Friday, December 28, 2007

December 28, 2007 - Last Day of Air Games

All of the pilots pose for their official portrait.

Friday December 28, 2007

Gidday Race Fans!

After yesterday’s wash-out, today dawned crisp and clear for the second, and last day of the New Zealand Air Games. In view of some of the scheduling conflicts with even yesterday’s shortened program, all the leaders of the individual airsports got together and hashed out a new timeline for today that worked pretty well.

The GP Task was a 178 km drag race from Wanaka to Cotters (midway up the Dingle Burn), south to Tomsons (back south of our old favorite from last week, Goodger), down to the most southern turnpoint of Cromwell (at the bottom end of the Dunstan range), then back home with a steering turn at Tarras. The weather was pumping pretty good by the time we launched at 2:30 p.m.

The launch at this new site went very well with everyone getting up on the Pisa range (or Pizza Range in Brian Spreckley-speak). There is a fair amount of airspace around Wanaka due to its proximity to Queenstown, so we were capped out at 7,500 feet MSL before the start. The max start height was 6,000 feet MSL. Lucky for us the working band was not much above 7,000 feet anyway. This start line was an even smaller 3 km and it provided quite the spectacle as we roared out onto course right above the fair sized crowd and live on the internet.

The scheduled air service taxis by our "dummy" grid.

The crowd watches the action on the bog screen. They paid NZ$18 each for entry.

Everyone got onto the course within maybe 200 feet of vertical separation. The run down the Hawea Ridge to Timaru Creek and Dingle Mountain was fast and aggressive, with many gliders getting right into the rocks. There was a a lot of high speed bobbing and weaving with everyone trying to eeek out the best possible lift from the craggy mountains, wind and sun angles we were given.

TM was able to pull a nifty little move with DW and MS to go into the dingle Burn on the downwind side of Dingle Peak. Pucker-factor high, but it worked and got me caught back up. A quick transition to the range separating the Dingle Burn from the Hunter River Valley led us all into the first turn and then onto the Dingle Ridge (downwind).

It was here that the field spread out a little bit with many gliders trying different cruising altitudes (some on the rocks, some up at cloud base) and ground tracks. TM went cloud hunting and had a pretty good run down to the end of the Hawea Ridge.

At this point, I was pretty much alone and had gotten down to about 4,000 feet MSL (less than 1,000 feet above the terrain). Or so I thought! Suddenly the camera helicopter appeared to be descending to my altitude and coming toward me. As I ground my way out of this minor hole, the helicopter positioned itself about 1 km away from me and stuck with me. Look ma, I’m on T.V.!

It did not immediately click that I might be with the leaders. Instead I thought, “Oh no, here goes TM giving the broadcast crew another hard luck “save.” Had I pushed a little harder at this point, I might have been able to make a little more headway. Oh well!

The “black rocks” at the end of the Dunstans around Cromwell worked like a charm with a 4 knot thermal building to 8+ knots both on the way into the turn and back out of the turn. At this point in the task more than a few of us should probably have taken and extra hundred feet in that 8+ knot thermal.

If you were just a hundred feet higher or 20 knots faster at the last turn at Tarras, you had a pretty easy go of the final glide. But, if you we on the backside of that energy curve, then you had another Pucker-factor high final glide. As I was slowly sinking under my polar on final glide, a caught site of Petr Krejirik (CZE) rapidly descending and then landing out right ahead of me. Yikes – better slow down and hope to get home.

It was about this time when I was really wishing for a better glider, as old tired TM was just not performing with the new ships. As Christophe Ruch (FRA) came past me about 20 knots hotter I was seriously considering the field at the bottom of the end of the runway if I got any lower on energy. Just then a little energy line formed ahead of me and I was able to make the field – not handily, but safely. It was quite a sight to see about ten other gliders waiting at the far end of the runway and me entering the flare with Giorgio Galetto (ITA) blowing past me at 50 feet about a wingspan to my right. Manage the energy, roll to a stop, and this GP is over!

The satellites that brought you the webcast.

The final exhibition race went as follows: 1st Sebastian Kawa (POL), 2nd Mark Holliday (RSA), and 3rd Michael Sommer (GER). Unfortunately, the first pilot back to the field, Ben Flewett (NZL), was not the winner today. The GP format really lets fans see who wins at the end of the task, but even that winner has to make all the turnpoints! Ouch…

With most people on tight timelines to get back home. Peter Harvey (GBR) and Oscar Goudriaan immediately took tows back to Omarama. Most of the others will grid up again tomorrow at about 10 a.m. for the aerotow back to Omarama. TM will be returning to its snug hangar, while all the other Europeans who brought their own ships face the daunting prospect of loading the shipping frames back up with gliders and getting the frames into the containers before they leave for home. Once again there is some trepidation on the part of the glider pilots as the holes for the GPS aerials are going to be fixed tomorrow AND the gliders need to be loaded tomorrow before most pilots leave for Europe.

With the GP family breaking up, I will have some more thoughts on the GP when I get back stateside. But I will leave you all with the final and most fitting glider activity of this event.

At the end of the task the four remaining German pilots did not dump their water and landed short on the runway. After a short time back on the ground, all four took off, organized themselves into a trailing line abreast over the field, then made a high speed pass down the length of the field in front of the crowd, dumping water, and then peeling one glider way in the missing man formation in honor of Herbert Weiss, “29”

Herbert, you are missed.

That’s it from here in New Zealand. Team TM will be going back to Omarama tomorrow and then off for some sightseeing in the day and a half we have left in country. We’ll catch you all back in the states in the new year.

Happy New Year to all and See Ya! Tim/TM

Thursday, December 27, 2007

December 27 - Wanaka

December 27, 2007

Gidday Race Fans!

Well, the GP has packed up and hauled itself to Wanaka and the New Zealand Air Games. Billed as the largest air sports event ever in the Southern Hemisphere, this event is basically the FAI’s attempt at a dry run for the 2009 World Air Games in Turin, Italy. Run by the New Zealand Aero Club, the event provides a venue for the other 9 air sports that will be at the next WAG to come up with media-friendly “games”/competitions.

This event, as well as the concluded World GP Championship, is being backed financially by AirsportsLive, Peter Newport’s company designed the event to bring all the FAI sports to the world through new technology and outreach to the media. This appears to be the only game in town for the FAI and all of our airsports as we begin the journey to modern day sponsorship in our sports.

As a jumpstart to a brave new world of sponsorship for our sport, and others, Airsports paid for the GP pilots’ airfares here, some of the glider costs, some food and hotel, and tows for the GP Final and this Exhibition in Wanaka.

So basically we are obligated to indulge in this “exhibition” here in Wanaka as part of the “sponsorship” we all received.

The Sailplane Grand Prix concept is by far the most mature of any FAI airsports here and is in fact the only event here that is officially sanctioned by the FAI as an event. So, while we come with a working product, the other sports are basically making things up on the fly (Ha-ha…).

Hopefully all this will go safely and prove out the bigger concept for all the airsports. We are racing for “fun” and have been requested to make a show rather than race with our elbows out. The looks on my fellow GP Pilots at the briefings have been amused to say the least… some of the world’s best pilots throttling back?

This event, which is basically being anchored by the gliding element, is a real tricky thing with every event programmed into a very tight schedule for safety and efficiency reasons. For example, gliding is working with all the other airsports, a daily scheduled ATR flight that arrives at 2:45 p.m., as well as the local skydive operators – or “meat bombers” as they are colloquially called in these parts. This makes for a very complicated ballet of moving ships and crew vehicles on and off the runway.

