Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day 7 AZ Flats

With light and variable winds they called for a 60 mile triangle landing back at the resort. I set up my glider and staged in a good spot near the front of the line. Once off of tow, I found a weak but steady climb up to the main gaggle and loitered for about 10 minutes. Getting really thirsty I reached for my camelback but couldn't find it. I flew away from the gaggle for clearance and tried to figure out what was wrong. I soon realized it was probably down in my harness and that I would have to land to sort it out. It was still 15 or 20 minutes before the first start and with the weak conditions I figured nobody would take it; so I spiraled down quickly.

On the ground again I sorted out the problem and towed back up. Somewhere in that 10 minutes conditions turned on and most people took the first start. This left Trevor and me working up together with Lucas coming back to join us.

Just before the first turnpoint I found a climb that eventually turned on and I took it up to over 10,300ft. I didn't really need to go that high but I wanted to take the T2 over 10k just one more time. Making the turnpoint was easy after that. Just after the turnpoint I met back up with Lucas, Ricker, and Trevor. This was the first time the "Lookout boys" were flying together. It was fun.

We separtated on that glide until it was just Lucas and I. We were on courseline and were going good when our driver came over the radio and warned us to avoid an airport that had busy skydiving traffic. It was right in front of me within glide. I looked up to see the jump plane gaining altitude above us. Not sure what to do, I veared to the east to go around it. Getting low now we were in trouble. Lucas stayed more west of me and I headed over to a prison complex hoping there would be some heat coming off.

I arrived with about 1,000ft and found a very small, broken climb. For about 10 minutes I struggled over the prison watching people in the yard playing basketball. I kept thinking of the irony. I am free like a bird, and they are caged in the desert, but we still wanted the same thing; to climb away from this place.

After fighting for a while I was slowly losing altitude. I realized I only had a few more minutes of flight and this was the last one on my wing. So, I stuffed the bar, gained good speed, then let it out for a huge wingover. Afterwards I set up an approach and landed next to the road. It was an awesome final flight.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day 6

It was a triangle task of 56 miles. I had to take two tows to get going and everyone had already left but near the edge of the start circle I found a huge climb; 800fpm on the averager. After gliding toward the 1st turnpoint a few miles I found another great climb averaging 1000fpm. With both of these climbs I was able to catch up with other pilots and things were going well.

Working with Ben and Bruce, we clipped the turnpoint and headed off to the second. This is where things slowed down. We couldn't find any climbs that were solid and they were averaging 200fpm. It was frustrating and my hips and shoulders were getting sore. We limped along to the 2nd turnpoint and finally found a decent climb. They left and I stayed until I hit 6,500ft. After tagging the turnpoint I turned towards goal with 18 miles to go.

I found my last climb of the day just 11 miles to goal. It was about 350fpm. My final glide computer started telling me I had goal made but I didn't trust it as I could see the hotel off in the distance, and it looked too far. So I kept climbing until I had 1000 feet of insurance. Eventually, the climb started fizzling out and I felt that I could make it, so off I went. On glide my numbers immediately started dropping and I knew I was in trouble. I stretched the glide as best as I could and ended up landing 1 mile short.

So tommorrow will be the last time I fly my T2. It is leaving this meet with someone else and I am getting a new T2C. I am so excited but also hate to see this one go. It has taken me on numerous adventures and we have spent hundreds of hours in the air together. Maybe that's why she wouldn't glide on in to goal with me today; so that I would have to set up, fly, then break down one more time. I look forward to it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Don't be a Cowboy

Today a mostly downwind task of 45 miles was called. I sat patiently on the ground waiting to launch so that I wouldn't have to battle the wind staying out of the start cylinder. This strategy paid off perfectly as I topped out at the edge of the circle just 5 minutes before the second start. I left at 7,000ft and at 1:45:40. A PERFECT start.

Then I made a big mistake. Following 4 or 5 other gliders, we made our way to the turnpoint. As we got lower and lower I saw a small dust devil off to our right. No one else went for it but I couldn't resist so off I went, all by my gambling self. After getting close, the dusty dissappeared and I found nothing. Looking back for the others, I saw them climbing over a small mountain. I tried to make it back to them but landed just short, extrememly dissappointed with myself.

I have had this lesson many, many times before but for some reason I can't discipline myself against it. DONT BE A COWBOY!!!! I am not smarter than everyone else. I need to hang with the pack, especially on blue days. With no clouds I am basically running blind.

I just threw away any chances at a decent finish in this meet. Alot of people (22) made goal today. I sure hope that this lesson will be the one that sticks. It sure does sting right now.
It's all good though. Tommorrow is a fresh new day and I am still doing what I love. Maybe now I can relax and just fly my glider.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wind Too Windy

We awoke today to more strong wind. Still, I went through the motions with my Cheerios and a banana and then off to the pilots meeting. They didn't waste much time today telling us that the day would be cancelled and hoped tommorow would be better.At first, I looked up an ATV rental place in Phoenix and found a few folks who wanted to go. But after some thought about logistics, money, etc., we decided to stay local and entertain ourselves by going to a movie; Ingloriuos Bastards. - great movie of you like Quentin Tarantino's style.After that I went around with the camera looking for shots. Then, we decided to hold a paper airplane competition. We had a beatiful launch site on top of the 10 story hotel roof.
I sure hope the winds relax enough for us to fly tommorrow. I've had my fill of ground based entertainment around here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wind Wrong Way

The safety committee decided to cancel the task today around 12:30pm due to the wind. It wasn't so much the velocity but the direction. We would have had to take off over the trees on the golf course.
So we had a nice relaxing day off from flying. Most people scattered to do different things in town. We went to Pizza Hut for lunch and then sat around the hotel taking it easy. It finally felt like a vacation.
The hotel was still empty at sunset.

