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2017 15 Meter, Open, and Standard Class Nationals - LAST DAY

The last morning briefing the weatherman said we are at the threshold of good and bad weather, the best being North of Cordele. The challenge will be the low cloud base at the start cylinder and a slow developing day. 

The proposed task for the day was Cordele - Dublin - Perry - Americus - Cordele and options for landing out (fields and airports) were reviewed for each turnpoint.

Everyone gridded and all eyes were looking North where we could see Cu's and good flying conditions. Above Cordele a totally different story... Sniffers where launched and they weren't able to stay up, some launching 3 times. After launching the entire Standard class and about half of the 15 M class and listening to reports from the air, the CD canceled the day after a long and difficult trial.

Except for a couple of pilots who decided to fly for fun and take a tow, the majority rushed to clean their gliders and put them back in the box and get ready for the banquet and awards ceremony in the evening.

Our banquet was held at the Lake Blackshear Resort restaurant and it was a great evening. After dinner we recognized our volunteers, local supporters and of course the National Champions. The energy of the event was unbelievable - great sportsmanship and camaraderie, laughs, tears of happiness and great fun.

You can view some pictures here:

-           https://www.facebook.com/pg/SoaringSocietyofAmerica/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1576190225732697

As a Contest Manager, it was a privilege to work with so many amazing volunteers and a great staff. Thank you ALL for working with me to make this event happen and for always being there and working so hard.

Thank you to ALL contestants and crew for attending our event!!! Although we had marginal weather we had a great event due to your support and commitment to the contest. Thank you!

Andreea Alexandrescu

Contest Manager

Posted: 6/17/2017

2017 15 Meter, Open, and Standard Class Nationals - Day canceled again (

Good afternoon from rainy Cordele.

After having to cancel the day yesterday just before the launch because of weather conditions, the CD had to do the same today.

Last evening around 5 PM we all gathered under the tents at the airport to celebrate Shawn McGowin's solo and enjoy some margaritas and apetizers. It was a very fun afternoon, as Shawn had his solo flight and we all enjoyed seeing him launch towed by his father. He had a great landing and as we were taking pictures, one of the tow pilots tried to surprise Shawn with an ice bucket. Shawn turned just in time to avoid most of it, but his yonger brother, Alex, whom is 6 years old, got soaked and started crying as we were all laughing. It was a hilarious situation for all of us except little Alex.

This morning after the meeting Sarah Kelly Arnold shared with us some of her flight traces from the WWGC and answered questions and discussed her strategy.

You can read here a synopsis of the meeting - http://ussoaringteams.org/wwgc-team-talk-with-sarah/.

We are having a nice group dinner tonight and we all look forward to some flying tomorrow. Fingers crossed.


Posted: 6/12/2017

2017 15 Meter, Open, and Standard Class Nationals - Hopefully Day 4

Good morning from Cordele,

We woke up today to a grey sky and no sun shining through.

During the morning briefing the weatherman said that if we manage to launch we will be able to fly and have a contest day. We have some high pressure in the area pumping golf air which is not helping us. The soil moisture looks good. We might have some isolated areas of rain "fun to fly around". 

The conclusion is that we need to get out of Cordele to fly today. The CD said to expect a TAT. Grid time in noon with expected first launch 12:30.

Walking out of the meeting the sun was shining through and clouds breaking to show us a blue sky. We're still keeping our attention on the weather as today will be possible only if we get some more sun.

After flying we will have a social get together under the tents with margaritas mixed up by Susan Owen (ZO/EA crew), Pat Falbaum's (KF) famous dip and a lot of drinks and snacks so that everyone can have some fun.

We are also celebrating the 14th birthday of one of our amazing line crew kids, Shawn McGowin, who has been hooking up gliders in Cordele since Memorial Day weekend without going home at all. 

Thank you Shawn for spending your special day with us and good luck on your solo today!


Posted: 6/11/2017

2017 15 Meter, Open, and Standard Class Nationals - End of Day 3

A few notes before bedtime from the contest manager's perspective. We had another very nice day in Cordele with a very good and well executed launch.

A single land-out today plus another pilot that started his engine and had no finish. Everyone else made it back tired and after having a challenging day, but this is what it's all about. After talking to a few pilots I believe today was all about pure racing and making good decisions, flying well and also adapting to challenges on the course in order to make it back and have a good result. Ballancing being fast with making sure you can finish.

Jim Frantz (2H) landed safely in a cotton field and had a nice retrieve. He said he had a bad starts, so he decided to start again about 3:15 pm and that was late. Without landing out his computer was showing him back at the airport around 7:30 PM. 

