Day 9 at Montague

The last contest day. We pushed hard:

In the pattern for the last landing at Montague

In the pattern for the last landing at Montague

Our last day wasn’t our fastest day—that was yesterday—but back in the rear seat of JOY, it felt like we were pushing harder, going faster, finally getting the feel for flying gliders at Montague. Naturally, it is the last day of the contest.

It’s the last time we’ll have this view for a while:

One last ShastaToday’s task was another MAT of the “zip around Scott Valley and ride the convergence out east” variety. Our flight took the following track:

Day 9 task

(As earlier: house icon is Montague Airport-Yreka Rohrer Field, white round thing is Mount Shasta, about 30 miles to the southeast.)

We had clouds today, but no stormy buildups like the day before. It’s a late night this evening, so I’ll skip the usual narrative (it was fine, we tried to fly faster than before) and observe a remarkable 120-or-so-mile portion of our flight that we spent alongside RV and his Antares 20E. JOY first joined up with RV at the far eastern end of the task, working a strong thermal at just the time we needed some good lift of our own:

Topping out, RV and soon JOY set out on course. We would start at similar altitudes, matching speeds of around 100 knots indicated:

and gradually Van would get a little higher:

and higher still:

One reason this might happen is that Van is a skillful pilot from the local area with a real knack for sniffing out and soaking up little gasps of lift found in our straight glides. JOY certainly benefitted from having RV ahead of us marking these regions.

Another contributing factor is likely this:

JOY's data platespecifically that construction year seen on the data plate, which is right by my right shoulder. With the exception of the ships from Potchefstroom, all gliders in the Open Class contest were made in Germany, which has excelled at making gliders since before the Wright Brothers. To be more precise, though, JOY and VJS (a single-seat version of the same glider) were made in West Germany, with the remainder built post-reunification. What I’m trying to say here is that 26-year-old JOY is an old airplane by contest standards, and while it still has some unique virtues (it climbs well once established in a thermal, and it glides very well at slower speeds), advances in aerodynamics, materials, and construction allow newer gliders to glide more efficiently faster.

The Antares 20E is not all that new—maybe ten years—but nobody in the contest would deny that it glides better at speed than a Nimbus 3DM does.

Regardless, we kept up fairly well until we chose to tank up altitude in a thermal that Van passed by. It is thrilling to cruise alongside another glider at high speed, and beautiful—the moments suspended together in these glides will supply some of the stronger memories from this contest.

Later on, after struggling in a weak area just before the last turnpoint in the task, RV saved us again by hunting out the last thermal JOY needed: a whopper boosting us upwards at 14 knots—about three times faster than an ordinary elevator.

We landed. After a contest, there is usually a flurry of activity to return gliders to trailers:

Trailering gliders at contest's end

then a banquet where final results are announced:

20140703_201839_143Team JOY was not surprised that we didn’t take first place—that honor goes to Bill Gawthrop (F8), who flew a phenomenal contest in his JS1, his speeds on most days towering over the rest of the Open Class.

However, we were surprised to take second, having expected to fight for third place after yesterday:

Candid award

Champion, wife, and runner-up, with trophies. (Bill’s is larger.)

I attribute this result mainly to Mike’s consistency: he is generally capable of putting in a solid, high-scoring result most days, particularly as the contest wears on.

It is a privilege to fly with him.

Final post-contest thoughts pending…

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