So did we fly today? No. We watered up and pulled all 18 gliders on to the “dummy grid” for a move to the real grid en-mass at about 1:30pm, for a scheduled launch at 2:30 and a start at about 3 pm. Had we launched at about noon, the 181km wave task would probably have been a fun little run around the local wave system as we had strong NW winds and were surrounded by stacks of Lennies. But by 1:45, the weather was closing in on Wanaka from the NW and the Makaroa/Hunter Valleys were in heavy mist and rain.

Brian Spreckley, CD, made the wise decision to pull the plug on things and hope for better tomorrow. He did offer a number of pilots the chance to launch and demonstrate final glides with water dumping for the crowd. But after 4-6 gliders had towed down to the real grid, the rain really started and even they came back to the tie-downs without flying.

Team TM took the opportunity to go touring to Queenstown. Like most touring for glider pilots, the awesome mountain views were obscured by rain (remember, rain = rest day), but we did get a feel for the very touristy nature of the “capital of extreme adventure”, as well as a very cool view of the snow frosted Remarkable Range from the highest sealed road in New Zealand!

Tomorrow’s weather looks like a great, post-frontal thermal day so I hope we can put on a good show for the crowd while getting in some more, and our last, “fun” racing of this competition. Wish us luck.

See Ya! Tim/TM

P.S. It has come to my attention that some GP-style racing has, in fact, taken place in the U.S. That’s great! Then maybe we can get some resources going for organizing a US Qualifier like the IGC DESPERATELY wants, for next year (2008). If you like the concept, give it a thought and get in touch with Eric Mozer,the U.S. IGC rep.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Dec 24th - We have a winner!!!

Gidday Race Fans:

While all the detaisl of the score sheet are still being worked out, Sebastian Kawa (POL) drove his Diana 2 around the short course and won the day and the title of World GP Gliding Champion!!!

The day was very late getting started and then ended up being an undercall, IMHO. We left the line sometime after 3pm local, and the sky was still cooking with convergence lines, thermals and even hints of wave when we raced home form the far turnpoint at Mt. Hayes (near Burkes Pass).

TM managed to resurrect myself after yesterday's poor choices and poor flying. I was right in the running at the first turn and thought the decision to go back to weak wave was the best one for the glider I was flying at the time. Everyone really had the hammer down the entire wayua roudnhte course. The thermalling was som of the tightest, unforgiving I have ever done. It was really like thermalling with your "elbows out". But things were safe and we got a great race in.

I will be continuing my blog for at least a few more days as the GP Circus packs up for the Exhibition Racing (more on this later) at Wanaka and the NZ Air Games. Whether or not I go to Wanaka is a bit up inthe air right now as the really do not want us doing real racing for the public, but instead want staged finshes for the media. That's jsut not my style. I wish we had some more days to go racinginthis wonderful paradise of Omarama - but htat is the GP Format: Short and Sweet!

See Ya! Tim/TM

All the GP

December 23 - Day 4

Good Evening Race Fans:

Today was another race day for the GP pilots here at Omarama. After issuing an A & B, then a C & D, then an F task we were able to go racing. I joked that the F task meant we were all F'd - funny that the joke was on me.

I hope I gave all the fans of the Stars and Stripes a bit of an adrenaline rush as I drove the Ventus C hard on down the course out of the start line. For the first two legs I was going pretty well and hanging with all the top dogs. Then the long cross-wind traverse to the third turnpoint in the Grampian Mountains (to the East-Northeast of Omarama) got the better of me after I lost sight of basically everyone in the field.

Day Winner Bruce Taylor (2nd from left) with Uli Schwenck and Giorgio Galetto. (Tim Timoshenko (our Russian crew friend) is on the far left.

Left to my own devices, I was looking at running a convergence line north and then getting on another to cross the Mackenzie Basin to the turnpoint. Had it worked, it would have caught me up with the leaders - or so I thought at the time.

Not known to me at the time, Uli Schwenk had gotten out to a 25 km (!) lead on the hard-driving Aussie Bruce Taylor and Sebastian Kawa in the Diana 2. However he did this by ridge soaring (!) the entire way from the second turn Tomsons to the eastern shores of Lake Benmore (!!!) For anyone who has flown here, the wind was a strong northerly. The ridges do not really line up, but somehow Uli made it work until he was stuck for a long while.

Uli Schwenck ended up 2nd on the day. The day winners were 1) Bruce Taylor (AUS), 2) Uli Schwenck, (GER) and 3) Ben Flewett (NZL). This brings us to the overall leaders of 1) Ben Flewett (25 Points), 2) Steve Jones (GBR)(24 points), and 3) Uli Schwenck (23 Points)

My personal flying day went from really good to really slow in about 20 minutes. Once I realized I had lost sight of the leaders, I saw a few guys down on the ridges going into the helicopter-only retrieve valley at the base of the St.Bathans range. After the loss of Herbert Weiss two days ago, I decided the better part of valor was to stay safe and to not go for broke low down on the ridges. Well the staying safe part was held partly true, but the thermals just did not work well for me after that decision. I basically ended up stuck on the local mountain Little Ben and then having to ridge fly my way up to the peak of Big Ben, just eat of the field, transition into pathetic thermals and then tiptoe out into the Mackenzie basin in search of lift under some very ragged looking cu’s. Me and Vladimir Panafutin (RUS) in our old ships (Ventus C and LS-6c) just did not have the performance for the drag race today. We met up going into the Grampian turn, but my heart was just not in it at that point in time and I let him get away to finish ahead of me. No points for 18th place.

So basically, after the brilliance of the first 1/3 of the flight, and the desperation of the middle 1/3 of the flight, the last 1/3 of the flight, while not easy, was just focused on getting home in one piece. As the lead 9 gliders blew past me coming out of the Grampian turnpoint, I figured I should just slow down. Once the lead 9 gliders are home, there are no points under this GP Format. It is harsh, but in the scoring my pathetic 95 kph was worth just as much as Giorgio Galetto’s11-something something kph– exactly 0 points.

It would sure have been nice to be able to find and ASW-27 or Ventus 2ax to fly in this comp. The GP Start (all gliders together at one time), does really show the difference in performance of the older vs. newer ships, and even between the new ships and the other new ships. When you start together, a Ventus or LS-6 are going to have to take just a few more climbs of x-meters, when put up against a new ship, to get around the same course. When the time comes to top of the tank, the newer ships , in the hands of superior pilots, have the opening to squirt away from the older ships. Given that all 18 ships are being flown by very proficient pilots, it is no wonder my Ventus C comes up just a bit short.

In the race between the ASW-27, the Ventus 2ax/bx, and the Diana 2, I would have to give the advantage to the small fuselage Schempp-Hirth product. Most of the pilots were flying these, and were it not for Ben Flewett’s local knowledge, the Ventus 2 would have shown its superior speed in the hands of these world class pilots. If we get in a fifth day tomorrow, then maybe the V2’s can take the title. The Diana 2 can be a spectacular machine in the right hands, but investing in one is a game for very wealthy racers as it will never be a “fun flying” ship for the local club pilot.

IMHO, given the desire of the GP Organizers and the FAI to have this media friendly format that really tests and shows-off pilot skill, GP races should be ideally run as one design events like in Nascar with their Car of Tomorrow (COT). By that I mean all Ventus 2, or all ASW-27, or Standard Cirrus’s for that matter. Only when all ships are relatively equal, will the regatta start of the GP and subsequent racing truly be the measure of the pilot.

Maybe this is the opening for a truly successful one design class (i.e. World Class) to emerge from the disaster of the current World Class. Maybe if we could get Schleicher and Schempp-Hirth, and DG (or whoever else is interested) to compete to be the sole designer/supplier of a “new” world class glider for both a new world class at the WGC’s and single design GP events, will GP pilots truly be equal when a GP race starts.

I’ll get off my soap box now.

