2012 USA Open Class Nationals

Dave's Blog from Minden, Nevada

Last Update: Saturday PM, 23-June-2012


Minden is one of the world's best soaring sites. In years past national championships were frequently held at Minden, though airport difficulties precluded this in recent times. Happily new county commissioners and airport manager Bobbi Thompson are firmly pro-glider, and even made really nice contest shirts for us ! Thanks Bobbi !

Last time I flew at Minden was 1997 Sports Class Nationals. I brought my whale (RHJ-8) and flew with co-pilots and former MITSA members Jud Milgram and Guppy Youngren. We had a blast ! This 2012 contest will be the 6th nationals I've flown at Minden. I'm racing my Antares 20E electric-powered glider (at 20-meter wingspan) - a bit higher performance than the whale ;-)

Weather at Minden is high and strong - when its good. To the west, the Sierra and beautiful Lake Tahoe bound the area we fly. South into the Owens Valley past Mono Lake and to the White Mountains is always spectacular, with Mount Patterson a gorgeous and reliable stepping stone.

Getting out of the immediate Minden area can be interesting. As the desert to the east heats up, cool air is drawn down out of the Sierra, wiping out lift and funneling out eastward through the valleys. This effect can wipe out lift as early as late morning. Often thermals close to the 4,700 MSL airport don't go high, so you climb a bit, work east, climb a bit more, then get on top of the Pine Nut mountains over 10,000 MSL, and climb up into the O2 levels. On launch you follow the rising terrain to the east, and start soaring close to the terrain. With the typical afternoon westerly flow out of the Sierra, final glides can start out over the desert with an easterly tailwind, and change to a headwind closer to Minden.

An all-star cast of volunteers is running this contest. Rick Walters is organizer (and competing with Pete Alexander in Pete's Arcus), CD is John Godfrey, and weather prognostication and guessing by Doug Armstrong. Soaring NV is hosting us in their nice facility, with munchies and drinks and space for morning briefings, and great line assistance - Thanks Laurie !

Open class has only 9 entries, down from 15 at last year's Uvalde contest. Plenty of former national champions though, including Rick Walters, Ray Gimmey, Rick Indrebo, and Chip Garner (flying the Duckhawk).


Practice day one had pretty lousy soaring, though a few of us took local flights. Practice day 2 was better, with good lift and clouds over the Mount Patterson but blue elsewhere (blue on the Whites). I enjoyed the day and took lots of photos - couldn't help but fly back to Patterson and then up to have a look at Lake Tahoe. Pete and Rick found a 19 knot thermal with peaks of 24 knots. I saw 9 knots but nothing like that !

View over Mount Patterson. Gorgeous high mountain meadows with some snow still in the higher ravines. View south shows Bridgeport lake and airport in the fore, with Mono Lake in the distance. The small rooster-tail of ice on the wing is from water ballast overflow through the fill vent.
View south from Mount Patterson

Day 1 - Tuesday 12-June

Good lift, starting late, Blue ! We are tasked on a 3:30 MAT; first turnpoints assigned Hilton Ranch out east by Mount Grant, then south to Benton Station near the north end of the White Mountain range. The day started quite late. Today's start cylinder is located off the mountains, so its a bit of a trial to find a decent thermal to climb out the top and quickly get high over the mountains prior heading out.

I opted to swing south towards Patterson, way off course but expecting to get strong lift and follow the high terrain over to Hilton. That plan failed, wasted a bunch of time, had to take some weak stuff to get over the plateau west of Hilton. Finally found a 9 knotter up to 17k near Hilton, then bounced south to Benton with a few good climbs with Ray "981 not 7V", the Arcus, and Mike Robison in his Nimbus 3D. Couldn't pass up a chance to fly the Whites, so dove into the northern flank after Benton with Mike. The Whites were extremely smooth with little wind to tear up the thermals. Strong lift, easy and fast run down to Bishop and back.

