2010 USA 18-Meter Class Nationals

Dave's Blog from Caesar Creek, Ohio

Last Update: Sunday, 27-June-2010


The Caesar Creek Gliding Club of South-East Ohio makes its home at the beautiful Caesar Creek airport, complete with trailer hangars, club house, camping area, and a lovely grass field. CCSC is our host for the USA 2010 18-meter nationals. In USA, we try to rotate each national contest across the country, amongst the few groups willing and able to host such an event. CCSC is both willing and able, with a great team of experienced contest staff in addition to a great facility. While Ohio weather is not usually confused with Uvalde Texas, we're expecting over 30 18-meter ships to participate...

I'm racing my Antares 20E electric-powered glider, flying with the 18-meter short wingtips (with the normal wingtips this glider has a 20-meter wingspan). I have got some practice this years, including flying as a guest at our Seniors contest in Florida with the short tips, and a bit of flying in New England. Our spring weather has not been kind to glider pilots, though I did manage one 440 mile flight in New England.

I drove the 850 miles from Boston in 13 hours, lucky not to encounter any big traffic delays. The last leg of the trip passed through many miles of soggy fields, with huge puddles of standing water and crops lower than normal for this time of year. As I drove to the airport Friday morning, you could already hear thunder in the distance, and indeed the weather radar showed big buildups nearby. Some of us traveling from long distances have arrived early: Pete Alexander from California, Ed Hollestelle from Canada, and Tom Kelly. I got registered, found an approved location for the trailer where I can plug in to recharge each night, and staked it down in case of high winds from storms...

Saturday June 12

The rain has started in earnest. Local forecast is 2 to 3 inches of rain, except in local areas where it will reach 4". There are flood warnings in effect but only a 40% chance of funnel clouds in the immediate vicinity. The long-range forecast shows clearing towards the end of next week. See Caesar Creek weather forecast from NWS.

Practice Day 1 - Sunday June 13

Early low overcast, lots of standing water, dirt washed onto the roads from yesterday's storms. We've been asked not to fly because the field is extremely wet. A bunch of additional pilots have splashed down at Caesar Creek: Jae Walker and crew Paul Weeden, the Sorensens, Bill Elliot, Monty and Corey Sullivan, Hank Nixon, Dale and Carmine Kramer, and I'm sure a few others.

Early afternoon the clouds looked not too bad, no storms during the day locally, and things are a bit drier. The NWS forecast still looks ugly for tomorrow but maybe we'll get in a quick practice task before the race starts Tuesday...

Practice Day 2 - Monday June 14

This morning I was awakened not by my alarm clock, but by heavy rain. It cleared for breakfast, field was a bit drier, and we had a limited practice task. Great to shake the rust off. I figured I should see the local area prior the first race day...

Self-launched after the grid, shut down the motor at 1400 ft in 2 knots - which promptly died after a couple turns. Did a circuit around the area, and did an air-start back up to 1700 ft. Eventually climbed up near cloudbase, and headed out. Promptly got low, sat in .6 knot drifting backwards, and eventually topped out - after drifting back into the start cylinder. OK, lets try this again, but this time with gusto. Headed out again, following and bouncing wisps, even got to the astonishing altitude of 2600ft AGL. Nose-bleed ! Break out the oxygen ! Got to the first turnpoint Hook, added on Dayton-Wright, dribbled back to Caesar Creek. Started to head out again, but came to my senses and landed and put it back in the trailer... Highest reported altitude today was about 2800ft AGL (but perhaps that was over a gully).

Dale Kramer and Gary Ittner landed out, as I think some others. I hoped to see the local area, but the visibility was so bad I didn't see much.

We're now listening to the rumbling thunder, waiting for the mandatory safety briefing this evening, then we're ready to race Tuesday !

Tuesday June 15 - Day 1 ?

