MIDWEST 2017 – Part 6 (Lowest Save)

What would turn out to be the final day of the Midwest 2017 HG comp. was a beautiful day with cu’s developing early.  For the Sport Class we were headed to a goal labeled “BONG”, as it turns out there is a wildlife refuge there called Bong.

Like I said, it was another beautiful day and the cu’s were getting higher and higher. All the pilots waited in anticipation as I chatted with Bart on the flight line.  Bart said “With the moisture in the air, you might want to be a little bit cautious.”  There were some pretty big gaps in between the clouds.  Anyways,  I get towed up and I find myself under a big gaggle of people, and way up at the top of it is Tiki.

We all drifted and topped out and went on glide to the next cloud.  This was going great for the first few clouds, then I got a little bit too eager to start racing away.  I caught a glimpse of a glider way ahead on courseline and I made a B-line for him.  It turned out to be Knut’s green Discus.  I discovered that Knut wasn’t really thermaling but instead he was struggling to stay up.  Now I’m down underneath him and I’m really struggling.

As I got down to 800′ I had lots of LZ’s to choose from but I thought I would try and cruise over the top of a barn and silos that had been sitting in the sun.  By the time I made it to the silos I was at 600′ and sure enough, there was a workable thermal there and I was able to salvage me flight!  I worked the thermal up to about 3500′ then I decided to make another gamble.  It was a fire, a couple miles away downwind.  I decided to leave my strong low save thermal and try to speed up and hit the next thermal coming from the fire.

Once I got the the fire and I could smell the smoke, I realized that it was a bad idea.  The thermal there was weak and soon I was struggling again.  To my relief I saw another glider like mine, a U2, but this one had a blue top to it.  We both were drifting along scraping, flying together, right at a treeline before a lake I hooked up in a strong thermal.  For some reason my fellow pilot couldn’t get the drift of the thermal I was in and he slowly sank out.  I had a decent climb and then my thermal drifted me right into a BIG thermal that was coming off of Walmart.  I skied out!

Once I saw that I had glide to goal, I pulled in hard to speed into the finish.  The lift was so strong that I was climbing even as I was pulling in all the way.  With the full VG, being pulled in all the way, the strong thermal was tossing me to and fro.  I made it to goal!  I caught a glimpse of Kelly landing his Gecko and I was happy that I did because the wind direction was 180degrees the other direction.  Then I caught a glimpse of Sara, doing big wingovers with her Sport 2, in celebration of making it to goal! 

More and more gliders made it to goal.  Some just barely made it in!

Lucky for me a professional wildlife photographer captured my whole landing on film!  I had accidentally left the VG on full for my landing.  Thankfully, I had a good headwind to make it easy!

WooHoo good times!  Kelly saw me and said, “DUDE, I thought you were landing for sure!”  “I did too!” I said!  Couldn’t have asked for a better day.   The Midwest Comp was a ton of fun!  I had only just got a taste and just like that it was over!  Time flys when your having fun!

BY THE WAY!!!  My fundraising goal of $50.00 has been reached!  My newest donor Mr. Fabshaft has made a humble donation and I have now secured funds to keep the thermalcowboy.com up and running for 2018!  Yeehaw!  My most sincere thanks!

MIDWEST 2017 – Part 5 (Birthday Goal! 6/8/17)

June 8th was the day I was born, and lucky me I was in Wisconsin in the middle of the Midwest Comp.  I was getting bounced around the standings everyday and I was really beginning to enjoy myself and since this was my first comp, I wasn’t taking it so serious.  I had already made Goal on one day which was, for me, on it’s own, pretty awesome.  I was over being angry for everything that happened on the first day.  I was living in the moment, and I thought about how lucky we all were to be able to do something like a Hang Gliding Competition!

Despite my good mood, the weather on the other hand looked bleak.  High cirrus shading in, and a storm front on the way.  But as the open class launched I was amazed as many of the pilots were able to stay up and climb out.  I thought, “Hey, today might not be that bad after all!”

Finally, it was time to launch, and I had a great tow from Mitch.  He dropped me off with a gaggle of about 6 pilots and the climb was exactly what I was anticipating; scattered and weak.  There was a climb though, and as I circled with the gaggle I wasn’t able to climb up through them like on previous days.  I was the low man on the totem-pole.  My neck was creaked over so I could keep an eye on the others to see if they had moved and found anything better.  We had drifted way off course line with the wind before our gaggle found something more tangible and we climbed up to 5700’msl.  I was surprised that we were getting any climbs at all, with all the shade that we had.

But as we drifted along we started to get little patches of sun here and there.  Lucky for me, I recognized a glider, it was the U2C of L.J. and I knew that if we stuck together we’d be alright.  L.J. has decades of hang gliding experience and he mentored me on some of my early personal best flights.

However, as we’d go on glide, I would always end up low man on the totem-pole and I was in full on scratch and sniff mode getting down to 1200′ agl a few times.  I was always looking up at other gliders like Gregs’ and Knuts’ and of course L.J.s’.  Not to mention, the dark grey clouds with the rain were creeping in on us.  Finally, when I thought I wasn’t ever going to get back up again, L.J. and I snagged a big thermal over a treeline that took us all the way up to almost 6000′!  We were wingtip to wingtip on that climb and at one point I was close enough to yell out a big “Woooohooooo!” to L.J. and he yelled back.  We topped out the thermal and I was happy to see my instruments show positive numbers.  I somehow had a glide to goal!  At least that is what the 6030 said.  L.J. took off on glide, and he really took off too!  He was going fast!  I took one more circle up on the thermal and I followed L.J.’s flight path.  To our left we had a pretty big wall of rain closing in on us, up ahead was the town of Oconomowoc, which is dotted with lakes.  For L.J. this was just a turn point, but for me in the sport class this was goal.

I didn’t take such an aggressive glide as L.J. because after task 2, I knew that those positive numbers in the flight computer could change pretty quickly if I hit some sink.  So I flew along with L.J. but much slower, and when I saw him hit some sink I’d glide around the sides of those areas trying not to fly through the same sink he had.  I thought that this was going to be close, with all the lakes and the town, there were not many options for bailouts.  As L.J. sank below the horizon I lost sight of his smoky colored wing.

Finally, a few miles away from goal I catch a glimpse of the airstrip.  I was at 1000’agl and once I knew I had the goal LZ made comfortably, I hauled ass to hit the 400 meter goal cylinder.  “Woohooo!”  I made goal!  There were almost a dozen other gliders in goal with me, and I was happy that I was able to scrape along and make it!  The wind was strong and made for an easy landing…the land owner was cool and brought all of us in goal a bottle of water!

I was really having a good time!  I was understanding more what the competition was all about, having fun!  AND IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY!

Later that night, with the Texas crew, we went to Second Salem Brewery and had my birthday dinner!  It was awesome, DUDE, the Wisconsin burger, with the curd!!! OMG!!! FRIED CURD BALLS!!! Soooo much curd!!!