In collaboration with our local Moyes dealer, Longfei Yang, we organised the first hang gliding competition in China.
Longfei has advanced hang gliding in China a long way in just a few short years. He has been competing at the Forbes Flatlands competition
since 2012, and was excited to organise a competition at his new flight park in Guyuan county. After discussion with Longfei in January, after the Forbes comp, we mutually agreed to start small. Longfei would have 10 local competitors and Moyes would invite five Australian pilots to tread this new ground. Longfei has two Dragonflys at his flight park, on-site accommodation and he kindly organisedfive new Geckos for our pilots to fly
during their visit.
I’ll let you read Longfei’s introduction to hang gliding and some of the guys’ thoughts on the experience of flying this amazing country, the hospitality and the breath-taking landscapes.
From Longfei Yang
I come from a small village in Guyuan county, Hebei province, China. I had seen hang gliding on TV when I was just a boy. I always dreamed of becoming a hang glider pilot.
I bought my first hang glider, a Fun 190, in Guangzhou in 2009. At that time there were no hang gliding instructors in China. The only way to learn to hang glide was to teach myself. I found some videos and bought the ‘Hang Gliding Training Manual’ on the internet. I struggled, never having read or spoken English before, reading an English book was very difficult for me, the only way I could translate it was to input words on the computer and use translation software to check, that’s also the reasons why I can speak a little English now!
In 2011, I saw the Dragonfly towing a hang glider on video. At that time, I already had some ideas about starting the first hang gliding club in China. I found Bill Moyes’ contact information and sent him the first email by my poor English. After a few days, I got an email back from Bill, he was very interested in the hang gliding development in China. After several contacts, he and Molly came to Guyuan, China, to check out our sites. Then Bill invited me to Australia to see the Forbes HG competition and to learn to fly the Dragonfly with Bob Bailey. I then became the Moyes Chinese dealer, and started the ‘I’m flying’ club, the first hang gliding club in China.
I love the sentence, “Successful is a person who spends their whole life doing what they like.” I think Bill is a true reflection of this sentence. Now, I fly a Dragonfly every day for towing and to teach hang gliding. I like my life!
Thanks to the two teachers in my life, Bill and Bob, not only for flying, and also a big ‘Thank you very much’, to Molly, you are a good mother to every Moyes pilot!
From Rohan Taylor
How would I describe our trip to China and the Moyes Invitational Tournament in a few words? Laughter, landscapes and hospitality.
After some small travel hiccups of a 7-hour flight delay, no airport shuttle and our first night’s hotel cancellation, we were all sleep deprived, uncomfortable and not looking forward to our 5-hour drive to Guyuan. This quickly changed when we were met by three cars and our friends and hosts, Longfei, Bin and FuYu, from the Wozaifei Hang Gliding Club.
The cars were quickly loaded with luggage and equipment, our bellies loaded with dumplings and we were on the road. Blessed by unusual clear Beijing skies, we were awed by the surrounding mountains and unending towering building sites. The drive north to Guyuan passed through the Great Wall and continually changing landscapes until we reached our destination at Wozaifei HG Club on the high plains bordering Inner Mongolia. The scenery of the drive had us all eagerly anticipating our first flights on arrival. But first, time to get settled and welcomed by the entire club and Chinese competitors with an amazing BBQ feast of lamb on a spit, Guyuan style, removing the meat piece by piece with our fingers. We quickly learnt to choose carefully so as not to burn ourselves in the process. During this first night we quickly recognised the hospitality these pilots bestowed upon us during our entire trip. Despite our language barriers, the smiles and laughter were shared and extensive.
The next day, we were greeted with a poor forecast but still the same smiles and enthusiasm we had experienced the previous night. We chose not to set a task, but to look for some possible free flying. We quickly assembled the gliders from their short packed shipping boxes, gliders which had been generously donated for our time in China by the Guyuan club members. Despite the poor weather and encroaching storms and squalls, we were able to tow and take in the amazing landscapes we had anticipated. During the short flights with little lift, we were enthralled by the plains, the rolling hills and distant mountain ranges. What would we experience in the coming days of more promising forecasts?
