2010 USA Open Class Nationals

Dave's Blog from Hobbs, New Mexico

Last Update: Tuesday AM, 13-July-2010


Prologue

Hobbs is home of the Soaring Society of America, and the site of many classic races over the years. This year Hobbs is concurrently hosting the Open Class and Standard Class nationals. The race is being organized by volunteers from all over, assisted by some of the SSA staff after-hours. We're looking forward to big skies, massive thermals, huge distances and high speeds. Not like Ohio. Edre Maier is competition manager, and Rick Sheppe will be the Competition Director. Last time I raced here was 2006, just before I got my current glider (Dave's blog from 2006 Hobbs race).

I'm racing my Antares 20E electric-powered glider, using the 20-meter wingtips. Open Class rules permit changing tips on a daily basis, but I think the 10.7 lb/ft2 or so max wingloading with the long tips will be adequate for Hobbs weather, so I won't use the 18-meter tips this contest (which would push me up to 11.4 lb/ft2 max). The big guns are here: Dick Butler flying his Eta-Biter (arguably the best open class glider in the world, until Dick's Concordia flies), Ron Tabery with an ASW-22, and many others.

Getting there is half the fun (NOT)

Left Ohio mid-day after the last day of the 18-meter nationals was scrubbed, and made good time, hoping to reach Hobbs Friday evening. Passing through Oklahoma City, I saw in my rear-view mirror the top of my trailer detached at the left front and sticking up in the breeze. Not Good. Pulled off the highway and found a repair shop willing to give me a hand. The clam-shell trailer top hinges at the front of the trailer, and the hinge pins are secured to the top with two bolts on each side (the same bolts that hold the external handles on the front of the trailer). One of these bolts sheared, and the entire left side of the trailer top was shortly waving in the breeze. Not Good. After 2 hours repairing the trailer, got back on the road. Made it to Lubbock Texas late Friday and called it a day.

Trailer top sticking up in the breeze - Not Good. The rear trailer latches were insufficient to keep the rear closed no the left side once the hinge failed, so the left rear was open and unattached as well (not as high in the air as in this photo, taken after the right rear was unlatched). The sheared bolt is where handle is loose on the front of clamshell top. Extremely lucky I had no damage to the glider.

YO trailer top unhinged
Thanks again to the folks at Richards Car Care (14827 North May Avenue) for loaning me a few tools, directing me to the nearest hardware store, and wrestling the top down into position so I could insert the replacement for the sheared bolt. They wouldn't even charge me for the help ! So I bought a crate of assorted cold sodas and passed them out in the hot shop before getting back on the highway.

Please Note: Many you have emailed asking for info about this Cobra problem. Alfred Spindelberger advises they've never heard of this happening before. I'll post something further after I've discussed it in more detail with Alfred. Do not remove the hinge mounting bolts without firmly securing the trailer top, otherwise the gas springs will push the top upwards and you will not be able to replace the bolts...

Saturday June 26

I pulled into Hobbs in the morning, to a chorus of "Dave ! You shoulda been here yesterday ! Best Day of the year ! No storms like forecast for today !" Huh ? Storms ? Never mind, put the Antares together, long wingtips for a change, and get ready. Beautiful clouds beckon, can't hang around waiting for a tow plane, so I blast off under my own power. What a pleasure to take off from a dry surface, rapid acceleration and liftoff without plowing a furow and spraying a wake of water like from the muddy Caesar Creek airfield last week ! Shut down too soon, fell out, did a quick boost, and presently was climbing at up to 9 knots, to over 10,000 feet. We're not in Ohio anymore.

Quick run up to the north-west corner of the task area, turned at Kenna, headed south and its already raining on Tatum. Beautiful strong clouds, up to almost 12,000 feet, running at 110 knots, this is more like soaring ! Steered west of the rain, past Hobbs, southbound over Eunice, then Wink, then south-east to Monihans where Mark Keen in 7K joined up with me. I was hoping to make another run north but the storms were becoming vigorous and approaching Hobbs, so we ran the shelf in front of one of the storms and screamed back to Hobbs at max warp. Nice quick 550km (330 mile) warm-up flight. Shoulda come back a bit sooner and not delayed putting the plane away, because the gust front hit with 40mph gusts as I was putting it in the trailer. Thanks to the MASA guys for helping me steady it and get the trailer closed in the wind. Some guys had minor damage from the gust front, my plane is fine but my glasses blew off and got well-scratched tumbling down the ramp. Saturday's flight on OLC

Looking west through a gap in the storms, at around 11,000 feet under the storm shelf. The gust front on the ground is visible in front of the rain shafts - that's a lot of air and energy sucking up into the cloud..
Looking west through a gap in the storms
YO is in Hobbs !
I'm in Hobbs !

