Saturday, June 30, 2007

U.S. Nats Day 7 - We gave it a go . . .

We gave it a go today - Strong & crossed winds at launch and weak lift. The task called was a 100k downwind run.

I didn't like conditions at launch. The wind was crossed & gusting to at least 15 at times. The lulls were allowing launches so I decided to stay on the ground & see what kind of drift the guys were dealing with. My strategy was to launch after the start window opened & simply exit the start cylinder while making my first climb - that is, IF the conditions at launch improved. The conditions when the start opened were gusty & strong so I held back. About 10 minutes before the launch window closed the wind lulled considerably & I got my helmet on & was heading to launch when I was told the task was canceled. This was a good call since the lead gaggles were drifting a lot & only getting ratty climbs to about 1000' over launch. I saw two pretty impressive collapses in front of launch that illustrated the tough conditions in the lift. . .I was glad to stay on the hill.

The cumulative results are at

Top three are:

Frank Brown
Dean Stratton
Kyndel Banister

3 tasks in 7 days.

I'm finishing up in 27th place overall. 3rd place in both Serial Class & Masters Class. Dave is in 47th place.

Fly safe,

Friday, June 29, 2007

U.S. Nats Day 6 - Lakeview blows even more

Today was a no fly day. Winds at launch are forecast to be 15 kts. & winds aloft forecasts predict winds at 9000’ & 12,000’ to 30-40 kts. Tomorrow, the last day of the comp, is supposed to have light Southerly winds but winds aloft may still be strong.

The last two tasks were brutal for those of us on DHV 2 wings since we were unable to get to a point in space that would allow us to reach the turn point upwind of the working course line. The task committee had to assign the turn point to keep the 65 competitors near the main roads, but the tasks were near impossible for most. I’m hoping for a task tomorrow that will challenge my skills & decision making rather than the penetration performance of my wing. Don’t get me wrong – the second task did have three DHV 2 wings in goal – it was doable that day & I made a rookie mistake getting downwind of the proper line. But the third task just seemed to be impossible for the slower wings since we had to be flying South of the course line to make the turn point and there just wasn’t any lift there.

Considering the above, I’m feeling good about the way I’ve flown the tasks assigned. In a couple cases I didn’t go very far (18.5 K) but given the circumstances – I gave it a good effort & am happy I just got over the back & on course.
These two down days have allowed Dave & me to get out & see the countryside around Lakeview and, I’ve got to say, it is beautiful country. I’m writing this while sitting in the sun in a 100 acre meadow that I flew over the last two tasks. You can get to the boonies in 15 minutes around here – for the ME that’s a hermit, this could be heaven. I imagine the winters can be cold & long here, but the spring & summer is great. Dave’s out on another walkabout & I’m just relaxing – it could be worse ;-)

If you are reading this blog & are considering competitions, I would highly recommend them for improving your skills & increasing the quality of your flights. At some point, boating around your local site may get a bit tedious, as it did for me. When that happens, you need to have the skills, equipment, & experience to safely fly your first XC. One of the best places to fly your first XC is at a local comp. Generally, the first couple of waypoints are nearby with small valley crossings. This will give you experience at starts, strategy & experience using the GPS. Retrieves are usually simple & you’ve 10 guys/gals in the area with radios that can help you out. The best aspect of comps is the exchange of information by the finest XC pilots. At this Nat’s I’ve had the opportunity to talk with Frank Brown, Eric Reed, Josh Cohn, Dean Stratton, and many other top 20 pilots. The Rat Race was more geared for mentoring, but it’s hard to avoid learning just lurking & listening. Don’t be shy & don’t stop learning. Cross country flying is very challenging and very rewarding. Competitions are just a simple way to get in the air with a safety net that is organized.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

U.S. Nats Day 5 - Lakeview blows some more

No flying today & probably not tomorrow either. . .The wind sure does blow in this area. Dave & I went to the pilot meeting at 8:45, gathered our morning smoothies (Thanks Gail) & listened to the 10 pilots who made goal yesterday tell their tales. The scorers presented a nice flight analysis which showed the relative position & speeds of each of the top 3 finishers. We all applauded the accomplishment of these ten guys who completed the longest task in US paragliding comp history, 145 kilometers.