Tomorrow is the last day of the officially sanctioned GP World Championship. We have 4 of 5 days in the bag and that makes an official contest under GP Rules. Hopefully we will get a fifth day of racing in to close out these championships.

The outlook is for the front that dogged me with overcast as I fell behind the field today, to pull through sometime in the late morning tomorrow. The rate and degree of clearing that we see will determine if we get in this last contest day. Should it clear by noontime, we might be treated to a wave task. But if the forecast of the clearing is off by just three hours later in the day, then the contest will be over.

See Ya! Tim/TM

South Africans Oscar and Mark

Me with Marc and Rod, friends from Southern Soaring

Saturday, December 22, 2007

December 23rd - Back to racing...

Gidday Race Fans:

This one will be short as I need to get to the grid quickly. We expect a 12:30 pm launch time due to weather concerns.

The weather is basically being influenced by a strong low pressure system sweeping a cold front toward us from the west. High above us, we are being influenced by two VERY powerful jet streams - one about 200km to our east and one about 200 km to our west. What we have here in the Omarama Task Area is strong Northerly winds (20 knots+ at 5,ooo feet, and 25-35 kntos at 10,000 feet). In Gavin Wills' words, this one will be a "quite difficult day". The task setters have already scrapped their A, B, and most likley the C and D tasks for safety reasons. We await the E-F tasks by 12 pm local - in about 19 minutes.

The mood is very somber but focused.All piltos appear to be in good form and will honor Herbert with our safe and fast flying today.

Today we add the complication of two helicopters (AS350 - Squirrels) - one for the camera and one for the telemetry relay. Some gliders will have onboard cameras and mic today - so look forward to on task interviews. Interestingly, the responses will be over a secure, encrypted microwave link so that the interviewed pilots do not give away their secrets.

Wish us all luck - this one looks to be a tough one.

See Ya! Tim / TM

Friday, December 21, 2007

December 22 - Rest day Called in honor of Herbert Weiss

Dear Gliding Friends and Fans:

It was officially announced a the 10 a.m. briefing that the pilot involved in the fatal crash yesterday was Herbert Weiss, "29", of Germany. Of course, we all knew who had lost their life, but the family needed to be informed. The soaring world has lost another one of the many special people that make our sport so interesting. Today will be a rest day as the consensus of he pilots was that we should honor Herbert and take time to remember him. International racing pilots are an elite family and our family is one short this morning.

The facts are as follows: While coming out of the 2nd turnpoint, 075 Siberia, Herbert, in his ASG-29 impacted terrain with high energy on a spine about 300 meters from the top of the northern ridge. The winds were out of the Northwest at 5-15 mph, with mild turbulence in the area. The loss of live telemetry enabled Gavin Wills, with Steve Jones (GBR) analysis, to go directly to the crash site once the last competitor was home. Gavin saw the wreckage and Herbert's body thrown some meters from the aircraft. It was immediately apparent that it was probably not survivable. Gavin landed at the Makaroa Airstrip and waited for the SAR helicopter from Queenstown to pick him up. On arrival a the crash site, the -29 was inverted with serious damage to the underside of the cockpit, ground debris on the undersides of the wings, and the perspex and contents of the cockpit strewn in a fan shaped pattern up to 100 meters from the initial impact site. Everything points to a a high energy impact with terrain. These are the facts as we know them. How this happened we will never know and have no right to speculate on.

Speaking as a pilot, I think if I would have to leave this earth, I would prefer it be while flying in such a wonderful soaring heaven as Omarama and to have it come quickly. All indications are that this was the case with Herbert.

Who did we lose? A 59 year old teacher who had been gliding since 1969,(just a little after I first arrived on this earth). He leaves a wife and two children. A two time German National Champion and former member of the German Gliding Team, Herbert had over 8,600 hours in gliders with most of it flying cross country and racing in every type of task area. Herbert was a competitor. He came to New Zealand to win this championship - he told this to everyone at the field here. He was doing what he truly loved when he died.

What can I say about Herbert? I had only known him since I arrived here at Omarama on December 6th, but a kinder man nor a better glider pilot I have not met in this sport. Always with a smile on his face, a friendly "hello Tim, how was your flight?" each morning, a wonderful gentleness with our daughter "Baby Sarah", and a wonderful sense of humour. He was a person we get into this sport to meet. Talented, complex, and focused, Herbert was a great glider pilot.

I will carry away two memories of Herbert on the day he was lost to us:

Firstly, his inadvertent "mooning" of team TM on the grid while changing into his flying gear. It brought a welcome break of the tension in the pre-launch grid for us and the other pilots around him. And yes, he appeared to have on clean underwear :-)

Secondly, my last sight of him was from behind (as usual) and him pressing into the Lindis Ridge and getting away a good few minutes ahead of me and others. His swooping, aggressive style was glider racing perfection.

I am sorry I did not have the time to know Herbert better.

We go into the breach each day racing gliders, confident in our ability to handle all conditions and situations. Sometimes we cannot do justice to the challenges and sights we see while racing gliders, but we owe it to our wives, children, and friends to do our best to come back so we can share these wonders with our fellow racers and our families. Please be safe out there.

Sincerely, Tim McAllister
Team TM
FAI World GP Gliding Championship
Omarama, New Zealand
December 22, 2007

Race Day 3 - Great Racing, but uncertainty...

Good Evening Race Fans:

I'll keep this short and sweet. Omarama came through with another day of racing in strong, yet tough weather conditions. TM raised its head from the cellar with a run to 11th place on the day - but still out of the points and at the bottom of the overall score sheet. This scoring system, with this caliber of pilots, is brutal to say the least.

After getting on final glide at the last turnpoint and running with Uli Schwenk in a Ventus 2ax for the entire run - I can definitely say that a Ventus 1 is jsut that much worse than a Ventus 2ax. I started out about 400 feet higher than him, but he beat me by a little less than 2 minutes. Oh well! Winners on the day were: 1) Kiessling, 2) Sommer, 3) Galetto, 4) Kawa. Overall it stands: 1) Jones, 2) Flewett, 3) Kawa

Much more troubling was the news that one of our pilots went missing going into the 2nd turn, #075 - Siberia. His tracking device went out - as many of them have done off and on - but after an initial period there were calls to GP Pilots asking if they could report anything gone awry in the area. To my knowledge no GP pilot was able to see anything. Search planes were sent into the area in the early evening hours and an SAR (Search and Rescue) helicopter was waiting on the pad for news of any discovery. By early evening the aircraft had been located. The pilots and soaring community here in Omarama have been asked to refrain from reporting anything before official word is received of the status of the pilot. By sundown the news was "nothing good".

Please say a prayer and stay safe out there.

See ya! Tim/TM

Thursday, December 20, 2007

December 21st - Day 2 Re-cap and Day 3 Preview

Gidday Race Fans:

Well, what can I say about race day 2... DFL- Arghhhhhhh!

Yesterday was the best weather day for at least 12 days here at Omarama. You can look at the official results onthe GP website. However, we have a tough tight race going here. Unfortunately yesterday, I was not a part of it. Apparently I was the one providing some drama with my two rock polishing saves at the first turn and again at he third turn. After I inadvertently dumped ALL of my water going into the first turn, it was just a long slow slog around the course. After I started hearing finishers as I was about 100+ km out, I turned off the radio and enjoyed the beautiful views and flying among the rocks. This is truly gliding heaven - anyone who gets the opportunity to fly hear should absolutely take advantage.

I've just been handed the task sheet for today's task day 3.

Task A: 034 Goodger, 075 Siberia, 033 Glentanner, 122 West Control, and Finish 271.7 km

Task B: 073 Scrubby, 057 Neck, 051 Morven, 039 Huxley, 122 West Control, and Finsh 254.9 km.

As you can see, Task A is basically yesterday's task in reverse. Maybe I can get it right in reverse B is another backup in case the cloudbases do not go up.