Sunday June 27 - Practice Day 1

Today dawn showed lots of high blow-off from yesterday's storms. Don't need to look at a weather forecast to know what this means: lots of moisture still aloft, so we'll have storms later. This was confirmed at briefing by remote weatherman Walt Rogers. It stayed overcast for a while, a couple guys launched and quickly returned after they had a good look at developing storms around us. I took advantage of the shade and washed the trailer and car... Tomorrow's forecast is for increasing moisture and storm threat, so perhaps I can wax them as well.

Monday June 28 - Practice Day 2

Today dawn showed lots of high blow-off from yesterday's storms. Don't need to look at a weather forecast to know what this means: lots of moisture still aloft, so we'll have storms later. Oh No ! Same as yesterday !

CD Rick Sheppe has arrived, a nice looking cu field has already developed to the north before the 10AM pilot's meeting, but there is still quite a lot of moisture aloft, and those bases are low. Yesterday's weather map showed a line of thunderstorms stretching from New Mexico all the way across New York and touching western Massachusetts. Briefing commenced with 20 minutes of technicians trying to get GoTo Meeting working for the weather briefing. Tom Kelly says "After you weigh, go back in the box". Finally weatherman Walt Rogers is live over this new-fangled internet thing ! Walt says the upper air disturbance will hang around for the next days, gradually moving east. 3PM cloudbase of 7500 MSL - we're at 3700MSL on the ground. Scattered to numerous thunderstorms in the task area, worse to the southeast. Lift 2-3 knots except much much higher along storm gust-fronts ;-) Local flying may be possible, but stay close because of the storms...

I got an oil change, got a hose and scrub-brush and blasted the Ohio mud out of my landing gear, waxed the front of my car, and the sky kept looking better and better. No towers out of the cu anywhere on the horizon; apparently the sounding was wrong. Stopped waxing, rigged, and blasted off into good lift with bases around 9k. Definitely not as forecast, with better lift and also a 25 knot wind, but cloud base a bit low by Hobbs standards. I headed towards Morton as there was a good line of clouds with great and predictable lift to 9k, until I reached a gigantic blue hole. Found some odd wave lift and climbed briefly above the clouds, but couldn't make sense of it, and crossing the blue to Morton seemed unwise. Bailed east towards clouds near Plains, and presently I thought I was back in Ohio. Low cloud bases, water standing in the fields, weak lift, and windy to boot. Dribbled back to Denver City, where it is always lousy, and it was lousy today. Clouds looked great down south, so I headed to Hamilton, and turned east to Seminole. Got low in another hole. There was a storm building south towards Andrews, already with some thin rain shafts, so I started down the edge of the storm thinking I'd follow it southwest to Jal then home, thereby avoiding the blue hole on the direct route back. But the mandatory meeting is this evening, so after running the storm a few miles I turned homewards and struggled across the hole to better lift and on home. Didn't see any other gliders as everyone started early and had gone to dinner when I landed. A few folks had nice flights around the close-in turnpoints (and why was P7's trailer going down the ramp as I disassembled ?). Anyway, good to get a few nice hours of soaring, around 150 miles OLC, my Antares is back in the box charging, and even got to the meeting on time.

Tuesday June 29 - Race Day 1 ?

Today dawn showed lots of high blow-off from yesterday's storms... Plus low cloud and light sprinkles of rain during breakfast. TV weather has flash-flood watches for nearby Odessa and Midland counties in Texas. Pete Alexander cheerfully proclaims "Ohio, Take 2 !". Its raining lightly as the pilot's meeting is about to start, and I didn't rig in the rain... Day scrubbed at 1PM after enough rain to leave the ground well soaked. Gary suffered a landing gear collapse in an otherwise routine off-field landing on Monday, so rather than mess with sorting out the gear he's changed classes and will fly his '29 in open class (he brought both his Discus 2 and ASG-29 to this contest). See honey, this is why we need those spare gliders, like I've been telling you. Nice lasagna dinner and social at the airfield in the evening, with gorgeous storms just to the south illuminated by the evening sun, and less-gorgeous storms to the north, east, and west...