Yesterday I placed 26th for the day. For the day, I was 4th in the masters class & 2nd in the serial class. I'm now sitting 27th overall & very happy. My flying is improving and I believe that I'm thinking more about attacking the tasks rather than following gaggles. I still want to complete a task here, so it looks like Saturday will be the day for that.

Dave & I went to the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce to ask about hikes & were treated to a great tour & food orientation of the area. I've never seen folks so happy to have a bunch of paraglider pilots in their town. We have been constantly told, by shop keepers & locals, how much they enjoy looking up & seeing us launch. This launch is different than most - it's 700' directly above town. Every launch can be seen by EVERYBODY in the small town.

We decided to go hiking in the Gearheart Wilderness area. It's about a 35 min. drive West of town. We picked up some lunch & headed out. We hiked 9 miles total & climbed 1700' in about 3 hours. The scenery was great with pinnacles & palisades amongst thick forest trails. While hiking we ran into Hawaii Ray, Cliff, Frankie, and Tim K. They hiked back with us & shared a beer in the parking lot.

I'm not sure what's on the docket for tomorrow but the wind is forcast to blow & I'll be ready to fly if it doesn't.

Results for the various classes & overall can be found HERE.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

U.S. Nats Day 4 - Third Task

Today, as forecast, the wind was blowing at launch. Conditions were marginal, but there were definite lulls that would allow for safe launches, so a task was called.

The task started with a 13.5 mile leg to Cutoff (the turnpoint I couldn't reach yesterday because I was too far downwind of course line) and then a 75 mile downwind leg that was over Plush & proceeded North.

The Wind Techs launched without trouble & had little luck staying in the air until about noon. Additional Wind Techs were put in the air & they began to find lift but their drift downwind to the North was noticeable. The wind began to come up & most pilots were not too quick to launch. Dave & I launched about 15 minutes before the Start time of the task. We launched into a down cycle & had to grovel for 10 minutes before we found a thermal & started a bumpy, drifty, climb to 9000'. Dave left for better lift & found none & had to side-hill-land for a relaunch. Meanwhile, many pilots were dirting in the LZ out in front of launch.

I continued to search the area for lift & after reading "PATIENCE" on my vario I took a deep breath & realized I would be having fun if I quit being frustrated that I hadn't gone over the back yet. I worked a couple small rough thermals & finally found a smooth 400'/min. core that soon bloomed into 650'/min. steady climb to 9500'. Sam Crocker & I headed over the back towards Cutoff. I was wary of getting downwind of the course line this time. I stayed over the road & took climbs back a bit, but soon penetrated back near the road. I was able to travel 6 miles while working very disorganized lift towards the turn point. Eventually I had to make the decision to either push out towards the road or press on & land in the boonies while maximizing my track towards the point - I chose the latter. Dave has had two long hike-outs & I had none - it was time for me to experience the beauty of SE Oregon's wilderness first-hand.

Eventually I made a nice landing in, what might be called, a meadow. In truth, the slope I landed on was covered in sparse sage with softball & football sized volcanic boulders everywhere. As I approached the clearing I awoke a sleeping coyote & he ran off in a hurry. The landing went well & I made contact with Kevin on the retrieval freq. I told them I'd hike out & meet them at Hwy. 140. . . I was actually looking forward to a bit of a hike.

Today was a day of marginal conditions & contrast. The task was the longest ever called for a US Nationals competition, yet there were many pilots on launch who decided not to fly due to the wind & drift in climbs. There were also many good pilots in the LZ with minimum distance points. I wouldn't have launched if I thought it wasn't safe. Conditions when Dave & I launched were fine. The challenge was climbing high enough to cross over the back of the ridge without drift so far from the course line that I ended up in a position like yesterday's frustrating flight.

I know that at least 6 made goal today - probably a couple more.

My flight is HERE

Results will be HERE soon.

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.


Monday, June 25, 2007

U.S. Nats Day 2 - First Task

Today the wind was light at launch & Dave & I were ready to fly physically & mentally. A task was set early which had an entry cylinder at the Blackcap LZ & then a 29.5 mile leg to Ennis ridge. The next point was 10 miles down-ridge & Xwind to Simms Junction & then 2 miles to goal. I had a good launch & scudded around launch, low, for a while before I got into the gaggles boating around before the start.

