Saturday, July 14, 2018

Chelan Nationals July 14

The final day of the US/Canadian Nationals!

I had noticed the day before that this was supposed to be a significant north wind day, and I had suggested to the comp organizers that they perhaps explore the option of moving the comp to Saddle Mountain for the day, since Saddle Mountain is a north-wind site and Chelan isn't.  However we ended up going to the Butte anyways...apparently the comp's liability insurance didn't cover Saddle Mountain (nor the north side of Chelan Butte since that's near the cell towers).

So anyhoo we were stuck at Chelan and it was blowing pretty significantly from the north, and we weren't allowed to launch near the towers.  So that left us with either trying to launch from Lakeside (NW) or wait for it some thermal activity to overcome things on the south side.

The task committee set a provisional task to Withrow-Entiat-Withrow-Waterville, pretty short at 51 km, and essentially zigzagging cross- and downwind.  So now we just had to wait for the north wind to abate...3pm and we were still on hold, so the organization decided to cancel the task, at which point a bunch of pilots launched from Lakeside.

It was stay-upable on the NW side and some pilots were able to get up high over the towers by flying to the north side and getting up over the Chelan Falls waterfall, but I don't think anyone got high enough to make the crossing to the flats to attempt the task.  I chose to get a ride down since my glider was already nicely packed from yesterday's landing at the soccer field, and I didn't really feel like landing at the junkyard or Lone Pine and packing up in sagebrush (yes I know it's not a particularly good reason!).

One of the first fires of the season, this one is near Wenatchee.
So the comp was officially over and the awards ceremony was later that same evening!  We ended up with 4 tasks which is pretty average for a Chelan comp, and this year we didn't have to worry about thunderstorms or fires.  However we didn't get to go far distance-wise which I think was a big reason why many international pilots showed up, after the last 2 comps where we've set the site/world record for a comp task.  I believe next year the organization is going to aim for a full-blown PWC which means it will potentially fill up quickly, so make sure to register early when the 2019 PWC season reg opens!

The 2018 Canadian Paragliding Championship winners are:

1.  JP Robert Vandenbegine
2. Andrew Berkley
3. Christian Grenier

1. Nicole McLearn
2. Kaylyn Gervais
3. Marina Lang

If you are looking for the US-specific or overall results you can find them here!

US winners.  Photo courtesy of Eric Ams.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Chelan Nationals July 13

When I saw the forecast for today I was pretty sure we weren’t going to have a task due to the winds (30-40 kph on the flats later this afternoon), but we tried!  The problem was stability, low top of lift, wind, and trying to fit 130 pilots in the air over the Butte in such conditions.

Initially on the Butte it wasn’t that windy but I suspected that was because the morning inversion hadn’t yet broken, and the task was called to Hartline, around 75 km away.  But the wind technicians weren’t staying up, or getting high, and we had to wait until it became more obvious that it was soarable (a couple of comp pilots actually launched to demonstrate it was stay-upable, and then top-landed for the final task briefing), at which point the inversion was starting to break.

You can see today's wind as well as the north wind tomorrow.

I suspected that once the inversion fully broke it would become very windy on launch and I was keen to be in the air already when that happened, so I launched very early in the sequence and got away from the hill and started slowly climbing in the broken lift out front.  It wasn’t too windy…maybe 15 kph in the compression zone, but I could see it becoming worse on launch as gliders were going all over the place and lots of blown launches.

As the inversion broke it became windier in the air as well, I was getting 25 kph now and thinking it was time to head out to land as it was becoming clear that it wasn’t safe to have a task, although free-flying was still OK.  At this point Eric got on the radio and said the task was stopped, at which point most of us in the air went out to land at the soccer field LZ, while those still on launch packed up, and a few in-air pilots decided to at least try the task for fun.

The wind was picking up steadily and I was getting 33 kph on the way into the LZ so I was glad to be on the ground as I saw the later landers coming in straight down or even slightly backwards in the gusts.  I could see a handful of pilots gale-dangling on the edge of the Rim as they ridge soared and waited for a thermal to come through so they could get on course line.  But most pilots ended up on the nice green grass and shade to pack up in!

Tomorrow is looking like north wind and I suggested to the organization and task committee to at least consider Saddle Mountain if it was going to be too north for the Butte.  However the logistics of moving 130 pilots to a new site 2 hours away, on the final day of the comp, is problematic and we may end up staying at the Butte and hoping the north isn’t too much to launch in (since the comp doesn’t have permit-access to the north side of the Butte with the cell towers).  