I opted to swing around the corner to Basalt, then back to Benton, figuring I'd get a good climb in the area around the northern end of the Whites prior heading north back over the boonies. Good plan but the day began to shut down and I ended up struggling to get north over the area east of Mono Lake. Giant time wastage before I finally got up and on to final glide, for a poor speed of 65 mph over 296 miles.

Rick Walters and Pete Alexander won in the Arcus at 80 mph, heading for home after Bishop and Basalt, then tacking on a couple close-in turnpoints to burn up the reserve they kept coming back into the Minden valley. It is smarter to use close-in options late in the day. Ray had an uncharacteristic slow day, getting stuck low in Topaz valley trying to get up Patterson. Fun day, but its nicer with clouds !

Day 2 - Wednesday 13-June

Weather prognosis a bit muddled with some northern flow mixing in cooler air, and northern part of the task area not recommended. Another late start so we get another hour in the shade prior staging. Task today is an AAT with circles north near Dayton, then Mammoth south of Mono Lake, then north-east to Mina and home.

Clouds and strong lift just out of the start, fading to blue towards Dayton, so we topped out and didn't go deep into the Dayton circle. Back to the Pine Nuts and top off under the clouds, then cross to Patterson. I stayed a bit slow to arrive high above the lower peaks on the north flank of Patterson, and saw a couple gliders well below on the back side. Took a 4 knot climb to get up and connect with the good clouds, watching an amazing street following the edge of the Sierra.

The locals say its rare to have a workable street over the Sierra; some say they've never seen this before. Cloudbase was somewhere around 17k which is perfect - lower would be too close to terrain, much higher and it would be difficult to follow the lift lines and stay below our 17,500ft maximum. Absolutely astonishing view with Mono Lake on the left, eventually crossing Yosemite Valley on towards Mammoth.

Views looking south over the eastern edge of the Sierra from abeam Bridgeport. First photo is Mono Lake on the left, second is Yosemite Valley on the right. What a privilege to fly here and share this view...
Sierra cloudstreet, Mono Lake on left Sierra cloudstreet and view on Yosemite valley

To our left was a line of clouds from Mammoth into Mina (following a convergence, visible in top photo above), connecting to the Sierra street at Mammoth. I figured this convergence went about to the center of the Mina circle, and the street over the Sierra weakened south of Mammoth, so I turned at Mammoth figuring that would get me home about on time. Unfortunately, the street died well before Mono, and I again managed to get low and waste huge a huge amount of time tip-toeing back across Patterson. Too conservative fearing sink, and ended up flying the last 20 miles at redline, for another poor speed of 71mph over 293 miles.

Ray Gimmey came back from his slow start for a day win. He went shallow into Dayton circle, got high over the Pine Nuts heading south, got onto Patterson low and had some trouble getting up on the Sweetwater side when the west side didn't work for him. Ray went deep to the south side of the Mammoth circle, but also had trouble in the Mina area and had to take some weak climbs coming back north. Ray still managed 83mph !

Chip got "as low as I've ever been and got away" in the Mono Lake area after turning the southern part of the Mina cylinder. "I don't like this area, too much time looking at scrub and the road. Managed to cross over Bridgeport and across Patterson and landed in a pasture at Coleville." Pastures not recommended, no problems with the landing but there was a big rock near where Chip stopped.

At the evening fund-raiser for the planned new soaring center and museum, it was great to see some faces from the past - Marion Barrit, Tom and Billy Stowers, all doing well.

Day 3 - Thursday 14-June

Weatherman Doug Armstrong explained we had a localized area with low-level convergence and high-level divergence, centered somewhere around Mono Lake. This creates perfect conditions for a thunderstorm. After the sniffer took a relight while cloud development looked a bit too enthusiastic to the south, the task was changed in the air to Crestview (south of Mammoth), Hilton (by Mount Grant), then a roll-your-own MAT task for 4 hours.

