2013 USA Open Class Nationals

Dave's Blog from Hobbs, New Mexico

Last Update: Thursday PM, 4-July-2013


I drove direct from Massachusetts - 2,233 miles in three long days, 35 hours on the road what with a few construction delays plus gas stops. Arrived Friday afternoon early enough to get the car washed and oil changed.

Driving south towards Hobbs from Amarillo, there was some standing water in the fields. Not flooded, but no doubt a welcome improvement from the drought conditions that have persisted in this area for a few years. Isolated thunderstorms and not great soaring for the last few days, with drying and improving conditions expected over the next few days.

Sore Butt Department
Crossing Oklahoma, I passed 200,000 miles in my 2002 Acura MDX, about half of which has been towing a glider. Great tow car !
Acura MDX rolls past 200k


This year at Hobbs we have concurrently the Open Class and 15-Meter Class national championships, plus a sports-class-only regional contest for the first week. Edre Maier is competition manager, and Tim McAllister is the Competition Director. John Godfrey is scoring remotely, probably the first time this has been tried in USA (sorry, already done at 13.5m contest in FL). Ward Hindman is providing weather briefings remotely as in prior years. Anyway, all repeat offenders.

Hobbs is home to the Soaring Society of America, and the site of many classic races over the years, most famously the 1983 World Championships with Open won by Ingo Renner. Most recently we had a stellar 18-Meter Nationals contest in 2011 - hopefully we'll have a repeat of that contest's fabulous weather (see Dave's blog from 2011 18-Meter Nationals).

Plaque Honoring 1983 World Championship Workers
This plaque sits forlornly in front of the former NSF (National Soaring Foundation) buildings, now owned by the town of Hobbs after the demise of NSF. Click on image to see high-resolution version.
1983 Worker Plaque

Dick Butler is flying his magnificent Concordia, and Heinz Wiessenbuehler is flying the Eta Biter (Dick's previous effort, before Concordia). Concordia is the world's highest performance glider, and Eta Biter is in contention with Antares 23E and Quintus for number 2. Ron Tabery is flying his tricked out ASW-22BLE, and Rick Walters and Pete Alexander are flying Pete's Arcus. I'm flying my Antares 20E, and we have an assortment of Nimbus and ASH-25, plus some 18-meter gliders. Looks like we'll have 14 competitors in open class, 28 in 15-meter, and with the regional's gliders the ramp starts to look full like the good old days...

Serious Mishap on Saturday
David Coggins had a mishap with his TE probe during Saturday flying. How could such a horrible thing happen ? Best explanation I have is he flew too high and bent the probe on the bottom of class A airspace. Any other theories ?
TE mishap

Sunday 23-June - Practice Day 1

Weird weather for our first official practice day. Hobbs had good soaring for the last couple of days, and all the forecasts showed good lift for Sunday. Very strong southerly flow at the surface, moderate winds above a few thousand feet, then stronger westerly wind above ten thousand. As clouds developed and they showed noticeable wave modification, short bars of combination street-wave as can happen with this kind of wind differential. We're on a 3 hour AAT with two big circles, north to Portales and then west of Hobbs.

I launched late, and headed out after climbing through 10,000 feet (top of the start cylinder). Tried what seemed upwind of the clouds, but after that didn't work a few times I fixed the angle from where I found lift upwards to the clouds and followed the lift lines, oddly displaced downwind of the clouds at the lower elevations. I was able to climb straight ahead or cruise with very little altitude loss, and watched a few gliders plunge towards the ground as they followed the nominal course line and unfortunately stayed in the wave sink...

Fast run up to near Portales, where the odd wave-bar formations stopped along with the predictable lift. I stubbornly didn't turn on to the 2nd leg at the end of the wave-enhanced lift - wanted to get higher and drift downwind in the climb for more distance on the first leg before turning. You know, always take a downwind turn high. Ooops. Got down to around 3000 AGL before catching an OK thermal past Portales and climbing to 12,500.

Turned south-west and shortly was confronted with a huge area of smoke from fires somewhere upwind. And the nice wave clouds were all gone - actually all the clouds were gone in this area. The smoke stings the eyes, blocks the sun and weakens the thermals. I kept Portales and then Tatum in safe gliding range but got down to 3,500 AGL which is uncomfortable !

Stumbled along past the smoke and found a decent climb, then worked west to some gorgeous looking clouds. Makes you feel like a hero when the averager goes over 10 knots climb ! Climbed up to near the clouds (over 16,000 feet), and followed a line of clouds that arced into the western part of the 2nd turn area, staying high to stay connected with the clouds. From the last cloud I turned and screamed home 50 miles at 130 knots, which pulled my average speed up to around 65 mph over 240 miles (I know, not the most efficient, but very entertaining). Fun day ! But weird.

Dick Butler won the practice day at 78 mph, avoiding wasting too much time in the soft sections, and Tom Kelly won in 15-meter. Six land-outs ! Al Tyler landed at Portales for a long (100 miles each way) retrieve. Al says this is part of his campaign to convince Rhonda that he needs a motor-glider, but Rhonda says Al is merely convincing her he needs a different crew...

Monday 24-June - Practice Day 2

Heavy overcast at day break, maybe it will clear a bit later, 11:30 grid time followed by pilot's meeting in the hangar. Short task to the east where the skies cleared earlier and should have better heating and lift. I took the day off, lazed about the place, and annoyed Denise in the SSA office. LESS (Llano Estacado Soaring Society) is hosting a welcome party this afternoon - thanks guys! I'm told their objective is to get us to drink enough that we'll be sleepy and not ask too many dumb questions during our mandatory briefing this evening. Tomorrow we race for the big bucks!

Tuesday 25-June - Race Day 1

Three or four land-outs on practice day 2. Evan Ludeman "T8" landed out at Lovington. I've explained to Evan he needs a better vario and offered to help, but he seems annoyed by my attempts to assist him. Oh well, what do I know about varios ;-)

Heavy cirrus to the north looks worrying in the morning. Forecast models all show a great soaring day with some cumulus cloud later with 7.5kt thermals and light winds. Task after grid is a 4 hour TAT south-east to a small cylinder at Andrews, north to a 15 mile cylinder around Portales, out west of Hobbs to larger cylinder around Railroad Crossing, then Eunice, and home. The minimum task distance is 240 miles, so 70 mph speed is required to do the minimum in 4 hours. Don't want to start after 2PM given the lift will be falling off after 6PM. And the day is a bit late in starting...

Open class launches behind 15-meter, and the task opens after 2PM - and I'm still well below the top of the start cylinder, aaarrrgggg... But there are great looking clouds developing above and down the first leg !

I started as soon as I could and screamed down the first leg, bouncing strong lift and circling in the strongest cores. With the streeting and tailwind I averaged around 90 mph on the first leg, even managed to top out a climb just as the cloud drifted to the back of the first turn cylinder - life is good ! Slowed up in lift in the blue cruising north, but the cloud field looked sparser. Stayed left of the courseline, screaming along between good climbs, but there was clearly trouble ahead. It was dark under cirrus shadow, with no clouds. Average speed up til this point was around 85 mph, but... I dialed back and followed the last clouds west into wind, topping out at 15,500 about 36 miles from the edge of the Portales cylinder.

