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Corryong, Days 1 &2
Wed Jan 19, 2011 11:33 pm
[ Mood: Happy ]
This is the third consecutive year Geoff & I have come to this truly fun comp. The landscape is glorious, with Mt Elliot, Mt Mittamatite, Pine Mountain and a few others encircled by valleys and high forested mountains like a reverse donut; most valleys are flat and wide with large paddocks and fat cattle. I absolutely LOVE flying here. Wendi Hermanís bubbly presence, plus regulars like Stuie, Hughie & Paulie ensure thereís plenty of laughter (and groans!) on the hill and at meetings.
[EDIT: Here's a vid to give you an idea of the place: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOnSvi-ZgA8 the pilot has his novelty novice necklace draped over the base bar, bewdy Andy!]
I wrote up my first comp here in 2009 but havenít read it recently and wonít until I finish this yearís report. My memory isnít great so itíll be interesting to compare my emotions, experiences, thoughts, attitude, skills and performance.
This year, eleven SA pilots travelled across the border Ė terrific! Martin, Migs, Pap (all C4s) and Birgit (MastR12.5) have been flying for decades; Ralph (Climax) and Keith a little shorter I think, though Keithís old Willswing HP would belie this! Crossy has been flying for ages too but has been out of the sport a few years flying sailplanes. Fortunately he has seen the light and returned from the Darkest Side Of All to kick ass in an Airborne Rev. Dave G is in a Litespeed, Geoff & I are in our Litesports 4 & 3, while Mark (Fun 190) is new kid on the block. Markís doing the Floater tasks, the rest of us are in Open.
Here we are, and what an impressive bunch if I may say so:
You can get an idea of the landscape, with the wide valley in front of launch, and then the Mitta Range, and higher mountains way in the distance.
Geoff, Birgit, Ralph & I comprise Spreadeagles team with our friend Greg driving; Martin, Dave G, Pap and Migs are the SA gun Wendyís Icecreamers team, while Keith, Crossy & Mark join a few others in Driverless (but they get one). Migsí team finds a 73 going on 23 year old local lady to drive for them. Sheís a hoot and has a great time with her ďyoungĒ whippersnappers.
Here is our team:
The Corryong Cup, as weíre reminded on the first day, is all about the newest pilots in the Floater Class. Usually 25-33% of the field is in floaters or Stings. In the field of 70, 12 pilots have never attended any competition before. Theyíre given novelty necklaces so that weíll know them and lend them a hand. Floater tasks tend to be short, downwind and with just one or no turnpoints so theyíre achievable. Every year, a majority of the new pilots in floater class make their first goal, and the grins at pilot meetings each morning are inspiring.
Just 3 grrrls here this year: me, Birgit and new pilot Brigitte from Queensland, flying a Falcon 170. Brigitte has come straight from Forbes and Iím curious as to what sheíll make of Corryong (ďThe vibe is completely different,Ē she tells me later Ė she loves the fun, relaxed atmosphere here). Shannonís fiancťe Lynette has a glider on order but hasnít got her licence yet Ė come on Lynette, try to get it before Women with Wings in March!
The boy sitting there in the 'Bad Girl' hat is, of course, Ralph!
Many pilots are staying at the free campsite by the river at Towong. Itís beautiful there but the infamous dunny (steel after the original wooden one was shot up by locals) reeks so badly that I couldnít approach within more than a few metres on my first reconnaissance some years ago. Think: septic tank inside an oven. Gag! Iím fine with a spade behind a bush but with 100+ people camping this is not really an option, or at least not a pleasant one, so Geoff & I & a few others stay at Mitta-Mitta campground, other pilots at Clack-Clack caravan park, with new and friendlier owners, who inexplicably love us hangies and put us together in a congenial group (although after I hear about the Fashion Award, won by Hughbert, perhaps this segregation is for the sake of other guests;-)!
Weatherman Alan says conditions are promising for the first day with light north-northwesterlies forecast, stronger at height and strengthening.
I have a strategy. Conditions permitting, Iíll launch early before the guns, who will quickly catch up and pass me. When I launch late, I end up flying on my own because Iím slow, with distant dots circling too far ahead for me to reach. I need all the thermal markers and help I can get to stay up in the sky for as long as I can! I want long fun high flights this year, to see as much of the country as I can, to go to new places I havenít reached before, and to make goal. But as long as I fly better than in previous years, it means my skills are improving, and Iíll be happy. Geoff & I are hoping to fly together in our Litesports; with similar skills and performance we can help each other on task, and Birgit in her MastR is similar too.
Open, Day 1, 02/01/2011
Turnpoint Distance Direction Observation zone
ELLIOT 12.4km 105į Cylinder R=5.0km
TOOMA 25.3km 016į Cylinder R=400m
LIGHTH 13.2km 184į Cylinder R=400m
KHANCO 15.5km 158į Cylinder R=1000m
The open task today is 20 or so ks north to (ďitís not aĒ) Tooma on the river into a cross-headwind, then 13ks south to Lighthouse mountain, a lump thatís home to a house thermal; then another 15 or so ks s to Khancoban airport. We canít land at Corryong airport this year because even after early and numerous requests, the organisers werenít able to get the VHF radio stuff required; I was told the previous operations manager said that, unlike Forbes, our comp was too minor for him to assist us as he did them. This is disappointingly short-sighted. Forbes is AAA, yes. Top guns fly there, yes. But theyíre already welded to the sport forever. Theyíre so skilled that they could probably quite easily punch buttons on two separate radios! And many of them are from O/S.
But Corryong nurtures up-and-coming pilots. There are more pilots here than are at Forbes, and every single one of us is a full (not visiting) HGFA member. Many of those happy Floater Class Corryong pilots have PBs and firsts: XC flight, highest flight, longest flight, first goal etc etc. These are the pilots we need to retain with positive experiences in supportive environments (and indeed, some pilots who competed at Corryong in recent years are at Forbes this year!). And others simply return to Corryong year after year, comfortable in the relaxed atmosphere but still getting out there, developing their skills with every flyable day. So it was great to see new Ops manager John drop in for a chat; he recognises that events like Corryong are an important part of the overall HG picture, integral in keeping our sport alive. Heís proactively been in touch with me re Women with Wings2 and airspace help already. Promising.
Today, with strengthening headwinds, early is the go and cuís pop above launch as we set up; Iím one of the first handful off the hill in a friendly puff after the freeflyers. Launch is lush this year; in fact, the whole valley is beautiful, pale green instead of golden brown. The flats around the snaking river are green too with lots of standing water; a very different view from that of the last two years.
I head straight to the bowl and bare rocky spine to the right which are reliable thermal generators and find something modest but solid immediately. I need to work it but Iím confident Iíll get up in it and indeed yes, to about 6500í. Geoff is a few places in the queue behind me and a pause happens on launch so I head off with several toplesses. They leave me behind and I pull on the VG but it is really tight for some reason. Strange. And the bar position seems really far back, past chest level for just 80cm of rope. Iím in a newish harness, perhaps itís that? Actually, no. There turns out to be a good or rather bad reason for the bar position but I donít discover it till later in the week. Iím very reluctant to slow up at all, it feels mushy, so I donít. This turns out to be quite a good thing as Iíll explain later. Others will be horrified I didnít think more carefully about this, but to be honest Iím happy to fly with only a bit of VG, and Iím enjoying the air. On glide, Iím just starting to use my Compeo and the arrow seems to be bouncing around strangely. Or perhaps itís my flying! Either way, it doesnít seem to match up very well at all.
Oh well, never mind, the views are terrific. Most of the river flats are bright green and fertile-looking, such a rare thing in midsummer Oz! I hop across to Lighthouse and get up again, then need to decide which route to take to Tooma. Skirt around the western side of the valley over Mitta and Pine mountains, or the eastern side on the big high stuff.? Or a route straight down the middle, linking up a few bumps? Pilots ahead have chosen all 3 options and I dither. The wind pushes me eastwards downwind of the courseline so I decide against that course and take the middle one because Iíd reach the western side too low in lee with the headwind. Of course, I should have decided this as I was thermalling up, not after I get to the top, but at least Iím planning, albeit belatedly.
Itís hard work and slow going but Iím having great fun. The headwind is strengthening. I remember my first year here Rohan won in a Sting against all the toplesses, and he deliberately stayed low on a fresh day to avoid stronger winds at height. But I donít have the luxury of being able to get up in a bug fart, so I stay as high as possible. It will be even trickier for pilots coming later. Geoff is back at Lighthouse slowly climbing but he spends his whole flight below about 3 grand; thereís an inversion I havenít even noticed. Yet.
Iím slow and keep meeting up with Alasdair (I think, or is it Mike?) in his floater. Oh dear, clearly Iím flying way too slowly. And why is he not losing much more height than me against the headwind? Once again, I wrongly Ė and potentially dangerously - assume itís my pilot skills and ignore the warning.
The river is just to the west; I love the way it arcs around back on itself, with its thick fringe of trees. The (ďItís not a Tooma!Ē) turnpoint is the bridge; the town is just a few kms away now. I reach the southern end of the three sisters at ridge height. The western side is sunny but weíve been told not to land there because of angry farmers so reluctantly I divert to the shadier east side. Trees along the ridgetop are motionless so Iím not worried about rotor. But no luck for thermals. Nice slopes to land up all along this side, though; I get a little boot from something but a perfect landing, the best of the week, up the slope, then carry my glider to shady trees by the road. A few minutes later, Alasdair arrives.
We chat as we pack up. Iím feeling a bit disappointed I didnít get to fly for longer, with maybe 90 minutes airtime. Somethingís niggling at me when I think about my flight but I canít put my finger on it (itís glide angle). The wind picks up and a glider comes. Wow, itís Crossy! Suddenly I feel very pleased about my flight. Crossyís a very good pilot indeed so conditions must be, or have become, much more challenging than I thought. And then another pilot lands with us. The winds are definitely picking up Ė as I finish packing up itís rotoring onto us in the lee, but Iím safely on the ground. We head back to pick up Ralph and Geoff.
Iím feeling super cheerful and completely forget about my VG. Conditions were just tough, thatís all, Iíve flown well, and made a good decision to launch early.
This morning Iím gobsmacked that yesterdayís flight put me in the top 20, first time ever in an ordered launch! Iím 19th! Well, briefly. Several pilots have had GPS issues and resubmit, and by the time weíre on launch Iíve fallen off the bottom. No worries, I can still launch early in the open window, nothing lost.
Only one open pilot got to goal yesterday and few pilots even made the first turnpoint, but a number of floaters made goal, including Mark, who is stoked:
I was lucky to have left as early as I did. Conditions seem similar to yesterday, my strategy should be the same. The task:
Turnpoint Distance Direction Observation zone
ELLIOT 15.2km 021į Cylinder R=5.0km
WALWA 32.7km 318į Cylinder R=400m
GRGGRG 29.4km 110į Cylinder R=1000m
Temperatures have been pleasant on launch, high twenties, down to about 10 degrees at base, and low-mid thirties in the valley. A bit sweaty setting up, but nice in the shade, especially now itís grassy.
