Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chelan

Sunny and light winds at the beginning of the day, with the winds predicted to strengthen quite a bit as the afternoon went on (to 15-20 mph on the ground). Task today was race to Okanagan (about 70 km) with no turnpoints in between. When we heard the task there was lots of discussion amongst pilots about which route to take: you could stay on the Chelan side of the river (the mountainous side) until closer to goal, or you could cross over to the Flats right away and fly on that side (the east side) all the way north.

Initially I had planned to stick to the west (mountainous) side, but once in the air I realized it was quite strong south winds aloft, and I didn’t want to be anyplace where being in the lee was a probability. So I decided to fly the Flats since there usually is no lee.

When the start came at 1pm, the gaggle split roughly 60/40: 60% went for the west/mountainous route, and 40% of us went for the east/Flats route. Crossing was a bit slow, and once on the other side at McNeil canyon all the thermals were actually pushing us back over the river. So we’d start at the rim, thermal up, end up over the river, and have to push back to the rim again for the next thermal.

It was quite windy up high and all our thermals were giant ovals rather than circles. It was hard to stay with the thermals since they were very bullet-like with strong edges and I heard lots of canopies flapping as pilots were having collapses. Eventually after a few km’s of flying north, I couldn’t catch the next good thermal (I was headed for a field with dust devils in it but didn’t get there in time to ride any back up) and ended up landing in a field next to the only paved road in the area.

I could see lots of dust-devils around (there was one in the same field I landed in but at the other end) so I unhooked from my glider ASAP as I’ve been taught when flying the Flats in Chelan (“Never stay connected to your glider when on the ground on the Flats”…thanks Martin!). Packed up and then the long walk back to civilization. No cell coverage and nobody on the retrieve frequency meant walking to a house and using their landline instead. Spent the time talking with the lady about combines and the secrets of wheat-farming :)

Back in Chelan and turning in the GPS met lots of pilots who did the west/mountainous route, and got varying distances on that side before landing. A bunch of pilots landed at the airport after getting flushed behind ridges in the strong winds, and more landings up in the various canyons and having to walk back out to the main road. Cherie won the day, and most of the Canadian contingent made goal too. I guess it just wasn’t my day to be among them!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chelan

Tuesday was cloudy and blown out, day was cancelled. Reports of heavy rains in Seattle and on the coast in general, stayed dry on this side of the mountains!

Today (Wednesday) was sunny and post frontal, but the winds were still too strong for a task, so after sitting up on the Butte for an hour or so, the day was cancelled.

A few pilots decided to stay on launch in case the winds died down later on. The rest of us went back down and did various things. I showed some pilots the airport ridge flying site and it was blowing in straight. However you could see the gusts coming off the river, when they hit it gusted to 35 kph. A bit too strong for launching there, especially when you consider the row of power lines right behind launch (no dragging allowed!).

About 6:30pm the gusts on launch were more reasonable so 4 of us launched...Mark, Deryk, Brett, and myself. It had actually lulled on launch so much that it was almost forward-able, but once in the air it was still plenty lifty. Flew around for about 30 minutes and then turned downwind to land next to our tents at the airport. Very sweet to launch, fly, and be back to your own vehicle, all in one hour!

I'm not sure if anyone else flew today...it was windy and gusty enough at the airport ridge that I imagine it was way too strong to launch from the Butte. But Martin et al were towing at Mansfield so it was probably good on the Flats today.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chelan

Forecast for today was sunny and light winds from the south. But no cu’s, and some high cirrus came though occasionally. A 62.2 km task was set: Butte to Sims Corner, then goal at Leahe.

The launch order today was decided by your FAI ranking. However, the first 20 minutes was allocated to whomever wanted to launch, without having a higher-ranked pilot butt in front of you. After the first 20 minutes a higher-ranked pilot could butt in front of you. Subsequent days will be determined by your comp ranking from the day before.