The gaggles today were very orderly. After some rather exciting gaggle flying at the
Rat race last week, it was nice to fly with cooperative proficient pilots. I was a couple minutes late at the start & had to get low to get to the cylinder in a timely manner at all. As I climbed up to 11,500' I had a great view of the valley & of Abert Lake & the amazing Abert Rim. The cliffs are 1600' high & are vertical. I hope we head that way this week.

As I continued North along a low ridge, I was able to fly with other pilots & share the responsibility to find lift. The climbs were topping out at lower & lower altitudes as we continued North to the turnpoint. Looking down, I saw many early dirting of some good wings and good pilots that were racing hard in (what was becoming) marginal conditions. Lift was weak as we approached the waypoint and the valley wind was coming from the Abert lake area. I was with a group of gliders that all were in the desperately-looking-for-lift mode. We would scramble for any shard of lift & if anyone had a bubble & began to turn, the rest would pounce. All this effort only extended our flight a couple of miles towards the last turnpoint before goal. I landed in a wonderful field of freshly mowed hay with 5 other gliders. Fortunately a retrieval van pulled up & I hustled to get in it for the long ride home.

In the van I heard many stories of flights, but I began to realize that my flight was one of the better ones. I knew some of the top guys had flown farther than I had, but most pilots hadn't made the Ennis waypoint.

Dave had a similar flight as I had until he got about 10 miles from Ennis. He got low on the ridge & decided to land on the slope in a clear spot & hike out. He and Meredeth hiked about 6 miles to the road for pickup.

No one made it to goal today so it will be a fully weighted day. I'm very happy with my flying today - I was a bit slow, but that helped me pick my way along the course. It was a day of survival & I seem, recently, to be good at those if I am PATIENT.

Tomorrow may be a good day like today.

My flight is HERE

Results will probably be HERE soon.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

U.S. Nats Day 1 - Lakeview blows

Lakeview is an interesting, quaint town located in the high plains of SE Oregon. The landscape is filled with rustic ranches & alkali lake beds - wet & dry. It's the highest town in Oregon (so they say) at 4800'. Launch is at 6200'- a hill overlooking town that is only a ten minute ride up a dirt & gravel road. The wind blows here. . .it blows a lot. The winds were forecast to blow 15-25mph & that's what we had at launch at 12:30pm.

The Black Cap launch is a bit rough. There is a very nice road & a slope that's been cleared of boulders. The boulders are stacked down where the slope gets even shallower. It's not that high off the valley floor & it can be a stretch to make the LZ.

A task was called & it was a short downwind dash to a town called Plush. We hoped to get off the hill in lulls & manage a fairly safe flight. I had already suited up (to stay warm) but was not feeling good about things on launch. It seemed to me that there were going to be 60 guys all trying to get in the air at Start minus 20 minutes in marginal launch conditions. My strategy was to hang back & see how the gaggles were getting up & penetrating upwind to avoid loosing the start cylinder before start, before I launched, & then only launch if I liked the lulls. I wasn't going to screw up the trip with a flight I already didn't like the looks of. The task committee wanted to fly today (as did we all) but conditions were marginal. At 2 pm the task was canceled.

I'm sure some of the competitors would have rather just hucked & competed, but it had great potential for mayhem. The next few days look much better with winds less than 10 kts. & good temps. I expect some good flying in the next couple days. 100k (60 mile) flights aren't out of the realm of possibility.

My camera broke last week, so I'm not sure if I can get photos, I'm working on it.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Rat Race Day 7 - Final Task

I just got into a new Motel room in Lakeview after a 3 hour drive & it's late, so I'll keep it short.

Today the weather was great. The task committee anticipated high winds blowing after 3:30 pm so they designed a task that was doable and then they required all scores to be based on the position of the pilot at 3:15 pm & penalties to those who had not landed prior to 3:30pm. They wanted all pilots on the ground & accounted for by 4 pm.

I flew this task as well as I have flown any before. I only spent 10 minutes on Woodrat before diving over to Burnt Mtn. so the start could be staged correctly. All I needed to do was find lift & get high. . .

The start was a minute or two late but allowed me to renter the lift at Burnt with 20 other pilots working to also get high. I headed to the next turnpoint when a few of the top pilots did but knew they would run away from me on the upwind leg. I was fortunate & found a nice 400'/min. thermal that gave me the 2000' add'l altitude to hit the turnpoint & swing downwind for the glide to Poorman's. When I hit Poorman's I was heading directly for a thermal that two other guys were working. On the way to their thermal, I found one of my own - A 1000'/min. fat, beauty the gave me 2400' in only three minutes and about 9 turns.