As you can see, the weather is pretty stable. Thus we are getting the same tasks day after day. Oh well.

Gotta go as Brian Spreckley is beginning the briefing.

See Ya! Tim/TM

P.S. - FD this Ventus has the same lag in the instruments as yours did.

PS PS - Does anyone have anything good to say about the Borgelt B-100??

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Day 1 - December 19

Gidday Everyone:

Let the racing begin! Today dawned with a heavy overcast and another day of cold winds - this time from the southwest. The weather man promised a soaring day and the weather gods delivered. it was not the boomer of a day we all hope(d) for but the flying was the toughest in my racing career.

We launched, then almost immediately went from the A tot he B task. The B task was Makaroa, Moven, Gen?-Station, West Control, Finish for 221 km. The launch went very quickly with only 18 pilots and 6 tow planes - talk about luxury. Most everyone ended up on the top of Big Ben in a great persistent thermal that went about 1000 feet higher than any other cloudbase in the local area. All 18 pilots came out of the blocks within about 1km along course line and 200 feet in altitude. Pretty tight. All pilots went immediately to Magic Mountain. Yours truly and about 8-10 others were able to get on top and got a good climb. As we came over the top and saw the Ahuriri Valley, we were pleased to see the other 7-8 pilots, who had gone aroundhte corner of Magic well down the mountain and struggling.

Everyone then crossed the Ahuriri Valley and set up for a climb somewhere around Ben Avon to get on top of the South end of the Dingle Ridge. Spying Giorgio Galletto (ITA) going for the ridge well below me, I followed. I figured if he is the "Mountain Rat" of Italy, then I was going to be the "Mountain Rat" of the USA. Giorgio got to the ridge maybe 100 feet below the top, I got there right at ridge height. After it took me probably 10-15 minutes to get away - while watching everyone who finished first climb away - it took Giorgio a Looong Time! Afer I had gotten away and made my way over to Makaroa, I heard Peter Harvey (I believe) wish Giorgio good luck, and Giorgio reporting back that he was just to low! Riveting stuff.

The rest of my flight was a little tough getting into the second turn, but coming out of that turn I was able to pick up a great convergence line taking me from the Lindis Pass area to the third turn without stopping. From there it was getting on the Ben Ohau Ridge and hoping it worked in order to get home. It was about this time that I began hearing the radio calls and switch-overs to the Omarama Airfield frequency. In the Grand Prix format, you immediately start counting to see where you stand. As soon as you get to 9 you know you are out of the points. I think I was something like 14th. Close but no cigar!

But the great news was I actually beat Sebastian Kawa (for the first time in my career) and Giorgio Galletto, among a few others. In a Ventus 1, this is a victory for me. Like I said, there is every possibility that World Champions will end up at the bottom of the score sheet on any day or even on the final overall scoresheet. Keep tuned!

The top four were: Schwenk, Jones, Krejirik, and Flewett. I am sorry I do not have the full list, but as the first finishers were crossing the line, I was ridge soaring the Ben Ohau range with a wind straight up the valley (yikes). Luckily I got a great climb to get home on the mountain named Ben Ohau, right at the bottom of Lake Ohau.

For the top finishers (in the points), the critical climb came in the Ahuriri Valley in the lee of the mountain Ben Avon. If you got out of there quickly, you were in to better air and got the speed up.

The problems with the internet feed were that they lost the satellite for 20 minutes. Sorry everyone missed the critical first km's of the task. But they promise to have it working at full tilt tomorrow.

That's it from a tired Team TM.

See Ya! Tim/TM

Entering, then changing the task.

Today's winner, Uli Schwenk (Schwabia/DE), gets interviewed for the webcast.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tuesday December 18th - Humbling practice day...

Gidday Race Fans:

Or I should say goodnight race fans. Today the GP Pilots woke up to a solid cloud deck that looked to make soaring problematic at best. Combined with a very deep layer of wind from the Southeast, things looked to be very interesting for the non-local pilots. The weather briefer said that things should be soarable by 2-2:30 p.m. While the pilots all looked skeptical, the skies did clear and the Mackenzie Basin began to cook. Mind you it was not going like gangbusters even a the end of the day, but it did afford the GP pilots the opportunity to take advantage of the last practice day.

As I write to you now, the wind is strongly out of the east at the airfield in the typical sea breeze. Usually this is a pattern created by the strong thermals of the interior of the South Island. It is now un-typical to find yourself facing a 20-30 mph head wind below about 1000 feet Agl when coming back into Omrarama at the end of the day from the west due to this phenomenon. But today, the winds aloft in the basin were pretty steady at about 4-8 knots from the Southeast. Just enough to make things very tricky.

Practice Days at comps are funny things and today was no different. Practice days afford both the organizers and the pilots the chance to get their acts together and hopefully have everything (scoring, gridding, weighing, etc.) humming in fine tune when the 1st official contest day comes around.

For the organization, it is often a time to get all the personnel into town and to throw some sort of organizational system against he wall in the hope it sticks. Usually the contest organization just hits its stride when the comp is ending. Here at Omarama, add in the extra complication of fitting the gliders for their real-time telemetry and getting the live broadcast team and setup working and you can see what a project this might be at the best of times. It puts how the "big" sports like the NFL, etc. put on their grand shows every week in perspective.

For pilots, these days are a chance to make sure their ships are in good working order and a chance for non-local pilots to survey the task area. For a pilot, you need to balance the desire to get racing, with the caution to husband your resources for the days that really count coming up. It is good to keep in mind that no matter how heroic or well you fly on any practice day, it means absolutely nothing on the final scoresheet.

The GP format is a little bit unusual in that the scope of the contest is greatly reduced. A normal World Gliding Contest (WGC) is schedule for 4 days of practice, then 14 days of flying. A GP (Qualifier or World Championships) is limited to a maximum of ten days total (I think...) This contest was scheduled for 2 practice days, six competition days, and then two reserve days in case the original six are not enough to name a champion. The idea is to shorten the length of the contest to make it into a more sellable event.

Having lost the first official practice day to the horrible weather, today's second practice day would be all everyone had to get things right for tomorrow's first official contest day. Today's practice day was the typical charlie foxtrot that practice days can be. Add in the sometimes marginal weather and the technology at work and many pilots had frustrating days. Then add in the various broadcast elements (Animation Research, R2, AirsportsLive) and it begins to look like a circus. As I write to younow from the briefing room at Omarama Airfield, I am surreoundby people moving in banners and signs and computers and microwave dishes and.... I am gettign tired jsut looking at all this stuff.

Now to the flying:

Brian Spreckley (CD) set up and A and a B task. The A task was around 220km, and woudl ahve taken us Southwest to Morven, then over to Makaroa, then across a number of moutnain ranges to Stewarts, north of Lake Pukaki, and then home. The B task was a more leisurely 159 km, and took us to the Dingle Valley then Stewarts and return. After all the gliders were launched and with Gavin Wills advising from the air in a Duo Discus, Brian, IMHO wisely opted to cancel the day. By 15:10 (Local) the cloud bases were only 5,000 MSL (just over 3600 feet AGL) and both tasks looked difficult. Not impossible , but definitely risky. With all this testosterone going at this contest, the wise thing was to not force us pilots into anything.

However, in order to give the black boxes in every glider a chance to do their thing - and more importantly to see what they did, if anything, to the pilot's glider instruments, Brian ran a practice start just to get the procedures clear in the pilot's minds. With this setup, most pilots took starts in the adrenaline producing 10 second countdown to line-open. Think the America's Cup start - only in 3-d and with 18 sailboats at speeds up to 120 mph.