Monday night, the drive back to the hotel was beautiful - cu-nims illuminated by lightening, fireflies everywhere, fog rising off the low-lying areas.You know that annoying "This is a test of the emergency broadcast system" you hear sometimes on the radio ? Last night was the first time I ever heard a real emergency broadcast, warning of severe thunderstorms in the area. "Stay inside and away from the windows". The deluge hit shortly after, with lots of lightning. On the local weather channel while the weatherman was showing the radar picture of the storms, a guy in blue jeans breathlessly ran in front of the camera - the local Jesus statue has been hit by lightening and burned ! This 6-story statue was built of foam and fiberglass, and the local fire official explained that anything constructed thus burns really fast when hit by lightning. Thanks for reminding those of us piloting fiberglass-over-foam aircraft ;-)

Tom Kelly briefed the weather this morning: the forecast lift tops may reach 3500 MSL around 4PM. Local elevations are around 1000 feet, so this is only 2500 AGL. Earlier in the afternoon will be lower. Lift strengths may be as much as 1.5 knots achieved. Temperatures are not rising as forecast. The airfield, and all the surrounding area, are extremely wet. We're holding, no gridding until at least 11:45...

OK, we did the drill: assembled, preflighted, dragged the gliders through the mud to the grid (not fun with my heavy toy), waited until 2PM, but the cloudbase wasn't above tow release altitude of 2k on task. Day scrubbed. A few took tows, a few less promptly fell down. I had adequate fun yesterday and put in back in the box. Oddly, its now blued out, with the next line of storms forecast for later this evening. National Weather Service has a flood watch on. Aaarrggggg....

Wednesday June 16 - Race Day 1

A late start and a muddy field but eventually beautiful skies, decent lift, and not too much wind. Linda sent us on a 2 hour area task upwind and then clockwise around the local area. First place I tried to get ready to start had a big blue hole on the first leg. Moved to the other side of the cylinder and climbed to around 4k MSL (3k above ground). Started after most of the fleet, and followed an energy line into the first area. I passed many of the fleet circling, took a few turns, but there was a street headed perfectly upwind to the back of the first turn area, so I quit circling and bounced along to the back of the first turn area.I lined up a wisp on the second leg prior turning, cruised to it, and according to plan it worked. Climbed up while drifting on course, then drove to meet a street heading down the third leg at the back of the second cylinder. So far so good. Follow the street down to the back of the third cylinder, planning to hit the top of the lift band then turn across the Big Blue Hole to the next lift. Unfortunately the street didn't work, and I ended up crossing low, and got low and shifted into survival mode, drifting downwind in weak lift. Took forever to get home ! Managed slowest speed, but didn't land out as a few did. Devalued short race day, but great to get to fly !

DJ won by following the same route, somehow staying high, and finding a good thermal crossing between the streets. How does he do that ??

Thursday June 17 - Race Day 2

Weather looks good today - no overcast to burn off like yesterday. Should get started much earlier ! Field is still very wet, so no water. Task "A" is a 242 mile assigned task. Cirrus cut off heating in the vicinity of Caesar Creek and looked to affect much of the task area. The cirrus variability makes it hard to forecast where there will be workable lift, so the task is changed to a MAT - we have to decide where to go. One assigned turnpoint to the north-east, then we go where we want. This is difficult because with poor visibility and not very high cloud bases, its difficult to see far enough ahead  to be sure the small circle around the next turnpoint you've chosen isn't in the middle of an area without lift.

I managed to get low near the first turn, found strong lift to my 2nd chosen turn, found a hole around the 3rd turn and got low again, and stayed out late to try improve my average speed (and got low again). Very slow today !

Friday June 18 - Race Day 3

We have a high-pressure area moving over us, so a bit more stable air. Much less moisture, still enough for clouds, though it may trend towards blue later in the day. There is cirrus approaching, which could cut off heating and thermals later in the afternoon. The soggy airfield gives a terribly long ground run and not much altitude over the trees at the end of the runway. Hence no water ballast so far this contest.I self-launched, which was slightly better than aero-tow, shut down at 1400 AGL in 2 knot lift and climbed out easily.

Linda gave us an area task, chosen to avoid the TFR around Columbus for President Obama's visit and to keep us in an area with expected good lift. Given the possibility of bluing out and/or cirrus, I decided to "go early and pray for rain". I was first out of the gate, bounced along with 2 knots for a while, until the blue area with weak low lift. As I was grinding around in 1.5 knot K1 joined me, but he flew home to get another start hoping that the day would improve (oops). I went to the back of the first cylinder as the day was improving, the lift was better back there, I'd have markers for the next leg, and the final leg would be into wind. Stayed on track to manage around 50mph until pretty far down the 2nd leg, even though the working band was around 1k to 2.5k AGL, occasionally up to 3k. Then it got weak...I kept moving and taking 1 knot or weaker, finally finished at a whopping 37 mph. Bill Elliot won - the only finisher above stall speed.

