Flying the Bright Open 2014 (Australia)

Flying the Bright Open 2014 (Australia)

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We have had a wonderful season of flying in Australia this summer! I took a few months off work and flew some comps, as well as some free-flying XC on my Mentor 3.  I thought I would share a few stories on the Nova blog…

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The first event of the Aussie season was the Bright Open, a race-to-goal comp with 57 pilots competing from 11-18 January 2014. I hadn’t flown a comp for a season or two and I don’t mind saying I was feeling a little rusty. In fact very rusty and that wasn’t helped by the fact that I had to miss the first day of the comp due to other commitments!

However, I finally made it on day 2 and arrived just in time to make the launch window from Mystic for the second task. After making sense of the task-board and getting myself off the hill, I was only slightly late for the start gate. The task was a 70km race via one turnpoint, taking us out onto the flats beyond Myrtleford. It was a gorgeous, mostly blue flying day, however I had only one thing on my mind – MUST MAKE GOAL. So I kept the hand-brake on and stayed nice and high – nearly too high as it turned out. Airspace for the comp was 2590masl (or 8500ft) and I came perilously close to scoring zero for the day after a rogue thermal took me to just over 2600masl after the second turnpoint. I banged on big-ears and speed-bar and managed to stay within the 100m “margin for error”, however received an official warning from the comp director – any further breach of the comp airspace ceiling in future tasks would see me score zero for the day. I eventually floated into goal along with 28 other pilots late in the afternoon. It was a great start to the comp and there were a LOT of happy faces milling around in goal.

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We have been very lucky to have a very creative task committee setting tasks in our comps here this season and in task 3 they set us a very cool 65km triangle style task, incorporating big waypoint cylinders to force pilot decision making during the route. The task took us from Mystic across Mt Porepunkah, through Happy Valley and back passed Mt Buffalo to the Buckland ridge with goal at Porepunkah airstrip. It looked like it should be a good day for flying, however the day started off inverted and was slow to get going. I spent the first hour very low in a battle trying to cross into the feisty leeside of Clearspot, the first trigger on courseline. I took whack after whack on my Mentor 3 and would go scurrying back to launch to try to get more height. It was a mentally taxing exercise and I had to remind myself constantly – ‘just stay in the air, the day will improve…’. Eventually persistence paid off and on the fourth attempt as I edged my way gingerly into Clearspot my glider began to accelerate and I realised with profound relief that I was being sucked into a huge thermal, which shot me up through the inversion and off on course. I had missed the start by a long shot and flew a lot of the task alone, well behind the lead gaggle. After my inauspicious start my flight was going sensationally well, until just before the final turnpoint. I was climbing out in a very civilised 3m/s climb, which I conservatively left 200m below airspace to go on glide. Unfortunately it was a blue day and unbeknownst to me I was sitting just downwind of a stonking 6m/s climb, which jettisoned me through the airspace ceiling as I went on glide. Goddammit!!! I landed in goal shortly after with 14 other pilots. It was a zero score for the day for me, with another slap on the wrist from the comp director and a lot of laughter at the morning briefing the next day at my expense. In the end it turned out to be a day that shook up the leader board a bit – while I had been fluffing around trying to leave launch at the start of the task, many of the top comp pilots on their rocket-ships had hit the deck early out on course trying to push hard before the low inversion broke.

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In task 4 I resolved anew to stay well away from airspace. The day looked less promising, however we eventually got a task of 55km in, which took us from Mystic to Smoko, to Apex Hill, back to Smoko, across to Porepunkah and goal at Porepunkah airstrip. I finally nailed a better start and blasted off on course. The new kilometer lead out point system that we are trialling here in Aussie comps this season is promoting very aggressive flying amongst the lead gaggle and this saw everyone get low and slow after the second turnpoint. While the lead gaggle grovelled around inspecting the koalas in the trees at the base of Goldmine Ridge, I tanked up in a few thermals they had ignored and eventually floated over their heads and into goal. No airspace violations and 3rd place for the day, with 30 pilots in goal. I was getting my comp groove back on.

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Unfortunately this did not last. Task 5 was an absolutely classic, booming Bright day and over half the field, including me, violated comp airspace again. Climbs were averaging up to 8m/s and there were areas of widespread lift covering entire ridgelines, that were just impossible to escape. This was a day that could have seen the Bright FAI triangle record broken and it almost seemed a shame to be limiting ourselves to comp airspace and the 100km FAI triangle task that the comp committee set for us – from Mystic, to Demons Ridge, Dederang, Meriang Ridge and back passed Mt Buffalo to goal at Porepunkah airstrip. I knew we were in trouble when the entire field spent the first 20 minutes of the task spiralling down out of airspace on Demon’s Ridge trying to get the first turnpoint. I was congratulating myself on managing my altitude ok until I was approaching the second turnpoint out in the Kiewa Valley and found myself in an epic 8m/s thermal that launched me through airspace and almost into orbit. Needless to say I tagged the second turnpoint and didn’t need to climb again for about 20km. I made goal with about 15 other pilots. Despite my zero score for the day, that was a thoroughly beautiful and enjoyable day of flying that I will remember for a while!

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So that was it for the Bright Open, with the remaining days untaskable. I was happy with my flying over the comp, although ask myself “what could have been” if I hadn’t breached airspace so often. And how did I find the Mentor 3? I didn’t have all that many hours on it at the start of the comp, so wasn’t really sure what to expect. To be honest, I can’t quite believe the performance that it has to offer. On transitions I was able to fly on full bar all the time and the leading edge is super solid – I didn’t have one blow out on bar and Bright can be a rough and demanding place to fly even between thermals. It also sniffs out climbs beautifully – coming into a trigger point I would give the glider the lead and just literally sit back and let it track into the climb. It also climbs beautifully and fast, even though I am flying it well over the top of the weight range. Granted the conditions that we enjoyed in Bright were very favourable for lower end gliders, with low winds, high bases and good climbs, but what an amazing thing that an EN-B glider can keep up and remain competitive with the lead gaggle these days! It is without doubt the best all-round glider I have ever flown.

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