The Gordon Report – Saturday
A soaring contest at the Kennyworld OWLS flying site is like music to the ears of any Florida soaring pilot. With scenery to die for, perfectly manicured rolling hills of soft grass and lift all the way to heaven – there is no better place you can imagine to fly a sailplane in a TD contest.
Saturdays FSS6 was well attended with 18 pilots registered of which 15 were Experts and 3 Sportsman. With the wind from the North West we needed to set up the winches at the Power Flying field and the turnarounds to the North of Kenny Goodwin’s home. Kenny is a real sport who has been the glue that has held the Florida Soaring Society together for a couple of decades. Each spring and fall he makes his home, barn and beautiful flying field available for the use of the FSS to conduct these TD contests. We will forever be in Kenny’s debt for his kindness.
Raed from the Buzzards club organized the setting of the winches with the help of the Pompano Hills guys who conduct this contest and CD Mike Naylor got the pilots meeting underway around 9:30am. There would be no “Honors Callup” today with pilots launching at their leisure in an “Open winch” contest with 6 minutes for the first round and 8 minutes there after.
By 10:00am when the first launch took place we had plenty of lift activity and virtually no breeze whatsoever. What breeze we had was about 5mph from the North (on our left) and this made thermal detection fairly easy. In fact with a 6 minute max on the first round only one pilot out of the 18 failed to make 5 minutes and nearly everyone was setting up landings as per their timer’s direction at the 6 minute mark. The landing zone was set up as a 10 foot circle using a 5 foot tape with the first 6” of the tape worth 100 points and the next 12” 75 and the next 18” 50 and the last 24” worth 25 points. The landing zone was set up on top of a knoll with a deep swale in front of it. This meant that landings were over a valley and approaching up the slope toward the landing spot at the top of the knoll.
With lift in abundance it looked very much like this contest was going to be a matter of who could it the circle on the hill. After round one it was fairly obvious that the landing zone was more than a little tricky. The best two landing pilots in the contest (being Rusty and Rich) both failed to find the circle. In fact only 7 pilots actually scored landing points with myself making the most of it with a 75 pointer. This was to be the order of the day as the occasional cross wind and downwind landing made it tough for everybody to set their sailplane down on top of the hill.
Round 2 saw fantastic lift being marked really well by dozens of small swallows feeding on insects in different parts of the field. Most pilots took advantage of these little lift markers and got their max again, though as with all good lift days there was times of sink and less adventurous pilots who didn’t move out to the lift quickly, never made it through the sink and returned short on time. The LZ was once again the difference on the top of the leader-board. My personal landing practice for the last 4 months has been to the same style of LZ as todays contest. This gave me plenty of confidence and I once again hit the mark with a 75 – one second over to take the top points. Rusty Carver and Rick Eckel both scored 50 to stay in the hunt. This round the landing zone provided points for over half the field with Kris Van Nostran, Bernie Coleman, Dan Johns and Kurt Carlsen also scoring 50’s.
Round 3 was started before noon with a 30 min lunch break to be taken after. The great conditions continued with lift in many different reachable areas and pilots taking advantage to get an easy 8 min max. The landings were not quite so easy as the downwind conditions occurred throughout the round as the wind swung to a more south-easterly and strong lift played with the direction at the LZ. Rusty once again struggled with a ship moving too fast in the circle and sliding through while others trying to fly “up the hill” were found wanting as they landed short. The final result saw just one 75 once again scored by myself as my practice landings started to pay off. Chuck McCann scored a 50 to take 2nd for the round while the rest of the field were out in the 25’s.
At the end of Round 3 the score sheet showed Bernie Coleman and his Supra Pro in 5th place on 1378 points, Jamie Mercado with his 3.8 Xplorer in 4th on 1387, Kris Van Nostran and his Perfect in 3rd on 1408, Rick Eckel in 2nd with his Perfect and 1414 points with myself and my 3.5 Xplorer in 1st on 1539 point.
After a short lunch where Rich Kiburis, Ray Alonzo and Rick Eckel flew their new electrics, we began Round 4 in conditions that were about as hot as they have been this summer. Bloody sweltering – we would call it.
Of course the lift was extraordinary but the small birds had given the game away and clearly were holed up somewhere cool while we stood out in the middle of a field and looked up at the sun. 15 flyers made the 8 minutes and set about trying to hit the elusive 100 point prize in the middle. Finally Rusty showed us his skill with a great 100 pointer to take the top points for the round. Once again I hit a 75 and frankly was very happy with 4 in a row even though I wasn’t hitting the 100, I was being very consistent. That’s exactly what this game takes to score well and this would be my most consistent landing result ever in a TD contest. As we finalized the scoring for Round 4 the CD announced that due to the approaching storms and extreme heat and an informal vote that Round 5 would be our last for the day.
The rain was visible less than 2 miles away as we began the last round and some dark clouds hid the sun sufficiently to kill the strong lift that had been working all day. As pilots launched most went left and early in the round a patch of lift remained “sort of stuck” on the left side for the first group of fliers to get their time. By the time the second phase of fliers got airborne the air was neutral to buoyant, but sufficient to float for 7 or 8 minutes and most contestants found that although they were gradually descending they were able to still make the time. I explored a lot of territory and turned in a lot of stuff that was stable but never gained a foot for the entire flight to make my time with about 50 feet of altitude to spare.
Once again Rusty showed that he has the skills as he hit the 100 pointer but was a full minute short on time. Ray Alonzo flying his old Escape took the round with an 8:01 and 50 pointer and I finally missed the 75 point zone to also make a 50 with Kris Van Nostran following up also with a great landing of 50 with his Perfect.
The crew quickly packed up the winches to beat the rain storm on its way and CD Mike Naylor got us together for the presentations.
The winning Sportsman today was the CD himself – Mike Naylor flying a Shadow with a score of 2025. 2nd Sportsman was Art Scheurer a local Owls pilot flying an Onyx and 3rd was Chris Manley and his Sapphire.
3rd place in Expert was Kris Van Nostran on 2458 points who flew a great contest making his landings really count today. Rusty started to hit his straps in the latter rounds and finished 2nd on 2460 points. I had an extremely consistent day with good landing points every round and took the win with 2621 points. It was an extremely hot day with lift a plenty but a rather tricky landing zone which made the difference in the end. Tomorrow promises to be similar with great thermal conditions and a fantastic group of Florida fliers to duke it out. See you all there and if you can’t make it – I am sorry you missed out on an amazing days soaring.