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Day 6 at Lake Keepit

Day 6 at Lake Keepit

A truly difficult day today.  Uncharacteristically, the weather forecast didn’t resemble the actual conditions.  Task A had gliders headed east, into the hills, where cloud bases were estimated to reach 13,000’.  But this never happened, and indeed by launch time the only clouds visible were some high ones to the north and some impending blowups to the southeast.  A task change was necessary, and the choice was not looking much easier: a 370-km task to Mt Kaputar (about 70 km northwest) then well to the south – into skies that were only starting to develop. 

Though the forecast was for light winds, in fact they were northerly and moderately strong.  This made the turnpoint at the peak of the mountain (4800 ft) a serious challenge.  A number of pilots got stuck there, low and downwind of the mountain.  This led to a desperate struggle to climb high enough to penetrate upwind and reach the peak.  For a couple of pilots, including Sylvia, it didn’t work and they landed (safely) in the low ground south of the mountain.  Sarah was among those who succeeded at last, at the cost of a good half hour.

About 300 km of flying remained, including a long upwind leg to return home from the south.  Conditions were variable – all pilots had some good climbs and some worrisome low struggles.  In the end, glider performance proved crucial on the upwind leg: none of the lower performance gliders were able to get home.  Included were Kathy and Sarah, who landed west of Lake Keepit after long struggles to stay aloft.  The key for most finishers was to connect with a convergence east of the course line that was the last place to find reasonable lift late in the day.

Sarah managed to reach the airport near the town of Gunnedah, and thus was eligible an aero retrieve. It was her second of the day, one at 7:30 am, the other at 7:30 pm.

Dinner was make-your-own pizza night at the home of Bob & Jan Dirks, just a few km from the airfield.  If there were an Australian hall of fame for the mechanically adept, Bob would likely be a member.  He is the go-to guy when something unusual needs to be fabricated or a difficult problem requires a clever solution.  His house and elegant shaded yard (in this area, a yard needs shade to be elegant) is the perfect place for a pizza party for dozens of hungry glider pilots and crews – not least because of his self-designed, wood-fired, outdoor pizza oven.

This formidable construction is large enough to pass for part of a steam locomotive, but in fact was carefully designed and built to bake bread – a dozen or so loaves at a time.  For pizza duties, he has installed a sort of lazy susan made of thick steel, on which sit eight pizza stones that cook eight pizzas at once.  Armed with a pizza peel, a flashlight, a thick oven-proof glove and much experience, Bob tended the oven all night, consistently turning out perfectly browned crusts.  The oven requires 7 or 8 minutes to do this, which is a short time when Bob is the entertainment. (If you seek long periods of silence or dull stories, Bob is probably not the man you want nearby).


  1. Ida Ruch January 6, 2019

    Thank you for sharing the events of the day. It is interesting to know what is going on and what the challenges are for the glider pilots.
    It sounds that the weather is giving plenty curve balls for the pilots. I am very glad to hear that Sarah and others had some success. That Pizza oven just sounds wonderful. Hopefully the remaining days will bring better weather condition. Best of luck to all.

  2. FRauke Elber January 8, 2019

    Maybe you should bring the design plans for that oven back and encourage the folks at New Castle International to build one next to their super-grill. Thanks John for the reports. Do you have any pictures too?

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