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Monday, July 9, 2012

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

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