Today was the last day of the 2012 (22nd) Seniors contest, and we had another great day (although not quite as great as we thought) of soaring. The task for the last day of the Seniors is traditionally a ‘banquet’ task – usually a deliberate undercall designed to get everyone back home early so they can get gliders put away and pilots cleaned up in time for the awards banquet. This gave CD John Good a bit of a problem (a nice one to have, but still a problem) because the official weather forecast for the day was for 6000 – 7000′ msl cloudbases, and lift values approaching 10kt in places! John basically had to resort to pleading with the pilots at the morning meeting to please get out on course before 2pm so that they would be returning around 4:30pm (with a 2.5 hour TAT), as he was afraid the fast guys wouldn’t want to start before 3pm!
As it turned out, this wasn’t really necessary, as the weather gods had their own ideas about the soaring conditions that actually existed out on course, and it wasn’t anywhere near as good as the weatherman predicted. Instead of 6000-7000′ msl cloudbases with 10kt lift, we wound up with almost-blue conditions, widely scattered (and fast-cycling) 4500 – 5000′ msl cloudbases, and 2-4kt lift values. Instead of another day of scorching speeds north of 70mph, we wound up with winning speeds south of 60mph, and instead of giddy hypoxic pilots, we had a bunch of people scratching around down in the weeds trying to dig out of various and sundry sinkholes ;-).
In the end, however, most people made it around, and most everyone made it to the banquet in good order. The banquet this year was held at a golf community resort at Howey-in-the-hills, a small town about 20 miles north of the gliderport. This was a very welcome change of venu from the small hotel dining room we had been stuffed into in recent years – another kudo for Andreea and Florin for making this change.
As per tradition, the scores for the day and for the overall championship were a tightly held secret, but it surprised no one that Doug Jacobs beat out Chip Garner by a little over 50 points (after 6 days!!) for the top slot, with former champ Ken Sorenson holding on to third place. Robin Clark (RF) who narrowly missed becoming the U.S. team representative in Club Class last year, took 4th overall, and John Seymour (SM) took 5th. The day winner for the last day was Rich Owens (EA).
Well, the contest is over, but this one will be remembered for a while. We got off to a rocky start with a rained-out day at the very start, but then we flew 6 days in a row, and even the worst days were better than average soaring. CD John Good made the point early on in the contest that he would like to see a completely safe and incident-free contest, and we almost managed this feat, only to be stymied right at the end by Jim Lamb’s gear-up landing on the last day (no damage at all except to the pilot’s ego).
One thing I have not talked about here but deserves mention, is that the 2012 Seniors is the very first contest where almost half the competitors were equipped with portable Power FLARM units. Unfortunately, the performance of the units we had down here, even with the recent hardware and software upgrades, left a lot to be desired. Dave Nadler (YO) was collecting input from pilots on FLARM performance, and the overwhelming perception was that the FLARMs here exhibited serious range insensitivity problems. I personally ran some in-flight experiments and determined that my FLARM would not display symbols for FLARM-equipped gliders unless they were less than about 0.1-0.2 miles (i.e. 500-1000 ft) away, which is WAY too insensitive (Dave says FLARM range should be more like 4-5 miles). On the bright side, my FLARM unit did alert me to several potential collision situations, including one on the last day that was a classic converging track with David Pixton (9X). The next major U.S. contest will be the Perry regional next month, and I expect we will also have a fair number of FLARM units there. I would urge the U.S. FLARM team to send a technical support representative to this contest to make sure these problems are resolved in a timely manner. My personal opinion is that if the sensitivity issues are not addressed aggressively and publicly, the experience here could well slow or even stop the introduction of FLARM to the U.S.
See you all at Perry,