The original forecast called for rain all weekend, but it didn’t turn out that way at all. Saturday was a day off for Nancy, and she wanted to go orienteering, so we headed down to Connecticut. She was working on Sunday, so I figured I could go flying. The winds were supposed to be out of the northwest, which opens up a number of possibilities, including Ascutney, but that site was unavailable for the weekend due to auto races. Some people planned on towing at Morningside, and I considered my options and figured that the Trail would be a good bet, except that I realized than an even more convenient option would be to hit the orienteering meet near Skinner in the morning, and scoot over to fly Skinner afterwards.
When the time came, though, I considered who else was rumored to be flying, and decided on the Trail after all. There were three other pilots heading there, and I don’t care for the slot launch at Skinner very much, despite the fact that I knew one pilot was planning to fly there. When I got out to North Adams, Keith B, Mark D, and Brooks E were already in the process of setting up. I assembled my glider as quickly as I could, and was almost done when Keith stepped up to launch. I nearly turned around and packed up when I saw the results of the washing machine air that he launched into. Still, he stayed up, and I figured there was no harm in continuing to preflight my glider. Generally, the first opportunity for a bad decision doesn’t come until you decide to launch. I wasn’t watching when Mark took off, but I could hear Brooks’s reaction to it, and it sounded like he got a serving of the same stuff that Keith had. I could also tell from watching the two of them that the wind was somewhat cross from the north.
Brooks offered to stay long enough to wire me off. No actual wire-holding was needed, but it was good to have another pilot there just in case, and to help assess the wind. I managed a good strong launch in a nice cycle. The lift was right there — in a little over two minutes I had the 500 feet above launch needed to head south along the ridge. There was some lift on the way, but I mostly just kept heading south to the vicinity of Eagle Rock, and then bopped around for about an hour and a half.
This was definitely springtime air. I had a bump or two that twanged my wires, and at times I was climbing at 800+ fpm. I didn’t get as high as the others (only about 5800′), and not up to cloudbase, but it wasn’t a struggle to stay in the air. I spent some time flying quite fast, directly upwind in order to stay within reach off the LZ, so fast that I couldn’t hear my vario for the wind noise, and sometimes realized that I was climbing anyway.
Keith was the first to have had enough, and headed for the LZ. I waited until Mark and Brooks had joined him, then pushed upwind to see if there was any lift over town (not that I could find). I was eyeing the clouds developing over Greylock that had given the others concern, and didn’t mind when I sank low enough to set up an approach. The air near the ground was rowdier than what I had been flying in over the ridge, and I found myself in strong wind as I started my landing pattern. I didn’t know if the others would wonder if I was heading for a nasty downwind landing, because I was sinking fast, but I managed the turn upwind to final. I had to stay on the control bar the whole way, though, and flew it all the way to the deck. My landing was anything but pretty, but the tall grass was soft enough that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Other pilots, at the Trail and elsewhere, reported similar challenging LZ conditions.
Dinner at the Freightyard, and the I was on my way home. Scott did fly at Skinner for over three hours, and the Morningside crew had some great XC flights, to go along with the unprecedented PG flights on Saturday from Mt. Tom. And I got two orienteering courses plus a flight — not bad!
flights: 1, duration: 1:52, XC distance 5.4 km