Expecting a final glide north to the edge of the cylinder, then back another 36 miles to the first lift, I dial back to around 80 knots and start a long agonizing glide. Dead calm air towards Portales, I turn immediately at the edge of the cylinder, with Tatum still in gliding range for the trip southbound. 35 minutes after the last climb, I hit a bump and make a few turns in 2 knots - then it dies. No gliders marking lift anywhere. Another 10 minutes towards poor-looking clouds and I find .5 knots, but at 2,200 AGL I have to take it. Centered, now 1 knot, dumped the outer tanks. 1.5 knots - aaarrrg. I reach for the dump switch but Heinz pulls in under me in the Eta-Biter HW, so that would be rude. There's sun on the ground to the west, but heading towards Hobbs its really dark, so it doesn't look smart to head that way low. There's also a line of good looking clouds arcing west then south into the Railroad turn area, too bad they are still more than a mile above us ! HW and I work together gradually climbing, and when I get high enough to safely reach Lovington I follow the street west to find better lift. After an eternity grinding around I finally get a decent climb and follow the clouds. Took the last climb up to near cloudbase above 14,000 then final-glided into the RR area and around the Eunice turn. Slow ! Only 66 mph for 6th place...

12 finishers and 17 land-outs in 15-meter (including several former national champions). Unfortunately one 15-meter pilot groundlooped in a field landing and busted his tail boom. Only 3 of 12 open class didn't complete the task.

Tom Kelly wins in 15-meter at 78. Finding a solid climb after gliding back from the Portales cylinder towards Tatum, Tom missed all the fun grinding around low.

Ron Tabery had water system failure at the first turn, resulting in the right wing empty and water splashing in through the air vent. That sprayed water on the canopy making it hard to see and left him sitting in 8 inches of water (no drain-hole in the seat-pan)! Ron still managed to win the day at 81 mph...

Nice lasagna dinner by the LESS crew - Thanks ! Always great hospitality here at Hobbs. Ron had a late night repairing his water system, ably assisted by Dave Coggins (who had just demonstrated his excellent mechanical skills straightening his TE probe).

Wednesday 26-June - Race Day 2

Weather forecast for today: high 106 degrees, weak winds aloft from the south-west, clear skies. Weak dry line over Hobbs, with a high pressure over the Hobbs area creating heating and subsidence. Hot, hot, hot, no clouds, and hot. Average thermals forecast 7.2 knots to 15,500 down by Midland, lower in our area. Cooler tomorrow, only 101 degrees, maybe some clouds....

Looks like despite the morning forecast, there may be clouds out east on the other side of the dry line, so we're going east. Our 4 hour area task is a steering turn at Brownfield east 60 miles, then a big circle south around Andrews, then a big circle north around Morton, and home. Minimum distance is a more friendly 200 miles in case things don't pan out as expected.

We launched late, first wave of us as sniffers, with an extra ten minutes added before the next wave. Nothing real strong nor high initially, but it developed well during the launch. When the open class task opened, it wasn't yet strong enough to get a good climb out the 11,000 foot top of the start cylinder. I hung around until I got a nice climb to 12,500 and rushed out on task, not the smartest as there were no markers in front...

A startlingly quiet glide to Denver city where there were finally signs of thermals. Turned in a few foolers, big lift fools you into turning, then you hit sink and waste 200 feet. 35 miles out, I finally found a decent thermal at 4,000 AGL as later starters came by.

Clouds ! To the east, a gorgeous sky. Took the climb too high at Denver City until I was sure to connect with the clouds, wasting a few minutes, aarrrggg. But finally we're up and running like it is meant to be. Classic Hobbs with strong climbs under isolated cu, and beyond the first turn streets running south in the far part of our task area. Glorious run and bump and occasional circling in amazing thermals under gorgeous cumulus. I followed the street to near the back of the second cylinder along with a crowd. Best thermal I saw was 10 knots, most were 6 to 7 knots.

Decision time heading north. The street we just ran down is 30 degrees east of the courseline to the eastern edge of the last turn area. Run the street and then turn hard left at the end ? Or go direct and gamble that the climbs under the isolated cumulus on course will be strong and easy to find ? After my usual dithering I turn left and see Dick Butler blaze past in Concordia, so I guess its not a bad decision. Not as fast as along the street, but still respectable speed along this leg. Magically, clouds appeared on course as we steamed north, into the final cylinder.