MAT is a game of picking energy lines that lead to turnpoints and don't get you stuck with miles of no lift, or no good subsequent turnpoint. And we're limited to 11 turnpoints, so you need to choose reasonably long legs (especially at high speeds), and you need to properly evaluate the weather a distance out to make good turnpoint choices.

I had no problem climbing out the top of the start cylinder - until the task opened. Descended back into the cylinder, hooked a thermal, climbed out the top to make a start, and the thermal quit 200 feet above the top. Not really high enough to cleanly get on top of the Pine Nut mountains, but I'm watching the sky explode to the south and its time to go. Presently I was ridge soaring the Pine Nuts, which is not how its supposed to be done. Don't do that. Wasted 10 minutes getting up and going, after which I was a bit cautious pushing from the Pine Nuts across Topaz valley to Mount Patterson.

Solid climb at Patterson, looking south at virga falling from the storms, a blue hole over Mono Lake in the direction of the Crestview turnpoint, with a bit of a street and a hole in the virga hooking around the east side of Mono Lake. I decided to take the easterly route, while Pete and Rick in the Arcus went direct. Threading through the virga I got some ice build-up on the leading edge, so slowed up for more than 5 minutes while it gradually evaporated. Followed the clouds mostly without circling, and was startled by a FLARM alarm as I came upon Pete and Rick in the Arcus, and Rick Indrebo, circling near the end of the street. I was looking up at the clouds, not expecting traffic there. Not sure why they were circling but I turned to avoid them and continued into the turn and then back to the street.

At this time it was heavily OD'd east of Mono, with virga to the east, rather dark really, but still lift under the overcast. As I headed north towards Hilton swinging east under the same street, I saw the Arcus below heading direct on course over Mono Lake. We met again just after Hilton - we had identical speed over this leg as though I made almost no circles, I flew a longer path and cruised a bit slower.

Now its really over-developing with a lot of virga in the area east of Mono, so I'm not going to head back south. Closest obvious solid lift is (surprise) back by Patterson, so I take a 4 knotter just high enough to ensure hitting the Sweetwater turnpoint and arrive above Patterson's peaks. Strong lift and amazingly its looking good towards Bridgeport and maybe south. With the edge of the storm back towards Bridgeport and no cloud west and over the Sierra, I can see its not going to explode and leave me stuck south. Crossed over Bridgeport and ran the storm's edge to Lee Vining, then the return to Patterson and Sweetwater turnpoint.

View looking west showing virga with cloud reflections in Mono Lake.
Virga near Mono Lake
View of the street running east of Mono to near Crestview turnpoint (after passing through the virga).
Day 3 street to Crestview

The storms are building and another run south to Lee Vining looks, well, unwise. The edge of the development over Patterson extends northwards over a few turnpoints (Farias Wheel, Ranch, etc), so I scream north and south a few times picking lines to stay in the lift and stay out of the virga. As the 4 hour time limit is coming up, I decide to use the strong lift to stay high under the northern part of the storm over Patterson and set up a final glide of 50 miles around Dayton. Left the storm with 50+ miles to go and an MC final glide with 2000 feet extra. That's a bit close for that long a distance, lift stopped a bit further south than I expected... Made a blunder and headed to wisps over the Pine Nuts after leaving the storm, but they didn't work (sink, actually), and I wimped out and made a big detour for a final climb - wasted another 5 minutes here.

Ended up with 417 miles at 91 mph, good enough for 2nd today. Could have won without either the mistake at the start or end of the flight, aarggg...

Rick Indrebo wins at 93mph, using lift more over the Pine Nuts, and especially getting a clean escape from the Minden valley and avoiding the 10 minute time-wastage I and others suffered at the start. After Hilton, Bill Gawthrop headed back south to Basalt then down the Whites to Bishop, returning via the edge of the storm I used to Lee Vining, for 3rd place just behind me.