The generic rules for the GP pre-start maneuvering are: All gliders must be behind (relative to the first leg track) the extended start line 1 minute prior to the line opening. The actual line to get a valid start is 5 km in length, running 2.5 and 2.5 km to either side of the start point and perpendicular to the first leg's track. There is a maximum start height of 45oo MSL at the start line. And there is a maximum speed limit of 170kph (ground speed) as you cross the line. Then off you go racing.

Easy... Right? Not so much. I myself forgot to input the B task in my computer system which made it almost imposible to start over the correct start line. This is what practice days are for aren't they? A few other pilots had interference from their broadcast boxes that disabled their GPS navigation systems - making getting a good start really difficult. Luckily TM's nav and logger systems worked perfectly. Now if only my brain would. Still other gliders had some radio issues that complicated the entire task change.

But off we went racing. The general gist of it was to try and get over to Magic Mountain with enough height to flop over into the Ahuriri valley, and then hook-up with a convergence line over the Dingle ridge where cloudbase was about 8k. Some were able to do it, some did not. TM chose the path of least resistance and stayed in the local area in the weird southeasterly winds. With the exception of needing to hop a stock fence as I crossed a mountain col (!!!) the day was pretty pedestrian. Tomorrow I promise to unleash the fury!

All of the same stuff that happens when you watch an auto race on TV (minus the rubbin', hopefully) happens at an glider race only no one has been there live to see it all. This race they will thanks to all the tracking technology deployed. Speaking of which, there is still 1.4 metric tonnes of microwave cameras and other gear coming from ABC (Australian Broadcast Corporation) which will let the broadcast team look live into all of our cockpits after Dec 21st. Ever wondered what world champions do in a race. Well this is the first time you may be able to see it unfold live. Sign-up and watch things unfold in a way our sport has never seen before.

That's it.

See Ya! Tim/TM

Sunday, December 16, 2007

December 17, 2007

Gidday Race Fans:

New Zealand is serving up some of its finest weather imaginable... not! Today's (Monday Dec 17th) forecast is for a double barrelled frontal passage (cold) from the southern tip of the South Island to the Northern tip by, maybe, midnight local. Tomorrow's (Tuesday Dec 18th) forecast is for bright clear skies and thermals with a Southwesterly wind. This will be another learning experience for the non-local pilots... but then again pretty much everyday should be a learning experience here. Unless your Gavin Wills or my host, Chris Rudge of Southern Soaring.

As I write to you there is a split view in the valley. To the North you can see Little/Big Ben and clear up into the Ohau Range of mountains. To the west, Magic Mountain and Snowy Top (two local ways to get out of the Omarama local area) have just disappeared in low clouds and rain. So far, it has rained nearly every day I have been here, even if only a light drizzle. I guess that is what you come to Omarama for?

What about yesterday, you may be wondering?

Yesterday served up some pretty good soaring weather by any account. There was plenty of thermal action down low and good oportunities to transition into the wave if you wanted. The axis of the approaching rain yesterday was from the west coast over the main range, but very, very slow. It was raining in the upper Ahuriri valley when we were launching at 1pm. But it took until almost 6:30 p.m. for the rain to get to the airfield.

With this axis of approaching rain, the flying axis took most people on to the Nursery ridge here at Omarama, then a transition to either Magic Mountain and Lindis Pass to the West/Southwest or to the Ewe range leading up to Hugo's elevator and then on to the Southwest. Probably one of the better flights was by Ben Flewett up to past Lake Tekapo in the Northern edge of the task area in the wave. Easy... especially after his landing on the road at Haast Pass the day before yesterday. Apparently, he was just able to put it down and get it stopped between two sets of snow polls - yikes! Good thing the ASW-27 has good brakes.

Jeff Campbell, of Telluride and Parowan towing/aviating fame, is here on site for the Austral Summer and offers a welcome Yank perspective. After yesterday's wave flying for me, I took Jeff's advice to get down on the ridges today. This I did... and got the c---p beat out of me!

Basically, I went practicing getting out the basin by the various ways: Nursery to get up, Ewe-Omarama Saddle, Magic Mountain-Lindis/Ahuriri, Benmores-Ohau, Benmores-Grampians. Luckliy all the forms of lift were working. I got hooked into nice wave twice, ran ridges too many times to count, tangled with rotor, and saw some moderate broken up thermals. A very nice day was had by the gliding half of Team TM.

Below: Here is the ground-half of Team TM. Miss Sarah has her first cold (in New Zealand!) but everyone is doing fine at this end of the world.

Bellow: Here is John from Animation Research installing the technical package in our Ventus. Since the last GP qualifier here in January 2006, they have improved the hardware and distilled it into a package about half the size of a loaf of bread. This is complete with Lithium-Something battery (fire extinguisher not provided), and Iridium modem, GPS and GPSR communications technology. As only half the fleet is wired up and there is no flying today, the pressure is on to get hings right so that by day 1 on Wednesday everything works on the broadcast end as well as the glider pilot's instrument end. The last time there were some serious conflicts between loggers (pretty important) and the broadcast gear. We all really hope this is fixed so we can have good racing, with our instruments, and give the on-line crowds something to cheer for.

I heard there was a free Diana 2 lying around here... How much???

Seriously, this is what happens when you have a very unique glider, in terms of rigging and trailer needs, and send it to the other side of the world - without its own trailer. The drill is going to be that should Sebastian landout, TWO trailers will go and get him. One for the fuselage, and one for the wings. Talk about living like a prince! The above and below pictures were just post the fitting of the parts into the borrowed trailers.

This is a view of the broadcast truck being set up by R2. Luckily for us, this rent-a-truck is going to no more nefarious purpose than to broadcast our flying antics to the world wide web. As you can see, this contest is not going to be your normal U.S. contest with somebody bringing their personal laptop in to do scoring...

And for my rowing team back home; Where else can you see the reesults of a rowing race on the front page of the sports section? The glider airfield I am flying from in Omarama is also only about 15 miles away from the site of one of the biggest high school rowing regattas in the Southern Hemisphere. Imagine taking Stotes... then putting it on a lake in the middle of the Nevada desert. These Kiwis are rowing and gliding mad!

That's it for now. All the GP pilots are now in residence on the airfield and our first offcial task is set to be given tomorrow. Here's to great and safe racing beginning tomorrow. Watch for my reports as often as I can get on the computer between juggling baby duties and racing in a world championship.
See Ya! Tim/TM

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dec 15 - Flying, Finally

Hello Race Fans:

Yesterday was another no fly day with much clothes washing and general tinkering with the gliders. I believe that the Glide Omarama Duo took one flight in the rain and then that was it for aviating. The racing pilots have been regaled with the following words describing the weather here right now: “never”, “worst ever”, “unbelievable”, etc. We are still awaiting Giorgio Galetto, Oscar Goudriaan, and Michael Sommer who are due by late Monday. These arrivals will then fill the 18 pilot field.

But finally, after 5 straight days of terrible to no soaring weather, the odds broke in our favor today and every GP pilot got into the air for some task area reconnaissance. Before the daily 10 a.m. airfield and weather briefing the sky already had cu’s popping over the Dingle Ridge and Ahuriri Valley to our west and northwest, and lenticulars filling the sky to our North and Northwest at high altitude. Pretty auspicious!

The forecast was for moderate to good thermals to about 6,000 feet MSL with the chance for wave with winds aloft from the north at between 20-30 knots. If the winds backed to the northwest, the wave chances would be better but getting into it might be tough.

Since we have officially taken possession of our Ventus TM for the duration of the contest, Team EY will now assume the name Team TM. This seemingly simple switch takes a little bit of getting used to at a contest in a rented ship. As a racing glider pilot, my call sign back in the states automatically flows from my lips. So it is no wonder that with a towplane Mike Tango towing a glider Tango Mike and the pilot thinking he is Echo Yankee… well you can see some confusion on the grid today can’t you? All went well after the initial “who’s on first” routine ran its course.

