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Uvalde Glide 18M / 15M Contest - Aug 5 Report

Some 52 sailplane pilots have gathered in hot, dry southwest Texas for a pair of soaring competitions.  Seventeen are contestants in the 2011 US Open-class National Soaring Championships.  The remainder are part of UvaldeGlide, a “pre-World” contest that anticipates the World Soaring Competition for flapped classes (15-Meter, 18-Meter and Open) to be held here just a year from now.

Uvalde has been the site of memorable soaring competitions since the 1980s and established a permanent place in international soaring lore by hosting an extremely successful and fondly remembered World Soaring Contest in 1991.  After a gap of over 20 years (during which it has visited South Africa, New Zealand and numerous sites in Europe) this event returns to North America in 2012.

Uvalde features a mostly flat task area that can produce superb thermal soaring conditions.  To do this, high temperatures are required.  During the practice period we have had both:  Daytime highs have routinely been around 105º F (40º C), occasionally above.  And thermal lift has been worth the inevitable ground discomfort: pilots have reported best lift of 9+ kts to over 10,000’, yielding speeds on practice tasks better than 90 mph. Cumulus clouds have been a trifle sparse, but mostly “honest”.  Weatherman Dan Gudgel foresees something close to these conditions persisting at least into next week.  This is not what local farmers and ranchers most wish to hear (all of southwest Texas is suffering from a long drought), but soaring pilots appear to have found what they came for.

Today is the final practice day, and despite another encouraging forecast (6+ kts to 8500’ or so, perhaps a bit better to the north) a good number of pilots have chosen to rest rather than fly.  No doubt their crews (who do not get to enjoy four-plus hours in cool temperatures a couple of miles above the baking Texas dirt) will also be happy to spend an afternoon by the pool or in air conditioning.

Texas offers a number of interesting species found at few soaring sites – not all of which are welcome.  Prominent among the unwanted is mesquite, which can be a decent-sized tree or a small ground-hugging bush.  The low form is unloved for its habit of producing branches of tough, inch-long thorns that scatter when mowed.  These laugh at the thin tires found on tailwheels and wing dollies, and are quite prepared to tackle glider mainwheels, running shoes and occasionally even auto and truck tires.  A pre-launch event today was a “thorn patrol” of the towplane landing area, aimed at improving the chances of keeping all our tugs in service.  A large trash bag of thorns was collected, but no doubt plenty more lie in wait.


 - John Good



Posted: 8/5/2011


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