2015 USA 18-Meter Class Nationals

Dave's Blog from Hobbs, New Mexico

Last Update: Thursday AM, 2-July-2015


2,150 miles in three long days and 35 hours on the road from Boston! Mostly an uneventful trip except driving through the remnants of hurricane Bill in Missouri and Oklahoma, where I saw several cars and semis off the road - hydroplaning accidents from driving too fast during the heavy rain.

Two competitors lost their trailers on the way to Hobbs! Miraculously, nobody was hurt, gliders were undamaged, and while one trailer was pretty banged up the other escaped unscathed.
Check that your trailer balls are tight!
Do not wrap safety chains around the ball - attach safety chains properly to vehicle frame!
Do hook up Cobra brake safety cable to the car!


This year at Hobbs we have concurrently the open class, 18-meter class, and club class. Hobbs serial offenders all: Edre Maier is competition manager, John Godfrey is scoring remotely, Steve Maier is running operations, and Walt Rogers is giving us our daily weather briefings. Richard Maleady is competition director this year. Our host Llano Estacado Soaring Society includes lots of SSA staffers helping.

April and May have been very wet with about 6.5" of rain recorded in Hobbs, the wettest since 1997. Approaching Hobbs from the east, quite a lot of standing water in fields and drainage ditches visible from the roads. Oddly, saw a dust-devil kick up from the dry middle of a field, surrounded by areas of standing water - it died quickly! Weather geeks see: Hobbs monthly rainfall totals from 1912 to present .

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. 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). Hobbs weather for the 2013 open class nationals featured some fast days but a few days we couldn't race; hope we have more consistent weather this year ( Dave's blog from 2013 Open Class 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. The weeds are now knee-high, even worse than in this photo. Click on image to see high-resolution version.
1983 Worker Plaque

In open class, Dick Butler is flying his magnificent Concordia, the world's highest performance glider. Heinz Wiessenbuehler is flying the Eta Biter (Dick's previous effort, before Concordia). Ron Tabery is flying his tricked out ASW-22BLE. Roger Buchanan is flying his beautiful ASH-30 with Mike Smith, who lost 20 lbs prior the contest so they could get the all-up weight down to the 850kg max gross! Mike Robison and Larry Timson are flying Larry's new Arcus M, over which I've drooled over prodigiously (my own Arcus M is arriving in fall). A Nimbus, a V2, an ASH-31, and two 21-meter JS-1B round out the field of 10.

This year I'm flying in 18-meter, where my glider is a bit more competitive (too bad about the pilot). 21 pilots are flying 18-meter: mostly ASG-29, a few ASW-27, a few Ventus II, JS-1, and my bucket-of-electrons. Of the 18-meter pilots, 5 have won a USA nationals in the last few years (sadly, not yours truly ;-).

Sunday 21-June - Practice Day 1

Forecast and actual: low bases and blue except far south-east quadrant. 18-meter is tasked an area task with areas to east south-east (east of Seminole), north a bit, south to Eunice, and home. I self-launched from mid-field and hit a boomer at the end of the ramp, so shut down and climbed out immediately before leaving the airport boundary; seems like should be no problem low today.

Plenty of lift to almost the 8k start cylinder top, so I headed out immediately. In the distance, at the south end of the first cylinder there are clouds! A bit of a slog out until 5 knots under a building cumulus, where Jerzy XG materializes and circles with me in my best thermal of the day. Not too strong but no problem to the 2nd cylinder, then I get low at Denver City, where it always sucks. Always. I made a huge circuit around the town, checking all the obvious hot-spots, and finally lined up on the runway and started the motor. Just after another motor-glider doing the same thing! Locals must have thought it some kind of weird invasion... As I passed the other end of the runway, I hit a huge surge, exactly where I'd looked for lift 5 minutes earlier! Really the same point, I checked on the flight log! So I stowed the motor, climbed out, and flew home, still with 80% charge remaining after a self-launch and a save. Best to get such silliness out of the way on the practice day!

