The Gordon Report Sunday.
Sundays weather was forecast as “more of the same” just like Saturday’s wind. We would be expecting a 15 mph blow from the south east starting as early as 9:30 am. The temps were to be mid 70′s with a high probability of thunderstorms and rain in the afternoon. Yesterdays wind had claimed a few models with one Sharon still perched high in a pine tree waiting for the tree climber to fetch her down and my Sharon suffering a broken fuse. Some “out of town” soaring pilots had returned home also, so this meant that we would be hard pressed to see 20 pilots today. It was with great disappointment that I completed the entry of contestants on my laptop to begin the contest and counted just 18 pilots. I personally decided to continue flying the old Icon I had assembled out of parts for my son Jamie to fly last year. She is an honest TD ship and as tough as nails. She had also yielded me two maxes yesterday after failing 5 times in a row with my Sharon Pro in the fickle wind. Raed our contest director began the contest on time after a short pilot meeting and the 1st round was underway by 9:00am. The sky was overcast with a hazy cloud obscuring the sun and a gentle wind of about 5 mph was running from the East as Rick Eckel launched to show us where the good air was at. As it turned out there wasn’t a lot of good air and it wasn’t long before Rick’s exploration of the sky to the south had found no friendly air and he had returned to the downwind treeline to see if he could surf the slope lift there. He often amazes us with his soaring skills but this particular display was nothing short of masterful. For over 4 minutes he circled and S turned his Perfect no more than 20 feet above the tree tops, until he finally made his 8 minute max and streaked upwind for the LZ. His score was a perfect 8:00 – 100. It doesn’t get better than that! It seemed that Sunday was going to be a repeat of Saturday’s horror stories with just 4 pilots completing their maxes in Round one while the rest of us limped around the field in generally down air to make 4 or 5 minutes. Some of us also tried to surf the treeline (as Rick had done a few minutes earlier,) but none had the same degree of success except Ray Alonzo with his Ava Pro. Ray showed that he could ride the mild lift being generated by the gentle breeze on the face of the pine trees. David Beach from NH (Perfect) and Ed White with his Fusion were the other 2 pilots to get their max while the number 5 slot for honors in round 2 was filled by Kris Van Nostran of the IRKS club flying his Pike.
By the time Round one was over and honors called for the 2nd round, the wind had already picked up closer to 12 mph with gusts of 15 or more. The honors pilots found the going very tough and all 5 were down on the treeline inside of 4 minutes. Ray Alonzo had some success again but both Rick and Ed found themselves just above tree top height and downwind by 100 feet from the front edge of the forest when a particularly large gust came through. For a few moments it looked like Rick would make it out of the woods with some artful dodging, but finally the tallest tree clutched his Pike and held her close. Ed was still trying to claw his way back forward to our clearing, but he too had drifted too far over the forest with the unexpected gust and he was just 40 feet from freedom when another conifer claimed his Fusion from the air and sent her to the forest floor. Meanwhile Ray Alonzo managed to salvage a decent time of 6:19 minutes with a 100 landing. After seeing the difficulty early in this round, many of the pilots lured by the slope lift and flirting with the trees earlier, began treating the tall conifers with much greater respect. I personally had success working upwind to a favorite honey hole where a wide band of wave lift provided ample bouyancy to easily get my max. Gordy Stahl worked a difficult thermal from the same area and finished well downwind but with ample height to make it back. The wind was very strong as round 2 came to a close and not many pilots had much success turning in the small thermals, as the bubbles drifted rapidly and broke up just as fast as they formed, leaving some sailplanes stranded in a bucket of sinking air far from home. I managed the first of many maxes with an 8:02 – 100 but was pipped by Gordy with perfect 8:00 – 100. 3rd in honors for round 3 was Paul Mittendorf from Pompano fliers and the unstoppable Ray Alonzo was 4th. Dan Johns flying his Shadow extremely well was number 5 at Raed’s starter gun.
The windiest weather we had experienced for the weekend was really taking it’s toll on our contest pilots confidence, as aside from those 2 sailplanes in the clutch of the conifers, we had a couple more fliers call it a day while their aircraft were still in one piece. Round 3 launched with just 14 fliers still competing. Raed sent us on our way with the most difficult air you could imagine. Launching into a patch of cold air blowing at 15 mph, Gordy and I both worked our way forward to the North. Gordy was ahead of me and further left and I could see that even though we had launched only 40 seconds apart he was already considerably lower. I promptly worked away from him to the right and was met with much more agreeable air than he was experiencing. Ed White provided me with great information about the pack and informed me that I was doing the best out of the honors group and that they were all on the way to landing spots except Ray. I managed a respectable 7:40 but fell short of the LZ while Ray amazed us all again with genius piloting of his AvA Pro to post the top score of the round with a 7:54 – 100. 3rd best flight was Dan Johns with Paul Mittendorf and his Shadow in the 4th spot. The air was so difficult for that entire round that 5th place was filled by Gordy with just a 4:38 – 50. He had flown into a hole and wasn’t able to save this particular flight but still posted a score better than most.
