Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sports Class Day 1 - July 1st

Good Evening Race Fans:

Team EY is here at the US Sports Class Nationals in Montague, California enjoying the “smoky” hospitality of Northern California. Unfortunately, I’ve had to shelve my “Echo Yankee” ID for yet another contest. But fortunately, this time is for a very good reason.

With the Sports Nationals returning to Northern California in 2008, I got an email from Greg Cole back in December offering his personal Sparrowhawk for me to fly. Having heard a lot about the potential of the new technology in this glider (all pre-preg carbon fiber construction, very light weight, brs (ballistic recover system), etc.), I jumped at the chance. So Team EY will be competing as team GC – “Golf Charlie” at this contest.

I’ll have more to say about the Sparrowhawk, and maybe even about its much-anticipated big brother the Duckhawk, as the contest goes along. But so far, I am enjoying the ship very much.

So what’s going on here at Montague?

With the very active wildfire season here in Northern California, the Air Tanker base at Montague is quite active. With 2 ex-Navy P-2 Neptune firebombers and a couple of turbo commander “lead planes” based here, the contest is definitely prepared for the possibility of conflict. Rex and Noelle Mays had done a lot of prep work for this contest which specifically included working out a plan to work with the firebombers. Well on practice day one, the plan went out the window and the firebomber folks both would not work well with us AND made an official request to the FAA for a portable Control Tower to be brought in here. Argghhhh! With the fires stabilizing a little bit in the past couple days, the threat of us being run out of here has gone down. But you never know.

We’ve got a great field spanning the full gamut from quick young hotshots, to really quick old wiley veterans. Add in US Team members tuning up for Lusse, Germany next month, ex-US team members, those pushing for the US Club Class Team, past US National Champions in many different classes, and you have the makings of a great race.

We flew both practice days with pretty good weather as long as you could deal with the effects of all the wildfires here in Northern California. Practice day one saw few pilots flying the task and many taking local familiarization flights. The smoke was so bad that I was over Duzel Rock (well known local thermal source) at about 10K msl and I could not really see it!

Day 2 saw better conditions, especially to the Northeast (Klamath Falls area) and more pilots starting to sharpen their racing skills. Unfortunately, my loggers had some “issues” and I was not able to turn in a score for day 2. I pushed the little yellow Sparrowhawk pretty well and probably won or came close on the day. In the end, Practice Day 2 was won by Ed Salkeld (5S) followed closely by Seam Franke (HA) at around 58 mph (handicapped).

Today, the first official contest day, dawned a little less smoky, but with the threat of quite a bit of cirrus moving in off the Pacific Ocean throughout the day. Today’s Day 1 task was a 3 hour MAT with China Start (53) and Medicine Lake (?) the first two called turns. Then we were free to go wherever.

One thing that the reports about flying at Montaguie do not make much of is that cirrus is a VERY big factor in contests at the coastal (or relatively so) sites like Montague. Today was a perfect example. When the sun was able to hit the ground the day really cooked. I got one terrific 10 knot climb around the China Start turnpoint enabling me to tank up before setting off across the Shasta Valley to Medicine Lake.

But before then the day was very slow getting going and the gate did not open until 14:21 pm local. The very smoky skies, combined with the cirrus shelves movingo into the area had drastic effects on the heating of the day. The run to China Start was pretty straight forward. Then the fun began as the field crossed the Shasta Valley in the lee of 14,000+ foot Mount Shasta going for the Medicine Lake TP. With hints of wave in the upper atmosphere, the field slowly got across and pulled into turn at Medicine Lake quite low. From there, the most logical thing was to run the convergence going up toward Radar facility (40) and the Klamath Falls. Oregon Area. Then some ran back down the convergence south before heading home.

That’s what I tried to do as well. I found myself on a marginal on a glide from Radar to home, with 1 hour 20 minutes left to go and I went back to Butte valley airport hoping to work the convergence line I had used to get there, get up and then go home. But with the sun angle catching more and more smoke and the bands of cirrus coming and going, I found myself stuck and had to land out at Butte Valkley Airport. The day just died where I was and that was the end of Day 1 for me. A very expensive aerotow back to home and GC was returned to its box safe and sound.

It seems the day was none too kind to the Sparrowhawks, with Bill Thar (G8) also landing out on the strip at Longbell Ranch coming out of the first turn.

I have not looked at the score sheet, but I am hoping that a combination of many people under time and the new scoring rules making landouts less of a total disaster will enable me to stay in the race to some degree. We’ll see.

That’s it from Montague.

See YA,

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