Saturday, August 4, 2007

Golden: Canadian PG Nationals

A similar day to yesterday, except the winds were from the opposite direction. We called a short downwind task to Harrogate, even though we knew it would probably be completed in under nominal time. But we wanted the day to be finished early so we could do the final scoring, do the prizes, and get to the GEAR dinner on time.

I launched and it was very windy from the NW, and I wasn’t able to get high for the start, and after getting it, was forced to fly downwind to Mt. 7 to try and get up there. But the thermals were leaned way too far over to get high in, and I was only able to maintain around 1800m across the Kapristo gap and over to the Pagliaro cliffs. And of course the cliffs weren’t working since the winds were blowing parallel to them, not up them, so I had to keep going until I went around the corner.

At this point I was in the lee, not liking it, and decided to head out to the valley. I caught a little something above my chosen LZ and was able to stay in it since I finally had clear air all around me, and was able to ride it (big ovals!) right to cloudbase which was only about 3000m. I was back in the game!

I checked my GPS and it said I had goal at 8:1 glide, but I was only getting 6:1 glide at that time (lots of sink). But I figured since it was so windy lower down, as I got lower I would speed up, and my groundspeed would make up for the missing 2:1 and I’d still make it to the goal field (at least that’s what I hoped for). The thermals were so ripped up I wasn’t actually counting on finding more discrete thermals, but along the way I picked up little bits and pieces of thermals, and was able to maintain so that by the time I got above the goalfield I still had 1000’ of altitude.

A good thing too, since the actual goalfield turnpoint was at the downwind end of the field, and it was blowing about 30 kph in the field, and many pilots were coming straight down. With my 1000’ I was able to tag the actual goal, and slowly fly back upwind of the field so I could back my way into it if necessary, since my groundspeeds were approaching 2-3 kph.

There were already about 15-20 people in the goalfield, and in the end there were about 25 people in goal. Many people chose not to fly down the range and landed at Nicholson, or landed short as they tried to do what I did but didn’t hit the pieces of lift that I hit on my way there. With the winds it only took 2-3 good thermals to fly 45 km!

We had one accident as Peter Breitschneider crashed into the cliffs in the “washing machine” in the gully below Mt. 7, right above the LZ’s against the mountain. He was heli-rescued and sent to Golden hospital with an elbow injury and general soreness, but nothing too serious. A non-comp pilot, Jim Wagner from WA state, was able to hike up to him (1200’ above that LZ) and help with the rescue as the heli-people lowered a paramedic and basket to him. He later on hiked back down since the heli only had room for Peter and the paramedic.

Another strong Golden day, and lots of pilots in the Willi Muller XC Challenge flew far today. Norm flew to just short of Fairmont, 120 km open distance.

I had a really fun time at this meet, everyone was so helpful and cheerful it made all the organizational things go that much more smoothly. I also had some personal bests...I made goal every day of this comp, and I also started flying a lot faster, using my speed bar a lot more, and keeping up with the lead gaggle for longer stretches of time. The quality of the pilots here was very high, and I learned a lot from watching the top pilots fly into goal every day.

At the awards party we gave awards for the “Never Ever” category (pilots who this was their first comp), the top 3 women, the top Canadian male and female, the top 3 Serial class, and the top 3 open class.

Day 6 top 10 results:

1. Gadd, Will (903)
2. Devietti, Marty (820)
3. Izadi, Amir (816)
4. Messenger, Jamie (812)
5. Dadam, Matt (801)
6. Beechinor, Matt (801)
7. Brown, Jack (780)
8. Zahner, Gavin (765)
9. MacCullough, Keith (747)
10. Thompson, James (738)

Final and cumulative top 10 total results, after 6 tasks:

1. Messenger, Jamie (5215)
2. Beechinor, Matt (5043)
3. MacCullough, Keith (4725)
4. Zahner, Gavin (4704)
5. Dadam, Matt (4675)
6. Gadd, Will (4669)
7. Izadi, Amir (4549)
8. Devietti, Marty (4190)
9. Riggs, Josh (4115)
10. Belcourt, Bill (4115)

Final top 10 serial class results (DHV 2 and below), after 6 tasks:

