A good day today: unlike yesterday, better than the forecast. We were threatened with a trough invading from the southwest, overdevelopment to the east, a substantial fire not far northeast, high cloud, and other possible difficulties – but these stayed mostly clear of the task area until late in the day.
All pilots completed their 3-hour Area tasks and collectively achieved the best average speeds of the contest. Sarah had a very good day (374 km at 118 kph), finishing third, just one point out of second.
Lake Keepit has thus far delivered the kind of soaring conditions that the most optimistic would have hoped for: lots of heat, plenty of cumulus clouds with high bases (often reaching 9000’ above valley elevations), strong lift and thus excellent cross-country speeds. This is largely attributable to a serious drought currently plaguing much of eastern Australia.
The local lake gives stark evidence of this: it’s currently a huge, mostly dry depression filled with both grassy plains and extensive smooth dirt. At its lowest point lies a minor body of water, a few hundred acres in area and probably with a maximum depth not much more than 20 feet. Large number of pelicans are found here; presumably the remaining fish are still enough to keep them fed, and are likely easier to catch than when dispersed throughout a much larger body of water.
Farmers, ranchers and probably many others are no doubt hoping this drought will soon come to an end. Glider pilots are (quietly) hoping it continues.
I thought it might be interesting to note some of the things that soaring pilots do differently here:
- They consistently use low tow position (though they happily tolerate foreigners who prefer high tow).
- They use 3-strand twisted (aka “hawser-laid”) polypropylene towrope, not the hollow-braid that’s common in the US (and much easier to splice). This rope looks to be about 12mm in diameter, and thus extremely strong.
- A small but surprising fraction of wing and canopy covers are made of dark material. This seems especially curious in view of the extremely powerful solar radiation normal here.
- Every glider’s daily inspection must be recorded in the glider’s logbook.
- It appears somewhat uncommon to mount a fuse directly on a battery (whereas I believe this sensible idea is becoming common in the US).
- Thermaling turns near home are done to the right, the same direction as you turn after tow release. This seems more logical than the US standard of “turn right after tow release, but thermal left near home”.
- Despite sun, heat, wind and dust, essentially all gliders – even those with easy-to-use Cobra trailers – are left assembled (and only a few are in hangars) for the entire contest. Indeed, it’s looked on as a bit quirky to keep your trailer near your glider – you are expected to stash it in the designated trailer parking area.