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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

13.5 Meter Super Regionals Day 7

Well the contest finished off with a great day of soaring. CD Jim was faced with a dilemma this morning as there is always pressure to make sure everyone gets home for the closing banquet but the top spots in both the 13.5 Meter and 1-26 contest were pretty tight. He set us up with a 2.5 hr TAT that went down to the south with a big circle and then back up to the east of TSA, a steering point at Maypearl, and home. We gridded early, at 11:30, with hopes that we could get started early. The forecast was showing that the skies would blue out later. This would also allow any landouts to get back in time for the festivities. Unfortunately the sniffer report wasn't too great and we ended up launching just a little before our normal time. It went well though and the task opened quickly. Luckily we were towards the back of the grid so it was a short wait before the start and I found a few good climbs. I started good and high out the side of the circle and was on my way.

Out on course there were once again several mini-streets that made working into the wind relatively easy. Just south of the start circle I picked up a thermal with Glenn in 508 and Jacob in 430. We worked together a bit and Glenn and I headed out together towards Hillsboro. I had fun flying with him as we both tried different lines and more or less kept up with each other. However as we approached Hillsboro we both found a distinct lack of good thermals, or our standards were too high and we both ended up low east of town. I remembered my days of flying with the Silent Knights in Ames, IA and headed for the Wal-Mart parking lot where I found about 1 knot up. 1 knot was OK for the moment. I saw Glenn up around the north side of town circling and cheered him on, hoping he would be able to dig out too. At 2000 feet, for some reason, I decided to either be a hero or a zero and pressed upwind another mile or so for a nice dirt field that was getting a lot of sunlight. Luckily it was putting out about a 3 knot thermal and I dug out without too much trouble.

Back up high I managed to generally stay that way as I got to about the middle of the first circle. I wanted to go as far as possible into the first circle so that I wouldn't have to make up any more distance in the 2nd one and put myself downwind of TSA. I was doing good, I found a great climb over Hillsboro on my way back and couldn't help but notice that Glenn had landed out in the field I had picked out! He and 508 were just fine and this was his first honest to goodness land out in a real field. He had 'landed out' the rest of the week at airports, often getting an aero retrieve home. He did a good job but it was a bummer that he didn't make it around the task.

Somewhere after Hillsboro I managed top out at 6000 feet and was starting to get on the edge of a final glide. I just needed one more good thermal. I kept finding lift that would get me a little bit closer but never anything that would positively put me over the edge, and my max altitudes were starting to trend down. I nicked the 2nd circle and headed for Maypearl, still about 400 or so feet under final glide. I worked some weak lift and got that up to 100 under for a little while. I nicked Maypearl and turned downwind for TSA. Things were looking a bit grim for a while but I found some weak lift around 1000 feet and was able to drift a little closer to the airport while climbing slightly and made a good finish and had a comfortable pattern and landing. We de-rigged quickly and headed for the hotel to clean up for the banquet

YYY just landed with 428 on short final

The PW-5 guys dominated, with Francois winning the contest and Bill Snead in 2nd and Pat Tuckey in 3rd. 1-26 scores aren't final yet so we'll find out at the morning breakfast who the top 3 were. We enjoyed the banquet and the company. I presented Francois with the James LeSueur Trophy for his win. It is presented every year to the top finisher at the Region 10 contest, and the 13.5 Meter Super Regionals were the only contest this year in Region 10.

The Podium, (L to R), Bill (2nd), Francois (1st), Pat (3rd)

Francois receives the LeSueur Trophy

Tomorrow morning we have the 1-26 breakfast and awards, then we'll get two new tires for YYY's trailer and head for Wichita. It's been a great contest but I think we'll all be happy to be back home. I'm not sure what my plans are for YYY the rest of the season. The NG-1 needs some attention and "Kate" the Standard Cirrus needs to be flown too. I'll certainly have it out for the Vintage Rally at the end of September if not before.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

13.5 Meter Super Regionals Day 6

Team YYY is back to full force now since Amy has returned from her weekend in Austin. We got to the airport early and had YYY ready to fly in record time. 

Today Daniel's weather report indicated much improved conditions. We all were hopeful that he was right. Bill Snead told us how he beat us all on Day 5.  He thought the cloud line I saw was a dew line, which is a common Texas phenomenon. I'm embarrassed that I didn't recognize it, as there was significantly lower cloudbases to the East. I should've known to stay on the high side of the line. Oh well. Tom McKnight in PW-5 "67" made the same mistake and we had nearly identical flights. I think we landed within 2 miles of each other.