Monday 22-June - Practice Day 2

Briefing called for a bit weaker and lower weather. Many of us decided to take the day off and rest before we go at it for real Tuesday. A handful flew and found decent if low lift.

Tuesday 23-June - Race Day 1

Last night's forecast showed little cloud and early start to a strong day. When I awoke, it was clear. When I got out of the shower, it was overcast... Walt Rogers briefs it will burn off soon, but at 11AM we still have 75% cloud cover and low bases, so we may have a slightly late start. The weather models still show good soaring to the east. Wind about 18 knots straight down the ramp. First launch at 12:15!

Mark Keene's kids found a baby rattler by their tie-down:
Baby Rattler
Watch where you step!

Task for 18m and Open is north to Reese (just south of Lubbock), south to Mabee Ranch (north of Midland), back up to Plains, then home - only 255 miles. Decent if chopped lift on take-off, a few relights, and then the day developed as expected with rising bases and decreasing cloud cover. 22 knot wind produced good streeting. At 1:30 cloudbase was up to 8k (4k AGL), but my ILEC SN10 said 3.5 hours to do the task, so wait for it to get stronger and don't leave too early.

As usual I'm impatient and leave a couple minutes before 2PM, climbing out the top of the start cylinder. First leg is cross-wind, and I found it hard to line up lift and didn't see many markers ahead - should have waited another few minutes to start. During south directly into wind at Reese we found fabulous streeting and strong climbs under reliable clouds, with am almost continuous lift line a few miles west of course. In my strongest thermal of the day, around 7.5 knots, Dick Butler joined in Concordia. Magnificent to see Concordia's pencil-thin wings bending in a steep bank! Sorry no pictures... Dick disappeared ahead of me - He's got 20 points of L/D advantage!

Third leg I managed to waste considerable time, but at least it was downwind. Approaching the final turn it started to blue out and I got too conservative, wasting a few minutes to ensure no drama at the end of the flight. Then, of course, I found 6 knots straight-ahead climb on final glide and ended up flying home at warp speed.

My 76.6 mph was a middle-of the pack speed, with Gary Ittner P7 winning at 82+. In Open Class Dick Butler blew our doors off at 89+ mph, devaluing the day by finishing under 3 hours. Fabulous day! You shoulda been here!

Old friends at Hobbs: My old LS-6, now owned by Blue Ridge Soaring Society, which I flew in Hobbs many years ago. In back is Dennis Gallotti's old LS-4, in which he did many air shows. We flew these together for several happy seasons!
Old Friends at Hobbs

Wednesday 24-June - Race Day 2

The sky at dawn was similar to yesterday, with slightly less overcast and wind. Walt Rogers forecasts very similar conditions to day 1 with winds more southerly and lighter. We should be able to get going a bit earlier and have a longer task; CD says task planners trying again to get a 4 hour winning time today. 18-meter is on another assigned task of 291 miles to the east, north, west, and return. All legs are across the wind-lines so we'll not be able to use the streets as yesterday... Grid time 11:30, expected first launch at noon...

I expected more than 4 hours on task, but started a bit too early at 1:40. Fast guys started closer to 2PM, and I had no markers. Zigged and zagged and wasted time on the first leg, not finding solid lift under predictable clouds until nearing the first turn. The 2nd leg was good in parts, though I did have to take 3 knots to keep from getting too low near Brownfield. Excellent lift passing Levelland and good looking clouds towards Crossroads looked promising, and delivered - for a while. Worryingly, some of the great looking clouds were lying - no lift. KM passed me at Levelland, but I managed a better line and was 1000 feet higher approaching Crossroads, and headed into the turn first. Turned under a fabulous looking cloud south of course - and no lift. Had to detour further south of course towards Tatum airport as this area is quite unlandable. Presently I was struggling low, when KM joined just above me. Somehow KM escaped while I flailed for considerable time before getting up and going under a line of wisps to Denver City and home (how does he do that?). Lousy 68 mph! Aaargg!