Life was good - I had goal made & only 1 more turnpoint & goal to hit. On the way to goal I squeezed about 1/2 speedbar, which I considered to be plenty with the turbulence I was encountering. Some other pilots seemed to be more comfortable on bar. We had one injury & reserve toss today. There were 20 pilots in goal when I landed - I placed 29th for the day!

Results are not on the web yet, but I placed 7th in the Old dude category. In Serial class I was 13th. Overall I was 51st & Dave wasn't much behind me - He had a bad day today, which hurt his score. It's just a warm up for the Nats ;-) Larry N. from Sprinville did a respectable 3rd place in the Old-dude category & went to goal almost every day.

I can't wait for the sun to come up on the dawn of the first day of the US Nationals tomorrow. I ready for some rock & roll flying to 14,000' - I hope all the talk of big air isn't bombast. The main concern over here, is that it's forecast to be windy. We'll see.

Wish Dave & I luck!


The flight is HERE

Results for the last day & cumulative scores will be HERE, soon.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rat Race Day 6

Only two more days. That's what Dave & I were thinking about, on our way to breakfast. Today's task would be the last long one since Saturday, after the awards, everyone going to Lakeview will be heading out for a three hour drive. The weather looked great at launch with cumulus popping in 3 quadrants. The forecast was for winds similar to those that cause the cancellation of yesterday's task.

I really wanted to fly far today and the weather looked like it might allow it. We held a hurry-up pilot's mtg. with the task announced - a 24 mile jaunt across the valley to Rabies - then a run to the Medford Valley with a couple tricky transitions upwind. Then a run to Donato.

I got in line to launch early. When it was my turn, I realized my risers were twisted. I had unhooked to refold my wing the night before & had hooked in wrong - a rookie mistake that cost me time. I wasn't going to compound the error by rushing the setup after fixing the problem, so I lost 15 minutes.

After a routine high wind launch, I worked many weak over-occupied thermals. Many times I left working lift to find less crowded conditions. When I found lift & began to climb, the gaggle would follow & claw for space in the thermal like piranha devouring their prey. I had a decent start & tanked up on altitude at Woodrat Launch. Many pilots tried to glide to Rabies (the next waypoint) only to get drilled as they entered the lee of the ridge. I held back & waited to see if anyone would find lift. Many pilots were landing in the LZ but some were beginning to circle low & it looked like I might be able to scramble back up, if I tried to tag Rabies. I glided to Rabies & was encouraged by decreased sink in a nice lift line along the convergence. When I was 1 mile from the turn point cylinder, I encountered some serious sink that threatened to end my flying day by putting me on the ground. I was .25 miles from the point when I decided I'd had enough sink & turned out (on a different line) to try to salvage the day.

I was watching the LZ below & noticed pilots landing while drifting backwards. The LZ winds were 15 with gusts to 25. Try as I might to avoid the LZ, I landed there & enjoyed the approach & landing.

Dave was also hanging back - but he deserves the prize for most persistence & fortitude in attempting, for better than 2 hours, to reach Rabies against a growing headwind.

Needless to say, I'd have rather made goal. I'm a pragmatist though. Let's just say I'm happy that I had no scares & no regrets in the strenuous conditions. A few other pilots ended in trees & stuck places that required herculean efforts to extricate themselves from harm's way...

There was good company in the LZ. Some sunk out (as I did) some got drilled & then had to deal with rotor that gave them fits, & others just didn't like the conditions.

I think I got a bit more mileage than those that sunk out early, but there were thirty in goal - they deserve every point - it was a tough day.

Larry did about the same mileage as I today but crossed the start 7 seconds early due to a GPS clock problem, so got minimum points. Thanks to Larry for these photos.

I just looked at the RESULTS. So far I'm 6th in the Master's Class & 15th in the Serial class. I'm proud of these standings since this is quality competition.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rat Race Day 5 - Task Cancelled today

Today the winds were forecast to be a blowin' but a 37 mile task was set. Noone was getting up in the valley or over launch so Dave & I decided to delay our launch until much later. When we launched, the task had already started. The top pilots were desperately trying to push away from the start fix since it was a 4km Entry start. None were able to get in a position to even start the task.