Wednesday June 30 - Race Day 1 ?

Today dawn brings low overcast in all directions and light rain. Plus sporadic very heavy rain. Weather prognosis looks very bad. Rick suggests we take a trip to the Silent Wings WWII glider museum in Lubbock. Day scrubbed. Mark Keene and son Austin, with Ron and Gena Tabery and son Julius, are off to Carlsbad Caverns. Bunch of guys headed out to Silent Wings, but I'm going to work a bit. Lovington (city up the road from Hobbs) is advertising their July 4th festivities, whose highlights include the cow-pie throwing contest and the lizard race. Bring your lizard on down, you could be the big winner.

Thursday July 1 - Race Day 1 ?

Today dawn brings low overcast in all directions and light rain. But a brief bit of sun poking through. There's a very brief window where maybe we could fly a short task this afternoon, though we're certainly not going to get above 4k AGL and we'd likely be dodging showers. Grid time is 1PM. OK, we grid, we wait, we are treated to refreshing sprinkles but no drenching, sniffer launched, sniffer lands, nice social time on the grid (Julius ran the Antares motor), sniffer launched... CD Rick Sheppe finally cancels Open Class (back class on the grid, out of time), and launches the Standard Class. They stick, but not sufficient altitude for a safe and fair contest - task canceled. Unlike Ohio, we need some reasonable altitude as the landing spots are few and far apart. Some guys went out anyway (we're getting a bit stir-crazy not flying), "16" landed on a road 7 miles out of Hobbs.  Next couple of days look hopeless with heavy rain, DB even put his glider back in the trailer. YO is back in the trailer as well, but that takes me less than 20 minutes !

6PM social and dinner at the hangar - nice barbecue !  And now the rain begins in earnest...

Standard class gaggle Thursday. Not very high !

View down the ramp a couple hours later...

Maybe Sunday we can fly, but not before.

Friday July 2 - Rain Day

Rain, flooding, flash flood watches, you get the picture. Fantastic amounts of water are pumping into the area, outflow from hurricane Alex. Weatherman Walt Rogers says he has never seen this level of water saturation in the atmosphere anywhere (ground up through 25,000 feet), let alone someplace like Hobbs. Sunday is possible, Monday through Thursday more likely.

Rick Sheppe gave a great presentation on the FAI and IGC structure and rule-making process. We all owe Rick thanks for his hard work as our IGC alternate-delegate. Rick is working hard to improve the competition and badge rules.

Saturday July 3 - Rain Day

This morning I went to do some errands in Hobbs, and found street flooding. Today isn't officially canceled until later, but heavy rain and flooding make it unlikely.

Parts of North Dal Paso street are under water. This car got drowned before the police closed this segment. Picture taken with my iPhone.


Weatherman Walt Rogers again shows us a completely saturated airmass up through 25,000 feet. No chance today. Sunday possible, Monday through Thursday look flyable as the moisture slides to our east. We have to fly 4 days to get a contest (and there are other requirements to get in a contest regarding task completion by highly-seeded pilots).

Rick Walters briefed us on Maljamar airport - don't try it except with a 15-meter or shorter-wing glider, and watch the farm implements on the runway... Rick Sheppe and Andy Durbin briefed us on "Abandoned" (old auxillary B-17 training strip) - still has one taxiway landable but watch out for a few mesquite trees growing up through the pavement.

After our briefing this morning, I gave a presentation on FLARM. This included an overview and a description of the PowerFlarm unit coming to USA. I also showed a video presentation of the midair last week in Parowan. The video shows the two flight tracks animated with SeeYou, and two flarm units displaying cockpit info in sync with the SeeYou animation. Its clear the pilots would have had plenty of warning to avoid the collision. Very Impressive. Too bad they didn't have flarms, with which they would not have had this midair.

Sunday July 4 - Race Day 1 !

From the AM weather radar, the heaviest rain is now to our east, on a line north-south through Lubbock Texas. There are a few breaks in the clouds, with low ceilings and sprinkles. The Lovington Independence Day festivities, originally scheduled for yesterday, are rescheduled for today. The Great Lizard Race is at 4PM. More competitors have left so we're down to 22. Social with hamburgers at Zia RV Park this evening. Dave Springford briefed us on the landable road 7 miles out and gave us coordinates for our flight computers.