We were certainly not disappointed, flying all but one of the following days. With cloudbase between 11,000 and 13,500ft, we were able to take in the amazing surrounds, culminating in a short, fast last task of 68km into Inner Mongolia. Whilst tough in the start gate, Harrison and I managed to take the 13:15 start gate at just under 13’000ft and take advantage of the strong cross/ tailwind to move quickly down the course line. We continued this until I missed a climb and Harrison got a full thermal ahead while I struggled in light broken lift low. Finally getting back to base and on course, I was able to change from racing mode to tourist mode and take further climbs higher than needed for final glide to enjoy the amazing sights – high plains, rolling hills, dotted cities and desert mountains – whilst playing amongst differing layers of cloud. What a way to end the flying in this wonderful area with four of the Aussie Gecko crew in goal.
Despite the amazing flying, it was the friends we made and amazing experiences we had in this area and the generosity shown to us that stand out. From the club members, ensuring our every wish was met, to other locals with no association, greeting us on the side of the road on landing and driving us to and from local towns for drinks and supplies, local villagers greeting us to pose for photos and communicating through translation apps in their simple houses, and shepherds sitting with us in the grasslands as we waited for retrieves, always with beaming smiles and a welcome attitude that makes me encourage anyone to travel and fly in this area, given the opportunity.
From Rob de Groot
Our China trip started with a 5-hour delay at Sydney Airport which would normally be a real drag, but it turned out alright because the eight of us became closer while we shared the anticipation and mystery of how two weeks hang gliding in China would go.
We included: the boss, Vicki, and first fella, Greg; Australian team pilots, Rohan Taylor and Harrison Rowntree; internationally renowned pilots Steve Docherty and Brad Porter; myself and super support crew, Jude deGroot.
Fortunately, Vicki had arranged for us to fly five new Geckos. The Moyes China dealer, Longfei, already had them at his airfield in Guyuan. One potentially large problem on arrival was therefore eliminated. Just as well, because we arrived at 3am to only one customs officer processing a whole plane-load of tired passengers. Three hours later we all crashed at a nearby hotel, and six hours later our wonderful hosts, Longfei, Lola, Bin Duan and his wife Isabel, daughter Cici, and FuYu Shan drove us out of Beijing, up through the mountains, past sections of the Great Wall to the high plains of Inner Mongolia.
At the Wozaifei airfield, the air was surprisingly cool and clean. City people come here to enjoy the big outdoors, horseriding (Genghis Khan style), boating, fireworks and hang gliding. As we unpacked and set up our Geckos, we started to get to know the local pilots. Some of them spent the whole three- month season here, helping, training and flying. Translation wasn’t easy. Using Google Translate on our phones sort of worked, but without Bin’s ability to speak both languages fluently, we wouldn’t have been able to get to know these great people as well and have so much fun together.
Longfei has done a great job of developing China’s first aerotow flight and training facility. There is a clubhouse and kitchen, accommodation, office, glider and equipment sheds, a stationary winch, and a large hangar with two Dragonflys so far. There are also perfect foot-launch training hills nearby, gently rising out of the wide open flat grasslands.
The tow launch field is high, at around 5000ft ASL. We were towing to over 7000ft into a mostly volatile and layered sky with clouds every day. The days were longer than we realised because conditions changed so thoroughly and quickly. But from the first flight, it was clear this was a place for legendary XC flying.
We had a bit of a competition clinic and talked about XC flying skills, then started setting tasks for the day. Return to launch was always favoured because many fields were criss-crossed with powerlines and there was only one dual cab ute to pick up gliders. Naturally, the wind did not co-operate and we ended up having some amazing retrieves.
Landing fields were plentiful and never too far from a small road. The local people were always welcoming and willing to help. Retrieves were done without fuss by our expert navigator, driver and launch marshal, ShiShao. Google Maps is a bit wobbly in China, so everyone uses WeChat with Chinese maps. One afternoon, the ute was loaded to the max with seven gliders and nine people (and lots of beer), but we got back in time for another super BBQ at the clubhouse and more fireworks, thanks to cracker-boy Harrison.
