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Day 2 at Logan, 2011 - Everything Goes Wrong

Wow.  I've never had a contest day like this - and I hope I *never* will again!  Just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.  If it wasn't for the fact that I'd be flushing many hundreds of dollars down the toilet, I'd seriously be considering leaving the contest and just going home to chill out for a few days...  The only thing enjoyable about this place so far has been chatting with folks over dinner.  But, I'm not a quitter so I've gotta get my head back in the game and fly the next 4 days and try to do the best I can.

The day started off with me thinking it was going to be an iffy day; but the weather forecaster for the contest claiming a pretty good day.  The task was a relatively aggressive one for the conditions - up to Putnam Mountain in Idaho, down to Mt. Ogden (towards Salt Lake City), across the Logan valley, and then a run up and down the ridge for a nominal distance of 270+ miles.  The fun started on the grid, with the wind being so heavy out of the south that we had to "elephant walk" all the ships a mile down a narrow taxiway to a different runway, and try to launch from there. The weatherman also served as a sniffer, and relayed that we should launch because he was able to quickly reach 8500' (the ridge is at 9300' so he thought he had it made).  I was in the very front of the launch and so we took off immediately.  20 minutes later, myself and at least 7 other ships were right back down on the ground - including the sniffer!!  Because of the way the launch line was set up at this alternate runway, we had to wait until the entire rest of the 60-sailplane field was launched before we could try again.  When I finally DID get up near the front of the line, I was adjusting my parachute and accidentally deployed it!  A mad scramble ensued, trying to see if the thing could be tucked back together (as only the pilot chute popped and none of the rigging was disturbed).  Sadly, we couldn't get it but luckily a fellow pilot (who's not flying in the contest) had his 'chute in his car nearby and loaned it to me...  But what a pain/distraction!  This would set the tone for the entire day.

My second launch attempt was very frustrating, as I was doing well but decided to try a canyon that had worked for me on the practice day.  Its known to the locals as a good place to climb up; but when I tucked in there it was all sink and I again had to return to the airfield (but not after grinding in weak thermals for 20+ minutes over town, getting hot and tired).  FINALLY on the 3rd attempt (3+ hours after my first launch), I got off tow and immediately climbed up to the ridge.  By this point it was after 4pm, and the 3 hour task time meant that I'd be racing the sun to finish the course!  Logan works well until late in the day, but I was not happy.  

To add to the "fun", the light showers that the weather forecaster had predicted blew up into huge Thunderstorms (which the forecasters on Wunderground had predicted).  I had just gotten 20 miles out on course when a big storm started spitting lightning and drifting east to block my planned route to the north...  

Thunderstorm drifting towards Mink Creek

So I turned south, only to see this developing over the main ridge home

Thunderstorm over Mt Naomi

Both were regularly spitting lightning and raining very heavily... not fun!  Having few other options, I ran west between the gap in the storms - to possibly land at Preston:

Gap in Thunderstorms

Somehow, I found a line of lift where one storm's outflow was feeding the other's inflow, and without circling I climbed 2000' flying straight ahead over the valley.  I was afraid to get too high and too close to the lightning, but I also wanted to at least _try_ to make it around part of the course; so I pressed on.

I crossed the valley to the west and made it onto the ridges there, which were working OK.  But again a storm popped up to my north and I slowed down while it dumped on all the hills I was hoping to use for lift.   Argh!  In the end, I was able to just barely bump along up to the edge of the first turn cylinder (by a town called Lava Hot Springs), but the ground was wet and the cloud remnants were blocking out the sun - so the lift just wasn't working anymore.  I turned south and landed out at a tiny airport (literally a simple asphalt strip next to grazing cattle) in Downey, Idaho.  Of course, the "fun" didn't stop there!  No, it was not that kind of day...  Karl Streideck and Tim Taylor (two guys I highly admire and want to leave a positive impression on) had already landed out at Downey, along with 4 other gliders.  Two were staged on the far end of the runway, ready for an aerotow retrieve - so they encouraged myself and 2 other gliders that were landing there at roughly the same time to hurry in and land fast and roll all the way to their end of the field.  So I did.  And as I approached them I pulled on my brake lever - and nothing happened!!!  I pulled harder and my brakes just barely engaged, doing little to slow me down.  I saw their eyes get wide and the two of them dove (literally) between my glider and their expensive ships.  I wanted to do something but there were runway lights just off both wingtips so I couldn't put one down without smacking my wing into them and trashing my glider...  At the last moment I saw a clear spot between the lights and the parked gliders, so as I passed the last light I slammed my left wingtip into the gravel on the runway edge, and skidded to a stop at an angle... Tim Taylor had to duck and hold a glider's wing on the ground as my wingtip swept past him and over the top of the parked glider's wing.  UGH!  This was *NOT* the impression I wanted to give to these guys... so maddening and embarrasing! Afterwards, we all lined up and waited our turn to be hauled back to home base, as well as entertaining the locals who came out from their farms to see what the commotion was about.

Lined up at Downey

Curious Locals

By the end of the day, 25 out of the 60 contestants had landed out, and only 4 or 5 (out of 30) of the 15-meter Nationals pilots made it around the course!  In a cool twist, fellow pilot Dan Wrobel was one of those; and he landed at 7:55pm!!  So congrats to him.

After an expensive aerotow home, I was so disgusted with the day that I just tied my glider down, grabbed drinks and a burger at a nearby Sports Bar, and went to sleep!

--Noel "Kilo Romeo"

Posted: 7/20/2011 By: Noel Wade

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