Monday, June 27, 2011

Cannon Mountain

I fear my flying has turned into an addiction.  According to Wikipedia, addiction is a continued involvement with a substance or activity despite the negative consequences associated with it".  I have been nursing a sore shoulder for two months that started with overuse due to flying.  My doctor says it should heal itself if I let it rest for 4 to 6 weeks.  Even though I knew better, I somehow found myself standing on launch again yesterday instead of "resting".

It started yesterday morning with my habitual review of the day's weather.  Even though I wasn't going to fly, I posted on the local flying forum that it looked good for flying, especially at Cannon Mountain.  Moments later Greg called wondering if I was going to fly Cannon.  I politely, and honestly, told him I probably would not.  Somewhere between the following email, phone, and text conversations with John, JJ, and Greg, I "found" myself committed to another day of flying.  ;-)

We were late getting started so I dashed around the house tossing equipment together before hitting the road to pick up John in Chelmsford and JJ in Manchester.  The clouds west of Concord towards Mount Ascutney were enticing but any thoughts of carrying equipment into to launch quickly suppressed any idea of flying there.  I explained the details of flying at Cannon during our drive north to JJ and John since neither had flown there before.  After looking at the bail-out LZs at the bottom, John was tentative about flying and JJ decided to pass.  Neither were being weenies; everyone avoids landing there like the plague.

We loaded our gliders onto the tramway and enjoyed the comfy scenic ride up.  Dan, Dave, and Greg were ready to launch when we arrived.  The wind was blowing from the NW instead of the desired NNE, but was still blowing in nicely at times.  I quickly rigged as they slowly launched.  Dan and Greg climbed above launch, but Dave had a long glide to the airport LZ 3 miles (4.8 km) away.

I finished rigging, took a few pictures, and moved to launch.



I ran off the flower covered ski slope and took a few turns in light bubbles before heading away from the mountain and the undesirable LZs below.  I started the long sled ride to the airport but bumped into a weak climb that slowly lifted me up as I drifted back towards the ski area.

The little thermal turned into a strong climb over the mountain and quickly shot me to base at 7000 feet (2100 m).

View to the northeast

Mount Lafayette across the notch from Cannon

View to the south; launch in lower right corner

I relaxed once I didn't have to worry about landing below the mountain.  Flying at cloud base also helped!

View north

Dan, Greg, John, and I joined up in a strong climb at the mouth of the notch and glided west in hopes of crossing into the Connecticut River valley.



We played around, but weak climbs, lack of LZs, a moderate headwind, and the lowering sun made it tough to go anywhere.  Eventually we landed at the airport in nearly calm wind.  JJ showed up shortly afterwards with the car after hiking down the mountain.  Thanks JJ!

Update: JJ wrote about the trip as well on his blog.

Flights: 1, Duration: 1:19

Monday, June 20, 2011

Into the Haze

Peter J and John B met at my place Thursday morning before carpooling in Peter's truck to West Rutland Vermont.  Al and Greg greeted us when we arrived at the bottom.  Al decided not to fly but offered to drive the truck down, so we tossed Greg's glider on top, hopped in, and drove up to launch.

Sam and Tim were getting ready to launch when we arrived.  Sam's paraglider wasn't that interesting, but Tim's pristine vintage Fledge III ET was another matter.

Check out the wires!

It was a beauty in the air.

PK showed up as we rigged and waited for clouds to develop overhead.  We planned to fly to the southeast to the Rutland airport and then east-southeast across the Green Mountains.  It is a challenging course due to limited landing areas, higher peaks, and conflicting wind needs.  (The launch faces southwest but west-northwest would be ideal for the crossing.)

PK launched first within our group.  He slowly ascended so I stepped up to launch next.  Although PK said he was sinking I ran off into a smooth cycle and slowly floated above the ridge line as Greg got ready to launch.

Greg on launch

Allen posted some raw footage of the the launches and flying.

The three of us climbed out as Peter and John cruised the ridge below.

I was immediately ready to start our journey with a glide to a developing cloud on course to the airport, but Greg and PK wanted to fly back to the ridge to get higher and join up with John and Peter.  I didn't think it was a good idea, but stayed with the group.

PK was soon at ridge height while Greg and I worked a few thermals overhead.  I pushed forward to a forming wispy and was rewarded with a strong climb back to 6300 feet (1920 m) that Greg missed.  I floated around the valley for awhile until I joined PK in a climb downwind of the ridge.  We finally started heading for the airport but the clouds were fading as the wind and haze increased.

It was difficult to make forward progress as we drifted northeast with every climb.   We finally settled into a healthy thermal over Rutland that lifted us to 7400 feet (2250 m).

Greg made a long gutsy glide into the bottom of that thermal and climbed out as well.

I finally tossed in the towel after I realized it took us 5 climbs to just cross the valley, the clouds were gone, the wind was still increasing from the southwest, and my shoulder was starting to bother me.  I slowly glided off my altitude and landed next to the taxi-way at the airport.  A short while later PK and Greg joined me and we broke down on a nice lawn.

We arrived back at the mountain as John and Peter were breaking down after flying for hours along the ridge.