The good news was that the weather today was looking good and we were given a 3 hr TAT. I was excited for a longer task as it would give us a good chance to rack up some more miles and have more time to recover from mistakes! I was on the front row of the grid but the launch with smooth with only 2 relights I think and I started off soon after the gate opened with a pretty good start.  The run upwind to the first circle generally went well. The only problem I had was that teenager Daniel Sazhin was running away from me in 1-26 #428. I couldn't stand to watch it anymore so I turned down a slightly different land and followed Tom for a bit in 67.  We found a good line of clouds and I decided to go deep into the circle so that I could avoid needing to build up distance in the last one.  Before the start the clouds to the west had looked pretty lousy and I didn't want to have to count on it still working there at the end of the day.

I got down to nearly Hubbard when I found a good climb back up to cloudbase which was a great opportunity to head back north, downwind. I was aiming for Ennis or so which was in the middle of the circle. I found a few more good lines and with the wind at my back didn't really have too many problems going north. I got to the south side of the lake by Ennis and turned back crosswind for the last circle. 

The only real lousy low point in the flight occurred about half way to the last circle as I got below 2000 AGL near Italy. I noticed that 215 was sitting in a field east of Italy as I was dropping down around 1500 feet. I found a weak thermal that averaged .8 knots and I climbed in that back up to around 2000. Then, thankfully, I saw a bird just to the west. A short run of maybe a mile and I was in a 5 knot thermal that took me to cloudbase! Whew! Of course I lost a lot of time with this little excursion. While I was there 215's crew showed up and I heard Jacob in 430 land out south of Italy right next to I-35E. I was really happy to be in the air and from there just did everything I could to stay high. I generally stayed above 3000 MSL for the rest of the flight and tried my best to stay above 4000.

I got to the last circle and sure enough it was blueing out to the west. Thankfully I could stay on the east edge of it and run to the town of Hillsboro to get my distance. From there it was somewhat blue back to TSA but there were a few clouds just north of the Hillsboro airport. I saw Mel in 97 in the last circle and was excited to see him make it that far. I also saw Tom in 67 again, as I had many times during the flight. With the climb north of Hillsboro I made final glide according to the Oudie. I needed 19:1 to make TSA at 500 ft and had about a 15 mph tailwind.  I managed to do better than that and had it down to 14:1 and finished about 800 feet, 6 or 7 minutes over time. Perfect!

Most people made it back, i think 215 and 430 were the only landouts. A few did come back early but most people made it around the entire task. We were happy to see Glenn Fisher make another finish in 508. He is having a great first contest. Daniel Sazhin the Condor Wunderkid won the day. This is his 2nd day win for the 1-26 contest and his first day win in the 13.5 meter contest. He enjoyed not only finishing the task but also landing back at TSA after the finish!

Tomorrow is the last day of the contest and then we will drive back home on Thursday. We'll need to get some new tires for the trailer as it is running on the spare at the moment. My Day 3 (I think) landout in the pasture managed to wreck the left tire on the trailer. Not a huge deal though since those tires are well past their expected life, they've got a lot of good miles on them.

The banquet tomorrow is at 6 PM and i hope to get a report up after that but before bedtime. Talk to you then!

Monday, July 16, 2012

13.5 Meter Super Regionals Day 5

Leah and I were out to the field early to rig after a very relaxing rest day.  We did attend a dinner at the airport and the following 1-26 Association annual meeting last night. Other than that we didn't do a darn thing and it was great. The area was hit with heavy rain about 4 PM and by it all cleared around 6 they had gotten 1.9 inches of rain at TSA.

There was still a lot of mud on the field and I don't think anyone was really optimistic about getting a flying day in. We knew it was a bad sign when the PW-5 pilots were hooking up their trailers before takeoff, not just the 1-26'ers and us.

Task for the day was a 2hr open ended MAT, with just a final steering point. There was plenty of preflight discussion about general strategy, rules, etc. Grid time was set for 1 PM.

The launch actually went surprisingly well, with only one relight. The task opened and I headed east because the clouds looked good that way. I headed initially for the Waxahachie Dam but then continued on to Ennis as it appeared there was a line of building clouds out that way headed to the southwest. I intended to turn along that line and make great time down to perhaps Italy or another turnpoint in that area. I was making great time on the way to Ennis and it was on the edge of a shadow but I felt confident that I could get back to the sunlight with plenty of altitude to find some lift.  Famous last words!

Initially after Ennis I turned into the wind and started dropping like a stone until I crossed the lake and was over the Flying O airport which happened to be a turnpoint. From there I headed more or less due west towards Shank airport and into the sunlight. I was getting lower and lower but headed towards a huge open cut wheat field which seemed to me like it should be a great thermal generator. Unfortunately it was not but it did make a good landing site. It was right next to a paved road with no fence or gate or anything. The ground was soft but not too soft and we were able to get the trailer in.  We were back to the airport in plenty of time for supper.

So after todays lawn dart I am down to 7th overall. There were several 1-26's who were either well under time or just got distance points so the day was devalued at least. Tom McKnight in PW-5 "67" also landed out.

Last I saw the blipmaps were looking great for Tue and Wed so hopefully we can finish off the contest with some awesome flights!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

13.5 Meter Super Regionals Day 4

This morning we awoke to blue skies.  Since YYY had spent the night assembled we slept in a little and enjoyed breakfast next door with Pete Vredenburg who flies 483 "Bulldog". Pete and I spent a lot of time flying Condor together this winter online and it has been really nice to meet him in person. We once again gridded at noon for an immediate launch. The task today was shortened to 2:15 with circles first east to Ennis (10 miles) then down to West (20 miles) and then Itasca (5 miles) and Maypearl (2 miles) and back to TSA. I think we all were happy to see that the wind was lighter than any of the previous days once we got going. YYY was at the back of the grid today so that was nice.

I had trouble finding any truly good lift in the start circle, doing some gaggling with several 1-26's, PW-5, and with local Tim McAllister in EY. I still wasn't able to get much above 4000 but the gate was open so I worked my way East. Right at the edge of the circle I think I finally got my first climb better than 2 knots and headed out to the north of Waxahachie.  I went to the Northwest edge of the first circle, as close as I wanted to get to the Class B and then turned downwind for the 2nd circle. The lift, and speed, was increasing although I had one real low point as I passed south of Waxahachie.  I dug out though and found a good 6 knot thermal up a little higher that helped make up for the weak lift I had to take down low.  After that I managed to generally stay above 3500 and usually 4000. Max altitudes were around 5500.

I ran into the 2nd circle until I was south of Hillsboro. The Oudie was figuring me 5 minutes over time and I had never been able to make up time into the wind all week and didn't expect to this time either. Of course as I started back I kept encountering stronger lift than expected and the time started going away.  I maxed out my distance in the Itasca circle and was back to about even. Then I managed to find a line of lift which allowed me to run for 13.6 miles straight into the wind at 69:1!!  Then a quick thermal and I had final glide and was definitely going to be under time, even with going to the back of the Maypearl circle. Oh well nothing I can do about it so I bombed away at 70-80 mph with about a 15:1 angle required to make the finish at 500 ft. I got a little worried for a few seconds on the way from Maypearl but caught a patch of lift and was back above glideslope.

I heard Jim Lamb finish in JL and could see another 1-26 out in front of me which I was pretty sure was Daniel Sazhin in 428. There was at least a K-21 in or near the pattern and perhaps another. It was difficult to hear the radio clearly with all the noise in the pattern. Anyway I heard one of the gliders on downwind comment that they had the glider on final in sight. I replied that there were 3 gliders on final as it appeared to me that the 1-26 was landing straight in and so was I. Jim was on short final. About that time the 1-26 stopped moving! Daniel had landed in the field just short of the airport! Heartbreak! I lined up to land as a 1-26 turned base and we ended up landing side by side while an ASK-21 landed behind us.  Exciting times at the airport.

Daniel had a blazing fast flight and did at least get a good finish for the 1-26 Championships, which has no minimum finish height. Later we heard Glenn in 508 call 4 miles and he coasted home for his 2nd finish of the contest. Milt Moos (578) and Len  Root (215 Team) were the only other landouts.

Our Scorer Terry was the sniffer today and he ended up landing out in his ASW-27B so he was late getting back to the clubhouse. He did get several of us finishers files but the scoresheet was still a mess when I left for supper, so we'll just have to watch the website or wait until Monday to know how our flights compare.

Tomorrow will be a rest day, our only plans at the moment are to sleep in. YYY is tucked away in its trailer and ready to get back to racing on Monday!

Friday, July 13, 2012

13.5 Meter Super Regionals Day 3

Well we awoke this morning to a thick blanket of fog in the area. Some of my best soaring days have happened on foggy mornings so I was optimistic.  Amy is gone now so Leah and I were back to our old ways of rigging with the two of us, which still went quickly and we were finished before it got too hot. No one mentioned at the pilots meeting that it was Friday the 13th. but we did hear form Francois and Kevin about how they won the day on Day 2. Daniel showed that the forecast was pretty optimistic but he was not quite as optimistic.

