Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Well, finally we had a good solid Midwestern day. It was mostly 3 knot thermals with the occasional 4-4.5 in the middle of the day, with cloudbases to 4,500.


Al and I decided to ignore the gaggle and fly US style, since there would be good cloud markers. Our first leg was a bit weak, or rather a bit too full of water for the 2 – 2.5 knot conditions. With water it’s hard to center, but that’s part of the game. You have to struggle a bit early so you have the water in the heat of the day. We worked together well and kept going in the punchy lift.


After a good high downwind turn, we got separated on the second leg. I got busy fixing the latest software issues, and didn’t hear Al stopping to climb. Still, we had a nice looking sky ahead of us and the best part of the day. Both of us had a very good run back to the Tiza river. The Italians came about 1,000’ over me, pair flying beautifully in their Dianas. I have learned not to even try to follow them. The Dianas have a huge performance advantage and just walk away from me.    


The Tiza river produced a big blue hole. No problem, stop in the last few clouds, take 3 knots to the overlying SUA, and go. (Unlike the US, we often fly under airspace in Europe). After a long quiet glide, I connected at 2,000’ under the first cloud, to a solid 4 knots. Now the fun part started. Clouds with good vertical development had wide swaths of 3 knots with 4-5 knot cores. I got a 97:1 glide in here. Going in to the second turn over Romania, the big clouds ended, and cloudbase went down about 500’. Time to dial back 70-80 and take those 3 knottters. It also had the look and feel that it would work under the clouds but not low. Alas, due to software glitches and my miscalculation I took about 10 km too far in this turn area. It wasn’t a disaster, it was just slower than otherwise.


Time to go home. We had widely separated clouds with good vertical development, producing smooth 3 knots with bigger cores. I happily took the 3 knots, thinking that it would be terrible down low.


That was right. Al, unfortunately did get low over Romania. He did an absolutely amazing job of working up again, but by then the day had died and he ended up landing out. Fortunately, he got out of Romania and didn’t suffer another border crossing!


Passing under the gaggle, I saw it only going up two knots, and chose instead to bump up under a nice street going home. I bumped form 600 under to 600 over and floated home.


The end of the day was very interesting. Ron went through first, and radioed back that it was booming on the way home. Bill finished later with a bit less enthusiasm. Garrett radioed “it’s getting a bit soft”. I found only 2-3 knots and very mild lift under the street. I looked back 10 minutes after I landed and the street was gone. When the weather gods turn the switch off, they turn the switch off!


It felt really good. Every flight has a few regrets –not either starting 10 minutes earlier, or starting 5 minutes later to gaggle down the first leg; not doing a better job of the final turn area; disconnecting with Al, and a little slowness on the last leg. But even though I’m not high in rank on the scoresheet, all but the Dianas went about 106 and I went 104, so it’s pretty good overall.


It’s back to rain and weak weather. However, that’s not a big disappointment, we’re here to race. I learned a big lesson from Doug Jacobs on the grid one day with looming thunderstorms. Everyone else was moaning. Doug was licking his chops, “I can really make up some points today!” It’s all about maintaining a positive attitude.


John Cochrane