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Sports Class Nationals - Another no contest day at Chilhowee

Today dawned nice and sunny, and I had my glider assembled and out on the grid by 8:30, ready to race.  Unfortunately mother nature had other ideas as a cirrus shelf started to make its appearance over the western horizon as the 10:00 morning meeting progressed.

By grid time the leading edge of the cirrus had already arrived, and more was coming in from the west.  However, our guest sniffer Chris Ruf (H6, not to be confused with Matt McKrell 6H) was launched and  actually got to about 3500msl.  That was enough for CD Rick Sheppe, and he launched the entire fleet of 22 gliders.  The task was a 3hr TAT with the first turn to the north, followed by a steering turn 20 miles or so to the west (underneath the now dark shelf), then a big circle 30 miles south or so.  After the launch was finished, the CD did a roll call and reduced the minimum time from 3hrs to 2hrs, but nobody really believed it was going to go.

We all struggled to find climbs, and about 3500-4000msl was the best that anyone was seeing.  Nevertheless, our intrepid CD decided it was a GO, and opened the gate, followed immediately by a rush of gliders going out the gate ---- and then coming back for restarts when they couldn't find anything out on course.  I personnally reported three different start times, and I was by far the only one to do so.  The start timers told me afterwards that every time they heard a start call they said "didn't he already start?".

Eventually most of use limped out on course, climbing in anything that wasn't actively going down, and trying to figure out where we were going to land.  At least 6 gliders found a home at McMinn airport, and 'day winnner' Sean Franke (HA) made it all the way to Mark Anton (the  middle of the second turn area).  Nobody made min distance, so the entire effort was for naught.

I nicked the first circle, and was trying for Mark Anton when I started seeing gliders in fields and was pretty sure I was seeing my own future. I had passed a  really nice looking soccer field a ways back, so I retreated there and landed.  While my target field was completely empty, I did notice that another soccer field across the street was active with what looked like the post-toddler crowd.  Sure enough, after I landed and completed my after-landout cussing ritual, I was assaulted by about 30 6-10yr old kids who wanted to see the big white glider.  So, I spent the next hour ushering kids into and out of my cockpit, assisted by an off-duty police officer who made sure all these pre-juvenile delinquents behaved properly ;-).  

Many years ago I landed near a county fair with my LS-4 and similarly became one of the fair attractions for the same age group, but because the LS-4 has a front hinged canopy, I could put kids in on one side and take them out on the other - very efficient.  Unfortunately my current Ventus2bx ride has a side-opening canopy, so I had to put them in and  take them out on the same side.  You'd think the glider manufacturers would take unplanned kiddy tours into account when they design these things! ;-). 

By the time the kids had done the tour (some of them two and three times), my trailer showed up with none other than CD Rick Sheppe at the  wheel.  Now I have to tell that takes real cojones to go out on a retrieve after having sent the entire fleet out to die!  On the other hand, it might have been a real smart move on his part; because I'm usually crewless, I can't afford to piss off anyone who is willing to pull me out of a field, even a %%$#$%# CD!

With such a small field this year, it wasn't too long before all pilots were accounted for and crews were on their way for the  retireves.  Unfortunately Dave Martin (BV) caught a wire on his landing and damaged his glider.  Dave is fortunately OK, but couldn't get back to the field for the dinner because the local constabulary made the unfortunate decision to call the FAA, and so Dave had to wait around while an FAA guy drove to the site from Nashville - bummer

Apparently Dave got caught (literally) by the infamous 'diagonal wire' trick by the utility company trying to save a buck by running a wire diagonally across one end of a field instead of putting a pole at the corner.  It is so easy to assume that if you see two poles on adjacent sides of a field that there is also one right at the corner.  He is the second close friend that has run afoul of this potentially fatal setup, so please, please ALWAYS assume a diagonal wire unless you can absolutely positively see the pole in the corner (and even then be on the lookout for other nefarious killer wires)

Just to add insult to injury, the weather cleared off entirely by about 5pm, and it got sunny again, complete with beatiful black-bottomed Cu's over the high  ground.   I tell you, that Mother Nature has quite a sense of humor!


Posted: 5/7/2011


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