Hank Claybourn on the grid providing good luck
We gridded at noon again and started the launch by 12:30, it was our turn at the front of the grid so we were in the first wave. Thankfully the gate was opened a lot earlier today, at 1:20 I think, and I was off shortly after that, but not without some trouble. I got low enough down by Maypearl before the start that I couldn't make it back to TSA, this was about the time the gate opened I think, but thankfully I managed to find a thermal and climb back up to a semi-respectable altitude and with some gaggling help from Glenn in 508 I was on my way.

On the Grid

I decided that I did not want to go west of a line down the center of Lake Whitney. That caused nothing but trouble yesterday so I went to the Southeast edge of the first circle and then headed NW towards the east edge of the second circle.  I had no real problems with only one semi-low point near Hillsboro and had black vultures marking most of the cores. I was generally able to find pretty good climbs.  As I got to the second circle the computer was showing me about 5 minutes under time but based on the last few days experience I figured I would be OK.  I saw John Barr in 215 in a thermal and we worked one together as I drifted a little more into the circle and got good and high before the run into the wind to the finish.

What happened on this leg made me feel like a real 1-26'er. After leaving the thermal with 215 I stumbled upon Glenn again in 508.  He marked a thermal ahead for me and we climbed together and then we both ran for the next one and worked it together.  I was really encouraged to see Glenn on the final leg home since he's had a few short flights, landing out at nearby airports on his way out on the first leg.  I left our second thermal with best wishes for the rest of his flight. Then lo and behold I see Tom Barkow ahead in 264 marking the next thermal. We climbed together and I stuck in the thermal a little longer than Tom who left above me.  By the next thermal I was now above him and he was once again marking it for me. Thanks Tom! We climbed up once again.  Our route was taking us out of the way of the direct course line for Maypearl but it was the only way to stay under clouds. After leaving Tom I couldn't believe it but there I see yet another 1-26 ahead marking a thermal for me again. This time it was Bill Vickland in 238. I got to the first thermal just as he was leaving and climbed up, only needing a few thousand more for a nice steep final glide.  He again marked the next one which gave him and eventually  me final glide. He finished a few minutes ahead of me.  It was really unbelievable to have a 30 mile run with a 1-26 marking each thermal along the way! Thanks guys!

I started final glide with only needing to make a 14:1 angle to get to the finish. I spent most of it running at least 70 mph and sometimes 80 or a bit faster just to get down. At one point I had been running 75-80 and hitting so much lift that I was doing 19:1 over the ground!!!  I got to the Maypearl circle and extended just a bit to burn off a little more altitude and get a little more distance, then turned for TSA. I finished at about 800 feet and continued to hit lift as I entered the pattern to land.  It was a great flight!

At that time just Bill and I had finished and we knew that Cathy had landed out in 97.  Kevin in 192 had once again gotten a really late start and I was worried about him considering the huge blue hole I had seen on course. I was keeping an eye out for 264, 508, and 215 since I had seen them working their way home.  215 landed a little after I did and pretty soon we heard from Tom in 264 too. He made it back but had to skip the Maypearl turnpoint so just got distance points.  Daniel was waiting for Ron to finish in 428 and just a few moments after Leah and I informed the retrieve desk that we would be happy to crew for Glenn in 508 if necessary we heard him call 4 miles! We all ran out to watch him come in and land and greeted him at the runway with congratulations on his first career contest finish.

Daniel with Glenn (508) after his finish

Eventually Ron, Bob Hurni (190), Pat Tuckey (4K), and Bill Snead (6W) finished, Bill being the last one in. We heard that Kevin had landed out and Tami headed out to get him.  After the last few days, only having 2 landouts was quite a success! Hopefully we can continue the trend for the rest of the contest. Here is todays flight:

YYY tied down and ready for another day of racing

Thursday, July 12, 2012

13.5 Meter Super Regionals Day 2

Well today was a tough day for Team YYY. We gridded at noon and started the launch shortly after. The start gate opened at 2:10 and I was off immediately.  Amy was catching a flight to Austin for the weekend so Leah took her there once they saw that I was off.  I made great time to the first circle in Hillsboro and went west past the airport before I turned Northwest towards a big huge 2nd circle.  I had some more trouble running crosswind which is typical for me and had one good low save around some mining areas north of Lake Whitney. I found a good core with a couple of black vultures and took it up to 5000 feet. I was feeling pretty good again and paid extra attention to staying high. I ran into the second circle until the computer was predicting me at about 10 minutes over and turned back.  Well history was repeating itself again as all the sudden all I could find was lift. The landout options in the area were not as good as closer to TSA with lots of trees, mining areas, and a few pastures interspersed. I kind of hopped from one field to the other, spent a lot of time working 1 knot lift just trying to stay aloft, and creeped along as best as I could trying to stay alive. There was a big blue hole ahead that would have to be circumvented too, just to complicate things.

