Saturday, September 19, 2015

Day 6

Tough day yesterday.  After Mick's mix up with the dust devil, we discovered we were down yet another tug - the other trike.   Arrrrrrrg.  Getting so many gliders up and on course with only three tugs was going to be slow.  Miraculously, the universe placed a nice house thermal just downwind of the tow paddock and left it sitting there for the entire launch cycle.  Bobby, Luke and Jim could just drag each pilot to it, drop them off and quickly head down for another.  Launch went unbelievable quick and in fact we ended up finishing earlier than normal.  What luck!

The lift on course didn't cooperate quite as nicely thought and much of the field landed between the first and second turnpoints.  The sky shaded over in many places and we worried that no one would make it in.  Kraig and Filippo racing in nearly side by side was a very welcome sight.  They were followed just a few seconds later by Pedro and Jonny.  In the end, only two more (Davis and Tony Armstrong) made it, for a total of just six.  

After having rain the first few days of the comp,  I think we had all forgotten how dusty things can get out here in the desert.  Yesterday was absolutely filthy and with little wind, everyone had the pleasure of browning-out for a few seconds on tow.  Gotta love the desert.

Luckily, once they're up an on course, the sky is bright blue and the air is fresh and clean!

Here's maria eating a bit of dust (photo by our best cart retriever, Mike Degtoff).

But see how nice and bright the sky is once you get out of that dust!
(photos by the Wolfman)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dusty Carnage

I always tell people that the dust devils here are more bark than bite.  The top layer of desert soil is so powdery that the smallest, weakest dusty picks it up and makes it looks like a monster.  Most of the time, they blow through and cause little more than a bit of coughing.  Today was one of those unfortunate exceptions.  

We had a massive and extremely powerful dusty come straight through the launch line, hitting three hang gliders and a trike square on.  Luke in a dragonfly managed to power up and roar out just seconds before it hit the rest of us.  He said he was getting 1500fpm lift just 200 feet off the ground. Mick was out of his trike thankfully, and he and I had a hold of it.  As we took the direct hit, we held on until both of us were lifted off the ground.  I love Mick and I love his trike, but since I don't know how to fly trikes, I reluctantly gave in and let go about a foot off the ground.  I fell on my ass just in time to see Captain Mick go down with his ship.  He didn't let go and was slung around and thrown in the air like a rag doll before the trike came to rest on its side - he never let go.  Thankfully, Mick is totally unhurt - I can't say the same for his trike though :-(.

I thought we had been hit by the worst of it, but when the dust settled, I realized that there were three hang glider pilots on dollies, hooked into their gliders.  It took every crew person and bystander to hold on to them and make sure they didn't get airborne.  Scary stuff!


Last few days

The weather the past few days has been anything but simple.  Each of the last three days, I believe most (myself included) did not expect to fly a task.  The meet director, Mitch, thankfully, has been more patient and optimistic and after a bit of waiting all three days, we've ended up with pretty good tasks.  We've had beautiful cumulous - a rare sight here - the past two days.  Unfortunately, those clouds came with some fairly high winds.  But, from today forward, the weather is looking much more like classic Santa Cruz Flats conditions - few clouds, if any, hot hot hot and light winds.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Day 2 - Goal

After all that whining, it turned out to be a pretty decent day.  A little difficult and no one made goal, but perfectly safe, and that made me happy.  Steve Pearson won the day getting closer to goal than anyone, somewhere around 10km short.  We gave him a special day prize ;-).

Monday, September 14, 2015

Day 2

Really tough call on launch today.  The forecast called for relatively strong winds out of the southwest, so we set up staging for towing that way.  Unfortunately, as is often the case here, the wind blows 180 degrees off of the forecast before it eventually (often sooner than later) comes around and blows in the way we need it to.  It was a little on the slow slide today so when launch opened we were really slow getting all the rigids airborne during their 15 minutes window.  This caused a bit of whining amongst the flexies who were piled up behind them waiting not so patiently for their turn.  To make matters worse, the sky was starting to blow up in various places out in front of us and everyone was a bit tense and unsure how it was going to develop.  So, launch was stalled multiple times while we either sent a tug out to test the air out in front of us, or just waited to be sure everything was safe.  More than a little grumbling in the launch line :-(.

The thing I want to remind people sometimes is that I (and probably many of us involved with the organization of these competitions) feel personally responsible for each and every pilot here.  I recognize that every pilot is in command of his/her own flight and it's their individual responsibility to manage their safety.  I also remind myself that I'm not legally responsible for anyone here.  But, the bottom line is that we are all a big (totally disfunctional) family and I genuinely love and care about every pilot here.  So, I hope everyone remembers that and remembers that we're doing everything in our power to make things run smoothly and make sure everyone has a great time.  

Meanwhile, I said to few people out on launch today, "when I start talking about next year's event, just punch me in the throat!" ;-)

Here's the sky now as we get ready to head to goal...of course now everything looks fantastic!

Day 1

We woke up to quite a lot of high cloudiness yesterday and before heading out to the paddock, it only seemed to worsen.  I don't think many were hopeful for a stellar day.  But little by little the high cloudiness that cooled the morning lead to the sky opening up and heating up the ground.  By launch time at 12:45 the sky looked great!  There were cu's on most all of the surrounding mountains and the high clouds had moved through.  

We have five (yes, FIVE) classes of gliders this year - open, sport, Swift, Class 5 and Superfloaters. We haven't actually figured out if the Superfloaters have an official class or not, so we're calling them Class 4, but I don't really think that's accurate.  In terms of staging/launching and scoring, it's been a challenge.  Luckily, launch conditions were perfect yesterday and we had no issues - in fact, just one re-lite and all of those classes were in the air and on course pretty quickly.

Because conditions initially looked less than promising, the task committee (Jonny, Zac, Larry) decided to start small with an out and return of about 80km.  Coming down to the morning briefing and looking at all the high clouds, they even cut that down at the last minute to 64km.  Turns out they probably should have left it at 80 because 24 out of 31 in the open class made goal.  Pedro raced in first about five minutes ahead of the lead gaggle, although Dustin had the most daring final glide, coming in under the (quite low) power lines crossing the road on the south side of the Francisco Grande.  I wish we had pictures of that!!

Around 5ish, the weather closed in on us and a gorgeous desert gust front hit dumping rain for most of the rest of the night.  It made for an amazing sunset and pleasant cool conditions.  This morning is clear and sunny.  The ground is very wet and I can't help but wonder what that is going to bring for Day 2.  

Special thanks to the Wolfman for all the cool in-air shots!