We had another stunningly bad news report. F1 landed in a field, and the local news crew showed up to report the "crash". Despite a briefing from the pilot, the local news idiot persisted in reporting a "crash" on the TV news report. Best quote from his breathless report: The crash was a smooth as silk. Can't figure out that sentence. Absolutely amazing....

Saturday June 19 - Rain Day

Heavy rain this morning as a weak cold front passes through (another .5" rain was not welcome on the soft airfield). A brief period of soarable weather in the afternoon will not permit a task. I'll do a presentation on the FLARM collision-avoidance system after the pilot's meeting (hope to clear up some of the misinformation floating around about FLARM).

Sunday June 20 - Race Day 4

After my FLARM presentation, yesterday's excitement was laundry and watching the wrecker pull Monty's gigantic motorhome out of the mud at the airfield. Also some shopping at Walmart and bicycling after it cleared up. Nice looking cu in the afternoon though probably too late to have gotten in a decent task. I repaired my car's trailer hitch which had worn excessively after only 60,000 miles or so pulling the glider trailer (thanks to John Murray for use of his drill press). In the evening the USA team had a nice feast and fund-raiser at the airport (I gave at the office - ILEC donated some SN10-USB adapters that were raffled at the convention).

Today's morning weather showed weak lift, some cloud, and significant wind gradient and shear at the inversion layer. I asked weatherman Tom Kelly how strong he thought the wave would be but he thought I was kidding. I explained the flat-land wave mechanism to 98 and a few other pilots who were skeptical... Linda gave us a turn area task with big circles and a downwind first and last leg, which is a great way to let us fly what the day permits. Launch was a bit late with slow heating, mostly 2 knot thermals. I self-launched (much more comfortable than towing off this soft airfield), and hung around the local area watching the launch. 

As I expected, there was wave, and I started out of the top of the start cylinder, though I saw no other gliders up in the wave. Climbed for a while at 2 knots over the airfield, then coasted downwind taking full advantage of the increased 24-knot tailwind at altitude. Coasted over the big blue soft area on the first leg, and got to the back of the first turn area with a nice fast average speed, despite taking 2-knot thermals after descending back into the convective layer. I went to the back because there were clouds there (some of which even worked), and the clouds continued on a line into the second turn. I briefly flew with Canadian team member in Jerzy Szemplinski in XG, who was the only other pilot to do the wave trick (Jerzy is headed to Hungary to fly in the world championships).

The second leg was low and not fast, but 2 knot climbs were reliably there when I needed. I was joined by a few gliders who took a shorter line into the first cylinder, and showed them 4 or 5 thermals (very annoying when you're the one finding all the lift). I resolved to continue into the second turn area after they turned, to get them in front of me for a change. Didn't work, I went too deep and was on my own again. Got very slow late on the third leg, as the thermals weakened considerably after a wind change. Back to survival mode for way too long, picking fields and working anything to stay aloft, huge hit to my average speed. Today I at least finished faster than stall speed. Flight track on OLC shows the entertaining altitude profile ! 

Ken Sorenson won with a speed just over 50 to my 43, but only one pilot flew further than my 156 miles.

Tomorrow doesn't look so good, aarrrggg...

Monday June 21 - Rain Day

This morning we have a line of storms approaching, high likelihood of overcast in the afternoon, not looking good. Gridding is suspended, another pilot's meeting at 11:15...

Update: Storms will arrive soon, day scrubbed. Weather looks horrible for the remainder of the contest. Maybe time to pack up and move on to Hobbs...

Gary and some of the guys watching the approaching storm. It looked quite evil, nasty green color illuminated by lightening flashes. The storm dumped at least an inch of rain. Approaching Storm
We've been watching some barn swallows busily feeding their young in a nest in the CCSC pavilion rafters. I sat down outside and this little just-fledged swallow was sitting on the railing, wide-eyed, taking in the big new world outside the nest for the first time. The parents repeatedly came by to feed and encourage him. The adults don't have those funny tufts over the ears.
Just-Fledged Swallow

Tuesday June 22 - Rain Day

While we were staggering around Sunday in low weak weather, Dick Van Grunsven burned up the Parowan skies with a 90.59 mph day win over 318.98 miles (74.59 mph with the Antares steep handicap).  Dick won the day again on Monday, but only at 87 mph ;-)  Dick is flying his Antares 20E in the 20-meter configuration, while I'm flying with the short 18-meter wing-tips at Caesar Creek. Even with my 9.5 lb/ft2 wingloading, the short tips have worked great in the very weak conditions here in Ohio - I haven't yet had the thought that I could climb if I was lighter, my problem has simply been finding lift and choosing good lines.