I set up and remember my VG. Sam Prest reties something near the pulley inside the sail (thanks, Sam); it seems a little easier to pull on, but not much. Sam suggests I spray the line & pulleys with silicone, which we have in the car but which I forget to do - too eager to get in the air.
Iím off earlyish in the open launch just after it opens at 2pm; once again cus are popping over Mitta and Elliot and I snag a climb on the spur like yesterday. Climbs are harder going than last year, a bit softer overall and later Allan tells us this is because of all the moisture in the soil, which prevents it really heating up, so the thermals have less energy. This also means that there are inversions that donít get punched through, as I discover to my chagrin.
But anyway, today Iím oblivious to inversions, at least initially. Todayís task is a longish one for this comp, from Elliot to Walwa and then back to Greg-Greg. The distances are modest but utilising the landforms means that tasks are rarely best flown in a straightline as in the flatlands of SA. So we have several options for routes; this is one of the things I love about mountain flying compared to flatland; distances are shorter but there are all kinds of choices to make things interesting. And thereís so much variety under you as you fly! Although the first turnpoint is northwest, often itís easier to jump across the valley where itís narrowest, at the eastern end of the Mitta Range, depending on your height. A house thermal lives over the pines at the eastern end, and the spine along the Mitta range often works well as do the hot rocks on the northern side, at both eastern and western ends. I eavesdrop on several guns discussing optimal routes and consensus seems to be to get to Walwa from the east, avoiding some wide valleys to the south.
Geoff is right behind me in the queue this time and we climb out together, which is lots of fun.
We top out at about 7000í, hop east and then glide north across the valley to the Mitta Range. I pull on my VG and itís still stiff as. 80cm is it and I curse myself for forgetting the silicone spray. My glide is appalling compared to Geoffís Ė surely the VG doesnít make *that* much difference Ė and Iím right, itís more than this, as I realise later (days later). Geoff reaches the pines 100s (a 1000?) of feet above the trees but Iím well below ridge height. Burble about along the spines looking for something, anything. Itís hot work; I get low, unzip, find a little bubble. Work it and work it back to ridge height only to lose it again. Down another spine, another bubble but itís too weak; glide to cross the little creek to simplify retrieve.
But wait, hereís another bubble over the house, surrounded by gracious green trees, reassuringly motionless, no worries about rotor. I work that too but am very slowly losing height Ė too low with the drift now to cross the creek. Fortunately Iíve already scoped good smallish paddocks here to land upslope, and a road in from the west, so all fine. My landing is OK but not perfect Ė this and every subsequent landing I flare, then end up on my tummy with no forward speed (the nose doesnít drop once) but no elegance either. Iím not sure what Iím doing wrong but itís something. Migs watches me land at the end of the week and says Iím not committing fully to the flare.
[*EDIT: here's vid of Corryong;
at 5:31 it includes me landing in the bombout later that week that shows exactly what has been happening and my hesitation in the flare is *very* clear to see - Migs is right, it's good to know and easy to fix! Geoff's at 6:02, Birgit at 6:45, Ralph at 3:55]
Of course, these are all truly nil wind landings, without a single knot or sometimes even a knot tail, and the grass in the paddock today is high, so no way to run it out even one step, so my style is not as bad as it sounds. And Iím not alone Ė there are a lot of more clunky arrivals and bent aluminium during the week, but at least not for Geoff and me, not even a bruise!
Iíve been flying for about an hour but Geoff claws his way up over the pines and climbs along the Mitta Range. Iím pleased for him but also envious: if Iíd retained a bit more height on glide I could be up there with him! Bloody VG (if all else fails, blame the equipment!). Greg radios and he and Birgit are there as I finish packing up Ė the joys of an efficient retrieve driver! In fact, all week all of us are retrieved quickly, usually before weíve even finished packing up, so our communication is working pretty well this year.
Iíve only just started looking at my new Compeoís flight computer and it tells me that my maximum climb was 40m/s and about the same in sink, with average climbs of 27m/s. Yeah, riiight!! 4.0 & 2.7 more like!
Iím almost directly opposite launch, and watch the guns climbing and gliding directly overhead to Mitta. Flock after flock of them, tiny specks way, way high. Grrr! But Iím not pissed about it. One thing I did really well today was to work those little bubbles at the end of my flight. In the past, Iíve gone into landing mode, and ignored bubbles with the potential to get me back up. But this time, not once but twice, I worked stuff Iíd have flown through last year. Just a glance to make sure a safe LZ is within reach, then work lift. So thatís good.
Many smiling SA faces around the gas cookers that night. Birgit and I are just outside the start circle and Markís in floater goal again; Migs, Crossy, Martin, Steve & Dave G all make it into open as well. Keith has been lent a Sting3 by Shane Duncan and flew it for the first time, but it was a short flight so heís hoping to have more success tomorrow with more airtime and a chance to evaluate the wing. Geoff and Ralph have managed to get nearly to Walwa but donít quite reach the turnpoint and land near Cudgewa North. So none of our team in goal, but itís been fun!
Keith and Sting3:
Brigitte had an excellent practice day thermalling, and during the comp has had two good launches and landings - she pulled off a downwind downhill one with no damage to herself or her wing Ė not bad! With only 19 hours sheís finding the slow tricky climbs and inversions challenging, and Iím reminded of experiences my first year here. Brigitteís landings are better than mine were, though, and she is pleased with her strong launches and landings, not least because she had a couple of less than perfect ones at Forbes. A few solid landings after several dodgy ones is always good, and she has the sense to fly with big wheels and kneepads for that extra boost of confidence. Goodonya, Brigitte!
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Corryong Days 3 & 4
Wed Jan 19, 2011 8:42 pm
[ Mood: Happy ]
Sad news today (or was it yesterday?) that Wendi & Gary, Comp organisers, have been called away for family reasons, but the rest of the committee steps up, with much fun and laughter. Hopefully many pilots have taken vids and pics so that the Hermans can share in the memories when they return to Oz.
Pilot briefing on the hill:
All Corryong regulars recognise that haunting mating cry, heard only at certain times of the year, between courting partners of the rare Coadi alexandrii. And yes, again we hear it, echoing across launch and even sometimes in the town of Corryong:
ďStuuuiiiiiiii!Ē with the plaintive reply, ďHhhhuuuuuubbbertttttt!Ē And thereís also the unmistakeable display cry when one of these rare birds takes to the skies, a sort of yodelling triumphant tarzan Ďwoohooooí screech combined with a crazed cackle. Hopefully, a local David Attenborough has caught this rare footage! (let me know & Iíll link to it)!
Turnpoint Distance Direction Observation zone
ELLIOT 12.4km 105į Cylinder R=5.0km
KANGCK 9.4km 201į Cylinder R=400m
CLCCLC 11.1km 297į Cylinder R=400m
TINTAL 20.5km 025į Cylinder R=400m
KHANCO 24.6km 138į Cylinder R=1000m
Todayís task is an absolute cracker, a scenic tour around the valley. First south along the Elliot range to Kangaroo Creek, then west to Clack Clack, north to Tintaldra and then southeast to Khancoban airport. Itís sort of a join the dots circle of house thermals. I remember watching pilots getting up on two spots near Kangaroo Creek after I landed there last year; Geoff worked his way back up from low on a spine and was then able to jump across to the range in the middle. Hopefully, weíll both fly together and have thermal markers to help us around the course.
Winds are again forecast to be light, so I stick to my strategy of launching early. I finally remember the silicone and spray the pulleys and rope in the sail, but not the one in the upright because I have a bad feeling it will take me ages to pull it apart and even longer to put back together and I want to go early. Thereís a slight improvement but not much, I can pull on maybe a metre of rope. Oh well, tomorrow will do. (Yes, I see you all cringing. Itís sheer laziness, no excuse; I could have done it last night. My bad.).
Memories of Kangaroo Creek pop up from last year, not entirely fond ones, when both Ralph and I landed there twice on two consecutive days. I wonít do the same thing: Iíll be much higher this time. Some of the freeflyers have not had much luck but beaut clouds are forming over Elliot. Nothing seems to be happening along the courseline, though, with a big blue hole between launch and the first turnpoint.
Iím keen to fly together with Geoff & Birgit so we line up early in the Open window, with me a couple spots in front of Geoff. Conditions are light and my launches have all been into less than 5 knots this week, but theyíve all been good.
A light puff comes up the face and I run off, bam, straight into a big beautiful thermal right in front! Iím grinning from ear to ear as I go up, and up and up, all the way to about 7500í.
But whatís this? No one else is launching! Thatís strange, why? Maybe my lovely thermal has shut everything down? Oh well, getting up was so easy, I might as well boat around here and wait for Geoff and Birgit. One pilot on the courseline is scratching low. Doesnít look inviting.
So I wait, enjoying the views over the back to Khancoban and the rugged Kosciusko Range beyond with its bare rock faces and bushfire snowgum scars, north across to Corryong and past Mitta to the forests there. Itís stunning; next year Iíll definitely take my camera up but this year I donít want to be fiddling about with one. The air is cool but not cold Ė those Moyes neoprene speedsleeves are fantastic - and Iím flying around the wispies. Lovely, just lovely!.
But Iím still waiting.
What on earth is taking them so long? Geoff finally radios and reminds me to drink some water because I tend to forget when Iím thermalling. Worse, thereís still so much flowering grass around this year Iím completely clogged with hayfever so bad even Zyrtec doesnít help, so I have to breathe through my mouth, which gets dry and tastes like the bottom of a cockyís cage. Iíve been over launch for ages, the Open window has closed and Geoff & Birgit now have to wait for the Ordered launch to finish.
Hmmm. I look down at launch, still a pleasantly distant speck below me. Ok, I wonít wait for Birgit & Geoff, Iíll wait for the guns: theyíll soon be on course and I will join them. But whatís this? A whole bunch of guns are scratching low on the spine below me. Why arenít they climbing?
Can you spell I-n-v-e-r-s-i-o-n, Helen?
Apparently not. Doh!
Slowly I waste my precious, precious height. Instead of being flexible and responding to what I see and heading out on course, clearly a more attractive option than what is happening directly below, I stick to my plan even when it becomes obvious itís not the right one! Sometimes I can be such an idiot!
So all too soon, there I am, at launch height and below, scrabbling for lift in a horribly ungainly gaggle along with everyone else. Iím too chicken to bank it up in the crowd and end up flying in big circles around the outside, or leaving. I do this a couple times and manage to circle in a nice little core nearby for a few turns before others join me and it all gets too busy again. I loathe crowded gaggles with pilots I donít know well, especially low like this, and the thermals are chunky and snaky and uneven, so you get turned inadvertently. Itís scary and later other pilots tell me they felt the same. Gradually I drop through the stack as Iím too timid to thermal efficiently; I suspect Iím getting in everybodyís way which doesnít help my confidence. Iím about to bail to the LZ when Geoff radios again. He tells me thereís an inversion, thatís what weíre all bumping up against, but to hang in there for a bit longer because they can feel the inversion breaking up on launch: something with enough oomph will push through, I just need to be there to ride it up.