Eventually it was time to give up and I had two fields under me. One unoccupied cow pasture and a hay field with bales. To me the hay field seemed to have better access so I started to set up an approach for it.  However I did a lousy job of setting up the landing, ended up way high and knew I wasn't in a position to fly an accurate enough approach to go between the bales so I side stepped over to the pasture. Leah was, at the time, stuck in traffic in Dallas but after some walking I managed to get ahold of someone at the house and all was well. Leah got some help from Hank Claybourn who came out on the retrieve and by about 7:30PM we were out of the field. We stopped for Ice Cream and supper at the Dairy Queen on the way home and the trailer was tied down by sunset.

There was no one left at the field when I got home but it appeared that a lot of the 1-26's landed out, many of them got aero retrieves home.  I'm not sure how my distance will compare but we'll find out in the morning. It looks like Francois was the winner again today and Kevin Anderson, 192, managed to make it around even after he took a really late start. This is a great rebound for him after a real bummer of a day yesterday. I'm sure we'll have some great stories in the morning. We'll be up early to rig.  Here is a picture of me and YYY in our pasture today.

Todays flight:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

13.5 Meter Super Regionals Day 1

Well Day 1 is history and it was an interesting one. We woke up this morning to overcast skies and a generally pessimistic forecast. Still the possibility of unlimited development if it got hot enough and a forecast temperature of somewhere between 87 and 95 degrees depending on which weather guesser you believed. Daniel Sazhin, our weatherkid for the contest was on the pessimistic side but perhaps that was because it wasn't his day to fly #428, he was leaving that to team-mate Ron Schwartz.  We decided to grid at 1PM.

The sniffer struggled at first and launch was delayed but eventually everyone was up and interestingly no one landed for a relight until the entire grid had launched. Unfortunately though there was something like 6 relights, including one pilot twice. Conditions were weak and it was tough to get two good thermals in a row before the start. I got lucky at 1500 AGL just west of the airport and caught a good one just as the gate was opening. Off I went to the west, gaggling with Bob Hurni (190), Tom Barkow (264), and Pete Vredenburg (483 Bulldog) along the way.  The 1-26's kept heading west but I turned more southwest down towards Lake Whitney.

It seemed to me that it was fairly blue back towards TSA but further to the south there were more clouds so I decided to continue running south-ish until it looked like I had a good line back. I also wanted to get to the point where I would be solidly over time because I felt that I would be able to make decent speed back into the wind using streets and the like and make up some time.  I was doing very well going downwind and was averaging 53 mph when I finally turned back.

I saw Francois Pin out by Lake Whitney, on his way back to TSA. He commented after we landed that I was headed the wrong direction :) He managed to find some great lines and smoked us around the course.  Running back into the wind was very challenging for me and for the 1-26er's as I started to hear more and more land out chatter on 123.3.  The first landout had occurred right after the start opened and more and more gliders were getting collected.  From the sounds of things the retrieve desk and clubhouse in general were an exciting place to be.

On the way back the only glider I ever saw was Ron Schwartz, 428 Team, just northeast of Itasca. I was taking a thermal for everything I could get, he took a few turns and continued on. I was sure that I was going to see him in a field somewhere along the way but sure enough he made it home.  Perhaps he really does have some magic in those wings.  I made it to the final steering point, Maypearl, without enough altitude to comfortably make TSA. I needed a few hundred more feet to be able to get a good finish at 500 feet. I could see Bill Vickland (238) in a field just a few miles from the finish and I thought I was going to join him! I had the Leger private airport in range and it seemed I was just on the edge of a straight in landing at TSA, but I needed to be at 500 feet 1 mile out to get a good finish. I managed to find a few puffs of weak thermals along the way and squeeked in at 600 feet and comfortably made a straight in landing.  What a flight!

Turns out there were about 5 of us that finished the task, including 2 1-26's.  Milt Moos (578) wasn't sure if he was going to make the finish until just a mile or two before and was very pleased to make it.  Francois (FP) showed us all how it was done, beating me by 5 handicapped mph. I'm sure tomorrow morning we'll get plenty of good landout stories. When we left the club house this evening many were still out on retrieves. Supper this evening was full of interesting stories about retrieves gone good and bad.

Weather is supposed to improve from here on out so hopefully we'll have more finishers and fewer landouts as the days go on.

