Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Day 1 Florida Ridge

Well as the weather prediction was not so great Oleg, Jamie and I decided to stay at Quest and drive down to Forida ridge in the morning. We woke up at 6am for the 4hr journey south into the everglades and Gator country. When we arrived at 10am everyone was setup and they had already a task of 122kms set on the board with the window opening at 12 noon. Oleg and I quickly setup and registered, as there was not much time to muck around. The winds were already quite strong from the south and predicted to get even stronger and swing more west as the day went on. Everyone quickly moved over to the other side of the field for staging and assessed the weather conditions. As this was my first time here I was kind of watching the others to see what they would do. I thought the weather would get better and that the last start would be the one to take however it turned out to be the opposite. The line up for launch looked more like 20 pilots line dancing with a lot of confusing as there was no real line up and priority. There was some amazing stunt work by Bobby and Rhett as they maneuvered the dragonfly’s to land as close as they could to the launch line. It was some of the most amazing flying skills I have seen these guys do just to get us up in the air as fast as possible. I eventually got airborne behind Rhett and towed to 2,000ft asl before releasing into a 100 up. Brett and Dustin joined me as we climbed to 3,000 ft we were now down wind of the field and drifting quickly as it was 20 knots plus of wind. I tried to push crosswind to get a little upwind of course line before the start as we still had nearly 20 minutes to wait and 10kms to fly. Dustin decided to go downwind for a cloud and join the others and Brett and I just drifted in zero waiting for the start to tick over. We ended up being a lot lower than the others who started at 1:30pm and were instantly 10 minutes behind having to struggle in light lift after the start. I watched Oleg and a few rigids disappear into the distance towards the first turn point. I was now flying with Brett and Davis and we soon found a good climb about 25kms out from the turn point and I could now see Oleg some 10kms in front and high. We joined up with Dustin at the turnpoint and I had now lost sight of the leaders again. I decided to go more south into the blue as there was still like 50 degrees crosswind for our next 25km leg. Brett and Davis went more straight under the some clouds and were now climbing good downwind of me. I held my line and hit one low which took me back up to 4,700 ft the highest I had been all day, this set me up good for the turn point. Brett and Davis were in front of me low as I rounded the second turn point still high. I went more upwind again to the west as we still had 50kms to goal with still a strong crosswind component. Dustin followed me and we had a pretty good run until about 15kms out from goal we got a little low and I hit some lift and stopped, Dustin kept going and soon found himself standing on the ground in the strong 25knot wind. I left for final glide over the intimidating trees just before goal knowing there must be a landing there somewhere. As I got closer I spotted a field of gliders and started to stuff the bar as I was going to get there high and look stupid. When I was about 3kms out I realized that they had actually landed about 1.5 kms before the goal and I actually had to cross another group of trees to an airstrip that would be far from ideal for landing on a day where the wind was so strong. I was not left with much choice, as I did not have enough height to fly back to where the others had landed. I set up to land cross to the strip as this was the wind direction not leaving much room for error. This was one of those landings where you are at the mercy of the gods and really to in control. I used all my piloting skills to control my glider through the rotor zone behind the 100 ft high trees and into ground effect before pulling up about 10 meters before the tree line. When I hit the ground I could not believe I was standing there holding my glider on my feet. I started walking my glider out of the airstrip towards the landowner’s house before being flipped upside down by the rotor. As I got near the house I could see them out side watching Brett land on the other side of the trees in the big field with everyone else. I thought wow these people must be into flying after all they live on the airstrip and I started to notice a shady area out of the wind on green grass just in front of their house thinking this could be a reward for having to land in such a shitty area. As I approached the house in my flying gear carrying my glider I see them peek through the window then they came outside with broomsticks in their hands. Interesting the wife quickly says to me “where did you land” I said over on the airstrip. She quickly replied as she lifted the broom over her shoulder you get out of here now and go where the others are. Wow this was not quite the reply I was expecting so my dream of packing up on their front lawn was obviously was now out of the question and I continue walking out their front gate. She went back inside and then came out with a camera and began taking pictures of me as I was on their private property. I found another area about 50 meters from the others with green grass and shade now on the main road so I decided to pack up there. They jumped into their car and raced out of the driveway towards me so I hid in the bush, they stopped at my glider took a few more pics then continued down the road to all the others. I packed up as fast as I could in the 25knt wind and then started walking down the road to see how the others were handling the landowner’s. Just as I got there so did the sheriff and it took a while for us to talk our way out of trouble. The next few days are not looking good for us as the wind is predicted to stay around.