2000 story of team 494 

Euroglide 2000 story of team 494

Euroglide 2000

Recollections by Paul Garnham, Midland Gliding Club UK.
Team 494: Julian Fack, Paul Garnham, Nick Hertz-Smith, Richard Hinley

Euroglide is a biennial gliding rally/comp/race around a 2000K course, organised by the Eindhoven Club. The comp. is split, with turbos and self launchers forming a separate class. Starting and finishing at Eindhoven, the known turning points this time were Berlin (Lusse), Wasserkuppe, Issoudun, and Dahlemer Binz (Eiffel).

Phil and Diana King (LS8 618) had done the comp. before and enthused sufficiently to persuade Julian, Richard, Nick and I to participate this time with DuoDiscus 494.

Also, we met Pam and Gerrit Kurstjens in Cerdanya this year and they were both keen to participate. We gratefully accepted their kind invitation to stay with them before the start of the comp. In the event Gerrit alone flew in his Nimbus 4, and dashed round the course at an amazing speed.
Day minus 2, Sun 11/6
An early start and a fast trip to Dover by 1245. Met Diana and Phil en route with and entered the harbour in convoy. Channel tunnel radio tells us the ferries are delayed. They lied. Ferry sparsely populated, hardly a football hooligan in sight. A brisk (and possibly poisonous) lunch on the boat. Good weather in France. Football supporters being harrassed here and there by the border police.

Found Pam and Gerrit's sumptuous residence in Belgian arcadia by early evening and tried to come to terms with the setting, including Nimbus the Great Dane who gave initial cause for concern (totally without justification). Beers, a meal and a good night set us up for what was to come.
Day minus 1, Mon 12/6
A day mostly spent checking gliders and equipment at Pam's and later at Eindhoven civil/military airport where we had to convince the guards that we were true Eurogliders before we could enter. Some even saluted ! Nick and I inspected the immaculate jets and Spitfire on display.

At 20.00 there was a long briefing in Dutch. Some of us had the benefit of translations of the important bits. Complex rules concerning self launching gliders seemed to take up most of the proceedings. A slightly embarrassed and beautifully camouflaged Airforce Met Officer gave us her prognosis for the morrow. Meanwhile England were losing 2-3 to Portugal.
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Last briefing on Eindhoven

Day 1, Tue 13/6: Eindhoven
We rose early and drove to EINDHOVEN. It took an hour to cover about 13 miles, but we made the free breakfast and the briefing. More preparation. Sky blue and it's getting hot. A stoat (weasel?) popped out of the undergrowth as we filled the water containers. The grid of 30 gliders was set up in late morning.

Another short briefing. So, we are going clockwise, Berlin first. Odd, I had fixed in my mind that we would go to France first. Julian and Richard prepared to go, about halfway down the grid. Just prior to take-off Julian gave an entertaining and rarely seen (ritual?) performance known as the dance of the trouser (horse) fly. This fascinating dance incorporates slapping movements, agitated pirouettes, loud noises and climaxes in partial disrobing.

In spite of this excitement launching was scarcely delayed, and began at about 1200 into obviously poor soaring conditions, blue mostly. Nick, myself, and Diana, followed by road shortly thereafter. I took a wrong turn and delayed us a little, but we enjoyed a short tour of some lesser known scenic routes. We drove east on the Autobahn through the Ruhr, marvelling at the enormous canals, the satanic mills and their awful stenches.
Radio contact with 494 sometimes poor, but road/road contact usually good. Eventually an imminent landing by 494 stopped us to await the news. Phil carried on in 618. Soon we had a call. They are down in a set-aside field close to a power station and a canal at DATTELN, north of Hamm, a flight of just 135k, 90% of it below 2000ft, taking 3 1/4 hours.

We found them with the help of Mr Garmin within about 45 mins and we were soon consuming beer, enormous salads and Pizzas in downtown Datteln. I am suffering somewhat from a suspected case of mal de Sea France.

