March 13 at Seminole – A Nugget’s View of the Seniors

Day 2 was better still and so did I, as compared to my own performance.  That said, the field did even better and so I slipped in my daily standings but improved my overall standing.  It was a fun flight and I learned a lot from the day.  Frank Paynter took a lot of time at the end of the day to go through my flight leg by leg and we discussed how each could have been improved.  He gave me two really good take away points:

  1. Fly straight lines.  If you vary from that have a good reason, ie go much faster.  Curved lines are preferred to sharp angles.  The reason is the distance is calculated to the most distant point from the previous turn point.  Example: if you fly a right triangle to the next turn point, you only get credit for the distance corresponding to the hypotenuse.   I diverted for what looked like more favorable conditions but they were weak thermals and it cost me a lot of time.
  2. Pick better thermals and center them more quickly.  Frank routinely had 1 to 1.5 kts better average thermals than I.  From the overall results so did the rest of the field.  I had some good ones but I spent nearly 40% of my task time to thermals.  It should be less than 30%.  One way to accomplish that is to thermal only in  high velocity thermals and the other is to look for and fly streets.  In looking for the best thermals check the gliders in front of you.  If there are several and they are banked up tight, there is a good chance they are in a good thermal.

One self observation is that I have arrived early on two days.  I need to use all of the minimum time.  Even 6 minutes lost is 6 to 8 miles that I could have added to my total distance and increased my speed.  Example; 120 miles in 2 hrs is 60 MPH but if you do 115 miles in 1 hr and 55 min, your speed is still 60 mph ground speed but since the contest imposes a minimum time of 2 hrs, your speed drops to 57.5mph.

Some readers might ask, why go to all the trouble to compete in a race that offers so little chance of winning.  For me, the answer is simple; I have already gained more experience in 2 days here than I could gain in 2 months at my home field.  There is no place like a competition to gain insight and test yourself against your own performance.  Trust me when I tell you that I have no illusions of grandeur or visions of impressing anyone with my flying skills; I came to learn and improve myself.  I believe I have come away with a better understanding of how to develop a strategy for a task and fly the glider with greater skill.

I mentioned to Frank, how much it means to me that more experience pilots, like him, are willing to donate their time to help nuggets like me.  His response was, “That is the only way we can grow the sport”.


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