The Gordon Report
This Gentle Lady contest has been running continuously as an annual event at the Buzzards for something like 15 or 20 years. (Everyone’s so old around here that nobody can seem to remember exactly how long.) In any case it is a tradition and a little bit of windy weather was not going to deter any of the real Buzzard diehards.
I had procured a standard GL with no reinforcing from a builder on the Space Coast for $60 at the Gator F3B. It has such a flexy weak wing I really didn’t want to maiden it with the 15mph blowing once our contest started. I was encouraged with a few jibes from Mr Eckel and Mr Elazzawi so I flew a GL for the first time. It was an interesting experience considering I couldn’t keep it hooked up for more than half a tow as I gingerly tapped it up the line. Considering the conditions Raed was VERY flexible with his popoff rule so I wasn’t penalized as he let me relaunch more than once. The problem seemed to be the drag of the retrieve line combined with such minimal tension that wouldn’t bust the wing. By the end of 7 rounds the wing ended up broken/creased in three places (but not folded) so she will fly again.
It was a disappointment that so few showed up to enjoy what was essentially a good thermal day with wind. Raed read the rules and we got started sometime after 10:00am with a 4 minute round. The interesting part was allowing the electrics to compete with the string launch. It worked pretty well as the Radian Rick was flying appeared to achieve a similar launch height with the ALES switch set to 100m. The biggest advantage Rick had in these conditions was the ability to range forward upwind during his 30sec motor run which gave him the opportunity to sample a lot more air than the string launched floaters following behind. And follow behind we did as to his credit Rick went out first pretty well every round and became the “official scout.”
The first round saw Raed find a great patch while Rick and I launching a few minutes earlier struggled to 2:40 times. Raeds thermal gave him height which required “dethermalizing” in fast circles down to get the GL home in the allowed 30 seconds after the 4 minutes was up. Tom also found better air and got past the 3 minute mark with his GL.
Rick and I both got the 4 minutes in Rd 2 and the big 50 point landing circles gave us equal max scores of 290 for the round. We simply flew forward into a giant patch of good air and hardly made a turn to achieve the required time. The other two weren’t so lucky a few minutes later and were down in less than 2.5 mins.
I was finding the increasing wind speed a challenge and had now increased my ballast load to over 3 oz in the GL to keep forward progress. It wasn’t quite enough in Round three as I lost about 100 feet of forward progress and an equal amount of height trying to combat the gust which blew threw just when I needed to approach the circle leaving me to make the “walk of shame.”. I did have the best time though (3:57) and won the round without the landing points. Rds 4 and 5 were flown in increasing wind and Tom Galloway won Rd 4 with a 2:32 -50 while Rick scored the longest flight of Rd 5 with a 2:38 -50. Lift was there but the bubbles broke up quickly leaving you floundering downwind in a matter of seconds. I think some of the gusts were probably 20mph.
In rd 6 I finally caught a break and managed a couple of rides from the treeline gaining enough height to make it back forward on the left side to go again to finish with a 5:05 – 50. Rick also found air with the Radian further out front to the right and made a 4:48.
The final round once again was very difficult air, with little bubbles working for two or three turns and then nothing, but I was relieved to get this very weak GL wing up and back to the spot in one piece to fight another day. I managed a 2:27 -50 to take the honors for the day.
It was my first time out with a very Gentle Lady and it sort of reminded me of flying an Aeroflyte Trident back in Australia when I was a teen. The GL is a similar model and needs a lot of encouragement to “come home” after a foray downwind in lift.
Thanks to Lewis Gray and Lee Bailey who came out and helped us.
The final results were.
Gordon Buckland – 1635
Rick Eckel – 1429
Raed Elazzawi – 1043
Tom Galloway – 884