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Central California Soaring Club Spring Contest - Contest Summary

Another successful contest at Avenal for the Central California Soaring Club.  Every day was soarable and provided challenging conditions for the contestants to press themselves and despite a number of landouts we had no damage or safety issues during the event.

Avenal is situated on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and our soaring is dominated by convergence of the valley air and the cooler marine air pushing in from the Pacific.  This contest saw 3 days of conditions where the convergence was hard to reach and a challenge to follow, but offered climbs over twice as high as the valley airmass.

Day one offered up post frontal conditions with strong westerly winds invading the course line to the South.  The task committe lead by CD Walt Rogers set a task with a large turn area around Buttonwillow and a smaller one up north at Harris Ranch Agro West.  Everyone made the first turn, but we had half the field bomb out at either Lost Hills or Paramount Farms  airports with one field landing nearby.  Bill Gawthrop won the day with an aggressive line toward the back of the turn area.  A low save got him high enough to hit the back of the turn area and clear the highest winds from the highway 46 pass.  Another low save and a long glide into the turn area north and back to Avenal gave him the distance and speed to win the day.  Others took lines farther into the Central Valley to follow the convergence line and had a slower but easier time finishing the day.

Day Two we lost the high winds of Thursday and got a few clouds along the convergence line to the west of Avenal.  A MAT task was called with the first turn area of Coalinga and then a wide open selection.  With the convergence line marked with clouds it was clear what direction to go for max speed and distance.  Again Bill managed to find the fastest line for the day pressing far to the south to tag Camatta while second place for the day went to Morgan Hall that chose the northern turnpoint of Hernandez before heading south.  Running the well marked convergence was fruitful for raw speeds in the low to mid 70s.

Day three stabilized further, but the convergence was again predicted to the west of the ridgeline in Avenal.  To the west of the convergence, top of lift was in the 4500ft range.  In the convergence climbs to nearly 10,000 were found at times and allowed for pressing about 15 miles into the 30 mile turn area around Panoche.  Once again Bill Gawthrop pushed hard and dug out a low save far to the west before reconnecting with the convergence line and racing fast for the southern turnpoint of Camatta and heading for home.  Peter Deane joined us for the weekend and came in second for the day.  Many of us struggled at one point or another digging out of the valley and back towards the course line.  4 people landed out near the first turn area, but ground and aero retreives were dispatched in short order and got them home for the BBQ banquet.  Julie Butler, John Harbick, Peggy Harbick and Martin Caskey put together an amazing spread of BBQ, salads, bread and desserts.  Nobody went hungry and the the stories of the day flowed from table to table as friends old and new caught up and swapped lies.

Day 4 dawned with similar weather to Saturday.  A blue day according to weatherman and CD Walt Rogers.  Knowing people needed to get on the road, the task committee called a similar task to the day before with the first turnpoint at Priest Valley and the Southern Turnpoint at California Valley, but with a large 25 mile radius.  The RASP maps for the area suggested there would be a light convergence to the west of the mountains and would provide enough lift to get into the southern turn area.  

The task started with a gaggle including last years winner Gary Ittner, Ray Gimmey and a few of us working New Zealand style into the ridge at Black Mountain.  With a few hundred feet over the ridgeline the pack split.  Half the group headed northwest along the mountains and half of us dove over the back in hopes of hitting the convergence.  Connect we did and found climbs to 8000+ and a relatively easy run to the first turn area.  Several of us pushed to the back of the turn area before heading south.  The day was softening fast and soon half the field was struggling at the edge of the southern turn area.  Four contestants found themselves low over Twisselman North airstrip and slowly lost the battle against gravity.  One by one they headed in to land.  From the air we coordinated retrieves and kept ourselves in the game.   Peter Deane managed to win the day convincingly.  Several miles per hour faster than second place Walt Rogers.

With three convincing wins and a solid placing on the 4th Day, Bill Gawthrop earned his name plate on the Sports Class Champion plaque for 2012.

As with all of our contests, it is the amazing crew of volunteers that make it happen.  Thank you to the Central California Soaring Club for hosting a great event.  To Peter Sahlberg for managing and running the line and making launch operations smooth and efficient.  John Shelton for another fantastic t-shirt design and his help on the line.  Richard Walker for retrieve management and start/finish monitoring. Julie Butler for BBQ and registration.  Walt Rogers for weather and CD duties.  Dan Gudgel for Weather and tow pilot coordination. Pete King for bringing his Pawnee in for tows.  Durval Frietas for providing his towplane and tows.  Allen White, Mel Council and Harold Gallagher for towing and lastly Stephen Smith and Morgan Hall for managing the contest and making it happen.

See you next year.

Posted: 5/23/2012


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