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:


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 2

481 km task today. Corey and Devin had a bit of trouble on the second leg due to inconsistent thermals. The finish was in a different direction this afternoon, and many competitors were seen with spectacular finishes over the lake. Pictures can be seen on the competition website.

There are also some videos produced by Hubertus Huvermann posted at the sight as well. Hubertus(Hubi) was also at the Open/15m/18m worlds last year making videos. The organization plays them in the mornings prior to the briefing and are a real hit here at the juniors. Check them out at http://www.jwgc2009.fi/pictures.php

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It was a long day today. The day started with the opening ceremonies, and we proceeded to pilots meetings, where tasks were given out. Club class had a 531km task. Last year at the World Open Class Championships the longest task called was 507km. This again shows the remarkable soaring conditions here in Rayskala. The guys used the good weather and did well, with a speed of 100.9 km/h each. That speed gave them 12th and 17th place due to handicaps. They sounded like they were doing a good job of team flying over the radio and both had smiles on their faces upon landing.

Both US team pilots have commented that the people flying their own ships seem to have a performance advantage. The Standard Cirrus gliders they were flying with today seemed to climb with them and even have a very close high speed cruise performance similar to theirs. Overseas competitors like ourselves have to spend a large amount of effort and energy to get the gliders' instrumentation the way they want it and figure out where to put batteries as some have minimal systems not designed for competition. Resealing controls and replacing mylar is for the most part out of the question and other performance enhancements prove too costly to implement on another person's glider. But, it is all a part of international glider competition.

It looks as if we will have good weather through the rest of the week. Rumor is that they will have another long task tomorrow. Stay tuned.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Practice day 2

Last night following flying was the French and German evening. The Germans made the dinner and the French made the desserts. I missed both so I do not know what was served although I heard the French had make your own crepes. I was invited to a team captains evening. We started with a meeting and discussed more competition rules, and procedures. Then we were transported by bus to a cottage that was formerly owned by Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim. He was Marshal of Finland and is a very famous figure here who was responsible for much of the Finnish Independence from Russia and the local officials were very happy to show it to us. More info @ http://www.marskinmaja.net/english/index.html

Today was our second official practice day, however our pilots did not fly the whole task as they thought it would be better to come home early and rest before they can actually use the good weather for a long task. Rumor has it the task distance will be somewhere near 500km. Both Devin and Corey have commented on the remarkable thermal strength. They say they have had quite a few thermals upwards of 10 kts and more, and considering the length of day It is becoming very apparent how 1000km tasks are possible in this region.

Tomorrow will start with the opening ceremonies. There are no local officials to speak so the ceremony will be short and the pilots can get on with the flying. Corey will be carrying a Spot unit and his flights can be followed by checking the following URL.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Official Practice Day 1

Rayskala is the most active multi-sport aviation center in Finland. There are parachuting activities, light sport aviation, model aviation, and glider flying. Nearly 60 gliders are based on field. The airfield has 8 paved runways (four sets of parallel runways).

This gliding site has hosted many championships in the past, including the European soaring championships. In 2005 there was a 1000k task declared in the open class, of which 17 pilots flew the task. The long length of day leads to a long duration of convection and the soaring day can provide consistent thermals for long distance flights. The past two weeks of weather have been less than spectacular. Chris Gough from Canada participated in a contest immediately preceding the junior worlds. They only flew two days. His father, Andy Gough, is here to crew for Chris and has been kind to help us find whatever we need to get us up and operational. Two weeks of rain have provided him much time to scout the area for wants and needs, and locations of convenient stores.

The guys had a decent flight today with good thermals and a total of 350km on task. Mika Ganszauge, who is loaning us his car, is running the Spot tracking feature for the competition. The Spot units provide a reasonable tracking system for the cost. The organization said that 10 trackers for $150 per unit was a good deal compared to $500 a unit for real time tracking; we will have to see how it works out. It seems there was a positive response from the US competitions it was used in so far this year.

Mika was also kind to forward the following photos of the guys landing this evening.

Tomorrow we will have our time for technical inspection so the guys will only make short flights.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Unoffical practice day

Today we had our first airfield briefing and finished the registration process. Corey and Devin were able to assemble and take a short flight to scout the area. Becky and I went into town to buy some groceries to stock the cottage.

Our cottage owner was out this morning doing another kind of stalking... looks like he has the kill.

Tomorrow the official practice period starts and the pilots should get a more thorough look at the competition area. Today they reported lots of lakes and lots of trees in the local area, however areas a little farther out show more landing possibilities.

After two days of straight rain, and a few weeks of cold weather and rain prior, the post flight soaring weather report was 7 kts to 5000 ft. Not bad at all. The region has a quite sandy soil which obviously drains quite well leaving enough dry ground to give good soaring conditions.

Tonight we were all invited to the Finnish evening dinner. The meal consisted of salmon with dill, new potatoes, crudites, pickled herring and sausage. Competition Director Juha "Silva" Silvennoinen insisted that no one go home hungry. A montage of soaring video clips was shown though dinner, one scene depicting a high speed pass in a Duo Discus across a lake at the end of the airfield. It had many pilots' eyes wide open.

