The 2010 US Nationals at Big Spring
What can possibly learned from a review of what I know took place at the 2010 US
We set only one start time. Not a good idea for the first day of a towing
competition. At least three is a good idea while the tug pilots and the hang
glider pilots work things out. This caused Zac to get a late start and then he
pushed it too hard to catch up, and went down.
Start early, especially when things are uncertain. I did and I did something
else smart, I started upwind of the course line. Often a good move. The lift
wasn't good upwind of the course line in the start cylinder in this case (even
though the clouds looked good), but still after I started I was able to find
good lift and be in a position to find it.
Given my good position I was able to hook up with Rodrigo de Obeso and we flew
together to Lamesa, out in front of everyone else other than Campbell Bowen, who
was flying an ATOS VXR. Flying in front with another pilot was a good idea. We
saw Campbell turning near Lamesa and headed for him fast. We missed it but he
was soon high and we followed him downwind away from the turnpoint when we saw
him turning again. This move got us high.
When we headed for the turnpoint I was leading and Rodrigo shaded to the right.
I should have gone with him just to keep him nearby. I was out in front getting
the turnpoint first but then he used me to check out the air in front while he
got to find other lines as I fell quickly. He was able to climb up just over my
head when I landed from very low for second for the day.
Turnpoints are tricky, and I should have recognized that the change in direction
meant that the conditions would change and I needed to be careful going through
the turnpoint. The key was to head south after the turnpoint instead of down the
course line. I did this, but too late.
I was in the lead again flying as a team with Larry. Then I got airsick. I
didn't take my decongestant the night before and that morning. My ears clogged
up. I need to take more seriously symptoms of my new allergies.
I made some good moves. Larry, Dave Proctor and I got ourselves in a good start
position, all by ourselves. We very patiently worked the thermal in the start
cylinder, as there was a open start clock (your time started when you crossed
the line), getting a cloudbase start.
I made a good run at a cloud after a long glide through the blue to find weak
lift under a cu that quickly disappeared. That got Larry and I going.
While it would have been nice to start with Zippy, we were in a perfect position
to start the task at the first start time and I should have gone on my own then.
In fact another pilot did start then, so I wouldn't have been alone. When the
position is really good, go for it.
Going over shaded ground is just not a great idea. Do anything to avoid that (I
could have flown east of the shaded ground and jumped over to get the turnpoint
north of the shaded area). If you really have no choice, when you find weak lift
stay with it, until it is impossible to stay there, or everyone goes out in
front of you. No need for you to go first. Ignore Zippy and his reports of strong lift
you can't see him.
Fly fast. Pull the bar in. Lower the sprogs two turns (I haven't yet) to reduce
the bar pressure. Pull out the bumper on the VG.
Again, ignore Zippy. Stay in the weak stuff when you don't know where you are
going to find your next lift and you are not that high.
Oh, ignore Zac if you can't see him and you aren't sure that you can make it to
where he found the lift.
Wear the bifocal sunglasses so you can see the screen. Activate the route button
twice on the 6030, so if the task is changed at the last minute you make sure
that you have the right task. Check it again before you leave the start
Even at 200' you can get up if there is in fact a thermal there. Keep trying to
stay in it no matter how slow that you are going up. It will get better as you
Forget the distractions when you are in a thermal above other pilots, just focus
on staying above them, as the command position is more important than fixing the
little problems. Get the problems fixed before you launch.
Again get upwind of the course line in the start cylinder. I should have radioed
Zac to see where he was as there were no lift indicators (no clouds) and I could
have easily hooked up with him three kilometers upwind before the start.
I found myself slightly downwind of the course line as that's where the other
thermal indicators (pilots) were and that's where I got towed to instead of
upwind. The other pilots were too big a draw. If you want to excel, you need to
do the right thing, not the popular thing.