Practice Day. A low ceiling, intermittent rain, and strong, gusty winds that kept gliders in their boxes on this practice day should yield to drier air and soaring in a day or so. This allowed us to complete our registrations, visit with out friends, finish a pilots meeting and then enjoy a great fish boil hosted by the always congenial airport manager, Jim Hanson. Tomorrow’s weather will come from the west, bringing strong winds and a final break in this wet, overcast pattern that has kept soaring grounded in southern Minnesota.
Monday. The cold front has passed through with the exaggerated characteristics of wind and clouds. Surface winds are at +18 kts, gusting to over +29 kts, winds in the boundary layer are +35 kts, ceilings are at 2600 and not expected to rise for the rest of the afternoon, and the high for today, 49. And that’s the good news, we have broken the wet, southerly flows that have limited soaring in recent days. Of course we don’t plan to fly today. Tonight we meet at the Elbow Room, a local favorite that serves hamburgers and other road house fares. Finally, the overnight low will reach 29 and that’s springtime in the north.
Tuesday – Day 1. We flew a race today and what a thrill. Even though high cirrus from Iowa tried to press northward while cumulus streets tried the same from central Minnesota, the CD believed that a 1:30 MAT would work. Pilots flew to the north but they found that pressing to far northward or trying for extra distance after the minimum time, left you a bit slower and so most pilots had returned within 2 hours. And guess what, the cirrus from Iowa over ran the cumulus streets just after the minimum task time, still Dave Springford in a ‘G29 and Dick Andrews in a DG1000 anticipated this and showed the rest of us that experience and good plans to fly MATs win races, finishing first and second respectively. Lift was consistent, moderately strong but low, in fact low enough to keep us below 3,500 agl for most of our flights with a flight band of about 1,000 ft. Our flight experiences matched the Skew-T diagrams and Dr. Jacks forecast for top of lift, and winds aloft. Finally, at days end we had a delightful barbequed pulled pork dinner at the airport, and again great attendance, fun stories for another day at the airport.
Wednesday. Mid-level stratus wins the day. Points in all directions from the airport are cloudy and it is unfortunate, because soaring would be great based on this mornings soundings at Chanhassen. That said, we had the privilege of honoring Ron Clarke who finished his 1,000th crosscountry flight here at Region 7 on Day 1. Ron estimates his total distance flown as a bit short of a one-way trip to the moon! This evening will find most contestants with crews, friends, and spouses heading to Worth Brewery and then the Gobblers Roost for a fun evening.
Day 2 – Thursday. Uff-da. We began the morning with Dave Springford giving us 30 minutes of instruction on tactics for flying MATs and TATs, and that might have helped a few of us as you can see in today’s results. Our contest weather experts then reviewed the RUC soundings during the pilots meeting where it was pointed out that lift would be strongest below 5,000 agl under the day’s blue sky. However, it was noted that the winds aloft would be strong, strong enough to fool our flight computers with values of 25 to 30 mph. The CD and task committee planned a three-hour, 199 mile TAT task at first, that later changed to a two hour MAT after the grid launch in order to allow the PW5’s a good day too. Lift was great to 5,000 agl with numerous reports of lift to 7,000 agl and strong indicated lift on the varios for most of the thermal circle. That said, if you could stay above 3,000 agl and find lift streets in the blue and not bother with lift above 5,000 agl, you had a great day. And that was consistent with the RUC modeling and the interpretation of the models during our pilots meeting. My self, flying GH scored highest with Dick Andrews in FH a close second. Jim Hanson and his wife, Mary Alice, prepared a delicious dinner of salmon on the grill that was well attended by pilots, crew, family and friends and so we had a great day at the airport.
Day 3 – Friday. Today was like day 2, but without any wind. Strong lift went to 5,000 agl at launch and over 6,000 agl during the blue afternoon with lots of bumps and sink to keep the pilots on a three hour-TAT course. Racing to the first turnpoint, Flying A, was fast and straight for almost everyone with just a few low saves, but the climbs were quick and so they were back on course at top speed. The second leg up to Le Sueur wasn’t quite as good because high cirrus from the southwest began to the shade the ground, reducing the number of booming thermals on the way. But there was just enough strong lift to finish this leg reasonably fast up to the area of lakes just before Le Sueur. Most pilots turned here and managed to finish at minimum time. Dave Springford won the day with Dick Andrews a close second. And then, we finished a fast soaring day at the airport with a fine meal of Dungeness Crab.
Day 4 – Saturday. The skies were mostly overcast with a moment or two when enough sun could heat the ground, and this allowed six gliders to fly a 1:30 MAT. Speeds varied between slower and slowest and that attests to all the time they spent flying backwards in one-knot lift while on course. Dick Andrews won the day with Dave Springford a close second.
Final Report. The news is official after four days of competition. Dave Springford wins the Region 7 Contest – Sports Class. Dick Andrews places second with team copilots Dan Zimmerman, Fred Hewitt, and Paul Remde who each flew on a competition day. Congratulations to all the pilots and many thanks to the airport manager, volunteers, and especially to the contest staff, Geoff Weck as Competition Director and Leon Zeug as Contest Manager.