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18-Meter National Championships - It's Over

The last flight of the contest was going to be a real test of flying in weaker conditions.  At launch, there was a high cirrus deck that was arriving from the south.  Our task area took us pretty much to the north west.  Everyone in the start circle was pretty low when the task was opened.  Weak climbs and large gaggles prevailed.  As time was approaching 2:00pm, everyone knew they had to start out on the 3hour TAT or risk not getting back home.  A slow glide, from a lower start height than we have had so far, was the beginning of the flight.  Weaker climbs only lasted 30 miles, when our normal strong climbs to 6-7,000 feet returned.  Most pilots went to the back of the first cylinder and flew back on the same path.  There was a convergence line along the west side of the state that gave some of the guys a good ride.  The day was getting even better the later it got.  The last turn area had lines of clouds going in the right direction.  Final glide was easy for most folks.  Ken Sorenson was accused of trying to get more OLC points when he stayed out an extra 13 minutes in the last turn area increasing his task speed.  Jae Walker flew a great flight at 71.13 mph to finish in third place for the day.  Gary Ittner took second place with a speed of 71.57 mph.  When the day looked like the winner would only average 55 mph, in the end, Jerzy Szemplinski flew 72.20 mph.

Virginia began the presentation of awards with what we call the Uff Da award.  During the contest, the CM usually receives a number of funny stories of pilots or crews that had a miss step.  Virginia tells the stories at the banquet and the winner is chosen by the amount of applause from the audience.  For the 18 Meter Nationals, Bob Fletcher (90) won the award by landing out just south of I-4.  When he called the retrieve desk he reported his landing spot as Gore airport.  Unfortunately, he was at the Toyota dealership that was located across the highway from Gore airport.  Good thing he didn’t call for an aero retrieve!  The top ten pilots for the contest were:

10. Jim Lee

9.  Jae Walker

8.  Sean Fidler

7.  Robin Clark

6.  Ken Sorenson

5.  Eric Nelson

4.  Gary Ittner

3.  Dave Springford

2.  Sergei Morozov

1.  Jerzy Szemplinski

Pictures were taken by Maria Szemplinski and trophies were handed out.  The joke of the day was when a pilot called out when they were just about to announce the third-place pilots, “and now the Canadian Nationals”.  Yes, the Canadians held all the podium spots for the contest.  However, they all flew faster, more consistently, and with better strategy than our boys.  Every one of the pilots on this Canadian Team is a champion and has participated in many world gliding events.  It makes the US pilots work harder and it improves our skills by competing against these fine aviators.  We should not take anything away from Gary Ittner’s superb performance during this contest.  Gary was the winner last year in Uvalde and again this year at Seminole-Lake.  Two completely different sites, a good number of contest days, and long contest tasks.  In the end, he was only 138 points behind Jerzy, out of a total of 7,757 points.  Great flying Gary!!!!!  And, oh by the way, thanks for all the beer from the Papa 7 Brewery.

Virginia and I would like to thank all our staff and volunteers that supported this contest during the past 2 weeks.  John Godfrey (CD), Sandra Danoff (Scoring), Catherine Eaglin (OPS), Richard Kellerman (Weather), Mihaela Luculescu (Office Manager), Ted Haller (Retrieve Desk), Frank Spital (Recording), Michelle Sorenson, Judy Lineberry and Laura Betzoldt (Registration), Ray Smith (Chief Tow Pilot) and our tow pilots Franklin Burbank, Tom McLinskey, Jake Burkett, special thanks to Tampa Bay Soaring for the tow support.  Our local pilots and airport neighbors gave up their field for 3 contests this year and provided support by volunteering to help during the contests. Billy Kerns, Frank Spital, Glen Betzoldt, Ken Goshorn, Connie Miazga, Shawn Knickerbocker, John Farrington, Ky McKateer we would not have been able to put on these quality events without your support. Karen Geisinger is responsible for making the Gliderport shine year-round.  What you see when you visit is the way Karen keeps the place every day!

I would personally like to thank Virginia Thompson and Dave Springford for being outstanding friends, keeping me in line, and working so hard to make these contests the best in the country.  For the next 4 months we will not spend multiple hours on Skype calls that usually results in missing the dinner bell.  Dave and I fly a lot together and I am a better pilot for it.  So, thanks for the flying lessons, Dave and the loan of your partner and former crew person.  

The 18 Meter Nationals are in the box along with all the gliders.  It seems pretty quiet today at the gliderport.  However, tomorrow we are having a 50 plane fly-in and bar-b-cue lunch so I was out cutting grass this afternoon.  We hope you had fun and enjoyed your experience at Seminole-Lake.  See you at the Seniors Soaring Championship or the Sailplane Grand Prix next March.  Stay high, go fast, and come home soon!




Posted: 5/11/2018


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