I glance at my vario, grit my teeth and decide to give it another ten minutes and hallelujah, the inversion breaks, and up I go. Iím already hot and tired and havenít even left the start circle! Later Geoff tells me he knew Iíd be majorly pissed off with myself if Iíd bailed to the LZ only to see everyone else getting up 5 minutes later. Heís right. But I still wonít thermal in the middle of a big messy gaggle like that, not worth it, Iíd rather lose the lift. OTOH, several times I happily circled with Crossy, whose flying style I know well and trust, and can fit with, though it was still too busy with others about for me to be comfortable.
Actually, several pilots with whom I thermal over the week suggest I should bank up more and they are right, but when Iím in a thermal on my own I core it fine and bank up plenty. I just get thrown when Iím with another pilot at the same height; I invariably open up my circle which I know I mustnít do and is no doubt infuriating for whomever Iím partnered with because then we BOTH end up flying around the outside of the core. But thatís the nice thing about this comp; people are never going to yell at you or get pissed off because everyone knows itís a learning game.
Finally, when hot and sweaty changes to cool and clammy, Iím back up, tell Greg Iím on my way to Kangaroo Creek, and head on course with (I think) Russell in his Litesport (his glide is better than mineÖ hmmm, but I donít pay it much attention. AGAIN! Arrrgh!).
Thankfully I have markers as planned. Off we go along the ridge, all the way to where a pilot is thermalling just this side of Kangaroo Creek. Thatís my target and Yes! Up I go at my marker (also where Iíd seen pilots getting up last year at the apex of a spine similar to the one east of launch); finally a plan is paying out! About bloody time, you dolt!
Iíve also watched a few pilots struggle low on the next knob just west of the TP and in tigery-looking forest on the hills so I wonít go there. Instead I get as high as I can and aim to jump across to the turnpoint from this side, from my thermal. If itís sinky, Iíll dash back to the same ridge and hopefully the same thermal; if itís buoyant Iíll keep going straight across to the low range to the north.
As I head to the little settlement Ė just a cluster of farmhouses and sheds, really, with a road intersection - out in the green valley, I see someone turning on that low range, - perfect! - so when my GPS beeps at me (yes, yes!) I go straight across and yes, yes, yes again, up I go! Woohoo! Iím buggered but Iím having SO much fun! I spot pilots much higher than me circling under some nice big cuís but Iím pretty high and so follow bubbles of lift, gradually getting lower. Iím very tired: I havenít been on course for long but it was exhausting working over launch! Iíve been in the air at least 2 hours, which isnít long at all, but a large proportion of that time was working hard in a low, crowded gaggle!
Geoff is behind me getting low; it is an exact reversal of our flights here last year. I trickle off the end of the low ridge and circle briefly in something trashy in the valley, but my heart isnít in it. Iím sore and tired; I head to Clack Clack turnpoint, mark it, then come back to a nice paddock Iíve just flown over (yes, I could have headed PAST the turnpoint but because Iím tired I want a nice paddock with no surprises much more than I want points for getting past the turnpoint. YMMV). Fat smallish cows graze in the paddock, but no big ones.
Circle, come in with lots of speed Ė boy, this is FAST - flare! Bump on my tummy, but the nose of the glider stays up; it would have looked perfect from the air. So here I am! Yay!
Iím thrilled; in spite of some dumb decisions earlier I made some good ones later; Iíve actively thought about my route, searched for other pilots, and made choices rather than just hoping something good will happen. I LOVE this sport, love it love it love it! It has everything, scenery, challenge, variety, emotion, friendships, strategy, logic, beauty, luck.
And then the farmer drives up. I hope heís not going to be one of those angry ones; I always feel a bit vulnerable in this situation in case they are aggressive. But itís Dave and his daughter Joanna and they are wonderfully hospitable and friendly.
He pulls a beer from the esky and pours me a cold coke in a chilled glass. We chat about the great season. His stock are fat and shiny and sleek. Best season theyíve had in umpteen years. Heís pleased to have watched me land, much more interesting than the cricket, which is best not mentioned. When he notices my shaking hands (adrenaline, tiredness Ė Iíve been in the air only 3 hrs but most of that time was hard work), he presses on me another cold drink. Lovely, hey? I see Ralph low on the end of the little range; unless he finds something he will be landing nearby and indeed he drops below the treeline.
Then Greg radios. Heís picked up Geoff and Ralph so I pass Dave the radio and he gives instructions into the paddock before popping back to his house where some friends have arrived. Heís promised to be back but he might possibly think Iím slightly loopy because although we chatted pleasantly, I was bursting for a pee, so I was a bit distracted. I take the opportunity to dash behind a tree while heís away and, when he returns, along with Geoff, Ralph, Birgit & Greg, I wonder if he notices Iím making more sense than before?
That kind of hospitality is icing on the cake, a real highlight and later that week, on the way home, as thanks and positive PR, we drop a six pack of Coopers Sparkling into Daveís letterbox with a note.
So once again our whole team has gotten out of the start circle for good flights. Brigitte has had another excellent launch and landing; Keith is enjoying the Sting. Mark is in goal Ė again! My one landing with Crossy is clearly an aberration: he, along with Migs and Pap, have reached goal again. Martinís landed near Birgit and Dave G is just past Clack-Clack.
My flight computer tells me I had maximum climbs of about 6m/s, averaging 3.6m/s. That sounds better.
Here is the gun team on launch:
Martin & Dave G
Turnpoint Distance Direction Observation zone
ELLIOT 12.4km 105į Cylinder R=5.0km
MTMITA 10.9km 292į Cylinder R=400m
TOWONG 11.2km 077į Cylinder R=400m
ELLIOT 6.6km 187į Cylinder R=400m
KHANCO 12.4km 105į Cylinder R=1000m
I hear that yesterday the inversion was about at launch level with cold and warm gusts coming through as the layers mixed and reformed. I was lucky to have launched when I did. Nice to think it was pure skill but, other than deciding to launch early, a good chunk of luck was thrown in.
A short task is called today because of the strong possibility of overdevelopment. I remember what happened last year; cells and thunder and lightning that struck just a few 100m from launch. Everyone on launch dropping to the ground at the *C-R-A-C-K* in perfect synchronicity, amazing to see Ė we are definitely creatures of instinct, much as weíd like to deny it!.
Brigitte understandably decides not to even head up the hill based on the forecast, but the South Australians all set up, except for Dave G who has a sixth sense about these things.
Tall Marge Simpsons start growing near Mitta. The task is short, but goes along the Mitta Range. I donít want to fly there, though several others later do with no issue, and the air on launch is dead and shaded. Strange clouds sweep across at height and mamma hang to the west. This is too many ďStopĒ signs for me and I pull battens.
19 other pilots elect not to fly; a couple who launch early get partway on course but no one makes goal and the vast majority including our SA guns land in the bombout. Steve Norman in his Atos makes it about 9ks and everyone else is short of that. This is an ungracious thing to say but, when you elect not to fly and you know you have not missed out on something epic, it greatly salves the pain!
But I should have remembered what happened last year when the day shut down early, only to come good right at the end of the afternoon, and Ralph had a lovely late flight. Today, the overdevelopment gradually weakens so conditions improve. Birgit, Ralph and a handful of others who are still set up decide to ďDive for PointsĒ: launching and going on glide for as far as possible with the aim to get out of the start circle and on course. The day is pretty much shut down but perfectly safe with no OD, so why not do this instead of a sleddie to the bombout or packing up on the hill, which is always disappointing?
Itís fun watching Birgit, Ralph and the others do this and differences in glide are very apparent (Ralphís Climax sail shows its age compared to the newer C4s; Birgitís MastR performs very creditably). Everyone glides outside the start circle, which is quite funny when you look at the points the next day.
Birgit and Ralph land in cow paddocks. The cows are very interested in them:
One of the cows was a bull but Ralph had not noticed.
Other pilots have had encounters with bulls, needing to hightail it out of paddocks, but our team strike only friendly ones.
As I watch launches, I consider my flights so far. Conditions have been much more difficult this year because of wet soil, soft thermals and inversions, so although I doubt Iíve flown as far as I did last year, I believe Iíve flown *better*. I feel as if Iíve flown better. Iím thinking more, and more strategically, during the flights. I feel more in control of the flight. Iím more actively looking for Ė and finding - other pilots and movement in the trees and grass to indicate thermals. I still often lose thermals when they weaken up high because I start looking at the views, but thatís not something Iím fussed about: the views are worth it!
Another difference from last year is that Iím no longer worried about my landings. They may not be as elegant as Iíd like but I no longer expect to bend or even bruise anything, even in nil wind or tall grass, and Iím now very comfortable with the Litesport so I know I can put it down exactly where I want it, which was not always the case. So Iím spending less time thinking about and scoping out huge flat paddocks, and Iím more comfortable with smaller ones (as long as theyíre sloping so I wonít fly into a fence). Because I donít need to spend as much time thinking about landing options, I have more time to think about staying up!
And in fact thatís the third and probably biggest difference. For the first time here, when Iím standing on launch about to go, I now confidently, genuinely, deeply expect to get up. I donít expect to bomb out. This is partly due to the Litesport, whose sweet handling and (ahem, usually) flat glide means I can persevere with scraps on spines and still reach safe LZs, but itís also because Iím more confident of my thermalling skills: after another season from South Australiaís measly 500í hills, Mt Elliotís 2,000agl is HUGE! Think Up get Up is true, but Iíve never been able to make myself think that way, as others seem to be able to. For me, such confidences evolve through experience.
So itís all good stuff. Iím happy.
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Corryong Days 5, 6 & 7
Wed Jan 19, 2011 2:00 pm
[ Mood: Happy ]
Turnpoint Distance Direction Observation zone
ELLIOT 13.7km 254į Cylinder R=5.0km
JINGEL 37.4km 318į Cylinder R=400m
CUDGWE 32.3km 175į Cylinder R=400m
CLCCLC 9.0km 086į Cylinder R=1000m
Weíve all realised that conditions are tougher than theyíve been in recent years, but today the sky looks awesome, big fat cuís popping easily over ranges and valleys alike.
The floaters have a task to Mitta TP (western end of the range) and then to Towong. The open have a task to Jingellic, a long way to the NW, then S to Cudgewa and east to clack-clack.
Another fun task around the valleys and ridges, with lots of options. I canít wait! I can do this! I feel good about landing in the valleys now, in these light winds. I might get to see a whole bunch of new country!