Meanwhile Phil had landed at Lunen (???). A conference suggested that we should then drive towards a gliding site where a launch would be possible next day. Although aerotow facilities seemed not to be on offer, Oeventrop seemed a good bet, so Nick phoned and persuaded them to be there to launch us (the club is not usually operational midweek). In the dark we missed the airfield and climbed up through woods to find a useful and peaceful car park suitable for our substantial equipe. Tents were pitched in the dark.
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After more than 3 houres hard work: Datteln

Day 2, Wed 14/6: Oeventrop
A short walk in the woods before rolling down into OEVENTROP. A lovely airfield in rolling wooded countryside on the edge of town. A river and railway at the foot of wooded slopes. A cloudy sky, looking distinctly unsoarable. A steam train passed, buzzards made unsuccessful attempts to soar. Several volunteer club members arrived at about 1100 and a winch was set up.

Nick and Richard flew 2 very nice extended circuits before deciding to give up and make use of some of our transiting allowance. We thanked our hosts who gave us the tour of their hangar and facilities. The prize possession seemed to be the emergency vehicle, a pristine Audi A6 Quattro estate, "sold" by Audi for 1Dm.
We were then conducted to a suitable place to take lunch. P.m. we drove to OERLINGHAUSEN, a major gliding site (sort of a German Lasham really) where we met up with Phil and Diana who were already camped. More Euroglide teams arrived until about six were present.

We did the tour of the superb hangars with their suspended gliders, some of which had wings so long that they had to be passed through holes in the walls. In the evening we all visited Bielefeld in Julian's motorhome and enjoyed a meal in a Greek restaurant.
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Day 3, Thurs 15/6: Oerlinghausen
Rain early and a very gloomy start. Visibility about 400m. A Cessna 172 took off and was invisible before departing the airfield ! Very slowly things improved but it was not until mid p.m. that soaring seemed a possibility. By then aerotowing and winching were in progress. The tugs seemed to be having bother with turbulence/crosswinds and eventually gave up.

At about 1600 a few adventurous pilots decided to try and took a winch launch. As they didn't immediately return, Nick and I took a launch and found scrappy thermals (only 2 actually), but sufficient to take us about 31k in 51 minutes to BLOMBERG BORKHAUSEN, another delightful airfield, where we were greeted by a group of mostly youthful pilots.
Blomberg is a grass field in very attractive countryside, set against a wooded slope. They have the luxury of two clubhouses and control towers. There seemed little wrong with the old version, but they had recently completed the second.

The youth and not so youthful were confined to the old clubhouse. They announced that they would hold a barbeque for us and supplies were bought. Beer was only 1.5 Dm a bottle (under 50p)! One or two other Euroglider teams were present, so a convivial evening ensued. Julian and I stayed in their Mynd-like bunkhouse.
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Dag 4, Fri 16/6: Blomberg
a.m. A brisk cross-wind blowing, red kites soaring the slope. Phil and Diana arrived by road. Scrappy Cu began to develop. The s/l Janus s/l-ed and departed. Mid morning a very elderly tug pilot reputed to be ex-Luftwaffe, extracted the pristine (nosewheel) turbo Dimona from the hangar and we (Nick and I) were towed off quite smartly, despite the crosswind. He seemed not to notice us come off tow and flew off into the distance. The same thing happened with Diana who launched in 618 after us.

A good run in rather variable conditions towards and along the northern slopes of the Harz mountains. Some good climbs but also some low times. We saw a bit too much detail at Goslar and started to look for fields. It was very variable all along the Harz. We saw a lot of Bad Harzburg too but things improved thereafter over the plain and eventually we turned Berlin (Lusse) and could make out the metropolis in the distance.

Now there was a headwind component and the soaring conditions deteriorated rather. We probably allowed ourselves to be drifted too far south and had to claw back into wind too much to avoid the Leipzig zone. This cost us a lot of time.
Cloudbases, when we could get there, were about 5000 ft QNH, occasionally 6000. We passed disused military airfields (Diana landed at one, read all about it in S & G). Eventually, near Gotha the day faded and we could make no further progress, particularly on account of the rising hills before us. Clearly the Wasserkuppe was out of reach that day, but we did add 450k in 6hrs. 40 mins. to our total. After a search around we landed at the grass airfield at GOTHA (in the former GDR).

