The MOST exciting finish possible ....
Day 13 : Task 5 : Friday 9th March : 53.8kms Elapsed Time Race to Goal with 4 start gates - Mt Borah > Gulf Creek
The heavy rains of Thursday gave way to low fog and a misty morning - a sign that the rains are over. The forecast indicated isolated showers. At Mt Borah the cloud base was low and it looked like a task was impossible until the wind dummies slowly climbed out. An elapsed time race with start gates format was chosen to ensure more safety at launch with less congestion and fairness in the bomb-able conditions. The task was a straight line race 53kms to the north.
Most pilots were in the air and struggling to get height within the first 30mins of launch window open (12.40pm). Slowly the groups headed off up the range to take the start gate and get on course. Some threatening rain clouds were sitting near goal and for a short time it looked like the task would need to be cancelled. They passed but still some large dark clouds lingered and the tension was high as to whether the task could continue. 56 pilots made goal in an exciting end to the event.
The last task was a nail biting finish between Goldsmith and Caron. Only a few points separated them before the race. Caron got into goal at 4.17pm with Goldsmith nowhere to be seen - he thought he'd won the title. Meanwhile Bruce got stuck on a small hill patiently waiting for a thermal a mere 100m above the ground and watched as pilots around him landed. This was the make it or break it point for the Championship.
After nearly 30mins of struggling to stay in the air and only seconds from landing at any moment, he managed to take a small climb back up and scraped into goal as the 4th last pilot to make it. Jean-marc's face went from quiet jubilation to a sense of the title perhaps slipping away. He was 6 minutes ahead of Bruce and also had his own troubles on the way. Neither knew who had won until the race was scored.
In the end it came down to just 17 points between the 2 pilots after 5 race days worth 4178pts to the winner. Bruce had won by the narrowest of margins and denied the frenchman and his nation their first ever World Title. The difference when put into perspective was barely 1km of distance out of the 385kms they had flown - just a few minutes of over 14hrs hours of racing. Both pilots were the only ones to have made goal in each task.
The Womens rankings were also a tense affair. Coincidently exactly the same 17 points separated the eventual Champion, Czech sensation Petra Slivova and Aussie Viv Williams in the final rankings as was the case for the overalls !
Petra was leading the overall event after 3 tasks but completly bombed task 4. Despite this she had what everyone considered safe buffer to the rest of the women and only needed to fly consistently on the last day to easily take the title. In what can only be described as an equally nail biting finish to the Womens rankings, Petra decked it early on course and unbeknown to Viv, she was now on course to become Womens World Champion... if only she got into goal in good time.
A few slow climbs put paid to Viv's chances - she got to goal but in the end needed to be approx 90 second faster to take out the title. Viv has made Australian paragliding history and is the first ever Australian pilot to stand on the podium in a World Championships.
Pics : Last Task Briefing ... Steve Cox (SWI) thrusts off the west launch ... Mt Borah gaggle waiting for a climb ... Josh Cohn (USA) over the line
Pics : Coming in to Goal at Gulf Creek