The micro-castle and I are now about 200 miles north of Uvalde, at the Region 10 contest at Llano, Texas. The Region 10 contest is put on by the three surrounding clubs – Greater Houston Soaring Association, the Fault Line Flyers, and (I think) the San Antonio Soaring Society. The site of the regional is the Llano, Texas municipal airport, and the southern part of the Llano soaring area overlaps the northern part of the Uvalde soaring area (the “Hill Country”).
As I drove up yesterday, I couldn’t help noticing how nice a soaring day it was. It started out sunny and blue, but by the time I arrived here a little after noon, cu’s had already started to pop, and it was looking like a great day. I didn’t plan to fly, but I did want to get my trailer situated at the airport and register for the contest. As I was getting my trailer unhooked, up walks Dave Coucke, until just recently a fellow CCSC club member and part owner of an ASW-20 (OS). Dave and I had come out here for the Llano regional last year and had a great time, even though the weather didn’t quite measure up to normal Texas soaring standards. Anyway, after comparing a bad week of soaring in Texas to a good week in Ohio, Dave decided to pull up stakes in Ohio and move out here to Texas. I knew he had just moved, but I had lost track of him, and was surprised and pleased to see him here at Llano. Dave had managed to find a new ride for the contest – a Standard Jantar (F6) – cool! So, I crewed for him for the practice day, helping him get ready to fly and holding a big golf umbrella to keep him from melting as he prepared to launch. Then I went off to drop the micro-castle and came back in time to see how he did for the day.
Today was the first contest day, and I decided to fly here in Sports Class so I don’t have to deal with water every day. With all the ballasted contests I’ve been to lately (4 of the 11 contests I attended this year were ballasted contests) I’m pretty comfortable flying with water, but it IS a PITA – I always manage to make a mess of myself and the glider when I’m watering up, and then the glider is heavy as the dickens to tow out and move around on the grid, and after all that you may or may not even fly any faster. So, I’m giving myself a break and flying dry every day ;-).
The weather forecast today was for good soaring, but potentially blue conditions. The aviation weather called for scattered clouds at about 8000′ msl, but the soaring forecasts were doubtful about cumulus. At launch time there was nary a cloud to be seen in any quadrant. The task for the day was a 4-turn Turn Area Task, where the turns were situated so we basically flew around Llano in a counter-clockwise direction – first to 10:00 with a 20 mile circle, then to 7:00 with a 20 mile circle, then to 5:00 with a 30 mile circle, then to 3:00 with a 25 mile circle, then home.
I was first off the grid, so I had plenty of time to wander around before the start gate opened. I went off along the course line to check out conditions, finding mediocre (3-4kt) thermals that were also pretty narrow (glad I was flying dry!). As I had been doing for the last two weeks at the Uvalde pre-worlds, I had planned to start right at where the edge of the cylinder crosses the course line to the first turn. As I was getting ready to start, I suddenly remembered that now I was again flying under U.S. rules, where starts out the top and the sides are allowed – oops! Because the first course line was to the northwest, and the wind was from the south at 12-17kt, the optimum point under U.S. rules was all the way on the other side of the cylinder – bummer! Anyway, now I had to schlep over to the other side, and find another climb, and by the time I had done this, everybody else had already left, so now I get to fly at least the first leg all alone in the blue. Luckily for me I was able to get a good pre-start climb to 7500′ msl and by the time I actually started there were clouds starting to pop way out to the west, and I was able to connect with them on the second leg. I think I did alright for the day, but scores aren’t out yet as of 10pm so I won’t know until tomorrow’s morning meeting.
Another surprise visitor in this contest is Makoto Ichikawa (M) the winner of the Uvalde Pre-Worlds in the 15m class. Apparently Makoto (“Mack”) didn’t get enough Texas soaring at Uvalde, so he and his crew are getting in some extra ‘play’ time here at Llano. Also here from the Pre-Worlds is Andre De Baghy (AB) from Dallas, and David Coggins flying his Nimbus 3 (his son Steve Coggins flew the N3 at Uvalde in the Open class)
A side note regarding SPOT tracking for the Llano contest. The Greater Houston Soaring Association (GHSA) graciously loaned their SPOT tracking subscription to the contest, and so you can see the action at http://www.hawketracking.org/ghsa/files/trackinglarge.htm