Todays flight:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

13.5 Meter Super Regionals Practice Day 2

The weather forecast this morning wasn't too optimistic with our weatherman Daniel predicting major thunderstorm development and the National Weather Service pretty much backing that up. We had a lot of rain overnight too so I was generally feeling not so wild about flying. It seemed to me that it would be a weak day of running away from storms, likely landing out, and generally wearing out Leah, Amy, and I before the contest started. So YYY stayed in its trailer and I just hung out at the clubhouse all day.  There were about 6 or so that did fly, including an Apis, a few PW-5's and several 1-26's. It was hard to stick for the first few who launched and not many people ventured out. CD Jim did put together a TAT and Cathy Williams in 1-26 #96 did fly it. Unfortunately she landed out although I think that the 96 Team of Cathy and Mel have gotten that out of their system. Mel landed out yesterday, preferring to land elsewhere than come back to TSA in the middle of a rainstorm. Others mainly flew locally, I heard cloudbase was around 3500 although it seemed to lift later in the day. Jim Lamb in his Silent 2 was the last to land and we enjoyed a yummy chicken dinner and the safety meeting.

Leah and Amy took advantage of my voluntary no-fly day by making a shopping trip to Dallas.  I did get some wiring fixed on the trailer so all the lights are working again. We'll be up early to rig and be ready for the contest day tomorrow. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

13.5 Meter Super Regionals Practice Day 1

We arrived on Sunday here at TSA for the 13.5 Meter Super Regionals/1-26 Championships.  The weather forecast was a bit iffy today with pretty much a guarantee for blowups later in the afternoon.  We had a practice pilot meeting and a practice task so we could practice flying and the scorer could practice scoring. The task was a 2.5 hr MAT with mandatory first turn at Luscombe Acres and final steering point at Maypearl.  I took off first around 1:30. Conditions near the airport were iffy because of some higher cloud cover but I found a small climb and then found a good climb near the edge of the start circle by Maypearl.

I was really  happy to have a MAT as I've only ever flown one before and it was good to have the practice.  There are a ton of close in turnpoints which turned out to be a bit too tempting as I started picking up a bunch of turnpoints without really building up much distance.  I was out in cloud-land while TSA still seemed to be in a big hole so I did my best to pick a direction that seemed to have good clouds and a turnpoint. I got just west of the Interestate and then did a couple North/South runs between Grandview and Hillsboro airport.  I had an awesome sort of low save at Itasca, finding a thermal off town that strengthened from 2 knots to a 7 knot average at one point. After getting back to Hillsboro the Oudie was still showing me about 4 minutes under but there were a few clouds sort of in the direction of TSA and I had heard Daniel Sazhin and Kevin Anderson call that they were landing.  I was starting to wonder about making it home and decided that 4 minutes under wasn't too bad. I found a good climb to cloudbase east of Hillsboro that put me right on the edge of a glide to TSA.  There wasn't much looking good on the way so I didn't worry about trying to pick up a final turnpoint before the steering point. I managed to bump up in a few weak thermals on the way and made the glide comfortably with a good finish slightly above minimum height.

We checked the forecast and decided to put YYY back in the trailer. Just after closing the door it started to sprinkle. By the time we were up to the clubhouse it was a steady rain, just as a Ventus landed. Then it turned to downpour. I ran out to hold down his wing and got a good soaking in the process. It was nice and cool though after a hot day.  At supper it rained more and more. Doubt there will be much flying tomorrow.  Hopefully things will dry out for Day 1 on Wednesday. I did check around and didn't find Frank Paynter anywhere so I don't know what the deal is with the rain ;)

Here is my flight from today:

Kowbell 2012 Continued

Kowbell, as some of you know, is always held on the first Saturday after the first full moon after the Summer Solstice. I look forward to it every year.  This year I decided to fly the Cherokee since we were immediately going to the 13.5 meter regionals after Kowbell.  My goal was to generally fly south towards Midlothian.

Like most Kowbell's, pilots and crew showed up plenty early to get ready for the day.  YYY had been assembled all week and after my 300km flight on Friday I had tied it outside next to the trailer so it was ready to go. Leah and I had help from my sister Amy and in not much time we had the glider ready and the trailer hooked up, tires checked etc. and the only thing left was to fly.  Everyone had moved their gliders to the runway and we were all either waiting for the weather to get good or someone to get in line.  There were cu showing to the south and west but none near the airport as we were under some cirrus cover.  No one was willing to take the chance that they could make the glide to the clouds and we weren't really sure there was any blue lift working at the airport. The wind was basically dead calm.