Flights: 1, Duration: 1:59, Distance: 9 miles

Friday, June 10, 2011

East Coast Championship - Day 6

We had our sixth flying day in row at the East Coast Championship today.  The forecast indicated showers and/or thunderstorms would develop late in the day, so the task committee selected a 59.2 km out-and-back for the open class and a small 35.9 km triangle for the sport class.  We also used earlier launch and start times.

The initial climbs in the 5 km start circle were weak but consistent.  Most of the field took the first start time. I had a great start with Larry, but decided to glide down the west side of the Choptank River while he chose the east side.  He and Paris hit a strong climb while the rest of us suffered with weak and broken lift as we drifted off course line to the west.

I got stuck low at the first turn point.  I cobbled together a couple climbs until Christian marked a good climb that lifted us high enough to venture upwind.  I became ultraconservative as I watched Christian, Jim, JD, and Charlie land below.  Mauricio turned back to join me in the anemic thermal that became my new home.

We spent a long, long, long time slowly climbing as the sky over-developed, cleared out, and then started filling with inviting cumulus again.  Our persistence paid off as we slowly clawed our way up to a newly forming cloud.  From there, we flew back home to goal.

Mauricio at goal!

Rich won the day, humiliating the rest of the field!


(The task committee is a big fan of Rich after he presented some home-brew beer to the committee as thanks for our attempt to call acceptable tasks.)

Brian, Nick, Randy, and I drove into Denton for dinner this evening. After a good meal the Public House Restaurant and Pub, we walked through a car show on main street.

The scores are available on Soaring Spot.

Flights: 1, Duration: 3:29, Distance: 36.8 miles

Thursday, June 09, 2011

East Coast Championship - Day 5

We agonized over the conflicting weather predictions during the task committee meeting this morning.  It was given it would be uncomfortably hot (100+ F, 38+ C) and humid.  The weather models we use predicted sunny skies, weak lift, and relatively low top of climbs.  However, they differed on the direction and strength of the wind.  The wind might vary in speed from a leisurely 10 mph (16 k/h) to a brisk 26 mph (42 k/h).  We also had limited course selections with the wind direction.  We finally decided on a 78.7 km (49 mile) triangle for the open class and a 34.7 km (22 mile) downwind task for the sport class.

Miraculously cumulus started forming as we cooled off in the pool before launching.  We were even more surprised when we burst through into cooler air and climbed to 6000 feet (1800 m).  I prepared to take the first start so I could complete as much of the course as possible before the wind scoured away the thermals and made it impossible to make progress upwind.  I was in a good position but turned back afraid the improving conditions would make it easier later.  Most of the other pilots made the same decision and turned back at the second start as well.  Finally I glided back to catch the next start time and headed out on course.

It was an easy and fun downwind trip to the first turn point where I took a few photos.

The joyride ended at the first turn point as we swung around into the increasing wind.

I made my second major mistake of the day when I made a short turn away from course line to a cloud building over a small town after gaining 1000 feet (300 m) over most of the lead gaggle on a long glide.  The cloud and the climb dissipated before I got there which put me at the bottom of the stack of the next climb the gaggle found.  I got pinched off from the lead pilots and then made my third major mistake of the day.  Instead of taking the altitude I had and pushing forward, I drifted back in a couple weak climbs with a few other pilots hoping the climb would increase with altitude.  They didn't and I ended up landing short of the second turn point which I could have easily reached when I first arrived.

I finally faced up to reality and pushed forward into the strong wind.  I landed in a bean field next to a major road and broke down my glider in the corner of Townsend Yerkes front yard.

Tyler and Townsend

Townsend and his son Tyler were very gracious to their uninvited guest.  I packed up and waited for Linda and the gang to show up.

I had an enjoyable day of flying but was disappointed in my strategic decision making process.  I "know" what the right thing to do is, but have trouble following through.  Oh well, live and hopefully learn!

Randy completed the sport class task and went on to land at the beach.  How cool is that on a hot day?

The results are available on Soaring Spot.

Flights: 1, Duration: 3:18, Distance: 30 miles

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

East Coast Championship - Day 4

Hazy, hot, and humid.  Official heat warnings.  No clouds, little predicted lift, and low top of climbs.

In spite of the dismal looking forecasts we called a downwind and crosswind task and had a fun day with roughly half of the open class pilots at goal 63.9 km (39.7 miles) away.  Once again we were slow getting started.  I was on tow when the alarm on my flight computer beeped telling me the first start window was open.

Adam towed me upwind of the field into stable air.  A couple pilots were getting ready to land and the only other action around was a gaggle barely in reach downwind.  I bet the farm and made a no-return glide to the gaggle.  Not only did I connect with the climb but I somehow worked my way to the top.

We conservatively picked our way along the course line towards the first turn point.  Paris impressed everyone with his extended low save spread across two large fields.  Once around the turn point we flew into the convergence line and picked up a favorable tail wind.  I snapped some pictures along the coast.

We landed at a nice airfield that has a building that looks like a space ship!


I could have been more efficient, but I didn't want to miss the good views.

Bob won the open class, while Nick won the sport class downwind task with a zig-zag at the end.

