showing and sharing experience, giving an argumentation on some psychological/physiological aspects, discussing technique details supplied with tricks concerning glider handling and settings. (Here we shouldn’t forget that Gerolf claims to be acquainted with the guy who designs Litespeeds, even the ones that have Technora sails!)

Interestingly though that in a way people also come for the approval, some of them might be even actually not up to change their attitude, but wanting a confirmation that what they do in their flying is right. Right because it is safe for instance. This is very convenient and not rare way to stay inside of personal comfort zone. Justifying a bomb out by stating that something wasn’t done because it wasn’t safe there. Not because the one didn’t know how to do it safely or was too excited/pissed off/scary/distracted to keep on… This kind of rationalization keeps a pilot held back. So for me very valuable thing is to notice and to afford changing it. If not, than the mistake is kept repeated for eternity. A funny thought – sometimes I find myself stubbornly thinking that I am not stubborn 🙂 Then I always recall this Russian proverb saying that a boring person is the one who claims to be not boring. By the way not many are going to point these things out for you in a competition as well as to tell a story of some smart move somewhere on the course during the task. On a positive side I would think about Gordon who does it, but I believe also to a certain extent, because afterwards he competes there, just not with me.

The other good thing, you always get in the course, is a weather analysis. Again here are two aspects to see in it. Firstly it means that today’s flying spot most probably will be the best choice for given conditions. So you would think you might become a bit lazy yourself and not worry about this part. However, the second but not a minor supplement is that you really have an opportunity to learn from it, to see which parameters are being considered, what are the specific traces in certain area, which websites are being used, what is the handful of take-offs we have here to keep in mind etc. I usually try to guess the options for the day myself and then compare with what is being said in the briefing.

One more feature in the course, which people appreciate, is the organization. The whole week is pre-ordered and you do not need to care what are you going to do. There are mostly two options — if there is any place around where we can get to fly, then we drive there and fly. Otherwise we got morning and/or evening briefing sessions.

This is when you don’t fly in Mistral in Sant Andre:


For myself I wouldn’t distinguish it from any other flying I have, but it is connected to the way I do it — come to Europe to fly, so I usually do not spend time hesitating whether we go on the hill or not. If there are favorable conditions and I am not having a rest day due to certain reasons than we go up, at the same time not forgetting to set a task for the day. But as I said having lessons of judgement by much more experienced person are very worthwhile.

Well, what else is there? Ahh, yeah, nice cookies during the briefings and plenty other things 🙂

This shot was taken in Meduno in August Masterclass, very cool place to fly when the central part of Alpes is suffering from bad weather. I was pleasantly surprised with nice conditions there. And you can see that the area is really beautiful.