I set up and fiddle with the VG. I check the other Litesports and realise that the luffline compensator position VG off is different on my wing (Litesport lufflines are attached to a compensator on the kingpost that lowers when you pull on the VG so the sail can flatten). Mine is jammed in place about halfway up. Aha! I spray gallons of silicone into the slot on the kingpost and pull the VG on and off lots of times. Amazing, itís working! So before, when I had been pulling on the VG, the lufflines werenít lowering! No wonder the nose dropped and the bar position was past my chest at trim! Hooray, Iíve solved the problem! Belatedly, yes, but at least itís done! Litesport owners should probably make a mental note.
Geoff and I go late, but I canít remember why. Not conditions on launch because the sky looked fantastic; probably the open queue built too fast for us to get into it. In any case, we go soon after the ordered launch and once again we thermal up together to about 7500 over launch. I spot pilots on Mitta but they donít seem to be doing as brilliantly as the sky would suggest. And now around us there are pilots who have launched ages before Ė Iím sure I see Migs and Pap - who have reappeared from somewhere.
In any case, Geoff and I go on glide across the valley to the Mitta range. The VG fix, I see, instantly makes a huge difference. I pull on a couple metres, the bar position is fine and I try to match the speed to fly closely, though with this much VG I donít like to slow up as much as it suggests. I am 100s of feet higher than Geoff by the time we reach the other side, even though he started slightly higher than me. Geoff canít get his STF arrow to appear on his vario for some weird reason; even though weíve set our instruments with the same parameters. Itís very odd and one of the joys (not) of technology. So itís either my VG+ speed to fly are working properly now, or I was lucky to find a better line because it certainly felt buoyant. When I reach Mitta Iím still high Ė critically, higher than the inversion, so when I find something, Iím able to use it.
Fat friendly cuís pop along the range, just this side of the valley, and my thermal drifts southish towards them. Several other pilots are already there Ė excellent, maybe itís Pap and Migs?
First time Iíve been so high over the Mitta Range with lots of time to look along it as well as into the bowl-shaped cleared valley cupped in its centre. A couple of pilots in the bowl are low, working hard, but donít seem to be getting up. Further west someone is slowly climbing. Geoff is working his butt off over the pines and maintaining but I suspect heís below the inversion and it will be hard to break through.
Iím close to base now, pull on VG and head to the slowly climbing pilot in the bowl and yes, I snag his thermal but it isnít terrific. Circle up for a while and then head out to the hot rocks. Someone is working it but they arenít doing so well, and thereís not a blip on my vario. Just then I hear from Birgit, reminding me to use the clouds, and this is perfect timing, because although no clouds hang over the hot rocks and range, a line of them pop along the centre of the valley. This is totally counter intuitive but Iím still high enough for me to use them, so against my instincts I zoom to the middle of the valley for half a dozen turns. Way below me, two huge flocks of white cockatoos take flight, swirling against the green backdrop Ė beautiful, like looking down at a school of fish! I drink in the sightÖ and lose the thermal.
Checking my tracklog later, it seems that I should have searched for and stuck with the weak lift but I am impatient and figure there will be something better on the ridge to the north. When will I learn, sheesh?!? Someone is circling there low, Iíll join them, but this is a bad decision Ė impatience tends to lead to bad decisions, doesnít it?
I do get a few turns up the spine but once again I leave it for the higher ground of Pine Mountain, a dark hulk to the north. I see someone circling low just to the east of Pine mountain, in a narrow valley.
Iím flying over rugged country within glide of open paddocks, so Iím OK. Itís interesting, because thatís something I now take for granted, but when I had less confidence in assessing glide angle I wouldnít even have headed out over this country. Now though, even with sink, I know Iíd reach a safe LZ. So many small things combine to improve your enjoyment of flying, donít they, and none of them can be rushed. At least not for me, YMMV.
I reach the southern end of the mountain at ridge height and Iím too low to fly directly up the spine Iíd hoped would be wicking thermals, so I need to either divert west to a flattish open valley on the sunny side of the mountain, or east into the valley on the shaded side, where Iíd seen someone getting up before. I look for roads and canít see any nearby in the western valley, but a clear track in the eastern one. Yes, yes, obvious in hindsight, did I say SUNNY side of mountain vs SHADY side of mountain? Helen, Helen, Helen!
Oh well. The pilot scratching has gotten up; so I scrabble along the edge and below the ridge, and snag something. But itís extremely unpleasant. Itís a thermal, no wind, but it feels more like mechanical turbulence. Iím definitely going up but then I cop yet another sharp hard slap and it is enough for me, Iím below ridge height, I donít have thousands of feet of air below me, so Iím outta there. I always regret leaving thermals like this when I end up on the ground, but the next day at the briefing another pilot said that they had never felt as close to tumbling as they did yesterday in strange air near Mitta, and Geoff has gone weightless by the pines. Perhaps something to do with the inversion? So okay, perhaps a good call after all. My instincts are probably better than I think they are!
The Pine Mountain Creek valley is quite narrow but tree-dotted sloping paddocks lie either side of the creekline, as well as small flat paddocks. A powerline runs along the creek, of all places. I decide against the flat paddock Iíd initially chosen because it is small; I canít tell if itís slightly sloping and the wind is so light I canít pick direction Ė I could run out of paddock if itís sloping or thereís any downwind. So up the hillside it is, nexto those squarish green patches, directly above the glider in the shot:
Marginally steeper than I expect and I come in base alongside the powerline then final square at the face. Flare, bump, inelegant but nose doesnít touch, same kind of landing again! But Iím very happy with it, because I put it down exactly where I wanted. Yay!
A big hot carry back across the creek with harness then glider in two stages, and my sneakers fill with cow mud across the creek but never mind, Iíve packed my thongs and itís shady and cool packing up under the trees by the road. The view up the valley is gorgeous, soft green grass underfoot, Iím amazed again at just how awesome it is that I have just flown in that very space in the V of the valley, like a bird:
Once again, Greg arrives before Iíve even finished packing up.
Birgit has made it to Mitta and gone down there along with many other pilots; many, many donít get out of the start circle. Geoff ends up sliding off the eastern end of Mitta and Ralph makes it just past Walwa and is waiting for us at the cemetery. Ralph often manages to find interesting retrieve locations and this is one of them. Five pilots including Crossy make goal, Dave G lands a km or two away in the SUNNY valley Iíd rejected on the western side of Pine Mountain and yes, a road exists; but all the other SA pilots have fallen victim to the inversion and land along the Mitta range. Keith however has finally had a decent flight in his Sting3, and loves it.
So what does my flight computer think about my efforts? Iíve been in the air about an hour and forty minutes and this in itself isnít bad considering the trickiness of conditions. Max climbs of about 6m/s. An excellent takeoff, a good landing, a fun flight over beautiful, beautiful country in air that was clearly challenging. My VG worked! Iím happy!
Turnpoint Distance Direction Observation zone
ELLIOT 9.4km 201į Cylinder R=5.0km
THOWGL 15.0km 207į Cylinder R=400m
ELLIOT 15.0km 027į Cylinder R=400m
KANGCK 9.4km 201į Cylinder R=1000m
Ha, boiled lollies to broken bickies is what this sportís all about, isnít it?
The conditions that had looked so epic didnít deliver yesterday but, today, even the promise isnít borne out by the view from launch. Perfectly safe, but sheets and sheets of high level grey. No cuís popping below them; launch is in shade and no cycles come up the face. It reminds me of one of our notorious easterly (stable) sites in SA, Razorback.
Pilots set up desultorily: no one is in a rush because early is clearly not the time to launch. Maybe the sky will open up later?
A task is called that looks like fun and, yay, itís to another place I havenít been: Thowgla, nestled high in a little valley beyond Kangaroo Creek, then back along the Elliot range to launch, and out again to Kangaroo Creek. It seems like a fun ridge race and there should be pilots dotted all the way along and back to help.
Still, no one launches. Pilots RiverDance to entice the skygods to cooperate but no luck (not actually surprising if you had seen it). Even the eye-popping vision of High Pants Hughbert & Friends doesnít help but then thatís also not so surprising:
Hughbert entertains with a very good pirate joke (Arrrrr!) and Toby, in his wing impersonating an umbrella on launch waiting for a few knots to come up the face, tells us his fly dropping six inches joke.
Toby and his umbrella:
Paulie shows off his package. There is something very unfortunate about lycra and leg loops. Hours pass (not with Paulie showing off his package, though horribly it seemed that way, just hours waiting for something, anything).
Conditions are not improving. Here's Keith, waiting:
Finally, pilots begin launching because the alternative is packing up on the hill. Launches are under 3-4 kts, often nil. All are excellent Ė good strong runs without jackrabbit starts, with lengthening strides often all the way to the flags. Iím impressed and clearly Stuieís nagging and naming and shaming (in the nicest possible way) of dodgy launchers each year is sinking in. Everyone runs hard and gets off cleanly Ė very nicely done, better than many Iíve seen in vids of AAA footlaunch comps. Thumbs Up everyone!
I havenít launched the Litesport in nil wind before. Martin points out itís no different than a nilwind sleddie at Tunk, but it is AFAIC because here it can suddenly come over the back as you are two steps into your run. Not good. Iíve been launching when itís light, but only when the flags down the slope AND the trees are also moving slightly; that way however light it is where Iím standing, Iíll at least be running into good air. Logically, then, if I stick to this method, nilwind should be OK. My secondhand Skorpion harness (thanks, Blenky!) is easier to run in than my old Moyes Flex. But I definitely need a damn good long run because Iím at the top of the weight range for the Litesport3, so stall speed is high.
Interestingly, though Iím at the top of the weight range in the Litesport3 Iíve had no problems climbing out with others; this surprised me last year too, so it is a nice lifty little wing. Itís lighter to handle than a bigger wing in the air and less tiring. When I get hit by rough air on final, it responds so I can get it back into the wind. When I fly it in stronger conditions on the coast, Iím grateful for my wingloading. When I was first considering wing size some told me I would be better off on the 4, on which I would be light, and there would have been advantages in climb certainly, but now after two years of flying the 3 Iím very confident that I made the right choice. I prefer safety & handling over climb. Of course it comes in at Mach10 in nilwind, but Iíve learned its flare window reasonably well if not perfectly, so thatís OK too. I know everyone loves their own wing to bits, and thinks itís better than all the others out there. The Litesport handles beautifully but it handles like a topless, not a floater; Malibus, Stings, Falcons and Funs are hands down easier to fly and new pilots shouldnít ever believe anyone who says their topless ďhandles like a floaterĒ.
