Saturday, August 6, 2011

Logan Survival Training Camp Region 9 and 15 Meter Contests

Click the pic.

by Nigel Cripps August 1, 2011

OK so that's a cheap shot at an event that took a lot of organizing by a dedicated group of individuals, although at times that's exactly what it felt like to the uninitiated, from the time we were dropped off low on the ridge for the slow grind up the hill side with 60 of our newest friends, to running at ridge top - or below - with little height to spare to reach potential landout spots in the valley, and to the inevitable late night retrieves for self or friends. It seems almost no-one was spared at least a little agony, although as usual those who really knew what they were doing seemed to (mostly...) breeze through the contest and even get back in time for some dinner in the evenings.

The Region 9 and 15 Meter contests were held concurrently at Logan in July 2011, with about 60 pilots attending. More than usual rainfall in the spring had left the contest area very green and spectacular to view from the air, with some snow still visible at ridge tops, however the damp ground seemed to kill any hope of thermals in the valleys, and for many days the fleet was not reaching the hoped-for climb heights. Even so, a couple of days late in the contest period gave the lucky survivors a taste of the promised land.

Much has already been written, commented on, censored, etc., about the organization, tasking and landout opportunities (or lack thereof), and Frank Paynter's consistently interesting and entertaining reports initially posted to the SSA site did well to catch the flavor of how pilots new to the area were responding to the challenge; a little exaggeration for entertainment could have been taken without offense, but some of the organizers must have been concerned that it might be detrimental to Logan's chances for future contests, and so they were removed.

Were the risks any greater than elsewhere? Perhaps; I didn't feel any more vulnerable flying along the ridge than usual, didn't have any close calls, and with some sensible planning it was always possible to reach a reasonable field for landing. But that's because I was flying in survival mode much of the time and not able to think much about competing, so I was making sensible rather than competitive decisions. There was some damage to a few gliders whose pilots knowingly carried on into bad weather over inhospitable terrain, but not necessarily more than would occur in a contest anywhere else. The real carnage was in the dwindling number of competitors as the contest went on. Mass landouts, late night retrieves and aggressive and inflexible tasking options relative to the actual weather conditions took their toll, and by the end of each competition a very significant proportion of the competitors had chosen to go home early, rather than risk becoming a statistic.

Otherwise, Logan was a very fine place to fly and with my new-found experience of what to expect there I will jump at the chance to return for more contests, hoping for better weather and a crew. The ground infrastructure - airport, local hotels, the town, Starbucks, restaurants (of which I can attest at least some will give you a table after 11pm) - was the best I have experienced at any contest site; the contest area is rightly challenging, with numerous ridges requiring careful transitions, and the weather was - well, it wasn't the best Logan can offer this year, but there was no adverse wind or rain (correction: but of course yes there most definitely was on day 1; the nice dry cut alfalfa field I landed in had been turned into a mud bath by more than one passing thunderstorm by the time I returned, singlehanded courtesy of my WingRigger, for the retrieve. But that's another story). Crews appeared to be enjoying the site enormously, unfortunately punctuated by the need for the occasional retrieve. The organizating team mostly met the many challenges thrown at them, and many thanks are due to Micki Minner for suffering through the pain of having to deal with a bunch of pilots, Karl Striedeck and Tim McAllister for stepping up to take on CD duties, and Barb Smith for running the launch very effectively each day. Ron Gleason handled the scoring very efficiently and will make an excellent future CM/CD. And not forgetting the many other helpers who go into running a contest.

In the regional contest, Tim McAllister strode away with the Sports class in his beautifully-prepared SZD-55, and Bif Huss took the combined FAI class with ease. In the 15 Meter Nationals, John Cochrane had to abandon the contest with a clear lead after 5 days due to back problems, leaving the field open for local pilot Tim Taylor to come through to win on the final day.

Arizona was sadly under-represented by just 3 pilots, yours truly, 1X and MM. We all left before the end - I was exhaused after a couple of late night retrives and left rather than fly in my sleep - but it was nice to see MM trying as hard as always, both for 1 week of practice before the contest started, and then for most of the contest week. He won the landout stakes with probably 7 or 8, alternately keeping the tow pilots rich with expensive retrieves, or his crew on the road for ground pickup. Good seeing you John, and looking forward to having you fly the Discus/Ventus/Arcus M etc with us again. WA and PC were also there, Mike was choosing which color hat to wear each day for the weather briefing, and PC was crewing for another pilot.

See you all next year, hopefully, at another Logan contest.

PS: In the original version of this report I forgot to mention just how useful Dave Leonard's excellent Logan scenery in Condor had been while preparing for the contest. Flying in real life at Logan for the first time, it was uncanny just how familiar things looked. The only thing missing was those comforting green and red blobs showing where the thermals are; can we have those next time please?