Team TM took their time getting on the grid and were among the last of the GP pilots to launch. Part of the delay was that we were one of the first pilots to have their glider adorned with sponsor logos. In addition, each pilots name goes on the glider over the wing and behind the cockpit. It’s all pretty “Posh” (Brit for “fancy”) by glider pilot standards. No one is taking all the fussiness of this new racing format too seriously, with much joking and asking me if I was the Tim McAllister I think it is kind of cool myself!

Back to the flying…

For what was supposed to be a day we could “squeeze” in between bad weather patterns, there were an awful lot of smiles on the faces of the pilots, local and international alike, at the end of the day. Many radio calls were heard today to the effect of “it might not be the best ever, but it was pretty easy x-c flying!” Pilots were heard to make position reports from all four corners of the Mackenzie using a combination of thermal, ridge, wave and convergence to explore the area.

The day was pretty much a piece of cake if you patiently worked with what the weather gods gave you. The only exception to this was the only Kiwi in the field of GP pilots, Ben Flewett. A local pilot and very much one of the favorites to win this GP with his local knowledge, Ben came out of the gates flying swift and sure until his wheels hit the ground early in the day.

After getting an early launch, Ben was leading and advising some other GP Pilots on the niceties of the task area when he landed out on the road in Haast Pass – the transition from the northern end of the Makaroa Valley into the Landsborough River Valley. After landing on the road in the pass and getting some German tourists to help him push off the road, he and his glider were none the worse for the wear. Everyone else who he was leading got out of the hole and went onto have a pretty good day of flying after that.

TM was, at the moment of the landout, working some ridges on the east side of the upper Ahuriri Valley, when, after flying through some “daggy bits” (Kiwi local slang for rotor wisps – and is a reference to the clumps of dirt-like substance on the backs of the local merino sheep), contact with the wave was made. From there it was an easy run to Mt. Cook, back to the Ahuriri, a probe into the Upper Hunter River Valley , then a run back North, then over on to the Benmores for some practice rock polishing and ridge running in the Ventus at max gross weight, before letting down into Omarama. All in all a very nice and uncomplicated flight.

Tomorrow’s weather looks to probably hold for us before Monday’s likely washout. The good news from the weather progs is that the 2nd practice day (Tuesday) on out looks to be good flying weather. The horses and jockeys are about to be on the track for real… Stay tuned!

See Ya! Tim/EY/TM

Thursday, December 13, 2007

14th December - Wx Getting Worse....

Hey there race fans:

Well... yesterday (Thursday) was the worst day of the week. From Christchurch to Omarama the same conditions held sway: Low cloud deck, spitting rain to intermittent rain, moderate to strong winds out of the east. All in all terrible conditions to even hope to fly let alone soar.

I picked up my two S's in Christchurch yesterday and we went about touring the city a little bit. Christchurch is very nice little city of about 100k people. The highlight of our day was doing the big shopping trip for food and nappies (i.e. diapers) and then we went to the Antarctica Center at the Christchurch Airport. Being in one of the closest inhabited areas to Antarctica, it is amazing how much the pull of this great white continent to our South is here.

The tourist center offers up all sorts of neat interpretive displays all about the U.S., New Zealand and other international programs going on down on the ice. One of the interactive display involves putting on wellies (overshoes), donning arctic coats, and then going into a big icebox, complete with snow, and experiencing a blizzard with winds of about 30 mph. The tourists around me were impressed, but it was actually warmer and less windy than many of the winter days we operated our ride business in Steamboat Springs, Colorado!

Most everyone in the GP is here now. The only person I have not seen is Team Galletto from Italy. As Marina is usually the life of the party, the party has definitely not gotten going yet :-) The newest arrival is Petr Krejirk and is son.

The weather forecast is dismal. For today, the only hope is a little clearing area behind the southbound warm front. If we can get the clearance in past us by about 2 p.m local, then there is chance (very slim) for some soaring to be done by 3-6 p.m. The hope for tomorrow and Sunday is not much better, but I think there will be some aviating going on both days and maybe even some O.K. soaring on Sunday, IMHO.

That's it from the place of light (dull light , but still light none the less).

See Ya! Tim/EY

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dec 12 - Wx is terrible, but there is always news to report...

Hi Race Fans:

If any of you have kept up with EY's international racing travails, it should come as no shock that I have arrived in an international locale and brought rain. As Gavin Wills said to me the other day, they had 6+ weeks of straight 7 day weeks of flying, flying, flying. Sure, that's what they all say!

Today is yet another no fly day. Sure you can go up and putter on the local ridge in rain showers, but who needs it. Team EY is almost together. Susan and Sarah are currently on the flight from Auckland to Christchurch and I expect to possibly meet them later this evening should the weather stay - in local pilot parlance - charlie romeo alpha papa

Most everyone is getting their gliders sorted out. There are the usual gremlins associated with shipping gliders around the world: Ben Flewett has a wonky radio (new one coming tomorrow) and Mario Keislling's ship arrive without his winglets or support kit (yikes!). I am sure there are other problems but I have not heard about them yet. I've got my Ventus, TM, just about sorted out and am very much looking forward to flying/racing it around this wonderful area as soon as possible.

I have not yet mentioned that EY Racing has added another sponsor to its ranks with the addition of Neilsen-Kellerman. Hooray!!!! As rowing coach, I have known about N-K instruments for the past 20+ years. N-K is the maker of THE state of the art rowing instruments. I never put a crew out on the water to race or take a rowing shell out on the water myself without one of N-K's products on board. With the addition of the NK ClearNav instrument to the portfolio, I can only expect great things to come for us racing glider pilots. Take a look at the ClearNav as it is something special!

As some of you know or don't know, I am also a rowing coach by profession and I think I can add a little color to Nielsen-Kellerman's advance into soaring instruments. There used to be a supposition in the rowing world about what Nielsen or Kellerman must be doing with all the profits from all the rowing kit they sell each year. The supposition usually went that that they both must have really nice rowing shells.

Well, having some inside information into Richard Kellerman's passion for gliding and the fact that his old glider is now sold, I would hazard a guess that all of us rowing enthusiasts are keeping him in new gliders and us glider pilots in a new whiz-bang instrument! So what do you have on order Richard?

Most of the GP Pilots are here at the airfield now. Vladimir Panafutin (and crew) and Christophe Ruch (and crew) arrived late last night. The only one's missing are Sebastian Kawa (POL) and Giorgio Galetto (ITA), but hopefully they are off touring and seeing the sights rather than chomping at the bit here at the airfield in the rain showers.

In news of the truly weird and bizarre, Uli Shwenk recieved an email with the details and pictures of a most bizarre crime in the U.K. a couple days a go. It seems a well known pilot's EB28 (think ASH25 but highly "tricked out") had its box opened up, the engine bay (complete with the engine) sawed out of the glider, and the rest just left in the box. So, if anyone comes across a hot glider engine/engine bay, I can put you in touch with the owner.

I promise to begin putting up more photos when they become available. Photos of GP Pilots huddled around their laptops just doesn't make for much excitement! I will be posting a little bit about the local landout fields tour I took in the Cessna 172 on my arrival. Think few and hard to see ones in certain areas where you really need them, and many not highly visible ones elsewhere.

Please, Please, Please, tell you gliding (and even non-gliding friends) about this blog as I need to keep the sponsors happy and maybe even add another one or two in the meantime. I promise to keep up with all the juicy news and give everyone a real feel for the flavor of the contest as we go forward so stay tuned.

See Ya! Tim/EY

Monday, December 10, 2007

December 11th - waiting on Wx

Hi There Race Fans:

Nothing much to report from yesterday or today. The same Wx situation remains in place. Basically we have lots of clouds with two or three occluded fronts getting slowly squeezed together over the South Island between two big high pressure systems.

