This is the blog for the USA Soaring Teams. Check here for the latest on-site contest reports from the team members.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Heading Home

The US Junior Team is heading home.

The final two days left us first with a rest day on Friday. We all headed towards Helsinki and the guys joined in with other teams in a go-cart championship. Corey came in 5th out of 19 participants. Lighter wingloading (all up cart weight) gave much faster speeds unlike flying the gliders. A good time was had by all.

Saturday, the weather was marginal, but good enough for a 2:30 turn area task. Most made it home. Our guys came in a bit under time, but the weather wouldn't allow much more distance. The later turns were covered in overcast skies and led for long quiet glides home.

We are off to clean our cottage, and move towards Helsinki for our flights early tomorrow morning. I'll post more pictures, and notes when time allows.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Day 8

The weather looked much better today as we gridded the gliders. By launch time the skies were looking real good. Standard had a 556km task, club task was a 340 km assigned task. A while after the start, the skies overdeveloped and we could hear people out on course having trouble. There were 22 landouts in the club class (more in standard), but still enough finishers in club class for a 1000 pt day. Corey had a good run and came home with 943 pts today and an 8th place finish.

Devin unfortunately was unable to connect with a thermal 35km from home and was forced to land out. He did have some company as Chris Gough, the Canadian pilot, had landed just seconds earlier in the same field. This made the retrieve easy as both trailers could go as a convoy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day 7

Turns out that today indeed was a flying day. Everyone on the US team here flew at Rayskala today. While the guys were out on task, Devin's father, David, took a flight in the club K-21 and Becky and I took a turn after he was back. As I said before the rental rate was cheap, 2 hrs in the air for 44 euro, which is about $60. I've included a picture from our flight so you can see what the area near the airport looks like. Many trees and lakes. The number of fields increases as you move away from the airport.

Corey and Devin had a decent run to finish in the middle of the pack today. They had more fun than yesterday as the weather was better than the forecast said. Task was a turn area task of 2:30 for about 280km mean distance.

Day 6

We have learned of the fatalities in Parowan and Ephrata. Our hearts go out to their friends and families.

We're waiting under iffy skies this morning. At the team captains briefing safety was discussed as yesterdays weather was weak, and the gaggles were large. There were many complaints from the pilots as to aggressive and dangerous thermal techniques.

Yesterdays task turned out to be a slow one. Most of the pack only did about 240 km or so in a 3:30 turn area task. It was definitely a day to hang in there and get home. A slow finish yielded just over 700 pts, while a landout of near the same distance gave close to 300. Both USA pilots made it back, and were pretty happy as the going was tough. They rarely saw an altitude higher than 1200 meters.

Looks like the possibility of another day off

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day 5

Yesterday turned out to be another fairly good day. Corey placed 12th overall. For the most part they guys are able to fly together, but have occasionally found themselves on their own, or with separate packs. The slight difference in the gliders' performances makes it hard to stay right with each other all the time. This got them separated, as at one point, Corey found it hard to keep up with the Discus, and Devin got in the lead by a few km. A little while afterwards Corey caught a 7 kt thermal, which helped him catch up and eventually pass Devin, who had to take some weaker thermals in order to get home. There were also quite strong headwinds for the run home and a lot of pilots had a tough time, several landing out. Corey made it home with a speed of 85km/h; Devin came in a bit later with a speed of 79km/h.

They have quite a different selection of towplanes at this contest. We have 2 Pawnees, a Pik-23, Pik-27, Cessna Ag-wagon, Robin, and a Rallye. Yesterday, another Pik series towplane was here. Cycle times for each of these planes is about 6 mins, however they all climb and descend at different rates. The Pik-27 climbs slowly but is equipped with a water-cooled engine so it is able to descend quickly and is able to keep pace with the other tow aircraft. I asked the Finns about this airplane, and they said they have a lot of nicknames for it, none of which they will repeat in public. The Dutch team calls it the lawnmower. I did witness on a few occasions the Pik-27 towing a Duo Discus with two people on board, so it must do reasonably well.

Aviation Gasoline runs about 2 Euro per liter here. A quick calculation shows this is about $10 per gallon. Tows to 1500 feet however cost about 26 Euros or roughly $37. Rental of the club K-21 is 16 euro or $23 per flight. Interesting that despite the pricier gas, tow prices are still comparable to the US. A club member mentioned that most launches here in Finland are aerotow.

The guys are now out on course, it is a weak blue day. Spot Tracking shows them all lumped into a large pack. More to follow...


Monday, June 29, 2009

Day 4

The guys had a bit slower task today. The day started with a typical high pressure scenario. Hot weather, weak lift, and light wind. A turn area task was called with a minimum distance of about 160km and a max of 611km and a minimum time of 4 hrs. Sniffers were launched for the first time in the competition, and were seen thermaling overhead for about 40 minutes. The task time was shortened by half an hour and the launch time was pushed back in 15 minute intervals until things started to improve. By about 12:30 things were looking good enough to launch and I believe the launch went off without any relights, despite the weak conditions.

As we waited for the start line to open, cumulus clouds started appearing and the sky started looking pretty good. The report from the air was a bit different. The winds picked up a bit and started to break up the lift, causing pilots to have a bit more trouble centering, and resulted in slower speeds overall of about 89 km/h as opposed to 110 km/h or so for previous days.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Day 3 and Crew Day

Yesterday, the guys had another good flight of 300+ km with many of the speeds in the 100+km/hr range. Yesterday the competition had a lot of warnings (13 in all) for dangerously low finishes over the lake. Today everyone was much more disciplined and finished much higher. The US pilots have both shown very professional flying. Over the radio, we can hear good team work, and a lot of flying together as the score sheet shows.

Devin is flying a Discus, which has a higher handicap than Corey's LS-4. This makes it hard to come in close together each day in points. However both of them have worked together to show nearly the highest speed overall in the class on the first and third competition days. The second day they had a slow leg, but still came home very close together.

Today we awoke to overcast skies, and the radar in the briefing hall showed some rain moving into the area. It was welcomed by many pilots and crew after six spectacular soaring days as everyone needed a bit of rest. The competition committee however had different plans for us. The morning meetings were delayed, gliders were put on the grid, and after much consideration a 1000€ triangle task was announced for the ladies. Yep that's right... hold on to your pocket books... Rest day it was. Our Finnish friend Petra Sundström, who has been very helpful in Finnish translation, and where to find necessities like gas/groceries/misc, led everyone on a shopping tour of Helsinki and accompanied us for a nice lunch downtown. Fortunately we "landed out" and came in no where near 1000 euros.

Looks like more good weather tomorrow, the high pressure system that has been influencing the competition area is moving back towards us and should provide booming soaring weather again. Rumor is 400+km task.

Make sure to check out Hubi Huvermann's videos and pictures from other photographers for a good representation of what has been happening here in Rayskala:


Please also check Ritz de Luy's blog on the official website; she has frequent updates on the site about contest happenings.

Links to her blog can be found at the main page of the JWGC site and her archives below Hubi's video links: