I'm sitting in my Micro-Castle here at the Tullahoma GTA (Georgia-Tennessee-Alabama) race site, on Saturday July 5, waiting for my brain to wake up and smell the coffee. Tullahoma regional airport (KTHA) is a great soaring site, with lots of ramp space for assembling gliders, huge runways with at least two separate grass runways, and a reasonably benign soaring area with lots of airports and agricultural fields.
The GTA race series is amazing in its own right, because it is a very vibrant organization, with no physical presence at all. Everything is done 'virtually', except for the flying itself. Scoring is done by email, weather may be called in by someone else or done on site, CD'ing is usually handled by one of the competitors (in this case by Francois Pin), and even the schedule and location may be changed dynamically to adjust to particularly good or poor weather forecasts. A typical race is attended by 4-6 pilots, and the typical pilot competes in 2-4 GTA races per season. Scores are posted on the GTA website, and everyone 'competes' for end-of-year standings based on the best X scores, where X is about 6. Anyone can be a GTA member (they even let me in!). The whole idea, as I understand it, is to provide a venue where pilots can 'race' in an informal, non-threatening environment, with lots of support given to newer pilots. All races are dry, and there are only two classes - 'A' (more experienced) and 'B' (less experienced), and tasking is intended to be challenging, but not excessive. This is a great way for pilots new to XC racing to learn, and it's a fun way for the more experienced pilots to get a weekend XC racing fix on the cheap, and to help other pilots at the same time.
This particular GTA race is being hosted by Leo Benetti-Longhini, the North American JS1 and Silent dealer/rep, and an all-round nice guy to boot. He is an engineer involved in wind-tunnel design here in Tullahoma, and he shares a hangar with the local skydiving outfit. When I arrived yesterday, Leo was putting the finishing touches on a brand-new jet-sustainer glider recently purchased by Dave Coggins (DT) out of Houston, TX. This is an absolutely spectacularly beautiful glider, and the jet sustainer is, in itself, a work of technological art. Dave flew with us yesterday, and I had the pleasure of sharing a couple of thermals with him - nice looking glider!
Francois Pin didn't fly with us yesterday, as he decided to forego soaring in order to watch the world cup matches between France and Germany and between Brazil and Columbia. Sadly he reported that not only did both the teams he was rooting for (France and Columbia) lose, but that the games themselves weren't all that interesting. Sorry, Charlie! ;-)
Dinner last night was hosted in the hangar shared by Leo and the local skydiving operation - everybody simply threw $10 into a pot, and one of the skydivers cooked up a great hotdog/hamburger dinner. Tonight's dinner will be barbeque brisket and chicken, same place, same time, same financial arrangements.
Today's weather looks promising. The winds are lower so the B/S ratio will be better than yesterday, and the lift values are predicted to be in the 4-6kt range. It will probably be blue, but you can't have everything! Stay tuned,