Raed had cooked up some great burgers on the BBQ and I reckon he will probably be soon taking over Rusty’s official BBQ position they were so good. Rick helped out with the CD’ing by getting Round 4 underway while Raed finished up with his kitchen duties.
The wind had steadied and was blowing consistently at 10 to 15 mph as we began the 4th round of TD. Ray launched first and for some reason went right. I was 2nd away and returned to the left once again to find great wave lift and didn’t need to make a single downwind turn until landing time. My 7:59 – 100 assured me of another honors start while Ray had an uncustomary short flight and was looking for the LZ with less than 4 minutes on the clock. Dan and Paul also found the going tough and the only other max posted by the honors pilots was Gordy’s. Launching later in the round Rich Kiburis scored a fantastic 8:03 – 100 to be 2nd in honors for round 5 while Rick Eckel managed to max his 2m laser backup ship to make 3rd spot. Jamie Mercado and Al Parsons filled the other two positions. By this point in the contest my consistent flight times and landings had bumped me to the top of the score sheet with Ray and Gordy close behind. I knew that round five was extremely important to me with the honors system as neither of the two pilots closest to me would be required to launch in honors for that round. I would need to be sure of another max if I was to retain 1st place position. The air was kind to me as I pushed wide from launch once again and I found the patch of air I needed to score my max. It was a great round for everyone in the contest as the ground was at it warmest and lift was fairly easy to find. All but 4 pilots got their time and nearly everybody scored landing points as well.
Raed announced that only one more round was to be flown and the honors fliers for round 6 were Gordy, Kris, David, Ray and myself. I knew I had a big enough cushion to win the contest with a max so I set out as number 5 to cover the others ahead of me while I worked my happy hunting ground upwind. As I moved forward of the pack I found bouyant air and relaxed while I watched the others downwind of my position. My timer Ed kept me informed as the others worked a thermal downwind over the trees. With 4 minutes on the clock it was apparent that my piece of action was disbursing and I made the decision to get back to where the others were marking lift. As I arrived at the tree line I found the good air about 100 feet below the gaggle of 3 sailplanes working the thermal. I was able to watch them also while I flew and felt pretty confident that I had the max in the bag. It was during this relaxing moment that I saw Gordy and Ray’s aircraft come together as Gordy broke from the lift to prepare for his landing. Both aircraft continued to fly but as Gordy came nearer the edge of the treeline his right wing on the Perfect clapped hands with the left. To his credit Gordy did manage to get the aircraft inverted to hold the wing flat again but no sooner was the plane flying again than it once again clapped hands and fell into the grasp of the ever waiting pine trees. Meanwhile I continued to fly while I watched Ray’s Ava. He completed his time and than began his descent to land. Without warning “crack” went his wing and the Ava Pro descended into the trees also. I was able to watch his right wing flutter down and take a line to maybe help locate the wing later. Ed reminded me of my duty to fly my own task so getting my mind back on the job at hand I completed the 8:00 minutes and brought my old Icon back to the LZ. I missed the final landing points in the but had more than enough points to take 1st place in the contest. Unfortunately we didn’t get the 20 pilots we needed for an LSF 5 contest but a win is always good for the spirit. Jamie Mercado flew great to take his Xplorer to 2nd place while Rich Kiburis filled 3rd place flying his Onyx JW. Mike Naylor was awarded 1st placed Sportsman. With the contest over and rain approaching we packed up the scoring and winches and then set about trying to help Ray find his Ava in the thick brush. A pro tree climber had already recovered Vic’s Sharon in good shape, Ricks Perfect from the tall pine and also Gordy’s Perfect was recovered with a badly damaged center section. (Those Ava Pros are tough.) David Beach used his hand held GPS to get a fix on the missing Ava wing where ai saw it go down and we spent a couple of hours deep in the woods trying to find it without success. It was a sad way to end a very challenging TD contest but a lot of fun was had by all who attended and I am sure we will recover Ray’s beautiful AvA Pro maybe next weekend if the weather co-operates.
See you all at the next contest in Punta Gorda. Lets support the folks down south for FSS 4, as we will lose this event from our calendar if it is not supported en masse.
I must apologize to all for my inability to attend Punta Gorda as I will be in Australia.