A couple motor-gliders started their engines, lots of folks had trouble near Crossroads. Former 8-meter leader Garry Ittner did the Hero-To-Zero routine, landing in a very scary place near Crossroads, no damage but please don't try this at home.

Thursday 25-June - Race Day 3

Wednesday open class winner Dick Butler again flew an astonishing speed of 91 mph. Dick shared our experience of lots of good looking clouds not working, but still managed to fly 8 mph faster than 2nd place finisher Dave Coggins (Dave flying a JS-1). Jerzy won 18-meter at 81 mph and started his report by trying to explain how to pronounce his name. Jerzy also complained about evil lying clouds not working, too many choices, not enough lift. In 18-meter, 11 of us failed to break 70 mph - lots of struggling Wednesday! Robin Clark won club class and told us his 5.75 knots average climb made the difference.

Walt Roger's weather brief calls for similar weather to yesterday, with a very slight potential of airmass thunderstorms in the northern task area. Drier northwest flow at higher levels, with light south-westerly winds at surface. Tomorrow (Friday) looks like active thunderstorms, hopefully after we get in a task.

Tasks today are all turn area with big 20 mile radius areas. 18-meter has 4 hour starting north to Tatum where we had such fun yesterday, then out east to Coleman, down south to Jal, and return via a steering point at Hamilton (steering point keeps us out of Hobbs municipal's traffic). Open class has real man's task with 4:30 minimum time, and launches first today. The big cylinders and long tasks should spread out the fleet, unlike our assigned tasks the first couple of days. First launch at noon!

18-meter launched last, and I was near the back of the grid. With a minimum time of 4 hours no long waiting around before the start! By the time I was off tow, we had a glorious sky with beautiful cu and bases around 9k. I again started a bit too early at 1:36, but the sky northbound was fabulous. I started out the top near the northern edge of the cylinder, and bounced the streets downwind to the back of the first cylinder north of Tatum averaging close to 100 mph (the 15 knot tailwind helping). I kept looking right to see if there was a good line of clouds heading into the second leg, but never saw one so just kept going.

When I finally turned east onto the second leg, the clouds thinned and weakened heading cross-wind over the lower and wetter area east. Lots of lying clouds. Maybe 1 of 3 worked, and these often not as good as they looked. Pulling under these beauties and finding no lift, its hard not to get aggravated and agitated. Stay calm, don't pull up in sink before reaching the clouds, press on promptly when there's no lift, fly the correct speeds, focus! Right, that's easy to say. Followed some odd cross-wind cloud lines and stayed reasonably high, if a bit slow. The clouds looked better north, so I stayed north and flew to the back of the 2nd cylinder. In some places there were clouds clearly working, close together, and it was possible to cruise at 120 knots to the next cloud, but then there would be a big gap and it seemed prudent to slow up to 100 knots and stay higher. Had to detour slightly on the 3rd leg to keep Andrews airport an easy out, but found a good climb from 2,500 AGL to 10,000 starting at just 3.5 knots then peaking at 7 knots near cloudbase. Bounced a few more clouds into the Jal turn area, then turned when a street lined up into the final turn area around Hamilton, for a too-conservative warp-speed final glide. 76 mph over 321 miles is another middle-of-the-pack speed, but what a glorious day! We are really privileged to have the opportunity to fly these toys out here

Friday 26-June - Race Day 4, try #1

Thursday's winners: Ron Tabery wins open class with almost 84 mph, just ahead of Dick Butler's 83. Ron didn't go to far north into the first turn at Tatum, anticipating the weaker weather on the second leg, where its been consistently wet and weak. After a slow 2nd leg, Ron turned early in the 2nd turn cylinder, and found a 10 knot average thermal from 2k AGL to 10,000 foot cloudbase. Turning early in the first and second cylinders, Ron had to go deep into the last cylinder at Wink. In 18-meter, Jerzy wins again, and Edre has almost learned to pronounce his name when she calls up the winners to give their how-I-dunnit briefing speeches ;-) Jerzy went to the back of the north cylinder at Tatum at 100mph, and also had a weak 2nd leg heading east, improving towards the end of the 2nd cylinder, with lots of clouds not working and some low spots. Biff Huss wins club class, despite getting low and picking out a field.

