Quest Day 5

I learned to fly Florida thermals today!

Last night, after I sent in this report, the turbine powered tug did some taxi tests and a couple of short hops. The sound of the thing is impressive, especially when it is starting. We were in the club house when it taxied in. It sounded just like a King Air as it pulled up.

Only a few rigid wings did not make goal yesterday. My poor showing moved me from 10th to 15th place. It’s going to be difficult to move back up. I have some Velcro that I am going to use to make sure my helmet does not disconnect from my radio, and I am definitely going to try to stay with a gaggle.

I would like to thank all the people who have been sending me kind words and encouragement. When I get back to a motel with a phone line I will be able to reply to them.

Two days ago when we got back to Quest, Rich and I set our gliders on the ground, at the tie down cables. The next morning our gliders were moved and other gliders were set up in their places. Kari Castle was set up in Rich’s spot. Rich said something to Kari, to which she replied “the competition does not end at goal” meaning if you don’t get your glider set up and tied down, you lose your spot.

The pilots meetings are turning into the Dave stand-up act. Everyone is really enjoying it. It’s almost worth the $250 just to see his show. The weather called for light to moderate lift (very weak by western standards, these guys get all excited over 400 up, back home it’s hardly worth turning in). There is a possibility that we could get rain showers later in the day. Winds are predicted to be out of the south. Two tasks are put up on the board. One is a 53 mile triangle and the other is a 90+ mile downwind task. The pilots get to vote on which one they want. The vote is split. The task committee gets to make the final decision. Davis is out-voted and we get to do the triangle (Scot, it’s worth 159 points for the “go for it”). I believe the triangle was the better task. I called Adrian and told him today’s task. He said he would post it, so people could follow my track better.

I took second in the sprint to the tow line, in spite of having to jockey around several dollies that were in my way. My strong finish was another good omen. All the start times were the same as yesterday. No one towed up when the tow window opened at 12:30, not even wind dummies. Ten minutes later a few pilots towed up. The day looked good so I took an early tow at 12:50. There were only about 10 pilots up when I towed.

The most exciting day since I have been here was about to start. I was having serious trouble thermaling since I arrived at Wallaby, 12 days ago. Ron Gleason set me straight. He said to thermal a lot slower and use 5 degrees or less flaps. Felix had given a talk at Wallaby about flying rigids (I missed it because I was writing one of my reports). Felix said to use little or no flaps, or almost all (for landing), the settings in between don’t help. So now I am thermaling 10 mph slower than I would dare out west, with 5 degrees of flaps. No one out-climbed me all day. I either stayed with them or climbed better. I could not believe the difference (now if I can only figure out where they hide them Florida thermals).

I still need a lot of work on my starts. I took all three start times. The first two, I found myself low only 4 miles out, so I went back to get the next start time. I never did find the lead rigid wing gaggle. I followed what gliders I could see. Visibility was poor today. A lot of moisture in the air. With my new thermaling technique, I was staying high. On all three legs of the task I either had a cross wind or head wind.

The hardest leg was the first. Many of us went way to the east to get to the turn point. This was the only part I was below 2,000’. I was 2 miles from the Coleman turnpoint and all the gliders in front of me still were not turning. Almost all of us at once spotted a lead flexwing gaggle to our right, circling. The lowest glider I was with was under 400’, I was at 1600’ when we found the 400+ fpm lift. This brought many of us to 4,500’, but we were now 5 miles from Coleman. The ground for miles all around Coleman was in the shade.

Things really slowed down. I was with a gaggle of 10+ gliders. We stopped to work several weak thermals at 200 fpm just to stay up. Five miles past Coleman toward the second turnpoint at the 50-471 junction, the sun came out and we had better climbs.

Two miles before the second turn point I climbed back above 4500’. I made the turn point at 3800’ and went on to a thermal 2 miles past. I was 11.5 miles from Quest. As I was climbing past 4,000’, my vario said I had Quest on a glide. After the time I came up 1.8 miles short, I continued to climb until it said “what the hell are you waiting for” At least 8 gliders all went on glide at the same time. I was the highest of the bunch.

For the last 11 miles I transmitted my position every mile. I went through a couple of miles of sink where I had to slow down a bit. This time that last 3 miles my ground speed was closer to 70 mph. I crossed goal at 800’, you could not pry the grin off my face with a crow bar. For the first time since I have been in Florida, I feel like I learned something. I would never use my new thermaling technique in strong lift, but out here it is the ticket. As I said earlier, I think I may have made the top ten again. All of the big guns were already back when I landed, but I saw many rigids on the ground today, and I also saw 3 or 4 land after me.

Rich also took the three start times, each time getting low. He was stuck just before the last turnpoint where he landed. He has been climbing well, so I don’t know what has been going wrong for him.

After I landed I called Adrian and he said he watched the whole time and knew I made goal by my track. Maybe he can re-post the link in case anyone is interested. I will try to call him with the task tomorrow so he can post it ahead of time.

As I am finishing up this, the turbine tug made it’s first real flight. There is a joke going around that whoever fly's behind it will have to double up their weak link.

Thanks again to Ron for setting me straight (pun intended) on how to thermal in Florida.

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


PS Nancy has been doing a great job chasing us around in circles. And she has been helping me edit this to try and catch most of my spelling errors.