Day 4 - Friday 15-June

"A day I wouldn't care for at this point" is how weatherman Doug Armstrong characterized today's weather at briefing. "Today may turn out to be an unplanned rest day". Not a repeat of yesterday's great conditions for sure. Windy on the ramp, cirrus blocking heating, cooler air pushing in from the north, with a jet hooking down towards us. "A sticky wicket of a day" - not sure exactly what that means but we get the idea. Marshalling delayed until 12:30 on the chance that we can get in a day...

Off topic: This morning Tilo Holighaus sent me a nice thank-you note with this picture of the Quintus dumping. Looks like my new water-dump system is working ;-) Note 5 dumps per wing and two (three ?) dumps in the tail. Quintus is the successor to the Nimbus 4. Lange builds the 23-meter wing for the Quintus and Antares 23 (this wing is a stretched-span version of the wing of my Antares 20E). Antares 23T (sustainer, not self-launch) has 6 tanks and dumps per side ! There should be 7 Quintus and 2 Antares 23 in the upcoming Uvalde world championships. Max L/D of 60 at 78 knots - should be adequate.
Quintus dumping water

After hanging about on the ramp, a local pilot reported strong lift and we launched late. Build-ups were visible down south around Bridgeport, with blue thermals to around 12k in the Minden area. Task change in the air: short 2:30 MAT with mandatory first turnpoint Bridgeport, as specifying any further turns would be a gamble - can't tell where the airmass boundary will move or how much OD we'll see to the south.

I had a clean start climbing out the top of the cylinder to around 11k, high enough to transition onto the Pine Nuts without drama. So why are those sailplanes struggling low both east and south of the Pine Nuts ? I took a conservative slow glide over to Desert Peak (north end of Patterson). Amazingly calm glide. Presently I'm inside the notch between Desert Peak and Patterson, looking at a glide down the road to Sweetwater if I don't hook anything.

Found 6 knots down inside the terrain, joined by Mike Robison and Rick Indrebo. We got high enough to bounce over Patterson, where there was nothing on the peaks but a good climb on an eastern spur. Up to 13k, looking at actual clouds to the south and west. I tip-toed to some wisps and topped off at 15k, prior heading to the clouds.

The clouds didn't work - really weak. Mono Lake and environs are dark in shadow from high blow-off, though there are still decent looking clouds. Looked better out towards the Whites, but there's the small matter of getting home across the high terrain. OK, I'm a wimp, and decided the risk of getting stuck and landing out was too high. Coasted into Bridgeport and back over Patterson, taking a slow few turnpoints close to Minden with no landout risk.

Every one else was braver and had a fast time south, though coming home was a bit exciting. Last glider just landed home at 7PM !

Day 5 - Saturday 16-June

Classic Minden Saturday. We had a 4:30 MAT, with first turnpoints Bishop and Manzamar, ensuring a run down the White Mountains. Again, many of us had a hard time getting out of the Minden valley after starting. I wasted at least 10 minutes escaping, didn't get super-high on the Pine Nuts, and took a slow conservative glide down to Desert Creek Peak, where I managed to outclimb Chip in the high-wingloading Sparrowhawk. Some pilots more familiar with this site just dive over the Pine Nuts and proceed into the next valley, but...

Past Mount Patterson, a line of clouds showed a convergence east of Mono Lake leading to the northern edge of the Whites, so I had a fast run and bump down, then gradually bumped up the Whites, outrun by Chip who picked a better line. Past the Bishop turn, strong southerly flow out of Death Valley was pushing over the low part of the Whites, and pushing the clouds west into the Owens valley off the peaks. I had a terrible time reading the clouds south of Bishop and wasted time on some weak climbs. Northbound from Manzamar I could see the Whites still working well, but the clouds starting to dissipate to the North. Probably should have started a bit earlier than 1:30 for a 4:30 task...

