The most urgent news today was that Kari Castle tumbled her glider. She was at 11,000' when it happened. She had a successful chute deployment and a safe landing. They were able to communicate with her through her cell phone. Initially they were unable to locate her. One of the women pilots did a mark enter on their GPS to record her position, but when they sent in a helicopter, Kari did not hear it fly over. Apparently, she lost her GPS in the tumble. They are trying to triangulate her position using her cell phone signal.
The weather today looked like yesterday, except they expected a greater chance of thunder storms. Because of the thunder storm potential, all tasks today were to end at 5:00 pm. We would get scored even if no one made goal.
I looked at the scores for yesterday and I was in the top of the bottom half of the pilots. The pilots here fly much faster than in Florida, or for that matter, any place I have flown. Their typical interthermal speed is over 60 mph. Jim in his new Atos V seems to be flying 50+ between thermals. I have been flying 45 to 48 and most of the other gliders just pull away. The top rigid gliders here can easily blow the sail off any top flex wing glider.
Since the 83 mile task was so "short" yesterday, they called a 97 mile task that would end in 3 hours and 45 minutes, even if no one made goal. The start time was moved up to 1:15 so we could get on course before the predicted thunderstorms. All the tasks have been similar, we fly up one end of the valley, cross some mountains, fly to the other end of the valley, cross some more mountains, and return to goal. The length of the task depends on how far east and west they send us.
I decided to launch a little earlier today, since I got stuck low yesterday. Even with the early launch, I almost did not make it to the start circle in time. There was a flush cycle just after we launched and it caught Ron. He landed and the rest of us barely hung on. It took a long time to get up.
The rest of us were high and in good position at the start. Bruce must have taken a good line because he was soon a couple miles ahead of us. I was with Jim for most of the leg to the first turnpoint, but his glider is just too fast for me. He got a thermal that was 700+ and when I came in under him I only found 200 fpm. For most of the rest of task, both Jim and Bruce would slowly pull away from me. Bruce had most of a 25 mile lead and Jim 15 miles. I lost track of Davis' position because I can not understand him in flight. His radio has a lot of wind noise and static.
12 miles from the second turn point I found a thermal that was 1200+ fpm all the way to 13,800. From here I was able to glide for more than 20 miles without thermaling. I made up all but 6 miles on Jim. I climbed one more time for 2000' just for insurance, and made goal by 2,500 feet anyway. Bruce made one bad decision and found himself on the ground 13 miles from goal. Jim was the first American to cross goal. Davis got flushed 3 miles short of goal. My time for the task was 2 hours and 37 minutes, the same for yesterdays task. Jim made it in 2 hours and 31 minutes.
The winds at the designated LZ were out of the south, which meant a down hill landing. I decided to fly to our hotel and land there. It's only 3 miles, and I arrived there higher than I left the other LZ. I looked down and saw 15 other gliders had the same idea. It was too crowded to land safely so I flew to the field where Bruce had landed. This made my flight 104 miles. As I was circling to land the Bruce said the wind was west, then it changed to east. On final it changed back to west and I landed down wind. I managed to slide in on the base tube without any damage. It started raining and suddenly there were thunderstorms. It was 10 minutes to 5pm. The weather forecaster was off only 10 minutes.
After arriving back at our hotel, we heard that there were a total of 4 parachute deployments today. Two of them were women competitors, one was a rigid pilot who had a spoiler problem and one was a free flyer doing aerobatics at 400' over the hotel LZ. There were also several paragliding accidents that required helicopter evacuation.
On the way to dinner we ran into Kari. They picked her up with a helicopter. She has small abrasions on her lip, nose and wrist. She said she was thermaling when the glider yawed to one side then she tumbled. She tumbled many times until the glider was completely destroyed. After she threw the chute, she looked up and said it looked like a toy, very small. What is left of her gear is still up on the mountain. Due to the number of women tumbling, the women's task for today was canceled. What is strange is I felt today was a very enjoyable day to fly with very little turbulence.
For dinner tonight we went back to Sam's Piano Bar. We never saw a piano, but they have some of the best food we have had since arriving in Europe, and they have menus in English. As and added bonus, Nancy found some Guinea pigs and kittens in the courtyard of the restaurant. Dinner here takes almost three hours, no matter where you go. The service is very casual and they don't bring you the bill until you ask.
The swifts getting ready to launch.
You can see in the track log that I flew about 20 extra miles to complete the task. I was not high enough to cut across some of the higher mountains, so I went around them. The launch is the airplane symbol just above the goal.