Weatherman Walt Rogers confirms that the very heavy moisture plume is a bit east of us, from Fort Stockton through Midland and Lubbock. 4PM thermals to 5,500 feet MSL or maybe 6,600 feet, but remember we're at 3700 on the ground. Airmass is pretty stable, subsidence and drying, but any heating may bring showers. There's still a flash flood watch for the next 24 hours in our area, as any precip will immediately cause flooding with all the water still on the ground. Another model shows higher bases and some clearing after 3PM.

CD Rick Sheppe has given us a 2 hour MAT expecting that in the unlikely event we go it will be a short day. 1PM grid time.

Good looking cumulus clouds at grid time, but extremely low cloudbase make it look pretty dubious. I gridded without taping - hate to wast the wing tape ! Sniffer Tom Pressley launches in his classic ASW-15 and sticks, and as bases gradually rise above release altitude Rick Sheppe starts the launch. I apply the wing tape, self-launch, and find a nice thermal right over the ramp and shut down at 1500ft (this uses 15% of my battery power). Rick waits to open our task as the bases are variable and too low over Hobbs, but adviser Mark Keene reports a whopping 6900 feet (3200 AGL) out towards the mandatory first turn of Lovington - the game is on. There's a line of clouds headed from over Hobbs to Lovington, but with bases down under 3000 AGL, but further west is another line with higher bases. Down south bases are lower, and before start I could see a storm building with cloud almost down to ground out east of Seminole. I wait in the western part of the start cylinder with a bunch of guys until I can't stand it anymore and head out. Should have waited to have a few markers in front. Quick run to Lovington (which after all is practically in the Hobbs traffic pattern), and shortly Chip Garner CG and Mark Keene 7K are with me. We press from Lovington towards Caprock or Tatum following a good-looking line of clouds, but they were nasty evil lying clouds and didn't work. I finally break off and head towards a good-looking field, and catch a thermal as I turn base (Antares is still a glider - I was reaching for the power lever as I set up the landing pattern). What a struggle. Got up and dribbled into Tatum, stayed with weak lift over the turn to get all the way back up to 2900 feet AGL, and headed south to Abandoned as the clouds looked better. I'm on track for a 2 hour return to Hobbs with an average speed below stall ! Can't have that, so I stayed out another hour, back to Lovington, down to Eunice, and return home an hour after everyone else. That pulled my speed back up to an amazing 48mph. Dave's Day 1 flight on OLC.

Dick Butler wins in open class, heading west after Lovington and staying in an area of good lift Hagerman-Railroad Crossing-Maljamar and home, for almost 67mph. In standard class Biff Huss stayed close in and in good lift for 65mph - after almost landing out after his first start Biff came back and did it right. Former national champion Chip Garner got low near me and managed only 37mph, and former national champ Ron Tabery also got in trouble and turned in 45mph. Tough day. First timer to Hobbs Pete Alexander told me his briefing for Hobbs was never, ever, ever get below 9000 feet - and here we are flying a task with highest bases just above 7k !

Monday July 5 - Race Day 2 !

Dawn brings low cloud but no rain (except south near Eunice), and much higher moisture levels on the same line east of us. The overcast is breaking up as the pilots meeting starts. Walt Rogers briefs us about a convergence dry line line west of us later today with much better lift (Carlsbad - Littlefield, best lift west of Portales), and near Hobbs we should have higher bases than Sunday. Rick says we will probably have a 3 hour Turn-Area-Task, grid time at noon, pilots meeting at the grid for the task. One more standard pilot has fled the scene after landing out yesterday at Abandoned.

Well, this day was a bit "interesting".

