Saturday, January 12, 2013

Monarca Open final results

Monarca final results.

After 6 awesome tasks we finally found out who was the winner...Josh Cohn hung onto 1st place overall and Brett Hazlett got 2nd place!  Marko came in 3rd place overall.

I took women's 1st place and 23rd overall!  Before this comp I had mentioned, mostly in jest, that it would be nice to place in the top 20, but I wasn't very serious.  Had I not landed out today I probably would have retained top 20, but 23rd is pretty close and this is the best finish I've had in years outside of a Canadian comp.

The racing this week was fantastic and the task committee made some good challenging tasks that took us places we don't normally go on non-comp days.  It was really fun seeing how much I could keep up with the Big Boys and learning tonnes about following lifty lines and letting the glider do its job.  After 10 days of flying here, I managed over 36 hours airtime and ~450 km XC, which is pretty sweet when you consider it's January.  Valle is such a great place to fly and you're pretty much guaranteed oodles of airtime, at the perfect time of year when you're wanting to get away.

Back to Vancouver now and the cold...likely no flying for at least another month, and then it'll be coming up to XC season in the Fraser Valley!!!

Monarca Open Jan 12

Jan 12 tracklog.

The final day of this comp and the task committee decided to go bold and send us out to Aguila (the direct way!) which, if you sink out, you're in the deep canyons or on the wrong side of the peak and a long retrieve back to Valle.  And of course as we arrived at the TP, a bunch of cirrus showed up and it was time to switch to "survival mode" and wait it out.

Many gliders didn't make it and sunk out either at Aguila, or on the way back to Penon as the lift was in weird spots with lots of sink in between.  But once back on the Wall it was easy up to cloudbase and then riding the convergence over Sacamacate to the San Francisco TP out by Mesa-D.

I was at cloudbase, 3400m, when I went on glide to tag the TP and it was enormous sink all the way there and back.  I couldn't believe that much sink could exist and considered turning back to try to re-establish under the clouds and try again.  But the Enzo in front of me was continuing on and I was in race mode, so I stuck it out.  Bad mistake!  Coming back from the TP I couldn't find a way out of the sink and shade and ended up dirting in San Lucas, while the Enzo found a better line and got back up under the convergence and presumably goal :)

Of course about 10 minutes later the sun fully came back out and it was probably easy flying as dozens of gliders flew overhead as I was packing up.  But I wasn't too disappointed...it was a really cool flight especially the save over Aguila and a valuable learning experience.  Sometimes you need to turn the race mode off!

I think about 50 pilots made goal today and Brett H and Josh were neck and neck for the $300 US prize money for today's winner.   Awards ceremony is tonight and we'll find out who won overall.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Monarca Open Jan 11

Jan 11 tracklog.
Monarca results.

Another perfect Valle day with light winds, high base 3400m, and an epic convergence line on the other side of the Mesa.  Today's task was fairly short, ~70km, of back-n-forth across the Mesa and towards the Butterflies ridge.  The climbs were fast, and once under the convergence it was speedbar all the way to the ridge, a bit of climbing, and then speedbar back to the Mesa.

Two possible ways to tag the 3 Kings TP...either heading back to the Wall and tagging it from the SW, or stay on the St. Augustine/Escalaria side and tag it from the NE.  I chose the Wall side so I could approach 3 Kings from upwind, rather than the possible sink downwind of Maguey.  Beamed up to 3200m after tagging it and then I knew I had the ESS and goal on glide, so I barred it all the way over the lake, neck and neck with 2 other gliders and it was butter smooth!

60 pilots in by goal close, and I made it in 2:18 (the leaders were 1:51) which gave me 22nd place for the day and back to 16th overall.  Lots of action in the LZ as the packup kids were out in full force and the TV news crews were filming the action and interviewing pilots.

Tomorrow is the final day and hopefully I can keep it together one last time!  So far the racing has been really fun, especially since I can now keep up with more pilots and exploit the local terrain more fully, pushing into wind and staying in the convergence are now so much easier!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Monarca Open Jan 10

Jan 10 tracklog.
Monarca Open results.

Felt a bit high-pressury today, with much less clouds and rougher climbs.  In fact the whole waiting for the start, and until the convergence, was rough and ratty compared to yesterday.

Given the bluer skies and higher base (3600m) the task committee sent us to the Monarca ridge and then behind Torre launch to the Elefante TP, before returning us to the backside of the Mesa and finally the lake, for about 80km.

It was only once we arrived at St. Augustine that I was finally able to connect with the clouds and get high enough to stop worrying about landing out :)  Because the Monarca TP was arranged as a line, we could tag it anywhere along the ridge, so I opted to head there via Mesa-D, with a bunch of other gliders tagging along behind me.  The lead gaggle had chosen the more direct line to the Saucos end of the ridge, but it seemed much bluer going that way which is why I chose the slightly-longer, but (looked) more centered under the convergence, route.

