Open and 18-Meter Nationals
Flying in through Dallas Saturday, there was a beautiful classic soaring sky. As we headed to San Antonio there was light rain, and looking West thick haze and multiple cloud layers. Not auspicious...
More than the usual overcast in the AM. Quick local practice task seemed conservative. Launched and headed southeast towards the first turn, shortly underneath the blow-off from a storm and decreasing cloudbases. "Is it raining yet at Uvalde ?" from the radio... Being a wimp I turned around. South and West it was good, but East and North it blew up and rained and/or stormed... Nice local flight to get current anyway.
We've 43 contestants in 18-meter (including around 10 self-launch), and 11 open class machines. Everyone is ready to race. Lots of muttering and grimacing about the weather. Plenty of time for me to attend to ILEC customers - load software updates, Uvalde databases, remind one pilot that power should be applied to the GPS for best results...
More helping folks with their computers and also a fellow motor-glider enthusiast whose propulsion system has having problems... But we're here to fly.
OK, it was good West and South yesterday, so lets give that a go. Launched late and climbed quickly, good lift but low bases and over-development. First turn was in rain, watched a few gliders land, tippy-toe'd out to the East under dying clouds in gloom and haze. Wimped out and didn't go south to the next turn as it looked dead. Ran out East where it was glorious - 9 knots on the averager at one point. Ran back home at warp speed to beat the approaching wall of rain, which hit Uvalde just as we finished packing up YO and closed the trailer.
Mandatory pilot's meeting at Quail Springs. Spratt masterfully kept it to the point. Dinner was scheduled allowing time for the usual lengthy and weighty discussion. "Whadda ya mean dinner isn't for another hour ?". Fortunately plenty of beer and the nice barbeque was served soon after.
First scheduled race day dawn showed heavy overcast with reports of rain to the North. We rigged early as is the norm out here to beat the heat. Still gloomy after breakfast, noon grid time is delayed until 12:30. Being a pessimist I waited til almost noon to tow the plane to the grid. Hooked up and hadn't got 30 feet when it started sprinkling. Enough ! Reversed and put it back in the trailer. Optimists gridded and hung out on the runway under umbrella.
Spratt gives up and calls the day off at 2. As the gliders tow back to the tie-downs bright sun breaks out just to spite us (but it was too late to wait for thermals, launch the fleet, and complete a task).
PS: Ask Alberto about his Ferrari sometime !
We poured out of the start cylinder quickly, afraid of build-up and OD catching us later in the day. Great at the start, 5 knots plus to 6k (that's 5,000 feet above ground at Uvalde). Nice clouds and a giant furball of gliders down the first leg. Rain visible inside the first turn cylinder, what to do ? Some folks just nicked the cylinder and turned South, but I pressed in between rain showers. Light lift, but I eventually chickened out and back-tracked. Wasted some time climbing back up and finally turned Southeast with a few other gliders. Booming Uvalde weather on the second leg - up to 9.5 knots climbs and eventually I could run at 100 knots and bounce strong lift, only circling to top off at 9 knots. Following the clouds took me way off course and I don't see other gliders.
Second turn has a huge storm building directly over the middle of the cylinder. The ILEC SN10 shows that despite time-wastage at the first turn I'll be way under the 3 hours, and I need to press into the second cylinder as far as possible. Problem is the cloudbase is descending in front of me and it looks like its about to rain. No problem to get to the back of the cylinder but I could easily get caught and land, especially if it starts raining. So I swing West of the storm and go to the Southwest edge of the cylinder by the Mexican border. Fantastic clouds mark the way home and I'm stuck finishing 15 minutes under the 3 hour target, taking my speed down from 73 achieved to 67 scored with only 202 miles achieved, good for 12th for the day as many others had the same problems.
Kevin Wyatt in RW did an amazing job to win 18m. Kevin continued between the rain shafts in the first cylinder and found 10 knot lift on the other side, getting the maximum distance and great speed, then stayed right of the storm as I did in the second cylinder. Unfortunately DJ (Doug Jacobs) and P7 (Gary Ittner) gambled and landed out !
PS: Check out Charlie Spratt demonstrating his technique for disposing of dialysis bags (warning - 13MB).
We got a weather presentation this morning, but it is rather confusing and very unlike normal Uvalde weather. Several maps I saw variously positioned a front North, South, or directly over us, and showed it alternately as a cold front or occluded, and there's a layer of broken high cloud in the area that wasn't in the briefing, complete with little bits of wave action.
