March 16 – Day 5 at the Seniors

Another great day of soaring here at Seminole, with winning speeds well north of 70mph raw.  The task was south to 01 Alturas, then west to 22 Myakka Head, then east to Sebring, then home.  Weather was just gorgeous everywhere, and the potential for overdevelopment or blowups didn’t materialize.  I had an extremely slow first leg, never getting much above 3000′ and never connecting with a real thermal.  However, I later got into a street that I followed west all the way to within a few miles of Tampa Bay and the gulf of Mexico to the west, followed by running it back upwind all the way across the state to the edge of the restricted area around McDill AFB – man was that fun!

I was 6th to launch today, so I had plenty of time to wander around before the start gate opened.  As I was entering a thermal with two or three other gliders, I looked across the thermal to see a pair of beautiful mature bald eagles soaring with us.  White tails splayed out in full thermalling configuration with white heads and golden beaks – this one event made the entire trip worthwhile.  As an aside, I also (briefly) saw an Anhinga (all-black soaring waterfowl that looks a little like a snake with wings) in the same thermal.  The Anhinga was very uncharacteristically flapping its wings like crazy, as if it had no idea of what to do next.  I know Anhingas aren’t really bothered by sailplanes, so I think it more likely that the Anhinga overheard the eagles saying something like “Oh look!  That Anhinga has decided to come by for lunch!” ;-).

My mentee John Mittell did well today, and his scores and speeds have improved each day – not bad for a first contest.  Tomorrow he is going to ride with DJ, so he gets to view the contest from both ends of the experience scale – should be fun to hear his story at the banquet tonight ;-).

After the day was over and all the gliders were back in their boxes, several of  us were invited to dinner by the Jim Garrison/Ben Johnson (T) and Hal Loken (1L)  glider pilots and master chef combination.   Jim, Ben, and Hal have been renting a house down here for the Seniors for some years now, and this dinner night has turned into something of a tradition.  There were about a dozen glider pilots and crew in attendance, and there were many stories and lies told during the event.

Tomorrow is the last day, and  we will undoubtedly have a ‘banquet task’ called, which is just fine with me.  Many years ago I landed out on the last day here, and retrieves on the banquet day are a real PITA.  So far this has been one of the more spectacular Seniors contests, and the popular weather forecast for tomorrow is for more of the same.