My ILEC SN10 says I need to go further north to avoid finishing under the 4 hour task time, but its blue out there and I'll need to climb another few thousand feet for final glide. I worried excessively about getting caught out at the end of the day; usually when the day develops this late the lift ends early. Turned before I should have, but had a bit of difficulty finding the last climb and wasted a couple minutes. Eventually found a strong thermal, topped out at 16,000 feet, and blasted the 60 miles home on a MacCready 6 final glide.

What a day ! I managed 85 mph but was 40 seconds under the 4 hour target, good for 4th today. Dick Butler wins at 97 mph (actually he did about 100 mph, but he finished 5 minutes under time after flying the maximum distance) ! Wow ! This is what soaring pilots dream about and why we make the pilgrimage to Hobbs. You should have seen all the dazed smiles on the pilots this evening. Six 15-meter pilots broke 90 mph, Dave Mockler winning at 93 mph. Unfortunately previous leader Tom Kelly had a personal issue requiring his attention and withdrew from the contest.

Today Ron Tabery had his left wing tank leak, but at least it didn't flood the cockpit, and he placed 2nd at 93 mph. More repairs. These water system issues are why I designed the new water system used in new Lange Antares and Schempp-Hirth Quintus...

Thursday 27-June - Race Day 3

Today's AM weather: High temperature around 102 degrees, no cirrus, some smoke from westerly fires blowing across the northern task area. The high pressure area has drifted a bit east but similar subsidence and light winds. Some cumulus in the Hobbs area expected, unlike yesterday. Average lift 7.8 knots to 16,500 from GFS, NAM predicts 13,000 to 14,000 over Hobbs. Longer range forecast looks like deteriorating soaring weather...

Open and 15-meter task is a 4 hour TAT, with 20 mile radius turn areas east Brownfield, north Tatum, south-east Wink, then up over the caprock to Hagerman Cutoff, and home. Minimum 218 sm, nominal 359 (90 mph), and max 506 - hopefully DB won't run out of task area today as that would be 125 mph... First launch at 1PM.

First wisps as launch starts at 1PM. 15-meter off first, with a separate start cylinder from open class. Great lift off tow and a huge area of smooth lift in the blue over a good part of the start cylinder - seemed like some kind of convergence. With 15 minutes before the time I wanted to start and lots of traffic holding below the top of the start cylinder, I put the flaps up and dove a few thousand feet to wait. Unfortunately, the lift died throughout the 5-mile radius start cylinder and vicinity, and I could not get back up to start ! Most folks just pressed out on course but I figured if I not managing to climb at home I shouldn't press out low - what a wimp...

Finally got up and started after 3PM - way too late. Survival mission at this point - just finish the task ! Touched the edge of the Brownfield cylinder looking at blue to the east, so I turned immediately back towards Tatum. Topped off over 15,500 under a good cumulus, flew towards the edge of a storm in the Tatum cylinder, and turned when a line of clouds pointed south towards Wink. I had a terrible time reading the clouds, and even found strong sink directly under the center of good looking cumulus not far below cloudbase. No markers, so I tried to stay high and follow the clouds, but it was slow going. The only other glider I saw all day was Ken Sorenson coming north as I flew south towards Wink, following the north-south clouds line. Blue in the Wink cylinder with faint wisps that I can't read consistently, so almost a final glide into the turn cylinder and back north to the clouds. Worked weak lift to get high and final glided into the final cylinder and home to finish after 7PM. Horribly slow at 73 mph - almost dead last today!

Dick Butler wins at 88mph, with Ron Tabery a couple mph behind. Dick turned Brownfield early, diverted around the rain at Tatum, glided 25 miles in and out of Wink to a climb near Jal, and found poor lift under decaying clouds up towards the final cylinder. Rick Indrebo had a tough time climbing off tow, and started as soon as he could at 2:10. Rick flew through a bit rain and went to the back of the Tatum turn before the storm really developed, and figures that's where he picked up the extra speed. Chip Garner told me he was having trouble getting it together, had lots of things go wrong, and decided to withdraw before something serious went wrong.