Another pilot that came in late was Mark Huffstutler (MH) who said he is seriously considering putting lights on his glider.

HW team (Heinz and Karen) said they had a challengind flight, a little over 5 hours. They encountered challeging conditions around Eastman and Soperton and had to struggle to come back.

It will be interesting to see what tomorrow will bring us for weather and flying conditions.


Posted: 6/10/2017

2017 15 Meter, Open, and Standard Class Nationals - Mid-day update

We had a very nice launch, our ground crew is outstanding!

We have a lot of pilots that do not have a crew and it was so nice to watch these kids helping these pilots, clearing the dollies and putting everything away.

By the time the last glider launched our grid area was cleared of everything and all of them got treated to launch.

We now have tow pilot and instructor Tim McGowing giving an instructional flight in the ASK-21 to a hot air balloon student. It is her first time in a glider and we hope she will have a blast and maybe join our sport.

CD Wally Berry is outside under the tent monitoring the radio and we are watching the tracker. Most of the pilots are half way on the task. No calls to the retreive office up to this point, let's hope it stays that way for the day.


Posted: 6/10/2017

2017 15 Meter, Open, and Standard Class Nationals - Morning update Day 3

Good morning!

A short brief straight from the pilots meeting:

  • SE wind flow
  • First clouds at noon about 3,000 ft
  • Cloud base 7,000 ft between 3 and 6 PM
  • Expect a 6 PM spreadout
  • 5 to 10 knots light winds

As soon as we have the tasks available they will be uploaded here: http://www.ussoaringteams.org/cordele  

For our Facebook Live updates you can check in here - https://www.facebook.com/SoaringSocietyofAmerica/

More soon.


Posted: 6/10/2017

2017 15 Meter, Open, and Standard Class Nationals - Day 2 Happened

Looking more like the Cordele we know and love, the day developed early and went late. We got the first launch off today promptly at 12:30. That was great, except we should have been launching at 12:00. It really did look great and we could have been flying much earlier. Our weatherman’s predictions were nearly spot on. The only thing he got wrong was the prediction of spreadout. As it turned out, there was only a bit of spreadout here and there and the lift went on until nearly sunset. Most pilots were out on course for about a bit over 3 hours and the top finishers had speeds over 70mph for distances over 200 miles. I think most of the pilots were pleased with the day and the task, although it seemed a bit of an undercall to me.

We have done Assigned Speed Tasks the first two days. That seems to be pretty popular with most of the pilots, however, it is clear from the scoresheets that the tasks so far have not done much to spread out the scores. Calling identical or very similar tasks for all the classes favors gaggling together out on course. Also, one should remember that this is a national championship and every pilot here is highly skilled. Scores should be fairly close.

The array of gliders here with auxiliary propulsion is remarkable. We got the conventional “retractable engine/prop-on-a-stick” type motorgliders. Some with two-stroke piston engines, some with Wankel rotaries. There’s a JS-1 with a jet sustainer here. Very James Bond. Then there’s the Front Electric ASW-27 that I mentioned yesterday. Motorgliders that self launch at contests often do so to help the organizers expedite the launch. However, the combustion engine ships present some interesting challenges for the CD.  Most of these ships climb pretty well, but still take longer to get to altitude than the pure gliders with jettisonable 235 hp engines tied to their noses. The motorgliders also need to go a little higher to make up the altitude lost after engine shutdown when they are in a high drag configuration. Then, they have to keep the engines at least partially extended until cool enough to stow and close up the bay doors. If a motorglider at the back of it’s class self launches, then the CD should delay the task opening time by a few minutes to allow the motorglider pilot to get it sorted out.

Dinner tonight was catered by Cordele’s famous Smoakie’s BBQ and most graciously hosted at the Ramada Inn. The pork BBQ, ribs, and chicken were excellent as were the fixins. Oh, and desserts. Gotta have that banana pudding.

Tomorrow’s forecast looks a lot like today’s except the ground will be dryer and it’s going to be warmer. Rest up pilots. I’m working on your tasks for tomorrow. All I can say at this point is expect to launch earlier and fly farther.

Posted: 6/9/2017

2017 15 Meter, Open, and Standard Class Nationals - Such a good day

We had a really good launch today with a great background of fluffy clouds. First launch was at 12:29 and by 1:40 they were all flying. Last gate opened at 2:04 for Open Class and off they went.

After the launch we welcomed some of our local sponsors for rides in the ASK-21 and they had a blast. It’s always impressive to see the smile someone has after their first glider ride!

