Hero to zero to?

I got to the ranch this morning by 7:30. The first thing I did was check the results from yesterday. The flex wing results were all screwed up, but the class 5 results looked OK. I placed 6th for the day, yahoo! I moved up from 14th to 9th place in class 5. I was feeling real good.

By the time of the pilots meeting, most of the venting about the results had died down. The officials are working to fix the problem. JC announced that Nancy Smith had surgery last night to fix her femur (she broke it when she hit a pole during a landing). Obviously she is still in the hospital. All of the pilots there felt for her.

The weather was predicted to be like the last couple of days, with light lift, wind out of the east, and cloud bases at 3,800. A task was called for an out-and-return with 3 zigzag turnpoints. The route went south, northwest, southeast, then north back to the ranch for a total distance of 65 miles. The start times were moved up with only one start time at 12:15. To make up for the one start time, the start cylinders were enlarged. Flex wings had a 10 mile radius and rigids a 5 mile radius. CUís started forming at 9:15; by 10:00 the sky looked overcast.

As we headed out to the tow line, holes in the clouds started opening up. Wind dummies were towed up at 10:45 and stayed up. Competitors started towing right at 11:00. I was on the cart and ready to go at 11:40.

Steve Rudy on the cart ready to go.

I was hooked to a trike (a motorized hang glider). I have never towed behind a trike so I was looking forward to the experience. Unfortunately it turned out to be mostly bad. The trike seemed to be much more unstable than either a Dragon Fly or my Atos. The trike was all over the sky. I gave up trying to chase him and settled in to one general position that he would bounce back to. The climb was slow, between 200 and 300 fpm verses 500+ behind a Dragon Fly. At 1750í he waved me off in the middle of a blue hole, 400 fpm down and no other gliders around.

I headed for the nearest cloud that looked like it would have lift. Now here is the tough part, do I try for the lift, or sink out and re-tow? I made the wrong choice. I was down to 800í when I found lift, too far from the Ranch to make it back. I worked zero sink for 10 minutes. Finally, I had drifted so far over a forest I had to make another choice: head for the only field within glide, or drift over the trees and either find lift or land in the trees. I chose the field. I arrived over it at 200 agl, where I thought I found some lift but it was just some teaser bubbles. One 180 and I was on the ground. I felt like a total zero, because that is what you get if you land out (actually you get the minimum distance).

I was pissed. At first I was pissed at the tug pilot. Then as I thought about it, I realized it was all my fault. I now know that it would have been better to land and get a re-tow than leave and look for lift. Another valuable lesson learned. But whatís this? After I am back in the car, we hear that the task has been canceled! I called Malcolm and he confirmed that it was canceled. I did not want to tie up his phone so I did not ask why. I will find out when we get back to the Ranch.

We told Steve Rudy and Rich that the day was canceled. Steve started to fly back, but got low and landed in a nice field, or so he thought. It turned out to be a bog with 6í to 7í weeds. He is trying to break down his glider as I type this. I hope there are no alligators in there. Bob walked in to help Steve carry his glider out. Now he knows what saw grass is; he has several cuts on his hands. Rich made the first turn point and is heading back to the Ranch (which he made.)

Back at the Ranch we were told the task was canceled due to rain. It seems almost all pilots other than me were not happy. I just dodged a bullet. I will keep my place. As we were sitting under the big tent, Manfred landed at 3:14. He completed the task in 2:59. He says that he never heard about the cancelation. Rich was right with Manfred at the time of the cancelation and signaled him with the agreed-upon in-flight procedure (unzip your harness, extend your legs and peddle your feet like you are on a bicycle).

My confidence is now shaken. The thermal trigger sources here donít make any sense. I have to learn to figure these out better. One other glider landed in the same field as me, so as I said earlier, donít follow me. I learned a lot today.

Bob and I went looking for a another hotel for the Quest comp. He will be leaving and my wife will be arriving to drive for me at Quest. We walked into a Holiday Inn and I asked about the room rate for a single bed. The clerk looked us up and down and told us the rate for two single beds. I said no, I want the single bed rate, he repeated the two bed rate and finally said the single bed rate. We must be near Dade County ;-)


PS: Both Rich and Bob have been taking lots of pictures.

PPS: There was something I forgot to mention. I am in the other line from Davis and we have our own drama. Three of the German Atos pilots foot launched behind the tug; it was pretty cool. They would let the tug stretch the tow line then take off running like a slingshot. They had picture-perfect launches.