Longfei didn’t fly in the comp, but he was a champion tug pilot. Expertly towing all of us in the morning and then training new pilots for the rest of the day. His brother, Beibei, and Bin were doing the best in the comp, with first time XC pilot Han keenly chasing them.
So, after eight fabulous days with six days flying, it was back to Beijing to get a bullet train to Linzhou. Easy for us, but the surprisingly difficult task of moving us and the gliders to Linzhou was brilliantly accomplished by Bin, Han and Shou. Amazingly, we were flying again the next day, this time on the eastern side of the central mountains where they rise 3000ft from flat plains. Mr Cheng, owner of the Linzhou Paragliding Centre, gave us an enthusiastic welcome and helped us get flying quickly.
On launch, the moisture laden air coming up from the south-east made for dodgy visibility and an uncertain cloudbase. We had to keep a close eye on each other and the mountains. This made for some spooky flying, especially since the full majestic scale and vast intricacy of the mountains was only slowly reveiled as we ventured out from launch.
On the best day, while flying, the air started to dry out, with visibility and thermal strength increasing. We started topping out at 7500ft and glimpsed the brilliant white tops of cumulus billowing out from the murky top of the dissolving inversion. Linzhou turned on, and the fantastic potential for some spectacular mountain racing became clear. I would love to spend a season here to get to know the thermal patterns and explore deeper into the truly awesome ancient landscape.
At Longfei’s airfield in Guyuan county, our introduction to China was a close and friendly experience with some very enthusiastic pilots and caring Chinese people. An experience in the XC capital of China that Jude and I will cherish.
At Linzhou, we had a broader cultural experience. From being interviewed by a class of bright primary school students, to negotiating supermarkets, and the busy street life of a Chinese rural city right beside a spectacular flying site.
Reflections on the final day’s flight by Harrison Rowntree
I got dropped into a screamer and was beamed to cloudbase. I thought the day was going to be easy, but for the next hour, it was surprisingly difficult to stay in the air. A few pilots had retows before the thermals seemed to organise themselves and appear more consistently. Conveniently for me, that was with one second to last start gate, and Rohan Taylor was there with me. We hit 800 up to the 13 grand base right on the edge of the cylinder and took a great start. We raced off, and one unlucky glide split RT and I by about six minutes – a gap that remained all flight. Both of us found excellent glides and climbs as the converging winds came pushing through on course line. At one point, I was under a big cloud with a base of about 14000ft and smaller clouds forming under it. I finished the day about six minutes in front of RT with a time of about 1 hour 17 minutes, but it’s hard to tell without proper scoring. The goal paddock was littered with powerlines, so RT and I opted to fly back upwind (we purposely finished high) to a better landing field by the highway. I flew into a small dusty at about 10ft and just managed to pull off a decent landing, but broke my carbon basebar as I put the glider down! Rohan had the height and waited until it smoothed out, then joined me. Later, Brad Porter joined us while Steve managed to find a different paddock with no roads and lots of fences. Rob was a few kilometres short. RT and Brad hitchhiked into town and back to buy beers and snacks, and we all rode home very happy.
From Vicki Cain
The pilots returned home at 8pm to our last night’s dinner of delicious dumplings, made by our host Lola, and a roast lamb on the spit!
The presentation was fun and everyone was celebrating. We presented some special awards:
Best Driver: Shoey - Moyes jacket kindly donated by Rob
Rising Star: Ba be - Gold Moyes Shirt
Best Newcomer: Hans Solo - Moyes jacket kindly donated by Rohan
3rd Place: Brad Porter
2nd Place: Rohan Taylor
1st Place: Harrison Rowntree
When I announced Harrison in first place a chant broke out of, “Harrison, Harrison, Harrison...!” His enthusiasm for everything flying and fun (fireworks) made Harrison a local star.
What an amazing trip we’ve had, the boys flew six out of seven days, Longfei, Mr Han and Lola spoilt us with their generous hospitality and we all felt like one big family.
In closing, we didn’t know what to expect from this trip, but we had an absolute ball and have high hopes this will be the start of bigger and better comps in the future.