Day 0 at Montague: keeping close to the Scott Valley

Steve Leonard's Nimbus 3 thermals with our Nimbus 3DM

Nimbus quorum: Steve Leonard’s Nimbus 3 thermals with our Nimbus 3DM

It’s the first contest day at Montague and JOY is racing! Much more inside…

Today the nine contestants in the 2014 US Open Class Nationals start playing for keeps. And, although Mike has flown other contests since then, this is JOY’s first contest flight—and my first flight in JOY—since 2012.

At the briefing, the weather briefer (Walter Rogers, who appropriately flies with contest ID of WX) warned of a shoal of cirrus clouds encroaching on the contest area during the afternoon, bringing shade and shutting down lift for the day. Accordingly, the CD (short for contest director—scroll down to “Contest Personnel”) set a conservative racing task, a Modified Assigned Task (MAT) whose three assigned legs kept competitors fairly close to the airport.

(MAT background: ok, first, let’s do:

(Glider racing background: Most gliding competitions involve a series of daily tasks, which usually require pilots to fly over a sequence of turnpoints. Turnpoints are fixed geographical locations picked before the contest, and while they usually correspond to points of interest like mountain peaks or airports, they don’t have to. At this contest, one of the turnpoints is called “Three Sheds”. I don’t know much about Siskiyou County or the State of Jefferson, so maybe they’re really important sheds, but I don’t think we’ll make the drive to check them out from the ground.)

In the MAT task, the CD picks out a few turnpoints and sets a minimum time for the task. Contestants have to fly the assigned turnpoints first, but after that, it’s basically up to them: they gain more points by visiting additional turnpoints of their choosing, and the contestant who flies the furthest fastest wins the day. Returning before the minimum time incurs a penalty, so it pays to stay up and try for distance.

MATs are convenient on days with diminishing weather: the CD can assign a few turnpoints and then let the contestants race until the good weather dies out. No CD wants to set an ordinary Assigned Task (AT) that nobody can complete successfully—it’s frustrating, and for pilots who don’t know where to draw the line, dangerous too.)

Enough chitchat, let’s do pictures.

Face-off: JOY and Richard VanGrunsven's Antares 20E in a staging-time staredown

Face-off: JOY and Richard VanGrunsven’s Antares 20E in a staging-time staredown

Montague is also hosting the 15-meter Nationals at the same time as the Open Class competition. The stubby-wingers get to launch first, so we waited about an hour before we got going. In the meantime: strategizing!

Flight line strategy session. From left: Mike Robison, Dave Nadler, and Dick VanGrunsven

Flight line strategy session. From left: Mike Robison, Dave Nadler, and Dick VanGrunsven

Dick VanGrunsven, famous designer of the RV aircraft series, races in the Open Class. He’s from around here; it pays to tap his knowledge. In general, the pilots are very helpful and friendly to one another in spite of the competition.

We wait…

Gridding on Day 0Waiting to launchand soon enough we’re off.

Launching on Day 0The task sends us over the Klamath Mountains, specifically over Scott Valley and the Marble Mountains. The range is gray and craggy, draped with evergreens. Shasta looms in the distance.

(NB: This looming took place later in the day)

(NB: This looming took place later in the day)

Two contests underway at once mean more gliders in thermals:

and ample opportunities to try out the FLARM visualization I made for my Google Glass.

There is a real glider in this photo, but I haven't been able to find it yet.

There is a real glider in this photo, but I haven’t been able to find it yet.

Yep, lots of other gliders flying around out there:

Thermal sharing on day 0

After completing the assigned turnpoints, we considered dashing back east across the Shasta Valley (which contains Montague) to turnpoints out there. Too daunting (for us and everyone else), so we stayed west. A trip northward to “R-Ranch” slowed us down; there was not so much lift up that way.

Day 0 routeThings improved as we returned south, and after topping off in some high thermals, we booked it back home at around 120 knots. The cirrus clouds described by the forecast did eventually come, but stayed thin throughout the duration of our Scott Valley tour.

Tomorrow: a likely rain-out, but you never know…

5 thoughts on “Day 0 at Montague: keeping close to the Scott Valley

  1. I like the giant hat reflection in the cockpit photo.

    Also, Soaring Quorum would be a great band name. Maybe for a string quartet or some sort of experimental new age group.

  2. Day 3 at Montague – Stepleton 34

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