Day 0 at Minden

Today was the first contest day of the 2012 US Open Class Nationals!

Circling over the White Mountains with another contest glider on Day 1The task for today was similar to yesterday’s practice task: southeast from Minden to Benton, CA, but this time with a turn in between at “HILTON”, also known as the Flying-M Ranch. Turns out Barron Hilton (the hotel founder’s son, Paris’s grandfather) is a fan of soaring; for a time, he used to host some of the world’s best glider pilots at a yearly soaring camp there. The real highlight, though, was soaring next to the White Mountains east and southeast of Benton. If it weren’t so late, I could do better than to say that they were rugged and steep, which they were: like, way rugged and way steep. Fortunately, I did take a few pictures. Can you spot the glider in the one above?

How about here:Dave Nadler's Antares glider over the White Mountains on Day 1

That’s Dave Nadler’s Antares 20E, which has the contest ID “YO”. Even though we were racing, we were happy to see YO, since the usual indicators of thermal lift—cumulus clouds—were entirely absent today. We had to sniff out lift based on instinct and luck, and being able to watch how another glider was doing was helpful indeed, for both of us. YO and JOY leapfrogged each other halfway down the Whites (well, usually YO was a little higher) to Bishop, CA, all while a ruggedly steep scene of great ruggedness and steepness scrolled by on the left.

Here is a Google Maps screengrab of the task we were assigned:

The Whites are the mountain chain east and southeast of the Benton turnpoint (marked red). You’ll notice that it appears open-ended: there’s no return leg to Minden. That’s because today’s task was a Modified Assigned Task, a fairly complicated affair in which (usually) after the assigned waypoints are visited, a pilot may (typically) elect to visit additional waypoints to cover more ground before the finish line “opens”. As best I can tell, scoring a pilot’s performance involves some consideration of distance travelled versus how many waypoints were visited, but the rules are a bit too complex to remark on right at the moment. Here’s where we did fly, as viewed in Google Earth (download KML file!):

You can see that we went further south for a while—that’s Bishop—then back up. We hit two more waypoints (not shown): Sweetwater, then Coleville, CA. Returning to Minden, we seem to have done pretty well for ourselves: a solid fourth place nipping at the heels of 15-meter national champion Chip Garner and his DuckHawk.

UPDATE: Experience the rugged steepness for yourself in this 8x sped-up HD YouTube video of us flying over the Whites!

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