There are signs of wave in the sky, but with no way to get into the wave (other than a very high and very expensive tow) not many are launching. A tow to about 2,000 feet rates as a 7 minute tow in local billing parlance and runs to about $NZ 74. Once you start talking about ranging further afield than the local ridge your tow bill rapidly escalates. The sad thing is that of the $NZ 74 the operation takes in, they only net out about $NZ 8 per tow after landing fees, airport levy, renting the tug, etc.

More of the GP pilots have rolled into town now. Currently on the field, and in no particular order are: Ben Flewett, Diddier Hauss, Mario Kiessling, Pete Harvey, Steve Jones, Irwin Sommer, Herbert Weiss, and myself. Most are getting their gliders set after getting them off the transport frames and rigged. I myself have been sitting in the Ventus and making flying sounds in the hangar while I familiarise myself with the Borgelt B-100 that's in the ship.

I did get into the air for a 3:45 x-c flight in a Duo back on Sunday. To say the day was good would be an understatement. My back seater, Don Mallinson, said it was one of the best thermal conditions he has seen at Omarama. Unfortunately, between the scenery and beginning to learn to fly a new contest area, I did not take a single picture.

After nearly getting thrown off Nursery Ridge, I was able to dig out and get on top of Mt. Cuthbert (the nearest local high point). From that point on, taking anything less than 8 knot average was criminal. 10-12 knot average for 2-3k foot climbs was commonplace it was very good in all sectors. We worked our way over to the Dingle Ridge then up towards Mt. Cook, then south along the Barrier Range and onto the St. Bathans Range. From there we worked our way back to the Omarama Saddle then ran a tremendous convergence line down the Hawkdun range to Naseby and back to Omarama most of the time at 95-100 knots with the airbrakes hanging out to stay clear of cloud. From here on I just circled the basin back into Omarama while taking a look at the many ranch strips in the area. I think I got an OLC distance of something a little less than 300 km, but the whole flight probably covered400+km of flying with very little stopping. Weiss and Sommer did some easy "coast to coast" flying in prep for the GP on this day as well.

The Mackenzie Basin, in which Omarama sits, is undergoing quite a large change in landuse and this may begin affecting the local soaring conditions. Traditionally, this area has been dryland farming and dry land grazing (mostly sheep). However, with a huge demand for dairy products coming from China, the local area is greening up quite a bit. It is hard to imagine a thriving dairy business going in an arid area like the Alamosa Valley in Colorado, but this is the way the Mackenzie Basin is going nowadays. I heard on the radio just last night that the number of head of sheep in the central South Island region is going to decline by up to 3 million over the next couple years in favor of dairy cows. With all the irrigation necessary to green the fields up for dairy cows, the thermal production of the flats is going to decrease. Lucky for all of us economic trends will never transform these mountains or the winds that make the famous wave here.

That's it from Omarama.

See ya! Tim/EY

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Feet Dry in NZ Dec 6th 2007

Hello Race Fans -
Well, the pilot half of Team EY arrived safe and sound (if not very sleepy) at the Omarama Airfield two nights ago (Dec 6th). I plan to take some time to get rested up and then get into a glider on Sunday. So far only a few of the GP pilots are on site and they are taking their time getting their ships unloaded and setup. The “GP Circus”, as everyone around here is referring to it as, is coming but not quite here yet.

The flight went reasonably according to schedule from Dallas the entire way to Christchurch here on the South Island. The highlights/lowlights of the air travel were: LAX International Terminal (low), Qantas (high), Auckland (“gully washer “rainy and humid), Christchurch (cold, windy and misty). Picking up the car at the Christchurch airport went very well and off I set for Omarama – about a 4-5 hour drive from Christchurch. An important hint for travelers to Omarama – try as best you can to fly into Queenstown for the easiest drive after your epic flight just to get here.

I have heard about the Mackenzie Basin as a Shangri –la for glider flying. Looking at the low clouds spitting rain and the cold temperatures on the east side of Burkes Pass, I thought that if anyone was flying, surely they would have been just staying local and doing training flights or “flag pole-ing” over the airfield. But much to my amazement the skies opened up and this is what I saw:

Looking back at Burkes Pass

Looking at cap cloud and small, localised rotor cloud off the Two Thumbs Range (wind is from the east.

Looking West to the center of the Mackenzie Basin.

First good view of Mt. Cook over Lake Tekapo looking North.

The flying in these strong easterly wind conditions were pretty much limited to the basin. However, with a basin this big there was some good cross-country flying to be had in convergence lines and ridge lift with some spotty wave thrown in. Even in these atypical conditions, there were a lot of stories about good flying as well as frustrating flying.

The story of the day has to go to Gavin Wills (director of Glide Omarama) and G Dale (Brit and current British Club Class National Champion). The gist of it is that Gavin joined up with G flying the ridges up around Mount Cook. With G in the lead and Gavin in close trail, Gavin watched as G flew over and close to a cornice of snow which then broke off and started a tremendous slab avalanche right beneath them. They both immediately peeled up and off the ridge to take a close look at the splendor of nature at work. Wow!

So how do you ship 15 gliders halfway around the world in a 40-foot container? Well, apparently you have Alfred Spindleberger construct three giant “frames” to hold 6 gliders each and then load them into the container with no fuss nor muss. Seriously, these pieces of equipment are unlike anything I have seen and got all the gliders here in perfect working order. Slowly the gliders are being removed from the frame, rigged , and tinkered with in preparation for the racing to come.

40-foot container frame for 6 gliders.

Germans rigging their Glider with "other" wings laying on the floor of the hangar.

After looking at the unloading operation, I got to see “my” ship, VentusB “TM”. She is a beauty with very good wing profile and great gel coat all around. Phew!!! While not a V2 of ASW-27, it will do for my purposes.

The part owner of the ship who works at Southern Soaring is a neat guy named Don Mallinson. Just to show how small the soaring world is, it came up that I flew gliders in Kenya on my honeymoon – now that’s a supportive wife! It then came up that he spent time in Kenya at the end of Colonial days (early 1960’s) and resurrected a couple of dilapidated and abandoned gliders, a Slingsby Tutor and a Slingsby T-21 in which he got his start gliding and instructing. It just so happens that these two gliders were still airworthy and flying in 1996 and I flew both of them! Small world…

The current weather synoptic has a semi-tropical Low parked just northwest of the North Island and a maritime High building into place just East of the South Island. Since this is the southern hemisphere, the direction of twist in the atmosphere is reversed for these weather systems (Low rotates clockwise, High rotates counter-clockwise). The North Island is being socked with quite a bit of rain, while the South island is being battered by Easterlies off the far South Pacific. However, it could be worse as Fiji just got clipped by a Cat 4 Typhoon. This leaves the South island in a typical Colorado upslope condition, with the eastern coast socked in with clouds, but he mountains to the east of he Mackenzie Basin blocking the weather and leaving the basin clear and flyable.

The soaring forecast is for severe clear and stable air for the next few days. With that brilliant forecast, my host here Chris Rudge of Southern Soaring, organized the local airfield tour in the Cessna 172 with himself, me and two Brits. The flying conditions appeared to be as forecast, with very little bumps the entire way around the basin. But the views were spectacular and I will give everyone a quick photo tour of the Mackenzie Basin, as well as a little description of he area as I see it.

Basically, for U.S. pilots, the area (minus the brilliant blue lakes/reservoirs) could be the Alamosa Valley / the area of Northwest Colorado (North Park, Middle Park, Yampa Valley) – but with about 1.5-2 times the vertical that rises more sharply from the flat bottom of the basin floor. The similarities are striking to this pilot who has spent a lot of time flying in that area of Colorado. Let’s just hope this helps me pick up the peculiarities of this area a little faster than the other pilots who have not flown here (or in Colorado).

