Thursday, January 31, 2008

Task 5 - 31/Jan/2008

Today's sky looked inviting, nice spread of Cu, but base was not much above launch. The task committee must have liked the conditions as today saw the first race start of the comp.

The task went straight east 76km with goal in Karara. It seems getting away from launch and then getting the next thermal is one of the cruxes of each days flight because base has been low and the climbs weak - I think people have bombed out every day. Patience was key today, low saves abounded, lots of shade until half way to Warwick and then a big blue hole after Warwick which dirted several pilots.

The last part of the task crossed a forest with no landing options, and yet about 25 people made goal, which was really just a pub in the middle of the bush.

For all you non-Aussies, the comps here go for 8 days and this comp could be the most taskable comp of their flying season.

Two days left to go!


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Task Cancelled - 30/Jan/2008

Up on the East launch today we had light rain, bits of blue, tall clouds with a low base and a lot of standing around. They called off the day around noon.

There have been some interesting discussions as a result of the airspace penalties the day before yesterday. Enforcing airspace is pretty new in Oz, and it is not as easy as one might think. I think there are a few fundamental ingredients: Data collection issues (gps), rules and associated penalties, and software to do height analysis. The flight data program SeeYou is better than compgps for analysing time spent above a certain height, but the process is far from automated.

I was wondering what actually calculates the altitude that gets written to the IGC file, and apparently on some instruments you can select either satellite calculated altitude, or barometric altitude, and maybe even some calculated combination of the two. Since barometers are often manually calibrated, I would guess you could get quite a variation in what gets put in the IGC file and the pilots actual altitude - quite an interesting project to fairly enforce airspace in a comp.

Task 4 Results (3 pilots in goal):

Overall Results after 4 tasks, click here.


Task 4 - 29/Jan/2008

A classic Killarney morning - lots of low and fast moving clouds. Up top we went to the East launch, which has a really amazing view of the gorge which the Condamine river runs through. Lots of waiting around - Andrew was having too much fun radio controlling the wind tech - it was after twelve and base was moving up and the wind was strong enough to ridge soar easily, some comp pilots were getting itchy to go. Things moved quickly after that.

The task went 113km task out near Inglewood with one turnpoint about 70km out to keep pilots close to the Cunningham Hwy. The task went west so the only airspace to deal with is an 8500 foot ceiling- unlike yesterday's task which saw some pilots tangling with a more restrictive Airspace boundary (left purposely un-named) point penalties were awared.

Lots of nice Cu today, but as I watched a gaggle bobble along, I could tell the cores were not well formed and not every climb was to base. It was not magic cloud hopping for sure.

Base wasn't very high and if you didn't get to base, it didn't take long before survival mode kicked in, combine this with course line that went through a giant blue hole and about 60km out and gliders started dropping.

When the gaggles stopped to climb, they still had a ground speed close to trim, it's blowy out here. I don't expect a crowd in goal today. I will get some scores to yous tommorrow.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Task 3 - 28/Jan/2008

The morning greeted us with a completely blue sky - quite unusual for what I am remember of Killarney last year. Whispers of a long task were circulating. We get to launch and the sun is blasting, a few whispies curl above us. A bit of wind lurks in the forecast. The race ends up being a 139km straight line run NW to Cecil Plaine.

Because of the wind strength, another elapsed time race is called. Some people get high off launch, while quite a few good pilots bomb-out. Getting away from launch was a little easier today, but still not a hand-out.

Almost blue for the first 20k, but downwind an awesome cloud street developes a bit east of course-line, many pilots are lured to it and then have to deal with airspace issues. Ground speeds were fast there....

For sure pilots made goal, but at sunset a lot of pilots are still driving home. I feel for the scorekeeper, as if his job wasn't hard enough, he has to manually check tracklogs for airspace and then compute penalties using a slide-rule and blah blah blah. The forecast looks fresh, which could mean another long task, or, ahh - I won't go there.

Overall scores after 2 tasks.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Killarney - Task1 & 2

Task 1 - 26/Jan/2008

Low cloud base and lots of it today, which is why an elapsed time race was called with Clifton as goal (63.7km). Weak conditions and a bit of wind made getting the Killarney TP the first hurdle, and it was weak the next 25k, but then it got a little easier, maybe 10 pilots made goal. One of the Japanese pilots had the fastest time.

Task 2 - 27/Jan/2008

Less cloud on launch today, but some big Cu out west and Tstorm in the forecast. Weak conditions again made the course tough going. Elapsed time race straight from launch with Clifton as goal again. The storms stayed away from courseline but there was a lot of shade to deal with and some rain nearby. Not sure how many made goal, but I'm sure some did.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Cicadas are Dead!

Last year, 1000 kilometers north of Bright, AS we were driving up the main freeway near the coast, every 20 kilometers a strange wall of sound would grow until you couldn't even hear the noise of the engine anymore - this roar would continue for up to 5 minutes and then it would cease - it was the roar of millions of cicadas - this giant flying bug that makes the loudest cricket sound like a pin dropping. They are big bug that would make a nice snack for any of the myriad of birds that live here, but the collective roar of thousands of them scares even the birds away.

Well apparently millions of them come out of the ground every, I don't really know, maybe 3-7 years, and they proceed to make people go insane with their incessant buzzing racket. One of these bugs makes over 100 decibels of ear shattering disruptions (check it out on wikipedia if you think I'm joking).

I like to walk everyday if I can, and the first walk I had here this year, I was wincing in pain from the noise, I had to cover my ears with my hands it was so deafening, so after that I had to put earplugs in every time I walked. The racket has gotten a little less each day, and today I finally noticed it - THE CICADAS ARE ALL DEAD! HURRAY!!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Trough is Bad

The last day of the Bogong cup hang-gliding comp ran off Mystic Launch yesterday - a gaggle of hangliders looks as much fun as flying into a blender from a paraglider pilot's perspective.