Scarcely anything moved. No-one appeared. Two men shovelling soil barely looked up. The depressing and ramshackle concrete buildings seemed unoccupied. A caged Alsatian threatened Nick. We were relieved by the rapidity of the retrieve (the team had wisely taken a (long) short-cut to intercept our track). We were pleased to leave Gotha (Gotham City ?) so soon.

The intention to have a meal in Bad Hersfeld was thwarted by a festival (ie. no parking and probably no food or beer), so we found a roadside restaurant and later arrived at the WASSERKUPPE in darkness. A clear cold night ensued (over 3,000 ft QNH).
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Towed by a motorglider on Blomberg

Day 5, Sat 17/6: Wasserkuppe
When I first read about gliding (and the Luftwaffe) it was clear that this place had a very special significance. Little did I imagine that I would take off from the airfield one day. Memories of this legendary airfield include the fascinating and well presented museum, the former POW (in England) who chatted to me, the alpine meadows full of flowers, and the Nightingale that woke me at 0500.

On the down side there were the hordes of tourists by the coachload that began to arrive mid-morning as well as the local branch of the Hells Angels, the tacky stalls selling pseudo gliding-related objects and the 20 Pf toilets (with regret, still of special interest to me at that point). What contrasts ! Lots of gliding and power activity going on. The hard runway slopes down quite steeply so you take off down hill and land up hill whatever the conditions, so it seems. There's a bungy point of course, much less impressive than ours at MGC.

After rigging and fettling, we waited for some signs of soarability, and indeed some small Cu appeared, confined to the immediate area, rather Mynd-like in fact. Julian and I took a tow behind a Robin with a retractable rope (what a sensible device).
It's rather odd to have the tug line up with what looks like about 10m of rope, but about 30m eventually paid out.

The house thermals took us to 6000ft and we pressed off towards Poppenhausen, (home of Schleicher) intending to take the northerly route around Frankfurt's extensive zone. But thermals there were none, so we returned to the house thermal and tried again. Again, no joy. Local flying for a while allowed the thermals to develop further and as the Cu to the south seemed to work we set off into the blue yonder adopting plan B, i.e. the southern route. This was a hot day. The visibility was superb and the scenery stunning.

Euroglide 2000: Wasserkuppe by 494. Click to enlarge.
We passed south of Frankfurt and crossed the Rhine at Worms (plenty of scope for cheap humour). Tricky blue thermals most of the time, with just the occasional haze cap. Progress became slow as we passed north of Ramstein, the very active US base. Slow progress became a struggle. We inspected several villages at close quarters and were in circuit at most of the airfields in the vicinity before getting climbs.

Eventually we fell down at WUSTWEILER, a small gliding and power club, having travelled 240k in just under 5 hours. Probably we should have gone for Marpingen, a larger club a few Km to the north, but we were pleased to see Wustweiler. The approach and runway looked inviting but somewhat hazardous. The runway is narrow, sloping and there are very solid posts alongside it, first to the south and then to the north. "lift the wing" I said to Julian as we passed by. Later I paced the runway - it was 27m wide, and we are 20m, so plenty of room there then !!
The club suffered from the attentions of an aggressive local farmer who did everything to hamper their activity, including installing upright concrete sleepers at strategic points to impede or discourage flying. "It's war !" said one of the locals. As usual the local fliers were very welcoming and some spoke good English, due in part to the US presence nearby. One Dutch Euroglider was there, a Ventus. No Duo had previously landed there and they looked forward to the take-off next day, a first for Wustweiler.

After only one beer the crew arrived, and also Phil and Diana. A private party was being prepared outside the club, and as Germany were playing England that evening we had a few beers and retreated to a "nearby" hotel restaurant in the village (Illingen), where Julian and I took rooms as a special treat. Goodness me, England beat Germany, the incompetent conquering the elderly. We tried not to say anything inflammatory.
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Day 6, Sun 18/6: Wustweiler.
Ready to rig at 0900. Sky blue with an obvious inversion. Very hot. Red Kites trying to soar. We waited for signs of the inversion breaking. Glider flying at Marpingen was studied with interest through binoculars. A Samburo motor glider did circuits. After tactical discussions, including an assessment of the short uphill grass runway, it was decided that Nick and Richard would go.