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Chelan Nationals July 12

Wow such a different day than yesterday!  If you were watching XC Find you would have noticed a whole lot of gliders landing at the first turn point...the task committee didn't want us attempting the crossing of the Rim too early, so they put a turn point at Forest Mountain, to the west of the Butte, and this ended up flushing a good percentage of the field!

It was a bit stable-feeling in the air over the Butte and I watched some free flyers head over towards the first turn point and get nothing and barely make it back, which didn't bode well for us.  And in fact when the start happened, I was too low to even attempt going over there (although a bunch of pilots went anyways, super-low, which I thought was a bad idea), so I decided to ignore the start and keep climbing before making the trek.  A group of like-minded pilots stayed with me and we all climbed to 2500m, well above our previous climbs where we had been getting to 2200m or so, and then we started the slow into-wind glide to the entry start and turn point.

The actual turn point edge of the cylinder was on the OTHER side of the highway 97 canyon into Chelan, and I saw many of the earlier pilots scratching low on the ridges, landing out partway down the mountain, landing out on the golf course, and landing out on Lakeside.  It didn't look good.  I guess I could have turned back and tried to get more altitude at the Butte, more than 2500m, and try this again, but I also didn't want to get too far behind and then have zero pilots to fly with.  The lead gaggle had managed to make it across the canyon to the other side and were at the turn point and turning in what looked like very weak lift, but were too low to make the crossing back without landing out, so I actually hadn't lost anything by waiting the extra 25 minutes before even starting the task.

You can see all the pilots who landed in the canyon where highway 97 goes through to Chelan.
The lead gaggle passed underneath me as I reached the turn point and then it was time to find lift, any kind of lift, as the wind was venturi-ing through the canyon and blowing apart all the thermals.  Pilots were falling out of the sky as I joined them in one of the several fields in the canyon, where it was actually not too bad for landing conditions so long as you were smart about keeping your glider in control as you came down between the canyon walls.

There must have been around 30 pilots who landed in the canyon while another 10 or so side-hill landed on the nearby hills and had to hike up/down to get to a road, or landed next to the lake or the golf course.  While I was bummed to have landed so early, I was also glad to have had a safe uneventful landing, and I felt better after hearing that some of the top names at this comp had landed out in the very same field only moments before.
Meanwhile, if you made it out of the canyon, you were pretty much assured of goal!
Oh well, an early finish to my day which meant I actually had time to go swimming and catch up on some other things!

Meanwhile those who managed to make it back from the Forest turn point were back at the Butte and crossing to the Rim to fly the rest of the task which was a giant triangle-shape to the edge of Banks Lake and then to Sims corner, before landing in goal at Mansfield.  It looked like if you could have survived the Forest turn point, you were pretty much assured of making goal!  When I last checked, there were lots of pilots in goal, so they will be very happy ;). Me, due to the scoring using FTV, this will be my discard day :)

Tomorrow looks blown-out and Saturday is looking iffy as well at this point, but sometimes forecasts change so we will see what happens tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Chelan Nationals July 11

After yesterday's rest day (too windy for a safe task, although some free flyers went 250 km!), everyone was ready to go today.  I thought we'd have some form of triangle or out and return, but with the north wind the task committee decided to go long downwind and fly to Saddle Mountain via Ephrata.

The north wind was making it difficult to choose a launch, but I was confident I could stay up so I launched quite early in the queue.  It was actually quite easy to get up, and I was glad to have launched early as I saw the hoopla on the 3 main launches as comp gliders were trying launch and failing in the light and switchy conditions.

The start today was an hour later than on other days, which allowed us to get higher than usual and cross over the flats for the remote start over there.  It was so nice to get over the flats nice and high and not scratch next to the high-tension power lines like we so often do :)

The north wind was quite significant so our gaggle was drifting too far out of the start cylinder so we had to keep an eye out to not get too far downwind too early.  But I was in an excellent position when the 2pm start happened and we were off!

The climbs were strong and plentiful on the flats all the way to the canyon and Palisades and Appledale, and on the other side it was also fast and furious all the way to where the plateau drops off to Ephrata.  And then it was a different animal!

