Quest Day 3

I got up early so I could finish my “set-up-in-shame”, in peace. When I land out, it adds another 2 hours to the things I have to do to get ready for the next day. They have been serving breakfast and dinner at Quest so we ate breakfast there. I checked the results from yesterday. If they are correct, I placed 7th for the day. Only 4 rigid pilots made it to goal and about 10 flexies. I hope by the time the comp is finished I will have learned how to thermal. I just can’t seem to stay in these Florida thermals. The rougher it is, the better I do. So far, I can’t say we have had a rough day as compared to what I am used to.

Since arriving in Florida I have flown over 24 hours. At this rate, I will rack up as many hours in two weeks as I flew in all of last year. My arms, neck, back and legs all feel it.

The Groveland motel really sucks. No phone, and when they clean the room they turn off the air conditioning. The first day back to the room it was close to 100 degrees and it took until 4:00 am the next morning to get it cool. What we do now is, after Rich and I tow, Nancy goes back to the room and turns the AC back on. All the sheets and the bed spread are full of cigarette burn holes. The room smells like a smoky bar. There is a refrigerator in the room, but every time the compressor shuts off, it makes a loud bang. I have to turn it off each night and remember to turn it back on in the morning. We may just give up and go back to the Super 8 and make the 45 minute drive each way to Quest.

At the pilots meeting, two different tasks were called. One, to Chalet Suzzane airport as a turn point, and then on to Wachula for a total of 77 miles. If the lift was weak, then goal would be Suzzane. The weather report was not very good - light lift and blue skies. If the temperature was high, we could expect a good day. Steve announced that we were not to take our gliders to the start staging area until they rang the bell. The winds were switching and they did not want gliders in the wrong area.

What happened next was almost comical. About 30 pilots and gliders were lined up at the parking area, like they were waiting for the Great Oklahoma Land Grab. I was late again and was not able to secure a cart. The bell rang and we were off. Davis runs pretty fast for an old guy, but did not have the endurance. All my running paid off. Even without a cart I finished 4th to secure my place in the launch line. It was a good omen.

The launch was supposed to open at 12:45. Several wind dummies launched and came back down. All the start and finish times were moved back 15 minutes. The sky was filled with high cirrus clouds. A few pilots towed up and even fewer stayed up. By 1:30 the cirrus had cleared and the sun came out. I quickly suited up and was in the launch line. All the priority pilots figured the same thing and I moved from 5th to 14th to tow. Due to the light lift, the secondary task to goal at Suzzane was called, about 42 miles.

I had a great tow behind a yellow trike (I don’t think the color had much to do with it). He let me off in 400 up, all by my self. Soon I was above most of the gliders around me. They headed over like hornets. I was high for the start, though I was still a mile from the start circle at the last start time of 2:30. I was in a gaggle of 10+ rigids and 10+ flex wings. Off to the races we went. Clouds had started to form and the lift was getting better and better. It looked like it would be a good day after all.

Finally I was in a good position to see the lead flex wing gaggle. Most of us headed off in their direction. Many of the lesser-performing flex wings dropped behind and the gaggle soon turned into mostly rigids. The first few climbs were in moderate lift, 400+ fpm. I realized that I am not that bad at thermaling. I hook in at 235 pounds. Most of the other pilots hook in a lot less than me. As long as the lift is good, I climb as well as them. But as soon as the lift drops to less than 200 fpm, they leave me behind.

After two thermals I was starting to drop behind. I found a good thermal by myself and used it to climb to 4,800’. I was now much higher than the lead gaggle and was able to make up some ground. I caught up to both the Swifts. 15 or more gliders started following Manfred in his Swift. It was a very long glide, more than 9 miles. Somebody else found the lift and we all joined in. At one point in this thermal I was behind Ron Gleason by less than 30’ for more than a 360. Ron later mentioned it, but he did not seem upset. I felt like our gliders were hooked together. I finally flew a little wider and then slid back in behind him.

From here we were less than 18 miles to goal. I was still being conservative and always took the thermal a little higher than the leaders. We were going to fly over a lot of water and I wanted to be high. After another long glide I was in what turned out to be my last thermal before goal. At 4200’ my fight computer said it was time to go. I was 8 miles to goal. It seemed like a long glide. 3 miles out I saw goal and realized I was high. I put the bar to my waist. For the next 3 miles my ground speed never went under 80 mph. My airspeed never went over 50. I know the wind was under 10 so my airspeed indicator must be off.

I came over goal at 750’ msl. Boy I felt good. All my pains did not matter so much. I tweaked my neck this morning and it was hurting right up to launch. I never noticed it in the air. I felt like I was really racing today instead of just trying to stay up. I check in at the goal keeper and find that I had finished 22nd overall, seven minutes behind the first finisher. It took one hour and 12 minutes for the 42 mile task. I think I might have made the first 5 rigids, almost certainly the top 10. Rich landed a couple minutes behind me. He spent most of the day alone.

Some of the pilots were complaining about the short task. I thought it was a great call. It was an all out sprint today. After yesterday's four and a half hour flight, I enjoyed the shorter flight. As I type this we are in the car heading back to Quest. We are going to turn in our GPS’s and eat dinner there.

My vario trace, click on it for a larger version.


PS Rich's start circle is 2 to 3 miles ahead of mine, so we never have a chance to fly together.