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Seniors Championship - March 12 Report

2009 Senior Contest – Seminole Lake Gliderport, Clermont FloridaReport for March 12

We have been coming from behind on reporting this contest.  The biggest problem has been internet access – we use a satellite link, and this one includes a limit on the total data that can be downloaded and uploaded during one week.  With pilots and crews busily checking their e-mail (and no doubt the latest YouTube videos), we have twice exceeded this limit and been put into “penalty” mode, which makes the internet link unusable (it slows to about 30% of dial-up speed).  Recovery from this has involved a painful amount of time on the phone with Customer Service.  These problems appear to be resolved – at least for now – and I will try to catch up on the latest news.

We have also had the usual challenges getting accurate handicaps for all gliders.  Hardware this year ranges from 18-meter “near superships” such as the ASG-29, Ventus 2 and JS-1 to a couple of 13.3-meter Silent motorgliders (which have in fact been silent this week, since their engines have yet to be started).

 Weather has continued to be excellent.  Central Florida has enjoyed seven consecutive days of excellent soaring, with no end in sight – a sequence scarcely matched during the two decades of this contest.  A really critical person could find fault with Monday’s and Tuesday’s weather on the basis that cumulus clouds were a bit sparse, with even some occasional blue holes to cross. But 5 to 7 knots of lift to altitudes well above 5000’ has produced excellent speeds and close to 100% complete tasks.

 Monday’s task was again won by Karl Striedieck in his DuoDiscus, with a speed of 64.7 mph over 176 miles; Senior Contest newcomer Ken Sorenson was second in his Discus 2a.  Tuesday saw Frank Paynter manage to push Karl into second place, with 66.8 mph over 188 miles in his Ventus 2.  Frank made use of a brush fire in the south part of the task area, which kicked off a 9-knot thermal to nearly 6000’.

 Yesterday was the “crew day” with no contest flying.  Weather was again excellent, and I was offered the use of the JS-1 Revelation by Bob Epp (pilot) and Leo Benetti-Longini (the US dealer).  It turned out to be exactly the kind of day on which a dealer would like a prospective customer to fly: I headed north and found wide, smooth 6- and 7-knot thermals to 5500’ under plentiful and honest cumulus clouds.  I turned around when 100 miles out and needed just 6 turns in three thermals to reach a point 34 miles out which should have been enough for a final glide home.  But a sizeable blue hole and a desire not to push things during my first flight of a borrowed glider caused me to deviate west and arrive home both later and higher that I might have.

 The JS-1 looks to be a fully worthy entry in the 18-Meter high-performance derby (which seems to be where most glider sales are now concentrated).  The roll rate isn’t quite as good as that of a current 15-meter glider, but it is awfully good.  Your sense of the air and what it’s doing seems better than with a shorter span.  And the rate at which you cover ground with little loss of height has to be seen to be believed.  The cockpit is really quiet – something disappointingly few glider designs get right.

 I was flying dry, but such gliders really ought to be heavily ballasted on anything like a strong day.  You’d then be flying at around 100 knots between thermals, and doing 800’ pull-ups when lift is encountered.  On a day like yesterday, this should allow fast cross-country flight with perhaps 10% of the time spent circling.  It’s easy to see why pilots line up to pay the (admittedly rather stiff) price of these gliders.    

 Today’s conditions look as good as any this week: at 3pm flat-bottomed cumulus clouds cover about a third of the sky; bases are reported to be above 5000’, with lift above 5 knots.  A moderate southeast wind is organizing them into nice streets.  I expect it will take a raw speed above 70mph to score well today.

John Good


Posted: 3/12/2009


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