I'd also like to thank a new sponsor, Nielsen-Kellerman and its new ClearNav system. Check it out at

Well that’s it from NZ for now.

See Ya! Tim/EY

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Final Preparations

Good Evening Race Fans:

As the days tick down to zero before I hop on the plane for New Zealand, I wanted to write up a quick report of what is going on with Team EY (soon to be Team TM in Omarama).

My eyes are pretty bleary from day after day of looking at Google Earth, practice flying on the flight simulator, playing OLC flights, and going over and marking up good old fashioned paper maps. Oh, then add in an 8 month old baby and you probably get the picture of how tired I am right now.

This contest, although a World Championship with most of the A-list pilots present, will come as a relief in that pretty much all I will have to do is concentrate on flying fast. That is the beauty of going to a worlds - while stressful, all the worries associated with everyday life get to take a back seat to gliding for between two and four weeks. Life as it should be :-)

While the flying out of Omarama, especially on any wave days, will be a little intimidating at first, I already feel like I have a good grasp of the task area. Now how the task area works on any specific day (???), that's where the on-site practicing will have to bring me up to speed with how things really work. Glide Omarama is already psting some good kilometers to the OLC, so the soaring is looking to be perking up just in time. Take a look at some of the flights they are posting and you can see just how convoluted the terrain is on the South Island

I will be spending two or three days in a Duo with local familiarisation flights, then getting into whatever single seater is available for 3-4 days to get in some practice. Then off we go with two days of official practice, six days of GP competition in Omarama, then Christmas Break, then two days of flying (GP makeup days or Sprint races for the Crowds) in Wanaka in the New Zealand Air Games.

News from Omarama is that all three containers shipped from England and Germany were delivered to Omarama Airfield in the middle of this past week. Hopefully all the gliders survived the trip intact and will be ready to go flying immediately. There are a couple of the German GP pilots on the field, but so far none of the other GP pilots has arrived on site.

Lastly and very importantly, you can see on my website that Team EY has been lucky enough to add three sponsors to its fanbase. They are:

- Marfa Gliders in Marfa Texas,
- The U.S. Southwest Soaring Museum in Moriarty, New Mexico, and
- The National Soaring Museum in Harris Hill, New York.

All three are TERRIFIC operations and not to be missed by anyone passing through their respective neighborhoods. Oh heck, why not just go ahead and plan a special trip to see each of them, you won't regret it!

We are still looking for more interested sponsors (inidividuals, businesses, etc.) to help offset the very expensive venture of international glider racing without US Team support, but these three have already been a great help towards getting me competing in New Zealand. Thank You!

That's it for now.

See Ya, EY

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hello and Welcome to the blog

Good Day Race Fans,

Welcome to my blog about glider racing and the upcoming World Championship in Omarama, Aotearoa / New Zealand. I hope everyone reading this enjoys it.

Just a brief introduction for those out there who don’t know me and my glider racing credentials. My name is Tim McAllister and I have been flying gliders since 1985, and competing in glider racing since 1997. I go by the contest identifier/call sign “Echo Yankee” (EY) here in the U.S. and am a former National Champion (2003 US Sports Class), two time member of the US Soaring Team (Club Class 2004 & 2006), and a US Representative at the 1st World Sailplane Grand Prix (2005).

I got to the upcoming World Championships by blazing new ground by being the first American to ever compete in glider racing in Russia, and by earning 2nd place in the Russian Sailplane Qualifier back in August of 2006. (Read my wife Susan's reports from Russia in Aug 2006 on her blog.) It seems strange that I had to go to Russia to get to New Zealand, being an American, but sometimes soaring and glider racing in particular takes us to places we would have never thought we would ever go. This is just part of the allure of glider flying. Making a glider go fast against other gliders, well that is why I am particularly hooked.

For most American glider pilots, early-November is usually the time of year when the glider is safely tucked away in the box, plans for various “tinkering” (large or small) are made, and dreams of summer 2008 contests float through one’s head day and night. Being a fairly new transplant to Dallas, TX, I have been surprised the soaring has still been pretty good lately here in North Texas (better than most of the last summer in fact) and I’ve been keeping up with some cross-country flying as best I can in preparation for the 2007 FAI World GP Gliding Championships in Omarama, Aotearoa / New Zealand.

This GP (Grand Prix) World Championship will be the 2nd event of its type and the first under the new name. Exactly why this event is not the 2nd World Sailplane Grand Prix, coming after the 1st World Sailplane Grand Prix held in St. Auban, France in the fall of 2005, is a little unclear to me. Maybe someone owns the local/international rights to the name “Grand Prix”? Bernie Ecclestone comes to mind, but I digress… If this form of glider racing really takes off, maybe Bernie Ecclestone will want to buy our series and we will all get rich – or at least a little less poor - from our hobby. Hmmmm…. Hope springs eternal!

With a full field of 20 of the best racing glider pilots in the world selected from the top two racers at each “qualifier” event held around the world, this looks to be one of the best international racing events for our sport in years. Hopefully I will be able to fly the American Flag high up in the standings when all is said and done. Looking at the field of names (Kawa, Sommer, Harvey, Galetto, Flewett, Schwenk, Ruch, Goudriaan, etc. etc.) there is a good chance that even some world or near-world champions will end up at or near the bottom of the score table. As I understand it, all pilots in the field hold the title of at least national champion, and many are European and World Champions. Heady stuff indeed.

The field of gliders is going to be a face-off in the 15-m racing class between the relatively new, but very successful, Diana 2 in the hands of Polish pilot Sebastian Kawa (#1 ranked glider pilot in the world) and ASW27/29’s and V2’s. Many of the hot ships will have been sent by container from Europe back in September. I am sure that any pilots who sent their own ships by ship are praying nothing goes awry in the long float down under.

One of the problems with holding this contest in the 15-meter racing class is that this class is dying or dead in New Zealand in particular, and to some extent even in OZ. This created a real dearth of quality gliders (i.e. –27/29’s and V2’s) to rent “in country”, and left many competitors scrambling to arrange for a competitive, let alone any, glider to race.

EY will be racing a Ventus B with Masak-tips being hired from a syndicate of owners through Southern Soaring. This glider will have the contest I.D. of TM – really quite appropriate as it is my real initials, but it will be a little strange not going by EY in this contest. As the organizers have not published a definitive list of the competing gliders, it can be safely assumed that some of the other pilots will be racing whatever they could get their hands on in the NZ/OZ soaring scene. I can only imagine there might even be an ASW-20 or LS-6 or two spicing up the field. So even at this level, there will be the haves and the have nots. Lucky for me the Ventus still has some “leg” left in it in 15-meter class and I will take my inspiration from the U.S. racer P7 (Gary Ittner) as I go pushing around the skies of NZ.

So, Team EY is marshalling its forces and getting ready to set off for NZ (or En-Zed) in a little over 3 weeks. Receiving no US Soaring Team Funding for this event, Team EY is going to fly the flag on a shoestring budget coming from personal funds, family, and friends. Should there be any fans of Team EY out there who would be willing to help out the cause, we would be greatly appreciative. Banner ads are available on my website,, which will be the portal to this blog during the contest Dec 19-28. If past experience with Susan's blog is any indication, this will be a well-visited site by English speakers from around the world, so if you are in the soaring business, please contact me about sponsorship opportunities.

Check back on this space often as I will have more to come about the close at hand departure and final preparations for this event, my description of what glider racing is like, my own musings on where this concept of glider racing might be taking the sport and, of course, daily practice and racing reports from magical Aotearoa “land of the long white cloud”

See Ya,
Tim McAllister EY