Another great dinner in the hanger - grilled brisket and sausages, Thanks guys !

Friday 28-June - Race Day 4

Heavy overcast in the AM and light rain just north. Radar loop shows light rain moving towards Hobbs, and the visible satellite loop looks unpromising. Being a wimp, I put the Antares back in the trailer. Of course an hour later there's a bit of sun peaking through... Good thing the Antares is quick to assemble.

Our weatherman: It's going to be entertaining watching the atmosphere stir today. Forecast models differ on the probability and location of isolated storms this afternoon.

Mark Keene gave a great safety talk on managing risk today. Pilot's meeting at noon... I go back to the airport, re-assemble and preflight and water the Antares, and am on my spot by grid time (yes, very silly).

The sky is developing excessively in some quadrants and not at all in others. Late call is a MAT with one mandatory turnpoint at Plains, then we roll our own task from the many available turnpoints. I figure go early and pray for rain, but not too much rain and only late ! Strong lift in the start, thermal out the top and dive towards the gorgeous cumulus along the first leg. Lift is a little too strong, a couple rain drops on the canopy remind this day could really blow up into thunderstorms everywhere. Fabulous bump and run with stops to tank up when I could get 9 or 10 knots, climbing straight ahead at 5, following the clouds to Plains. Oddly, there's a north-south street that seems to head to Morton, which I follow, and see Al Tyler and Steve Leonard near the turn. Al and I used different turns but frequently flew together today, as the clouds focused our routes while we worked the same general area of the sky.

The decision-making in these conditions is difficult. If you choose a far-away turnpoint, you can't see the clouds all the way, and its a gamble, especially if there are no other turns nearby. But each turnpoint invariably involves wasting time flying away from the lift, as the inconsiderate clouds usually form away from our turnpoints. Mostly I manage to read the clouds well, though I wasted some time near Denver City (as I have every contest at Hobbs - why do I go there ?). It was weaker east, and the overdevelopment subsided later. I did get rained on briefly heading west to Lovington, but followed a final street south to Marathon, then back north along the same street to Refinery and home at warp speed. I managed 87.69 which is only good for 8th today.

Ron Tabery wins with an amazing 99.95 mph, closely followed by DB at 96.08, turning this into a real horse race as Dick is now only 5 points ahead of Ron. Ron started out the top at 7 knots to 12,500 and followed the street to Plains, and headed west towards the strong development and hit a 14 knot thermal. Out to Caprock via Tatum, back to Plains, then Hobbs, Maljamar, back to Plains, with warp speed final glide around Refinery and Lovington to Hobbs. Ron had no water system failure today! Mark Keene won with 97.86 mph in 15-meter. Mark's first thermal on course was 10.5 knots, followed by a running streets at 100-120 knots and effective LDs near 100:1. Another Hobbs classic day, despite the lousy outlook in the AM. You shoulda been here!

Saturday 29-June - Race Day 5 attempt 1

SSA chairman Richard Maleady gave a thank you to the many volunteers including SSA staff who are using their vacation time to help with this contest. Richard read us an obnoxious email received by the SSA webmaster - a long-standing volunteer. He pleads for civility and recognition towards the volunteers that provide much of what we take for granted from SSA.

Opening slide from today's weather briefing: Expect a thunderstorm at Hobbs between 3PM and 5PM. Significant precipitation north of Hobbs expected this afternoon. There's a huge storm centered to our north-east, tracking south from Lubbock, with a cell and outflow boundary just east of us near Seminole, but this should miss Hobbs. We'll try to race today and tomorrow, with a likely rest day on Monday given the deteriorating weather.

