Award Winning Instruction
2011 U.S. Lonestar Nationals
The 2nd round of the 2011 US Nationals Series will take place in Hearne, Texas from August 14th through the 21st. This competition is a tow competition in the flatlands of Texas. We will be getting updates on the competition from Marty DeVietti and Dean Stratton from the front line.
Dean, Eric, Riss (and a few others) opted to stay local and fight the wind, pushing into it and stay close to the airport. Dean made about 12 km to the south directly up wind, and Eric (Badger) was somewhere near half that far where he landed. Dean made it back and I never went more than 3 to 4 km away from the airport where I landed too, as did Riss. One pilot, Frank, flew 140 miles, but since there was no official retrieve, he is still out there somewhere trying to get back...happy, but he will be home late for sure!
We all knew that was the deal, so good on him, for going big in the face of no ride back!
Tomorrow we will likely chill in preparation for a week of big tasks that run WITH the wind, and if the wind should slow down to 5mph or so, maybe a triangle task will be the call?
The pics include yours truly in the air, Deano out front and a shot back at the take-off runway at Hearne...Cheers,
SATURDAY 8/13/11Well today dawned cloudy and it looked like a change in the weather would make the practice tows on the second "unofficial" day of pre-comp flying merely an exercise to try out new gliders, new tow bridles and dust off towing skills for tomorrow's big day. Today may be the first in over a month to be under 100 degrees. I can't say that it felt all that much different, but I think it was less hot than yesterday.
Several towed, and many more than once, but few soared for very long or for very far. Nonetheless, it was useful to all involved despite the extra cloud cover, which eventually did burn off a bit.
Tomorrow was to be a huge task, but since the forecast calls for less than ideal conditions for that, we might have a shorter triangle or similar task called. We shall see.
Only 15 pilots are registered, so getting up and away should be relatively easy. There are several tow rigs (up to 9 or so were slated for the event), and the runway makes for easy, successive tows. RE-Tows are allowed so long as you land back at the start point (ideally) or within 5 miles of it. This means if you launch early enough in the launch window, you will likely be picked up, returned to the tow area and given another go. Landing outside the 5 mile radius will result in a zero score for the day.
We will hopefully have some fun to report tomorrow night...Stay tuned.
One of the things that the comp organizers are trying to accomplish this week is to show that Race To Goal formats are possible in tow meets. Today, with the light winds aloft, Race To Goal was the call. A 90 km out and return task was called but the possibility of overdevelopment was looming. We had 5 tow rigs doing the work today but the conditions were cross which made it very difficult to get the 15 pilots into the air within the 1 1/2 hour launch window before the start. With 1 tow rig for every 3 pilots I was sure there wouldn't be a problem but I was wrong. Five minutes before the start gate opened only half of the pilots had successfully towed up, leaving the other half on the ground in the miserable heat. The overdevelopment got the best of us today and the task was canceled before the start gate opened. There were isolated showers to the East of us and significant showers to the North. The showers to the North were slowly heading our way and gaining in strength, so canceling the task was the right call. Shortly after landing it started to sprinkle around the airport, pretty hard to argue with that.
There was lots of discussion afterwards and the consensus is that the Race To Goal format is possible given the right day, but the jury is still out as to whether the format would work with a larger group of pilots. No doubt we'll try to do a Race To Goal task again this week, stay tuned.
Day 2 task 1
There was a couple of small groups that managed to gaggle up but most of us, including myself, flew the course alone. Since we only have 15 pilots in the comp, and using a start gate format, gaggle flying is a little harder to do. In the end 6 pilots made goal, including Marty. I got really low about half way through the course and fell behind. After getting back up I mashed the bar to catch back up and hit the dirt 38 km from goal - oops! Well, I've got 5 more days to make up some ground. The weather is supposed to improve in the next couple days so expect a couple big tasks. We will be trying to call a Texas size task of at least 240 km.
Whew! 142km and 3-4 hrs later, Goal! Eric reed lead the charge, but just getting there was quite an accomplishment (for me anyway) as I got within 100-200 feet of the deck at one point about 1/3 of the way there...sheesh!
Tomorrow looks windier than today with predicted lower cloudbase..but that is just the forecast, we all think otherwise to the better!
