We had scheduled launch-time for sunrise which was at 07h45.
I arrived first, at 07h15. The air was dead calm and the ground soaking wet... not the best conditions to launch paramotors in, especially with full fuel-tanks. Callie arrived to lend a helping hand and take some photo's, but he could not fly due to work meetings. Russell Witthuhn arrived shortly after, then Peter Mauchan arrived just after we had laid our wings out on the concrete slab which was also damp, but not as bad as the grass. Antony Stone missed the freeway turnoff, then got lost trying to work his way back and called to say he was heading home instead.
I had the first pullup which was a bit messy but I managed to sort the wing out, but I was running towards a narrow gap in the treeline, without any positive response from the wing. I just could not reach manoeuvering speed on that wet grass so just before the trees, I aborted rather than "hope" I might fit through the narrow gap. While I was walking back with my gear, Russell pulled up and launched on his first attempt. Then Peter tried and had almost exactly the same problem as Russell. I was ready for my second attempt and this time I made sure the wing turned towards open ground. I used some prop-blast to get the wing up and it made an improvement. I was running like crazy, gradually applying brake, until I started to lift off. The initial climb was surprisingly slow until I realised we were in broken air on the ground, as there was a fresh Easterly just above treetop height.
Peter had another attempt which I tried to film but was not in position when he went, though I could watch. Good pullup, but then he took a full frontal deflation and had to abort. His next attempt must have been good, because by the time I got all my gear set up, he was airborn and catching up fast. The time was 08h15, half an hour later departure than expected, which was not bad considering the conditions.
Despite the total lack of wind on the ground, we had a fresh Easterly all the way to Paarl. We tried every altitude from just above treetops to 2000 feet on the GPS, but there was no lighter wind and everywhere was quite textured, constantly turning us off course. There were surprise blasts from the North, followed by very marked drift from the South. I found it tiring trying to maintain a straight flight-line to save fuel with my 115cm prop... and, I noticed Peter was flying hands-off all the way, just going with the flow, doing some weight-shift steering only when drifting way off... the benefits of a bigger 125cm propeller.
At one time our groundspeed dropped to 4 to 5kph but Peter and I noticed Russell creeping away from us lower down, so we descended even lower to catch up.
As we approached the Afrikaans Language Monument, our groundspeed started improving gradually, until we were making a comfortable 25 to 30kph. We had used up more than half our fuel just to get there. Russell has a smaller tank (8L vs 13.5L) so he opted to turn around just after the monument to head straight back. Peter and I climbed to 2500ft over Paarl, crossing the Eastern side of the Berg, with our groundspeed increasing all the way as a Southerly wind established itself in the Paarl Valley.
As we approached the end of the mountain, we climbed to 3000feet to cross behind (or over) the downwind rotor, then turned Westward and immediately started clocking 65 to 75kph at about 3300feet.
The air above 3000ft was about 10 degrees colder, but silky smooth and with a fresh tailwind, we were making great progress. We had plenty of fuel left, so we decided to detour past Fisantekraal airfield and were forced to first drop below the 2000ft ceiling as we reached the TMA step-down, then down to about 200ft AGL (600ft ASL) to approach below the circuit from the side. There was a Gyroplane and a Piper Tomohawk doing circuits and a few other aircraft passing by and overhead, so we had to maintain a sharp radio and visual watch for traffic.
From Fisantekraal airfield, we hugged the ground to enter the Cape Town CTR low-level as we could not reach the tower on 118.1MHz, then landed at the sports field, exactly 2 hours after launch, in smooth, 10 to 15kph Easterly wind. I called the tower from my cellphone to inform them we were done for the day. They have been surprisingly friendly and helpful recently, unlike some years ago.
Here are just a few of the many photo's I took on this awesome flight.
Download the Google Earth Tracklog, colourcoded by groundspeed: paarlberg-9jun2009.kmz