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2017 Quest Air Cross Country

After northeast winds on Friday the winds turn around to the west for Saturday
and lighter, although it often doesn't seem that way in the field. We're staged
in the north of the north/south runway and there have been periods of strong
west and then very light winds, then north. Larry is off first, then three
pilots are lined up in front of me.  Two get hauled up and then the wind
turns strong from the north and the pilot in front of me is hauled to the south.

Jonny Thompson, the tug pilot, asks if anyone is willing to launch from the
north. I'm first in line now and I say I'm ready. The wind has just calmed down
and is light as I get pulled up.

There is no lift on tow and in fact there is sink. I hold on until 2,600' before
I pin off hoping to use the altitude to find something. All I find is 500 to 600
fpm sink until down to 700' AGL. Just west of Sheets field I find some broken
lift and hang with the eagles.

It's a problematic climb as I check out various different areas of lift. I'm up
and down. Finally I find some good lift a little downwind to the east that
averages 230 fpm to 5,000' where John Simon and Tom Lanning are waiting. Tom
stays behind, but John leads out as we head south toward the turnpoint at Famish
to the southwest.

It's 8 kilometers of no lift until down to 1,800' we find a thermal that
averages 160 fpm. There are no cu's and a very definite inversion. The thermals
are not the friendly ones that we often get in Florida so we have to fight with
them. We are way downwind of the course line, which means that we will have to
plow back into the wind later.

We work a couple of thermals and I'm able to find 400+ fpm behind John and get
above him going past the Seminole glider port. It's a 10 kilometer glide until
down to 2,000' we find a bit of lift west of highway 33 and just before the land
opens up to grass fields going to Famish.

I've been in the lead and work an area that looks dry and then the trees next to
it. We are still searching for a core. I work 150 fpm over the trees at 2,100'
when John tells me that he is working 300 fpm just a little ways downwind of me.
I decide to stay in the lift that I'm using and not go downwind to find his.

This turns out to be the best move as my lift increases to where I average 450
fpm and his lift gave out and he joins me. We both get to over 5,400' and head
toward the Famish turnpoint upwind to the southwest.

We find lift along the way and 450 fpm just before the turnpoint. Things are
definitely improving. John gets the turnpoint and I follow as we head downwind
toward Dean Still and the highway 33 roundabout. It's great to be going

John calls to me to look to the south and see him turning a couple of kilometers
before the turnpoint. I join him. Rob Clarkson caught us earlier when we were
down to 2,000', but now he comes in under us and doesn't seem to find the lift
that we are in despite our directions.

We get the turnpoint and head north. John misses a strong thermal at 430 fpm
that gets me over 5,000' as John works weaker lift. We meet up again in weak
lift so I head off to the north northwest while John heads north. I'm heading
for the spot that we got up in from 2,000'.

I find lift nearly at 265 fpm while John struggles along the highway. Staying
upwind I find two closely linked thermals and climb just south of the glider
port to over 5,300'. From here I would normally make Quest Air with no problems.
But it is not to be today.

With a glide ratio needed of about 10:1 I see a lot of 6:1 as I drop down at 400
to 500 fpm to 2,800' in a little over 7 kilometers. I shade to the west to get
over some groves that have worked for me in the past and find  an average
of 260 fpm up to 4,300' 9 kilometers from Quest.

Of course now there is plenty of lift every where and I fly faster and faster
trying to get down. It doesn't work and I come in high right behind John.

The air was a little rough and we didn't have our nice cu's but we did have the
regular number birds marking thermals. We basically just had to feel things out
as we went along and hope for the best. Turned out to be a good day. Only Rob
Clarkson didn't make it back in, but he was close.
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