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…