I've never really liked the Elefante TP...I've always found it windy, rough, not much for cloud action, and generally not that nice a place to hang out.  Today was no exception and it was slow going in there to stay high in the wind and not land out, while trying to tag the TP way out in the valley.  Many pilots landed out in the Saucos area as the wind was too much for them, but about 4 of us managed to get out of there and back towards Jovans.

Unfortunately we weren't able to reach the convergence and it was a windy ride to the ground around the Jovan area.  I pointed my glider at the last TP and turned around 3 km short so I could make a safe landing at the airport where I could see Brett Z and James Bradley packing up.  The small airplane waiting at the end of the runway was nice enough to wait for me to land before beginning his takeoff.

We had at least 3 reserve deployments today...one was just behind launch a few minutes after I took off.  The second was just short of the Elefante TP.  And the third was in the 3 Kings area, where a helicopter was dispatched to expedite the removal of the pilot+glider from the trees.  All pilots were OK.  Brett Yeates managed to put his glider down in a tiny LZ after a long sinky glide over a sea of trees and a long walk out to Serro Gordo.

In the end only 8 pilots made goal so me landing at the airport actually gave me a pretty good score...I managed to hold onto 13 place for the day.  Pretty happy with today's result!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Monarca Open Jan 9

Jan 9 tracklog.
Mexico photos.
Monarca results.

Another perfect sunny day with delicious cu's popping all over the place!  Short-ish task today to ensure lots in goal, this time 57km over to La Pila, Aguila, and then the lake.

Lots of cloud surfing was had by all just before the start, and fast racing to La Pila and Aguila where the clouds were showing the way.  I had my fastest, smoothest climb of the day just south of Diente, where a nice 5+m/s took me up to cloudbase and then it was basically speedbar all the way past Espina and Maguey where a few more turns just to ensure goal, and then reaching the ESS in 1:56.

We did have at least 1 reserve deployment (and possibly 2)...the known one was tossed really high over La Pila and he apparently rode it down into a canyon where he was eventually found.  I also saw a pilot, low, on the Avandaro side of the lake in some rotor, and later on didn't see him...he reported settling into the trees as he couldn't make the glide to a beach just upwind of him.  I did see 2 reserves being examined in the goal field and one was pretty trashed!

We had a pretty full compliment of Canucks in goal...Brett H, Brett Y, Will, and myself.  And it was Will's first time in goal!

The task committee could have certainly called a longer task today, but given the paucity of pilots in goal the past 2 days, I can totally understand them wanting to have lots of pilots in goal.  In the end I saw maybe 50-60 pilots in goal, with several more either landing short, or landing in goal after it closed at 4:30pm.  Had it been a free flying day, it would have been an easy flight to Toluca!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Monarca Open Jan 8

Jan 8 tracklog.

The day started off cloudy, which I wasn't initially concerned about since in the past, cloudy starts to the day have often resulted in the best afternoon flying as the clouds break.  But not today!  It stayed cloudy for most of the day, with low cloudbase, wind, and threatening rain by the end.

Task 2
Today's task was back and forth across the Mesa, about 75 km optimized distance.  On paper it looked good, but the weather conditions conspired against us!  It all started out with generally overcast conditions and very hard to get up to cloudbase, with many good pilots landing in the Piano even before the race start.

I was almost one of them...I tried to hang out at Espina but it was actually rotoring over the cliffs with lots of leeside cloud *below* the cliffs, and I had to run back to the Penon twice to tank back up and try again.  Third time was the charm as I was finally able to get high enough to actually start the task 30 minutes late.

Pilots were scattered all over the place, as many pilots had already dirted all along the courseline in the windy and overcast conditions.  Fortunately I had a lot of bird action to help me out and I was able to climb out from windy and nasty places multiple times thanks to them.

After a brief window of blue-ish skies, the skies redeveloped over the Mesa and it looked like it was shutting down.  So I made the decision to make distance and jumped over the back, just to basically get towards the Monarca turnpoint before it totally shut down.  Had my first IP6 cravatte which I worked out no problem, once again increasing my confidence in this glider!

In the end I landed near the turnpoint and a short walk out to the highway, where I learned that the lead gaggle had dirted on the way back from the same turnpoint, scattered around Jovans or Serro Gordo.  So nobody made goal, and I think I did pretty OK relative to the lead gaggle.

Today was a weird day...there was really smooth air, and really rough air...sometimes within seconds of each other!  Cloudbase was really low all day and it seemed impossible to do some of what we ended up doing, like leaving the Wall from so low, flying in wind for so long, and successfully climbing out from down low.  But if you throw enough pilots at a problem, somebody will solve it!