I self-launched and shut down at 1400 ft AGL in a nice thermal right over the ramp. At 2000, the climb stopped abruptly with a hard inversion - not shown in the sounding we saw during the weather briefing. Some thermals weakly poked through the inversion a hundred, maybe two hundred feet. It was fully two hours after launch before I saw 3000 ft above ground. The advisors and CD ruminated, reviewed different task ideas, listened to pilots whinging on the radio, and eventually called a MAT with a mandatory first turnpoint of Intersection. Intersection is straight east of Hobbs, and well into the moisture plume we've been watching for the last few days. Also, the start cylinder was moved from the south start area to over Hobbs. Unfortunately, I was at the far end of the original start cylinder (perfectly positioned for the original task), and had to fly around 8 miles and climb back up to start, which is how I ended up last to start with no markers in front. A convergence line between the western drier high-pressure airmass and the eastern moisture plume ran roughly north-south a bit east of Hobbs. After start I climbed up to 8k near Hamilton, and topped off again at 8k half-way to Seminole, now thousands of feet above the clouds to the east. It was clearly a survival game, hold on to absolutely as much energy as possible, duck under the overcast, nick the turn, and try to glide back out to sunshine and lift. No markers in front, though I was briefly with Mark Keene in 7K. Mark took a direct line, but I saw a line of blue that would allow me to glide above the clouds closer to the turn. 70 knots, patience, skirt a towering cu and try bounce any shreds of rising air and fly efficiently... And eventually duck under the gloom and coast to the turn. As I turned Intersection at 1500 feet AGL (4700 ft MSL) I dumped my water ballast, and headed for sunshine and shreds of lift. Saw 7k flailing low about to land. Bounced some lift for 100 feet, lost it, kept going, and finally connected with a thermal at 750 ft AGL halfway back to Seminole airport, which took me back up to 2500ft AGL. Followed a line of wisps over Seminole airport, after which there was a big hole. Max LD to Hamilton where the convergence was marked by a big stepped cloud, and where I connected to the lift at 1400 ft AGL and gradually worked up. The great looking cloud only yielded 2.5 knots for which I was extremely grateful. 

Tactically there was no choice what to do - the convergence line, with higher cloudbase and guaranteed lift, ran to Eunice. I went to Eunice, over the 2 hour target time but needing to pull up my average speed in the better soaring conditions to the west. Bumped along the convergence, which had no strong lift, topped out under an isolated cu near Eunice at 9k. Looked at continuing south to Jal but it looked risky - possibly the turn was on the wrong side of the convergence. So I hooked back under the lift line and flew home at high speed. Could have made a few more points flying slower and making a tiny triangle around Hobbs as did a couple Open Class. 5 open class finishers, yours truly slowest. Dick Butler wins again, with Ron Tabery very close behind. Ron probably lost a few seconds admiring the Peregrine falcon he circled with for a few turns. Pete Alexander and Steve Leonard made it back to Hamilton and landed there, annoying the crop dusters. Gary Ittner and Sam Zimmerman landed in fields near the turnpoint. Dave's Day 2 flight on OLC (low point not as exciting as Sunday)

Standard class got massacred. Chip Garner, slowest finisher the prior day, was the only finisher. No contest day for Standard class as Chip was the only pilot to make the minimum scoring distance. We scattered gliders everywhere, all safe without damage.

SSA staff has been doing retrieves ! I volunteered to go fetch someone after I landed, but all land-outs had crews already on the road. Nothing to do but enjoy the excellent USA team fund-raiser wine and cheese party.

Tuesday July 6 - Race Day 3 ?

Dawn brings low cloud to the south-east, which moved over us well before our pilots briefing.The IR satellite time-lapse shows moisture moving in our direction, and radar shows light rain east of Seminole. Walt Rogers thinks the cloud over us will burn off, without the inversion that held us at 2k for 2 hours yesterday. Rick says expect a turn area task, we have no clear view as to what quadrant will be best (or even plausible). Pilots meeting at noon at the head of the grid to get the task. We'll see...

On the grid at noon, there's a shelf of high cloud over the airport, with sun just to the north. Rick launches the standards to the north, but they struggle. Open is launched south to lower clouds building under the overcast, where we find OK lift but again very low bases. Task is held as the cloudbase gradually moves up, and several task iterations are reviewed. Eventually standard has an assigned task of Hamilton, Abaondoned, Lovington, and return. Open gets a short 1:30 MAT with a mandatory first turn of Hamilton and a mandatory steering turn just north of the airfield to ensure we're all finishing to the south. An hour 20 minutes after launch, I started at the upwind side of the cylinder at cloud base (only 3200 AGL) with a line of clouds to Hamilton. Unfortunately the clouds evaporated and I shortly was at 1600 feet over Hamilton. Climbed back up a bit then followed a line of clouds direct to Abandoned, climbing slowly under the street until a whopping 3 knot core. There was sun on the ground and a street to Denver City, so I chose that over Lovington - big mistake. The street died as I reached Denver City, and I struggled west as the wind increased and the clouds all vanished. Had to use my motor - scored as a land-out after 65 miles.