The Husky tug was run up. Locals watched and cameras rolled. Two strong German lads assisted getting the Duo rolling up the slope. The take-off appeared to be "interesting" and the climb out was slow (hot/highish) but it was a first for Wustweiler. Phil took the second tow in 618. They all had a real struggle and we kept up on the road, past Saarbrucken and towards the frontier, apparently sustained mostly by the heat from power stations, foundries and car parks, if the radio chat meant anything.

Progress was painfully slow and things finally ground to a very hot halt south east of Metz where both gallant teams landed in the same stubble field at HERNY, the day's score being just 62k in well over three hours! When we arrived the locals were on the scene and showing great interest. We were implored to visit their nearby house and to take a beer or two. How could we refuse ! After much manoeuvring, we arrived at a petite ferme adjacent to a very busy rail line. The sight of Julian making mobile phone calls while standing in the middle of the track prompted some wisecracks "This seems to be a bad line" etc.
At the house we were greeted by an assortment of people of indeterminate relationship. Perhaps there was a family in there somewhere but we couldn't figure it all out. Centre stage was the extrovert Madame, with orange hair, shorts and cleavage, organising, bossing, laughing, and by her own admission somewhat the worse for drink. The welcome given to us by her and the "family" was truly sensational. Tables and chairs appeared together with much 8%, yes 8%, beer, cider, and a rhubarb flan. How many people have a rhubarb flan handy in case gliders land ?

Pictures were taken, with much joking and fun as we imbibed, with the hens running beneath our chairs. Dragging ourselves away from this happy scene was not easy, they would have liked us to remain all evening but we had to progress to our next airfield, in this case, Nancy. We promised to send photos, bade our goodbyes, and Madame embraced me with vigour.

We drove on to NANCY MALZEVILLE airfield as the sun went down and were promised a launch of some kind next day at about 1400. Malzeville is a vast grass airfield on high ground above Nancy, dating from the first war. Sitting rather uncomfortably by each other are the original bullet-scarred concrete hangar and the avant-garde modern gliding club building. An evening meal in Nancy gave us an opportunity to see the baroque architecture of the impressive historic core, beautifully restored and illuminated.
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Day 7, Mon 19/6: Nancy.
A hot morning, getting hotter - scorching in fact. The tug pilot arrived at lunchtime and implied that he hoped to fly his own glider. However he would tow us if we really wanted. It was clear that we would cause less irritation by taking a winch launch and so, with our usual diplomacy, we did.

The winch launch here (and later at Chalons) was a special experience, quite unlike the British variety. No complaints about height - 1600 ft in the Duo, but the pre-launch happenings were peculiar to say the least. Nothing was required of the pilot. Signals were by radio from the launch director. Much discussion took place with the winch driver. Several times the wire moved, then came taut, then stopped. More talking, then just when we were wilting in the heat, the glider sped away like a bat out of hell.

We immediately got a thermal to 6000 ft and set off over Nancy (wonderful views) with Diana in 618 following. We made slow progress in the blue conditions, and worried about missing the multitude of danger areas.
South of Nancy Mirages became a concern, they seemed to be dashing about at all levels and especially near bases close to Toul. We thought that we might make Troyes, but in the event easily reached St FLORENTIN, a pleasant grass field with a gliding club, a power club, and a very active helicopter training facility. The simulated emergency descents by the Bell 47 provided endless amusement but also an excess of decibels.

We had made 198k in three and three quarter hours, and to our surprise we found a third of the Euroglide fleet assembled there, most having been denied forward progress by poor blue conditions. Diana soon arrived in 618. The Dutch contingent organised a fine barbeque to which all were invited. A hot night ensued with the added detraction of prolonged mosquito combat.
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St Florentin

Day 8, Tue 20/6: St Florentin
Another scorcher. Contact with our met. advisor in UK, Ian Evans, suggested that 32 degrees C was needed to break the inversion. At about 1330 launching started and Nick and Richard took off behind a breathless Rallye. They disappeared so Julian and I departed for Auxerre. As reports were being made of slow and difficult progress, we spent time cooling off in the cold cabinet area of a large supermarket. Getting in and out of the place presented a problem. Their car parks and filling stations just don't make allowances for a Duo trailer.

