Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Much nicer flying today

Headed up to launch is getting quieter and quieter in the trucks…we are all tired already and spend the 1 hour ride half asleep. And we are falling into bed at an early hour too. The massage service is quite popular after yesterday´s flying: continuously craning your neck to see if somebody is coming at you in the death gaggle is resulting in a lot of kinked necks. It’s become like ¨Survivor¨: who can last the longest?

Today’s task was more suited to the weather conditions: race starting at 1 pm (6 km exit around launch) to Divisidero, then Monarca (up by the butterfly sanctuary), back to launch, Serro Gordo, and then the Lake LZ, for a total of 84 km. As the weather was predicted to be similar to yesterday (not much clouds, stable on the flats, better in the mountains), keeping us over the Mesa and the high ground towards Toluca was a good idea.

It looked ultra stable when the launch window opened, but I decided to launch anyways to get myself established before the hordes joined me. Once again had to wait for a cycle and then it was off to the house thermal. Ratty but not as bad as yesterday, but it soon became crowded with other pilots. So I left for El Penon at my usual lower-than-recommended altitude, got there, and started ridge soaring my way to the top.

I had the Penon pretty much to myself for the longest time, since everyone over at launch couldn’t get high enough to cross over and join me, which suited me just fine :) But when they eventually came over I left and went to the Wall, where it was actually quite nice lift and easy flying.

I went over to Crazy thermal to see what it was like over there, and it was still nasty like yesterday. But it was only 12 noon, and I figured it might get better later on, so I opted to return to the Wall and hang out there for the next 30 minutes or so, rather than battle it out at Crazy. Most other pilots went straight for Crazy, and I could see them all fighting it out over there, while I had it nice and easy over at the Wall.

As 1 pm got closer I figured I should get myself in position over Crazy, as it’s closer to the 6 km start limit than the Wall is, and joined the craziness at Crazy. It wasn’t that bad compared to yesterday though, and even from 30 minutes ago, so it wasn’t quite the mayhem of yesterday. We were able to get to 3000 m for the 1pm start and then it was the armada off to Maguey/3 Kings.

I didn’t hang around that long at Maguey, just enough to get established on the rim and surf along to Divisidero and back. I saw several pilots down low in the canyons, where the closest LZ’s are a long glide out, but the lift is so consistent you can pretty much ignore that fact and just keep going. So long as you stay around rim height you are OK to keep going. When you drop below that’s when you have to stop and find lift back up to rim height.

Back at Maguey it wasn’t working that well, and the group ahead of us over Serro Gordo wasn’t getting high either. So when I got as much altitude as I could over Magey I made the crossing to SG, getting there just below the peak. There was no cloud over it, and the previous group had left rather low, so I didn’t hang out there for long either. It seemed to be working better at Escale with some clouds over it, and the beginning of the convergence. So up under the clouds at Escale and started motoring downwind under the convergence.

On the way to the Monarca TP the lead gaggle and our group passed each other, all of us pretty much at 3400 m. And then it was bye-bye as our group still had to tage the TP. The clouds were working quite well, and as long as you stayed high under them you were OK to keep going straight without turning.

We only had to get within 2 km of Monarca, so we were able to stay under the good clouds the whole way there and back. Coming back was slow with the lake breeze in full effect below 3400 m, but above it was actually north-ish. So at 3600 m we were going downwind, and once below that it was upwind.

At the garbage dump and La Casa, the convergence was coming to an end. And it was quite windy from the south there, and headed back towards launch was totally in the lee. As we lost the convergence and had to rely on ground clues again, it got harder and harder to penetrate into the wind. The last little bit of useful lift was at Sacamacate, and then it was an upwind slog to launch.

I was getting hammered, even from an initial attitude of 3600 m, and I could see the gliders ahead of me having the same problems. We were all going down fast in the lee, so we all had to bail out over Penitas and try to find better lift over there, and try again.

A couple of other gliders and myself found ourselves ridge soaring a small bump just SE of Penitas, and a small thermal broke off that we were able to climb in. But as soon as it reached a certain attitude the over-the-back winds broke it up, and we weren’t able to stay connected with it. I tried again from the same bump but no luck, and a bunch of us ended up landing in the fields below Penitas. I had gotten to within 2 km of the launch TP.

Got picked up by the retrieve vehicle, and Jim Orava was in there. His stirrup had broken as soon as he launched, making his harness very hard to use in flight, so he ended up landing in the same general area as myself. There were also a couple of tree landings between Sacamacate and launch, from pilots trying to penetrate the winds in the lee and getting hammered like my group was.

If you were able to penetrate to the launch TP, it was then a pretty easy glide back to the dying convergence, over to Serro Gordo, and then to goal. I think about 100 pilots in goal, with either Chrigel or Andy Aebi in 1st. My total distance was 66 km in 3 hours, (although 4.5 hours of flying, with 1.5 hours to wait until the start). I think it was a pretty good task, except for making us fly back to launch in strong windy leeside conditions. Capuli would have made a better return TP, as you wouldn’t have to fly into the lee as much, with more landing options if you did get hammered by the winds.

Tracklog is here.

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