Meanwhile, the LZ was reporting some exciting arrivals by the skunked pilots as they arrived. The task was called off at 2:25 & all were relieved - Good Call Mike.

Dave & I will get some laundry done for next week.

Late addition: We attended an informational presentation tonight by Mike Steed to familiarize ourselves with the Lakeview area for next week's US Paragliding Nationals.

Dave & I have been hearing about the "HUGE AIR" in the area & inhospitable conditions all week. It looks like my survival equipment & hiking skills may become important...

In reflection on the last 5 days, I feel very happy with the way I've flown. I've been to goal 3 times (including my solo trip to Donato on Sat.) and have made some good decisions with regard to safety. There have been a number of dramatic accounts, 3 reserve tosses, and one injured pilot hospitalized - all related to "racing" when flying should be the rule of the day. I can say I've not flown anywhere or made decisions I wouldn't have made while flying my home site for fun. Above all I know that the only rule I need to live by is that I need to come home safely. On my flight deck I have the word 'SAFE' written. I must look at it 20 times on a three hour flight.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rat Race Day 4

Today I checked the weather & it looked like a fairly stable day. Our weather guru for the comp said his sources said it might turn out to be a good day. I'm pleased to say, he was right.

While conditions weren't easy, they were exciting and rewarding - I guess that sums up the two things I like to get out of a good XC flight. The task set for today was 43 miles with some late upwind legs that would require some good planning skills. I launched into a good cycle & climbed up to altitude with Dave close by. He & I have been trying all week to fly together without success, but today looked like it might be the day. We climbed up in front of launch & headed over to Rabies Peak for more lift so we could get a good start.

We found the lift we needed over Rabies & climbed to 8000' & proceeded to the start cylinder We were about 6 minutes late, but our altitude & position was impeccable. Dave & I glided back to the ridge low, in search of any lift. He began to circle & climb in light lift so I joined him, slightly below his alt. We climbed together for a bit & Dave decided to see what the other guys were circling in a few hundred yards away - At that point I was concentrating on maximizing my climb & lost track of Dave. When I looked for him, he was nowhere to be found. I assumed he had climbed well & proceeded on course so I pushed on. I ran into Larry N. over Burnt Ridge & we tagged the 3rd turnpoint together. He took a different line than I did to the next fix (I went directly to it & he went North to fly some Cumulus that were forming. I soon needed to tank upon some altitude & ran into Eric B. while thermaling. He & I climbed up high enough to tag the fourth fix & go downwind to the next. This was the beginning of my undoing - I had no business heading downwind low, when the next fix was another 5 miles upwind. I needed to get some altitude soon. I milked what I could from some weak lift & managed to hit Poormans fix but was unable to penetrate upwind. I climbed (drifting downwind all the while) and then lost the altitude while driving into the wind - gaining only .25 to .5 of a mile each time. Eventually I got low enough that I planned a nice landing next to Roger from LA. in a large field.

Today was the kind of day people get stuck places they don't want to get stuck & run out of options and ideas. . . Many pilots had scrapes or narrowly avoided scrapes while clinging to low ridges in swift turbulent winds. I avoided scaring myself today by avoiding such acts of desperation.

I completed 30 miles of the 43 and feel good about the day. I made some miscalculations, but I can feel the learning curve steepen a bit.

Dave, unfortunately, left the lift we had early to find better - only to find very strong turbulent sink. He landed soon after leaving the lift. Larry N. flew around 40 miles today - He's flown well every day.

My standing is now 53rd. Slowly working up the list. At this point I'm 10th in the serial class. I might even be in the top 5 on the "Senior" list. . .Ah it's great to be over 50 ;-)

The flight is HERE

Results for today are HERE
Cumulative results are HERE

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rat Race Day 3

View my flight HERE

Scores for the day are HERE

Cumulative scores are HERE

Today looked great when we stopped for our ritual breakfast sandwiches at the Pony Espresso in Jacksonville. The weather forecast wasn't so hot though. The valley was inverted to 6000' (which means there wouldn't be any lift below 6000' until the valley warmed to at least 78 deg.F.) In addition, the weather forecast called for afternoon winds to freshen to 20 kts. in the valleys.