Flights: 1, Duration: 1:39, Distance: 39.7 miles

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

East Coast Championship - Day 3

The cool overcast days are gone as warm humid air started streaming in today on a brisk southwest wind.  A trough dragged high cirrus overhead.  We struggled with competing weather forecasts but settled on a 82.4 km (51.2 mile) three-legged task to the northeast, to the southeast, then to the east southeast.  The sport class had 34.1 km (21.1 mile) task to northeast and then to the east southeast.

It was tough getting pilots motivated as the wind and cirrus increased and the tow pilots reported scarce lift.  We finally stepped up and started launching about 30 minutes before the start time, making it possible to drift through the first 2:00 10 km start gate.

My tow was active until April and I got above the ground turbulence and then had smooth tow under the milky sky.  I had used most of my altitude searching for a climb before stumbling into a weak climb that I essentially rode to the start circle.

It was a tough flying day as the wind speed and direction shift with altitude shredded the sparse thermals.  I shared several nice climbs with friends until a long glide into the wind left me low over a large corn field where I landed with Jim and Mark.



Paris won the day in the open class and Randy won the sport class.  The scores are available on Soaring Spot.

Flights: 1, Duration: 1:02, Distance: 19.8 miles

Monday, June 06, 2011

East Coast Championship - Day 2

Some days flying comes naturally and I easily cruise through the sky; other days nothing seems to work and I stumble through the air.  Today I amazingly stumbled all the way to goal.

Highland Aerosports at Ridgely MD

The open class had a 99.6 km (62 mile) rectangle task while the sports class had 42.5 km (26 mile) downwind task.  The wind was from the northeast.

I launched early to avoid any possible problems associated with towing in a cross wind.  The tow and air was pleasant.  I took pictures and played in the air with the other competitors.

I had a good start with about half of the field.  I was moving along fine until I missed a climb while only a tiny distance below two other pilots.  I floundered there awhile before moving on and drifting past the 2nd turn point.  I said good bye to the pilots I was flying with as I drifted downwind over trees in the opposite direction of course.  I made up the deficit with a quick climb and continued to move well until I had a crappy glide while I tried to empty my bladder.  (I'm not talking water here!)  I followed that up with a wasted detour to a cloud off course line that didn't work.  I also discovered that my radio antenna was broken, meaning I could only talk with team mates when they were in the same thermal.

Despite all the humorous "issues", I was doing OK until I started the last leg of the course.  I struggled to find climbs as the clouds and other pilots disappeared.  I kept getting low and didn't see anyone in front or behind me.  I assumed the "race" was over and I just needed to tip-toe into goal.

By the way, I need to apologize to my feathered friends the vultures.  I have recently spread rumors they are clumsy and weak-minded fliers.  I was "educated" today when a vulture interrupted my landing approach by jumping out of a tree line to mark a good thermal.  I climbed in that thermal as other vultures joined me and my new buddy.  They showed me stronger cores while I was content with my original climb.  I formally apologize.  These birds are true aviation masters.

I took my time getting into goal, only to discover there were pilots behind me that also made it in.  I gave up 100 points climbing in a weak thermal since I assumed no one else would come in after me.  Sigh.

It was a good day with many tired and happy pilots at goal.

Larry likes his glider

Paris won the day for the open class, while Brian won the sport class.

Flights: 1, Duration: 4:45, Distance: 62 miles

Sunday, June 05, 2011

East Coast Championship - Day 1

The thunder, lightning, and rain helped me fall asleep last night and the overcast skies allowed me to sleep in a bit longer than normal.  It was hard to imagine us flying when the protest, safety, and task committees were selected at the pilots meeting at 10 am.  Larry, Randy, and I were selected for the task committee.  Since Larry was not around, I asked Charlie and Paris to help out.  We ignored all but the most optimistic forecasts and tried to design tasks that also stayed out of controlled airspace to the southwest.

We decided on an out-and-back task to the west near the town of Wye Mills, for a distance of 37.7 km (23.4 miles) for the open class.  The sport class flew straight to Wye Mills for a distance of 18.9 km (11.7 miles).

We postponed the start 30 minutes when the skies didn't clear as predicted.

Randy and Jim

Mark Bolt launched soon after the altered launch window opened and flew a beautiful sledding path through the sky followed by a sweet landing back at the head of the line.  A short time later Paris launched and managed to hang on which started the real exodus of pilots.

I launched soon after, following April into the air in the "checkered taxi" tug.

At first the cumulus forming under the higher clouds were fuzzy, low (2800 feet / 850 m), and not well defined.  However they slowly started looking better and better as we pushed to the edge of the 5 km start circle.  I picked my way to the edge of the western convergence line and finally dove into the milky cloudless sky with Charlie.  We floundered a bit around the turn point, but once I made it back to the convergence line, about 1/4 of the way back, I started a long glide back to goal.

Mark Frutiger had a disappointing landing 800 meters short of goal after spending most of the day flying with us; we could easily see him from goal.  Bob, Larry and Rich, who launched late, did well since the day got better later.

The results are available online on Soaring Spot.

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:00, Distance: 23.4 miles