Monday, May 13, 2019

20m Multi-Seat National Day 2

I might have mentioned before, that I kind of suck at competition soaring. Another day, another "DFL" -- dead freakin' last!  But I'm taking it all in stride. Imagine how bored I would be with soaring if I were some sort of prodigy, able to master all aspects of soaring with one trip around the pattern!
The morning briefing started with yesterday's winners Sarah Arnold and Karl Striedieck. Karl deferred to Sarah, taking only credit for the first two turnpoints.  He mentioned how they dumped their water when they got very low. Indeed, the long cloud street at the end of the day is how they got their speed back up to win the day. The safety message of the day was a stress about the importance of a "hard deck", a lower limit of how low you should be willing to attempt to find lift.  Once that hard deck altitude is reached, it's time to land.  The lift isn't very well organized at low altitudes, and it's quite possible to have low level turbulence upset the glider, causing it to spin. With a low altitude spin, there isn't enough room to recover, and the glider crashes.  "Know your personal hard deck limit, and stick with it!"
Mine is about 800 feet, and I'm pretty serious about it.  The LX-Nav flight computer has a nice way of finding out what the field elevation is underneath you, so there's no guesswork needed. I got to use that feature on the flight computer a few times today. More on that later.
The weather forecast was excellent; but the conditions were better to the west, better to the north. The conditions were forecast to be great even until 18:00 in the day
Forecast charts for Day 2

After the morning briefing, we pulled the gliders out to the runway for an 11:00 grid time.  The first three places for yesterday's flying were put on the scales, to ensure that they weren't overweight. I was in the fourth position for takeoff, but because of my embarrassing showing yesterday, no need to put my glider on the scales. For the record, the maximum weight for my glider is 1543 pounds, and my back of the envelope calculations make my glider about 1515 pounds at the absolute heaviest.

Paul Remde has an odd position for programming the task into his computer

On "The Grid"
We launched and it was already excellent.  You can see perfect soaring clouds over my shoulder in the above picture.  Immediately off tow, I was climbing comfortably.  It's gonna be great!  The contest started at 12:35, and I was on task a few minutes after that.
The first part of the course was easy soaring. Once we got to the first turnpoint, things started looking difficult.  I slowed down and eeked out the tallest thermals at less than optimal climb.  Ahead, I saw an overcast covering the ground and shutting off the surface heating. A few weak looking clouds in the distance hinted that there might be something to work with once I got there.
Again, because I left early, I think I was ahead of the pack. A bunch of the more experienced pilots caught up with me as I was working some weak lift.  I diverted to a thermal where three gliders were circling and appeared to be gaining altitude very quickly.
By the time I made use of that thermal, they were gone. I made the second turnpoint, and things looked much more promising ahead.
Things may have looked great, but this is where I really lost the day.  Getting low was a terrible mistake.  The line-up of clouds that I thought was a street turned out to not be a street, and I got down to about 4000', about 2500 feet above the ground.  This low, I'm starting to take any sort of lift I can find; and I settle for a knot or two.
I saw other gliders heading past me, bopping along in the clouds, while I'm struggling down low. The gliders that passed me were able to hang out at cloud base and keep flying at speed. I finally climbed out of the bottom of my flight, and got up to cloud base. When I got right under the clouds, it was much easier.  The gliders that passed me called in for their "four miles out" while I was at mile 22 from the end of the course.
When we got to the end of the task, we made it back to the airport where we started.  The conditions were perfect-looking.  All of the clouds were perfectly-shaped.  All of the clouds to the northwest looked much better than the clouds we just flew through.

Lessons learned for today:
  • I sure do like AT more than MAT.  When the CD decides what course we should fly, I can spend a lot more time trying to fly, and a lot less time trying to be creative in unfamiliar territory. 
  • There were two different times that I was sharing a thermal with another glider, and instead of following him, I took an extra turn.  By the time i finished that turn, he was gone.  This isn't always a recipe for success (leaching on somebody), but it certainly would have been better for me today! 

Here's a video of my flight track:

Now QQ is parked outside, tied down and covered against the elements.  It's forecasted to rain tomorrow. 

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