The task cmty. called a very optimistic task that was almost identical to the 43 mile task called on day 1 of last year's Rat Race. A long leg up/crosswind to grant's Pass OR, followed by a return to the Jacksonville area & a downwind leg to Donato (where I had flown all-by-myself on Sat. for practice.

As the launch window loomed, none of the wind dummies (free fliers who have volunteered to fly in the area & report lift & turbulence conditions) were able to stay in the air & optimism was waning. The task committee revised the task to "Go to Donato whenever you want & plan on a BBQ party when you get there."

We were free to launch & start whenever we wanted. I had a good launch & waffled around the Rat for 20 minutes. I decided to look for lift over Burnt Ridge but got there fairly low & struggled with rough bumps until I was 100' over the ridge. The thermal released from the hill & shot up through the inversion & carried me, over the next 15 minutes, to 8300' This looked like plenty of altitude to make the turn point at Cemetery, then glide to goal. It was enough, in fact, 2000' more than enough. I had a fairly good time (32 minutes) but could have saved 5-10 minutes by using my head & planning my moves more efficiently.

At goal the mood was mellow. Two kegs had arrived & the party had been in full swing for 30 minutes when I arrived. There were at least 50 pilots in goal & we all were very happy to have flown. The wait at the top of the hill was more than 4 hours & the sun took it's toll on us all.

That's it for now - I need some sleep... Tailwinds to you all & a special wing & a prayer to Bob O'Brien, who went on his own journey yesterday.

Results are out now today's task was devalued greatly, due to it's short time (leaders finished in less than 20 minutes.) My time was :32 minutes. Very few place changes occurred since the point spread was minimal. Now that my Day one score was finally fixed, I'm sitting 62nd & ready for some good weather. Unfortunately, today (Day 4) looks very stable & windy again. We may have a task today, but it won't be a long one - more later.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Rat Race Day 2

To view today's flight, go HERE

First I should explain what it is we are actually doing - Each day a task is set with waypoints that we have to cross. The goal is to make it to goal & get there as fast as we can. The start is a timed start - which means that we are not allowed to enter the start cylinder prior to the start time. All times begin at the start time so it's best to be right at the edge of the start cylinder at '0' hour. Points are awarded to those that fly the entire course the fastest & those that don't make it around score less.

Today's task was a couple of valley crossings and then another downwind leg to Mule-LZ - the same goal as yesterday. I have not made goal to this place in two tries so today I vowed to fly conservatively and make it to goal, no matter the time.

Dave & I launched about 45 minutes prior to the start window opening. We topped a couple of gigantic gaggles with 60-80 gliders at times. My luck was good & I topped a good bit of lift just prior to the start & was in good position to tag the first point & jog East 1 mile for the second point - A great start to the task.

I started getting excited & reminded myself to slow down & fly smart & conservative - I tanked up on altitude whenever I could. Yesterday I was never below 4000' & enjoyed the low stress flying - today I wanted the same. This flying style is more enjoyable but slower. Today I lost at least 15 minutes in a 30 minute period by climbing in thermals that were not necessary at that moment and actually drifted me downwind awayfrom the fix I was heading towards.

My final glide was not going to be the 'death-glide' I had yesterday. I needed help & was only going to fly if others were with me. At the top of a good thermal over Woodrat Peak, I chided the guys in my thermal - "Let's go" & we all took off for goal. We spread out to look for lift efficiently & I eventually found a shard of lift (I think a cougar farted) that slowly bloomed into a solid 400'/min. I climbed 2000' in this thermal & was about 6 miles from goal. My GPS said it would take a 7.4/1 glide ratio to make goal. With the 10 kt. tailwind I had, this should not be a problem. With 3 miles to go the GPS said I needed 6/1 - I had goal made.

Yesterday everyone at goal got beer - the landowners said no drinking, so today I made goal & I got a big smile. Both Larry from Springville & Dave S. made goal ahead of me.

Total distance of the task - 24 miles

I'm in 71st place at the moment - Scores are here. Hopefully, I'll be consistent this week & climb the ladder.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rat Race Day 1

Today's flight is HERE

Today was a glorious day with light winds and temps in the high 70's. A task was called that used many waypoints in the valley so that those who were not familiar could get acquainted. The task was a short one at 19.9 miles, but covered a lot of territory & would cross a few areas of convergence where the valley winds collide to create lift, sink, and sometimes, some very exciting turbulence.