Another significant issue is the physical weight of my lotsa carbon Litesport Ė 26.5 kg. For men who easily lift a 38+kg glider, a few savings in kilos makes no difference. But when the weight of a wing is close to your maximum lifting strength, a few kilos makes a huge difference, and this is the case for many of us women. I can load my L3 onto our high 4WD by myself, whereas I had a LOT of trouble loading the Shark which was just 6 kg heavier. Gerolf told Kathryn that even for highly competitive female HG pilots, itís not about racing to goal, but about getting there consistently. Our smaller wings are less efficient and our lighter weight means weíre slower than the boys anyway. So getting the fastest tuned all carbon topless is not necessarily the answer. Birgit is enjoying her tiny MastR 12.5, whereas Brigitte has a Sport2 135 to fly when she is ready. Birgitís MastR is even lighter than my Litesport. And Jamie Shelden recently completed a 318km task at Forbes in her Litesport4! But I digress.
Itís the end of the day so I might as well fly down. The flags and trees are moving, launch marshall says good to go and run run run run down the hill, ease out and nicely away Ė Iím pleased (and I get a good launch lollipop prize the next day).
But I find zip on my way to the LZ until as Iím over the road a little bubble teases. Steve Norman in his Atos is circling nearby as are two other pilots but we are all at only a few hundred feet and it will get crowded with a whole bunch of us suddenly coming in at once, so pull in for speed, flare, bump! Geoff comes in nicely, Birgit ditto. Definitely more tidily than me.
A disappointing day for flying Ė only 10 pilots get out of the start circle with one making 18km, 24 in the bombout and 14 who elect not to fly. Mark gets to floater goal, a very short one straight to Khancoban airport Ė well done!
Still, the day has been fun with the usual shenanigans on the hill. Life is too short to get annoyed when weather gods tease us, and when you have friendly laughing good people all around.
Day 7, 08/01/2011
Turnpoint Distance Direction Observation zone
ELLIOT 9.4km 201į Cylinder R=5.0km
THOWGL 15.0km 207į Cylinder R=400m
ELLIOT 15.0km 027į Cylinder R=400m
KANGCK 9.4km 201į Cylinder R=1000m
No, thatís not a mistake, we have the exact same task as yesterday seeing as no one made it but oh, what a difference a day makes! Thereís the possibility of OD today but right now the clouds already look fantastic.
Still tricky though. Launch timing will be crucial because of the varying cloud cover. Weíll get definite sink and lift cycles as the shade covers the valley or sunshine breaks through. So I elect to go in the Open launch again, because conditions are not bad now and if I get right at the front of the line things will hopefully not have become too shaded.
And indeed, they do not. Geoff is right behind me in the queue. Martin is launching early too, just ahead of me. He goes left in something, but it does not look great and so when I launch I pull the VG immediately and head straight across to the right and the bare spine, where a few pilots are circling low and maintaining. I luck into their thermal higher than them as it runs up the spine, but the quality is patchy. Quite a distinct difference in the cores today, which are small and punchy and snaky, so that you think you must have it when the vario screams for three circles all the way around, and then suddenly it is completely gone, so you have to hunt again.
Geoff and I climb out in the same thermal along with a few others, but Iíve been lucky to catch it at the right time with plenty of height, whereas those who launch or join it later have to work a lot harder to get up. Geoff is a bit below me and the thermal has drifted towards the back of the bowl by the powerlines, no worries for me but a bit challenging if youíre lower, and have to assess every turn, not least because of the nature of todayís thermals.
Itís really tricky getting up today so I concentrate hard and it pays off, and Iím at 5700í, with Geoff a little below. But Iím not going to make the same mistake and wait around this time, because itís getting more shaded everywhere and things might soon shut down. Big cuís dot the Elliot ridge all the way to Thowgla and the ridge itself is sunny but I donít know how long it will last. I radio Greg & Geoff that Iím going on glide and zoom off with my nice functioning VG. I notice a bit of radio chatter Ė another team must have taken up our Channel but I ignore it. Iím wrong actually, and wonder why Geoff & Greg & Birgit & Ralph all ignore me, but donít discover this until Iíve landed and taken the radio out of my harness and see that sometime between my radio check in the launch queue (all fine) and launch I have switched channels! In any case, I happily and conscientiously broadcast my position to everyone but Greg and my team for the next hour and three quarters! Nice that the other team didnít tell me to shut up!
Off we go. A pilot is turning near Kangaroo Creek, maybe Alasdair. I reach him and do a few turns but canít seem to nail it and soon Iím low enough to unzip. But then I spot a nice bare brown spine with moving trees Ė excellent! I head for it and a punchy wriggling little snake of a thing meets me in the bowl and zigzags over the spine and back again. Itís here, there, everywhere and nowhere! Iím so low I have to check each turn for clearance from trees, with lots extra thrown in for safety because of the up-and-down air. But I bank it right up and work my little butt off, climbing, climbing back to ridge height then all of a sudden it is gone and back down I go to my original level. s***!
Oh but wait, there it is again! Iím drenched in sweat inside my speedsleeves. I tell myself aloud to forget the heat, just bloody concentrate for once, on every single turn and to watch that averager and keep looking for it even if it goes to zeroesÖ and then finally climbing up, and up, Yay! I did it!!!!!! I zip up again with a massive grin on my face; I might even have woo-hoooíd aloud!
Clouds are building on the southern shady side of the ridge. Another pilot is right underneath one and high, but I prefer to skirt the edges. The lift isnít as good here of course, more broken up, but Iím okay with that. Plus there are safe small wispies popping further out.
I reward myself with the wonderful view because Iím high enough to enjoy it. Dark, thick tall forest here Ėcool and lush looking from this height, but I know from down on the spine that itís hot and dry. The clouds are beautiful too today, a whole second landscape to appreciate.
Another pilot is climbing on the courseline just the other side of Kangaroo Creek. Geoff is behind me and lowish; I think I spot him and tell him about the spine; itís the same place he got up last year. I head off, slowing to top up in a few broken little bits along the way, indicated by moving trees. For me the thermals today are by far the trickiest of the week to core, but Iím doing well. Itís a real challenge and Iím having a great time. Interestingly, no one seems to be behind me on course or catching up as Iíd expected and when I peer back Elliot launch is engulfed by shade. Later I gather that a whole bunch of guns went down in the ordered launch, so again, it was a good decision to launch very early as we did. Sort of.
I jump across Kangaroo Creek to the next spine Ė this is new territory! Ė losing very little height. Burble along in the bubbles along the ridge still quite high. Weíve been told to get to Thowgla high because landing options in the narrow valley are limited, so stop to top up before jumping out to a little cluster of houses nestled in a beautiful little valley that looks as if it belongs in a story book.
I fly with my Compeo+ on the downtube but use a Garmin 72 on the basebar for navigation; the Compeo has the GPS function but I donít like to switch pages in the air, fiddling around with instruments settings while flying is a surefire way for me to lose a thermal, although I have used one function a couple of times this week to refind a thermal. When I get close to a TP, I zoom in on it with the Garmin so I can see Iíve gone inside the circle. I also set my circle at 370m instead of 400. Iím not racing with the hot shots where every second counts and even a 200m radius would make no difference. Beep goes my GPS, and yes, Iím inside the circle.
I read recently of someone who zooms in on his Garmin screen and sets interval to 10 seconds, to help find lost thermals. Iím not sure if I could do that; the little arrow on the Compeo and nos are hard enough to read already! But it might be worth a try.
I jump back to my hillside and the shade is catching up. Ahead of me, the valley is shaded plus the ridge, with a little sunny remnant on the southwestern and sourtheastern sides of Kangaroo Creek Valley. I go for sw and yes, there is something, very broken and weak, and becoming more shaded even as I turn. But the other side of the valley faces northwest, and the bare bits of dirt have only just become shady. Maybe something left there?
There is, itís weak, I do a few turns as I hopscotch along the spine but no, it is all shutting down so I glide out, pausing to circle in something pathetic but itís not going to happen and, flare, bump, nilwind and slightly downhill nexto the main road!
What a great day! Yeeehaaaa!
Just then I spot another pilot coming in; itís Chainsaw, and he lands exactly like me, which is companionable of him. Not 5 minutes later we watch two more pilots dropping like flies out of the sky on the other side of the road, and a couple more further back towards Kangaroo Creek; one of them is Geoff. But only someone with wings that flap could stay up in this, at least for now.
But ironically by the time I have finished packing up, the day has turned on a boomer and just gets better and better. Massive clouds grow fast with plenty of sunshine, and I gather a whole bunch of guns have reflights; some launching at 6pm or later and still making goal!
Still, Iím stoked! Iíve had a great flight and done lots and lots of things well today.
Greg arrives when Iíve only just started packing up so he gets Geoff first, and they come back for me. We give Chainsaw a lift too. Birgit is a few km down the road and as we help her pack up we spot a pilot coming towards us in the middle of the valley. Whatís he doing out there, surely the lift is on the sunny ridges? But no, itís Crossy and he gives us a wave. He has made goal and is now flying back to the rest of his team!
The other SA pilots have varying success depending on when they flew and whether they have reflights Ė Miguel and Dave G make goal. Itís quite surreal watching pilots still at cloudbase at 6.30pm as we drive into town! Mark has reached the floater goal yet again Ė he had come into goal high and decided to keep going! Brigitte also flew today, another good launch and landing for her.
I have had a fantastic time, my most fun and best year here. I feel totally in the right place mentally and attitudinally. I have my goals but they are realistic, and at long last I can honestly say that this week I did not let the goals of others define my own enjoyment and assessment of my flying. Iím very clear about what I want from my flying Ė to enjoy where Iím at, to enjoy the journey, the views and the growth. If that growth is not meteoric like some of the guns, then so be it.
This time, when Iím on the ground early and see other pilots flying over me, I no longer beat myself up or think Iím a crap pilot. Iíve maybe had bad conditions, bad luck, or flown less well than I would have liked, but this one day, no matter how many bad decisions Iíve made, does not define me as a pilot. I have many hours, only a small proportion of which are XC, and thatís OK. I can look at the daily scores and see the positives there, without the negatives, though anyone else looking at my placings might wonder (http://www.soaringspot.com/corcup2011/results/)!
The flying was trickier this year but Iíve improved my placing significantly from previous years, which corroborates my sense of having flown better. I feel at a very deep level that Iím doing exactly the right thing for me, and that my decisionmaking is getting better all the time.
And when I compare my experiences here in 2009, Iím quite amazed at how much Iíve learned: http://www.hanggliding.org/weblog.php?w=78&month=2&year=2009&day=4
No doubt many XC competition pilots will be completely mystified or even horrified by my approach. A brush with breast cancer a few years ago changed my priorities, but itís more than that. Some pilots like my friend Kathryn thrive on competition, and blossom under its influence, but competition is fun for me only when I can retain my own goals and not let them be subsumed by arbitrary goals Ė like reaching goal. Always I have to remember: why do I fly? For fun, for challenge, for the views, for the personal growth. If my own goals are my genuine priorities, then the rest will follow. Iím afraid that striving for points is not on that priority list and who is to tell me I should do otherwise (well, actually, many people, but I no longer listen to them!). If I ask myself, Did I have fun? Did I do something new or better today? and the answer is yes to any or either, then Iím happy.
