Day 4, US Region 10

The task for Day 4 was a 3:30 MAT.  Mandatory turnpoints were Eagle Rock Ranch for the first and the West Start point for a steering turn at the end.  It was up to us to fill in the gaps.  Frank Paynter (TA) gave a quick how-to talk after the pilots meeting to help the rest of us rookies understand what to do.  His main suggestion was to get at least half your miles early then find a small triangle to finish up your time.

I set up a plan to go back southeast to Sunrise Beach and then do a triangle from Sunrise to Spicewood to Moursund and back to Sunrise.  At that point, depending on how much time was left i could go back to Spicewood again for more distance or head back downwind-ish to Llano for the finish.

The run to Eagle Rock was very easy.  I had a lot of fun gaggling with Frank in his Ventus and Dave Coggins in his Nimbus near the north edge of the start cylinder.  We were wrapped up tight and climbing well together.  We got to nearly 8000, the maximum start height, when the gate opened, so I left.  With the tailwind component heading out there I was able to make 26:1 average and only took one thermal on the way.  I found a great thermal over the airport there and it was nice to tank back up on altitude before running back towards Llano.

I had to keep a sharp eye out as I was now head to head with the rest of the field who started after me.  There was a good sized gaggle about 1/3 of the way to Llano that I took a few turns in before continuing on.  I didn’t get low-ish again until I was to Llano town and caught a thermal off a construction site, the same place where I had released from tow and climbed out. At one point we heard Keith Miller (AJ) call that he was landing out near the Flying D Ranch which was a bummer.  He made it into the field alright but getting his trailer out of the field was, and still is, another story.  I was able to make pretty good progress flying straight and dolphining.  My general plan was to fly straight until below 6000 then take 4 knots unless I was below 5.  I wanted to make sure to stay up high today and overall it worked well.  I averaged 23:1 and 28% circling on the leg to Sunrise Beach, quite good considering it was into a quartering headwind.

After making Sunrise I diverted south a bit to stay upwind of the lake.  Spicewood is along more or less the same course line that I had been on.  I found a good thermal near the powerplant and was able to get back up high and back into cruising mode.  For the short leg I was 26:1 and 29% circling and gained 1000 feet.  During this leg I spotted a brush fire starting near the Herbert airport, and reported it, and heard that Mike Brooks (XL5) was getting ready to land out at Moursund Ranch.  Well I didn’t hear from Mike for a few minutes so I called him back and it turned out he had caught a thermal and was digging out.  I turned Spicewood and headed for Moursund.

Another short leg into a quartering headwind but no big problems.  Mike and I circled together for a few turns near the mid-point in a pretty good thermal, 5 knots average, and continued on our way.  I got to Moursund slightly low but found a Vulture assisted thermal near the airport and started climbing as I drifted back towards Sunrise Beach.  The leg from Spicewood to Moursund was once again 26:1 but only 14% circling.  Of course I lost 2000 feet in the process too.

The run downwind to Sunrise again was very easy with the tailwind helping.  I started tanking up on altitude.  The run around the triangle had been in the clouds but it was blue back to Llano.  I was nearly 50% circling for the 14 mile leg but still had good speed and a 29:1 glide thanks to the tailwind.  Once over Sunrise it was decision time.  Total Blue towards Llano and I had 50 minutes left.

Visions of my Day 2 landout were starting to replay again.  On that day i had extended further downwind to avoid coming in undertime and ended up landing out.  Today I decided that coming in under time was not the end of the world and I knew my speed would still be a competitive 40-ish mph if I finished early. Additionally, running back to Spicewood to pick up another turnpoint would add more time than I wanted.  I was pretty worried about the day shutting down early.  I had not been able to get above 7000 under the clouds and didn’t expect to do any better in the blue.  So I decided to just head for Llano and if I came in under time oh well.

I picked up the Llano airport as a final turnpoint and crossed over it at about 4000 feet.  I had assumed correctly that the lift was soft in the blue.  I took two thermals on the way to Llano and only averaged 2.8 knots.  Now the only thing left was a 4 mile run out to the last turnpoint and straight back to the landing.  I managed to find some weak lift on the way out there and maintained a respectable altitude, was still about 10:1 to make it back when I turned and the last few miles I had enough reserve altitude to push the speed up to 70 and (finally!) finish at 1000 feet.

I did finish about 15 minutes under time but I was happy with the flight.  Initially I, like many others, were pretty worried about the MAT since it adds another element of decision making on course.  Thanks to Frank’s discussion before hand though I felt like I did a pretty good job.

Today is the final day of the contest and I’ve had a great time so far.  I’m looking forward to a good final flight and the banquet tonight!

The flight: