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2019 Senior Soaring Championship - Final report

The 2019 Seniors contest ended on a high note, with another terrific day of soaring in central Florida.

Fernando’s forecast predicted good thermals to 5000 feet, light southerly winds, and an unusually late end of convection, about 1730 EDT. In reality, the conditions were even better.

After the final Pilots Meeting and the group photo, we rushed out to the grid in time for a 1245 launch. The operations team got all 58 gliders into the air in just over an hour. This allowed the Task to open at 1403. Shortly thereafter the fleet was off on an 81/179/279 TAT with a minimum time of 2:40. A fairly bold call for a banquet task.

Most of the gliders arrived back home at 1700, and there was just enough time to turn in flight logs, take a quick shower and head up the road to the Awards Banquet at the Mission Hill Resort. The flying stories had to wait until we got to the banquet.

The stories were of honest cumulus, good climbs, and long runs to the next cloud field. It was the best day of the contest. Juan Mandelbaum reported a 9-knot climb to 5500 MSL. Today’s winner was Al Simmons at 71 mph, followed closely by Rich Owen and John Mittell. A couple of pilots pushed too hard and landed out. But to their crews’ credit, they were back on the field in no time flat, in plenty of time to get to the party.

The awards ceremony opened with a special presentation. Karl Striedieck received the FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Diploma, in honor of his 50+ years of accident-free flying in everything from F-86s to the Duo Discus he now flies. In his remarks after the presentation, Karl, who has flown gliders all over the world, reminded us how lucky we are to have the freedom to fly in this country without the restrictions most other glider pilots endure.

After that, the contest winners were honored. It was relatively close at the end. Karl, Al Simmons, and Rich Owen all made valiant attempts late in the contest catch the leader from Day 1, Jim Lee. But they all fell short. Jim was so far ahead going into the last day that he was able to fly defensively today. Despite his 21st place today, he still won the contest by a hundred points.

The 29th Seniors contest is now in the history books. This contest, and this soaring site, get better every year. Obviously, the excellent weather we enjoyed this time had a lot to do with it, but none of this would be possible without the hard work and excellent management of the contest organizational team, led by Virginia Thompson and Rich Owen. They have no choice about doing it again for the 30th.


Posted: 3/15/2019


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