Day 3 – US Region 10

Todays task was another 3:30 TAT.  Turnpoints were Brady (25 miles), Lampasas (25 miles), Harris Ranch (25 miles) and Mason (15 miles).  We got our turn at the back of the grid today which was nice.  More time to relax before launch and less time churning around in the start cylinder before the gate opened.  Gary Carter (HK) stopped by to visit the contest on his way home from Uvalde and we had a nice chat with him before it was time to load up.

I ended up climbing out the top of the start cylinder near the north edge just after 2 PM and headed downwind towards the Brady circle in totally blue skies.  In fact the entire task area was blue except for the back of the first circle.  No way I was going that far anyway.  However I was able to find good lift in the blue and one big thermal and few smaller ones later I was over the Deep Creek airport and turning east.

My plan was to fly due east to the Lampasas circle and then due South to the Harris Ranch circle.  Thought being that the wind was supposedly south east so I would quarter the headwind on both legs that way.  Well it turns out that the wind was more southerly.  The flight to the Lampasas circle was pretty straight forward with one low point near San Saba.  It was actually the same area where I got low yesterday and once again I was able to climb out in a strong thermal and continue on.  Once I entered the circle I turned southeast and headed for the edge of the cu field setting up east of Buchanan Lake.

Strategy was to get to the third circle near Marble Falls to maximize the slighty northwest and downwind run to the last circle.  However I wanted to avoid a repeat of yesterday where I was undertime and forced to go deep into the last circle and have to fight back into the wind to get home.  I figured if I had an hour or less left when I got to Marble Falls that would be about right.

Working south I got to the low point for the day northeast of Buchanan Lake, down to 3000 feet but was saved by a flock of Vultures who led me to a series of good climbs that ended up getting me to nearly 8000.  From there I managed the holy grail of saves by running a street for about 15 miles between 7 and 8000, never turning.  Not a bad run for the Cherokee.  Once off the end of the street it was only a few more miles to Marble Falls just as the timer went down through an hour.  I turned downwind towards Mason which would take me right past Llano.  My last low point was down around 3000 again over the Kingsland airport where I found a 5 knot average (8 for a while) climb to 9600, my high point for the day.  The glide that started with the street and ended at Kingsland was 27.4 miles at and L/D of 37.  About half of those miles were directly into the wind.

Now quite high I went into conservation mode.  I had been here before and did not want to get low because I knew I had to make that 15 miles back to Llano.  I aimed for the clouds ahead near the Llano airport and let the tailwind help my glide, keeping the speed below 65 mph mostly.  Just south of Llano I found a good thermal and circled with Stefan Murry (U1) for a bit to boost me back up to 9000.  Stefan had gotten low on the way to the Harris Ranch circle, bailed towards Llano in case he needed to land, and was digging back out to make it around the course.

I aimed for the extreme east edge of the Mason circle.  Time was working out that I was not worried about being under.  And even if it hadn’t, I was absolutely not going more than a tenth of a mile into the last circle, time be damned.  I had one more climb as I tried my best to keep Llano within a 10:1 glide.  I was pretending I was in a 2-33.  Landing out was not an option.  I nicked the circle and turned back.  15 miles out at 7500 I needed 13:1 to make it.  Not bad but I had seen worse yesterday.  The first 5 miles were like Deja Vu with some massive sink.  But I started to notice that the indicated airspeed and groundspeed were not much different, the headwind wasn’t as bad as I had feared, and I didn’t need to be flying so fast.  About that time I hit a patch of lift in which I made a few turns just to be on the safe side.  Now I was 10:1 to make Llano and feeling pretty good about it.  I could see my pasture from yesterday way down there.  I pushed up to 70 and, of course, was flying in lift and couldn’t come down.  Ok, up to 80.  Now I was at least descending.  The speed stayed above 70 and usually near 80 for the rest of the 10 mile run.  I could barely make the glider descend and hit the finish at 90 mph and 2000 AGL.  So much for getting the finish lower but at least I finished!  From the finish 1 mile out i continued at about 80 with the airbrakes out and arrived over the field at 1500 ft.  I kept burning off the speed into the pattern and made a nice landing.  What a flight!

Scores worked out that not only did I finish, but won the day!  Holy cow!  YYY and I managed to beat contest junkie Frank Paynter (TA) by 14 points.  I offered a glider trade to Frank after he mentioned that all I need to do to win the day is finish, but he declined.  Two more days to go in the contest.  Hopefully two more finishes for YYY and I can move up the score sheet a bit.  So far the weather has been great, even when it has been blue.  With 5 days of flying including the practice we have had 1 landout (me) and 1 relight (today).  Not too bad.

My flight from today: