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Seniors Championship - TA Report

The 2011 Seniors practice day is in the bag here at Seminole Gliderport.  It was very cold last night, and there was patchy frost on the ground when I got up this morning to run (if you can call my pace 'running').  This year our morning meeting was in the  'back' hangar, graciously loaned to us by the owner Mike Fuller.   Not only did he let us use his huge hangar and set up tables for us, he had coffee and doughnuts ready for us!  John Good is the CD, and he started off by reminding us of the normal Seminole-specific issues (no driving on the runway, make sure to clear the runway and not block the east parking access lanes, watch out for alligators at the south end of the  field), and then Ray Galloway gave us the not-so-good news about today's weather.  Conditions were predicted to be blue all  day with mediocre to weak lift to 3000' msl, with  light winds from the NNW.  The task call for today was a nominal 200 mile 3-turnpoint TAT with a 2:30 minimum time.  North  first to Seven Springs with a 20 mile circle, south to Alturas with a 25 mile circle, and then north again to Tex Merritt with a 15 mile circle.

 The launch went very well, helped by the presence of the local Japanese flight student contingent, and  we had only a few relights by the time the task opened.  Everyone was milling around in the start circle, trying to find that killer thermal to 4000', but settling for 2kt to 3200'.  There was lift everywhere, but it was solidly capped at about 3000'.  Pilots started streaming out on course soon after the gate opened at 1:11pm, and after a while it was easy to see the course line - there were small gaggles every few miles.  To get anywhere today, you had to accept a working band from about 3000-3500' to below 2000', so that made for some nervous moments when aiming for that next gaggle - would it still be working when you got there?  Most pilots turned pretty soon after entering the Seven Springs circle, as going deep meant flying over a huge carpet of trees and forest - not the most friendly terrain.  Unfortunately, conditions actually got softer as we went south, so it became abundantly clear that going deep in the Alturas circle wasn't going to work very well either, so our only hope was to go deep into the Tex Merritt circle to run out our time.  Several of us got low over the Flanders airport, but I think everyone managed to dig out.  Going back north into better conditions worked for a while, but then the day started dying at about 3:30, just as many of us were approaching the edge of the Tex Merritt circle.  The bad news was, the dying conditions threatened a landout result for going deep into the Tex Merritt circle.  The worse news was, it was dying fast enough to threaten a landout even for just nicking the circle!  Several of us went a few miles into the circle, and then struggled between 2000' and 1500' all the way back.  I arrived over Osborne airport (about 9 miles north of Seminole) at about 1200' msl along with another pilot, scratching around to avoid a landout.  I found a 2kt thermal to final glide altitude, and the other guy didn't see me climbing.  He stayed in his own 0kt circle and then I watched him fly the downwind and land at Osborne.  There but for the grace of rising air!

 At the end of the day, Dick Butler won the day with a blazing 52 raw / 45mph handicapped - actually a great flight for such a weak day.  Steve Arndt also had a great flight in his Silent 2, with the handicap working the other way for him - 37.5mph raw / 43.5mph handicapped, good enough for second place.  Bob Macys took 3rd with 48.84mph raw / 43.17mph handicapped.

 This is the first unassisted year for Florin and Andreea Alexandrescu as contest managers and hosts for the Seniors, and they are doing an outstanding job.  If the practice day is any indication, we are going to be treated to a class act.


Posted: 3/12/2011


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