The Gordon Report – Belated
The first soaring contest for the year is always one to look forward to as we thaw out from a long winter break. It’s also a time we get to re-acquaint ourselves with our soaring buddies and many come out to chat about planes and stuff as we fly. This FSS 1 was no exception as some visitors turned up from the North to pass time with us and club members came out to watch that have not been at the field on a contest day for some time.
The weather was not as friendly as she may have been with 10 – 12 mph forecast and gusts to 25. That’s pretty much what we experienced on Saturday too as the forecasters got it right with a stationary cold front overhead keeping the cloud in place. What it did mean though was that we had more warmth than you would expect on such a windy day in Feb. The cloud is a great insulator and the day actually reached into the high 70′s in spite of the wind.
We were very fortunate to be blessed with the presence of Brian Smith and Bob Brown from Tullahoma as well as Don Harris from OH. These visitors made up the necessary number of pilots for the contest to be declared as a L4 LSF contest with 15 flyers in total. Three pilots would benefit from this with Jody Miller completing his L4 and Kris Van Nostran and Gordon Buckland (that’s me) each adding a L4 contest to their LSF sheets.
Tom Galloway gave us the usual pilot meeting and explained to our visitors where the out of bounds areas are on our special field. The landing zones were the popular 100 point tapes with 1 point for every 3 inches. He called for a 6 minute max in the first round and declared the first round open at around 10:00am.
It was very windy, cool and overcast early and clearly the normal thermals we seek were not present but instead the air yielded areas of more bouyancy and a certain amount of wave off the famous Buzzards tree lines which were enough for most canny glider guiders to get the 6 minutes or close. Rick Eckel (Pike Perfect) and Mike Naylor (Shadow) led the way in Round one with maxes and landing points. There is no doubt that Mike (who advanced from winning Sportsman last year,) has really improved his skill set and is more than equal to the task to compete as an expert. Rusty Carver (Onyx L) was also on the ball for the season start with a great first round.
The format was “honors call-up” which is a great local system developed by Rick Eckel to “even up” the field somewhat and basically calls for the top 4 pilots from the previous round to open the following round in a MOM launch. This allows the remainder of the field to either benefit from the air reading skills of the better pilots and follow them up or sometimes delay their launch in the open winch format until the air improves (if they see the honors pilots dropping like flies.) This was one of those days where the honors pilots were sometimes at the disadvantage as favorable air was not always readily available when the CD sent the 1st 4 up.
So round 2 (now an 8 minute task) began with Mike Naylor, Rusty Carver, Rick Eckel and Gordon Buckland (Yeah me again with my old beater Icon) launching at the CD’s command. Rick and Mike appeared to choose the wrong side and were down in a little over 4 minutes while Rusty and I carved a piece of sky that kept us up for our maxes and some good landing points too. The real star of the round though was Kris Van Nostran whose skills continue to improve rapidly as he puts in the practice. Kris shot a great 96 landing to add to his 8:02 to be number one for Round 3 honors. Dan Johns and his Shadow were the 4th starter for Round 3 with a great 8:02 max as well. The air was not kind to the rest of the field though with no one else achieving the 8 minutes. Don Harris put up a noble attempt in very gusty conditions with his little Vista. It is such a pleasure to fly with someone as famous yet unpretentious as Don is. He is the only LSF Level V three times over in the world and his fearless flying of the poor little Vista in conditions more suited to a DS glider was great to watch. Thanks for coming out Don and thanks again for flying on a day that you were probably just going to watch.
Round three was started quickly with the 4 of us getting away cleanly with the wind really starting to blow as a lift cycle came through followed by some treacherous sink. Of the 4 honors pilots I made the best of it returning to the LZ with height in hand and 40 seconds to go only to lose all 40 feet in an upwind turn in about 5 seconds for a zero landing. Dan was unable to return to the LZ from downwind and scared a few goats as he landed out for an uncustomary zero while Rusty and Kris though short on time got back on the field to at least score. Another notable Round three event in the heavy wind (and sink following the thermal cycle) was Rick Eckel in spite of a valiant effort also finding it heavy going to get back upwind to finally land his Pike in “enemy territory” also for a zero. It was Jody Miller who dusted off the cobwebs to finally get his Xplorer back to the LZ on time for a great 8:01 – 92.
