Friday, July 4, 2008

Day 4 - Fourth of July

Good Evening race Fans:

Well that one was tough! For only about 4.5 hours in the air and a 3 hour TAT, I don’t think I have ever had to change gears so drastically, so many times in one task.

The day dawned a little less smoky and with cu all around by about 10-11 am. However, the high temp of the day was still forecast for only 83 degrees. Lucky for us the trigger was to be about 77, and this happened early on in the morning. But the rub here was that the cloudbase by launch time had only risen to about 7700 msl.

But we still launched into the best looking cu of the contest with all hopes of a great flight. The task call was a 3 hour minimum, TAT (Turn Area task) with the first turn China Start (5 mile radius), way out east to Dry Lake (20 mile Radius), then back in to radar (10 mile radius), and finally, Restaurant (10 mile radius) then back home … to the welcoming arms of ATC (Air Traffic Control).

For a short winged Sparrowhawk, and even some of the “big wings”, making the “commute“ from Craggy to the Gunsite Ridge was very difficult. I, along with Boyd Willat (JP), got into some shear wave that let us get above cloudbase at Craggy and then transition over to the Gunsite Ridge.

I thought I had it made… until I was unceremoniously flushed off Gunsite and into the valley for a very probable off-field landing at Montague. At least that was how it looked for a while. I was able to dig out very slowly and eventually work into the start cylinder and up to a little less than 10,000 msl (the top of the start cylinder). But this was still 2 miles short of the cylinder wall with nothing much in the way of clouds until Antelope Mtn (slightly off track to the first turn) ahead. Time to get out of Dodge for the little yellow glider.

Interestingly, I think I make the tower controller’s day when I come into the pattern because they can actually identify me. “Are you the yellow one st midfield on downwind?” Otherwise they are pretty limited to viewing all gliders as “the white one over there, the other white one over there” etc. It’s kind of funny despite the weirdness of it all.

Just remember all you glider pilots out there: Study up on your proper radio phraseology for when an FAA Tower drops in on your contest.

Back to the task…

The run to China was alright but hardly anything to crow about. But at this critical transition point, the highest I was able to get was about 8500 msl. But in keeping with my former status as the CSA (Colorado Soaring Association) “Duck Head” Award winner, I struck off across the valley into blue skies. By poking my way across the valley I was able to transition onto the best looking clouds of the day running from Whaleback Mtn (just in the lee of Mt Shasta) into the turn area at Dry Lake. While bumping along the cloudstreet I was able to work thermals, shear wave, and convergence up to about 12,500 msl to get into the turn area and then strike off toward Radar where Rick Walters proclaimed to me that “there is always a thermal there to get you back up” Hmmmm.

Well the run to Radar went really well for me and put me a little bit above the radar dome on the top of the hill… where I found exactly nothing for the next 20-30minutes. The clouds weren't working and the day seemed to be dying off. Oh boy. I decided to hang on until the cavalry caught up with me to give me some help in getting back up. Sometimes the best thing to do is just wait for some more thermal detectors to show up and let everyone save each other. Sure enough here came the main pack screaming out of the good conditions coming out of Dry lake and into the area of desperation.

Many pilots got very low getting into and out of Radar. Many landed out at Butte valley and a few in fields and the airport toward Klamath Falls. The rest of us just struggled in very soft and pulsing lift to get up to about 9,000 msl around Copco Bridge before going out into the blue again to try and get the last turn area at Restaurant.

I was sure glad I took the extra couple turns at Copco, because it was quite marginal getting in to touch the radius at Restaurant before heading for home. Topping up with MH about 8 miles out got me into the finish cylinder without a rolling finish, almost exactly on time, and with some extra energy to comply with Siskiyou Tower instructions.

I do not know how I did but there is a growing chorus amongst the pilots here that “Boy, can that Sparrowhawk climb And go!” Hopefully I can do Greg Cole’s terrific design the justice it deserves as the contest progresses.

See Ya!

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