For a winter event in Florida you would expect to see some mild weather compared to the North and if you attended this event you weren’t disappointed as the forecast was for warm windy conditions with zero chance of rain. That’s exactly the conditions we experienced and by the time CD Tom Galloway completed the Pilot meeting and announced a 5 min task to start the wind was already blowing a good 7 or 8 mph. The format was open winch with honors callup where the top 3 pilots from the previous round lead off on the next as they are “called up.” To start proceedings off the top pilots from 2011 FSS events were asked to launch first in Rd 1. I launched first and got a super zoom with the brisk breeze blowing and headed upwind followed quickly by Mike Naylor from Pompano and Jamie Mercado. I was looking for that wave that often sits high on a windy day out over the forest and with some good coaching from Dillon we managed to hang for about 3 minutes but did not find that elusive patch and had to resort to testing the treeline for a minute or so before landing at 4:35 just 25 seconds short in air that never did go up for me in round 1. With a number pilots achieving the 5 minutes later in the round CD Tom made round 2 a 6 minute max and the honors pilots to lead us off were Dillon (our Junior) and his Pike first up with Jack Wallner visiting us from the North with a nice Aspire and our patriarch Rick Eckel with his Pike imperfect. As is often the case with honors callup the 3 starting pilots found the going rough and the blustery wind was just not letting lift form to be useable so Dillon and Rick were both on the ground in under 4 minutes with Jack not far behind. This was excellent practice for Dillon though as launching when you are required to is a far greater challenge than the open winch where the choice is yours. Once again with quite a few of the following pilots getting the 6 minute max Tom increased Round 3 to our normal 7 minute max as the lift began to show more regularly.
The top 3 scorers from Rd 2 to lead off the 3rd sortie were Dan Johns, Paul Mittendorff and myself. Dan and I were both flying Xplorers but Paul has a very nice example of the new Bulgarian Vulture and it’s V Tail makes it easy to distinguish in a gaggle. The local vultures had all came out to play by now so lift was being marked but was patchy and fast moving as the wind kept blowing. I managed to score a 6:59 – 99 to top the group again with Paul piloting his V Tail home for a great 7:01 – 97 while Mike Naylor made up the honors threesome with his 4M Xplorer. With a stiff breeze comes an easier landing task as the model moves more slowly to the spot and the high landing score reflected this. We were really getting the rounds flown quite fast with Round 4 being underway before lunch. Dillon and I were the only maxes in round 4 as the wind really got the better of many and our maxes were accomplished with deep runs downwind in lift and long journeys back. Jack Wallner joined Dillon and I to start off Round 5 after a great lunch fetched from the Subway store by Jerry OKeefe. Jamie Mercado who had been missing in action for the first half of the contest showed he has the skills by besting the scores in Round 5 with a 7:01 – 93. I was close behind with Ray Alonzo flying an old Escape in the 3rd honors position to start Rd 6. The wind was still a huge factor although there was more than enough heat to create lift if you were prepared to go out to it and stay with it as it went downwind. Dillon showed us that his practice has been paying off as he found lift used it effectively and shot a great landing for a 6:59 – 97 and his second round win of the day. All this without his coach by his side. (Congrats kid – that for me was the most triumphant moment of the weekend to see you do that for the first time.) So Dillon led off the last – round 7 with myself close behind and Rick Eckel taking the third spot on the winch. As luck can have it the air we launched into as the honors group simply sucked and all three of us were humbled to varying degrees without attaining a max. Jamie Mercado once again came to the fore to win the round with a fine 6:59 and he and Ray Alonzo were the only two maxes in the round. When the scores were added up we had Mike Naylor the leading Sportsman with Tom Galloway 2nd Sportsman and Larry Squire 3rd. The Expert top three were myself in 1st place with 3150 pints and Jamie Mercado on 2713 just usurping Dillon on 2568 points. It was a very tricky day with enough wind to require ballast for some flights when the lift was there but not quite enough t make the treeline work when you got into trouble. The sort of day that we all need to practice more for.
Once the awards were given out we assisted Mike Naylor, Jamie Mercado and Paul Mittendorff to get their 1km Goal and returns done for the LSF Level 3. Dan Johns and Larry Squire drove to the 1km point to take a sighting while Dillon walked to the other end to sight the starting point. The first couple of attempts were both short on height and lift but Jamie Mercado made it all the way to the end and back on his second attempt to complete his Level 3 tasks. With conditions deterioating Mike Naylor managed to make it to the turn and back to within 100 yards of the end of the course but ran out of height. On his third attempt he made it down and got back to our end with enough height but unfortunately became unsighted in the setting sun and nearly lost the model twice before recovering to call it a day just 100 feet short of the end. It was a lot of fun and like all the LSF tasks each one is a stepping stone in the development of a soaring pilot and each one is a little harder than the last. I applaud the Pompano guys for applying themselves to this task program and the improvement in their flying skills is obvious. Looking forward to another great day of soaring tomorrow.