One tree-landing near launch, pilot is OK; and one non-flying accident by a pilot falling off a truck at HQ this morning.  He is resting in Mexico City hospital and will be flown back to Canada shortly.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monarca Open Jan 7

Task 1 tracklog.

The first task and it was a bit of a doozy: an FAI triangle that would take us out to Divis before recrossing the Mesa towards Aguila, before heading over the deep canyons and high-tension powerlines to the Monarca ridge, back across the Mesa to Maguey, and a final sphincter-clenching glide over the Lake to the far side of La Pena, before gliding back up/crosswind to the goal LZ.  Optimized distance ~81km.

Since there was no launch priority today I got early in line and was actually the 3rd person to launch, which meant I had to wait 1.5 hours at Espina for the start.  Cloudbase was nice and high, about 3400m initially and eventually went to 3600m later in the day, so the Divis and return to Espina was relatively straightforward.  But no joy across the flats to the Aguila area, and our gaggle arrived low and had to fester for a long time.  Most of the gaggle actually landed out at this point, and it was only myself and another IP6 that survived the sinkhole.
Hanging out near Espina waiting for more pilots to join me.

In fact the whole next part of the flight was one giant low save after another, with me getting below hill level at least twice before I climbed out and was able to frisbee myself a few more km's downwind before doing it all over again.  The lift over the gorges and powerlines wasn't very organized, and it wasn't until I flew over Mesa-D town that I was able to use the small hills behind the town to finally connect with the convergence and breath a sigh of relief.  Unfortunately the other gliders I had caught up with were all too low and landed at Mesa-D, so once again I was the sole surviver.

But I was finally under the convergence and put the pedal to the metal and drove upwind to the Mesa to tag Maguey and get home.  It was getting late and Serro Gordo was shutting down, so after I managed to squeak back up to 2900m I decided to go for it, leaving the lower gliders to continue festering where they eventually landed near the church at the base.

The task committee had decided that instead of sending us to the goal field via Torre launch, we had to fly fully across the lake to the far side of Valle, tag the hills to the north, and fly back upwind to the goal field.  Fortunately the lake is very low now, and there is ample beach for the multitudes of pilots who tagged the ESS but were now too low to make the goal LZ.  I was almost one of them...had I left Serro Gordo 100m lower I wouldn't have made it, but I squeaked in the ESS and made the goal field.

At least one other pilot crossed the ESS after me and made goal, so I know I'm not last :)  I was just happy to make goal and not have to be retrieved from elsewhere.  It was very sweet to make goal after my series of low saves over the blue hole of death and watching most everyone else sink out.

Brett Yeates almost made goal...he ended up landing at the church in Serro Gordo along with a bunch of other pilots.  Tom Chromy had a technical issue with his instrument and ended up landing up by Divis, where he got a ride from a 12-year old driving a truck!  Tonnes of pilots landed out just before Aguila, and maybe only 15-20 pilots made goal.  The task was a bit ambitious in my opinion, given it was the first day with many new comp pilots, but it was certainly interesting, with a combination of fast speedbar flying, switching to survival mode, riding the convergence, and finally being patient but not too patient with calculating the final glide over the lake.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Valle de Bravo Jan 6

Flying down the lake from the dam.
Decided to not stray too far from the lake since we had registration and safety meetings to do later on; many pilots opted for the same, going either to Divis and the lake, or a flight to Saucos and return.  I opted to run to Divis and Escalaria, before returning towards Divis on the other side and jumping off the backside of the Mesa to the dam, before doing the "Superfinal" glide to La Pena.  The backside of the Mesa was working surprisingly well with nice clouds and not much wind, and being so far upwind of the lake LZ, it was nice to be able to tour around the upper end of the lake and have the LZ within glide the entire time.   Lots of pilots followed me to Divis and Escalaria, but I had the return flight on the Mesa backside pretty much all to myself; nice!

Jan 6 tracklog.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Valle de Bravo Jan 5

Jan 5 tracklog.

Tried something a bit more ambitious today after 2 days of easy flying.  A bit drier than the past 2 days but the thermals were still quite nice and not rough, and the only clouds that got really big were waaay in the distance.  Had a tense moment over launch when a glider had a collapse and turned right into me as he worked on fixing it...fortunately I was able to crank out of his way as he pendulummed through where I had just been and continued on his way.  Gotta have eyes everywhere in a Valle crowd!

This time a group of us decided to try La Pila (out by the mine on the flats) followed by a run to the ridge behind Saucos and then back to the Lake.  But in the end it was just Brett Z and I doing the flight as everyone else either changed their minds or didn't catch up in time...meanwhile a bunch of other pilots had planned on Aguila after La Pila before the Butterflies and then Valle, so we were all together up to La Pila at least.

