The X-Alps / Day Twelve

Last Day. No more excuses. At least we wouldn’t have to walk up to any launches anymore,  we had basically slept on it this night. I took the shortest straw to launch first and be wind dummy for the three musketeers. Dummy was the right word, I was way too early. I struggled for over an hour on a little spot, fighting for milimeters but finally got out and flew back to the Col to show thermals for the others once more. They had seen that the thermals hadn’t been there yet and had waited to launch. But when I flew back and rubbed it in, they had no more excuses.

Dave and Michael watching my struggle. Photo by Vitek Ludvik.

I had told them on the radio to be careful and patient, as down low it wasn’t easy and really unorganised. So the Viking and Michael worked the first weak thermal after launch, while Dave pushed on. I went with him to maybe help him in any way. He landed just at the very spot I had milked for the last hour. I landed next to him, to see if he needed help carrying stuff uphill. Understandably, he was upset for bombing and I tried to raise his spirits. He still had a chance if he would hustle to a little higher position.

He didn’t need any help so I relaunched and flew back to the car. Meanwhile, Michael and Eric had topped out and were on their way south. I had a little chat with their supporters, all great characters, before they went after them. I also drove a little south to check the notorious valley winds north of Briancon. I knew Dave was very weary of this particular region.
It was still safe to fly, but already quite strong when I arrived there. I tried to play it down a little on the radio, as I knew how allergic Dave reacts to strong valley winds: ‘nah mate. s’all good. Hardly a breeze down ‘ere. Fly on yonder.’ But he had already felt the presence of the winds reaching up to his altitude. Motivation seemed to deteriorate fast now and I don’t think he could muster anymore desire to work the broken thermals.

And that was it. His final landing of the race took place north of Briancon. We met at a Macky D, where he pounded multiple Biggies down and went to a nice quiet campspot looking over town.


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