Tuesday, June 21, 2011

2011 Rat Race - Day 2 - Task 2

Today’s Rat Race task was a 62Km task with 2 crossings of the Ruch valley and then a beat upwind to John’s Peak (North of Jacksonville) then a downwind leg to Immigrant Lake via Donato.  A restriction of 6000’ in the area of the Medford final approach corridor.

Many of us got into the cue early and got up at Woodrat Peak and were bouncing off a rather snotty inversion at 5200’.  Rather than bounce around at the top-of-lift and wait for another 50 wings to form under us, a group headed across the valley to the start cylinder at Rabies Peak.  We had 45 minutes or so to kill so pre-positioning seemed like a smart move.  The conditions, upon arrival at Rabies Ridge were dismal.  I found myself low on the ridge and fought for 15 minutes as I slowly worked my way down to a height that required an approach to landing.

Here’s the short list of absolutely stupid things I did and how I feel my decisions should have been changed.

  • I tried to make an early transition while flying with R11s.  They will always have more time and options upon arrival at the ridge.  

  Try to make tricky transitions with wings that have similar performance, so you have friends at your altitude.

  •  I put myself in a committed position that slowly (insidiously) put me on the leeward side of the ridge, with limited landing options and dismal flying conditions.

   I had never been low in this area (China Gulch) before, and really didn’t want to be there - but I put myself there.  Dumb, Dumb, Dumb.

  •   Once it became obvious that I was loosing ground (altitude) and facing a glide into a shallow ‘gulch’ with a couple of useable LZs, I allowed myself to fight until only one, marginal LZ remained available to me.  As I got closer to landing, it was obvious that the LZ was short, downhill, had wires at the end.  None of these things were unknown to me, but the combination was much tighter than I expected. The approach was over trees and very critical - overshooting wasn’t and option.
  In retrospect, this LZ was unusable. The consequences of a low hit, a pop of lift, or any rotor, while maneuvering as close to the obstacles and stall point were not pretty.

  • Once the ‘gravity’ of the situation was fully realized (what had I been thinking?)  I managed to fly around one oak tree, through a narrow gap (not a wingspan wide) and then used the ‘butterfly’ method to make the wing draggy enough to get down in the remaining *downhill* field.  Fortunately I know this wing (Avax XC3) well,  it’s an honest wing that allows tickling the edge of stall. 
If this plan hadn’t got well - The options were a tree, wires, or parachutage from 15 feet.   Fortunately everything went well and I walked away with an intact body and kit. 

Shortly after moving my gear to the shade of a tree the landowner, Judy, came by and offered a ride.  I hopped in her car and she told me I was always welcome to land in her field.  I responded, “Judy, there is no way I’ll EVER land in that field again, but thanks much.”

Meanwhile, those that made the start, were working their way to John’s Peak and found that the entire complexion of the air had changed in the Medford Valley.  All dirted on the way to Immigrant Lake.  No one made goal today.

There were some fun stories told around the HQ this evening.  A couple of the top pilots had incorrect radii on the Rabies Pk.  Another forgot to tag Woodra before heading to John’s Peak.  And another had to go back to tag the missed Donato point. 

I got minimum distance (I believe this is a first for me) and decided that I would reflect on my mistakes rather than rush up the hill to relaunch among the sprint crowd.  I had made enough mistakes for the day -

Winner for the day was Nick Greece, who made it 50Km.  2nd was Farmer, 3rd was Nate Scales, 4th Hayden Glatte on a Serial GTO, 5th was Josh Cohn.  No one made goal in the Rat Race task.

Results are at http://flyxc.org/2011RatRace.html

The Sprint race was a 27 Km task that stayed close to Woodrat and ended at the same goal field as yesterday. 

It's a new day and I'm looking forward to flying again -



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