Dick Butler wins his 3rd consecutive day for a whopping 470 points given the extreme devaluation of our short task. Dick got in and out of Denver City before the lift died, then did Hobbs, Lovington, home. A couple open ships returned with less than minimum distance. Standards made it around, Chip Garner winning. Dave Greenhill was scored as .39 miles short of minimum distance, which drew a protest as the CD had announced nicking each cylinder was good for minimum distance. Hopefully he'll be scored as 60 miles (rather than a canceled day, which would yield a rain-out for the standard class). Despite my blunder I'm still in 4th overall (5th including foreign guest Brian Milner).

Looking down the ramp at a nice sunset with storms north of Hobbs.

Wednesday July 7 - Race Day 4 ?

Dawn brings a bit of high level and some mid-level cloud, clearing by pilots briefing. There's light rain 40 miles southeast out by Andrews. Hard to have confidence in the forecast after the past few days, and especially as we seem to be in an area between different colliding airmass without distinct fronts and motion. The sounding shows an early inversion around 7k but 2-3 knot thermals by noon to 1PM. Cloudbases 5k AGL up to 7k by late afternoon with stronger thermals. Walt Rogers thinks today will be the best day of the contest - which wouldn't take much...  50% chance of rain tonight and Thursday. 11:30AM we're having a Tarantula race on the grid. CD Rick Sheppe says expect a turn-area task to the north. Sniffer launch at 12:15, grid time 12:30 with pilots meeting at the grid. Time to go load up the Antares with water ballast.

The Tarantulas scampered in all directions. It was mayhem. They didn't like the hot ramp (can't blame them) and chased shade (from humans). This behavior wasn't figured out in advance - could have been used to get them going in the same direction. After lots of scampering the cute furry critters were retrieved from the ramp.

By grid time it was clear we were going to have problems. There were storms in the distance and it was clearly going to overdevelop with widespread storms. Rick gives us a turn area task which sends us north, south-west down to the west of Hobbs, back up north, and home. Standard launched first and quickly left on task. Open class launch was fouled up with tow-rope breaks, knots, then towing us under rain (not sure why competitors didn't firmly direct the tow pilots to head away from the rain, you know, safety and VFR and all that).

View from the ramp before launch. It was already raining to the west (the second turn area of our task).

View from the cockpit just after launch; rain just south of Hobbs. Those square clearings on the ground are pads for oil derricks.
Sorry about the task sheet reflection on the canopy.

Open class task opening had to be delayed to give the last to launch time to fly out of the rain and then climb up from low - while the storm and rain is overtaking the airfield and pushing us out of the start circle. Finally the gate is opened and we head out, 40 minutes after the standard class - way too late for a reasonable chance. I didn't get a clean start, got rained on flying back in and out of the start cylinder (by now its raining at Hobbs and through the entire 5-mile start cylinder). Promptly I'm down at 1000 feet above Lovington, lost track of the other gliders except one circling well below me (JP, eventually landed in a field). Got up slowly and followed the clouds north into the first turn circle, slowly. There's a lot of rain in the second cylinder, but it looks like I can fly west of the storms and just nick the western edge of the cylinder. After turning at Crossroads, I ran a storm shelf towards a gap in the storms - until it was starting to rain about 15 miles from the edge of the cylinder. There was a wall of water ahead - not smart to try penetrate that rain to the turn area, and then come back through it again to the north, all over very bad terrain without decent landing options. Not for me. I aborted the task and ran the shelf back north, intending to land at Tatum (still in sun between storms). As I got to Tatum there's an opening between the storms back to Lovington, so I glided south and landed at Lovington in light rain (collecting my 25 point bonus for landing at an airport without using the motor). Taxied to the ramp where I found Chip Garner, Pete Alexander, and Bob Epp. Waited for the rain to stop, dried the Antares, taxied out, took off, and flew home to Hobbs. Dave's Day 4 flight on OLC

The outflow from these storms sometimes forms convergence lines. After shutting down the motor on the way home to Hobbs, I found a convergence line from Lovington city to near Hobbs. I couldn't help but climb in the convergence and snap some photos. Note the cumulonimbus tower in the background. Finishers Ron Tabery, Mark Keene, and Dave Greenhill all found this convergence and used it to return to Hobbs earlier in the afternoon.

Returning to Hobbs. The big ramp was built as a WWII training base and once hosted B-17s. The old hangars and barracks are long gone, but the ramp still survives (barely). Our main operations (launches and landings) are on the ramp. Look carefully and you'll see a rainbow over the city of Hobbs.

