This promised to be a big day with more of the same weather forecast meaning we would be suffering in overcast conditions in the 50’s to 60’s with a 10 to 12 mph cold wind from the north. As the night turned to day and we rolled out of bed in the camper it was clear that the forecasters had most of it right. The wind was blustery and the temps were bloody cold enough to require layers, just to venture out with Ricky for his early morning toileting. It was also one of those mornings where us campers needed recovery liquids and a certain amount of aspirin just to function in a way that made us feel human.
We helped Raed set up the launch equipment and scoring tent and Raffle prizes display and we were finally ready for flying around 9:45am. The overcast was very interesting this morning because it was quite low. In fact it was so low that a launch was definitely above cloud base. By the time CD Tom Galloway got things ready to go the base had lifted and we began round one about 10:00am. The format was simple with a 6 minute task to start and a random order for round one. There after we would fly seeded man on man in groups of a maximum of 6 . With 29 pilots that meant we would have 5 groups each round.
With Rd one max set at 6 minutes the air was too easy and only two pilots failed the task so CD Tom increased the target to 8 minutes for Rd 2.
It was interesting to see Jamie Mercado spending quite some time flying around in the bottom of a cloud just a few minutes into his flight. I would say the base was barely 600 to 700 feet but it made for some exciting flying and just like previous days the early air was pretty bouyant – especially on the downwind side of our field. When I launched there was a blender of Buzzards off to the right and as I formed up beneath them they all disappeared into the cloud. A few clearly were without instrument ratings as they abandoned the lift and reappeared diving back to VFR conditions to continue their flights. I can’t tell you what happened to the others but they certainly marked great lift as I enjoyed my ride. I finished my flight with a 7:58 – 97 to take the lead. Paul Perret posted the next best score with a 8:01 – 94 and Rick Eckel 3rd with a 8:08 – 95.
Round 3 was flown in changing conditions with increased wind speed and temps as warm as they were going to get in the low 60’s. Many pilots struggled to come to terms with the wind and failed to take lift downwind preferring to try to ride the wave forward to sink well short of their max. Dillon Graves easily one his groupa and posted the highest round score with an 8:01 – 99. In the top group my entire competition group landed early leaving me surfing the treeline for a final 2 minutes to make the only max of a 7:59 – 96 which created a big reshuffle at the top. Leaders on the board were Ray Alonzo in 3rd, Jeff Duval in 2nd and myself in 1st place.
Raed and Tammy organized a terrific cooked lunch for everyone with lots of variety – no mean feat when you are 20 minutes from civilization!
Round 4 started after lunch with conditions still quite tricky. It really was essential to take every bump downwind in a decisive way as many were left hanging out to dry upwind and in sink. Some also didn’t run far enough downwind to find the meat of the lift and found themselves too low to make it back with the trees claiming a few models as the day progressed. Once again the best score for the round was posted by Dillon Graves with a precise 7:58 – 99 and my 7:58 – 91 keeping me in the 1st position.
Round 5 was underway by 2:30pm so it looked pretty certain we would get 7 rounds completed for the day. The conditions remained overcast but the wind had continued as the day began to cool. Dillon Graves was really on a charge as he had taken a 3 1/2 minute hit after missing his ride in the 2nd round to push him back to 19th place. With his head now in the game he was out scoring the field every flight to rise quickly through the groups and once again he scored highest in Round 5 with an 8:01 – 97. Ray Alonzo was also making his mark as he scored well with an 8:06 – 94 in the top group to solidify his claim on 2nd place. At this point it was a real tussle between Jeff Duval and Ray for the 2nd place as I had quite a break on them both in 1st. Jeff Duval is amazing. This is only his 3rd contest weekend with big models and ionly his 6th week with his first F3J model – a SoaringUSA X2 3.8. He is a bright new face in Florida soaring and has been practicing with Jody and I to bring his skill level up super fast.
Round 6 saw a further deterioration in scores as the light lift combined with the wind made soaring a real balancing act especially the decision on when to start the homeward ride as sometimes it was just only possible to make it back to the field with no height to spare. I found myself surfing forward this round with no real read downwind and then being tailed by Dillon. Every turn I made he made for 3 minutes until he split to the left and began turning lift. I then joined him but the patch of air petered out to see both of us arriving back at the top of the barn with still 2 1/2 mins on the clock. I surfed the barn and the trees while Dillon elected to go to the back tree line (which is only 15 feet tall but is on a small rise.) Dillon somehow managed to surf the slight slope and those short trees for an unlikely max while the entire rest of the top group once again found difficulty in making the time. Dillons score of 7:50 – 97 and mine of 7:57 – 79 burying them all. This saw Dillon challenging for a podium spot in the final round at the expense of either Ray or Jeff who had both dropped time in Rd 6.
Round 7 saw a slight waning of the strength of the breeze and a return to the more bouyant conditions we had enjoyed on Friday. Dillons flight was perfect with an 8:00 – 92 while Ray managed to inexplicably flip his model in the LZ to take a zero landing score. The final math saw Dillon pipping ray at the post to take 3rd place on 7203 points after an amazing climb up the ranks from 19th in Rd 2. Jeff Duval showed what sort of a rising star he is with a fantastic 2nd place finish with 7232 points in his first major contest and I took 1st place with 7531 points at the Tangerine. I have been second many times and this is actually my first time as a winner in UNL at the Tangerine.
The Sportsman class had been hard fought with Jim Hartley taking the top honors with 6333 points, Buddy Bradley in 2nd place with 6230 and Mike Williams with 6180.
The contest was a ripper in changing conditions which challenged the pilots every single round. There were no gimmes and that makes a great contest.
See you all tomorrow for the Sunday UNL and the Big Fly off at the end of the day.