I screamed up the street to the north end of the Whites, looking at a decaying street to Hawthorn, and some clouds across to the Sierra with firmer clouds. Turned east to nick the Basalt turnpoint just off the Whites, then turned west. I could see a cloud continually forming and dissipating in the Sierra west of Lee Vining, and good clouds a bit further south to Crestview (south of Mammoth). Concerned about the day dying, I chose Lee Vining and bounced across the convergence taking a few turns to stay high enough to get into the Sierra. Crossed Lee Vining and drove into the Sierra below the peaks. I could see where the thermal was kicking, and if it doesn't work I can hang a right and fly down the canyon to Bridgeport airport...

Spectacular view as I bang into 6-7 knots and rise above the terrain, Mono Lake just to the east and Yosemite valley a bit further south. At 15,000 feet I have final glide back to Minden except for the mountains in the way. I head for home at 17,000 bouncing clouds and admiring the view along the Sierra. Eventually final glide is well clear the terrain and I push over to 120 knots for the last 40 miles.

Views during climb-out in the Sierra, west of Lee Vining. Mono Lake to the east, Yosemite Valley to the south. Day has died out to the north but you can still see a bit of the convergence line to the east past Mono Lake.
Day 5 Sierra view of Mono Lake Yosemite in the distance

Ray Gimmey was in top form winning with 93 mph over 430 miles. From Manzamar, Ray ran back up the Whites to Benton station, then headed west the edge of the Sierra (Crestview), then tacked on Mammoth, Lee Vining, and Bridgeport, coming home via Patterson rather than on the Sierra.

Day 6 - Sunday 17-June

Looks like a good soaring day, though there is the jet-stream is sagging towards us with a front, promising high winds tonight and tomorrow. Later, increasing winds will support wave by around 5PM. And Doug reminds us that we could have 30 knot winds on the ground, and landing and ground-handling may be challenging. We're marshaling early - likely a short task to get us back prior it gets too exciting.

Today the start cylinder was moved south to where there is more plentiful lift to higher altitudes and its easier getting out of the valley and on course. The 3:15 area task sends us down to the Mammoth area, north to Yerington, south to Sweetwater, and return. Hopefully returning before the real high winds arrive. I had an easy start, and connected with 7.5 knots just past the end of the Pine Nut mountains (Mount Segal) with Ray Gimmey. Ray departed as the thermal weakened a bit, but I moved over and re-centered to continue climbing to over 15,000 feet. I spotted a line of wisps marking wave in the middle of the Topaz valley, and coasted along this line loosing less than 2500 feet for 20 miles, to a good cloud well south-west of Mount Patterson. Watched all the little gliders struggling around near the terrain on Desert Creek Peak as I topped out over 16,000 feet - seems they found the wave sink. I was feeling pretty smug...

They suck you in, then flush you out. I've been warned about chasing clouds over the Sierra. But last few days there's been a convergence in the Sierra that worked well. Direct on course over Mono Lake to Mammoth is blue, with clouds east of Mono pointing towards Basalt in the usual convergence - completely off course. And up in the Sierra there is a line of wisps and a few cumulus. What could possibly go wrong ? Anyway, it will be a beautiful ride if it doesn't work...

Nice and high over the peaks, I pressed into the Sierra to the wisps and clouds. They didn't work. Nasty lying evil clouds. Nothing. Wandered along the peaks over likely lift sources given terrain, sun, and wind. Nothing.

The scenery is stunning. Vertical walls of gray rock to jagged peaks, rock falls into high mountain meadows, snow in the crevices and shaded areas, craggy trees managing to grow even in this harsh area. Presently its time to give up and bail out, this is really not working. I choose the canyon leading down to Conway Summit, the point midway between Bridgeport and Lee Vining, just on the north-west corner of Mono Lake.

