After reviewing a very iffy forecast, it was decided that the task would be postponed until afternoon, and anybody who wanted to go free fly at Whitwell should go do so. We took advantage of that and drove down there with the gliders, and found the wind blowing in better than we had seen on the previous days. Vitaly and I were encouraged enough that we set up, along with a few other pilots, while the rest of the team opted to skip it. I figured that if it got to be 1 PM, I could pack up and we could still be back at Henson’s with adequate time. When a few pilots launched and stayed up, everybody got in line, and I had enough people ahead of me to have a good idea as to where the promising spots were. I had been over to the paraglider launch off to our right, and the wind was even better there, so that was where I headed. Another glider was working the ridge on that side, and I did a couple of passes, not quite staying up, but I was hitting some thermal bumps out front, so I worked them a bit and hung on for a little while. When I had slid too far down, I headed toward the Castle LZ, encountering a little lift on the way that I circled in, and then set up for a landing. Vitaly and Aaron had launched ahead of me; Vitaly was already on the ground, and I followed Aaron in. The air was a little bit bumpy down low, not too bad, and I flared just a bit early. We broke down quickly, and Lee came around with the car to bring us back to Henson’s (the other car with the rest of the team had already headed back).
Tom called us and said that we didn’t need to hurry, because the conditions were very light. The task committee added a new waypoint at a water tower and set the tasks:
C pilots: WATERTOWER-HENLZ
B pilots: WATERTOWER-HENSW-WATERTOWER-HENLZ
A pilots: WATERTOWER-HENSW-DALETWR-HENLZ
We had priority for the day, so we could get in the front of the line whenever we wanted.
Mitch Shipley ready to launch, Jamie Shelden behind him
Max and Jeff
There was a lot of waiting as people sat on the ramp hoping for a positive sign, and eventually somebody spotted something that looked good, and pilots quickly got into the air. On our team, Jeff was first, followed by Max and Tom, then there were a few other pilots, then Vitaly and me. There was a column of gliders to the right, and when I got to the ramp, I could see that it was where I needed to go. As I approached the gaggle, I was surprised to see Tom down lower, and heard him asking about conditions on the ground, with Jeff responding about how things were where he and Max were breaking down. What, already? I joined the pilots in the climb when the vario started beeping, and after a few turns Vitaly came in right over me, whooping and waving. Unfortunately, although I was turning with the other pilots and keeping up with them, I noticed that we weren’t actually going up. Two or three pilots did get out, but the rest of us started sinking as the climb fell apart. I cut my losses and headed for the bump next to the LZ, where I found some lift and parked there, not gaining anything, but working to keep myself up while I scoped out who was landing, and picking out an opening with less traffic. Seeing that gap, I went for an uphill approach and had a nice landing this time. Tom was already on the ground at the upper end of the LZ, and I carried my glider over and set it down behind Max, Jeff, and Vitaly.
Lee had Tom’s car, and we had room for all of the gliders, but not all of the pilots. Not a problem, this was an opportunity for something I had been hoping to do anyway. I told the team that I’d meet them at the campground, and headed off on foot. It was a nice run, five miles and roughly 1500 feet of climb, and I made it in 67 minutes. I knew that I had a bottle of Gatorade waiting for me in my car, and that thought kept me motivated. I arrived just in time for dinner, and afterwards a bunch of us went out to the Cookie Jar Cafe for some extravagant desserts.
This is a new personal best for the most consecutive flying days (four), and first time I’ve ever flown two different sites on the same day. Two A pilots made goal, and a third one almost did. Team Critical Mass remains solidly in last place with zero points.
flights: 2, airtime: 13 minutes, 11 minutes