Keith Miller gave us a safety talk on his day 1 crash off the end of the Hobbs ramp. The SeeYou visualization of his flight log shows he encountered a severe downdraft peaking at over 14 knots down with spoilers closed and locked. Fortunately Keith is AOK, but the glider got pretty well trashed landing in the scrub. Keep the patterns tight here; large sink is not so unusual, and with something like 9,000 ft of ramp to land on there is no reason for huge patterns.

Weather today looks iffy. Driving to the field this morning, I had a few drops of rain on my windshield. There's a lot of mid-level moisture, and a diffuse frontal boundary over us. As the air heats we have a few scattered showers developing especially south and east, with thunderstorms expected in the afternoon. Walt explains the technical term for the areas of overcast and stable air in our task area is "crap". Terrible to no soaring weather in outflow areas from showers. 2PM forecast shows an area of no lift over Hobbs, due to earlier showers. No early trigger today. Walt gives us 50/50 chance to fly today, and plans to put his glider in the box tonight... The task will take us into the only area not suppressed and stable, but of course that's where the thunderstorms will develop. First launch at 12:30, maybe.

During club class launch we lost a tow plane to a brake problem, and the wind shifted to an intermittent tailwind. Given the late time, the day was scrubbed for 18-meter and open. I put my plane in the trailer, and in the afternoon a thunderstorm rolled through the south part of Hobbs but missed the airfield. No issues for club class - everybody made it around.

Saturday 27-June - Race Day 4

Just a spit of rain during the night left spots on the windshield and puddles off the trailer, not enough water to suppress lift in our area. Garret has been holding clinics for the juniors before our regular briefings - very educational! Wish I'd had this training when I was a wee glider pilot! In Friday's club class race, Mike Westbrook came back for a very late restart at 3PM and smoked the course, closely followed by Boyd, but 7mph faster than 3rd place Sean. Shook up the club class score sheet!

Today, Walt expects a little softer lift, with a north-easterly upper flow and no thunderstorms. Cirrus blow-off from storms to the north-west may influence our task area later. OD possible later on a line south of us from Jal east to Midland. 11:30 grid, first launch at noon, 18-meter and open launching first (concurrently, with the stronger tugs pulling open ships). Possible elephant walk if wind does not swing as forecast by take-off time. After the weather briefing, advisor Ken Sorenson announces the printed 18-meter task sheets are toilet paper; CD will distribute our task later...

Task reset (after seeing the cirrus in the satellite time-loop at briefing) gives 18-meter and open classes a six turn-area task (six! really!), giving us a 4 hour run while keeping us close to Hobbs. We start south with a big 20 mile circle around Jal, east to Andrews, back north (and near Hobbs) Lovington, Seagraves, back to Andrews, then a final steering turn at Hamilton to keep us all finishing the same way. Light easterly flow might give some streeting. Variable cirrus will provide some challenges...

Solid lift to over 9k before the start, lots of reliable clouds, and potential problems with cirrus mean no reason to hang around before starting. I can see a line of building clouds just left of course line heading south, and climb out the top of the start cylinder at over 7 knots to over 9k, and press out on course at 110+ knots. Mostly no circling required, though I over-ran a gaggle and couldn't restrain myself from taking a few turns before pressing on. Bouncing along near cloudbase I find myself with Jerzy XG, Pete in 98, and Mike Robison in the Arcus L. Absolutely glorious! In front of us a humongous storm is building down towards Pecos. Bases start descending as we approach the edge of the cell past Jal. To our left the next leg looks good, maybe a bit better to the south, though there's a blue hole near Wink. I keep following the clouds until I get a few rain-drops on the canopy; 92 mph so far but let's not tickle the dragon here.

