Red Rocks Nats July 28

Getting ready on a sunny, no-TCU day!
New photos are here.

Given the propensity for the skies to blow up lately, the task committee wisely set a shorter task that would take us away from where the blow-ups have been occurring and have us on the ground sooner.  Task was 68.5 km north to Centerfield (when you take the cylinders out, it actually comes to more like 61 km), which is the same direction as task #1 but not so far.

Winds were pretty light for much of the flight; cloudbase was lower than on Sunday, just shy of 15,000'.  This time I was able to get past the Sigurd/Glenwood gap at highway 24 without wasting a bunch of time, flying with Jug and Bill Hughes for a while.  We parted ways for a bit while they ventured out front while I flew deeper, but in the end we rejoined with neither route showing a clear advantage.  There were plenty of clouds marking thermals out front this time, compared to Sunday when the only clouds were deeper in, so more people were flying the front route this time around.

I could see Centerfield in the distance between Salina and Gunnison, and had been keeping an eye on my transitions.  I had been getting 9-10:1 for most of the flight so I made a mental note that when I got a 7:1 glide to goal I would go for it.  I was with maybe 5 or 6 gliders when we topped up to around 11, 000' (goal at 5200') and went for the 10 km glide to goal.

Initially I thought I was going to make goal easily...I was maintaining the 9-10:1 glide and had goal at 7:1.  But then it happened...the air became super-sinky (see the last graph on my flight to see the massive sink near the end) and I watched as my actual glide disintegrated and my needed glide to goal started going up:  8:1, 9:1, 10:1, 11:1, and it kept going on and on.  Sh*t!  Everyone around me was falling out of the sky...some were getting slightly better lines and some were on comp gliders, but we were all in the same trouble: we were not gonna make goal.
Goal is in the cloud shadow to the center-right.

I made myself as pointy as possible and prayed for some lift in the final km's; often you get a floaty line as you approach the ground with people many times ending up too high over goal.  But not this time.  The awful sink continued all the way to the ground; I landed 1.3 km short of goal.  I could see the goal field with the windsock and trucks waiting for us, but I couldn't quite get the last 1.3 km!

My mistake today was not giving more consideration for a sinkier-than-usual line on the way to goal.  Usually when I have goal at 7:1 and I've been doing 9 or 10:1 up till then, I make goal no problem and in fact usually arrive too high.  This time however it was the opposite and 7:1 wasn't enough.  I heard stories today of people with 5 or 6:1 not making it, so it seems that today you needed somewhere around 4 or 5:1 in order to make goal comfortably.

Bill Hughes made it to within 500m of goal (landing a couple of fields further than me), while Jug got a slightly better line and barely made goal.  Many others dirted 3-5 km short of goal.  Other pilots tagged the end of speed section (10 km from goal center), and then returned to the mountains to try to find more lift to make the final 5 km's to the edge of the goal cylinder.  Apparently Bill, Hayden, and Nick were in a group that attempted this from quite low, with Bill marking a thermal at the last minute just before running out of altitude and landing, allowing Nick and Hayden to overfly him, catch what Bill wasn't high enough to catch, and use it to get high enough to tag goal.  Many other stories of pilots just squeaking into goal, or just landing short by a few km's in the awful sink in the valley.  Claudio told the story of being in the highway 24 gap when he was about to land in the only LZ around, spotting what he initially thought was a cow, got lower and discovered it was a bear, and then found the incentive to thermal back out of there and continue on his way :)

In the end about 10 pilots made goal, with numerous others like myself landing just short.  Most people agreed that the task was awesome however: a nice XC distance, no bad weather to speak of (just a few cu's with rain dropping out a looonnngg way away), light winds, and a good spread of pilots strung out along the course.  Once again the task committee called it perfectly, sending us the right direction and for a suitable length of time.  Thanks guys!

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