There's standing water on the airfield, and the rain has started again in earnest. The weather radar shows a line of storms sliding over us and our task area for the next few hours. Not likely we'll fly today, more later...

Update from the pilot's briefing: About 2" additional rain are forecast prior clearing this afternoon. Dinner at 6:30 at the airfield, but no flying today.

Wednesday June 23 - Rain Day

It stopped raining around 6AM, and now its extraordinarily humid and around 80 degrees. Forecast is for high of 92 with scatteredshowers and thunderstorms. The ground is really soggy. We may get a weak day in. Called task is a 3 hour MAT, starting with 4 close-in turnpoints for 77 miles. Questionable whether we'll get adequate heating to get high enough to go on task. Noon grid time...

Current leader Bill Elliot threatened to do a rain dance, but I guess its just too hot as we've so far been spared.

Correction - update at 1:30PM. We're gridded and sniffer John Lubon is up to 2800 AGL. Launch is on hold until he sees a bit more lift, possibly as soon as 1:30. It is really hot and humid, visibility is poor, and the wind is picking up (which makes it less miserable on the ground but will tear up the weak thermals).

Day scrubbed after launching most of the fleet. Not high enough lift to get in a day. Drag them back through the mud and put them away; good chance of thunderstorms and rain tonight.

Thursday June 23 - Day 5 ?

Today is the last competition day. At dawn it was clear, but as I assembled it clouded over with low stuff building in from the west. The big front and its associated violent weather (destroyed a town hall and fire station) were well north of us last night, here we didn't get rain. The current weather picture is confusing. NWS had a front south of us on their 4AM forecast, but now they show a new a front on top of us. Cooler air in back of the front might permit soaring this afternoon.

I put my wings on but I didn't tape or grid yet. Other pilots are showing even less enthusiasm and a few have already bailed out...

Update at 11:15 - weatherman Tom Kelly has got his motor-home stuck in the mud, so he can't bail on us, and Linda gave the weather briefing. There's a small break in the front giving us a glimmer of sun, followed by lots of cloud, clearing around 4PM. Drier air is not all that far behind. 12:30 grid is on, and we'll wait it out. Unlikely that we'll get enough heating though...

No sooner had I reached my grid spot on the runway than the day was canceled. Tow back through the mud to the trailer, put it away. As I finished packing the skies had cleared, and shortly there were gorgeous cu's beckoning. Some folks flew, and Dale Kramer did a 240 mile 11-point MAT task, so it sure looks like the day was cancelled too early.
Oh well. Time to have a shower, lunch, and hit the road for Hobbs New Mexico and the Open Class Nationals.


This was a tough contest. Only four days, and only one that was not devalued due to short tasks. Bill Elliot flew masterfully for his second 18m win in three years, both in the JS1 (with an ILEC SN10 of course), and this time with a 90 point lead. Second to DJ, and third to Ken Sorensen, who also flew great in these challenging conditions. I haven't flown this low, this slow and this long for so few miles in a very long time ! I was happy to see that my Antares 20E with 18-meter tips was at no disadvantage to the older designs despite the higher wing-loading (though it needs a better pilot). Next contest like this I'll try fly the Antares 18 glider (non-self-launch), which has a much lower minimum wing-loading and would have an advantage in these conditions. The JS1 seems also a bit better than the older designs.

Thanks again to Linda Murray (CD and competition director), the entire crew at Caesar Creek Soaring Club, and weatherman Tom Kelly and Ray Galloway.

Onwards to Hobbs, where I'll try fly a bit faster !

Hope you enjoy this and please email with questions or comments,
Best Regards, Dave "YO"

Links for more information...

Antares 20E Electric Motorglider Information
Dave's Soaring publications, including blogs from past contests
Contest Results at SSA Site (including daily score sheets)

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