Meanwhile a 20Kt headwind added to the problems in the air. We stopped south of Auxerre and met Phil in a lay-by. We bought cherries from a stall and then heard that our heroes were likely to land at Auxerre, so about turn and off to the airfield.
AUXERRE has a very long hard runway, probably of military origin, and has all mod cons. Including a follow-me truck, a tower, a bar, and lots of (melting) tarmac. An s/l Janus also landed but it seemed that most of "our" set had found some way to go further down track. After a beer or so, we decided that the only sensible course was to return to St Florentin by road.

The rules about transiting by road are an important element in this comp. You have only 300 Km in total and cannot use more than 100 Km down track on any day. A flight of less than 30 Km doesn't count, so decisions have to be made. Back at St Florentin, welcome showers, a good meal in town, some Chablis, and a well justified night in a hotel, after a net gain for the day of zero k !
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Day 9, Wed. 21/6: St Florentin.
Into the medieval core to buy bageuttes and croissants. Only two other Eurogliders on the airfield now. By 1300 the sky was looking better, with some Cu present. Julian and I took a launch and dashed to Auxerre in minutes. From there on it seemed a different airmass, with significant wave influence. Progress became difficult, in fact we were often forced to retreat to climb. It was clear that things were going pear-shaped. By contrast Phil, taking a different route, overtook us.

Our progress was painfully slow, with many low points. Eventually we thought that we could reach the airfield at Cosnes and set up a final glide. Regrettably, heavy sink and rising ground intervened and we were soon engaged in an animated discussion of the merits of the only two usable fields in the vicinity, one with short crop, the other set-aside, both sloping somewhat. We chose the latter and all was well. One of our longer waits ensued and we were concerned that access to the field might be difficult.
In the event several locals showed us the easy way and we were soon off to Issoudun via Bourges, having made just 85k in two and a half hours. Meanwhile Phil landed some distance down track and we were reunited at ISSOUDUN.

Issoudun is a major gliding site in almost flat countryside, familiar to those who have flown from Le Blanc in former years. It has three grass runways and extensive facilities for glider pilots including modern washroom, kitchen, screened camping enclaves (with silly names) and a bar. We took our evening meal in Issoudun, a small town some way off to the north, where the main impression was provided by loud outdoor rock music and lively youngsters. It was at about this time that Julian took to midnight carpentry as a pastime, enforced by the departure of a crucial element in his bed.
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Day 10, Thu 22/6: Issoudun.
I was awakened at 0500 by a Nightingale singing. Their song really penetrates ! A weak front passed. We talked with a elderly visiting pilot from Israel and attended a mini-briefing. It seemed that things would improve as the day progressed. Euroglide was already over for a rather forlorn Dutch team who had crashed their car in Bourges the previous day and for whom a delay of several days was likely while repairs were being done.

Later, Cumulus appeared and we became more optimistic. At about 1415 Nick and Richard were towed up by a Rallye with a retractable rope. The launch was delayed, and seemed to be in jeopardy, due to the activities of a (myopic ?) grasscutter and a military helicopter that "obliged" by landing on the runway in front of the tug as it was about to depart. Nevertheless all was well and with a tail wind component 494 and 618 rapidly disappeared into the distance.
There followed what seemed a long drive to CHALONS en CHAMPAGNE (used to be Chalons sur Marne until the Mayor got it changed) where both gliders had landed, scoring an impressive 282k in just over three and a half hours. We met a Dutch pilot called Jacob, who appeared to be touring various gliding sites on a kind of chilling out exercise. He was the sole resident of the clubhouse and seemed pleased to make our acquaintance. He even knew people in my home town !

