I’m writing this from my Micro-Castle now nestled into the camping area at Blue Ridge Soaring Society, New Castle, Virginia. I have been avoiding this contest for a number of years because I scared myself pretty badly the last time I flew a contest here. At the time, what scared me off wasn’t so much the challenging terrain (and it can be challenging), but my own inability to manage competitive pressures and fly safely and conservatively. I found myself flying on the tunnel ridge even in marginal ridge conditions and where the possible landing options in the sinking could be charitably characterized as “challenging”, where the few even remotely level fields contained power lines or fences or livestock or combinations thereof. I could have stayed high and maintained better landing options in range, but no, I had to show everyone just how stupid a racing pilot can get when a few points are on the line. I realized afterwards that it was just luck that kept me safe, and that I was simply unable to stop myself from flying outside my comfort zone.
But this year I thought it was time to come back to New Castle, if nothing else to see and talk to all my soaring friends and acquaintances that make the pilgrimage here every year. I even considered coming here without my glider, thinking that would completely solve the competitive stupidity problem ;-). However, after surviving the Logan 15m nationals, I felt that maybe I had matured enough in my flying that I could enjoy the contest without feeling like I had to try and win at all costs.
It seemed like I had just hit the ‘Enter’ button on the online registration form when I got an email from Patty Smith (One of the ‘P’s in the Patty and Pendelton Smith duo) welcoming me back to New Castle like a long lost brother – wow! Then I got an email from the other ‘P’ (Pen asking if I wanted a spot reserved in the camping area (I did) – double wow!
Driving in to New Castle from the southwest via Princeton, WV brings me up the sinking valley, which allows me to scope out the landing opportunities along this section of the tunnel ridge. At close range, the fields in this area look even worse than they do from the air – yikes! The further north I went along the valley, the worse things seemed to get. By the time I actually got to New Castle, I was thinking to myself – maybe this was a big mistake, maybe I’m not ready for this, maybe if I could find a place to turn this rig around I should go back home and forget the whole thing! Fortunately (I think), I wasn’t able to find a place to turn around, and so arrived here at New Castle just in time to be warmly greeted by Patty and Pen, get my camper set up, and have a wonderful welcome dinner hosted by BRSS. At the end of the evening I was much happier about my decision to come here. I still have to see whether or not I can exert sufficient discipline over myself if we have a marginal task day, but I’m a lot more optimistic about it than I was a few years ago – we’ll see!