Open Class launches first, and as 18-meter starts to launch we see an open ship above the clouds in wave. In Uvalde ? Unheard of. Charlie gives 18-meter a 150 mile 3 hour MAT. I'm near the back of the grid and climb slowly after launch. A heavy inversion caps most lift other than wave at around 6k MSL, 5k AGL, and the thermal strength seems to really tail off around 5k. Open class is gone well before the 18-meter launch completes, with only 4 towplanes and a few of us helping out by self-launching. Charlie picked a task area to the Southeast which seems to be the portion of the task area most in sun. Now its bluing out, hardly any cloud at all.
I figure I'll start as soon as the gate opens (its kinda late with the slow launch). The thermals are really tight and knarly which is not good for big gaggles (and, blue days normally mean big gaggles). In these conditions I prefer to fly alone or with a small number of other gliders... I start immediately, at the same time as Belgian pilot Baud Litt in LBL and Rick Indrebo in 89. Others hang back to play start-gate roulette. Down the first leg trying to line up the wisps and odd wave-modified thermals, 70 mph to first turn with Baud. Slow and lower to the second where 89 shows me a thermal. Approaching the 3rd turn there's a gaggle ! (*&@#$(*&@#$ late starters must have passed me ! Turns out to be the open class gliders on a different task, and they were kind enough to mark a couple of thermals for 89 and I. Twiddle the ILEC SN10 and pick a few likely turnpoints working back towards Uvalde. The alternate landing fields on the SN10 moving map are indeed comforting (yes, I know, I should have implemented this years ago), with lots of positive comments from other pilots. Fell behind the open class and 89, got down to 2k AGL, a beautiful Swainson's hawk was kind enough to show me a 6 knotter, and we climbed in formation to a respectable altitude before he moved on. Hardly any earlier finishers, heard one outlanding on the radio. I picked my last added turn upwind so I could dribble back home if I got in trouble, got another 6+ knotter, then committed a tactical blunder and finished 8 minutes under the 3 hour minimum, knocking down my speed a bit. Scored 177 miles at 59 mph - not exactly a classic Uvalde drag race !
Rick Walters in "1" showed us how to do it properly, at 67.4 mph over 204 mph, pulling into the lead overall. My blunder at the end cost 20 points, but still was good enough for 10th place, moving me up to 8th overall.
Thursday eve had a great moving social at the homes of Kelly and Bill Bartell and the Elders - Thanks for the hospitality ! Dawn shows some blue sky for a change but still some low cloud to the North. There's definite weather off to the Northwest, headed our way, and we're hoping it will slide by us to the West and let us get in another task to the Southeast, but its really dark after the pilot's meeting...
I'm middle of the launch grid today, and its getting darker and darker. Pilot's briefing task of East to Hondo and then South is clearly toilet paper as East is under heavy overcast, and now there are rain showers visible to the North as this shelf slides across us instead of missing us to the West. Task is changed in the air to a 3 hour TAT with one cylinder around Laredo. Agonizing grind around in 1 knot waiting for the last launchers to get high enough to have a fair start. I start as soon as the gate opens, hit a 1.5 knot "boomer" just past the cylinder, tack on another few hundred feet and wait for a few starters to hopefully mark areas of lift in front of me. Can't wait too long as its going to be a long glide out to the sunshine to the South and the overcast is still sliding South. Restart and head out at 70 knots in disturbingly still air... DJ started just in front of me and is kind enough to mark a few.
Out in the sun there is 6 knot lift, but its blue - not even any wisps to mark the lift. Furball catches me 40 miles out as DJ disappears in front of me (how does he do that ?). I press out on my own. Nearing the edge of the cylinder I see a gaggle racked up in a tight bank and a fire with another glider circling. Its 30 degrees off course but the magnetic power of circling gliders is too great and I succumb to chasing the gaggle. As I approach - what's wrong with this picture ? Aaaarrggg !!! Its the Open Class (who started earlier) and they're cranked up in a two knot thermal ! No lift from the fire but it does burn the eyes flying through the smoke. Probably wasted 5 minutes with this blunder as did Rick Walters in "1" and a handful of others.
Gotta keep going. We've already been out 1:30, there's a 3 hour target time, and its questionable what we'll find back at Uvalde. Where's the edge of the cloud ? Rain ? I turn around figuring the return trip will take about the same time with the direct cross-wind. A gaggle is circling in junk and I press on. The gaggle is also heading direct towards home in cruise, then drifting downwind circling, ending up well left of courseline. I'll fly by myself. A bit nerve-wracking in the blue, keep getting down to 2000 AGL, but the lift is consistent. Unfortunately approach the edge of the overcast not too high and below glideslope. Dialed back MC, coasted along, took 2.5 knots marked by turkey vultures, almost safety margin, then a few turns at 1 knot for an MC 0 1000 foot margin glide. Promptly bump lift up to a more respectable height and a speed finish for 183 miles at 58 mph, good enough for 16th for the day and moving me up to 6th overall. Rick Walters again shows us how its done at 62 mph with a more efficient run home. Unfortunately a number of contestants didn't get away from Uvalde and a few landed out. My crew Jeff went on an epic retrieve of Dan Mockler "3M" involving locked gates, a field 5 miles from a real road, incorrect directions, and didn't get back to the hotel until the wee hours.
The tug pilots have been amusing themselves trying to hit a barrel with the dropped tow ropes, but the target was too boring so they've embellished it with a frame supporting assorted women's undergarments. I'll try to post the tug pilot scorecard. Charlie displays a photo of the target below.
Classic Uvalde drag race. Late start to the day and no cu's within 15 miles of Uvalde, but out on course, booming. Traffic a bit heavy and some "excessive exuberance" in thermals a cause for concern. Life returns to normal in Uvalde as Gary Ittner P7 blows our doors off at 84 mph over the 264 mile course, taking the next-to-last start and finishing first, bumping home the last leg from 1500 feet below glideslope. I waffled and wallowed and turned in a measly 71 mph.
In Open, Eric Mozer wins the 290 mile task. Eric says the best part of the day is 2 hours socializing and trying to get the top 20 feet prior prior to actually starting the race, and the actual race kinda boring with no climbs under 6-7 knots. Weather looking good for Sunday too !
Everyone's ready for another classic Uvalde drag race. Some overcast from the Northwest still threatens but no rain or weather. So how come its so hazy ? I launch near the front of the grid and spend more than an hour poking around and trying to figure out what might work. Visibility not great, visible inversion around 5k MSL (4k AGL) but thermal tops closer to 6k. Clouds around Uvalde seem uniform.
Today 18m is tasked East to Medina Dam on a MAT, limited to 5 turnpoints after Medina. That means you need to plan legs that have multiple possible turnpoints so its possible to change direction if the weather doesn't work out. After yesterday it seems like South is the way to go, but the clouds look good in the hill country, but there's a high cloud layer approaching that might block sun in the North and West quadrants. Clouds don't seem to be streeting with the 9 knot Southeast wind. Poor visibility makes this a tough decision.
After a slow run to Medina, I turn South to Devine. Its weak and it looks even worse to the Southwest where I'd hoped to continue. Backtracked and turned Northeast to Johnson City, North of San Antonio and about 100 miles out of Uvalde, all by myself after Medina. Clouds looked great but weren't that strong, and combined with time wastage earlier in the flight I turned in only 60 mph. Winners found that it was strong but rather blue down towards Laredo, fastest speeds around 75 mph. Many got bit when they headed too far West and ran under high cloud that cut the lift significantly.
Evening dinner party at Neal's on the Frio River was great. Thanks as always to Kerry and Noreen for putting on a great show !
Tubing down the Frio is the task. Overcast until almost noon today, then blue skies with only a few isolated cu late in the afternoon. Telling glider pilots "watch out for the waterfall" is like saying "no aerobatics", "don't drive faster than the speed limit", or maybe waving a red flag at a bull. It was great. Beautiful warm water and a rest day most of us were really ready for. Tomorrow back to racing.
Just as we finished assembling the glider this morning around 7:30 it started raining... TV News forecast said "sunny with some rain" which I find really puzzling. No matter, we're here to race, get weighed and grid up.
Launch is delayed, but the day starts to develop. On tow I see a glider going up faster than me and Scratch's towplane. Release at 1800 and pull into a 7 knot thermal under a dreary looking sky. Bases low, but good lift everywhere except the start cylinder of course.
We've got a 3.5 hour TAT task out to the East, back to the Southwest, way down South, then home. Start is easy and a roaring first leg bouncing cu's that for once aren't lying to us. I press to the back of the first cylinder and as I head down the second leg gliders are still streaming into the turn. Bounce the clouds and circle in 7 knots, try stay high. Faster pilots are being more aggressive and driving lower. I'm too much of a wimp for that but I'm still making good time. Circled in tight formation with a few white-spotted buzzards. Briefly with Rick in "1" but he quickly disappears as usual.
Bases moving higher, lift improving, probably started a bit too early. There's an area with weaker cloud in the middle of the second leg and its looking weaker back to Uvalde but we're here to race. Press into the middle of the second cylinder where the clouds aren't as good as they look. Press on towards the last cylinder and its looking a bit bleak on the return leg. 7 knots under the last really good looking cloud before nicking the last cylinder and turning towards home. Should be able to bump up the 3000 feet I'm under glideslope over the last 50 miles, right ? The ground is looking too close and I take a 2.5knot thermal just to gain enough altitude to keep moving. Then a 3.5 knot, and of course find massive lift on the remainder of the final glide.
