Quest Day 6

I finished 9th in the rigids for yesterday’s task, which moved me up from 15th to 12th place overall. I saw my first bald eagle in flight yesterday. I also had my first near mid-air with a large bird. It was some type of raptor. I was on glide and so was the bird, heading directly toward each other. The bird was looking down. Just about the time I was going to push out and go over, the bird saw me and did a wild looking maneuver, we missed each other by less than 6 feet.

I can understand why they usually don’t tow in high winds. When you launch from a mountain site, you may have to deal with the wind for a few seconds, until you are away from the hill. Under tow you have to deal with it for several minutes. Luckily all the tows so far have been relatively smooth. When I got my aerotow rating with Hungary Joe, at Crazy Creek, CA, we were towing in 500 fpm thermals and ratty air. I have yet to have any tows like that here in Florida. It is smooth enough that I am able to zip up my harness, and make adjustments to my instruments while on tow. At the start of the Wallaby comp, I had 7 tows under my belt, now I am up to an incredible 17 ;-)

We increased the tip we have been leaving for the maid at the Groveland motel and are now getting sheets without holes, and they are leaving the air conditioner on.

Nancy did a great job chasing us yesterday. There was no easy way to follow us on the way to the Coleman turnpoint. There was construction on some of the roads and she had to take some detours, but she stayed up with us the entire way. If we make it back to goal, driving can be a thankless job, but I feel much more secure knowing that she is down there and can find us if we run into some bad luck.

It really helps having Rich here. He has been to so many of these comps that he is an endless source of information. I hope I have not been slowing him down.

Tish (a female flew wing pilot from Australia) has been sneaking around squirting people with a big water gun. Several of the pilots snuck up behind her and threw her in the pool. Then at the end of the pilots meeting they poured a container of ice water over her. That should cool her off for a while.

The primary task is to Avon Airpark to the south. The secondary task is also to the south, Chalet Suzanne and back to Quest. They called the primary task to Avon Park Airport.

The sprint to the tow line is getting more interesting. Pilots are getting real competitive. What Davis lacks in long-term speed, he more than makes up for with his cunning moves, blocking and weaving to keep me behind him. There were several ground collisions. Kari snuck around us and aced us out of first place. I am lined up behind Davis and Rich. The start times were moved up for today. Launch opens at 12:00. At 11:55 there were very few CU’s visible. All times were pushed back 15 minutes.

I towed early, only about 6 pilots ahead of me. CU’s started popping up at 12:30. I found the gaggle of the big guns, and just before the 1:30 start I lost them. I did hook up with a gaggle of flex wings and soon found several rigid wings to fly with, Ron Gleason and Jim Yocom to name a couple. We flew together for most of the task. They lost me at one point, but as I was chasing them I found a thermal that was 1000+ fpm. I took it to cloud base. This gave me the height to get above them for most of the rest of the task. Everything was as good as a pilot could hope for, good climbs to cloud base. Very seldom did I get below 4,000’.

Then came the glide from hell. From 5,000’ 22 miles out, I and about 20 other gliders went 10 miles without a single thermal. I could see gliders landing behind me. At 1,200 feet someone found lift. We circled in it at 100 fpm up for a long time. I moved over about one half mile and found 400 fpm. Soon everyone joined me. The lift got very weak at 3500’. Most everyone left, including me, which was a mistake. We were 11 miles from goal. We found out later that it had rained in that area 10 minutes before we flew over.

I guess everyone figured we would hit something before goal. We didn’t, I landed .9 miles short of goal. I saw 15 to 20 gliders land in a field 1.5 miles from goal. I was later told that 9 of the top 10 flex wing pilots were in that field There was a field ahead I was sure I could make. All I had to do was fly over houses and trees and I would have it. I cleared the power lines by 30’ and made a quick left turn to land. There was no real landable field for the last ¾ mile. A couple of minutes after I landed, Robin Hamilton landed in the same field by slightly more margin.

I caught and passed Rich in the last thermal, another mistake. He made goal by 100’. He found a small thermal seven miles out that gave him enough to make it. I had made two 360’s in the same thermal and only gained 50’ and thought I could find something better.. He feels really great right now. It looked like 10 rigids made goal. I was probably the closest rigid to goal that did not make it.

At the start, I found that I could not thermal as well as Christian or Alex. Several times I was 200’ below them but could not catch up. I tried to follow them at the start but lost them around the clouds. I have one more chance to chase the lead gaggle.

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