The forecast was the first mismatch. People were talking about both West Rutland (a SW site) and Plymouth (an ENE site) as possibilities on the same day, as well as Brace (a W site) which I ruled out because the forecast looked like the wind might be from the SSE. Weird. In any case, Jeff C. was interested in driving up to West Rutland, so he picked me up and off we went. We made it in under 2.5 hours, which is pretty good, and Bob R, Mike H, Al A, and Amy R were already at the LZ, along with PK (who had a commitment and couldn’t stay to fly) as well as a whole bunch of PG pilots (among them Bo, George B, Paolo, Alex, Roberto…). We tossed the gliders on the trucks and found that ARt G and Calef had arrived just ahead of us, along with a PG tandem passenger for Calef.
First glance at the conditions seemed pretty good. Perhaps a little light, but with promise that things would pick up. PK had warned me as he drove away, “You drove a long way, don’t be in too much of a rush, wait until it gets good, and get some airtime”. We rigged at a leisurely pace because we had arrived early, and figured we might as well wait for the PGs to go first and check things out, which we fully expected they would do shortly. The first one to launch was a new P2 pilot, on maybe his first mountain flight, and he was on the ground in the LZ in just a few minutes, as expected, but we could see that he had run through some parcels of air that showed potential. A couple of other PGs took off and got up right away, as we HG pilots finished eating lunch. Amy was goading Jeff to go first to see if it was HG-soarable, but Jeff wasn’t rushing for the ramp right away. Then we heard a couple of PG pilots opine that it was looking like it might get too strong, and we all smiled, because that sounded like perfect conditions for us!
It was Al who stepped up to be the wind technician, and I happily joined his wire crew to get a good look at what the air was doing. He waited a bit, as the velocity was starting to pick up, and Al isn’t fond of strong winds. He grabbed a lull and launched nicely, but we could see that the air had some healthy energy in it. Amy was ready next, and I took her wire as well, but just then it really started blowing fiercely. She waited quite a while, as we held her glider down (she’s a svelte woman with a Falcon 195, so her wing loading is pretty low), but nobody was pushing, and the remaining PG pilots were definitely not interested. Once she took to the air, she was joined in rapid succession by Jeff, Bob, and Mike. I had moved my glider up toward the front, and didn’t want to cut in line ahead of ARt, who had been ready for a while, but he waved me through. I had to be a little patient, because every time the wind backed off enough to be manageable, it would be too cross from the right. This was another mismatch: what I had seen in the forecast had suggested that if anything, it might be too light and cross from the left. I timed things right, and got off cleanly.
It was a pretty easy day — a few hundred over launch was a piece of cake, but the lift topped out not all that high. The most I ever got was 3172 (if I believe the vario) or 3365 (if I believe the GPS), but somewhere in that ballpark, anyway. There was some easy-come, easy-go, in that my apogee was followed by four minutes of relentless sink that I couldn’t find my way out of until I was just about back to launch height. It was also a typical busy Rutland day in terms of mixed traffic, HGs and PGs of widely varying airspeeds that all managed to mill about in a narrow range of altitude without getting in each other’s way. I did feel like I spent a lot of time at the bottom of the stack looking up to see the other wings.
Before I had been up too long, though, it got a lot less crowded, and I wondered where the heck everybody went. It was down to just me, Jeff, and Roberto on his PG. Apparently everybody decided to go land for different reasons at around the same time. When the wind backed off to a more manageable level, we got a second shift of PGs, including Calef doing a second flight with Curtis, who is a professional photographer and was able to get some really excellent photos from the front tandem position.
[me and my Falcon, photo courtesy of Curtis Savard]
Mike called on the radio and said that everybody was going to get something to eat, and wondered how long the few of us still up top were planning to fly. I told him, “until the lift gives out”, and he asked if it was going to be a moonlight flight. I couldn’t remember the phase of the moon when he asked, but it turned out to be the case!
I decided to play the “fly until you sink below launch” game again, which kept me in the air until it was just me and Jeff. An easy landing after 3.5 hours (my longest flight of the year, and second-longest ever) was followed after a while by Jeff, clocking in at 4+ hours. Last summer flying for the year, and a nice day for it.
flights: 1, airtime: 3:33