The Gordon Report.
What a fabulous soaring weekend the weather gods provided for us. Saturday was simply the most beautiful Florida fall day you could ever imagine with comfortable mid 70’s temps, light breezes and virtually zero humidity making for the most awesome soaring conditions you could wish for. During the day many of us marveled at the real lack of sink and up air as smooth as silk.
The contest was run with 3 winches set up with retrievers for man on man and with 12 pilots registered we divided them up into 3 groups of 4 for each round. Using Pat Crosby’s excellent WinSoar program allowed for easy scoring and Kim Graves (Dillon’s mom) kindly offered her services to enter the data.
Our “invitational “CD came all the way from Pompano and a big atta boy to Miami Mike for agreeing to assist the Orlando Buzzards run this contest such a long way from the old field.
We flew 7 rounds of 8 minute maxes on Saturday with a break for about 30 mins for lunch. The LZ was a little different to the usual with the use of the 25, 50, 75, 100 measuring sticks to measure from a center stake marked by a tent peg. This was an innovation that Kris Van Nostran came up with at the last minute as a result of forgetting to bring the landing tapes.
This landing zone proved to be very difficult to score on and though there were many 25’s scored, there was only to be one 100 pointer scored by none other than our up and coming junior Dillon.
It was great to have the whole group of pilots from Pompano travel so far to support this December event and also Chuck McCann from Jacksonville. Don Grisham and his Supra and new TD pilot Conley Whiddon came over from Lakeland to fly and Jim MacLean brought out his new Icon 2 to do battle. The real story of the day was Jamie Mercado though as he continues to impress and improve – flying his beautiful big 4.0 Xplorer. Jamie finished up second with none other then Dillon Graves and his Pike at 13 year old coming 3rd. I managed to make no mistakes and with a clean slate took the 1st place tag with my X 3.5. The Sportsman tags were won by Jim MacLean in 1st with the Icon 2, Larry Squire pedaling his Shadow into 2nd and Kris Van Nostran and the Satori in 3rd.
Sunday was to be different conditions with a cold front blowing through bringing with it plenty of wind to make thermaling a little tougher. It was also a much cooler day making wearing a jacket mandatory but with hardly a cloud in the sky and a brisk wind in our face the conditions couldn’t have been more perfect for a great test of soaring skills. It blew at around 10mph most of the day with some gusts up to 18mph but it was certainly enough to force most downwind forays to be cut short to find more lift on the way home to get the 8 mins. This was the perfect sort of day for 10 min rounds where a 2nd thermal would have been almost essential every flight.
As with most windy days there were times when thermals weren’t necessary and from a good launch we could just fly forward for 6 minutes and continue to go up without making a turn. There was certainly a “wave” or something similar available sometimes but as I discovered on one flight there was an even bigger one in a downward direction. My adventure upwind at launch height saw me find the biggest sinkhole ever that even trying to escape back downwind I was unable to even reach the launch area let alone the LZ and recorded a miserable 3.5 min flight and big dose of humble pie!
Other times the downwind treeline provided all the lift needed to save some flights and to complete others to make the max. The “tree lift” was consistent and strong but took careful judgement to maintain the aircraft in a location that was in up air. The treeline was also just far enough downwind that it was no gimme to make it back to the LZ when time was up and more than one sailplane was left short after working so hard to stay up back on the trees.
Meanwhile Jamie Mercado picked up where he left off on Saturday and went one better with a flawless display of TD soaring to easily win the day and take the 1st prize. I had to be content with having learned another soaring lesson and take 2nd with Dillon backing up 2 days in a row in 3rd place. Dillon is really starting to learn about air and it is contests like this where he needs to use his own skills that are making him into the future champion he can be. Another big story of the day was Jim MacLeans exploits with his new Icon2. He won the Sportsman 1st place tag both days but actually was in outright 2nd place on Sunday as well. 2nd Sportsman was Kris with Larry in 3rd.
Larry lost his Shadow in the swamp in the middle of the day but recovered the model after obtaining some waders from the store and completed the contest in any case. Kris also had a mishap with a rather unexplained event where one of his stabs blew up on the way up during a launch. To his credit he completed the flight with one stab and scored 6.5 mins. I have never seen a stab on a brand new aircraft blow in half like this one but clearly the top and bottom halves of the stab were seen to be fluttering downwind separately. Very strange indeed.
It was one of the best weekends of soaring we had all year with no major calamities and a very amiable and friendly bunch of soaring enthusiasts having a great time. The most interesting comment I heard was how they enjoyed the fact that we got in plenty of flying with 7 rounds on each day. This was partly because of the small numbers of 12 entries each day and also the MoM format helps it to keep moving along. It was great fun this year to do a few things differently and from all accounts the changes were well received by most all that were there for the events.
As this is the last “Gordon Report” for 2011 I would like to wish all soaring pilots in Florida and around the country a very happy Xmas and a blessed New Year.
I look forward to meeting up with many of you again during 2012 for lots more contest soaring fun.