Today the organization allowed a 10 minute window at the beginning of the launch window where anybody could launch. So as soon as the task meeting was finished I got myself in the lineup, hoping I would make the head of the line before the 10 minute cutoff, at which point only the top 60 pilots would be allowed in the queue (the remaining pilots would have to wait until the first 60 were gone, before allowing to queue up).
I was the last person allowed through the launch gate before the 10 minute cutoff was reached, which is nice, otherwise I would have had to wait probably an extra hour to get a chance to launch. This time the skies were a bit emptier in front of launch so I was able to get up right away and head over to El Penon, no drama over the Piano LZ like yesterday. Up on Penon and over to Crazy thermal where it was only 12:15 pm, which meant I had 30 minutes to hang out and get high for the start at 12:45pm.
Fortunately that area is lifty enough that 150 pilots can hang out there with relatively no issues, except for the clouds forming around you and having to stay out of them, while avoiding mid-airs. When the start came at 12:45 pm we all went on glide, and it was pretty cool to see the armada of gliders all on glide for the distant TP.
It was upwind to this TP, so I took it slow along with a bunch of other pilots, and we managed to tag that TP and then it was on to Llano. Now Llano is a new TP for me, and it’s on the other side of the flats in front of launch. There is a deep gorge with powerlines, with a ridge along the edge that you can fly along. Rather committing, and you don’t want to land up there on the ridge since it would be an epic retrieve (even though there are villages up there, I’m not sure how you get out of there).
So Joanna and I and Brett and a few others took every climb we could, staying on the upwind side of the ridge and drifting back with every climb, pushing forward for the next thermal. In this fashion we managed to get ourselves to the jump-off point for Llano, which is on the backside of the ridge, and you have to cross the gorge and powerlines (and lots of trees).
On the way to Llano I saw a pilot coming down under reserve. I didn’t see what caused him to toss, but he landed pretty much at the TP and reported himself OK to the organization and able to self-rescue himself. So I continued to fly and tagged Llano, and then it was somehow back to El Penon to eventually get to Divis.
This was the crux of the flight for me, since I was a bit low and it was windy down there. I had to spend maybe 20 minutes in a bit of a hole, trying to get high enough to push crosswind to El Penon. I tried all around the hole, and finally found something in the lee of some small hills, enough to get me high enough to attempt the crossing of the gorge and powerlines. I was able to make it within glide of the Piano LZ when I caught something along the edge of the gorge, which I gladly took to squeak into El Penon about 2/3 of the way down.
Now I’ve gotten out of there from lower, so I wasn’t too worried, but I was starting to look at the time and realize I would be running out of effective sunlight in another hour or so. So I wasted no time, booted my way over to the Wall, got up, over to Crazy, got to cloudbase, and moved my ass over to 3 kings, bypassing Maguey.
Once over on the edge of the Mesa I did what I did yesterday, just surfed the edge all the way to Divis and back, not stopping for much unless I really needed it. The clouds were thinning, it was just before 5 pm, and the sunlight was getting weaker. I knew the day was finishing. So at Maguey I got as high as I could, 3100 m, and did the glide for Serro Gordo in hopes of getting a little extra bit for the final glide to goal.
I arrived at Serro Gordo just above the peak, which was enough to get me about 150 m of extra altitude over the pilots below me, and went on the death glide. A bit more at Escale and then it was over. I couldn’t find anymore lift, and everyone was sinking out or going on their final glide. It was 5:05 pm.
My GPS was saying goal was 22:1 glide away, and I was only doing 17:1. I knew it wasn’t enough to make goal but I decided to eke out as much distance as I could. I saw a few pilots weakly circling above their chosen LZ, so I headed out that way and joined them, and was able to gain 50 m, enough to get me a bit further towards goal. Final deathglide again, and at 5 km from goal I came to the end of my LZ options. I was still high enough for maybe another 1 km of glide but it was unbroken forest for the next little bit, and it would have resulted in a tree landing if I went any further. So I pushed as far as I dared for the extra points, and then turned around to land in a small field just west of the airport. Distance from goal: 4.2 km.
The flight took me 5.5 hours, and I only needed another 15-20 minutes of effective sunlight in order to get high enough for the final glide. Had I not gotten stuck between Llano and El Penon, I think I would have made it, sunlight-wise. Or maybe if I was flying a comp glider I would have made it :) As it was, I was able to convert 150 m (my height over Brett at Serro Gordo, he landed 10-11 km from goal) into an extra 6 km of glide. So I was pretty happy to make it so far.
Brad Gunnuscio was first into goal, with 3 hours and 7 minutes. Keith and Jim both made goal; Brett landed at Serro Gordo. I think about 70 pilots made goal today.
It was quite fun to fly the flats and the area to the south of launch. I had never been out that way before and it works quite well, if you are willing to commit to walking if you land out. Thankfully during a comp the retrieve will eventually come and get you, if you land out there!Tracklog is here.