Nighty night...it is 11:30pm here....Marty
TUESDAY AUGUST 16TH
Howdy! Dean may have already posted something about today on the Eagle website, but I'm still riding back with 8 other pilots, three of whom made goal on the longest task in us comp history (according to Dave Prentice). Those three are Eric Reed, Andy Macrae, and Justin Eliot. I landed about 10km short.
The task was 172km (over 100 miles!). I was in the air over 5.5 hours yo-yoing from just a few hundred feet off the deck (twice) upwards to over 8,000 feet at cloudbase. Some were able to stay relatively high for most of the flight. Much cooler there! I'll try that style tomorrow. :-P Dean didn't connect on his first tow, landed and towed again just as the pilots in the air topped out and pushed back upwind to try and gaggle together. He tried to make a low save as he circled back off his tow to fly with us. It would have been perfect but he just couldn't connect and landed as we eventually got up, up and away. I don't know if he got another tow or not, as he was in the "re-fly" zone. Time will tell.
That's it for me
Task 3 tomorrow. Weather is looking great!
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 17TH - TASK 3
Howdy folks! Well today was hot, and short, for me. Deano, on the other hand looks like he might be in goal with 2 or 3 others. I got to fly with Dean for about 15 minutes as he flew back upwind to gaggle with me after I connected with lift on my 2nd tow. We drifted and climbed until we left the 5 km cylinder for the start and got some more lift directly down wind of the airport, but not a lot for me. Deano climbed away and circled above me until I ultimately drifted and dirted about 15km from the start, too far away to qualify for a restart and it was too late in the day as launch would close in 10 minutes after I landed.
Dean specked out, and others followed and flew over my head. I only had to walk about 400 yards to the main road where a gas station was, and two gatorades later, my ride was out front honking for me. Nice.
I did manage to leave my phone in the cup holder of the Van, so at least my phone made it to goal today!
I am sure Dean will get it for me and tell me all about his adventures later tonight.
While I wish I could have made the flight, I am surprisingly okay with falling through the cracks today, as it seems that everyone is getting a turn at it here.
Tomorrow is supposed to be great...so I will rest up and hydrate some more. Had a nice dinner (as opposed to my mini-mart hot dog and yoo-hoo last night) at a decent hour and feel full, cool, and relaxed.
Tune in tomorrow for task 4!
THURSDAY AUGUST 18TH TASK 4
Freeze! Hold it right there! That was what the perimeter patrol guard said to me when I hiked past one of the guard towers in the highest security facility in all of Texas 20km short of a 151km goal. Oooooops! All good. They are still REcounting all the guards before letting us go. More to come! Stay tuned.
The flight felt like it was progressing slowly. We were able to gaggle up in the beginning of the flight but we split up soon after. It wasn't until near the end of the flight when a few of us joined back up for the glide to goal. Since the flight went slow it was very late when we went on final glide. Justin and I took our final glide around 7:15 ish and our last thermal was a booming 50-100 fpm. We left on final at 26 km from goal and I barely made it, Justin came up .5 km short. 4 pilots in goal today and several just short. Between finding pilots along the course, the retrieve van getting held at a local prison (which Marty eluded to), and extracting a pilot from a tree just short of goal, we didn't get home until 4 a.m. - it was one of those days...
Whew! After 4 pilots landed in the maximum security prison last night it took a long time to count the 8,000 prisoners (twice) with just 50 guards. We didn't roll back into the airport (Hearne) until after 3:30am. The pilots meeting was not until 11am today to allow us some extra shut eye.
Today we chose the shorter of two task options for a 131km task. I made goal after a fantastic start with 8 of the 15 pilots all gaggling together. Clouds started popping along the course and after a few trips back up-wind to re-tag the start cylinder (for a strategic later start gate) Dean, Badger and I got the last gate and raced on to catch those with the earlier starts.
I got a little behind and that was the last I saw of Dean and Eric (Badger). The clouds were reachable and abundant. But not super easy to figure out. It took a lot of focus to make it work but I never got what I considered low today and so was never really worried about dirting until racing into goal with a guy on an R11. I opted to slow down and tank up a bit and he crossed the line before me but it was worth it to me. After all, not making goal is NOT the goal. I think I had 15 minutes on him with the start gate move. We shall see.
By far the best flying day so far as far as fun, altitudes (8,500 + at cloudbase) and flying with others. YeeeeHaaaaawwwww!
I think there are 12 or so in goal so that is gonna make some folks happy!