Indecision and flying too conservative, then too aggressive near the end results in only 61 mph. Rick again blows our doors off at 75 mph. A few people pressed too hard and had low scrapes, wasting a lot of time and hurting their speeds. Doug had a disaster and got stuck low for over an hour, then gave up and flew home without attempting the last cylinder. Another 18-meter pilot was a wee bit confused and flew the Open task.
Great party at the Spanish Dagger hunt club this evening. Social events here are great and everyone's having a blast ! Looking forward to the 15-meter nationals here next year.
Day dawns with low overcast, the good kind normally preceding a great day at Uvalde, and burns off in time for normal scheduled launch at 12:30. Decent lift but fairly low bases. 18-meter is tasked down South then up North into the hill country. There is mid-level cloud, a lot of moisture, and possibility of spread-out and OD especially to the North. Smart money left early, and made it up to the North before the OD. Rick Indrebo burns up the course at 84 mph, 13 mph faster than the second place finisher, and pulls into first place. Only 13 finishers out of 39 starters (4 have withdrawn from the contest).
I had a low scrape early, got slow and behind the pack, then hit rain not far to the North of Uvalde. Rain, no sun on the ground, descending cloudbase, unlandable terrain, no clouds not working, so I turn and fly home.
My trusty crew Jeff had to depart today. Jeff's getting his braces removed, then moving to Alaska for his 2nd year of college. Here's Dave ready to go in YO.
Rick Sheppe gave a safety talk at the pilot's meeting this morning on how not to allow yourself to get fooled by your computer. At the end he said "Designing instruments for gliders is really hard, and I'd like to acknowledge that we have here probably the best glider instrument designer in the world - Dave Nadler". Everybody clapped and I must say this was extremely gratifying ! Thanks again, Rick. I didn't do a careful count, but I think more than a third of the pilots here are flying with our ILEC SN10.
Miserably hot and humid this morning, so probably good soaring. The heavy rains in Dallas and North are not headed this way. There's a possibility of sea breeze killing the lift down near Laredo, still a lot of moisture trapped to the North that might blow up like yesterday, but Uvalde is sitting in a sweet spot. 18M is tasked a three cylinder TAT starting East near San Antonio, Southwest towards the Mexican border, then NorthWest along the border, with a 3.5 hour time.
There's a bit of an inversion near 5k, but the better thermals are punching through weakly. Always a temptation to start too early in Uvalde, but one must mill about until the weather really starts to cook. I topped of a thermal in reasonable position and head out, bouncing wisps and trying not to slow up too much for junk. 15 miles out I detour North towards better looking clouds where I'm rewarded with a 11 knot thermal. Follow the cloud street to the far end of the first cylinder and keep bouncing the clouds looking for the good thermals. Today 7 knots is OK, 5 knots is bearable if you really need it, but I really shouldn't settled for less than 7 which takes discipline I've not got. I'm not seeing many gliders and it sure would be nice to have some markers.
Second leg goes from beautiful classic cu to oddly bent things apparently due to a large wind shear. Looks weird, but the thermals are consistently on the downwind side and sometimes displaced from the clouds ! But they're consistent if weaker than the first leg. I'm starting to get the hang of this, cruising at 95 knots, slowing to 70 if I can climb straight ahead at 2 knots or better, lining up the wisps and reaching them as they turn to working clouds, and not chasing cu's that are decaying, and staying above 4k MSL. It is quite blue in the 2nd cylinder but the lift is improving to 8 knots. I press in but turn and head North as I get nervous about some cloud shadow and possible OD to the North. Shouldn't have turned so soon. Great lift running North near the border. Press North into the 3rd cylinder, and turn when it looks dead ahead and I've a street running back home. Oops, the ILEC SN10 says I'm going to be under the 3.5 hours, turn back North and press a bit further into the cylinder. Finally turn home and start bouncing up from 2500 feet under MC 5 final glide. Didn't press far enough in the 2nd or 3rd cylinder as I'm obviously going to be under, so I ease off and finish one minute under for 231 miles at 66 mph scored.
Rick Indrebo wins again at 70 mph, I'm a respectable 5th for the day. In Open Ron Tabery wins at 74, with Dick Butler not far behind at 71. One pilot in 18M busted the restricted airspace around the observation balloon on the border - he was using an IPAQ for his moving map but couldn't read it in the sun - he should have used his SN10 !
Rick Indrebo wins 18 meter, Dick Butler wins Open, both convincingly. I place 10th in spite of some pretty poor flying the last few days. Its really a privilege to participate in this event. We are really lucky to have this opportunity and to have Kerry, Noreen, the Charlies, and all the volunteers it takes to put on such an amazing show. Thanks to all of them !
Now for the most dangerous part of the event - 2300 miles
driving back to Boston. Hope you've enjoyed this and please email
with questions or comments,
Best Regards, Dave "YO"