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Region 5 North - Practice Day Report

Welcome to Perry International -- the “Big Kahuna” of SSA regional competition. R5N is literally staged in Rhonda and Allison Tyler’s back yard and man-oh-man do they make this place “magic”. It’s the perfect storm where hospitality, facilities, and excellent low-land soaring converges with a full card of “top drawer” contestants. This place is to competitive soaring what Augusta National and the Masters is to golf.

We’re +/- 20 miles ENE of Aiken, SC and not too far from the SC-GA state line. Going back to the early 1900’s, Aiken became the winter go-to for affluent northeast equestrians. With winter approaching, entire stables and households would be loaded onto a train in New York City and voyage to Aiken. Of course, along the way the immediate family enjoyed the comfort of their private railroad cars. Now you understand why Aiken is also known as the “Winter Colony”. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Today, Aiken County is still big-time horse country where thoroughbred, polo, and pleasure horse farms are in any direction … except towards the US DOE’s Savannah River Nuclear Solutions complex.

Speaking of thoroughbreds, this place is hopping with 64 entrants from all over the USA and Canada. It’s a soaring who’s who; SSA Hall of Famers, SSA officers and committee members, US and Canada Team members; every pilot here is a “rock star” in their own soaring community.

Early Saturday AM, weatherman Scott Fletcher was earning his keep. The weather forecast was not promising; potential crosswinds might keep us from launching, possible 20 knots plus at task altitude, high level cirrus approaching from the west, and mid-level clouds has the moisture trapped. Best expected was maybe a task; but it would shut down early. Things were still looking “south” at the 12:30 grid meeting but behold a good omen. Due to a late call on take-off direction, Dick Butler aka Butler aka DB ended up on the front of the grid. When was the last time anyone remembers DB being the sniffer and no less in the Concordia? So, Butler launched … so straight and true that Concordia … what a thrill for any soaring pilot to watch. And then, low and behold, the sky just exploded. It turned out to be an outstanding soaring day; 2:00 TATs meant to be “no way tasks” inversed into severe under calls.  FS reported the day would have easily supported 3:30 or better tasks.
Congratulations to Saturday practice day winners! Sports Class – Canadian Ed Hollestelle (A1) 127 miles @ 62 mph, FAI – Billy Kerns (KZ) 141 miles @ 66 mph, 18M Canadian Jerzy Szemplinski (XG) 158 mph @ 79 mph, and Open – Dick Butler (DB) 158 miles @ 79 mph. Great job guys!

So now its Sunday and we are weathered out due to a big front coming through. Next report will be after Monday’s task if the cold, blue, and wind do not shut Monday down too.

And as always - keep your head out of the cockpit, respect the edge, and bring home a smile!

Respectfully, Marshall McClung

Posted: 4/14/2018


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