Finally KC and Lauren decided it was time to go so we all lined up. I was third and with two towplanes running the launch was quick.  I released into good lift and got a climb to 10,000 feet before heading west.I initially followed US 54 towards Pratt but just north and to the west of there was a big shadow with some large rain showers. I got the glider a little wet but stayed in left and turned a little more south. I alerted the girls that we were headed more south and they turned off the highway.  I was able to stay high without any issues until I got near the Cimarron River valley.  The river itself was dry but the valley gave me problems with some big sink and a couple low-ish saves. At least they were low relative to the rest of the flight.

Finally I was back up and running and ended up on a line more or less direct to Amarillo.  I still had Diamond Distance hopes although I was averaging in the 40-45 mph range and I would need to find more speed or have a really long flight.  I was doing good though usually staying between 8 and 10,000 feet until I got to the north edge of the Candian River. By then I had out flown the girls and had sent them a text message saying to go for Amarillo.

The Canadian is pretty beautiful from the ground I'm sure and absolutely terrifying from the cockpit of a low performance glider.  Without enough altitude to comfortably cross and cloud shadows closing in around me I decided to stay over the farm land and set off across a shadow to the sunlight to the west.  There was a line of clouds that appeared to have lift in the shade along with a few rain showers.  Once again we got wet but there was a lot of lift and I was around 11,000 feet when I got to the sunlight. Unfortunately there weren't many clouds and I couldn't figure out the ones that were there.  We were on final glide whether I knew it or not and ended up landing in a cut wheat field west of Morse, TX. Total distance was 242 miles, a new personal best for me and a new record for YYY, just a bit longer than last summers flight to Goodland.

Leah and Amy hadn't gotten my 2nd text about going west so they were still headed for Amarillo when I landed.  It didn't take long to get them headed the right direction and after an hour or so they found me and we had the glider loaded up and were out of the field by sunset and on the road towards Dallas for the 13.5 meter regionals.  It was a great Kowbell and one for the record books. Andrew Peters earned Diamond Distance in his LS-3 and Steve Leonard broke the long standing Kansas Free Distance record with his flight to Pecos, TX, something like 550 miles.

Here is where everyone landed:

View Kowbell 2012 in a larger map

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Kowbell 2012

Don't have time for a full report but Kowbell 2012 was literally one for the record books. Many state records fell. My flight was 242 miles, good for 5th of 9, I landed a few miles west of Morse, TX in a cut wheat field. Leah and Amy didn't have too much trouble finding me and we were out of there before sunset. It was an interesting day with lots of over developed clouds, big shadows and weird winds.  Here is my flight:

This is my new personal best distance and of course now the furthest that YYY has ever flown.  Still working on that 260 miles that is the best ever done in a Cherokee II, by Jim Hard, and of course, Diamond Distance. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

300 km FAI Triangle!

Today I declared a 300km FAI Triangle from Sunflower to Anthony to Haviland and back to Sunflower. The forecast was looking good, we had a towpilot, so i took the day off work.  There were about 6 of us who flew today.

I took the first launch, shortly after the first few cu briefly appeared.  Steve was quick to point out that with the current temp/dewpoint those cu were up around 8000 feet so I pulled onto the runway and got ready.  I got a perfectly located climb to get me a good run through the start gate and another few climbs right away to get up and going. The first leg was directly into a 15 mph wind.

Like last Sunday, the run into the wind was not too tough as there were lots of thermals and 'mini' streets where I could run straight ahead while climbing.  I averaged about 34 mph to Anthony and had no major low points. I did have one great thermal just west of the dump at Harper, a well known lift generator.  Turning west from Anthony there was a fairly good sized blue hole to cross, the "Vee of Death" caused by the salt flats down in northern OK.  There was still lift in the blue though and a few cloud wisps led the way across. Lauren Rezac, YA, out on the same task for his Gold Distance and Diamond Goal, mentioned that that was a pretty big blue hole. I noted that it was a lot bigger for me than it was for him!

Back in cloud-land i lined up several clouds and was able to run for several miles while climbing straight ahead. i wasn't particularly high, 5-6000 feet but since I wasn't really going down I wasn't too worried. Finally after running along that I hit a thermal that was showing 8 knots for a while so I decided it would be worth it to stop and climb.  Bob Holliday in OO joined in under me and we both enjoyed a great climb.  It weakened to less than 5 knots at 10,000 feet and I cracked open the oxygen bottle for the first time this year.  Unfortunately that would end up being my high point for the flight as I was never able to find lift that stayed strong enough to go that high.  Usually the thermals were weakening around 8000 feet.

