Wednesday, June 27, 2007

U.S. Nats Day 3 - Second Task

I woke up this morning feeling good - I had placed 19th in the first task of the US Nats! I made some good decisions & got lucky at the right times. Nobody made goal yesterday and there was a good distribution along the course-line. For at least today, I'm on the top sheet of the standings.

We got to the launch around 11:30 and the winds were perfect for launch. SW winds were forecast at altitude & I should have put more weight in my strategy to the winds. The Task was a 13.5 mile Xwind run to Cutoff & then a downwind 28 mile run to Plush & Flagstaff Lake. I had a great start, leaving the start cylinder at 3 seconds after the start time. Then I made a rookie mistake that screwed my whole flight.

My exit from the start was right on the course-line which meant that my first thermal climb to 11,000' took me downwind of the course-line. I'd penetrate upwind until finding the next thermal & then drift downwind until the climb petered out & then penetrate upwind until low enough I needed a climb & then do it all over again. . .and again. It became painfully apparent that I wasn't going to be able to get to the waypoint without dirting. I got a mile away from the point but couldn't get there against the increasing headwinds.

I watched many gliders hit the deck trying to head upwind, landing in tiger country (you don't know how far out "the boonies" are in Lakeview) so I swallowed my pride & turned xwind for a great spot with grass next to the main road. Getting to goal from the turnpoint was very doable in the 15 kt. tailwind - I just couldn't get to the turnpoint.

As it turns out, a LOT of folks had problems with the wind today - the results are out for task 2. I placed 35th today which puts me at 29th overall. I'm very happy with the points, but consider my flight today to be less than I'm capable of. Every task I've blown this last 10 days has been due to major mental lapses. Decision making - above all else - is what makes a consistent pilot & a contest winner. Guys like Josh Cohn, Eric Reed, and Bruce Goldsmith all use their noodles to consistently win diverse tasks that require more than good climbs and fast flying - they win with their brains. I aspire to achieve some level of experience & XC intelligence that will help me to improve my results.

On a more esoteric theme - I'm feeling the flying more this week. I mentioned the steep learning curve I was experiencing at the Rat Race last week. The curve has gone near vertical at Lakeview. The quality of the competition & camaraderie is conducive to fast information exchange. My paraglider flying experience is limited to about 3 years & only in the last two have I flown XC regularly. The 2-week full-immersion learning experience I've had is priceless.

I hope we fly more this week - the wind is forecast to blow, though.


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