Exiting briefing it looks apocalytic. A brown sky with 1 mile visibility, as the outflow boundary front rolls through. A bit of panic as all the gliders are sitting on the grid unsecured but the gusts weren't that strong. The outflow over Hobbs was not radar-visible as the portion rolling past Seminole (which generated rain at Eunice, south of Hobbs). This outflow dropped the temperature 12 degrees relative to points north, thermals will be rather delayed...

Delayed pilots meeting at the airfield we get a task but it is cancelled promptly as a second line of dust blows through and some traffic issues with the proposed task became evident. There were a few low straggly cu later in the afternoon but this was a good day not to fly. No thunderstorms in the vicinity as of 4PM. The regionals got in a great 4 days (today would have been their last day). Another great dinner by LESS - enchiladas - thanks guys! The storms ringed the area during the day, and we had a deluge at 9:30PM.

Unfortunately Bill Gawthrop had to pull out as his PDAs have died. Why do people try to fly with this stuff ? ILEC makes an excellent and reliable alternative (which is why many top pilots fly with ILEC SN10B), and there are other more sensible options than PDAs...

Sunday 30-June - Race Day 5

The sky is clear as we enter the 10AM pilots meeting, last night's storms having cleared to the south, with rain still just over the Texas boundary. Thunderstorm development expected later to the north and moving into the Hobbs region. Some models say its going to rain, but the RAP model forecasts good soaring. If we do fly, it will be with lower altitudes.

Cumulus field builds in all quandrants, but blue at Hobbs. A few wisps pop over Hobbs as I take the last launch. Our task is a 3 hour turn area task first out east to Lamesa, then north-west to Reese, south to Andrews, then home via steering turn Hamilton. I started last, as it was clearly not going to overdevelop or generate thunderstorms, its a short task, and the day is improving. That was a bad idea; I expected others to restart but they continued on task and I had no other gliders as help or markers...

The area near Hobbs stays mostly blue, but 25 miles out the 10 knot easterly wind produces some streeting along the courseline with bases around 9,500 feet (6,000 AGL). As usual I manage to waste some time detouring to wisps instead of just getting the nose down to the first good list. A really beautiful soaring day ! Some 6 knot climbs, follow the clouds, avoid the big holes in the cloud field marking areas of heavy rain from recent storms. I flew much too conservatively but high and stress-free all day, for dead last speed of 70mph (though Steve Leonard got stuck low and almost managed to go slower than me). Most pilots managed good speeds today.

Ron Tabery wins open at 85.36 with DB second at 82.61. Ron found wave to almost 11k before the start, but started below the top of the start cylinder 4.3 average knot climb, 23% climb mostly doing pull-ups and climbing straight. Ron zigged and zagged to fly straight and mostly stayed up near cloudbase, though once got down to 3k AGL. Mark Keene wins 15-meter, starting around 2:30, with a great fast run first and second legs. Mark had trouble finding lift on the leg south towards Andrews, but still did 78 mph.

Monday 1-July - Cancelled

Loud thunder and rain lashing the window woke me at 2AM as storms reached Hobbs from the north. Lovington had 1.5 inches of rain last night. At 10AM there is some clearing to the north but its no longer raining. Forecast is for rain throughout the contest area today with isolated thunderstorms. Looks bleak. Day Cancelled. Gradually improving weather forecast for the next 3 days.

Tuesday 2-July - Race Day 6

Great dinner last night again in the hangar - LESS is really spoiling us here ! Dawn had some sun, but the weather radar showed light rain headed here, tracking south along the New Mexico - Texas line. Serious pilots went and got the gliders on the grid but I left the Antares in the trailer. Rain started a bit prior our 10AM pilot's briefing, and its cold - need a jacket outside. Weatherman: precipitation is expected today in all of the task area. Grid time pushed back just in case but it looks extremely grim; pilot meeting in the hangar at 12:30.

John Cochrane reviewed the contest safety checklist available on the SSA web site. Please read this, put a copy in your flight kit, and bring it to the attention of your CD when the guidelines are not used. I could have made the last nationals I flew in a bit safer had I known of this checklist...

