TTT TC 2014 Day 1: Sledfest at Whitwell

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Tom’s opinion was that the weather forecast looked about like yesterday. It was clear that we’d be flying from Whitwell again. The task committee (or part of it) was more optimistic, and set goals of:
C pilots: WAGNER
B pilots: WAGNER-GALLOWAY
A pilots: WAGNER-GALLOWAY-WAGNER-GALLOWAY

There was a minor hitch that the Wagner field was not in the list of waypoints that we had downloaded from the website. We got the coordinates, then headed out, making a stop in town for some supplies, then drove by the two goal fields to check them out. Tom commented that because of our detours, we’d probably be parking some distance away and have to carry our gear in, so we were mildly surprised when we got to Whitwell and were the first ones there. We had drawn the rearmost setup area, so we brought our gliders there and got them ready. There had been a fair bit of (necessary) administrative delay in the morning, and there was more on launch but conditions looked very weak, so there was no hurry.

One suggestion that Tom had made was that we do something to make our team’s gliders easily recognizable from above (most gliders are mostly white on the upper surface and look pretty much the same). He had picked up some blue painter’s tape, and as we had decided on the team name “Critical Mass”, we put a big letter M on the left wing of each glider.
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There was a lot of sitting around and waiting, then finally a few wind technicians took off and predictably sank out. We were watching paragliders periodically launch and mostly head straight for the LZ as well. A few of the Team Challenge pilots finally got sick of waiting and took their sledders, and finally a few seemed to find a little bit of lift. Mitch Shipley headed left and found something that took him slightly above launch, and that gave us enough confidence to send Jeff and Max off. Their launches went well, and Jeff managed to hang on in the thermal that Mitch and a couple of other pilots were working. Max headed over there, and pretty quickly realized that he was too low and headed for the LZ. On his Falcon (the only single-surface wing here, I think), it was a long glide, and he made it okay, but with only a couple of hundred feet to spare. Jeff stayed up longer than most of his companions, but he joined Max before long, while Mitch disappeared to the north.

In the meantime, this was all looking like it might be the best we were going to get, so I suited up, with Vitaly right behind me, and then Tom. It’s an intimidating and slightly tricky place to launch from, but I think I did okay. There were a few gliders circling over where Jeff had been, so I tried over there, and found some air that was barely going up. It was enough to prolong the inevitable for a few minutes, and I did about seven circles without really losing or gaining anything overall, then I gave up on it and headed out over the houses to see if I could get a thermal there. No luck, so I joined the group of pilots heading into the small field behind the First Baptist Church (the designated bailout LZ). I was coming in from the southeast end of the field, doing a standard left-hand pattern, and there was another glider that came in on the northwest end slightly above me that did the same, so I was right behind it. It went quite a bit further downwind than I was planning to go, and I couldn’t follow it that far, because there were trees that I wouldn’t be able to clear. But I had to try and get as far back as I could in order to not cut it off. That put me further back and lower than I wanted to be, and I could see that I wasn’t going to make it over the hill into the mowed field. That’s okay, as the back side of the hill is also a legit place to land, but it meant landing in tall weeds. I had a little trouble keeping the wings level, so I didn’t flare as hard as I would have liked, but the landing wasn’t horrible — I need to take a couple of steps, but the grass made that difficult, so I ended up dropping the control bar, but kept the nose from going over.
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I think Vitaly landed shortly before me, and Tom had to wait a bit on launch for cross wind, and found no lift and landed just after me. (Those of us who landed behind the hill had the benefit of nobody seeing our landings, but paid the penalty of getting our pants covered in burrs.) In the end, everybody who flew ended up in the same field except for Mitch, who managed to get to the first turnpoint at Wagner. Not much of a flight for me, but it’s a new site in a new state, and not too bad as things went today, given the conditions.

flights: 1, airtime 0:12

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About cleversky

Hang glider pilot in New England since 2004. Also an avid orienteer, and an embedded systems firmware engineer. And some other outdoor stuff.
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