The launch window opened at 11:45am, but it had been soarable for at least 30 minutes prior to that (and probably even earlier) as the wind-dummies were showing. However the pilot’s meeting ended about 11:40am, which didn’t give anyone enough time to get their stuff on in time for the window to open and take advantage of the first 20 minutes. By the time any of us had gotten our stuff on, the 20 minute window had passed and it was time for people to start butting in.

Fortunately there were continuous cycles up Ants, Between the Rocks, and Green Monster, for everyone to get off. The air was punchy and a bit rough, smoothed out as you got higher. Not much drift but slightly to the north.

Since the start cylinder was a 3 km exit cylinder, and the 3 km mark is pretty much the middle of the river, you had to stay on the Butte until the race started, and then head over en-masse. Reached the other side and found a nice thermal with some other pilots, enough to get us past the power lines, and onto the flats where the lift was abundant.

The winds were quite southerly, so it was actually a bit of a headwind to Sims Corner (about 50 km away), and the thermals were drifting the wrong way. It got worse the further south we flew, especially lower down. Finally at Mansfield I made the mistake of getting low and caught in the winds, and ended up landing at Mansfield, in Martin and Mia’s HG LZ next to their house.

Packed up on their lawn and met Ivan and Luc, then Mia gave me a ride part-way back towards the Butte since she was chasing after Martin in that direction already. Nice cool grass and shade to pack up in is much better than doing so in the moon dust in the hot sun in the middle of nowhere!

About 30 pilots made goal…if you could tag Sims, you were golden since Leahe was downwind of Sims and only 10 km further. The trick was staying high all the way to Sims, and being patient with the thermals tracking the wrong way and driving forward after topping out.

Brian Webb had a rather “fast” landing…he was headed downwind into goal about 70 km/h, got the goal cylinder about 20’ off the ground, no time to turn around and land into the wind…he landed downwind skidding on his harness on the only patch of green grass in a sea of sagebrush! Josh Cohn missed the Sims TP due to his thermal taking him the wrong way, ended up at Leahe, and then drove back upwind to tag Sims before turning around for Leahe and goal for the 2nd time. Good going!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chelan


I’m in Chelan for the next week or so, for the Chelan XC Open/Pre-PWC/Canadian Nationals. Got here yesterday, mid-day, in time to see a gaggle of pilots finally get high on the Butte (apparently they had been scratching since it had been overcast until now) and make the crossing to the flats. After getting up on the flats they flew NE, aided by the SW winds. Pilots were scattered all the way from Mansfield to Grand Coulee.

As the afternoon went on it got windier and windier, so no more flying except for that early gaggle. The forecast was for it to remain windy into Sunday, and get light on Monday (the first day of the comp).

Sunday was indeed windy, much more so than Saturday, and only 3 brave souls dared launch into it, all of them landing in the Chelan Falls LZ. It didn’t look very fun. The rest of the day was spent lounging in the LZ or the beach.

Vital Statistics for the comp:

Minimum distance: 5 km
Nominal distance: 40 km
Nominal time: 1.5 hours
Nominal in goal: 30%

Task Committee:
Bell Belcourt
Josh Cohn
Keith McCullough
Brian Webb

Safety Committee:
Jack Brown
Tom Moock
Will Gadd
Brad Gunnuscio

Protest Committee:
Doug Stroop
Bernard Winkelmann
Matt Beechinor

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Grouse Mountain

By the time I got my day's chores finished it was too late to drive to the Valley so I opted for Grouse Mountain. Arrived at the gondola at 4pm and met up with Yaro, Todd, Gavin, and Herminio (the First Flight tandem pilots). They launched first with their tandems and I went afterwards.

Nice straight-in cycles and into the air. Smooth all the way out to the rocks and then huge lift, and equally huge sink. I wasn't flying with any instruments but it sure felt strong. Fedja who was flying too said later on he felt the same strong lift.

After about 1 hour I decided I'd had enough and went out to land. Usual landing conditions in the landing zone, with the windsock flipping all over the place and pilots landing every which direction. Bill Nikolai was there too for flight #2. All in all a nice day, albeit a bit rough and strong, but much more convenient than Bridal when leaving the city late in the day!