In standard class, Mark Keene and Dave Greenhill completed the task. Ron Tabery was the sole finisher in open class, somehow threading the storms. Other 17 starters landed out. Some hair-raising outlandings on roads, oil-derrick pads and access roads, minor dings but nothing serious. More later...

Standard class winner Mark Keene started within one minute of gate opening, and found very tough going with no more than 2.5 knots under great-looking clouds to Crossroads. Mark ran south along the same shelf I did to the second turn (but 45 minutes earlier), and could see it was going to blow up, just nicked the second cylinder, ran the shelf back north just as it was blowing up into the second cylinder. He worked back to Tatum, then found the convergence to run home. Mark also took pictures of the convergence and showed them at the pilots briefing Thursday. 

Open winner Ron Tabery got hammered flying into the second cylinder and noted a glideslope of 13:1 in the heavy rain, nicked the cylinder, and headed back towards sunlight at Tatum. Finally got a thermal at 900 feet while looking at a road as a landing option, followed a couple birds one of whom started flapping, followed a line of scruffy clouds and gust front, eventually back to Tatum, then north a bit. Turned for home, climbed again at Tatum, then found the convergence line for a stress-free ride home (though Ron wasn't relaxed enough to take pictures).

Thursday July 8

First thing this morning, the TV weather says 17 lightening strikes in the past half hour in Hobbs. Its raining, flood watches in effect for much of the area. Weatherman Walt Rogers apologized for yesterday's "20% chance of thunderstorm" forecast. Today looks horrendous - very moist airmass moving into the region. Grid time scheduled for 1PM, don't assemble prior noon announcement.

There's been some discussion about whether we're going to have a valid contest. Here are the rules:
5.2.1.1 Minimum - For an Official competition, either of the following must be satisfied:
5.2.1.1.1 A sufficient number of entrants must have a final score not less than 40% of the winner's final score. Unless otherwise specified in Rule 6.12, this number shall be eight.
5.2.1.1.2 A minimum of five entrants with a current pilot ranking score greater than 92.0 must have a final score not less than 75% of the winner's final score.

In open class, pilot in 8th place has 45% of leader Ron Tabery's score, so we're OK. Standard class needs a fourth day today which looks really unlikely.

OK, day scrubbed at noon, weather hopeless.

Results

Official Results:
Open class: Ron Tabery wins open, Dick Butler second, Rick Walters 3rd, Brian Milner guest, Dave Nadler 4th, Gary Ittner 5th.
Standard class: no contest (only 3 days), Mark Keene in the lead, then Dave Greenhill.

Top 5 contestants in open class and standard leader Mark Keene flew with an ILEC SN10B (this contest follows 18m winner Bill Elliot also flying with ILEC SN10B)  ;-)  SN10 pilots especially like the new version 2.35 area task features which make task planning easier (less fiddling in the cockpit).

Epilogue

I hit the road mid-day Thursday (though sorry to miss the banquet) as soon as the day was canceled, back home in Boston Saturday night after 2200 miles on the road. Had a tire failure on the way home. Remember to change your trailer tires every 3 years and use LT (light-truck) tires, or you too could get to change a tire in the middle of a Texas thunderstorm.

This was an incredibly difficult contest - made Ohio look like a piece of cake. In Ohio we had weak slow flying, but completing the tasks for many of us was never in doubt, and the landing options are plentiful and low-stress. Hobbs at low altitudes is a bit different. East over the Texas agricultural areas you have plenty of landing options but reduced lift. Over the higher scrub terrain of the western half of the task area, there's better lift but really sparse landing options - not a problem at the heights we usually fly but really not fun with a 3500 foot cloud base. Ron Tabery flew masterfully (especially managing the storms the last day), as did Dick Butler (winning the first three days).

Next adventure for me: EAA's 2010 AirVenture at Oshkosh, where I've been invited back to fly the Antares 20E in the Oshkosh Airshow and display it for the week. This is in support of EAA's focus on electric aircraft, and to promote soaring and SSA to the quarter-million aviation enthusiasts that attend this event. Last year's write-up here: Participating in EAA's 2009 AirVenture Gathering at Oshkosh.


Hope you enjoy this and please email with questions or comments,
Best Regards, Dave "YO"
Dave.Nadler@nadler.com


Links for more information...

Antares 20E Electric Motorglider Information
Hobbs contest scores on SSA web site
Dave's Soaring publications, including blogs from past contests


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