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Today's report is very much like last weeks, but only because we made a major error.  Rich, Bill and I loaded up our gliders on Bill's truck.  Kathy (Bill's wife) volunteered to drive for us, THANK YOU KATHY!  We flew Elk again this Saturday.  When we arrived on top at the south launch, it felt like it was blowing down.  I had my helium tank and some balloons so I sent up a trial balloon.

The balloon drifted toward the south at a 15 degree angle, indicating a north wind at about 5 mph.  Earlier in the day I had checked two forecast models in XCskies.  The GFS model showed great lift and wind from the south all day.  The NAM showed the sea breeze moving in early and weak lift over Elk.  Since the wind was already out of the north, we figured incorrectly that the sea breeze had already moved in so we drove down to the north launch and set up.  A few minutes later, Greg, Andy, John D. and their driver Scott showed up at the north launch.  They figured since we were there, that was the place to be (little did they know how wrong we were).

After we were all set up, very strong cycles started coming up the south side.  I sent up another balloon and it drifted north at a 15 degree angle, indicating that the wind had shifted to out of the south at 5 mph.  Cumulus clouds were forming just across the ridge at Horse and also up and down the Mendocino range.  It was clear that we had set up on the wrong launch.  I hiked back up to the south launch and confirmed it was coming in from the south with nice cycles. 

This is the first time we have had 5 rigids flying at Elk at the same time.  With John D. in his flex wing that made six hang gliders total, the most I have seen at Elk in 7 years. 

We were all set to fly by 11:30 but had to wait until almost 1:00 for it to start blowing up the north launch.  The only reason it did start to blow up the north launch was the real sea breeze had moved in.  Rich was first to launch.  It took almost 15 minutes for a cycle good enough to come through for him to launch.  I'm sure all the other pilots in line were thinking they would have taken one of the earlier cycles.  It usually seems stronger when you are in the back of the line.  When I launched next it took another 15 minutes for a cycle long enough for me to feel comfortable launching.  As each pilot got to launch they realized that with only 20' or so to launch, suddenly it takes a little more of a cycle than it feels like when they were back in line.

These are the nice clouds that had been forming all day.  Unfortunately by the time we launched they were 5 miles east of us and impossible to get to.

There are 4 more rigids in line to launch along with John D,'s flex wing.  After Rich launched and I was standing in line, he was only getting about 500' over launch, a lot less then the GFS model's 8,000' prediction.  I do think if we had launched from the south launch by 11:45 we would have got close to that, judging by the clouds.

And then there were 4.  In the picture there are 4 more gliders on launch.  John D's glider is under  the trees to the left of the rigids.

We don't get clouds very often, so it was very frustrating to see nice ones and not be able to get over to them.

We had 5 rigids in the air at one time, the most I think I have seen at a local site.  Four are in the picture above.

Andy was able to climb and stay with Rich and I.  He he and I are in a tight formation with Rich.  I think the highest anyone climbed was a little over 5,000' which was only 1000' over launch.

The picture above was taken in the same thermal as the previous picture.  The three of us were able to work tightly together.  It is a skill that is harder than it seems.  You have to not only listen to your instrument, but also watch all the other gliders in the thermal, not just to avoid a collision, but also to see what part of the thermal they climb the most.  It is this part where you want to tighten up your circle.  Watching the other gliders is like looking 10 seconds into the future.

I could sense that the thermals were getting weaker so I headed out toward the creek bed with 4,700'.  It was not enough to glide across Mid Mountain to Farmer Bob's field, but I was hoping I could get something along the way.  John D. had launched and landed by this point.  He missed any lift and had to land at the bailout with the motorcycles.  As he came in to land, they all stopped to watch, which was frustrating because he was using the dust they were kicking up to gauge the wind direction.  It all worked out in the end and he had a nice landing. 

When I got over the thistle field landing spot (actually the creek bed next to what we call the thistle field), Greg was already there boating around in some light lift.  As I approached I hit a nice good one, cranked around and was able to climb at better than 400 fpm the entire 360, the first time today I was able to stay in lift for a full circle.  I climbed in this thermal for a little over 1,000'.  I could see that I had Farmer Bob's field made so when I topped out I headed that way.  Even though the grass was still unmowed, it still looked better than the creek bed full of rocks.

After I left for Farmer Bob's field, Greg and then Bill landed in the creek bed next to the thistle field.  You can see Greg's glider next to the road.  This part of the creek is about 4 miles from launch and has power lines at each end.  It seems that anywhere else along the creek bed that is long enough to land in has power lines directly across.  Rich was pretty low when he took this picture.  He would have to do a lot of work to get up and over the ridge.

...which he did.  You can see from this picture he just cleared the ridge.  Off in the distance is Farmer Bob's field.  When I arrived over Bob's field there was a thermal breaking off.  Rather then try to fight my way down and land in questionable conditions, I just boated around and climbed in the lift.  After about 5 minutes and a few hundred feet of altitude gain, the thermal drifted by and I slowly worked my way down.  I had a nice landing, close to the break down area (much less walking through the tall grass), but my landing was a one stepper.  Since the grass was so tall (over 4') one step was not possible and my nose settled ever so slowly into the grass, putting the first grass stain on the nose cone since I installed a new one at the beginning of last year.  Andy had watched me and saw what field I had landed in.  He had never landed there.  He did not realize how big the field was and ended up with a little more exercise than I think he planned on.  Rich landed next after more than 2 hours of flying.  My flight was only 1 hour long.  Today's experience further shows that no matter how much you think you know what is going on, you can guess completely wrong.  We made the best of what we ended up with and it was a good day to work on our scratching skills.

A satellite view of our flight path.

My IGC file.

My KML file.

Thanks for reading