A tricky day today. The morning weather forecast made it sound simple: a weaker version of yesterday, with good conditions confined to the area south and west of home. There were some warning signs in the form of northeasterly winds and mid-level clouds intruding by mid-afternoon, but lift was predicted to stay good until 6:30pm. This proved optimistic – in reality we had lots of high and mid-level cloud, storms to dodge (or work the edges of, as you saw fit), and an early end to the day that made things very challenging for late finishers.
The trouble – in the form of high cloud shading the sun and virga in the northeast – showed itself early in the day, and there was some thought the tasks might be shortened, but this didn’t happen. Launches began at 12:30, and all classes were off on tough-looking area tasks. This at least had the effect that most pilots started fairly promptly.
Trouble continued with storms that developed in the south and southwest. Fortunately, they never grew beyond a “manageable” size, and all pilots were able to navigate around them, in some cases with significant detours, and in others by using storm-generated lift to make fast progress. Some pilots climbed to over 10,000’ in the best of this lift.
The march north got increasingly difficult, with thick high- and mid-level cloud shading the ground. For many, the final 70 km on the way home was done in “survival mode”, taking any available weak lift in conditions that looked as if none should soon be expected. Not all succeeded.
Two who did – and without much strain – were Kathy and Sylvia in Club class. They foresaw the weather trouble, started early, flew together and made good progress around the task. Like many, they arrived near home needing one last climb when these were becoming scarce. But they found a good one on hills to the north, promptly climbed to a comfortable height, and finished without difficulty.
Sarah had a final glide bordering on desperate. She found a weak climb about 60km out that gave about 1000’ less than she needed. Some promising hills on the route home, that often have lift late in the day, on this one now had next to nothing. At the final steering turnpoint, 23 km from the finish, she was some 500’ below what is reckoned to be the minimum necessary height, and it looked as if her chances of finishing were fading. But in dead air she somehow made this work, crossing the finish just slightly below the required minimum height (which incurs a small penalty). She gave some thought to a landing in the dry bed of Lake Keepit (a friendly option due to the current drought) but found she had just enough energy to make the runway and roll to a stop near her hangar.
We’ve been told that the online glider tracking for this contest is very popular, particularly in the USA. There’s no question it’s interesting – occasionally exciting – to watch the progress of the race as it happens. Against this is the undeniable fact that the strain of watching a desperate struggle like Sarah’s yesterday, while it’s happening, is extreme. We have a forecast of rain for tomorrow – I think I need a quiet day to recover a bit.