AZ Flats day 2

For me, the day started out OK. I launched early again and quickly got up to about 6,000ft with a group of pilots. We were waiting around for the 1st start but the wind was blowing us out of the start circle so I decided to go back up wind to find another climb. I went to some gliders over the hotel but their climb was diminishing. Searching around I found nothing and was back on the ground for a re-light.

Now the whole area was in a flush cycle and lots of pilots were having to tow back up. I was unable to stick on the second tow and had to re-light yet again. I tried not to get frustrated. Launch closed at 2:15 and I barely made the window, being the last person to tow for the day. Finally, the tug pilot found a climb for me and I was out of there.

I found a few pilots near the 1st turnpoint to fly with. We made that one pretty easily but going to the second turnpoint proved to be quite difficult on account of a stiff crosswind. I lucked out and found a climb to 9,000ft and then went on glide to the second. After tagging the turnpoint, I dove into the big mountains to get a climb where I saw some gliders turning. I was right up against the mountain that I admired yesterday. Climbing up and over the peak was incredible. That climb took me over 9,500ft and I headed toward the 3rd turnpoint. I saw some gliders turning up ahead but realized I couldn't make it to them. Looking off my right wing, I noticed a decent sized dust devil tearing up the ground so I dove towards it. By now I was down to 1,200ft and desparate. It was a rough start when I found it but I held on.

This climb was taking me over what I thought was an airport but I noticed no terminals, and few hangars, just lots of big 747's and a runway. I later found out it is a 747 boneyard. They fly in but can never check out! I wish I had a picture but I was really busy getting out of there.

That climb got me back up to 7,500ft with 12 miles to goal. My instruments told me I had goal by 2,200ft so I left feeling good. On that glide my numbers steadily decreased and I was getting nervous. The air was not as bouyant as I had hoped and I still couldn't see the small RC airport goal. Finally I found it and arrived about 400ft over. PHEW!!

So it turns out I had a great flight after a frustrating beginning. Since the last start was 1:45 and my last tow started at 2:15 I had a huge penalty on my time. I actually ran the course pretty quickly but it doesn't show that in the results. I'm just glad I wasn't sitting in the hotel watching a movie or something.

Monday, September 21, 2009

1st Day

The first day of the Flats Race called for a 69 mile task with three turnpoints ending back at the hotel. The forecast called for blue skies and lift averaging 700fpm though I feel it was quite less than that.

I wanted to launch early so I wouldn't get caught in line with all my gear on in the desert heat. After getting up, I found myself fighting for lift in a gaggle of about 30 gliders. The lift was spotty and light and took a lot of patience to make it work.

Halfway to the first turnpoint I found a good core away from the big gaggle. They left theirs about 6,200 but I was climbing really well. Should I go with them or take the climb higher? I decided to stay. I left around 8,000 and caught up to everyone at the turnpoint with more altitude. I felt great having made the right decision. Then we were off to the second.

The second turnpoint was near a huge, gnarly mountain. I had one of those "magical" moments and had to snap a picture. It's a bit crooked but I was busy in a thermal. These mountains look so much less forgiving than the ones I fly around back home.

I struggled a bit in that thermal and ended up losing everyone. After getting up to about 8,400ft I left for the 3rd turnpoint. I could see the gaggle there in front turning in something. I arrived a bit lower than them and was unable to find the lift. After hitting the turnpoint I went on glide all the way to the ground. I didn't score all that well but I had a great flight none the less. Arizona is beautiful from the air.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Santa Cruz Flats Race

We finally arrived here in Casa Grande, Arizona late on Friday night. The drive wasn't so bad on the first day, but the second seemed to drag a little. I think it was about 30 hours or so.

This place is nice. A towering hotel with pool, lounge, restaurant, and golf course with lush green grass surrounded by miles of desert. It's an oasis and I still can't figure out why they built it here, but I like it. They just finished paving a runway next to the driving range for us to take-off on.
Here is some pictures from outside our room.

I'm eager to get into the air and have a look around. The weather seems to be nice today with light winds and cloudbase around 12,000ft. Stay tuned for updates!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Santa Cruz Raffle

Hi, my name is Eric and I am addicted to competition hang-gliding.

I have signed up for the Santa Cruz Flats Race in Arizona starting September 20th and am trying to raise gas money for the trip. Hang gliding comps take a lot of time and money. It's the money I am short of. So, I am having a raffle at the Labor Day party here at Lookout this weekend.

For just $2.00, you get a ticket and a chance at winning great hanggliding art from yours truly.

For $5.00, you get THREE tickets!

For $10.00, you get SEVEN tickets and a huge handshake!!!

Hope to see everyone at the party. Thanks for your help!