There are those special moments Ė and Iíve had several this week Ė where you think, Wow! How incredibly lucky am I to be able to do this? When you think about what we do Ė fly, using just the natural air currents, it is a breathtakingly awesome thing, the dream of so many people who have lived before us, available just in this short few decades of all history. Geoff also hugely enjoyed the flying here this week, and seen improvements. Yep, we are bloody lucky buggers.
What could I do better? Many things, of course!
Pay attention to glider glitches like jammed VG Ė near enough is nowhere near good enough and potentially dangerous. Ignoring it was stupid.
Stick with zeroes for longer, be more patient and not leave weak lift with the expectation there is something better, unless I can see someone close by going up in something better.
Be more flexible in my decisionmaking Ė if conditions change, change my plans. This is something I struggle with.
Donít hang about over launch, just go!
Concentrate hard to get up in tricky thermals, but donít worry about losing them for good reasons (like spectacular views) when high.
Bank up more when thermalling with another pilot.
Become more adept at speed to fly. Pay more attention to the numbers on my gadgets because they are there to help when I need them most!
Drink more water, more often. Drink at the top of every thermal as well as on glide.
Finetune that flare!
Itís all good. We will definitely be back next yearÖ but maybe, if thereís a skills clinic at Forbes beforehand, we might go there first for a change of scenery!
Posted By: hiflioz 3 Comments (Post your comment)
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Fabulous Flying in the Highlands of Oz
Sat Apr 10, 2010 5:12 pm
[ Mood: Happy ]
Well, where do I start? Perhaps with a pic to whet your appetite:
Oli (or one of the guns) above Talbingo.
Tough choice this Easter: Mt Beauty Fly-in or Birchip with the Vicsí familiar faces, or a new option: the Tumut trike, HG, PG & pico gathering in the highlands of NSW with the Canberra & Sydney mob, new country and new sites?
I love flying new sites and meeting new pilots, and Geoff didnít mind where we went as long as we flew, so Tumut it was. I rang to find out the format: mentoring for new pilots (by world-class pilots Curt Warren and Conrad Loten), camping accommodation at the airstrip for $10/head Ė yes, thatís a ridiculous $2.50 a night for use of clubrooms, kitchen, cold room, toilets and showers Ė workshops, mainly footlaunch but also aerotowing for those who were rated, and mellow autumn conditions.
It's a 12 hour drive from Adelaide across plains showing blessed hints of green after a decade of drought; we stop at a mateís place near Wagga on Thursday arvo and pick stinky cooked locusts out of our radiator grill. Yuck!
A more pleasant aroma is dinner of homemade pizzas in GCís homebuilt oven Ė delicious. He has a few mates come round and itís a congenial evening:
The next morning, we hoof it across the last hour and a half to Tumut.
Tumut is a logging town as well as a tourist hub for folk entering snow country. Nestled alongside the Tumut river (fun to kayak) and surrounded by mountains, the region is gradually becoming yuppified: undulating grasslands in the valley around the river are dotted with statement mansions guarded by clipped hedges, shouldering aside old farmhouses and their towering elms and poplars.
The airport is a few clicks N of town and we turn into a gum-studded mown patch right next to the strip Ė perfect. Plenty of tents set up already, and gliders on cars. Peter A and his family joined us for dinner one evening before heading to Sydney, and Iíve included some of his pics. Here are a couple:
Anyway, we figure in light mellow conditions nothing much will be happening before noon, and that weíll pitch the tent and catch up with everyone before heading to the hill.
Wrong! Everyone is leaving in FIVE MINUTEís time! Aaaarrrggghhhh!
Quick, quick, chuck out the esky, tent, chairs, swag, unload kayak, dump a tarp over, scrabble for radios (charged, thankfully), jump back flustered and rushed into the car. Well, as anyone who knows us would guess, Iím flustered while Geoffís his usual laid-back self. He marks Tumut airstrip on our GPSes mere seconds before we join the convoy, heading to Honeysuckle. On the way, I think about all the things I donít have ready (GPS batteries, camelback and water, spare radio), but they are in the back of the car so they will just have to wait.
Instead, like any pilots driving through country they may soon be flying over, I check out hills as well as landing options. We pass through a few steepish areas with smallish paddocks that Iíd find OK in the Malibu and challenging in the Litesport. I see plenty of power lines but luckily few of them are the almost-invisible SWER ones so common in SA. Best of all, many of the undulating paddocks are of reasonable size with nice gentle slopes Ė good for landing in L&V conditions in either glider.
We pause at the base of the launch ridge and the LZ paddocks are good here too. Curt and Conrad point out various landing options - there are plenty to choose from - to the new pilots, many of whom have never flown inland and/or XC before. They set up a streamer in the friendliest paddock and describe alternative landing approaches:
The three amigos Ė Blenky, Migs and Jonno arrive even later than us and join the convoy at the LZ, but Mark D is already here (oddly, Iíve flown with Mark more interstate than Iíve in SA!). So six South Australians Ė not bad!
I explain we havenít had time to organise carpooling but Curt waves this aside: ďJust fly, worry about cars later.Ē Excellent!
The Honeysuckle Range faces W or NW and is maybe 1100 feet above the bombout (Iíll check my GPS later). HG launch is atop the barest spur to the right of the pic, PG launch one or two spines further over:
In these light conditions the ridge wonít be soarable but fat cuís are popping. Yum! We wind up the spine and around the back, then splash along a muddy track as pine branches swat the gliders on the racks, before weíre out front on the grass and prickles (the pale stuff isn't dried grass but prickles!)
The shortish ramp is benign with beaut views:
You can see the lie of the land, with hills separated by undulating paddocks and small creeks and drainage lines. Even the lowest launches here are many times the height of those in my home state (except perhaps Razorback) and, with this much air to play in, I reckon I can stay up at least a while if there are thermals to be had. The cuís look promising.
Everyone hurries to set up. I choose the Malibu because Iím feeling a bit rushed and rattled; Iíve had no time to get my head around this place or orient myself even to the extent Iím not sure where N is, and there's awful lot of things to get ready. My new Icom 41S is recalcitrant, as is Blenkyís. Together we search the manual without luck. Actually, the buttons & function menu in the 41S radio and layout of the manual are both extremely counter-intuitive, a real PITA, and during the weekend several other pilots make the same observation. With few pilots at home in SA, tone squelch isnít necessary, but here the constant chatter in the air on open channels makes ts much more important. I finally give up on the Icom and tuck a switched-off spare into the harness. Iíve a phone and reception is good, so no worries.
Those big fat cuís might look inviting but of course one of them has decided to set up just to the NW between launch and the sun, and we and the face are in shade. New pilot Alex is on launch raring to go with a short queue behind himÖ and he waits, and waits, and waits as the stubborn cu in the wrong place keeps building. The air is dead, scarcely a puff comes up the hill.
Finally the sun emerges and the air, as Curt might say, starts to breathe again. Alex launches. He hooks into a good one and very soon another bunch are off, including Migs on his orange C4 and Kathryn, flying the proto Malibu 166 I hope to try this weekend (as it turns out though, thereís no point as Iím advised not to fly it in a training harness without a chute. But the training harness I use for gooning and coastal mucking about weighs about a kilo (ie hook in under 70kg), the XC inland harness with all gear about 12kg, and I wonít get an accurate picture of handling with the latter. Bummer, though Kathryn is thrilled to fly the Malibu every day!).
Almost everyone gets up, climbing and climbing together in a big thermal. From launch, Curt and Conrad radio the new pilots with advice.
A column of gliders in a nearby thermal is a mouth-watering sight when youíre about to launch, isnít it? Iím in my harness and ready to go but alas, thereís a pause in the cycles and, when the second half of us begin to launch, conditions have changed and the bottom of that thermal - or any other so it seems! - is no longer working; many of the pilots have already gone on glide. Oh well. The country is truly beautiful Ė itís such a change to fly over so much lush greenery instead of brown dust or dry crops! The air even smells different here!
I manage about 45 minutes or so, but my camera doesnít get any in-air use because Iím quite busy working the bubbles, dropping to half ridge height before scrabbling back up again to a few hundred feet above the ridge where I invariably lose the column. I do this four or five times and Iím not the only one. I see no other pilots getting up and many faring much the same as me. Iím surprised to spot Geoff low but later learn his vario had packed it in so he actually did darn well! Blenky, who had been helping another pilot fix a VG problem, is finally able to launch but even he doesnít manage to get too far, so conditions are definitely fickle.
When I see Geoff heading out to land I pop over to a sunny bump across the road in the hope of liftÖ nah, no luck. A nice no-stepper and I join the (many) others in the LZ. Nevertheless Iím feeling pretty stoked, and retrieving the car turns out to be straightforward as pilots are still travelling up and down the hill. Itís a good start to the weekend!
That evening, Migs is bursting with news of his banner flight, getting back to the airport and then boating around thousands of feet up, drinking in the sight of the kayaks on the river, the town, the countryside. ďI suddenly realised I had plenty of time, I wasnít racing, I didnít need to go anywhere, and I could just enjoy the view!Ē
New pilot Alex, first off, was rewarded with a flight past Bald Hill and well towards the airport. Kathryn flew the little Malibu to the same spot and raved about the gliderís handling. She's convinced me and an order will be going in next week Ė finally my clapped out 800+ hr Falcon1 170 that Iíve been flying for 10 years and Geoff has been sharing for 5 can be retired!
I had our dinner in the esky but this first night thereís also a barbeque with yummy salads for everyone for a small fee and most pilots avail themselves of this. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming. This day and the next three I meet many new faces including several Andrews, two Daves, two Steves and two Michaels, and give lifts or catch rides with several of them and others too, so please forgive me if I misname you in this report, not least because I never got to hear surnames! And of course I get to greet a few familiar faces like Nic and Wazza from Corryong.
Starts with a workshop at 8.30am for the new pilots. I hear bits and pieces of several workshops over the next few days Ė thermalling skills, clouds, early competition strategy as well as Q&A. Curt runs the session but Scott Barrett and Conrad often chime in with their .02c Ė the bits I heard were hugely informative for new pilots. In fact, the mentoring I see over the whole weekend is outstanding and Iíd say to SAís newer pilots, if you donít go towing at Birchip next year and mentoring is happening again at Tumut, I can't recommend this fly-in highly enough. It really is THAT good. Conditions at Tumut are mellow in autumn, hills are high, you just need a harness & chute, radio and vario, plus reasonably solid launch and landing skills.
Organiser Michael Porter provides the pilot briefing at 10am each morning. There is some discussion about Talbingo, but numbers arenít sufficient for Michael, the key-bearer, to come out, so Bald Hill is the go for all.
We head out, giving a ride to Andrew and his rigid wing. Our pizza mate GC from near Wagga has joined us too for a night or possibly two. GC grew up in and worked, hiked, skied, kayaked and camped this entire region and knows the highlands intimately.
