We woke today to much sunnier skies than I expected. In the morning there were no clouds at all. We all guessed we would fly today, and we were right. By 11:00 there were cumulus clouds over all the mountains. The only concern was they were "flag poling", meaning they were being blown horizontal. Most of the pilots were concerned about the high winds and possible turbulence.
Because of the possible turbulence, the task committee called a short task of 102 miles. There were three turnpoints and we essentially flew back and forth along the main valley in front of launch. At launch all was going well until Junco's turn to launch her swift. She stood on launch for 10 minutes waiting for the wind to blow in strong enough (she had crashed earlier in the week and was flying with a pair of borrowed wings). She finally stepped aside and 10 of us launched. She got back in the launch line and tried to launch. The wind looked good but she crashed again. This time she hurt herself bad, broken leg, broken knee, broken wrist, broken arm and loss of a lot of skin. She was evacuated by helicopter. Somehow her rocket parachute deployed in her cockpit and it was amazing that it did not kill her. It was ricocheting around inside and just missed her.
By the time the rest of class 5 was able to launch, the start time had passed. The early launchers were already 10 miles ahead. I had a great plan to sneak down the ridge and enter the start circle from the north instead of the west. It happened that all the other pilots in the air had the same plan. The main gaggle, including Bruce were about 2 miles ahead on a different line than me and a few other pilots. We crossed some mountains with no where to land which caused me to pucker more than I liked.
Once across, things got pretty good except for the turbulence, today was worse than any other day I have flown here. We were getting climbs of 700 fpm, but cloud base was only 8,500' to 9,100', so we had to take a lot of thermals. I found several thermals that the lead gaggle passed up and was starting to catch up. At one point Bruce was 6 miles ahead. At the 50 mile mark I was only 1 mile behind. I got a really good climb and was about 1,000' above Bruce's gaggle when I made a very bad mistake. I did not realize how south the wind had turned. Bruce and his gaggle went on the south side of a ridge. I thought I could take the north side (which was facing the sun) and get a jump on them. I found extremely rough air and 1,200 fpm down. This essentially put me on the ground at 60 miles.
Bruce continued to do well and crossed goal without too much drama on the rest of the course. There were about 12 rigids on the ground at goal when he crossed. Again he was the only USA pilot to make goal. Davis did not make the start circle, and Ron and Jim got caught in some down air and ended up on the ground before the first turnpoint. Earlier in the day the women pilots said they would take their tops off if they made goal. As I am typing this, a bunch of the male pilots are trying to encourage them to make good on their promise, several of them did.
As of this morning the 18th, the scores for class 5 have not been posted. I am wondering if someone protested due to the late launch for some of the pilots.
We were told that the chances of flying tomorrow were slim. We will see.
This is me trying to get out of the set up line and into the launch line. Felix Ruhle is standing behind me.