Saturday, July 12, 2008

Task Five, and Awards Party

Today was another tough day - very hard to get high in the Ruch valley. I got maybe 5000, and then headed across to tag the first turnpoint, but bombed out shortly after that. June worked hard but came short of the turnpoint and joined me in the LZ. Czech Pete took a different approach, over Burnt ridge, but ended up bombing out before long. Nick made a few more turnpoints, but wasn't able to put it all together to get out of the valley towards goal in the Rogue valley. Next time!

Our host Paul had his best comp results ever - fourth overall, and top regional pilot. He was the only guy in the top twelve overall flying a certified (2-3) wing. Local knowledge and experience really made a difference with this tough high pressure weather.

While the party got started, a few of us ran up to fly the glass off again, including former Hawaii pilot Troy, who just moved to the Woodrat area with his wife Carey a few weeks ago. We landed just in time for the awards presentation, to cheer for our XC heroes, as well as for Brad's ritual swimming pool dunkings after the winners were announced. Since Brad came in second, he had to be dunked too - Reaper and Tom Chestnut and a few others pooled their brawn to make sure of that.

Day Six - Cancelled

We waited on the hill most of the day as the task committee revised the task three times, finally calling the day because the conditions just didn't seem to support a safe valid task for the competition. The northeasterly wind direction would have created some potentially tricky leeside areas in the valleys, and the committee didn't want the newer competitors to risk a distance flight in those conditions. But a lot of us launched anyway, and enjoyed a nice flight over the Ruch valley, soaring the convergence above the vineyard, and finally landing there to show our appreciation for the local terroir.

Later a bunch of us ran up to soar the glass-off from mid launch, benching up to ride the lifting air over the valley at about the altitude of the summit launch, as the sun sank over the mountains. Even Mike Haley came up and flew. I'll upload a few pictures if I get a chance.

We're all hoping that Saturday gives us a great task for the last possible day.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Task Four

Finally a real racing day. All the Hawaii pilots got up and got high, finally cracking 7 grand here, and we were all able to run at least partway along the course. I don't think any of us made it to the third turnpoint - I was headed that way, but retreated back towards the valley when it was clear I was too low in the strong headwind to get back up safely, and landed . . . at the vineyard again. I've landed there more often than anywhere else in the comp. I shared a nice bottle of Syrah with Conrad from Seattle while waiting for retrieve. The valley winds got quite strong today and people who were trying to work low on the ridges were getting into trouble - three pilots (at least) ended up in trees, thankfully unhurt. An exciting day for everyone - glad the weather is finally giving us some good conditions to get high.

June's Story from Task 3

Today was interesting. In the launch line, I overheard two of the excellent local pilots strategizng to go left off of launch. I looked around and decided that would be a good plan, too, although a bit trickier for me with my lesser skills. They both made it up high right away, but I struggled to join them. As my scratching took me over a clearing on the hill (clear of tall trees anyway), I contemplated my now limited landing options. Two verboten fields were in easy reach while other allowable LZ's were a long glide over numerous spines with tall trees. I decided I'd prefer to take my chances working the bare patch, and if I didn't go up from there, then do a sidehill landing and possibly hike back up to relaunch.

The sidehill landing went well, except that my glider was too entangled in the brush to be extracted in time before the task launch window closed. I was not the least bit concerned about the hike until I started to remember about the bears, cougars, and coyotes. And then there was the reminder on the radio about the poison oak -- which I've never seen before. So I hiked carefully, and when I got back to headquarters, I was ordered to take a cold shower with the abrasive "tecno" soap. Penance for not landing in a regular LZ by a road I suppose. BTW, both of those local pilots made goal, one in first place. So perhaps the plan wasn't so misguided, just poorly executed by me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Day Four, Task Three

A very tough day. The task committee revised the task to a less ambitious course just before the launch window opened, and they moved the window back in hopes that the air would start to lift better. But the high pressure continued to dominate. It wasn't a gaggle around launch today so much as a swarm - gliders sinking and swirling all around the ridge. June got herself low around Woodrat Peak (west of launch) and ended up on the ridge, unhurt but in the bushes somewhere below the peak.

I struggled to stay up near launch for a while but finally ended up sinking down below mid launch, almost ready to set up for the LZ, when I caught something strong and serious that seemed worth turning in for one last chance. Sure enough, me and another guy got back up above launch height, from down at the LZ, but we lost it soon after. After I lost it I made one attempt to head towards Burnt ridge, where some pilots had headed early to get pretty high, but I hit a wall of sink and had to turn back for the LZ.

Nikki hasn't been heard from since he launched - I assume he is one of the few pilot still out on course. More details later. I imagine the reports from June and Nick will be way more interesting than mine today!


