Saturday, July 14, 2012

Chelan July 14

On glide for Sims.
We weren't sure we'd be going up the mountain but the pilots ultimately voted to head up, and up top it was surprisingly OK-looking.  Some big stuff in the mountains but the flats looked good, so a quick Sims-n-back task was called, in order that pilots would be down early in time for scoring and the party, and also in case the skies blew up into thunderstorms.

Since storms were forecast I was keeping my own personal close eye on the weather and it was behaving itself with all the big stuff keeping in the mountains and the flats staying human.  I was able to manage the crossing to the rim successfully as we all headed for the best sunny spot, had a good start, flew to Sims and tagged the TP no problems.  The skies were looking really good and level 1's all over, when all of a sudden it seemed like a light switch was turned.  All the small, nice-looking cu's all of a sudden started getting really big, and reports came in from Chelan of gusting winds and don't land here.  So Doug decided to stop the task and it was raining paragliders into Mansfield.  I was 2970m and decided to land asap so spiralled and wingovered my way down to the ground at 650m.  Those who had passed Mansfield on the way to goal turned around, and those just tagging the TP  boogied it to the football field as well.  It was kinda fun, once on the ground, to watch everyone come in and try to figure out the wind direction, as it kept switching as a storm grew to the north, with some entertaining butt skids and downwind landings.
The skies as we were waiting for the retrieve.

All the pilots still in the air were on the ground a good 15-20 minutes before it started getting really big north of Mansfield and it started thundering in the distance.  The only surprise was a sailplane coming in to land at the airstrip as it thundered overhead...turns out he was out of Twisp and opted to land where it was safest and deal with his retrieve later, rather than attempt the flight back to Twisp.

Doug did an excellent job of calling the day when he did; everyone was down and partially packed up by the time it got nasty.  He had parked himself on a high point on the rim where he could see the entire courseline and the associated local weather, and had volunteers watching the Butte, Lake Chelan, and the soccer field to also give reports, so all the local areas were covered.  Usually when a task is stopped it's actually too late and some pilots end up landing in wind or rain...it's always preferable to stop a task too soon rather than too late.  One pilot was heard to complain that the task shouldn't have been stopped as it was still OK to fly, but later on when it started to rain he changed his tune :)  I guess he's learned a bit more about flying in a comp during really unstable conditions, and trusting local knowledge!  It was very amazing to watch the skies change so quickly...within 15 minutes it went from nice and blue with small cu's, to large and menacing rainclouds.

So that's it for the comp...we will get results tonight and of course it's party time too.  All in all a really successful comp...we had really good weather for the most part and only a few hiccups due to wind and/or fires.  Results will come later.

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