The scenery descending through this canyon is breath-taking. Deep-blue lakes still partially iced over, blue ice falls like miniature glaciers, all flash by the cockpit as I hurtle downwards, propelled by the cold air and 25 knot westerly crashing down from the Sierra. The ride is far too rough to get out the camera, stuff is flying around the cockpit in the turbulence and I'm fighting to keep more or less level. I flew over spurs likely to generate thermals, but any hot air rising is crushed by the descending torrent and its just horrid turbulence without workable lift. They suck you in, then flush you out. Flushed all the way down out the mouth of the canyon.

I search for a wind-shadow thermal on the alluvial fan below the canyon, but find nothing except turbulence. Presently I'm circling the cell towers on Conway Peak, having lost 4500 feet in 15 minutes (and making zero progress in the direction of our course). Forced to settle for initially a 2 knot climb to avoid landing at Bridgeport or Lee Vining (to be safe, I set up for a landing prior starting the motor). Took fully 30 minutes before I was back up from 9500 feet to cruising south on course at 16,500. One hell of a ride, perhaps excessive for the scenery...

OK, enough excitement. There's a cloud street heading to the back of the first cylinder, so I bounce south with relative calm. Turning north a convergence leads over Mount Grant into the Yerington cylinder. Not great lift, but no great drama either. I follow lines of wisps, make civilized climbs, turn a bit past Yerrington and head south. Patterson looks like its working with cloud on top, wisps in that direction, what could possibly go wrong ?

Presently I'm on the deck searching near Desert Creek Peak and Three Sisters on the northern flank of Mount Patterson. Amazingly, sink and nothing workable, so I dive down the road between Desert Creek Peak and Three Sisters, towards Sweetwater airport. I can see rotor-cu overhead so I turn into the back side of Mount Patterson, where I've managed wave saves in the past. Horrendous turbulence in the rotor with alternate 10 knot lift and 5 knot sink pounding me as I search around in back of the sheer rock wall of the mountain. Gain a thousand and have it wiped away in an instant. This isn't working.

At the organizers' request, I've been carrying a SPOT position reporter, as they like to be able to track our positions back at the office (and you can watch us in real time on the web). The SPOT chose this moment to quit reporting my position, I presume out of fear looking out the canopy. Loss of my position reporting caused considerable concern back at Minden...

I dove east across Sweetwater to the other side of the valley and took another slow climb to get back up and going. 45 minutes of flailing around from arriving at Desert Creek Peak until I'm back up at 15,000 feet for a comfortable final glide home. On final glide and back in radio range, I get a concerned call inquiring as to my whereabouts and mischief. "YO final glide" I can happily report, finally. 268 miles at a whopping 62 mph, amazingly not last place for the day ! But really now.

Mike Robison also got suckered by the Sierra clouds. "What is with you easterners ?" asks one of the incredulous locals at dinner. Mike had a quicker escape from Conway Summit and avoided further mishaps for a respectable 75 mph. Ray Gimmey blew us away with 86 mph despite initial first leg rock-polishing on Desert Creek Peak with the rest of the gang. Ray had some trouble at Yerrington but headed over the plateau between Sweetwater and Hilton Ranch, finding a good lift street and avoiding the Patterson area (I shoulda done that). Rick's brother had us over for a nice social in the evening, as the winds started to howl and after all the toys were safely back in the trailers - really nice.

Dave taxiing back to the tie-downs after landing, complete with goofy hat and O2 cannula.
Dave taxiing back to tiedown area

Monday June 18 - Rest Day !

90 mph wind gusts reported at the Slide Mountain weather station in the morning. Its alternating between calm and very gusty in the valley, with periodic lenticular clouds overhead. Good day not to be flying. I had a wonderful visit with some friends over at Farias Wheel airport, who remind me its been now 20 years since we met when I landed in their back yard (1992 15-meter nationals ?), and that I didn't have gray hair back then - time flies !

Day 7 - Tuesday 19-June

Doug Armstrong expects a low, slow, blue day. Morning satellite view shows morning wave down in the Owens valley. Morning Slide Mountain weather station shows 23 gusting to 38mph, forecast winds go from 22 knots at 16,000 feet up to 40 knots at 18,000 and we're not going to get high if this is accurate (except possibly in wave). Trigger not until noon. Marshalling at noon.