It wasn't that bad actually, I only had a couple hangies in my core, and I just turned inside of them so our speeds were matching. Our climb rate is as good as theirs, at least in smaller, lighter cores.

In the picture you can see we had Cu below the total overcast, which is a statement of the days instability. The lift was super smooth and sweet - I climbed to 2100m which was even with where cloudbase was across the valley. I should have gone over to clearspot because Gold Mine was not producing enough lift, so it was just a short flight, under an hour. The hangy task got canceled as it rained a bit later down-valley - we felt the rain created gusty wind come through the valley after landing.

Today it has rained for hours on end, an amazing consistent rain - good to keep the forests green and the fire danger down.

Tomorrow looks sketchy, we leave for Killarney on Wednesday.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

CU makes it Easy

Finally the Wind backed off today. Trelawney and I did a 90km free triangle, the last half had some nice Cu that got us high.

It was a bit bumpy at times, not much time to take pictures, but I did get one nice one, I am looking South with the Kiewa Valley on the left. An eagle dove on Heike's wing and put a couple rips in it... Stay Tuned!

Monday, January 14, 2008


The weather has been interesting here, a couple days ago we watched a front roll right over the top of us.

First the gust front, then rain, then rolling thunder, and then a "sweeping arm" unstable cloud that marked boundary of front, then blue sky a couple hours later.

The front brought a new air mass but it was windy for several days, today it settled down and we got to race around in it for 3 hours.

We set a task, but scaled it back because the wind was stronger than forecast, so we couldn't do the 101 km triangle we wanted to, but we will get another chance. Colin Page and some others did a 70km FAI triangle in 5 hours...

I am using Geoff Wong's WebApp to score the practice tasks, it is the first totally web based turnpoint verification and scoring system I know of, and it is really slick!

I've loaded a task from a US comp I scored using compgps about 6 months ago into it to see how the scores compare. He is working out some of the kinks, but I really like what I've seen so far, and it's really easy to use - can you imagine that??

It could fill a huge hole - easy scoring for local comps giving aspiring comp pilots the practice they need to improve their game.

Stay Tuned

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Right or Left?

Up until recently I never thermalled right. That changed when I started doing comps - on right hand days I felt like a beginner again, I'd get in a right turning gaggle and do 100 turns, and everyone but me would sky out and go on glide, and there I was, low and grovelling all by myself, still turning right.

So for the next 10 flights, I am going to turn only right, unless I am desperately low - I trust my left to get me out of some black holes.

And then the plan to even up the turn direction is going to be let the thermal determine the turn direction - I should have listened to my instructor a long time ago I guess.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mystic Cup 5 & 6

Every other weekend the local PG club puts on a 2 day comp called the Mystic Cup. The comp is geared for intermediate pilots which makes it fun for everyone. Five bucks per day gets you in the comp and scored using compgps - what an inexpensive way to improve your comp skills!

We had good conditions and great tasks both days. Sunday's task seemed a bit harder because we had more wind and patience was required to do the upwind part of the course.

On Sunday, a few of us were pushing cross/upwind to try to get over a ridge. I looked to my left and saw a pilot spinning backwards with a cravat on one side of the glider. I didn't see the glider collapse originally but I heard the story from the pilot afterwards. He was on 3/4 speedbar and took an asym collapse, and when the glider opened he had several riser twists and the cravat.

When I saw the glider doing the backwards spin, which very closely resembles a SAT, he wasn't all that high and I wondered if the reserve would come out. I was quickly approaching the lee side of the ridge and couldn't watch any more, but I did see his wing flying normally a wee bit later so he made a nice recovery.

He related that he had to kick out the twists, then slow the turning glider way down, then pick out the cravat by pulling the stabilo line, pretty clear thinking considering he was fairly G'd up without much extra altitude. But all that loss of height meant the race was over for him, he was too low to do anything but find an LZ.

From my own experience, and as obvious as it seems, taking collapses is very counter-productive when you are on speed bar and racing. I have heard from pilots better than I that it is possible to fly the wing (including comp wings) in such a way that almost no collapses result from being on the bar, and the ones that do aren't big and messy. I had an experience just like the one above, but mine ended in a reserve ride, so I am a little more cautious on bar now.

I saw a handful of gliders up high today, looks like more of the same for the next couple of days.

Stay Tuned

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


We have had friends staying at our house for about a week now, and after days and days of lying flat on my back (because it's the only position I find free from back pain) I have started to wonder if our guest think I am useless - no doubt I am not much fun, but this gave me the idea to give myself a nick-name, something which gives me the license to lie on my back all day long in a guilt-free sort of way.

So until my back gets better, I am calling myself CAPTAIN USELESS. Being Captain Useless is way easier than the typical super-hero because if I actually do something it need only be totally useless and I am fulfilling my mission.

Take yesterday for example, the most useless thing I did was get into the ancient hammock out in the yard which broke and I fell to the ground, pretty useless for a guy with muscle spasms in his back.

Or the day before, I was talked into going tubing down the Ovens river, after my ass slammed into the 3rd or fourth submerged boulder as I floated down the rapids, I figured "Mission Accomplished".

Today I came up with a doctrine of sorts, which I use to explain my plans for the day to anyone that tries to talk me into doing something - I call it the "Zero Agenda Doctrine". Zero Agenda keeps me out of trouble, but it's just a matter of time until I get really bored of surfing the net and then I find a something "more useless" than "just useless" to do and that ends up just delaying my healing.