A few notes on prior day problems: Dick Butler and friends repaired Concordia which was unfortunately damaged during disassembly; Concordia is ready to fly if it ever stops raining. Brian Milner is feeling much better after pulling out of the launch grid Sunday with a bad migraine.

I went back to the hotel and did some design work, got lunch, ambled out to the airfield, where to my amazement a task was being prepared. I assembled the Antares and taxied to the grid. Very late development but a cloud field developed on the horizon all around except overhead. We're tasked on a very short 1 hour 30 minute MAT, with the one required turnpoint east at Denver City.

I climbed up in the wave-modified thermals almost out the top of the cylinder, starting high by myself. Flew too cautiously towards Denver City, taking a 3 knot thermal, but I could see wisps leading to surprisingly nice clouds east. Next thermal was almost 7 knots all the way up, with a nice street leading further east to Seagraves, then a nice street up to Brownfield, then home under the same street. Flew too conservatively (again) and only managed 68 mph.

Heinz won at 81 mph in Eta-Biter. Heinz almost came back towards Hobbs from Denver City, but had a 15-meter bounce through his 3 knot thermal and continue on east. That was annoying, so he pressed on and found the good lift under the clouds, then romped around out between Seagraves and Plains. Ken Sorenson won 15-meter at 75mph, also around Seagraves and Plains.

Wednesday 3-July - Race Day 7

Today's Hobbs light breeze would pass for a gale most places. Looks like a good day ! First launch at 1PM.

Dick Butler's safety talk focused on denial - "this would never happen to me". Dick lost two friends to improper assembly, and had his crew find that his wing-pin had worked loose after two weeks of flying without disassembly. Dick has lost 7 former national team pilot friends in accidents. If you don't think these things can happen to you, you're in denial and you've let your guard down.

Task is 3.5 hour area task north to Littlefield, then south-east to Lamesa, down to Andrews, then north to a steering turn at Seagraves and south-east home. Booming lift off tow to good development and high bases. 15-meter and some open class are playing start-gate roulette, but it is developing fast with a good probabilty of OD and storms. Time to go.

Today I resolve to be disciplined: keep the cruise speed up, don't circle in junk, stay focused, don't get discouraged. All sounds easy. Time to go. Really. It would be nice to have some markers in front, but at 2:15 I start out the top of the 11,000 foot cylinder and put the nose down. With the tailwind, good honest clouds, and streeting, I kept the cruise speed up over 100 knots, and didn't circle in anything less than 6 knots. I rounded Littlefield airport averaging high 90's, on the edge of an intiminating giant storm building to the north and to the east over Lubbock. Upper level winds are from due north, so the storm is going to chase us south and it's blow-off will cause shading later, better keep the speed up ! Still haven't seen any other gliders.

Heading south-east towards Lamesa, the storm is building on my left. Should I try to run the edge and risk getting rained on and rolled over by the storm ? That's where the strongest lift will be, but its risky. I follow a cloud line a bit away from the heavy stuff, topping off in 7 knots to 12,000 MSL and tried to pick a route that lines up the clouds. I was joined by Pete Aexander and Rick Walter in the Arcus "98", and we flew together briefly. I was hoping for a soaring lesson but they took a bad line and missed a 7 knot climb, then they turned more southerly. I stayed closer the storm, got heavy rain for a minute or so, but it paid off.

The line of clouds continued pointing towards the back of the Lamesa turn area, which is deeper and longer than I planned. Time to turn towards Andrews, but its pointless to turn onto the next leg when there are no clouds on the resulting courseline - I'll just get low and slow. Keep going and keep the speed up ! Eventually there's a line of clouds towards the Andrews turn area, so I turn and keep driving under solid clouds with strong lift. This is all great, but the next leg is back north to Seagraves, back towards the storms and into the darkness from the storm blow-off shadow, might get ugly. But don't turn until there are clouds on track otherwise I'll just get low. I've stayed high and connected with the clouds all day; don't want to get low especially heading into the gloom...