Flying south towards Jal with Mike Robison and Larry Timson in Larry's Arcus M. Click on images to see high-resolution versions.
Arcus M
Jerzy passing above, as usual, heading towards the storm south of Jal.

I made a giant blunder and headed too far south towards the back of the Andrews turn, and further wasted time crossing the blue hole near Wink instead of swinging north to stay with the clouds. Weaker lift and darkening skies met me at Andrews, and I slowed up and tried to follow the sunshine. Suddenly a very different day from the first leg! Beautiful clouds over shaded ground won't be working when you get to them. Follow the wisps in sun but no 7 knot climbs over this wetter ground. I turn back from the third leg towards Lovington when the ground ahead is totally shaded by the cirrus, and just touch the final Seagraves and Andrews cylinders. Following a weak street past Hamilton to home helps my speed a bit, but its still a really slow showing at 64 mph. Aaarggg. Interestingly, I had more bugs on the wing today than I've ever seen on this plane (in 1100+ hours). The very wet season out here has the desert green and lots of bugs.

Sunday 28-June - Race Day 5

Saturday's winners: Dick Butler won open class again at about 78 mph, .5 mph ahead of Ron Tabery, and more than 6 mph faster than the 3rd place finisher. Dick also starting early, turned a bit earlier than many of us in the first turn for a more direct run under cloud to the back of the 2nd cylinder at Andrews, then slogged around in the weaker areas. Edre pronounced Jerzy's name correctly this morning! But winner in 18-meter was task advisor Ken Sorenson, who left a bit late. Ken had only one low point near Seminole trying to get home as the day died. Daniel and Sean tied for first in club class. Sean came back for a restart and had good initial legs, then also had a tougher time as the day died.

Walt Roger's weather briefing: Satellite loop shows thinner dissipating cirrus. Models show slightly higher strong lift to 11.5k. Possible thunderstorms far north around Amarillo latitude may throw cirrus our way late, and possibly some tiny cells late around Tatum or Caprock. Strongest thermals to the north but probably risky late; we'll go north early. Light easterly wind on ground should make launch unexciting. 11:30 grid, Noon first launch.

Safety brief this morning by Boyd: To deploy your chute, look at the handle, grab with both hands and punch away from you; single-handed you won't have enough strength to pull the rip-cord. Advice I hope never to need! Practice looking down and grabbing the rip-cord handle with both hands so its automatic if you ever need to jump.

Task is a 4 hour modified-assigned-task east to Andrews, back to intersection (near Seminole), down south to Jal, then Lovington, and then chose additional turn points to go as fast as possible in 4 hours. I waited until I saw a line of good looking clouds down the first leg and had a good climb out the top of the start cylinder, starting middle of the pack. I startled myself by catching Ray Gimmey 7V who started a minute earlier (usually I start to early and Ray catches me). Honking fast run with solid climbs and some lines of lift around the first turn, with weaker weather and slower going towards Seminole. Got briefly snarled up in a fur ball of club class gliders on the second leg, which works really badly with club class gliders down around 7 lb/ft2 and me well over 11 lb/ft2. Ran past that, and a fast run down to Jal under strengthening and taller clouds. Kept pressing and got low near Eunice, where Gary P7 blazed under me and kept going. I stuck with a climb that eventually built to 5 knots and almost 11k. Decision time at Lovington! I've been watching a strong line of clouds to the west, so I turn Lovington and bear west towards Hagerman Junction. This is "don't look down" territory, but safe up over 10k. Southbound back toward Jal under a line of gorgeous cumulus, strong lift under most clouds but I have some trouble finding the 7 knot cores. Approaching Jal, I need just another 2,300 feet to finish the task on MC 4 with an average around 80 mph. Sadly, I press too hard and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, getting a bit low and wasting 20 minutes dribbling around Jal and on home. Should have seen that the day was starting to die and eased up to stay high for an easy return home! 71.4 mph is a poor showing and I slide down the score sheet, aarrggg... Gary tanked and landed out after Lovington, ouch.

