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2018 Nephi Region 9 Sports Class - SPORTS CLASS REGIONALS AT NEPHI UTAH DAY 2

With 2 practice days and the official opening race day behind us, we finished day 2 today. Let me start out by sharing that I am new to glider racing and that this is my first contest. While I’ve been involved in the sport for over a decade, I only have about 240 hours logged in gliders. I trained for this contest by crewing for a friend and fellow Las Vegas Valley Soaring Association club member, Danny Sorenson, during the 2016 Nationals, flying a lot in Condor, the gliding simulation software, and with the generous mentorship of a couple of more experienced pilots (one of them a nationally ranked competition pilot) from my club out of Las Vegas, NV. So, the following observations, comments, and stories are through the eyes of a bona fide neophyte contest pilot.

My initial observation is that all the more experienced pilots are incredibly friendly knowledgeable, and helpful. The event is extremely well organized, and the support staff (i.e. volunteers who make everything run smoothly) is exceedingly competent, efficient and set a fun, relaxed tone for the event. Also, Nephi UT is an AMAZING and very special place to fly!

While day 1 was marked with beautiful cues, cloud streets, and lift up to 17+ k, day 2 was marked with a big, dry, blue sky and top of lift between 11k and 12k. The launch was a bit slow today because 2 of the 5 tow planes had mechanical problems. The last ship in the regional class was skyward at 3:00 pm and our start gate opened at 3:15.  Wile airborne and loitering around the start gate waiting for the last ship to be take flight, one of the contestants, Nick Kennedy (‘T’), made a radio call to the contest director suggesting that we delete the final turn point. The Contest Director agreed and we did an airborne “roll call” confirming that we all understood what the new task was. It was a bit amusing to hear 20 or so pilots respond “affirmative” when the Contest Director called their contest number. I’m sure a few of the folks flying in the Nationals were scratching their heads trying to figure out what all this affirmation was about.

The thermals were strong and smooth in the start cylinder and I was lulled into a false sense of confidence that the rest of the day would be equally as good. Boy was I wrong! After climbing to 12k in a gaggle of 8 or so gliders, we started out on course to our first turn point to the south. It felt as though the entire sky was sinking and many of us found ourselves low on the first ridge about 25 miles from the start. I heard of several low saves (7,500ft msl is low in this part of the country) prior to the first turn point and I was one of them. The thermals out here tend to be very disorganized and turbulent close to the terrain. Several pilots were unable to make it to the first turn point and came back and landed. The remaining pilots pressed on but there were lots of stories at the end of the day about how challenging that first leg was.

It would be nice to say things got easier from there but they really didn’t. It seemed as though every moment you were faced with a critical decision. Fortunately, the task committee called an excellent course for the day’s conditions, keeping us within range of some very good, safe lendable spots.

Needless to say, it was a slow day with the top 3 finishers averaging about 49 mile per hour. That was blazing fast compared to my average speed of 33.7 miles per hour but I have some very simple and clearly defined goals for my first contest; 1) finish each day’s task, 2) have fun and learn as much as possible from the more experienced pilots and 3) don’t damage my equipment or anyone else’s. So far so good!

The soaring conditions for the remainder of the week are forecasted to get better and better. If the first 2 days are any indication, I’m going to need to see an oral surgeon when I get back to Vegas to remove the permanently affixed grin on my face. This racing stuff is fun!

David Lessnick


Posted: 6/20/2018


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