With this big a wind gradient, I expected wave and was not disappointed. I went up to 13k and got an idea of the orientation and hot spots, then spoilered down to 9k and marked a hot spot in the start cylinder. After the task opened, I started out the top of the cylinder and climbed on up to 17k (where I still had 5 knots, and 40 knots wind as forecast).

View of Lake Tahoe, climbing at 5 knots and 17,000 feet. Time to put away the camera and head on course !
Day 7 view from 17k view

My initial thought was bounce to the back of the first cylinder using the 40 knot tailwind, then jam the nose down and blast upwind back into the thermal layer. But the wind angle was way too close to parallel the mountains, which means the wave formation and location can be highly unstable. Wave this strong dictates the location of the thermals, which may not be the usual lift sources. Worse, the usual lift sources will often be blanked by the wave. Without wisps marking the wave, and likely shifting wave location, it gets interesting down in the thermal layer...

I followed the wave down the middle of the Topaz valley, then tried to follow it to the back of the first cylinder, into the bowl upwind of Bridgeport and 395. Found awesome sink and retreated. Bounced a different wave band north, and stayed left of course to stay over the Pinenuts in area that was previously working. I was extremely nervous to head direct via the Yerrington valley without a clear idea of where the wave would be.

Tip-toed up past Dayton in the second cylinder but did not really connect again with the wave. Back south along the Pinenuts, the wave seemed to be decaying, weak lift lines but no hot spots, and thermals less wave-like. Followed the high ground over Patterson, then back for the next lap over the high ground east of Topaz lake. I had a lot of trouble centering a wave-influenced thermal until an immature bald eagle had pity and came over to show me how, repeatedly re-centering us until I was high enough to get again on the Pinenuts. Joined by Mike Robison in JOY briefly, we tip-toed up to just nick the last cylinder towards Silver Springs and slowly glide home over the hills. Another slow performance 57 mph over 231 miles.

Ray: "My first thermal after start was in the middle of the Topaz valley, in a place I've never seen before in 20+ years of soaring here. Regular thermal sources didn't work. Embarrassed to say I didn't figure out it was wave". Didn't seem to slow Ray down much, as he aced another day at 70 mph over 229 miles.

Rick Walters and Pete Alexander in the Arcus went deep into the first cylinder, found the wave suppression and sink in the Yerrington valley, and landed out at Yerrington airport on the second leg. Ooops. This is why I was nervous and took a slower route around to the west. Rick also said he's never seen a day like this one.

Day 8 try #1 - Wednesday 20-June

Weaker today, less wind (no wave likely). MAT tasks look like a crap-shoot with minimal cloud. Marshal at noon.

After various sniffing showed poor lift not high enough, day scrubbed. Time to repair the trailer and catch up on email...

Day 8 try #2 and Last Day - Thursday 21-June

Weather shows a lot of wind, more normal to the mountains, less shear than a couple days ago, with better thermals. Doug forecasts an area of better air north, and we get a task sheet the likes of which I've never seen: A MAT task with 8 turnpoints ! The task leads us north around the Reno airspace, up past Air Sailing, than winds us down back to the Pinenuts with Silver Springs, Dayton, and Double Springs. Then a few turnpoints around Patterson. If we hit all turnpoints at the 3:45-hour time limit its about 75mph. Should be no problem, right ?

A mild panic at the line when tempting clouds are spotted to the south, provoking another backup task, but they dissipated as a few high cumulus built out north, and off we go on the original task.

A quick escape from the start cylinder with good climbs to 15,000 had us all underway quickly, prodded by a threat of higher winds later. Cumulus were still a ways above us, but oddly in back of the lift - must be some wind shear above.