Monday 29-June - Rest Day

Walt send an email about impending thunderstorms; put the gliders away! A bunch of us enjoyed the day off at Carlsbad Caverns (an astonishing must-see spectacle). While Ron, Joan, JP and I were having dinner, the lights flickered as a thunderstorm blew the restaurant's sign over into a power pole. We thought it prudent to wait for the hail to stop prior departing. A spectacular lightening show and rain entertained us all the way back to Hobbs. Unfortunately our task area received considerable rain from this big line of storms, which is going to hurt our soaring prospects.

Now what? Police had the street blocked off, but the utility crew was puzzled about how to get the restaurant's sign off the power pole and power lines.
Lucy's Sign Down!

Tuesday 30-June - Race Day 6

Sunday winners: Dick Butler again wins open class at over 84 mph and 336 miles. After Lovington Dick tacked on a second lap down to Jal via Eunice, and finished 2 seconds under time (almost exactly on the 4 hour target!). Ray Gimmey won 18-meter at 80+ mph, following newer-looking clouds, and heading back south to Eunice after Lovington, and a street back to Jal, repeated Lovington, and finished 5 minutes over (a mere 2 points ahead of Jerzy). Garret won club class, going west after Lovington to Maljamar.

For Tuesday, Walt Rogers briefed storms around Midland, best soaring to the north, probably blue with thermal tops above 10k. North-east is the only area that had no precip yesterday. NAM model shows lift falling off after 5PM and ending around 6PM.

I gave today's safety briefing:
Radio use: Always start a transmission with the ID of the party you're calling. Otherwise, they won't focus on what you're saying and will ignore what you say! Not helpful!
Radio use: Press push-to-talk and pause prior speaking. Otherwise, when you start talking as you press the button, the first part of your transmission will be cut off! Not helpful!
Lot's of sloppy radio traffic here!
FLARM: a few folks still don't have it. Get with the program!!

Today we're racing an assigned 312 mile task way north to Portales, next east to Muleshoe, south to Tokio, north-west again to Crossroads, and return.

I was at the beginning of the launch so had time to tour the area and have a good look at the sky. As forecast, north-east was blue except for a few faint wisps. The eastern side of the start cylinder was on the boundary of the clouds leading into the edge of the Portales cylinder, so I started out the top and stayed to left of nominal course, planning to stay with the cloud field to the western edge of the Portales cylinder. I had some difficulty finding and centering lift despite the clouds and had a few faster pilots pass me, arrgggg... Entering the Portales cylinder, I kept looking right until I saw a line of wisps and clouds, then turned east to follow the into-wind street towards the second cylinder, passing south of Portales. No real problems, stayed high, decent lift, gained in the blue streets, but not fast. Wasted time searching and centering, resulting in slow average climbs, and I'm nervous to get low so I held the cruise speed down. Presently Pete Alexander 98 and Sean Fidler 7T catch me as we press into the Muleshoe turn area. Turning early in the Muleshoe area towards the Tokio turn area goes across a really big blue area. I elect to fly deeper into the Muleshoe area to follow a few clouds and wisps and get closer to the cloud field around Tokio. Heaven forbid I should stick with the fast guys... From 10k, I turn south towards Plains airport and a few wisps - Plains airport is the closest edge of the cloud field. So far so good...

Heading south across the blue, chasing wisps, its slow going, with only one decent climb passing Morton. Eventually I see Biff Huss H7 (winner of this year's Seniors contest), but we flail around chasing wisps and turning in foolers. I take a different line from Buff on final glide to Plains airport, and arrive at the edge of the cloud field at just over 1000 ft AGL. A few club class gliders circling above show me an area of buoyant air, and I settle for a 2 knot climb to get a bit higher. Biff passes underneath me - and lands at Plains airport, aarrrggg....

