Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to read this blog!

The newest information is at the top of the page and the older articles at the bottom.

Not doing well

Today I'll score zero because I never made it out of the start cylinder. I could make a few excuses but I think it boils down to I wasn't hungry enough for the task. There was way more wind than called for.

While getting on the cart I broke my zipper pull string that closes the harness, so I had to pull out of line. In the end it cost me a few places in line and that put me far enough back that our conditions and the main gaggle would be long gone. When I finally got yanked into the air, I didn't stick, found really crappy sink and a whole lot of wind from the E. I made a few attempts to snake my way around to find something, but the cloud I was chasing fell apart long before I got there and now down to 1500', pushed my way back upwind and knew it would be faster to re-light.

The landing foretold the fate a re-light would present. Way too much wind, a bluing sky and no friends (the entire gaggle was out of sight).

I landed and called it a day.

Hoping for better luck tomorrow.

Hotel Pet

This moring we woke up to light winds and a new friend in our backyard. Right out in the back of the Inn, there's a little inlet that has signs about alligators but we hadn't seen any until this morning.

Our first little alligator from Jeff Chipman on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Land out companion

As I was retrieving my gear from the half mile walkout I put myself in, I heard a rustling in the bushes. I waited to see what fate I would endure. Then out walks this little guy. He was totally oblivious to my presence until I walked up on him a bit. Then he walked towards me a few steps and then ran away, but not before I snapped off a few pictures.

Good run, short outcome

When we woke up we could see the wind was less of a problem but the wind would still be here. After a quick continential breakfast the wind began to fill in but not as much as the last couple of days. On the way to the flight park the wind seemed OK but still we needed to see how the air park would be.

At the air park there was little doubt we would fly today. The clouds would fill in very nice and would help mark the lift well. The task committee set the same task as the last couple of days. The only change was the time. So the task would be:

Launch: Florida Ridge
1st TP: William Sky Ranch
Goal: Shell Airfield

Total of 47km (not all that far, considering the wind).

At launch we saw a few pilots having problems sticking early. Couple of weak link breaks and one pilot pulling off early when he started to look like he would lockout. But for the most part the launches went pretty smooth. I was yanked into the sky by a pink tug that took me to a nice thermal and I stuck with no issues. I was looking downwind as I started to climb through 1500 meters (close to 5,000'). I had to use meters because I had changed the instuments and wasn't really sure how how high I was. But 1500 meters seemed pretty good. I could see a few pilots directly downwind and went to there location it sounded like I was catching up with a few people from my truck. They left one cloud ahead of me around 5,000'.

The run into the first TP went pretty quick, it wasn't all that far (about 17 miles). I hooked up with a few other pilots but was having trouble locating the thermal they had so I pressed on towards the airport in LaBelle. There I found a very nice thermal that had everyone coming my way. I saw Conrad, Paul, Tom Lanning, Charlie, and Derick Turner and maybe a few others. I would end up staying with most of them for the rest of the flight. We topped out over the airport with 1500 meters and pressed on towards the 1st TP.

More later:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Later in the day on Monday

Rented segway and rode around Ft Myers beach for about 2 hours. Lots of fun, really easy to learn.

Is this sign really neccessary?

Haven't seen any yet, but we're on the lookout.

Third Strike

We knew it would not be flyable today. The forecast has been pretty consistent with the wind being too hard (15 - 25 from the east). The Bermuda high pressure hasn't moved and continues to send high winds from the east. As of this morning it appears that this pattern will continue until Wednesday. The organizers are sensing the mood of the pilots and are trying to come up with contingencies. Every one of the pilots just want to fly. But some things need to be worked out if the organizers decide to extend the comp by one day.

It's a grim picture on the wind forecast. The clouds look awesome, the direction and speed DO NOT. The safety committee calls the day around 11 am and now we need something else to do. I had already checked the tickets for going home. Long story short it looks like it would be best to buy a new ticket home rather than trying to change our existing tickets. By about 12, there is new information that the wind will begin to die down starting Tuesday (let's hope). I'm not all that sure about it but I'm willing to give it another day before we seriously consider going home.

Cloudbase looks to be 6k or higher. and again it's really difficult to watch this. Phill and I decide to go to his Dad's Florida home in Cape Corral. It's about 50 miles away and the TomTom proves it's worth again and directs us to his house with no issues. While we're there Phill calls his Dad and we coordinate a place to eat that has raw oysters. Sounds close but later we find that it's in North Ft. Myers and not Cape Corral.

Lunch was OK, but not as good of oysters that I've had in Florida before (Key West was way better). On our way out of the restaurant we saw a rental place for Segway's. It took us about 2 seconds to say yes and off we went for a guided 2 hour tour. It was really easy to learn to ride and in a short time we were riding them at full speed. Although I could see how it might be really easy to get out of control.