I got to Haviland without too much trouble and it was familiar skies back to Sunflower. I was making great time and there were still lots of clouds along the way, not totally blue like last weekend.  I got to the Pratt airport and carried on.  I had a slight tailwind which was helping and I was trying to avoid getting blown north of Sunflower and having to backtrack into the wind.  I did have my only real nervous low point, down about 2000 AGL about 25 miles from Sunflower, however I found a weak climb and got back to within 1000 feet of final glide.  I needed 25:1 to make Sunflower so I started to fly very carefully and between the lift and the tailwind was actually doing better than that.  I was down to a 23:1 glide at Anthony where I found a 4 knot thermal and took it until the computer was showing me 800 feet over a 500 foot arrival.  I bombed away and finished at 1500 AGL after running the last 15 miles at 80 mph. What fun!

The flight was awesome for me in many ways.  I have always wanted to do a Diamond Goal flight in the Cherokee just to prove that it can be done.  I had a lot of fun finishing another good closed course flight in the glider and it was great practice for the upcoming 13.5 meter contest.  The most amazing thing about the flight today was just how easy it was!  With such fantastic conditions I was able to fly nearly 200 miles without ever being too concerned about not making it back. Incredible!  I averaged 42 mph for the flight and my circling % on task was a mere 27%.  Statistically I think only my flight on the last day at Region 10 can beat this one and really for me the flights are in the same category.

Here is the flight:

Picture after landing:

Tomorrow is Kowbell, the 50th edition of this great free distance contest.  YYY is rigged and ready to go tomorrow, Leah and my sister Amy are crewing for me and from wherever I land we will head for Midlothian, TX and the 13.5 meter Super Regionals. I'll do my best to post daily updates from the contest, we're looking forward to it!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Good weekend

I had the entire weekend available this weekend to fly and intended to take advantage of it.  Saturday was a bit windy and we were still under the influence of a really annoying inversion. Leah came out to the gliderport and helped me rig YYY and then left for Oklahoma City to go to a rowing regatta on Sunday. It turned out I was the only one at the club who even took a tow Saturday, I made one good climb to 4200 MSL while drifting rapidly downwind, found some lift running straight back into the wind, got a mile or two upwind, and landed after 45 minutes.  It was work! Flight here:

Sunday ended up being a completely different atmosphere, although I wasn't expecting it at first. I saw small puddles of water on the ramp at the gliderport when I arrived and was slightly depressed that there had been a light rain there the night before.  I knew there had been storms out in NW Kansas but didn't realize the precip went that far out.  I was expecting a repeat of Saturday, or maybe worse. We were all a little surprised that Cu started popping at about 12:30 and I was happy that my glider had been assembled and spent the night in the Hangar. I pulled out to the runway and was the first to take off. i'm glad I didn't wait any longer. I declared a triangle flight of just over 140 miles, this is a pretty typical route that our club members fly, from Harper to Pratt and back to Sunflower.

The wind was straight south at about 20 mph, a direct headwind for the 45 mile leg to Harper. However there were lots of thermals and lots of clouds and I was able to do extended runs while flying in lift, practically holding altitude and making progress on course. When I would find something really strong I would circle but otherwise I pressed on.

The sky started to dry out once I got to Harper and there were bigger areas of blue. I followed the clouds slightly north (and downwind) of the course line and without too much trouble made it to Pratt although it was frustrating having to go back into the wind to get the turnpoint.

From there the previous great sky of clouds had turned into occasional wisps way up high. It is tough finding the lift in this case because the source is somewhere way upwind and the cloud is downwind of where the thermal will be at your altitude. It is easy to miss the thermal altogether. I switched to survival mode and basically took any workable lift I could find. It was still working at Sunflower based on one pilots report of being at 9500 MSL. I had been as high as 9200 earlier. I kept creeping along. About 1/3 of the way back my rental PowerFLARM beeped and indicated a Mode C transponder within a mile and 100 feet vertical of me. I was circling at the time and quickly spotted a Cessna cruising at 5500. I made a call in the blind on 122.8 and got ahold of him. He saw me and seemed surprised to see a glider 35 miles from the gliderport. I told him I had already been to Harper and Pratt and was trying to make it home.

I got the last climb which turned into a pretty good one about 17 miles west of the airport. I took it as high as I could which left me with the computer saying I would have 1500 feet on arrival. I was comfortable with that as it gave me some margin in case I hit big sink. I bombed away on final glide and ended up diving at 70-80 mph the whole way just to get down, and finished at 1500 AGL. Success!

While I was scratching on that last leg the people at Sunflower were on the radio seeming a bit concerned that they were going to have to come get me. The towpilot did offer to come tow me home but then I pointed out that there were no airports between me and home and I was not going to backtrack to Pratt and give up. Another one of our pilots did land at Kingman and was towed home.

Here is the flight:

And a lousy cell phone picture after landing: