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Task 2 – Thursday July 28 by Nicole Mclearn
New photos are here.
Given the propensity for the skies to blow up lately, the task committee wisely set a shorter task that would take us away from where the blow-ups have been occurring and have us on the ground sooner. Task was 68.5 km north to Centerfield (when you take the cylinders out, it actually comes to more like 61 km), which is the same direction as task #1 but not so far.
Winds were pretty light for much of the flight; cloudbase was lower than on Sunday, just shy of 15,000′. This time I was able to get past the Sigurd/Glenwood gap at highway 24 without wasting a bunch of time, flying with Jug and Bill Hughes for a while. We parted ways for a bit while they ventured out front while I flew deeper, but in the end we rejoined with neither route showing a clear advantage. There were plenty of clouds marking thermals out front this time, compared to Sunday when the only clouds were deeper in, so more people were flying the front route this time around.
I could see Centerfield in the distance between Salina and Gunnison, and had been keeping an eye on my transitions. I had been getting 9-10:1 for most of the flight so I made a mental note that when I got a 7:1 glide to goal I would go for it. I was with maybe 5 or 6 gliders when we topped up to around 11, 000′ (goal at 5200′) and went for the 10 km glide to goal.
Initially I thought I was going to make goal easily…I was maintaining the 9-10:1 glide and had goal at 7:1. But then it happened…the air became super-sinky (see the last graph on my flight to see the massive sink near the end) and I watched as my actual glide disintegrated and my needed glide to goal started going up: 8:1, 9:1, 10:1, 11:1, and it kept going on and on. Sh*t! Everyone around me was falling out of the sky…some were getting slightly better lines and some were on comp gliders, but we were all in the same trouble: we were not gonna make goal.
I made myself as pointy as possible and prayed for some lift in the final km’s; often you get a floaty line as you approach the ground with people many times ending up too high over goal. But not this time. The awful sink continued all the way to the ground; I landed 1.3 km short of goal. I could see the goal field with the windsock and trucks waiting for us, but I couldn’t quite get the last 1.3 km!
My mistake today was not giving more consideration for a sinkier-than-usual line on the way to goal. Usually when I have goal at 7:1 and I’ve been doing 9 or 10:1 up till then, I make goal no problem and in fact usually arrive too high. This time however it was the opposite and 7:1 wasn’t enough. I heard stories today of people with 5 or 6:1 not making it, so it seems that today you needed somewhere around 4 or 5:1 in order to make goal comfortably.
Bill Hughes made it to within 500m of goal (landing a couple of fields further than me), while Jug got a slightly better line and barely made goal. Many others dirted 3-5 km short of goal. Other pilots tagged the end of speed section (10 km from goal center), and then returned to the mountains to try to find more lift to make the final 5 km’s to the edge of the goal cylinder. Apparently Bill, Hayden, and Nick were in a group that attempted this from quite low, with Bill marking a thermal at the last minute just before running out of altitude and landing, allowing Nick and Hayden to overfly him, catch what Bill wasn’t high enough to catch, and use it to get high enough to tag goal. Many other stories of pilots just squeaking into goal, or just landing short by a few km’s in the awful sink in the valley. Claudio told the story of being in the highway 24 gap when he was about to land in the only LZ around, spotting what he initially thought was a cow, got lower and discovered it was a bear, and then found the incentive to thermal back out of there and continue on his way
In the end about 10 pilots made goal, with numerous others like myself landing just short. Most people agreed that the task was awesome however: a nice XC distance, no bad weather to speak of (just a few cu’s with rain dropping out a looonnngg way away), light winds, and a good spread of pilots strung out along the course. Once again the task committee called it perfectly, sending us the right direction and for a suitable length of time. Thanks guys!
Day 1 and it didn’t disappoint! by Nicole Mclearn
Photos are here.
I was keen to fly after not flying yesterday, so after the task was set (121 km north to Mt. Pleasant airport) I was all ready. Denied initially since they pushed the start time back after I kitted up, but when the window opened for real I was 4th or 5th in the air. I wanted to get a solid hour of flying in before the race started since I haven’t flown here before.
I got my highest of the day, 17,300′, right over launch and well before the start. Of course this meant that when the start came 20 minutes later, I was way low and had a crappy start.
Heading north was initially super-slow, both because of a slight headwind, and also because the lift was very disorganized with slow climbs. It took me forever to fly 20km, and by the time I reached the gap with highway 24, I was pretty much by myself.
This gap was a sink hole for many people, lots of sink and also lots of wind venturing through the gap towards Fish Lake. Every climb was taking me deeper towards Fish Lake and the high plateau, and away from where I wanted to ultimately go. At one point I had to make a desperate dash to a small hill in the hopes I would get out…otherwise it would be a long walk to the highway. But the hill was working, and I was able to get back up and high with the help of Claudio and Szilard.
But by this time I had been pushed back along the “back range”, not too bad a situation since there’s lots of roads and LZ’s back there, just very inconvenient to have to wait for retrieve in the blazing hot sun. Every time I got below 8500′ I could feel the heat building and was way overdressed (rare for me). So I had a vested interest in staying high, if only to cool off!
The reason we were sent north was to avoid some moisture coming up from the south, apparently there is a monsoonal flow setting up and this was the forerunner. The moisture manifested as nice clouds around 16,000′ and it was converging between Glenwood and Salina where I was stuck behind highway 24. With my climb from the small hill I was able to get back to cloudbase, and essentially surf the convergence as it slowly moved north. Since this was the direction I wanted to go anyways, I was quite happy to stay with it and not outrun it.However the convergence seemed to stall around Salina and I had to leave it behind. It also meant the wind had switched, and what was once a headwind was now a tailwind. Finally I was able to make some progress!The run from Salina to Manti was pretty uneventful. I made sure to stay high and cross the canyons with plenty of altitude. But now the problem was the time…the goal closed at 7:30pm, and because I had gotten stuck back towards Fish Lake, I was now quite late and it was gonna be close as to whether I’d make goal by 7:30pm.
It was approaching 7pm and I was at Manti, with 40km still to go. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make goal in time given my current altitude (and the lift was dying), so I made the decision to go for the death glide and see how far I could get in my remaining time. Glided in quite still air to within 16km of goal when I finally ran out of altitude, landing around 7:15pm.
So in the end I made 105km, which I was quite happy with. The speed section took 5 hours plus the 1 hour waiting for the start. And the air was quite punchy but surprisingly average lift (I was expecting 6-7m/s but got mostly 2-3m/s). This place has been described as a mix between Chelan and Owen’s Valley, but today didn’t really feel like either. But a 6 hour flight, at high altitude, and with lots of active flying required, takes a lot out of a person! I bet I’ll sleep good tonight; if this is an example of the flying here, then it’s gonna be a war of attrition to combat fatigue!