Day 4 at Montague

Today: a sunny east-west tour.

Approaching Shasta from the east

Approaching Shasta from the west

Today’s task: a Turn Area Task (TAT). This task is a modification of the ordinary go-from-turnpoint-to-turnpoint rally-style glider race: instead of rounding small turnpoints, all you have to do is go anywhere in some broad neighborhoods around the fixes. These “turn areas” are large circles, sometimes dozens of miles in diameter.

Although simply grazing the circles satisfies the travel requirements, the TAT prescribes a minimum time, just like the MAT does. If you went the minimum distance, you’d probably be penalized for coming home early. How to pass the time? Spend it going deep into the turn areas, so long as you’re going fast. Your score derives from total distance covered divided by time.  If you’re zipping along and you think you can keep up speed once you decide to head to the next turn area, don’t give up on a good thing by turning early.

Here is our 246-mile course:


The yellow “house” icon is Montague Airport-Yreka Rohrer Field, and the white spot at bottom center is Mount Shasta, about 30 miles away. Our course went roughly counterclockwise, with a back-and-forth zigzag to the east.

I tried to make an artistic video as we were staging the glider:

Later, launch.

Glider landing gear is rather minimalist: you get one wheel underneath the fuselage. Without someone or something supporting a wingtip, you tip over to one side. This is not a problem on landing, since the lift from moving air will balance the wing until you stop; instead, the hard part is getting going. You need a “wingrunner” to hold up the wing while the towplane begins to haul the glider into the air. Today’s wingrunner was more athletic about it than most:

The start area was crowded as we waited for the task to begin:

Not shown: maybe two or three more gliders.

Underway at the east side of the Scott Valley, we flew along the rugged Marble Mountains. Mike passed the time with the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean:

Craggy peaks in the Marble Mountains

Craggy peaks in the Marble Mountains

After that, Mike and I reached the southern end of the Scott Valley, turning into a thermal at a remote locality featuring a crop with a suspicious resemblance to these. An effortful climb gave us enough altitude to head east toward Mount Shasta, which we passed in breathtaking proximity. Shasta is so enormous and so sparse in familiar features (trees, etc.) that judging distance was very difficult for me. We seemed close enough:

The landscape east of Shasta is rich in trees, lava flows, and not much else. Gliders fly here on their tiptoes, even in the long-legged Open Class. For me, this terrain feels faintly malevolent, and not just because it’s unlandable.

Lava field east of Mount Shasta.

Lava field east of Mount Shasta.

I can’t help but wonder whether unusual life lives in the “forest islands” at the middle of the lava flow shown above. Further east, another lava flow, a frozen scene of ancient destruction:

Lava flow east of Medicine Lake

Lava flow east of Medicine Lake

We were not alone out here: encounters with other gliders on task were frequent. Here, Dave Nadler (contest id YO, also blogging the nationals) exchanges waves and a wing wobble with JOY, which I found endearing (may need to watch the video full-size on YouTube). Mike continues with Pirates of the Caribbean

Thermaling with the other gliders was common here:

Thermaling east of the Shasta ValleyFinally we were done with the turnpoints. We turned westward on the heels of Bill Gawthrop (F8), current leader and eventual winner of the day. (JOY came in second.) Over this saddle first:

Through the saddle between Goosenest and Miller Mountains

Through the saddle between Goosenest and Miller Mountains

and back home, where we parked in a thermal while half a dozen other gliders landed beneath us.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.