That's all for now.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Junior Team arrival

The US Junior soaring team arrived yesterday in Rayskala, Finland, to overcast skies and a quiet airfield. The organization was preparing for the upcoming world championships, but more importantly the midsummer eve party, to celebrate the evening before the longest day of the year. This holiday is the largest holiday of the country according to the locals. The party started at 9:00PM with refreshments, music, and dancing. At midnight all were invited to the center of the airfield where a large bonfire was lit and everyone gathered until around 1:30 or so. More dancing in the hangar followed until around 2:00 when the remaining celebrators moved the party to the Sauna for the rest of the evening. The interesting thing about this latitude is that it never really gets dark. The brightness of the twilight is about the same as most locations in the states one half hour after sunset (9:00 or so at this time of year). Then the skies start getting brighter again. Fortunately we have had no problems adjusting to the time change, and have slept well. It does make it hard to guesstimate the time using daylight as we do at home.

This morning we were awakened by a screaming, cawing and banging sound at all of the windows of our cottage. The owner of the cottage refers to it as the crazy bird. Our crazy flying friend likes to drop by in the morning and fly into the windows of the cottage and use the front porch as a bathroom. The cottage owner who is an avid duck hunter is currently outside stalking it with his pellet gun, after setting out what he described as the “last supper”, potatoes and salami.

This morning an LS-4 and a Discus B arrived for the US Team at the airfield. Corey and Devin are currently working on getting their panels prepped and gliders ready to fly. The overcast is scheduled to clear tomorrow.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Junior Team has Arrived in Finland

Stay tuned here for reports from the contest.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Days 3 and 4

Swiss aerobatics team (there were five more of them)

Two difficult mostly blue days. I came in fifth every day, good enough to make the finals.

Landed out in a beautiful grass strip yesterday. I missed get high enough on the mountains and thought it would work to bubble along on weak climbs to about 3000 MSL but fell out. Luckily most of the other pilots landed out as well.

Today was all blue with clouds at about 3500 meters leaking over from the Alps - tantalizing but unreachable. The lift was very broken with lots of false tries. A few thermals finally worked well after beating them to death for several minutes. Came in just below the group near the second to last turn and could not connect, the rocks were in the way again. I ended up very low and had to grovel my way to the last turn. Made a second finish again after going through the gate low (500 second penalty) and getting a good climb. Tomorrow I will try to do the climbing before the finish gate.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Flying Day 2

A tough day today with good, well marked lift in spots and weak, soggy thermals in poor visibility the rest of the time. The first leg was good soaring but it got tricky leaving the first turn. Heading south after finally finding a good climb the clouds went soft with a lot of shadowing from higher clouds. It looked for a while like it would die before we could get back. I got to cloud base and flew along the edge of the mountains, reaching a glide to the finish but too low for the 1100 meter finish altitude. Two more crumby thermals got me within about 200 meters of the finish. I then hit a 5 knotter and went back through the gate at the right altitude. I am not sure how this will be scored, but I don't think it will change the results. Still no scores on the web, I think I got 5th place again.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rain days

Second no flying day, Tuesday.

Monday looked pretty bleak.

Spent the last two days trying to be a tourist. I am not very good at this but I had excellent help from the Brits, Sarah Kelman and her two crew members Mary and Gavin.

Today looked like it would have been a reasonably good flying day, it was much better than forecast as seems to happen when ever a no flying day is called. The local rules put some new pressures on calling tasks.

The WAG venue is new and different. The scoring is basically Grand Prix but we need to fit into a tight schedule with the other many flying sports. We are attempting to fly four days as an elimination, with the top 6 pilots flying the fifth day this Saturday. Whoever wins the fifth day wins the contest. Because of the difficult scheduling, if we flew today we would loose the option of flying Friday. Since the weather is forecast to improve over the next few days today was scrubbed in favor of Friday.

We have a very good chance of flying the next four days. The pilots are excellent. There are three Dianna 2's flying, they seem to have a significant advantage over the other gliders as they will climb with anything and outglide anything in the 15 meter class. I expected to see more gaggle flying - the Dianas can hang with the group all the way around and then leave them on the final glide. No one flew this way on the first day. Sebastian Kawa won the first day in his Dianna but flew much of it alone and attributes his win to a very good climb on the third leg. (He also happens to be a very good pilot!)

Monday, June 8, 2009

The WAG has been great so far. The borrowed Ventus arrived on the same day we did as scheduled. Had a great flight on the practice day (see photos) but, of course, much worse conditions now that the contest has begun. We got about halfway up the mountains on the one contest day so far.

Also, everything worked for the practice day, except I still can't get the LX5000 to do anything but stay in cruise mode, and I discovered I had no radio about ten minutes before takeoff on the first contest day. Borrowed two handhelds and took off.

I began by blowing the start, the height limit was 1500 meters with a speed limit 170 kph ground speed. I am still embarrased about this but apparently most of the other pilots did the same thing. I thought I was going to land out about ten miutes after the start, but found myself in a gaggle of the entire feet in about a half hour. The flying kept improving thoughout the day, the last thermal was nearly twice as strong as anything I saw the rest of the day.

After finishing, we may or may not be cleared to return to the arifield because of timing with all the other activites. We only waited a few minutes in easy lift so this was not a problem so far. There is a nearby arifield, but no aero tows until after 8 pm so I hope it continues to go as well.

Today was called because of poor weather.

Monday, May 11, 2009