I had a reasonable start & cautiously worked around the course. There were down cycles that were giving many pilots fits down low. I was able through sheer luck to get high today & stay high. I don't think I got below 4000' all day. This allowed me to get through the first 6 way points in good time, I was only about 15-20 minutes behind the lead gaggle when I found a boomer over Woodrat that took me to 7000' & it looked like I would make goal. I looked around for some other pilots to work with on the 10 mile glide to goal - there were none. All the gliders were either ahead of me (low) or behind me (also low). I didn't really want to commit to a solo run into the narrow valley that the goal sat in since I had no idea where the lift would be working. As it turns out, 5 miles later, I found myself in need of just one more thermal without any other wings to help me find the much needed lift.

Gravity won this one - I landed in a farmers field a bit less than 5 miles from goal. It was a good day to fly - the thermals were strong although rough at times & the convergence areas were fairly consistent in position and character.

Many pilots dirted early today - good pilots on comp wings. A LOT of pilots made goal. Some pilots made goal for the first time. My flying/roommate Dave S. made goal & so did Larry from Springville.

I feel like my pacing was good today. I was able to work around the course without the need to pull out a low save (My usual MO). I also was ahead of many pilots when I began my final leg to The goal. If I'd been with one or two other pilots & we had worked together, odds are good that the outcome could have been better. I'm not sure if loitering & waiting for wings below/behind me would have been smarter... I'm not sure I'd have been able to make myself do that. Obviously the choice I made didn't get me to goal. Many pilots behind me DID complete the task, so waiting for them was an viable option.

Good launch - good landing - big smile (bigger when I make goal) and a beer before bed... not a bad first day.

Scores will be posted HERE soon.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Rat Race Day 0

To view today's flight go to

Today Dave & I woke to cloudy skies & a forcast of wind. We had a nice breakfast & headed over to Rat Race HQ at 10am & did the normal check-in stuff. We saw a few friends from prior years. Larry & Raymond from Springville joined up with us & we all rode to launch in my truck. Low launch was windy at times but launchable & we headed up to main launch. When we got to the top, it was a beautiful day with the Cu's firming up nicely & good periods of light wind to launch - and yet - we were the only pilots at launch. . .We were filled with some doubt, but David & I decided we came to fly. Launch was smooth & lift was ragged & weak at first. We hung out on the main ridge for over 30 minutes until I was able to get a good climb down by the lower launch & decided to see how the trip across to Rabies would go.

I was able to make it to some weak lift & milked it for a while until it bloomed into a nice 400'/min. climb & I drifted over Burnt Ridge while I climbed. I called the guys, who were by now in the valley, & told them I had almost 6000' & was going to head down to Donato (out in the Medford Valley about 12 miles South) A map of the waypoints is HERE

The flight went well with abundant lift & subsequent climbs to 6800' at rates of 800'/min. The total flight was 16 miles or so.

I made a nice landing in the Donato LZ & was met by 'Donato' himself - He's my best friend since he had a cold beer in his hand for me ;-)

A great day with good indicators for the week. I was the only guy I know of that was able to get away today & flew the whole route alone. Looking forward to more miles tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Preparing for the Rat Race & U.S. Nats

Today I got back from Shanghai & I have tonight & tomorrow to get all my gear ready for the next two weeks of competitions. I've made a comprehensive list to pack with & feel my kit is organized & ready to go. Dave & I will drive up to Jacksonville on Friday & have Sat. to fly & get situated before the comp begins on Sunday.

My head is in a good place - I'm looking forward to two solid weeks of good flying. Over the last couple of months I've done less flying than I'd hoped to, but I've learned from my mistakes & had some good results. The Aspen 2 has lived up to my expectations and has the performance to allow me to score well if I fly well. The main shift in flying style is the need for me to be patient at strategic moments along the course. Whereas I was always a couple thermals or more (much more ;-) behind the main gaggle in previous years, on my Sport 2; Now I'm keeping up & need to fly with my fellow pilots - using them & helping them while we work along the course.

My goal is to complete all the tasks by keeping with the main gaggle. I will really try to make good starts & use good judgment along the course.

Dave is flying his Zoom Race & we will try to make the team flying work this year. Larry N. is coming up from Springville & Jack G. is bringing his motor home up & flying the RR too.

It will be good to see the friends I made last year & fly with them again.