After a great lunch served up by a new “Roach Coach” (on trial for the GatorF3B later in the month,) Round 4 was under way with Jody 1st away. Mike Naylor had once again found the good air in Rd 3 to be 2nd up with Jim MacLean campaigning his Pike Perfect hitting a 7:50 – 72. The Pompano Hills flyers were also in general good form with Mike Williams 6:35 – 77 getting him into the 4th spot on the honors list for Rd 4. As can happen – the honors pilots launched with great markers in the sky upwind as our resident flock of buzzards showed us that the thermals were a coming. It was a fairly easy round for these early launchers but many who followed 10 minutes later learned the cycle was gone by finding their sailplanes sinking out well short of the required 8 minutes.
Best Round 4 flight was put up by Rusty whose landing skills are legendary and none better than this effort of 98 points to go with his 8:07. Rick made up for his previous out-landing with an excellent 8:05 – 95 with a patched up PP while Jody continued to shine with another 8:01 – 90 to be number 3. There is no doubt in my mind that the most improved flyer for 2010 was Mike Naylor as he once again showed his skills and nailed a landing to be number 4.
Round 5 saw us fly in some of the most difficult conditions on the day with the wind still gusting and thermal activity often so broken up it was not turn-able. Only three of us managed maxes this round with Jody again coming out on top with an 8:01 93 while Rusty and I got maxes close behind. 4th for Round 5 was Rick with a 5:03 -76. That pretty well summed up the conditions on the day where it was almost a lottery as to what you would find depending on the direction you took from the top of the launch. It was great to watch Don Harris again this round manage to float the Vista for over 4 minutes before he succumbed to the wind and got her back upwind and on to the field.
The round 6 air was much kinder as the wind began to quiet noticeably. Jody launched first and streaked downwind to lift marked by two buzzards. Within 90 seconds he was on an elevator and had a great ride going. I succumbed to indecision with not nearly a fast enough downwind hike and only succeeded in finding heavy sink on the way home from a much lower height than Jody had squeezed. My time was well short as I landed and my contest chances were over with the old Icon. Rusty did find sufficient lift to get close to a max but left enough points on the table to give Jody a real chance to catch him and possibly overcome his lead in the last round.
As we prepared to launch for the final round I told Jody he would need a perfect flight as that’s all he could do and than it would be up to Rusty to hold on to his lead in the contest.
By now conditions had really improved with the wind dying remarkably and fairly good lift in abundance. In fact the conditions were so good only 4 pilots failed to max the last round and Rusty stuck a good enough landing to hold onto his lead.
Jody’s final flight was about as good as anyone can make when the pressure is on as he stuck his ship on the point for a fantastic 99 and a 7:56. This would have been enough to win if Rusty had erred slightly. It was a great days soaring in mixed conditions where a certain amount of courage was often required to venture sufficiently far enough downwind in choppy lift to make your time. Rusty on 3524 and Jody on 3457 proved to be masters of the conditions and were rewarded with 1st and 2nd place. I made just enough bad decisions to take 3rd place with 3228 points.
The winning Sportsman was Kris Van Nostran on 2864, Jim MacLean was 2nd with 2856 and Robert Brown flew his Ava-ish from TN took 3rd place with 2033 points.
A great big thankyou to Raed for staying all day and keeping the winches working flawlessly. Thanks also to Tom Galloway for a fine CDing job. Jody was also instrumental in assisting with setup and tear down. Thanks to Jerry for working the retriever for much f the day as well. Thanks to all who stepped up and helped. You guys are what makes the Buzzards a great club.