Bald Hill launch is reached via a tortuous maze of tracks and about seven gates, and there are magnificent 360 degree views yet again. The hill is a bump surrounded by lower country and several nice launches but, IMO, the NE bowl is not one of them. A U-shaped narrow bowl with long spurs forming the arms of the U, itís euphemistically referred to as a ďtechnicalĒ launch. With a consistent prevailing breeze of about 10-12 kts crossing from the right over one spur, and a reasonable glide out to the LZ over lots of trees in the gully, the launch doesnít inspire me. It will likely be a bit trashy down low if the wind direction is anything but straight in. Hit sink or rotor and you mightnít clear the trees in a floater; youíd need to choose your path carefully along the windward side or crest of the downwind spur or maybe stick to the back of the bowl if itís working (it isnít). Iíd seen some nice sloping paddocks and more good LZs around the corner to the right in the valley, but a couple of the closest ones are studded with big stumps. Hmmm.
So Conrad launches first in a SS wing to check the air and works what turns out to be a bit of a weak house thermal at the end of the spine to the left (another develops on the end of the RHS spur). He climbs out after a while and boats around for the rest of the day. Slowly pilots start setting up and begin to launch in dribs and drabs, pretty much one at a time, separated by gaps of twenty minutes or more.
Jonno and Migs with Mark D behind.
I donít take my glider off the car. Many who launch certainly have enjoyable flights and a few reach the airport; others grovel a while before bombing. Everyone launches and lands safely, including the newest pilots. Conditions improve as the day progresses Ė the prevailing drops as the cycles increase in strength and frequency and the direction squares up. Blenky dribbles off around the corner and disappears below launch height but makes it back to the airport; I think Migs does as well. Still, itís quite late Ė probably a good 4 hours since we arrived - when Curt suggests that any of the (many) pilots still on the hill who want to launch had better do so soon before the winds switch. I donít and, rather to my surprise, neither does Geoff.
That night, I think a lot about my decision not to fly. Had I talked myself into it and locked myself in, or was I carefully evaluating and changing my decision to match changing conditions? After all, conditions *did* improve. If the day had been booming and it looked as if Iíd be up and away quickly, Iíd likely have made a different decision.
I was uncomfortable with the site, not for vague indefinable feelings but for specific, rational reasons. And yet the validity of those reasons appeared to diminish with each safe and successful flight. If inexperienced pilots could do this, then logically so could I. Was I being overly cautious? Probably, but if Iíd been on launch alone, assessing its characteristics, I definitely would not have launched, especially initially with crossing winds and weak cycles. So should I change my mind after watching other pilots launch? At which point? After 10? 100? Or should I trust my own assessment? Possibly not, because I donít have enough experience specific to inland mountains like this. Is the information Iím feeding into my decision-making process as I watch other pilots launch valid, or is it simply peer pressure?
Whatever, Iím guessing others had doubts too because there was definitely no rush of pilots to launch Ė on the contrary Ėeven though good flights were had. Some got to the front and stepped aside for a while to let others go first. That dribbly desultory pattern of launching, especially when it includes pilots whom you know are experienced and confident, suggests to me that there are good reasons to think carefully on such days. Perhaps the day isnít especially good, or good yet, or perhaps thereís an issue with the site. This isnít a comp and so even experienced competitive pilots will behave differently without the pressure to launch at a certain time. However, when I return here next year, this day of watching other pilots launch and fly this site will have become part of my own experience of the area.
The next day Conrad comes round the tents and says they definitely wonít go back to that NE bowl at Bald Hill but will instead head to Corryong Ė another great site some two hours away, where Geoff and I had spent a week in January Ė terrific fun, but we have more toys to use! Some pilots choose aerotow Ė Blenky aims to fly to Corryong:
Kathryn aerotowed the lovely little aqua Malibu 166
However, we decide to head to Talbingo dam for a paddle with our mate GC whoís brought his kayak too. Talbingo is mentioned at the briefing but itís too late, weíve loaded the boat by then and too many of the advanced-rated pilots have already made other plans or left so the numbers arenít there. Tomorrow then.
Talbingoís a neat little town nestled high in the heart of the Snowy hydro scheme with its chain of dams. As we drive to the boat ramp we check various LZs and the tangle of powerlines Ė as youíd imagine in a hydro power vicinity there are plenty, but most of them are BIG and easy to spot.
We look up at launch from the road Ė spectacular. This pic is taken about halfway up between the town and launch. If you squint you can just see the fire tower. Launches are to the right of the notch and tower. It looked very high, veryÖ well, big:
Not for us today though. Weather is mild, light winds, ideal for paddling and we make our way into a fern-lined tributary for lunch. Plenty of fishos trolling on Talbingo for whatever swims in these cold waters Ė pilots with a tinnie and rods at home might want to bring them. There is certainly plenty to do here beyond flying Ė we will bring our pushbikes next time to try some beaut circuits along the smaller roads around Tumut. A few skiers carve up the water but Blowering immediately downriver is the preferred place for watersports and Talbingo is huge, so we have lovely flat conditions. Itís delightfully peaceful and quiet.
Cracker biscuits and cheese for lunch; took the pic with my phone which has great reception but few pixels.
A fat cu sits atop Talbingo launch all day and, as we paddle back, I spot two hangies and a PG in the air; later we drive past them landed at Talbingo township and Blowering Dam which is quite low, leaving plenty of pleasant grassy slopes for landing all along its length.
We hear that night that lots of pilots had good flights at Corryong, so more happy smiling faces around the campfire. Conditions are forecast to be even lighter tomorrowÖ maybe finally TalbingoÖ?
Forecast is light and variable and Talbingo is on the cards, but we make sure we will have the numbers this time *before* the briefing. Yes, itís happening!!!! Yaaaayyy!!!! A big thank you to Michael Porter for organising the permissions required to have this closed site in a National Park openedÖ just for this one weekend a year!
Disappointingly, although Geoff has fulfilled all the practical requirements of an advanced rating and has 250+ hours and certainly the skills to launch anywhere I can and then some, he hasnít done the paperwork and the requirement - at this fly-in at least - is advanced-rated pilots only at Talbingo. Normally we fly together but this time the opportunity is too unique for me to miss, so while he heads off to Argalon, I hop in with GC and Michael (aka 0skydog on Youtube Ė Iím waiting for the vid, Michael!).
Argalon comes on and Geoff forgets to take a picture from the top but takes a couple later when picking up Mark Dís car:
For SA pilots, Geoff reckons Argalon is like Barn Hill without the rocks and three times as high (itís about 1500í above the bombout!) Lovely rounded takeoff and often comes on reliably in the afternoon when the sun heats the face and the NWlies flow up the valley. Here is a vid of the site that gives you a good idea of the takeoff & LZ:
After an hour or soís flight in bubbles Geoff nails it literally on the spotlanding coneÖ but a yearís membership of Stanwell Park is not really something he can use, lol!
In the meantime, the Talbingo pilots meet in the township before travelling up to launch through a locked gate (Michael P has the key) in three cars with three drivers, Steve, GC & Penny. We have about 10 pilots, including several guns like Oli and SB, and all HG except for Michael P.
Butterflies of nervous anticipation frolic in my stomach. Iíve brought both gliders up and will choose my weapon when I stand on launch; Iím expecting it to be a bit intimidating and, depending on the nature of takeoff, I want the best glider for the safest launch and flight.
We arrive andÖ itís exhilarating. Stupendous. Step out of the car into the crisp alpine air, cross the spongy snowgrass, duck under snowgum branches and then we are standing on Ozís highest official launch: 4,500+ft amsl and more than a km above the LZ in the township below. The view comprises dark mountains, blue dams and snaking rivers, while over the range float cuís clichťd as cotton balls, and oh boy, Iíve never stood on a launch like this.
I guess pilots who have flown in Europe or the US mountains would be used to such launches, but Oz is pretty flat (Mt Kosciusko, our highest mountain, is just 7,310') and this site is unique. Iíve stood on our higher unofficial launch and it is special in its own way with alpine forest and snowgrass fields as far as the eye can see except for a small square of cleared ground belowÖ but that LZ is also quite high, as is the surrounding country. Here, you stand on launch and the view is as if you are already way up in the air.
Someone said to me the previous day, why bother launching from Talbingo when you might as well fly there from the airport? Well, apart from the rather major issue of skill and ability to do so (!), I think that one of the most exhilarating moments as a pilot, the most flyingest flying, is that second or two when your feet first leave the ground. You run, you are on land, and then suddenly you are in the air. The transition highlights the magic of flight and it never fails to thrill me, even at little sites like Ochre where Iíve had literally thousands of flights. I still think, wow, we are SO lucky to be able to do this!
There are two HG launches. One is a true cliff launch where I figure you poke your nose over the edge, take two steps in a light cycle and dive off. We all consider it thoughtfully, before Michael P says, ďThereís also the Ramp of Death, if you want to see it?Ē
Oli and a couple others begin to set up but the rest of us follow Michael 50m down the track to where someone has built a ramp of stones extending out along a tiny spur, or knob really. A length of mesh pool fencing is to one side, ready to be laid over the top and tied down. I instantly realise that Iím comfortable with this launch, with this ramp, with these conditions, and that the Litesport is the most appropriate glider to get the most out of such a big site with long glides. A strong launch will see me instantly in open air, well away from the hill. Iím nervous, yes, but excitement is by far the dominant emotion. It is completely different to the day at Bald Hill and, although the launch here is far more intimidating, paradoxically Iím utterly confident of my ability to fly here safely. Strange, hey?
THE RAMP OF DEATH
We set up our gliders in the rather cramped area:
One little kingpost amongst all the toplesses!
Pilots donít talk much, and I reckon Iím not the only one with a bit of nervous excitement swirling inside! Oli and his mates are in the air, buzzing launch and ripping it up and yelling down, ďWhat are you waiting for?!Ē
Well nothing, and soon we are ready. Unlike the day at Bald Hill, we launch in very quick succession Ė we are all eager to get off, and we will be able to help each other in the air. A big thank you to Steve for holding the nose wires for me Ė the glider was yawing a bit on the ramp and having someone there was a big help in a practical sense as well as a confidence booster.
In any case, itís not a launch to hang around on and Iím third or fourth away. Within 20 seconds I assess the puff, check the streamer, balance the wings, yell clear and Iím diving off in a great launch. YEEEHAAAAAA!!!!!
I head right, massive cliffs looming beside me, out to the spur where Iíd watched Oli and the others getting up. For the next half hour or more, I work that spur. My zip cord is caught but Iíll deal with it later, Iím too busy working little bubbles. I get three or four turns in each one and just as Iím thinking theyíre about to develop into something good, they disappear, and I must hunt around for them again! Around me others are doing exactly the same and although of course the guns like SB & Oli are much more efficient in climbing, Iím certainly not dropping out.