I press into the clouds and take 3 knots to cloudbase, but it is totally blue towards the final Crossroads turn area. I follow the edge of the clouds 40 degrees south of the course line to get as close to the turn-area as possible before heading into the blue. With final glide to Tatum airport as a safe bail-out, I glide in the too-still air to touch the final cylinder and turn towards home. I commit to the agricultural fields on course home, to a low point of around 1800 ft AGL and a weak climb up to final glide. As normal, I promptly hit 5 knots as I get closer to Hobbs, so I take a few extra turns to come home at medium warp speed. Slowest finisher of the day, but at least I didn't land out!

Wednesday 1-July - Race Day 7

Tuesday winners: Dick Butler again in open. Dick left immediately after the gate opened worried about the day dying and/or getting stuck. Along with everyone else, Dick stayed on the west side of first leg with cloud, turned into the blue towards Muleshoe, just touched Muleshoe, and went into the cloud field around the third cylinder Tokio. Slowed down to 70 knots in still air and biased his Crossroads leg towards Tatum airport just in case. Slow glide and a 3 knot climb to get home. Jerzy again takes 18-meter at 69 mph, starting 2 minutes behind Dick, but no markers in front and alone in the blue. As Dick, Jerzy found the beautiful cloud field in the Tokio cylinder was not giving good lift. With 850 ft reserve on a MC 4 knot final glide, Jerzy found sink and barely made the finish height. Tony Smolder won club class with a similar experience minus our final turn (club class task skipped Crossroads blueness).

Richard asked Sam Z. to give a safety talk on fatigue, but Sam said he was too tired. It's the 7th race day for 18-meter and open, and the 8th day for club class. Even with our nice rest day, folks are a bit tired, please be careful... Cheri Milner was quite ill and happily now recovering; Brian Milner GJ withdrew from the contest.

Walt's weather briefing: A weak front is approaching from the north which may stir a few showers at the northern edge of the task area late in the day. The front could be more of a problem tomorrow. Dew on the gliders this morning - unusual for Hobbs! Nonetheless the air mass is a tad drier and it will be even bluer to the north (huh? bluer than blue?). Walt expects 1000 to 1500 ft lower thermal tops than yesterday, maybe up to 10k. Light southerly wind. Grid noon, first launch 12:30. Assigned Task: North to Crossroads, east to Morton and Reese, south to the intersection near Seminole, than up to Plains and home.

Today I'm near the back of the grid, late launch, no touring about prior the start. Clouds! Despite all this gloomy briefing talk about a blue sky, gorgeous cumulus beckon at launch. Off tow, there's a cu field developing in our task area and especially up the first leg to Crossroads. Open class gate opens a bit before 18-meter, and they have the same first turn point. As the 18-meter task opens, the big guns in open class start out the top above me in a 7 knot thermal. I follow, climbing to 10k a minute after our task opens, chasing the big guys down the streets to Crossroads. A few 18-meter guys pass me picking better lines and flying heavier, but I still manage 92 mph to Crossroads.

Onto the second leg, its weaker and cross-wind, as on previous days in this area. Isolated wisps and cumulus still give 5 knot climbs flying mostly by myself. 2nd and 3rd legs are straight-forward, cruise fast and climb at 5-6 knots, lowest I ever got was 3k AGL. Turning south from Reese towards Intersection, the clouds look horrible - ill-defined, soft, inactive, flaccid things. I turn 25 degrees right of course to stay with better clouds and stay high before bouncing into Intersection, passing a bunch of guys who had slow going on this leg. A big gaggle charged down the course line toward the final turn at Plains, but it looked better left of course with dry fields and wisps, so I put the nose down and was rewarded with 5 knots at 1800 ft AGL. With time to center (and re-center at a mild inversion layer), the SN10 shows overall thermal average was only 3.7 knots, but it got me high and connected to good clouds for the run into Plains. Passing low stragglers to my right on the course line, I charged into Plains where there was solid lift and a fabulous street back to Hobbs. Too conservative on the final street, I started MC 4 final glide 1000 feet low, but was beaten home by a glider that started 2000 below. A decent showing today: My 75+ mph was good enough for 5th, as lots of pilots stepped in holes following the course lines through weaker areas.