Big Blowout Continues

Even in the morning it's pretty clear that the conditions that are causing concerns for everyone will continue. Some forecasts have the windy conditions here all week. The mood among the pilots is already getting restless. I'm less than happy about the weather. It feels like it would be easier to take if the weather was raining. But since the weather and clouds foretell of good climbs and decent XC potential it's difficult to not be able to launch.

So on Sunday, the safety committee sends up Zippy (Zac Majors, one of the world team members and fellow Californian). Zac launches off the cart and rockets upward in the windy conditions. The tug looks to be climbing at a very steep angle and not making much forward momentum. The tow although steep doesn't look too difficult. Zac is able to stick and flys from cloud to cloud. After flying around awhile, Zac makes his way back to the LZ and gets turned low on approach. Zac makes it down OK, but it has a hidden message to most that are watching. Be careful landing and do not land behind anything that can disturb the air.

Shortly after Zac lands, the safety committee reconvievnes and decides to call the day for the 2nd day in a row due to wind. What to do now? Many pilots decide to go to the alantic coast and try and fly the buildings near the water. Phill and I decide to go and at least see the crazy actions. I'm game, but not for flying. I didn't come 2,800 miles to fly condos. I'll check it out. The TomTom brings us to the coast with very precise directions. We ended up going through some overgrown swamp like areas that some of the guys we spoke with told us about.

When we were within a mile or so of the beach we could see one glider soaring an old abandon hotel. Well I guess this must be the place. I could see the glider was a Wills Wing Raven (my very first glider in 1981). We get there in time to see Jeff James (Florida local) soaring the abandoned hotel on the alantic. We're in Jensen Beach at the old holiday inn. A few other hang glider pilots are there and more are right behind us. Jeff lands and greets us with a big smile and even bigger thurst since we said we we're bringing beer. In short order he gives us the low down on the whole operation and we assist in the "man tow" and get him into the air and he "sticks" the lift band of the hotel.

Condo Soaring from Jeff Chipman on Vimeo.

After a few minutes Jeff lands just in time for the big crew of comp pilots to get their shot at it. In the end we had 2 pilots in the air at the same time, lot's of spectators and an empty cooler. More entertainment than anything we had planned. Still I'd rather be flying and going XC.

More video of Glen Volk PIO'ing after launching

Untitled from Jeff Chipman on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

After a full day of traveling Phill and I arrive in Ft. Meyers kind of late (10:30). The rental car line was kind of long, so long in fact that I was able to retrieve all of the bags and sherpa the gear (all 200Ibs worth) across the access road and into the car rental terminal before Phill finished the processing.

The next adventure was the GPS coordinates I got off of google earth. It seemed that the coodinates were about a couple of decimal points off so we got lost a bit. Once we crossed a canal to the north I knew we were headed in the wrong direction. We followed the GPS until it said we arrived. Obviously we hadn't. Altough you could see the inn in the distance directly to the south. So the TomTom appears to be off or its google earth.

The inn is nice, but parts of it remind me of a barracks. They've done a good job of fixing it up. Our first room had a broken airconditioner. We got another room assigned that was even closer to the elevator (bonus).

In the morning I met a few guys in the hotel lobby that spoke of the high winds for the next day or two :( At the hotel it seemed fine, but just east of the hotel we could see the predictions were likely correct. So now the waiting games begin.

About 40 pilots are here I guess. 4 tugs and at least 1 trike. It's the regular crowd here from the comp scene, just hope the flying is epic once it gets started. Today looks like a bust and it's not even 10 am yet. The locals say it's windier than yesterday. It was predicted to have wind for at least today.

Pictures from the first day here

Sunday, April 19, 2009

No Fly - Prep day

Today held little promise for flying but at the LZ you would never have known it. The LZ was plenty filled for how hard it was blowing down. I showed up early only because Jim Shaw didn't know the difference between Greg Kendall and Kraig Coomber. Guess the names are close enough :|

Anyway I get there and find out Kraig is not there yet. But the LZ was filled with hopeful pilots, although from the data you could tell there was little hope for flying until about 4 or 5 pm.

Long story short, Kraig and Jon Durand showed up and Phill and I loaded our gliders on the trailer for the long 2800 mile trip to FL.

Beer flowed early and plenty of pilots were happy to paticipate in the LZ drinking.

Got a few pointers from the FL veterens, and a few well wishes from the LZ crew. I hope I can make goal a few more times than the AZ comp (I made no goals then, but came close on 3 different days).

All we need to do now is get packed and get ourselves to FL.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Readying for Florida

So I'm going to Florida to compete in the Rob Kells memorial comp. Phill Bloom and I leave on Friday April 24th and will hopefully see our gliders when we get there. Kraig Coomber is having his trailer driven XC to Florida and our gliders get a ride (for a price I'm sure).

This will be my first time to compete in the FL air so it should be interesting. I've been doing my share of flying lately so the skills should be there. I sent my 5030 to Flytec to be repaired and it's due back on Tuesday the 21st.

I'll be taking a boat load of pictures and will attempt to update the blog everyday so stay tuned for the latest info.