Finally a cloud line runs towards Seagraves, so I turn and I top off to 11,000 feet at more than 6 knots. 85 miles out and a few thousand feet below a solid final glide. Bounce along the line, gaining on it, almost final glide ! I see some gliders circling high. Suckered by a gaggle, detoured aways, no lift, wasted several minutes. Focus !

Follow another line and take a 4 knot climb to 11,000 which is enough for final glide home. Hate to take only 4 knots but its getting really dark, and I won't get home if I get too greedy. Ooops, below final glide again. Bounce some wisps and make a few turns near Seagraves, now I'm surely all set. OOoops, found some wave sink, now I'm below glideslope again. Detoured along a lift line to a cloud 23 miles out, and took 5 knots to well over final glide altitude as there won't be any more cores under the cloud shelf on course. Too conservative but I can cruise home comfortably at over 120 knots. And of course there's some lift on final glide, but I didn't want to count on lift rather than more wave sink. Sure feels great to zoom through the finish line at warp speed! Here's the flight on OLC.

Pigs Have Wings ! I shouted when I saw the scoresheet. Frightened poor Denise: What's wrong Dave ? What's happened ? The scoresheet shows me tied for first with Dick Butler, obviously a mistake I replied. Dick and I managed just over 80 mph, but Ron Tabery spanked us so we tied for 2nd today.

DB averaged over 100 mph to the first turn, and still had a task average of around 98 at the second turn. But he started a bit late, and had to make big detours to keep out of trouble which clobbered his average speed. Ron Tabery did 88.7 mph. Ron started with HW out the top straight on course, first thermal 45 miles out near Plains where I found my first climb as well. HW detoured to a street-looking thing to right of course which had also tempted me, but Ron stayed with the more isolated clouds and better sun. He did get down to 7,000 feet (a bit over 3,000 AGL), but found a 7 knotter. Ron was a bit earlier than Dick or I, and ran closer to the storm edge without much rain. From Seminole, Ron climbed straight ahead to the center of the last turn to an MC3 zero margin glide, then flew all the way home with little margin deviation (no deviating for a final climb like some wimps). Ron wins not only the day but the contest, flying with an ILEC SN10 of course ;-) What an amazing day !

Winning in 15-meter, Gary Ittner P7 started at 2:22, worked some 3 knotters to avoid getting too low, then started finding 5 and 6 knots. Got down to 3000 feet AGL and had to take some 3 knotters. A 7 knot thermal under the overcast near Seminole got Gary up to cloudbase and a decent final glide.

We had several landouts, including one 2 miles out on a road after a blown final glide (this is why I'm so conservative about final glide). The rain arrived at Hobbs around 10PM... Final Scores Here.

Thursday 4-July - Cancelled

I assembled, watered, and taxied onto the grid, but as I was walking back to my car I got the news the day was cancelled, due to miscommunication with the town over ramp use for 4th of July. We may not have been able to task anyway. Surface winds were reported as south 22 gusting to 29, but it felt stronger, and I had to get help so my wings didn't blow over during disassembly. Upper winds were also very strong from due north, with the resulting shear, and instability had it raining just east of us in the AM. Proved to be a good day to stay on the ground.

Banquet in a few minutes, gotta go ! Thanks to Tim McAllister who did a GREAT job as CD, Edre and Steve Meir for competition management and operations, Bob Lynn and his crew of tuggies, the LESS (Lllano Estacado Soaring Society) and SSA volunteers, Ward Hindman for the weather, and all the countless other volunteers that put on this amazing show. Another Hobbs classic ! You shoulda been here !

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

Links for more information...

Antares 20E Electric Motorglider Information
Hobbs Open Nationals contest scores on SSA web site
Dave's Soaring publications, including blogs from past contests

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