That evening we dined in a Pizzeria out of a movie and watched as uniformed customs officers stopped and searched likely customers (not us, apparently we were not of sufficient interest). Richard was by now showing signs of interest in trains, as he had to leave us on the following day - something to do with the need to work, I believe.
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Day 11, Fri 23/6: Chalons
Very cloudy at first but the rumour was that breaks might occur. Richard departed for the UK - he must have known that the best of the weather had gone.

Chalons has an enormous grass runway (several in parallel actually) over 1Km long. RAF Fairy Battles were based there during the pre-Dunkirk days, and some crews are buried nearby. We were given an excellent guided tour of the hangars by the President. Here, as at many clubs, gliders are hung from the hangar roof. An ancient Meise hung on the wall, and a well restored Caudron side-by-side 2 seater (circa 1947) was there too. The club was particularly proud of its 4 drum winch, made by a club member. It had an enormous Deutz V10 diesel driving and selecting the drums hydraulically.

By 1100 the Cu were looking quite good so we towed out for a wire launch. The winch certainly performed and took the Duo to 1700 ft. We liked the launch so much that we had to return for another. This time we found a thermal or two and set off., encouraged by a brisk downwind component. Prior to starting we had studied the complex and rather baffling array of Danger and Restricted areas in our path. The locals took a cavalier view of these and suggested a straight line approach.
One particular area close by seemed safe only between 1200 and 1400 hours. Phil set off in 618 and we followed. The thermals became "tricky" and we crossed one long gap to arrive below Phil. I searched all over for the thermal but it had departed upwards. As Phil climbed we descended. Even smoke from a nearby factory could do little to sustain us. We landed in an excellent field of short lucerne, one of many in the area. In the adjoining field machines were cutting the stuff at 25 Kph ! Very soon the locals arrived and were delighted to see us, especially the farmer and his wife. We discovered that we were of the same age. That helped. More photos and promises of prints. Kites wheeled in the sky, flapping occasionally. Precisely at 1400 the sky was suddenly filled by Mirages attacking a range a few Km away. Perhaps the ground was a good place after all.

Our ability to converse in French was about to run out when Nick arrived with the trailer. Back to Chalons again ! How awful, another fine meal in town, guided by Jacob who knew his restaurants and wine.
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Day 12,Sat 24/6: Chalons still
By now time was becoming short. We were required to be back at Eindhoven that evening, by whatever means. Phil had made it to Dahlemer Binz, an excellent flight in the conditions, as there is a lot of hostile territory on that leg (i.e. the Ardennes). As the local aero club prepared a pig roast we looked at a grey sky and decided with
regret that further flying would not take us far and we had to trail the glider back to Pam and Gerrit's house in Belgium.

At Eindhoven we were greeted, fed, and de-briefed and later we returned to Belgium for a well earned rest , perhaps feeling a degree of anti-climax.
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Its all over. We trailed 494 back to Calais and on to Aston Down in England where 494 was to compete in the open Nationals.

Although Nick and I had previously supplied the French "CAA" with all the required paperwork and had received a sort of handwritten authorisation from a Civil Servant called Sophie, and we carried all requisite documents in the glider, on this trip we were never asked for any paperwork at all, save for the usual British passport controls. We encountered very little bureaucracy and were often not expected to pay for facilities other than launches. Oh yes, the French are rather keen on camping charges. Of course, had there been an incident of any kind things might have been different. Apart from the arrival at Gotha (where human contact was missing) we were met with nothing but kindness, friendliness and helpfulness (maybe Diana's guards at a former Russian air base didn't quite qualify, but nearly so).
Whatever the result of the comp. (and we must expect a lowly placing), this was a great trip. So many situations, landscapes and airfields were experienced and so many places and encounters enjoyed.

Overall the weather, although never first class in soaring terms, enabled us to get along, to fly most days and it did provide plenty of challenges. Some days we could only fly 28Km, the best was 450. One day we could fly circuits only and at the last we couldn't fly at all. Who cares? It was a great experience.

We recommend Euroglide to all gliding adventurers as a very special gliding event. The next Euroglide is in 2002.

Paul Garnham
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