Timing is everything. Today, luck favored those who waited. I can thank Reaper mostly for this one. He convinced me to wait on launch until another up-cycle. Everyone was slowly getting flushed and my strategy of immediately going to Burnt mountain to tank up depended on me getting slightly above launch and then bee-lining it over there.

I launched and struggled with a few shredding thermals. I found one halfway down the mountain and took it straight up. The other pilots saw my discovery and started to stream towards me. It felt good to be on top of the gaggle! Well, since I was above launch, I decided to leave the waning lift and head directly to Burnt. This accomplished two things: one, I could start heading toward somewhere useful before the sink cycle got fully developed; and two, I could leave before someone out-climbed me. :) I arrived at Burnt to turning gliders and immediately started climbing. Got to about 5500' (launch is 3750') and headed towards Rabies Peak. There was plenty of lift at Rabies too. I managed to get enough altitude to make it back to launch and bee-line straight to Burnt with no turns! This battle to get up at Burnt was more difficult than the last. I arrived slightly below the ridge and the thermals were pretty bullet-like. Another glider flew towards me and we climbed together in the ratty thermal. I then took a huge collapse, more than 50% and lost some altitude and it pointed me out of the thermal. I turned back to the thermal to find that strong lift, but it was very ratty. I decided to abandon that thermal and head north along the ridge to find the same sweet stuff I worked on my previous trip there. I found it and was in convergence heaven. Straight to 7000' and then must have hit the inversion more beeps. I then flew back to Rabies Peak and hit that turn point and found another thermal to tank up. Now came the critical decision: should I head back to Burnt and tank up there before the goal or try to make goal straight on? Well one thing that was egging me in the back of my mind was whether or not I hit the Burnt turn cylinder. It was a huge turn cylinder (1km), but I was not paying attention to my distance when I was working it. I decided to keep climbing until my GPS showed an 8:1 glide ratio to goal. I figured that would be enough to get me there with the forecasted tailwind.

Final glide to goal was a nervous affair. The forecasted tailwind was only about 10-15 km/hr. My ground speed was about 46-50km/hr. As I got deeper into the valley (of goal), my tail wind advantage started to diminish. My GPS was showing that I was only getting about 7:1 glide ratio, when I needed about 8:1 at this time. Those trees were getting awfully big! I knew I should head towards the edges of the valley to get some bumps off the spines, but the reserve deployment during the first task in this same exact area was fully in my mind. I convinced myself that since the valley winds weren't so strong, the rotor would be minimal. I gingerly moved over to the spines. The LZ was around the corner in the valley, so I still couldn't see it. Thank god that I had made goal on the first task and was familiar with the area. I would have felt extremely uncomfortable trying to find goal and squeak in there with little altitude to spare. Well, the spines helped me and kept giving me little boosts here and there. I tried to turn in one of them and got dumped pretty hard out the side. It was a little ratty near the foothills, but they gave me the altitude I needed. I arrived at goal with enough altitude for one S-turn and landing. Goal!!! Another score for the Hawaii team. I later checked my GPS for the Burnt turn cylinder and found that I made it with no problems!

End Nickspeak

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Day Three - Cancelled

After waiting up at the launch today for about four hours, the task committee cancelled the task due to high pressure conditions and wind from a tricky direction. None of the wind technicians were staying up. But after they cancelled the task, everyone launched for a sled ride down to the LZ. It turned out to be soarable, and it got better as the afternoon wore on, although it was windy. I made it to the vineyard again, and I hit some huge convergence lift right over it as I was hoping to land. What a dilemma! But I chickened out and spiralled down to land just behind Rick Ray. Nick and Czech Pete joined us at the vineyard for a bottle of sparkling wine. Another educational day at a very complicated mountain site.

Second task day

Another challenging day, high pressure still building, no clouds, ratty bullet thermals capped by a low inversion. They called a similar task to yesterday. June and Nick both had a much tougher time following the course, and ended up at the LZ pretty early. Somehow I got to the right place (high) at the right time (start opening) and got a good early position to head out. I made four of the six turnpoints before goal but ended up pushing low into a strong headwind for the fifth one. I was high enough to scout a decent field for outlanding, and I just happened to pick . . . the big field behind the Longsword vineyard. Oh please, don't throw me in the briar patch! Turns out there was a pilot already there, relaxing in the shade under a tree, and he is a former student of Scottie Gee on the Big Island, living in Mexico now. June and Nick and Czech Pete joined me for a few bottles of wine at the vineyard, and then we went back to HQ to turn in our GPS units for scoring. What a nice day. I'll post pictures as soon as I can.