I can't help but try get a bit higher and get behind the pack. Didn't see anyone after the first thermal... Slog up to Tiger, Flanigan, Air Sailing, back to Silver Springs. The wind is really picking up, and the climbs are averaging maybe 4 knots with a lot of foolers wasting time. Heading upwind from Silver Springs to Dayton is rough going, hard to make progress against the wind which is up to around 35 knots in this valley.

Touch the Dayton cylinder and head back into the flank of the peak at the northern edge of the Pinenuts, where the thermal showed 11 knots for a few turns and averaged 8.8 - until it abruptly died. Not high enough to glide around Double Springs and home, I try to follow the Pinenuts south and find sink. If I land back at Minden I'll be a bit under our task target time, so I turn into the valley to find the wave. A weak wave climb gets me high enough to do Double Springs and I tip-toe down and home a few minutes over time. Immediately past the finish cylinder I pull up into 7 knot+ wave. Aaarrggg, should have pushed upwind a bit more to get a better wave climb ! I couldn't help but climb back up and take a few snapshots of Lake Tahoe while draining the last of my ballast and waiting for a couple other finishers to land.

Ray had a tough day - He got stuck and turned back to Minden to finish under-time without getting the Double-Springs turnpoint. The rest of us had speeds clustered around 60 mph except Bill Gawthrop who flew really well and got all 8 turnpoints at 68mph, despite getting stuck for a really long time. Ray slides from first place back to third - heartbreak ! Rick Indrebo wins, Mike Robison in 2nd, both flying really consistently all contest.

View of Lake Tahoe after the finish, from strong wave I picked up at 1000 feet directly over Minden-Tahoe airport.
Day 8 Fish Wave


It was an amazing privilege to again fly at Minden after all these years. Thanks again to Rick Walters for instigating this event, Laurie and her crew at Soaring NV for operations and the great facility, Bobbi Thompson and her airport staff for the exceptional hospitality and operations help, Tip Russell and Reba Coombs for contest management, and John Godfrey for a great job CD'ing. Special thanks to Mountain Mike for all the help and especially the prime parking space where I could plug in my Antares to recharge at night. These folks put on a great show. Special thanks also to Russell, who did instructional XC tasks in the Duo Discus and hopefully brought a few more pilots into the contest fold ! Russell ground his teeth stoically while his students learned what happens when you circle in 2 knots instead of 8, then follow sink lines...

FLARM at Minden. Most gliders flying in the Open Class had FLARM. It was unanimously appreciated as a safety enhancement without being distracting. One pilot complained of not great range, and I will have to add his antenna installation to the Hall of Shame. Please guys, install the antennas properly. You really won't notice the antenna above the glareshield after the first two minutes !

Departing Minden north for the 18-meter nationals at Montague, there was a bit more moisture and clouds marking the wave. These photos give an idea why XC at Minden under wave conditions is so difficult, especially when there is no cloud to mark the wave (as above, click for larger images). When then wind is not normal to the mountain range, the wave forms in little discrete pieces and tends to move around with small changes in wind strength and orientation. Areas of wave sink displace thermals from normally consistent thermal sources into the rotor zone. Look at all the small discrete waves, today formed by wind too southerly for a good normal wave.
epilogue wave 1
Up towards Susanville the edge of the range swings more east-west, more favorable for continous wave with today's southerly flow. If you look carefully you can see that the low-level wave has a different wave-length and is much more discontinuous than the nice-looking upper-level cloud. This shows how even when the upper level wave is marked by moisture and cloud, you may encounter something quite different at lower levels. Also note what looks like precipitation further north, but...
Epilogue wave 2
... Its actually the rotor sitting on a dry lake, churning dust up into the wave. Its really annoying when you fly in back of one of these ! But at least it marks the wave location.
Epilogue wave rotor-dust

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

Links for more information...

Antares 20E Electric Motorglider Information
Minden Open Class Nationals contest scores on SSA web site
Dave's Soaring publications, including blogs from past contests
Nadler & Associates Home Page

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