Wednesday winners: Heinz wins open in Eta-Biter, just 7 points ahead of Dick who's covering his lead over Ron for first overall. Heinz did 103 mph to first turn point, chasing Dick and Ron, lost them on the 2nd leg, caught them at the third, Dick takes off higher, Ron pushes low into intersection with Heinz following, Heinz decided now or never and hooked left of course at Seminole and caught a boomer, then found the 8 knot thermal that got him home ahead of Dick and Ron. 18-meter Ray Gimmey wins at 84 mph with Jerzy hot on his heals, these two way faster than the rest of the pack. Ray and Jerzy went so fast they finished under 3 hours and devalued the day! Ray had an 8 knot thermal out the start cylinder top, flew by himself after the first leg. Ray turned Reese at 2000 feet AGL and took a few turns in 2 knots to get back to the good clouds. Ray over-cooked his final glide and arrived 1500 feet high with the awesome street on final glide. Garret wins club class, using his ASW-19's handicap advantage chasing Bif and Walt.

Heinz flying Eta-Biter.
Eta Biter

Thursday 2-July

Last day today! Garrett did the safety briefing on fatigue. We've been at it for a lot of days...

Walt's weather briefing: Walt has no idea why yesterday was so much better than forecast. Amarillo and Texas panhandle had storms this morning. Storms likely in the northern 1/3 of our task area, increasing and building south by 6PM, hmmm... Blow-off could shade the task area. Hobbs and south should be OK during our race, with blow-up around Crossroads at 6PM, then gust front expected at Hobbs around banquet time... Walt expects 3 knot average climb, with rare 5-6 knotters. Dawn broke with thick low cloud, and higher stratus, mostly cleared by briefing time, so Walt expects only a slightly slowed thermal trigger time. Walt got a nice round of applause for his most excellent weather briefings, to which he said "That's almost as good as winning a day".

We have a 3.5 hour turn area task close in with all classes on the same final-day task: North to Crossroads, back near Hobbs to Marathon Rd, south-east to Andrews, North to Seagraves, and home. Grid 12:30, 1PM first launch. Lots of cirrus as I head to the airport...

ILEC SN10B shows the storm brewing to our north is centered over our first turn-area at Crossroads. Hmmm...
July 2 Tstorm 1
Day Canceled for 18m and Open! I flew up to the edge of the storm, a few miles past this photo.
July 2 Tstorm 2

After the day was canceled, I flew part of the task, but came home in time to put the glider away before the storm got to Hobbs, take a shower, and get to the banquet on time for a change. Probably a good call to cancel, it would have been a very tough day. After nicking the cylinder at the edge of the storm, most of the rest of our task area was weak and blue, and late starters would have been eaten by the storm.


Once again the Hobbs crew put on a magnificent event, again thanks to the many volunteers (mostly listed above). Great task calling kept us in areas with lift in with atypical weather for Hobbs. A real privilege to fly here! Not only did Dick Butler win open class, but the machines he built took 1rst and 3rd (Heinz in Eta-Biter). Ron takes 2nd, still flying with ILEC SN10 ;-) Jerzy flew an astonishingly consistent race to take 18-meter with a commanding lead. Final standings on SSA web site.

After the 2nd long day driving home, somewhere in Kentucky, I was parking the trailer in front of the hotel, and a geezer yells "Hey! There's another one of them things you's pulling!". Heinz and Karin had pulled into the neighboring parking lot towing Eta-Biter. We had a nice dinner together, small world!

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

Links for more information...

Hobbs 18-Meter Nationals contest scores on SSA web site
Dave's Soaring publications, including blogs from past contests

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