As in my series about “The Seniors” at Seminole Lake, I plan to give you a first-hand look at competition soaring from the point of view of a newcomer, or in my Navy terms, a “Nugget”. This series comes from Perry, SC, home of the premier U. S. soaring event, R5N, as it is known among the participants.
My friend, Frank Paynter, explained in his article how the participants are selected. He mentioned that there are a few slots reserved for reverse seeding, specifically, those with a “zero” rating have a leg up. Since I am the “zeroest”, I got in.
I have been impressed ever since my arrival; impressed with the facilities, the warmth and hospitality of the host family and the welcome afford me by the other participants. If you have not had an opportunity to witness southern hospitality, make your way to Perry and meet Al and Rhonda Tyler. I have lived in the south most of my 68 years, and in my humble opinion, there are no finer examples of true southern charm and hospitality that Al and Rhonda. My second day here, she told me, “We have no guests here, so make yourself at home. If you need something, just ask.” Another point about our hostess, if you think you have a lot on your plate, try being the contest manager for a weeklong competition with 60 or so gliders and pilots, and at least that many RV trailers, motor homes, tents, as well as Frank’s “micro-castle”. Since there are few places to stay in town, most if not all participants and crews stay at the field in personally owned RV’s or ones rented from nearby residents.
Frank also gave his description of the soaring conditions for the past few days and I have to agree that this is the best flying I have had this side of the Rocky Mountains. Yesterday was probably the best of the past four for me; but today was not bad. I have posted my flights on OLC and if you are interested, download them and check out my performance. It has improved some since the Seniors, so my plan for developing my skills is working. For those who might not know, OLC is the OnLine Contest and can be found at: http://www.onlinecontest.org/olc-2.0/gliding/index.html?c=C0&sc=&st=olc&rt=olc
I presented my lessons learned at the Seniors and will continue them here at Perry. Although I have made a bit of progress since Florida, the lessons keep coming. Frank has continued to offer his time to help me review our flights. It is really helpful to compare mine to his and see how I could have done better. It is also fun to have time to relive the day and enjoy the good parts, short as they might be. Seriously, I have improved my course management but my “termalling” skills still need more work. One of the good things about flying cross country is there are easily, 40 to 50 opportunities to select, approach, and attempt to climb in a thermal. Perhaps half are rejected immediately and others are just a pass-though, getting maybe a 90° turn followed by a reverse 90° turn as I return to my course line. A few get a turn or two before I leave, looking for a better one.
I have just started reading, “Competing in Gliders” by Leo and Ricky Brigliadori. In chapter two, he discusses Centering in Thermals. He summarized its lesson in Chapter three saying, “… we must not linger in our thermal. We have to take it on trust that others exist and not keep climbing in weak lift that has already peaked.” There is a lot packed into that statement but it is a lesson well worth learning and taking to heart. You have to convince yourself that if you have found 4 or 5 good thermals as you reach "final glide" to your home airport that there are more in front of you and will take you to your destination.
Wait, I hear some of you saying, what if conditions change? Ya, well then change your destination. Think about this. How many times have you changed your driving plans because the weather changed from when you started your trip? The same is true for XC flying. If you can stay aloft for 2 hrs, you might want to try making a flight to an airport 15 miles away and return. Simply straighten out the track you have been making and go. If you have to land at the neighboring airport, fine, call for a tow or a trailer and chalk it up as part of your learning experience. Yours truly, having just completed 5 successful 150 plus mile flights at the seniors, my last two flights at my home airport in Virginia, included a landing at an airport 17 miles from Garner. It happens.
Tomorrow is the second practice day for the R5N contest; BZ will be back in the air and more impression will follow.