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18 Meter National - YO Report

The day started overcast, cool, and breezy. While the forecast said winds would diminish and shift, we gridded rather dubious of decent soaring and a task. My nap was interrupted when the sniffer launched a second time, then again when somebody woke me to say launch in 5 minutes. Really? REALLY?

Off tow, 1 knot was the best I can find. It takes a half hour to top out at 5400! With the late launch, the task is reduced to a 2-turn area task of only 2 hours. Gliding out to the edge of the start cylinder found still air, an advisor reports totally still air on the courseline, and huge amounts of smoke from a fire blew in to add to the dismay. I retreat and search out another thermal, this time with a few knots average.

The radio comes to life:

Advisor: "CD, the lift is weak, late launchers are still low, visibility is terrible, and there doesn't appear to be any lift down the courseline."

CD: "The Task is now open".

Yee haw! Yikes! I climb out top of the 5500 foot start cylinder and push out from near cloudbase into the blue, and get a giant kick in the pants. To my amazement, wave in front of the cloud! A couple of tacks back and forth show the best 3 knot lift well in front of the cloud and the wave orientation whilst climbing through 6000 feet. The strong wind gradient and direction change at the top of the thermal layer is creating a strong thermal wave!

Now above the smoke and haze I can see decent clouds developing on the first leg, but the second leg and entire second turn area are completely blue, there will be areas of wave suppression, and there's a shelf of overcast that appears to be moving over the area. This could be a mass land-out day!

Perhaps I could get high enough to final glide around the course out of the wave? Wave is usually slow, but with very uncertain conditions below this could be a good strategy. Great plan, but I fall out of lift and reach the first good cloud just below cloudbase. A couple of turns above a gaggle thousands of feet below and I'm back into the wave, and now I'm able to climb to 8300 feet as I cruise down the south-west edge of the first cylinder.

My ILEC SN10 shows I can final glide around a minimal course, but to use the 2 hours I'll have to go further. The wave orientation is about parallel the first leg, so the second leg will require dropping back several wavelengths – if there's wave back there at all. A few developing wisps indicate wave may be there, but no good solid clouds down wind. I know I should bounce a bit further south before turning but I'm too nervous about what will happen next...

I aim for the upwind side of the 2nd cylinder, turning downwind when I find wave sink, then parallel the first leg when I find lift, staying well above the convective layer. When the strongest sink pegs the vario down, I know good lift is around if I can find it... Pressing into the second cylinder, nice wave bars form ahead, and I find up to 6.5 knots climb. Continuing in front of a nice cloud to near where the wave line intersects the northern part of the turn area, I reach 9300 feet. Further distance would require dropping back a wavelength, but no well developed cloud down-wind made me too nervous to try it.

Nervous about the sink and head-wind, I wait too long to start final glide, then fly the last 30km at 146 knots. That plus excessive caution about pressing further into both cylinders cost me several mph, and my 48 was good for only 10th today. Another glider or two up on top would have greatly helped finding the mostly unmarked wave and much higher speed was possible.

Sarah Arnold started late, and after her initial slow climb blew around the course carrying full ballast, for 60.0 mph! None of this wave nonsense for Sarah! A few others started out in a bit of wave but didn't use it after the initial glide.

Fun day, and Kudos to CD Eric for rolling the dice and sending us on task.

PS: Sorry, I didn't take any pictures today...

Dave Nadler, YO

Posted: 5/16/2016


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