About to drop off the edge of the plateau.  Ephrata is to the left.
After tagging the Ephrata turn point we tanked up as high as we could since we were now transitioning from the strong, brown, and dusty plateau, to a lower, green, and much wetter valley, and I anticipated we would very shortly be slowing down and racing less.

I could see the gaggle ahead of me on a giant glide over the greenery and as I continued to watch them I could see they were getting not much, and the wind had switched from a north tailwind to a south headwind, yay!  Our gaggle spread out and went on a similar glide towards Saddle Mountain, which was about 40km away still, but we were getting nothing either, and pretty much everyone lawn-darted into the ground around the town of George, about 25-30km short.

A big change from the dry and dusty plateau!  Saddle Mountain in the distance on the left.
I was surprised that nobody was able to climb out of there out of our 2 gaggles, usually there is at least one lucky person who finds something and continues on, but this was one of those rare times when the entire gaggle goes down in the same area.  The lead gaggle had managed to somehow squeak through the Green Valley of Final Glide and around 10 made it to the Saddle LZ and goal.

It was a fun task despite not making goal and cool to fly over the plateau and drop down to the Ephrata valley, but I think it would be a good idea to have that task on a day with some more clouds north of Saddle Mountain, so we'd know that the green valley was actually working.  Also, had the wind stayed north once we were south of Ephrata (and not south like it turned out) I think we could have made it, as that would have made a huge difference in our glide ratios and we would have covered the green valley much quicker and made it to the brown hills nearer to Saddle Mountain.

We did have a reserve toss today near the Ephrata turn point but the pilot was totally fine and in fact was messaging and WhatsApping other pilots on his reserve ride down, so he must have chucked high!

94 km flight to George.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Chelan Nationals July 9

Another long task, this time because of the strong south wind we were heading north to Oroville and the US/Canadian border, about 133 km away!

Launch conditions were a bit better today with a definite east flow on the Butte so pilots were launching off Ants in a speedy fashion (unlike yesterday where it was quite switchy on launch and lots of aborts).  But it was tough to get high over the Butte…with the strong SE wind we were getting blown back over the lake and we weren’t getting more than 2000m.  But happily, about 15 minutes before the start, we all found a climb which took us to 2200m and then it was off north to the first control turn point of 15 km around Bridgeport.

The turn point radius was actually on the other side of the Columbia river so we had to cross the river twice, and once back on the “proper” side, it wasn’t the easiest going in the hills behind Pateros.  I saw a lot of pilots landing in this stretch, so I got as high as I could (2400m) and then dove deeper into the mountains where the clouds were beckoning and cloud base was around 3600m.  Despite being deep there were actually lots of roads and farms with large fields to land in, but given the wind strength I had a lot of incentive to stay high and avoid all that hoopla ;)

A bunch of us did the same thing, staying deep and high, which was a good thing since we were seeing groundspeeds of 80+ kph (one pilot reported 100+ km on bar!).  I did get very low one time on a low-angle hill with few landing options, and single digits of groundspeed, but I was able to dig myself out of there with Brett Yeates and then we were off again.

The conditions seemed to be getting better and better around Tonasket, with more and more generalized lift the closer we got to Oroville.  It was no longer necessary to actually thermal, but flying straight we were flying through oodles of light lift.  The predicted front was moving in from the west and was creating lots of clouds and lift but also lots of wind up high.  I could finally see Oroville, the lake, the Canadian border, and Osoyoos, I was 30 km away from goal at 2800m, so I decided to go for it.  I had a wicket tailwind as I came over the last ridge south of Oroville and then it was time to find the goal field.

The pilots who were ahead of me were reporting the goal field was a bit small with obstructions (powerlines and trees surrounding it), and given it was blowing 25+ kph at times, most pilots were opting to land either at the nearby running track or the baseball diamonds after tagging the actual goal field.  So it was a good thing I arrived high enough to tag the goal line, and then continue north another 1km or so to the baseball diamonds where it was plenty large enough to back myself into for a safe landing.

On glide for Oroville!
Between the actual goal field, the running track, and the baseball diamonds, I’d guess there were about 50 pilots in goal.

Back in Chelan it was still blowing strong and pilots were ridge soaring the Airport Ridge.  Tomorrow it’s supposed to swing to strong NW, so if we fly, I expect we’ll go out onto the flats and perhaps go long!