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Seniors Championship - TA Report

Day 4 at the 2011 Seniors dawned with thick ground fog hanging over the field.  As I made my way around the field this morning on my morning ‘run’, the resident hawk family made its displeasure at my intrusion known by screeching at me for a while, and then flying away. 

The fog burned off fairly quickly, to be replaced by the sounds and sights of another wonderful competition day starting up.  Pilots and crews were variously wiping down wings or attaching them to fuselages, inserting batteries, water, and food, and then towing out to the grid

Speaking of the grid, CL Rick Fuller returned to the grid today after landing out on Day 2 in what looked like a decent field near a phosphate mine, which turned out to be a semi-swamp inaccessible by vehicles other than a purpose-built swamp buggy.  It took until the end of the next day to get his ship out of the field, carried out a piece at a time on the swamp buggy.  See the photos on the SSA contest photo gallery for a look at the swamp-buggy retrieve!

At the morning meeting today, our ace weatherman Ray Galloway told us the day would start a little later than normal, and would continue a little later than normal.  He said all the soundings called for no cu’s at all, but he wouldn’t be entirely surprised if there were some anyway (he was right!)

The task today was a 4-turn TAT, but it essentially boiled down to a big circle over Seven Springs to the north, followed by a big circle around Winter Haven to the south.  At start time we were getting up to about 4500’msl with a 4000’ limit, so there was some start tactics in evidence as pilots decided on different ways to handle the situation.  I got to watch a classic Karl Striedieck maneuver as he climbed to 4500’ on the edge of the circle, then flew off the extra 500’ and the 2 minutes with a big loop inside the circle, ending up at 3900’ at the start edge of the cylinder in a 5kt thermal – amazing!

Out on course the run up to Seven Springs was essentially all blue, with some random cloud wisps thrown in to tease the pilots.  There were some really nice looking clouds to be seen, but they were all 20 miles to the east and completely unusable – bummer!  Most pilots went well into the Seven Springs circle, and the fast guys continued toward the back.  Lift was actually very good when you found it, with some 5 and even 6kt climbs.

Getting back from Seven Springs to the Winter Haven circle was another exercise in patience and intestinal fortitude.  I had the good fortune to have 711 Tom Kelley as a native guide for almost the entire run, until he finally ran away from me about 20 miles south of Seminole Lake..

Chip Garner showed his championship form today by winning the day with 59.54mph raw / 54.48mph handicapped.  Tom Kelley kept a firm hold on 1st overall by taking second for the day with 59.56mph raw / 52.66mph handicapped.  Frank Paynter slipped in the back door while no one was looking to take third for the day and fifth overall with 58.86mph raw / 51.87mph handicapped.

Chip Garner told me that he went well out on course before the start to check out some wispy clouds, and soon came to the conclusion that clouds were not going to be a significant factor for the day, and that meant he was going to need help from marked thermals to do well.  In addition, Chip was smart enough to figure out that leaving a bit earlier than he would normally would allow him to go beyond the last marked thermal at the north end, turn around and then come back along the same line, with some expectation that later starters would still be coming north and marking thermals for him on the way south.  This guy’s not just a pretty face! ;-).

Dinner tonight in the back hangar was an excellent prime rib dinner with all the fixings, and plenty of beer to wash it all down.  After the excellent dinner, Dave Nadler gave an great presentation on Transponders, ADSB, and Power Flarm.

We now have 4 days in the bag here at the 2011 Seniors, and no bad weather in sight until next week.  Odds are that we will have a 6-day contest again this year, with a good range of weather conditions to challenge the pilots.  The point range from first to 10th overall is only about 250 points, so there is still plenty of room for excitement during these last two days.

While I’m on the subject of excitement, I should mention a couple of other ways to learn more about each day’s activities.  One way is to watch the contest SPOT tracking site.  About half of the competitors have SPOT units, and you can watch the real-time position reports from these SPOTs by going to the Hawke Tracking site at http://www.hawketracking.org/snats/files/trackinglarge.htm. This is a real-time map, so tune in around noon to see the launch and race.  Another way is to visit Bill Elliot and Rand Baldwin’s excellent SoaringCafe.Net at http://www.soaringcafe.net.  There are links to the SPOT map, lots of photos, and other information about the 2011 Seniors.

More tomorrow,




Posted: 3/17/2011


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