Day 3 is in the bag, with many happy pilots in evidence on the CCSC patio. As the CD I am especially happy, as this means we have a full 92 ranking value contest, with a good chance for two more contest days. Moreover, I maintain that if my reputation for bringing bad weather to contests hasn't been completely slain, it has at least been seriously wounded. One wag was heard to say that maybe its OK for me to be at a contest site, and even to fly occasionally, as long as I'm not allowed to compete ;-).
The weather forecast for today was somewhat schizophrenic, with one model calling for good soaring conditions and clouds on the east side of our task area, and blue to the west, and another one calling for terrible conditions to the east, but blue and good to the west. There didn't seem to be any real good way to reconcile the models, so my task advisers Erik Nelson (5E) and Rob Cluxton (1K) and I decided to build a task for each possibility, and then decide which way to jump after getting a look from the air. We had a slight preference for the western area as we thought that side had gotten less rain on Sunday and Monday, so we set that as Task A, and the other one as Task B.
At the noon grid time we were seeing Q's starting to pop in all quadrants, so that didn't help much. However, by the time John Lubon (JL - more about this later) and I went up to sniff, it was clear that the western side looked much better, and JL was getting good climbs that way (I went east, and was struggling). So, we started the launch and aimed everyone out northwest toward the first turnpoint, and everything seemed to be going swimmingly. Sports class was off first, and I soon had the start gate open and some pilots had already started. FAI was off last, and by the time the FAI class pilots had climbed to near start altitude, the clouds to the northwest were disappearing, and the clouds to the east were looking much better. So, about 2 minutes before the start gate was to open, I get a call from task adviser Erik Nelson (5E):
"Its starting to look pretty blue out to the northwest, and the clouds to the east are looking much better now"
"5E, are you recommending that we switch to Task B?"
"Yes, that's my recommendation"
"OK. Heads up FAI class - we will be switching to Task B. I'll give you a couple of minutes to get set up, and then I will hold a roll call. Please answer up with your ID if you understand that we are switching to task B".
And so it went. Luckily the FAI class only had 7 pilots, and they all had good radios. The roll call took all of about 2 minutes to complete, and then I opened the start gate. Soon after that FAI class gliders started streaming out on task to the east. There was a snide comment from someone on the air (presumably a Sports class pilot) about those chicken-hearted FAI guys, but what the heck.
The rest of the story, part I: One of the Sports class guys (Dan Reagan, MK) told me later that when the task switch occurred for the FAI guys, he was still in the start area, directly below the FAI gaggle, but couldn't seem to hook the thermal and get a climb. He's thinking to himself that he has yet to start out on the task that the more experienced pilot have just rejected, and was starting to contemplate just returning to the airport and calling it a day. Fortunately he persisted, and went on to have a reasonably good day.
The rest of the story, part II: So it turns out that while the FAI guys did indeed have clouds over most of their task area, the climbs were mediocre and the clouds were, shall we say, not entirely honest about their parentage. Erik said he struggled all the way around the course and figured he was going to be lynched for sure when he got back (he won the day anyway). Meanwhile, the Sports class guys did indeed have some blue areas on the first leg, but once past Hook airport (about 15 miles west) they started hitting very good climbs and clouds/haze domes to over 6500' msl. As it stands now, it appears the winning Sports class handicapped speed (Don Kroesch, DK, flying a Genesis II) is about 2mph faster than the winning FAI class speed (Erik Nelson, 5E flying a Ventus 2ax). I like having Erik around - he's a real nice guy, and now the FAI guys have someone else to be mad at rather than me! ;-).
On another subject, today was the first ever competition task completion for Robert Norton (7H). Robert came to our contest last year, and not only did we not get in a contest, we never even got off the ground. Then he tried going out to the 15-meter championships at Logan, UT where he wisely withdrew after getting a look at the terrain and the requirement to polish rocks/fly over U----able terrain. Robert's jinx appeared to be even worse than mine, as it took him 3 tries even here to get a task completion. Day 1 was a landout jamboree, Day 2 was a completion but his logger croaked, but the third time was the charm and today he not only got around the course but wasn't the slowest guy and has the IGC file to prove it - way to go Robert!
Popular weather forecast for tomorrow and Friday is for continued good soaring weather. Tomorrow should still be under the influence of the high pressure ridge that has been slowly moving off to the east, and then Friday is progged to be significantly cooler, with a weak cold front moving through Thursday night. If things work out that way (yeah, right) we may well get in two more days for a 5 day contest - woo hoo!
Oh, and the story I promised about JL sniffing for us. I got a call yesterday evening from long-time friend and SSD board (CCSC's directing body) president John Lubon (JL), explaining that he was in Lima, OH on a project (John is a very well respected troubleshooter for P&G), and was going to try to sneak in a day of flying on his travel day home. His problem was that he couldn't get there until around noon, and he knew that if he missed the grid time he wouldn't be able to launch until 2pm or later - could I possibly manage to assemble his ASG-29 for him in the morning so he could volunteer to sniff for us? Well, Mike Shakman (SH) flies a -29 and volunteered to supervise, so several of us, including 17-year old Ethan Hobbs decided to assemble JL that evening instead of waiting to the next day, a decision helped along by the fact that all but Ethan had consumed several beers by this time. Right away we ran into a problem because another club pilot (Dan Reagan, MK) had tied his glider out, blocking the normal access to JL's trailer barn slot. No problem, the slot was double-doored, so we ran the trailer out the other side, spun it around 180 degrees, and assembled it there. Next problem - we can't find the spoiler unlock tool, but a call to John solved that one. Shortly we had it assembled and taped, with a good deal of help from Ethan (who it turns out had helped SH assemble/disassemble his -29 a number of times and was now an expert at 17). Now I call John back and tell him that his glider is assembled and taped, and ready to go for tomorrow, and that he owes Mike and Ethan a six-pack each (beer for SH, coke for Ethan). As John is getting ready to hang up, I say "By the way John, is it alright if the winglets are pointing downward?" - silence for a beat or two, then "Sure, it should fly fine that way!" from JL ;-). So John shows up the next day, hops in his glider (after checking the orientation of the winglets) and does a very good job of sniffing for us on his way out the door for what turned into a 6-hour 500km flight - what an OLC slut!