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Day 3 - Tight Competition

Wednesday was forecast to be a moderate-thermal day (3-knot lift to 7500 or so), with some high cirrus and cool temperatures.  Once again, Mother-Nature showed us mortals that we cannot comprehend her complexity and fickleness!  In the morning, the task committee got together and looked at the satellite photos - which appeared to show the cirrus thinning as the jet-stream dragged it up from western Oregon and into the Central Washington Basin.  A 3 hour TAT was assigned to both classes with turnpoints at  Anderson (20mi radius), Creston (20mi radius), and Mansfield (15mi radius).  Sports class was first to launch into a sky that was filling up with cirrus, but where a few breaks in the clouds allowed strong sunlight through.  Temps were low but the airmass was cold aloft and the winds were light at the surface - allowing the dust-devils to begin to kick off just as we launched.  

I was one of the first to launch and modest-but-dependable thermals were found immediately (in fact, a strong one was sitting at the end of the runway and took both myself and the towplane for a pretty wild ride - something both the towpilot and I were still talking about over dinner this evening).  I could see other gliders gaggling up in the 2 or 3 thermals near the northern edge of the start cylinder, so I got up above 7000' and headed out on-course a ways.  I was mid-way up the west side of Lake Lenore (and not finding much) when the start-gate was opened.  Seeing a break in the cirrus above us, I guessed that it would drift north (with the jet-stream) and provide sunlight up at the Anderson turnpoint.  So I immediately dove back to the start cylinder and found a good 4+knot thermal just outside of it - which I used to in the traditional manner:  climb to just below the start cylinder height (8000' for this contest), sneak into and out of the cylinder really quick-like, and immediately return to the lift.  

Thus armed, I headed out on course.  And as I did so, a chorus of start calls came over the radio - apparently I wasn't the only one with this bright idea!  The first leg went pretty well, although a scarcity of good lift near Lake Lenore encouraged me to cut west of the direct course-line (where dust-devils were more apparent).  I feel that its almost always profitable to go deep into the first turnpoint, so I headed to the northwest corner of the plateau, west of the Anderson airport (but on the south bank of the river).  Unfortunately, the lift was nonexistant as the entire sky had grayed out above the task area d'oh!  Usually there are good dust-devils in the area I'd headed, so with that expectation I'd allowed myself to get low.  I struggled between 4800 and 5500 feet for many miles, as I slowly worked my way east towards Banks Lake.  The folks who were behind me on-course at this point were smarter than I; they cut to the east much earlier - taking the final turnpoints deeper to compensate.

Finally, the skies cleared and the blue brought out dust-devils in droves!  The lift was suddenly booming and the rest of the flight for most people was a rousing good time, with 5+ knot averages (some as high as 8+), lift to over 9000 feet, and cruise speeds in the 80 - 90 knot range.  Out of habit, I aimed to make EPH just over the minimum time.  Smarter competitors (like Tim in "4Z") stayed out an extra 15 - 30 minutes to up their average speed.  When the scores were tallied, Tim took first on the day in Sports Class (giving him a perfect 2000 points overall) and Stu Larimore was first on the day in the 15m/Std Class.  Sadly, a low-finish penalty put Stu in second place overall by a mere 4 points - argh!  In Sports Class, I finished in 8th place on the day, but the points worked out well enough that I am still in second place overall.  However, I'm hanging there by the skin of my teeth - Brian Case is knocking at my door just 23 points back.

Overall, the competition is really tight!   Mike Newgard and Mike Thompson are on either side of Stu, and just 13 points separate the top three spots in the 15m/Std class.  Steve Northcraft is in 4th, less than 100 points behind Mike Thompson in first.  In the Sports Class, Tim has a bit of breathing-room at the top of the scoreboard but 2nd through 6th is a dogfight with only 120 points separating 5 pilots!

Thursday's weather is a big giant question-mark - rain and Thunderstorms were predicted earlier this week, but so far no forecast has been accurate so we'll see what the morning brings!  Regardless, there are only a few more days left to fly and score points - and you can bet all of the competitors will be pushing hard to the finish.

--Noel

DG-300 "Kilo Romeo"

Posted: 7/1/2010 By: Noel Wade


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