Iím right at the top end of the weight range of the Litesport3 but, as happened at Corryong, control over the glider and being able to hook it straight into lift without being turned away pretty much makes up for the higher wing loading. Nor is it as tiring as I would in a LS4. Itís a great glider and although there are a few minor lumps and bumps itís mellow air. Iím completely comfortable and feel a big grin spreading across my face. This is wonderful stuff, just wonderful!
Some pilots have gone off on glide but they do not seem to be getting much and I see a couple heading out low over the township. By now, almost everyone has launched and we are working disparate bubbles rather than really coring any one thermal.
Then SB, Migs and quite a few others head off on glide across the gap to the next west-facing spur. Iím a bit lower than the others and do a few extra turns. When I head off, Iím amazed at SBís speed and glide. I can see by looking that his glide is significantly flatter than everyone elseís, either through glider tuning or flying skill or harness or all of them. Thereís no way I can keep up in my glider (as I prefer, tuned for handling, not speed) and my boxy old Flex harness with all its strings, so I donít even try, sorting out my zip and enjoying the spectacular views. Michael 0skydog is with me, a bit higher. Iíve my camera but Iíve completely forgotten about using it, Iím too much in the moment.
I arrive at the next spur quite a bit lower than the others Ė Iíve probably flown too slowly (I havenít yet sorted out my new Compeo and donít want the complication of new instruments in a flight like this). Migs, SB and the others have the height to duck deeper into the valley where hot rocks are facing into the sun, but Iím too low to go that far in and instead chase a ratty little scrap at the end of the spine. Iíve checked landing options Ė there are plenty all the way along the river and Blowering, within glide now and if I continue along the ridge.
The scrap is not developing into anything and Iím very slowly losing height; time to try my luck along the ridge. Nix, zip, nada, nil. Damn! But still, just look at the river, snaking across the valley, and Blowering silver in the sun! Wow, just wow!
I fly a bit further, over the heavy transmission lines, but itís time to start setting up a landing. A perfect huge wide inviting slope right there beside the dam calls to me and I come in hot over the water, lovely landing, YAY!
I get out of the harness, radio GC my location and look around. My heart is full, this flight is up there with the best in a decade of flying. Iíve been up maybe an hour and a half? Iíve flown, what, 10km? Who cares about numbers, they are completely irrelevant. The sights and emotions of this flight are keepers.
Five minutes later a pilot joins me. I point the wind direction and Andrew lands. Another five minutes later, Michael skydog arrives, and Jonno, and finally Migs, who works zeroes over the water for a while before coming down. I hear that quite a few pilots, including some of the guns, are back a stretch or even back in town, so I need not feel my skills have in any way let me down. Conditions werenít easy and I did just fine.
In the LZ the mood is ebullient, for everyone has been blown away by this magnificent site. Mig is shouting with excitement! We pack up with much laughter and fun and good vibes. What a day, what a day, what a day.
Posted By: hiflioz 6 Comments (Post your comment)
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Thu Feb 11, 2010 1:48 am
[ Mood: Happy ]
Geoff and I had a wonderful four week flying holiday this Xmas just gone. Quite a few sites in NSW & Queensland, as well as inland Victoria. We were blessed with lots of fabulous flying days: so many that the bikes and sit-on-top kayak sulked in the car for much of the trip!
One of the most stunning sites we flew was Teewah Beach. We'd visited a few years previously but the winds weren't cooperating then, but our timing was much better this time.
Teewah is a 40km long (yes, you read correctly: that's FORTY KM!!) dune/beach SE coastal site immediately south of its famed NE neighbour, Rainbow Beach. A rocky point separates the two sites. You need a decently grunty 4WD to get around the corner at low tide. Our Mazda Bravo is a bit middle of the range for grunt and we decided against even trying. Not that it mattered, as it turned out: we were too busy flying!
The entire area is National Park, so it's extremely sensitive and it's really important that everyone do the right thing before flying either site and to DEFINITELY contact the local Sunshine Coast HG Club - many contacts are listed for PG or HG in the Soaring magazine & online (go to the HGFA website and search for Clubs). For Oz members, a handy tip for a flying holiday in Oz, is to tuck the latest copy of Soarass mag with its local club listings into the car for contacts for wherever you happen to be.
David Cookman is the local HG instructor, who teaches via towing off Teewah, as well as at Rainbow. And for PG, of course there's Jean-Luc or club President Geoff Cole. Visitor membership is only a few bucks and you will be getting your money's worth! Most importantly, by getting the local info you won't stuff up this wonderful site for the locals. Everyone was really helpful and welcoming - Cookie even went as far as giving us weather reports for the days when he was working ("Looks like another cracker," he told us glumly).
Geoff and I had flown Rainbow a few years earlier and were amazed by the sweet gentle lift and crystal water of the region. But although Carlo Sandblow is toplandable, the number of student PGers there when we flew made it impractical and too busy to have multiple flights or touchngoes.
Teewah, OTOH, can be launched via tow on the beach if Cookie is teaching, or via a sweaty ten minute carry up some steps and along a path to the ramp. The ramp isn't suitable for PGs and I'm not sure that they fly Teewah at all; when Geoff and I were there on weekdays we had 40km of sky to ourselves (well, us and the white-bellied sea eagles, brahminy kites and ospreys, plus various other raptors - great stuff!).
Anyway, we got in touch with Cookie regarding the weather ("promising") and decided it'd be worth camping a few days to see what happened. You need a park permit and I think it was about $10 a night to bush camp - not much, anyway. You go across on the ferry, then onto the beach... with its 80km/hr speedlimit! This is not as crazy as it sounds - the beach is as wide as a highway at low tide. Here's me landing one day - no chance of running into the water even in nil!
You need a 4wd, not just for the beach itself but for the access points, many of which were blocked by low clearance 4wds driven by teenagers or inexperienced city folk, bogged in the deep sand. We bought a compressor for this trip so we could deflate and reinflate the tires and had no problems whatsoever.
It was quite funny listening to the crusty fishermen waiting to get on (or off) the beach: "Yaaarrr, that idiot in the ute, he decided to stop halfway up and take a bloody photo!" (roll of eyes). "Damn kids come up at about 5km/hr and wonder why they stopped, eh?" We helped push out two bogged vehicles at two access routes, but there were more cars bogged beyond that! So we drove onwards and found the best (ie CLEAR!) access route: the third most southerly one. Finally, we were on the beach.
It's essential to be aware of the tide times here and plan your drive - there's a spectacular gallery of pain in the Rainbow Beach shop with literally hundreds of 4wds come to grief, crushed on rocks, canting and filled with seawater, or half-buried in sand. National Parks hand you a weather and tide forecast when you buy your permit, so really there's no excuse!
Camping is permitted on the Teewah foredune under the trees along certain sections which I presume are rotated to spell them. While we were there, camping was prohibited for the first fifteen km, then allowed for about 10kms and then prohibited for the remainder. Little tracks allow you to drive up off the beach. Portapotties are recommended. Someone drives past each day with ice, water and a few other basics for sale. There's phone reception on the beach, at least for NextG.
Here's Geoff relaxing with a beer after a 35km one-way flight:
The ramp is at the southern end of the beach at about 100 feet but the dunes increase to about 300' and up to 450' further north.
Here's a pic of the ramp:
You can see how the dunes kick up higher a little further north. Further south, behind the photographer, the dunes drop away too low for conventional soaring (maybe OK for gooning).
However, the "front" 100' tree-covered dune is a perfect shape and the beach slopes gently upwards making for excellent lift in even extremely light conditions.
Geoff and I were there early after checking weather conditions with Cookie. He explained the maximum cross the ramp would take, and also that it gets very rotory when conditions freshen.
Here's a pic, looking south from the ramp:
There's really only room to set up one glider at a time on the ramp itself. Having a helper is useful so you can set up flat and not need to turn the wing in a tight space. The rails lift up and you lean then up against the back. Cookie asked us to remember to put them back at the end of the day.
But strong winds weren't a problem for us - it was extremely light, maybe eight knots, no windlines, let alone whitecaps, in sight. We sat on the ramp for an hour or two, and the wind incrementally increased. Direction was bang-on. Geoff thought it was flyable, I was doubtful, but we decided to give it a go in the "big" wing, on which I'm light. We carried up, set up and I launched.
It was touch and go for a moment but then I reached the higher, steeper section and zoom up I went - awesome! Views of the lakes over the back, rainforest below (many areas burnt by one irresponsible camper), that swell of cicada song, stingrays in the water, great stuff.
Here is the view over the back:
I'll let the pics tell the story but it was wonderful just flying on and on past what the eye can see in the hazy sea air:
The first day I went about 15ks then, remembering Geoff waiting at the ramp for his turn, came back and landed below the ramp. Here's a view looking south:
It had freshened a bit by the time we'd set up the second time and Geoff went straight up. We'd agreed that I'd follow/precede him up the beach in the car and find a camp spot some 30km away, and that he'd then land there.
Chasing Geoff down the beach:
And waiting for him to catch up:
It was a lot of fun. Here he is landing at our campsite:
The next day was lightish again, perhaps a few kts more, but significantly more cross. It'd be tricky. We'd carried up both gliders and it was Geoff's turn to go first in the big one. It was a little yawy on the ramp and a hand behind the sidewire was helpful. Geoff did a great launch and disappeared around the corner, and I began setting up the Falcon. I looked up a few times but couldn't spot him, although the ramp location means that you are out of sight unless the pilot is very high. I finished setting up with the glider flat and bugger, there was Geoff walking back along the beach. He came up to help me launch.
THe wind had straightened up a fraction but was still very tail for that first pass. Conditions weren't as smooth as the day before so I needed a bit of extra speed over the trees and I maintained and then slowly climbed. Phew! I headed down and flew 35kms down the beach, then all the way back again. It was awesome. Thew views, the birdlife, the balmy air, the sweet lift - just fantastic. I love XC flying, but coastal flying like this is a gift of its own.
I hit a few tricky gaps to cross at the northern end, and I stopped before crossing the biggest one - I didn't want to drop out with Geoff no doubt waiting for another go back at the ramp! besides, after a couple of hours in the training harness, my back was begging for respite. I landed back at the bottom of the ramp, totally buggered.
Geoff was as restrained as possible but he was champing at the bit so after a drink and rest, we carried up the big wing and set up for him to have another crack. This time, off he went no worries. Here he is, coming in to land (another raptor, a white-bellied sea eagle this time, in the pic, maybe looking like a flyspeck at this resolution - I've never shot so many raptors in so many pics, withourt even trying!).
THe next day was on there yet again, but we were both so tired from the day before (the flying, plus the unfamiliar humidity) that we decided to head south.
Teewah is a banner site, the equal of iconic sites like Stanwell and Eaglehawk, and the flights I had there were diamond keepers, the sort you remember forever.
Posted By: hiflioz 6 Comments (Post your comment)
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