After tagging La Pila, it got a bit slow as a bunch of high cirrus came in and shut things down, so it was a bit of survival mode at 3 Kings until it turned on again.  Hopefully the Aguila-bound pilots were able to survive the shade cycle too, and not get stuck landed out on the remote back ridge with a long retrieve.  But once it turned back on it was an easy run to Serro Gordo to hook up with the convergence, which today seemed to be centered over Escalaria/Mesa-D area.

A giant blue hole the direct way to Saucos and the ridge so Brett and I flew the Mesa-D route instead, flying the cloudstreet without much turning needed.  Plenty of lift over at the actual ridge, and it looked possible to actually head up to the Butterflies, but I wanted to start heading back while it was still strong and in the middle of the day.

The convergence was still set up in the same place, and the big blue hole over and to the north of Jovans was still there, so it was back towards St. Augustine and Escalaria before heading for home.  A bunch of pilots were coming at us by this time, perhaps the Aguila-bound crowd, and the cloudstreet was looking sweet for everyone.

Something to confess...I had forgotten my "in-flight preparations" at the Posada and I was really needing to go for the past hour, and I finally broke down and decided to cut my flight short for some sweet relief on the ground.  Brett watched me turn around and spiral down to the airport, and I'm sure he was wondering what the heck I was doing, but he continued on and was able to make it back to Valle.

I wasn't really that upset as I was only about 6-7km from the lake and had the airport strip all to myself and a quiet place to pack up...the airport security guard came out to chat later on but it was all good and no issues landing there.  30 minutes later back in Valle courtesy of one of the Norwegian shuttles picking me up on the main road, doesn't get much better than that!

I think the La Pila-Aguila-Butterflies group probably made it, although I'm sure there were some pilots that got dropped during the run back to the Lake, as the blue hole the direct way  back was there all afternoon, and if you were too low under the convergence, you ended up just in the shade and no way back up to cloudbase.  The convergence works awesomely, so long as you remain the zone just below cloudsuck but not so low that you can't use the cloudsuck at times.  It's a fine line!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Valle de Bravo Jan 4

Another beautiful day with some chance of OD, so I ended up doing a similar flight to yesterday since I didn't want to be caught out in the shade if things shut down.  Lots of shade over Maguey so after getting to cloudbase around 3100m over Espina a bunch of us headed for 3 Kings instead which was still in sun.  It was the kind of day where you were either at cloudbase and fighting to stay out of the cloudsuck, or scratching close to the trees/rocks...there wasn't much of an in-between today!

SE winds so the run to Divisidero was quick heading there, and slower coming back, the opposite of what it usually does there.  Maguey was still shaded out (and appeared to stay shady all day) so back to 3 Kings to top-up and then head across to Iglesia and the convergence, before heading to Escalaria to see how far east the convergence went.  There were patches of sun towards Saucos and the Butterflies, but a whole lot of shade and big tall clouds; I saw some pilots go that way but I turned around for the sun and a nice landing at the lake LZ and a torta.

I believe the Norwegians did a large-ish task to Mesa-D and then La Pila after the Divis leg, and maybe 8-10 pilots made it back.  Many other pilots landed out either at Saucos or Jovan's after getting flushed off the backside of the Mesa by the south winds.

After 2 days of easy flying to get back in the groove, I'm feeling pretty good so I hope to do something different tomorrow (weather permitting).  Let the good weather continue!

Jan 4 track.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Valle de Bravo Jan 3

Heading for the lake LZ.
Well after over 2 months of no flying (Canadian winter!) I was finally back in the saddle with a nice aerial tour to work the kinks out.  I have to admit, I was kinda expecting things to feel a bit "off" due to my hiatus, but in fact it was probably the nicest flying I've had in Valle in years.  The skies were popping, winds were light-ish, it wasn't rough or snarky anywhere I flew!  It was the perfect day for those of us wanting niceness...many pilots who had just showed up and were flying for the first time in months (some since August), also said the conditions were awesome.  I think it may have been partially due to the rain we had yesterday which may have "mellowed" things out a bit.

We did have a reserve toss over the Wall...well kinda.  The pilot chucked after a collapse on an entry-level glider, but the reserve flew back into his face and enveloped him, while the glider started flying again.  So he clawed the reserve from himself and stuffed it onto his lap, flew to the Piano LZ, and apparently had a hard time getting down :)

A nice chillout session at the lake LZ, working on our tans, as we watched everyone else come in.  As well there is now boat-towing off the LZ...650 pesos per tow for those who want to acro their way down over and over again.

Time to eat and then repeat tomorrow!

Jan 3 Tracklog