Friday, July 4, 2014

On the road to Chelan, WA for the Nationals with a stop over near Yakima for a real bed in a hotel. Being the 4th of July they really like their fireworks in Yakima. I did get 8 hours of sleep.

The Rat Race turned out to be a great event with awesome flying. Brad Gunnucio won the event with Torsten Siegel coming in second and Cody Mattanck coming in third. Good flying by these guys in pretty turbulent conditions and wind. I ended up close to the top third which I am happy about.

The last day of the comp turned out interesting as we had a decent task of about 60 km. There turned out to be a strong head wind to the first turn point and the convergence line turned out to be further north then usual which meant you had to go deeper into the mountains to get it. I ended up flying lower this day and never made it to the convergence line. I did tag the 1st turn point and headed back to Woodrat for the second never really getting high. Finally making it to Rabies I found a decent climb to 6,000 msl and was able to tag the 2nd turnpoint. Heading back to Rabies peak where the last thermal was I climbed close to cloudbase. On my way to the 3rd turnpoint there had been chatter over the radio about a pilot down and missing. The comp organizer called in a chopper to fine the missing pilot and the task was stopped. All pilots were ordered to land. When this happens the task is valid and you are scored by where you are along the course line. Needless to say all pilots were OK and it was a miscommunication.

Overall a great event. We had a great group there from Colorado. Some were in the comp while others were just free flying.

Chelan weather looks to be setting up great for the flying week. The comp starts on Sunday with practice day tomorrow. I am sharing some pics from free flying the last couple of days at Woodrat after the comp, along with the drive to Crater Lake on one of the cancelled days.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 6 Rat Race

Today was cancelled due to high winds. So, another rest day. Tomorrow, the last comp day looks to be better. It would be great to finish on a high note. SO far 4 tasks were flown, it we get tomorrow we would have 5 which is decent for any comp.

Days 4 and 5 Rat Race

So, we had a rain day on Wednesday. It had been over a month since the last rainfall, so the area needed it. A good soaking rain.

On Thursday it turn out to be cloudy in the morning and most of the day. Pilots went up to launch at the usual time and a task was set. However, rain to the south and mostly cloudy skies left the lift sporadic to nonexistent. Many pilots were flying, but most were sinking out.
The launch window opened, but all of the competitors just sat on launch watching the pilots boat

around at or below launch. After the task start opened about 35 minutes had elapsed, the task committee decided to meet, but kept the original task. At this time the comp pilots decided to launch with cloud base at 1,000 feet above launch and rain about 3 miles to the south. Not the conditions I usually fly in.

After launching light thermals brought us up to cloud base and we were able to go right toward the first turn point. There was a pretty good headwind over Rabies and a few comp pilots were able to climb up to cloud base and stay on course. I was working the lift which was turbulent and wasn't making much head way toward the first turn point. I saw a pilot shoot a gap between two mountains, and being at the same elevation a little above ridge height I thought about following him, but then decided with the strong wind and not making headway, and with turbulent conditions. decided to head out into the valley and land.

It turned out no one made goal and it was a low valid day. Here are some pics from launch.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rat Race Third Day

Tuesday, the third day of the Rat Race turned out to be a classic Woodrat flying day. A weak cold front had gone through Monday evening and brought in a little bit of moisture. There was also an approaching trough of low pressure over the pacific approaching the area from the west. What did this do? It set up a decent lapse rate and small cumulus clouds enabling the pilots to fly the sky and use clouds as good thermal makers. Many pilots had super grins making it to goal or getting personal best flights. The conditions also mellowed the turbulence and made for some great flying.

Tuesday's task was about a 75 km race to goal, with two turn points. A two kilometer exit cylinder from Burnt was the start. From there we flew about 30 km toward the town of Grants Pass which a 5 kilometer cylinder had to be tagged. from there it was back toward Medford to Cemetery with a 1 kilometer cylinder. On to Donatos and from there to Emigrant Lake Dam which was goal.

I launched about 45 minutes before the start and actually enjoyed gaggling with the other gliders as lift was abundant and most pilots were able to get into a decent thermal rhythm. Pilots were able to circle close as the air was predictable and friendly. The start was great as everyone was able to get and stay high. I took the usual route to Rabies and took a climb to about 7,000' msl. Heading west toward Grants Pass I worked on staying in the convergence that follows the spine from Rabies to Grants Pass. What's great is there are several forces at work here as the mountains that separates the two valleys pulls air from both sides. this creates convergence lines that pilots are able to exploit. Along the convergence, spikes of thermals climb at different places along the spine. Pilots then circle in these thermal spikes to get higher and are able to glide further. This day we were able to climb to 8,500- 9,000 msl where nice friendly cumulus clouds were marking the thermal tops.

About half way to Grants I was able to thermal to cloud base with a few other pilots. The lead gaggle was long gone with the hot paragliding ships they were flying. So there were a few of us to chip away at the course at a moderate speed and I am just fine with that. You get to look at the scenery longer ;-). After making Grants there were two choices to make. Pilots could cut the corner and go direct to the next turn point or you could follow the same route you took to Grants and do a dogleg to Cemetery. One of the pilots I was flying with decided to cut the corner. I decided to take the route I  took to Grants as I knew it was working and there were cumulus clouds dotting the ridge. Ultimately it didn't matter which route you took as most pilots, if not all, made to Cemetery.
Hopping clouds was awesome as we seldom get to do this in Colorado.

Tagging Cemetery, the course took a southeasterly direction toward Donatos and on to Emigrant Lake. Interestingly, they had Donatos as a turn point, from there pilots had to stay below 6,000' msl as it is a landing corridor for the Medford Airport. If you climbed about 6,000' msl you violated controlled airspace and we would be penalized 3 points per foot over the limit. This restriction lasted for about 5 kilometers, and then it was ok to go higher the 6,000' msl.

