Practice Day – US Region 10

Today task for Sports Class was a TAT with turnpoints at Menard (30 miles), Kerrville (30 miles), and Burnet (20 miles).  We started launching about 1 PM and tasks opened at 2.  I started pretty quickly and managed to climb to nearly the max start height of 7000 before leaving the cylinder.

The run towards Menard was epic. I would fly straight in almost any lift as long as I was above 6000 and then if I got lower than that would take a 5 knot thermal back up to over 7 again.  There was a nice tailwind and I was making awesome speed.  I got to the edge of the Menard cylinder in just over 30 minutes, averaging around 60 mph!  There was a decent tailwind component pushing me that way and I just couldn’t miss the lift.

Clouds seemed to be pretty honest all day and after a few I was able to work out some theories on which side of the clouds had lift etc. that seemed to hold most of the day.  I pressed into the Menard cylinder about 10 miles before turning more directly into the wind towards Kerrville.  I wanted to minimize the time spent fighting the headwind so I decided I would just nick the Kerrville cylinder and head for Burnet.   That is basically what I did, and in typical fashion got extremely low along the run into the wind.  There seemed to be some sort-of streets running to the southeast but nothing strong enough or organized enough to allow me to stay up high.  I had many trips down to around 4 or 5000 feet before finding a good thermal.  Almost always I was able to find a good one.  Sometimes I would start off in desperation with a 2 or 3 knotter but almost every time I would spot a few birds (Vultures I think), shift towards them, and find a good 5-6 knot core, sometimes stronger, especially up higher.  The highest updraft strength was definitely between 6 and 8000 feet. I had a few that were averaging 7 knots through that range!

After turning Northeast from the Kerrville cylinder I was feeling better about getting better groundspeeds and L/D’s but was still pretty low as a result of the upwind run.  I got down to 3000 feet at one point, I think at that time I was around 1500 AGL, but thankfully turned right into a nice strong thermal that got me back up to over 8000.  From that point on I did better at staying higher.  I got down to 4500 a few times but always managed to climb back up and keep on trucking.

South of Llano on my way to the Burnet cylinder I caught a great thermal, right at 5 PM, which took me to my high point of the day, 9000 feet.  At this point I had an hour left for the task and was only a few miles from the edge of the cylinder so I knew I would need to go into it a fair ways.  This is my first time flying this sort of task but I’ve ready a lot about it and knew that usually the goal is to make it back at minimum time.  I was able to stay around 6 – 7000 feet pretty well on the way into the cylinder and figured I could probably have a pretty steady glide back to Llano for about 20 miles.  As the Cherokee seems to be pretty happy at 60 mph I figured when the miles equaled the minutes I would be ready to turn.  I think I was right around 20 miles east of Llano when I turned.  I was slightly below a comfortable glide home and had to cross Buchanan Lake on the way.  I wasn’t particularly worried about that as there didn’t seem to be a blue hole over the lake so I figured it wasn’t a massive sink hole at least.  I glided across it in smooth air and caught a nice little 3 knot thermal on the west edge of it.  I had managed to gain a little on the time by then and needed another thousand feet or so at least to have a comfortable glide.  Between the lake and Llano there aren’t a lot of fields or private runways so I’d rather be high than low.  Not to mention it would be really embarrassing to get that far and land out.  So i took a few turns and gained some altitude.  By then I was 11:1 to make it back so I figured I had it made comfortably and sure enough I ended up coming in over the airport with plenty of altitude to spare.  I think I was 1500 feet above the minimum finish height of 500 AGL. Oh well something to work on tomorrow I guess.

All in all I was very pleased with the flight.  Making it back was awesome and finishing the task right on time was even better.  I entered the finish cylinder about 2 seconds after the timer ran out!

Here is the OLC trace, last I checked it was good for 1st in the US and 4th in the world.  Helps to fly on a Monday…