1. Yeates, Brett (3115)
2. Morris, Bill (2945)
3. Oddy, Eric (2872)
4. Letchford, Ryan (2779)
5. Lara, Juan Carlos (2717)
6. Hackney, Trey (2705)
7. Thompson, James (2694)
8. Ghaban, Florian (2506)
9. Sullivan, Joe (2419)
10. McGuan, Brendan (2372)

Final top 10 Canadian class results, after 6 tasks:

1. MacCullough, Keith (4725)
2. Gadd, Will (4669)
3. Izadi, Amir (4549)
4. McLearn, Nicole (3865)
5. Yeates, Brett (3115)
6. Oddy, Eric (2872)
7. Letchford, Ryan (2779)
8. Zlatev, Zack (2608)
9. Ghaban, Florian (2506)
10. Roumiantsev, Denis (2256)

“Never Ever” category (first comp):

1. Morris, Bill (2945)
2. Edwards, Jim (654)
3. Bahr, Jim (627)
4. Dubak, Veronica (517)

(Bill and Veronica were the recipients of the “Oz prize” from David and Lee Menzie: a Manilla Rivergums prize pack, which includes 1 week free accommodation at Manilla Rivergums caravan park, good for the next 2-3 years, to encourage them to keep competing and travel a bit.)

Top 3 females:

1. McLearn, Nicole (3865)
2. Hamann, Heike (3133)
3. McCullough, Michelle (2103)

At some point the final results will be posted at:

Friday, August 3, 2007

Golden: Canadian PG Nationals

The weather today was calling for instability, 40% chance of precipitation and chance of thunderstorms, so we called a short and quick task since we thought it may overdevelop, and advised the safety committee to keep an eye on things. Launch and go to the gravel pit for a 2pm start, then head to the Kapristo gap, back to launch, up to Mt. 7, over to Moberly Peak, and land at the Donald station goal, for a total of 55.6 km.

The winds were a bit strong from the SW so the launches off the south launch were a bit exciting, and in fact some people decided not to launch. The strong SW winds meant no going in the lee of any ridge, and people were being very careful to stay upwind of any LZ. I launched and got low and ended up ridge soaring the tits until just before the start, and was able to get the start and catch up to everyone who was at Mt. 7 peak height.

Over Mt. 7 we had an incredible climb to about 4000m, 7-9 m/s, and cloudbase was still way above us! But it was a scary ride…with the varios screaming in a continuous tone the whole way up, we were afraid to fall out the side and hit the 7-9 m/s down! Some pilots recorded 10-12 m/s at times! And it was getting very cold. Made me glad for the warmth of a pod :)

After that incredible climb it was off to Moberly peak. It was downwind at this point so we all thought we had Donald on glide, and only had to make a short detour to Moberly on the way by. We were wrong! Just as we got to Moberly, the SW winds switched to north winds, and strong, and we watched our ground speeds drop to single digits.

I was forced to ridge soar Moberly for a while, and eventually noticed a bunch of clouds forming in the Blaeberry valley gap opening, and pushed upwind to them. I was going slow, but I was climbing steadily all the time, and by the time I hit the other side of the gap I was back to 3500m (without turning!). Other pilots who had chosen a different line (down the middle of the valley) weren’t doing so well and in fact some of them were landing short of goal.

With this altitude I had Donald station goalfield on glide easily (even with the headwind), but the people ahead of me who had just made goal were saying it was gusting to 40 kph in the LZ due to the large black massive cloud coming down the lake from past Donald. They were advising pilots to turn around and run away after tagging goal, and land someplace else (preferably a larger field if possible). (This is allowed in a comp…you don’t have to land at the goal field, just reach it.)

I was riding the clouds (convergence?) and was over the goalfield at 3000m, and decided to take their advice and run back towards Golden. There was a LZ partyway back that many pilots were choosing to land at that the north winds hadn’t yet hit (next to the Columbia river) and I headed that way. Bill Belcourt was with me and decided to try to try to fly all the way back to Golden, but I saw a big blue hole in that direction, and the reports that it was still strong SW in Golden, so I opted to land as soon as possible.

Even with big ears, spiraling, and whatnot, it took me over 30 minutes to get down since the convergence line was moving down the valley and it was lifting everwhere. But I had a nice landing in about 20 km winds so it was straight down and a soft landing for the ankle. About 20 minutes after I landed the strong north winds hit just like they had in Donald station, and the last glider came in backwards (and it was a Boomerang 5!). We were all glad to be on the ground!

Bill didn’t make it all the way back to Golden, landing short since the SW winds pinned him again the Kicking horse side of the valley and he couldn’t get back. And there were plenty of people that landed short of goal, since they misjudged their final glide and couldn’t penetrate the north winds. It was a pretty spectacular display of weather…Will is saying it’s just like a certain day in 1994 when the same thing happened at Donald station (strong north winds when it was SW everywhere else). Apparently it happens there quite a lot so maybe there is some topographical reason for it…maybe the fact there are several valleys converging around there.

There are several people that didn’t launch and are going to declare a DNF…the conditions on launch were certainly strong, but not insurmountable, but had we known what the winds were going to be doing at Donald, we probably would have run a different task. That big black cloud eventually made it to Nicholson as we were having our Bratwurst party #2 and it’s now very windy in Nicholson. Good thing we declared a “land by” time so that people wouldn’t be encouraged to keep flying after a certain time. Everyone is telling their personal stories of the day and there is lots of geeking out by pilots trying to figure out their maximum climb rates and who got a faster climb etc etc. And the Willi registration is happening now, so it’s a busy place. All the visiting pilots are commenting on how awesome Golden is; how every day has been different, and all the different ways and places to fly. Everyone is stoked!

Pictures are up at

Here are the daily results:

Task 5 results:

1. Gadd, Will (922)
2. Dadam, Matt (858)
3. Messenger, Jamie (806)
4. Larsen, Erik (785)
5. Zahner, Gavin (783)
6. Riggs, Josh (757)
7. Beechinor, Matt (750)
8. McCullough, Michelle (748)
9. Brown, Jack (744)
10. Izadi, Amir (744)
11. McLearn, Nicole (727)

There were 27 people in goal today.

Cumulative results after 5 tasks:

1. Messenger, Jamie (4389)
2. Beechinor, Matt (4250)
3. MacCullough, Keith (3977)
4. Zahner, Gavin (3943)
5. Dadam, Matt (3859)
6. Gadd, Will (3751)
7. Izadi, Amir (3718)
8. Riggs, Josh (3503)
9. Belcourt, Bill (3384)
10. Devietti, Marty (3362)
11. Larsen, Erik (3333)
12. McLearn, Nicole (3273)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Golden: Canadian PG Nationals

When we got up to launch today it was light winds all over the place so we decided to call an out and return so that people could land at Nicholson LZ and not have the multiple hour retrieve like yesterday. We called a 78 km task out to the 25 km mark, back to launch and across to Moberly Peak, over to the other side of the valley by Nicholson, and back to Nicholson.

As the afternoon went on it looked too stable for such a task (smoke, inverted, just as hot on launch as on the ground, etc.) that we decided to shorten the task to 57 km (replace the 25 km turnpoint with a closer one, and leave everything else the same).

My ankle was still quite sore so I had borrowed a brace and had it laced up as tight as it would go, and made sure to wait for a nice reversible cycle. I launched OK and then it was time to thermal. It was more unstable than the sky indicated, and pretty soon cu’s started popping and we were getting to 3000m over Mt. 7. Obviously we could have stayed with the original task!

At the start I crossed to Pagliaro along with the lead gaggle and then over to the first turnpoint. Winds were light so going there and returning wasn’t a big deal, and the lift was getting better all the time. Crossed back to Mt. 7 and got high for the crossing over the Kicking Horse canyon and Trans-Canada highway.

There are several ways to go at this point…you can cross over to Table mountain (only if you are stinking high since there are no LZ’s back there and it’s often windy), you can cross over to Sugarloaf/Breadloaf (whatever it’s called), or you can cross direct to Moberly (a long glide if you are not high). Most people chose the crossing to the loaf and then to either the mountain next to Table or Moberly after that; I saw Will cut the corner and cross straight to Moberly to catch up to the lead gaggle (he had launched late and was trying to catch up…a bold move!). I crossed to the loaf and then to the peak just behind Moberly, got high, and crossed to Moberly itself. It was kinda windy from the north at this point and getting the turnpoint was a challenge since it was out in the valley. I was forced to ridge soar for about 20 minutes until I tagged the turnpoint and then turned tail back to the other peak next to Table, where I was able to top up to 3000m and the glide back to Mt. 7 lookout launch.

The crossing back was uneventful…I got to the tits, climbed up to launch height, and then went on final glide for the last turnpoint (which is just past the goalfield…if you make the turnpoint you can make the goalfield no problem). I noticed a lot of people attempting to make the last turnpoint direct from Moberly (flying over the town) and not getting high enough to get above the bench on the west side of the valley, and being forced to turn around to avoid the trees for the glide back to the LZ. I made sure to have lots of height for the last turnpoint and came into the goalfield with plenty of altitude. My flying today was a bit slower than in past days (only about 17th out of 34 people making goal), but I wanted to make sure I made the goalfield as I didn’t want to chance an outlanding and have to walk out on my ankle, so I was flying very conservatively this time!

There were lots of people in the LZ but not all of them had made goal. But everyone had a great time, flying to the north for a change, and the last bit (the Mt. 7 to Moberly, and back to Mt. 7) was quite technical which appealed to a lot of people. There were lots of tactical decisions to be made during this part of the flight, and depending on how high you were, your glide, and which route you chose, you were either making goal or not.

No epics today, no reserve tosses or tree landings, and everyone had a great time. And there are still 2 days to go before the end of this comp!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Golden: Canadian PG Nationals

The weather forecast was saying light and variable winds aloft, trending to the south as the day went on, so we called a 109 km task to Swansea LZ goal. Launch conditions were a bit cross but doable from the NW, although I had a bad launch and twisted up my ankle a bit. But once in the air I was able to forget about it and concentrate on the flying.

Initially it was difficult to get high and we all had to scratch our way across Mt. 7 and across to Pagliaro. The cliffs weren’t working very well but I was able to get high enough to continue on and stay with the lead gaggle. I was able to stick with them for about 30 km until I got low, and by the time I got myself out of there the lead gaggle had gone on without me so I was flying by myself for the next little bit (since I was still ahead of the second gaggle, and didn’t want to wait for them to catch up to me).

Further down the range I was able to finally get high and join Bill Belcourt where the range splits at 45 km. Then it was off down the front range. The lift was getting a bit easier in that there was more of it, but the thermals were still a bit ratty and hard to center.

At the Spur Valley gap Bill and I topped up for the crossing and crossed to the Edgewater Cliffs…crossing was a bit low but I’ve done it before and know you can almost always ridge soar up the SW face, and there are LZ’s just around the corner even though you can’t see them. As predicted, the SW corner was working fine and we got up to 3000m over the cliffs. At this point we could see Mt. Assiniboine in the back ranges and also the goal field about 20 km away. Bill and I were yahooing to each other as we watched the incredible view over towards Banff and Canmore as we flew past.

Even though the goal was pretty close it was still a 10:1 glide away and there wasn’t much valley wind to help us along, so we topped up a few more times over Radium hot springs and then it was the final glide to Mt. Swansea (where there were lots of sailplanes flying around). Bill Hughes had joined Bill Belcourt and myself and we were all on final glide when I saw Hughes have a full-bar blowout. It frontalled and started to spin to one direction, and then to the other direction. It would spin a few times in one direction, and then switch directions and go the other way, with Bill getting massive riser twists in the meantime. Finally after about 20 seconds of trying to fix it, he chucked his reserve and started the ride down. I watched him land in the field just 4 km short of goal under reserve. He was OK and was retrieved quickly by the goal team, and his reserved packed up that evening.

I made goal and tried to make as soft a landing as possible, but it was kinda difficult since the Swansea LZ is only mowed in a small part (which was by now covered in gliders being packed up) and the rest was high grass that you couldn’t see the ground under. Hopefully the ankle will be well enough for flying tomorrow!

Zack landed in a tree about 12 km south of launch when he had a frontal close to the trees, recovered, and then wasn’t able to make the glide out to an LZ and ended up just landing softly in the trees. Other than that and Bill’s reserve ride, no epics. And we had about 25 people make goal (many of them PB’s too). Lots of happy people!