Usually Donatos delivers a nice thermal, but today wasn't the case. There was quite a bit of wind in the valley which may have affected thermal development. I saw a few pilots landing near Donatos and I thought I was going to be one of them. I made a straight line to a ridge pass Donatos and was able to ridge soar up the side and hook a thermal that got me high enough to continue on course. I was flying with a couple of pilots, Lisa Dickenson and Sam Crocker. We worked together for a ways, but conditions made us split up to find our own thermal sources.

Halfway from Donatos to Emigrant Lake I thought I was finished because I made it to the top of this ridge looking for a thermal. In the process I searched a little behind the ridge and once turned back into the wind I had little penetration. Loosing altitude I decided to go behind the ridge and head out into the valley. Great, rotor territory, not great. I was losing quite a bit of altitude as I was heading to the flats I spotted a decent landing zone by Interstate 5 and frontage road. I was also waiting for the rotor washing machine to up the ante a little, but never felt it. I think I was just at ridge height as I was heading to the valley and never got too low to feel it.

I luckily found a leeside thermal over a dry field and was able to climb back up about 1,500' and again back on course. Lisa was higher and had passed me and she found a thermal in the middle of the valley which was just barely strong enough to get us to be able to make the final glide to goal. I left a little earlier then her, and I got very nervous because I sunk to a point I didn't think I would make goal. I went to a small ridge to try to get a little bump to make the final glide, but there was nothing there. Well, it was time to go for it. We had a decent tail wind. With a 1/4 speed bar I headed to goal and made it with about 200' to spare.

What an awesome flight. I am posting a few pics from the day.

Beautiful clouds over the spine, and the high fives at goal.

Rain today, but hopefully we'll be able to get another couple of days in. Tomorrow and Friday still look iffy, but Saturday looks good.


Rat Race
1. Brad Gunnuscio
2. Torsten Siegel
3. Cody Mittanck

1. Frank Drews
2. Matt Dynan
3. Darren Payne

Full Results

Monday, June 23, 2014

Second day of the Rat Race Comp. Today turned out to be windy with a cold front on our doorstep approaching from the west. A task was called with safety in mind due to the changing conditions. Task committee decided to keep us in the Ruch valley with a short fishbowl type task. Launching was interesting as winds were already blowing 15 mph from the west. The task went from Burnt mountain to Rabies, then to Squire and back to Rabies, to Burnt, then to Cemetery and on to Donatos. It was a around a 35 km task.

In the air I figured there would be more turbulence then yesterday due to stronger winds, but overall it didn't turn out too trashy. I had a good climb out from launch and got to about 6000 msl which is about 2200 over launch. I then headed towards Rabies Ridge to prepare for the start, but ended lower then I wanted. It took me about twenty minutes of climbing in broken lift to finally get high enough to then head to Rabies. On the way to Rabies there was the convergence the usually sets up. In hindsight I could have gone to the convergence area and probably gotten up sooner. By this time I was quite a ways behind with the lead gaggle already tagging two turn points.

After tagging Rabies the course seemed to get easier. I was able to stay high with a climb near Rabies Ridge and a straight glide to Squires and then back to Rabies. A short climb at the convergence zone and tagged Rabies no problem and then on to Burnt. A good climb over Burnt, on to Cemetery, tagged Cemetery and a short climb to 6500 msl and on to goal at Donatos.

Fun task even though short. It has been interesting with the conditions and a large group of pilots. We had two reserve deployments on Saturday, two on Sunday, and at least one today. We also have had a few tree landings. So far no one has been hurt. There are many new pilots here that have not flown in mid day thermic conditions and for as long. Not to mention sharing a thermal with anywhere from 10 to 30 pilots. So the learning curve is huge for pilots learning to compete and fly cross country.

Here are some pics from today. From launch to the Medford Valley on the way to Donatos.

Day One of Rat Race

Sunday was the first day of the Comp and it turned out, weatherwise, to be a pretty decent day. The wind was much more mellow which made for smoother thermals, though the lift seemed more sporadic and difficult to find, with weaker climbs. Top of lift was much lower then the previous day.

The start time was at 1:30 and I launched about 45 minutes before. Climbs were great off launch though thermal top was not really high. Pilots were about 2000 agl above launch which really isn't super high. From above launch I decided to fly to Burnt, which is were the start cylinder is and it was difficult to stay high. Right before the start the local thermal over Burnt decided to dissipate and the gaggle left with minimum altitude to start on course. I hung back at Burnt, got a little higher and then flew on course behind the main gaggle.

Once on course toward the second turn point, Rabies as usual delivered and I found my highest climb to 8000 msl and easily made the first turn point. From there we headed east back toward launch to the second turn point called Squire. Found a nice climb on the way and easily made the second turn point. I headed to Wood Rat mountain to find a climb above launch and again climbed to about 5000 msl which was weak and back on course toward the 3rd turn point. Over Burnt mountain again the lift was weak to non-existent and thought I might end up landing. There were several of us having a hard time and we hung out in zero lift for at least 20-30 minutes. Finally found a decent climb to 6000 msl and headed toward the 3rd turnpoint. On glide I found a weak convergence line and was able to maintain some height on the way to Jacksonville. I found a couple of dribblers and made the turnpoint with fair height. Finally tagging Jacksonville a nice thermal brought me back up to 6000 msl and I was on my way to goal. A weak convergence line over the road east enabled me to push some speed. Tanked up just before goal to get over the last ridge and arrived about two hours forty five minutes into the task.

Really enjoyed the flight. After training day the turbulence seemed much more manageable. I hope Monday sets up to be as nice a day or better. Keep you posted.