Another great surprise for today came from two guests that arrived in Cordele and decided to help us with our operation: they are two great young men, 16 and 21 years old. One is from GA from the same club as our CD (Southern Eagles) and the other one is from Houston. Both of them are sailplane pilots and they decided to visit with us to observe the contest and give us a hand as needed.

It is so refreshing to see so many young people as we have here now taking an interest in soaring, absorbing all this information during our meetings and enjoying being around the more experienced pilots. We have 10 “kids”, all passionate about flying, either pilots or students themselves – they are either running the line or, the older ones, towing. Watching them these last few days makes me think sailplane racing has a future!

About 3:40 pm our retrieve office received a call from JA who landed out at Tifton. He was safe and his crew, 17 years old Gage, went to retrieve him.

In the meantime, his wife, Sarah, was flying with Mark Huffstutler (MH) in his very nice two-seater giving him some tips on how to fly and win in a world competition. Yesterday she flew with Pete Alexander who received some great instruction and we heard tomorrow she will be flying with Roger Buchannon (R9). It seems that it pays off to have a nice open class two-seater! 😊

As we were leaving after our very lovely dinner this evening we saw 8 colorful balloons ready to be launched in Cordele for the local Watermelon Festival. We drove across the street to check them out and we found one of our own handling one of these beautiful machines – Mike Solley (MS) was there giving some very interesting explanations on how they fly. We learned that they will be here for the weekend, either giving rides or anchored for visitors to observe.

All in all, today was a good day and tomorrow should be even better.

Don’t forget to check the SSA Facebook page for live updates from the grid, you can find the link on the SSA home page.

Good night y’all!


Posted: 6/9/2017

2017 15 Meter, Open, and Standard Class Nationals - Day 2 about to happen

Good morning from Cordele!

After a nice day yesterday, short but fun, we have big plans for today!

Grid time is 11:45 for Standard and 15 M and noon for Open Class with expected first launch at 12:30.

The weather brief mentioned cloud bases at 4,000 to 5,500 feet with a spreadout starting 5 PM. 

The task today is pallned to have them going North first, as weather will be better, then South as the day progresses. About 395 km distance.

Please monitor the SSA Live Traker for task course and to monitor the pilots flying. Also, live videos and interview coming daily to the SSA Facebook page.

More soon, now off to the runway to talk to the pilots for our live transmissions.


Posted: 6/9/2017

2017 15 Meter, Open, and Standard Class Nationals - We have a day

A red sunset Wednesday night provided some hope that Thursday would bring sunshine and the chance for our first contest day. That hope was borne out in a better than expected soaring day today. With too much water on the ground and a forecast high of only 81°F, landing everyone out in muddy fields was foremost in my mind. However, we are in need of days to make a valid contest. We are fortunate that Fernando Silva, our Weatherman, has developed some world class forecasting skills. His initial forecast this morning was not terribly optimistic, but Fernando studied the rainfall distribution info and we were able to put together a couple of tasks that looked marginally plausible. Approaching grid time, the forecast began to improve and I was beginning to think we might even have a task undercall. As it turned out, the task worked out OK. Speeds were about as expected and there were no landouts. The tasks were identical for Standards and 15M. Opens had the same task with one turnpoint difference to add a few miles to allow them to stretch their wings. Most pilots reported maximum altitudes of less than 5000 msl and winning speeds appear to be in the upper 50’s and low 60 mph range.

I have to mention today’s spectacular finish. We had close to 50 gliders out on course and the majority arrived home in a very small time span. I have never seen quite that many gliders arriving at the same time. At one point, the “6 miles out” calls were coming so fast, I was having trouble marking them off on my check sheet. The pilots were up to the challenge, though. They sequenced themselves into the landing pattern beautifully, managed their energy to land long or short as needed, and all cleared the runway on rollout. Gliders ended up fairly evenly distributed for the full length of the mile-long runway. It was amazing to see. Great job pilots!

Last night was the traditional and ever popular Fish Fry put on for us by the Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce. More about Cordele hospitality in tomorrow’s writeup. For this entry, I want to report on the special event and guest of honor at last nights dinner. Sarah Arnold, Silver Medalist at the Womens World Gliding Championship arrived at the dinner to waving flags, and a standing ovation. Sarah spoke and expressed her appreciation for the support. Congratulations, Sarah!

The forecast for tomorrow is better, so we are looking forward to longer flights and higher speeds. Maybe I can find a few minutes to post a morning update and a short afternoon update.


Posted: 6/8/2017


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