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Logan Contest Wrap-Up

Once again I apologize for the delayed posting!  The last few days of the contest were a whirlwind, and the toll of flying every day started adding up.

Day 5 was a fast, fun, and interesting day.  It started out with a weak forecast, but on the grid the experienced locals noticed a few Cu and lobbied for a task change.  We wound up soaring past Sherman Peak to the north, and then we ran south towards Willard Peak.  Winners on the day were the ones who had the courage to shoot all the way down past the gap in the mountains near Brigham City, to Willard Peak itself.  The rest of us either flew down the Logan Valley to nick the cylinder, or down the Wellsville ridge to the west of Logan.  I tried a combination of both (down the Logan Valley and back via the Wellsvilles) - and it was not a great choice because I got too low on the Wellsville ridge and didn't get much lift; the last 8 miles home were a white-knuckle affair near minimum glide-slope to make it back!  Fortunately, I found a little puff of lift about 6 miles out and it got me high enough to make a good sprint to the finish.  Unfortunately, due to a technical issue (that I won't describe here) myself and 3 other pilots were not able to turn in official logs.  We all got a "0" for the day, and that really hurt!  It dropped us each about 3 or 4 places in the overall standings... ouch!  Most of us would have posted some of the fastest speeds for the day, so the result was pure agony.  Sullen dinners and sleepless nights were had by at least a couple of us as it basically eliminated us from contending for the top 3 overall spots in the contest.

Day 6 

My flight trace will be posted here

Final Scoresheet is here

The final day of the contest arrived far, far too soon!  A few days ago we were all excited about the number of flying days left; and now it was suddenly coming to an end...  I'll say it again: This sport is fun, and its hard to go home after having such a wonderful time in the air and on the ground!  The weather forecast was not very good for the final day - with weak lift to 11000 and not much ridge-lift.  A simple TAT was called that sent us up the ridge (hopefully acting as a thermal-trigger) towards Sherman Peak and down south to a Monastery beyond Powder Mountain (yes, a real one with Monks and chanting).  The launch was interesting, as thermals were sparse and tiny.  You had to patiently wait for the lift to cycle, then find something and work the heck out of it to make any altitude! I sank below tow-release height a couple of times, before finally getting a climb to the ridge-top.  A few folks had to take re-lights, and one pilot landed out near town.  Once the task opened, a lot of us proceeded to cautiously float down the ridge towards Mink Creek.  Lift was not in abundance and speeds were conservative among most (Tim Taylor, as always, was an exception).  I didn't have a great start so a few pilots were out ahead of me - but several ended up starting around my time and we ended up marking lift for each other as we hop-scotched our way northward.  I had flown north prior to the start and knew where a few thermals were popping or where lift was coming up the ridge, so I was able to press a little bit harder than some and make ground during the outbound leg.  North of Sugar I stopped a few too many times to take a couple of turns in weak lift; but after getting low out there on Day 5 I was determined to stay closer to 10000 feet this time around!  Jim Frantz in 6B (who'd placed well in every single task all week) essentially chased me across the low part of the hills here, as I would find lift and then cut out of it shortly after he joined me (in fact it was nothing personal, I just didn't want to work the lift as it became weaker near the top of each thermal).  I was encouraged that his DuoDiscus' big wings did not seem to be gaining him extra altitude or allow him to out-run me.  For awhile we flew line-abreast (later we both admitted to taking pictures during this parallel run *chuckle*).  

Then we arrived at the lumpy hills just south of Sherman Peak.  Many pilots turned south at this point as the terrain is lower and the lift was not working really well.  Myself and a couple of other pilots (including FAI ships who had a longer task) pressed on to the north.  On Day 5 I'd run all the way to the end of the ridge just southwest of the Soda Springs reservoir.  Despite getting low out there I made good speed and I found the ridge to have many little bowls and lift-concentrating features - so I thought it was a gamble worth taking.  My other option (which many pilots exercised) was to head far enough south to near the Monastery; but my previous experiences south of Logan were not pleasant and I didn't want to rely on a long glide home from the south.  As I had hoped, the ridge west/northwest of Sherman was working pretty well.  In fact, the air north of Mink Creek suddenly got better and lift was in the 4 to 5 knot range (after being about 2 knots for the first part of the task).  After a brief low encounter with the ridge, I turned south and caught a couple of great thermals.  They got me high enough to make a fast dive straight down course, back to the main ridge south of Sugar.  I'd noticed the wind pick up a bit according to my flight computer, and a week's worth of Logan experience told me that the ridge would work better on the way south than it did earlier in the task...  So while most of us were flying 60 to 70 knots on the outbound leg, I screamed at 80+ knots back for the ridge.  Luckily, it was a calculated risk that paid off!  Although I arrived just barely at ridge-top height (and the ridge is lower there), the lit was just good enough that I could fly a steady 60-65 knots along the spine of the mountains and slowly rise up with it.  The cruise south went well, although I began to fret about the pilots who launched after me - would the better air late in the day provide them an advantage?  It spurred me to bravely press south of Logan, bouncing along the top of the hills as I headed down towards Powder Mountain.  Its not a true ridge in this region - and the lift I found was nothing to cheer about...  so I looked at my flight computer and figured that I would fly south until I was just at final-glide and then turn for home.  I knew I'd have a headwind going back, and I figured to be just over the minimum time.  This strategy worked out well down and back towards Logan, but I turned out into the valley too soon and ran smack into that headwind; giving me another nail-biting 22:1 glide home.  Once again, I ran into good lift over town and was able to fly straight over the airport at high speed, above the finish height.  This put me just under the minimum time; but I was too relieved to worry!  There was also a gaggle of 4 gliders landing at about the same time, so the focus quickly shifted to safe communications and landing - which went well for all pilots.

After landing, we all began packing up our craft and our possessions, then we headed over to the Leading Edge Aviation FBO for our banquet and final tallying of the scores.  The food was excellent, the company was even more-so, and to top it all off I won the final day in the Sports Class!  Tim Taylor won in the combined FAI class, and made it all the way up near Alpine - wow!  For more details on the final finishing, check out Charlie Minner's final contest report here.  

I want to make note of a few things as I wrap this up:

  • The quality of competitors at this contest was really good.  The top spots were in contention every day, and sometimes the one bad decision or unlucky break made a huge difference in the scoresheet.  I can't wait to see this site grow and attract even more top talent!
  • I have to give a special shout out to Peter Alexander, Tim Taylor, Ron Gleason, my competitors Bruno Vassel & Kerry Richards, and a few others who's names I may be forgetting.  These people all had more local knowledge than I, and despite being in a contest they graciously and freely shared their experience and wisdom with me.  There is absolutely no way I could have done well without their help and advice.  So thank you, all!
  • I am learning that contest pilots and crews all over this country are great people.  They make wonderful competitors, but even better friends!  I've been involved in auto-racing, sailboat racing, and many other hobbies; and the friendliness and quality of individuals in our sport is the best.  Especially with "characters" like Richard, Patrick, and many others who keep it light, fun, and fresh.
  • Big Congrats to the first-place finishers!  Jim Frantz is a beast - I thought I did well to place near the top of the scoresheet every day, but he was even faster and much more consistent.  I say this with my tongue firmly in my cheek: I'm really glad Jim isn't local to the west coast where I fly!! :-)  In the FAI class, you could say that Tim Taylor's local knowledge gave him an advantage - but that would deny the fact that:
    (a) Tim shared his knowledge and strategies with the entire field almost every day at the pilot's meeting.
    (b) Regardless of knowledge, Tim still had to go out and actually fly each task... and so he did, displaying a remarkable amount of skill and speed while doing it!  Look at his speed on the final day, compared to anyone else - you have to give a ton of respect to a pilot who can put those kind of flights together!
  • Adam Kite took third place in his first contest.  Third!  Out of a field of 17 pilots, many of whom were highly competitive!  Very, very impressive!
  • I can't think of a "P.C." way to put this, so please understand I mean no offense when I say that I am really excited about how well the "younger" pilots did in this contest.  In a sport where the average age is climbing into the 50's and 60's, it was fun (as a 32 year-old relative newbie) to see a bunch of pilots in their 20's and 30's (and maybe 40's) having great flights and placing well on the Leaderboard.  As a newcomer its hard to compare yourself to people who have been in the sport for decades and who are much older and wiser... having competitors closer in age and experience adds energy and also a brighter outlook for the future of the sport!
  • Logan is a really cool place.  The first climb of the day is almost always a challenge, but once you get to ridge-top height the task area is vast and the flying is wonderful (and sometimes very technical)!  We got to fly all 6 days, and many of the locals were lamenting that we didn't see any "good Logan days".  The facilities at my home airport of Ephrata, WA are better for pilots and competitions; but the town of Logan is extremely family-friendly and has lots to offer pilots and crew.  I've only been to a few contests; but it is by far the best "Contest town" that I've seen!
  • The CD and CM are good, energetic people.  I may not have agreed with a few decisions of the CD and I may have wished for a couple of things to go differently; but there is no denying the amount of energy and time they put into this sport.

And now, sadly, I must depart.  I'm late driving home (partly due to car trouble yesterday) and need to hit the road.  Be assured that I will have visions of Logan dancing in my head for many nights to come.  I spend a lot of time promoting my home airport of Ephrata as a great place to fly and compete; but my time here at Logan has been outstanding!  

Fly safe, fly fast, and have fun,

--Noel "Kilo Romeo" Wade

Posted: 7/26/2010 By: Noel Wade

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