I bet dean will have some stories to tell from last night and today too. Here is a photo as I strolled past the Maximum Security facility last night. I don't think they wanted us taking photos but with no flash selected on my phone, nobody was the wiser.
Getting a good start is very difficult. At a mountain site its easier to foot launch when you think the time is right, and the time between your decision to launch and when you actually launch is less as compared to towing. There are too many factors that are out of your control in towing. Today, the towing has improved once again. I would estimate the tow rigs were getting a pilot in the air every 3 minutes. Admittedly, the weather plays a huge role in the efficiency of towing up pilots.
SATURDAY AUGUST 20TH TASK 6
It was my 3rd tow that got me away after witnessing Eric Kolberg's tow line break. He was instructed via radio to pin off (pull the release pin connecting him to the broken 150 section of tow line) after the line broke, either due to over-tension or the line getting stuck or something. He managed well immediately after the line break and was flying under control. He then over-controlled his glider while trying to comply with the radio advice to pin off--(it can be difficult to release a non tensioned line). He used his hands (with his brake toggles still in them) to remedy the awkward release with only 100 feet or so over the ground. In doing so he started to over control the glider (pulled too much brake) and then spun the wing (stalled one side) and landed with the wing directly over his head rotating like a helicopter blade. Unfortunately he broke his wrist and was rushed to be treated at a local hospital and is doing fine now. It seems that was his only injury, and the only injury of the comp.
Not long after that, Riss Estes made a low recovery from a stuck tow line (NOT what it is supposed to do) resulting in his weak link breaking (as it supposed to do). The glider surged from WAY behind him to WAY in front but he smoothly checked it with his controls and landed safely to tow again and eventually get up and away. This was the second of several incidents including stuck tow lines, broken tow lines and/or weak links. All of this before my first tow of the day! We all just wanted to get up, get high and cool off on course.
Despite all the perfect tows that were had this week (I don't know how many but there had to be a lot!), I can't remember when I have seen so many close calls. There were several incidents that I haven't reported thus far as I wanted to wait until the end to gain the best perspective and be fair. I think there is room for improvement in the areas of (1) tow rig reliability and (2) a higher minimum number of tow observers required (having at least one tow observer FOR each tow to watch each tow and be in communication with both pilot and driver and (3) more volunteers to help lay out gliders, shuttle pilots for re-flights and drive retrieve and so-forth.
Nonetheless, with the skeleton crew here, the meet did seem to do what it set out to do. The few people that we DID HAVE worked tirelessly for hours each day in 105 degree heat with little time to stand in the shade everyone was under a lot of pressure from overheated and sometimes frustrated pilots trying to connect with a thermal and get away on course.
Okay, back to what I was saying. There were only a few pilots today that were able to get on course with one tow, the rest needed multiple tows. I had 4 tows today and was finally able to get out of the start gate at 3:40. Bill Hughes was the only other pilot to get on course after me. We were far too late to have a chance of making goal, and as it turned out I came up short 34 km. We had plenty of clouds to aim for and cloud base was around 9k, but the climbs were a bit weaker (avg 5-600 fpm) compared to the rest of the week. Only Arnold, Eric Reed, and Dave made goal today. I think this was Arnolds first task win – congrats to Arnie. Today was also the last task to determine the National champion for 2011. This years champion is Eric Reed.
After so many of us struggled to get on course today I'll reiterate what I said earlier in the week; I do not think the towing format should be used for the “Race to Goal” Nationals. There is too much luck involved in being able to get on course, especially early, which makes timing a good start near impossible. Plus, there were so many mechanical problems with the tow rigs. Having only 17 pilots at this meet turned out to be a blessing. With all the problems we had getting on course and the problems with the tow rigs, I can't imagine what would have happened if more pilots had showed up to this event. Overall this event was a little rough around the edges but I think Dave did a pretty good job given the circumstances. With only 17 pilots attending I’m sure Dave wasn’t even able to pay the bills and I feel really bad for him. It’s hard enough to get someone to host a paragliding event, and it sure doesn’t inspire others to follow suit if attendance at these events is low. Despite the low attendance Dave’s spirits were high and his enthusiasm was contagious.
Let me finish by saying this, the flying here is great and the views from the air are awesome. I could easily see an event here in the future. I’m not an advocate of this venue being appropriate for the “Race to Goal” Nationals but I can easily see the “Open Distance” Nationals being held here. If you can cope with the heat Texas with serve up more XC than you can handle.