Coalinga dig out
Priest convergence climb heading home
Saturday was a great day (although not epic as we expected)with cloud streets and bases up to 8800 ft. The longest task was over 300KM. 12 pilots participated in 10 gliders. 8 gliders completed the task (some landed at Panoche).
Sat 4/5, our task could have been 500k (Taft and back) but the conditions were too weak after black mtn to do it. So we flew hwy 41 and back to hollister.
It took me 4 hrs and 50 mins (lame). After the start I never got up on the ridge tops west of New Idria on the way down. I ended up ridge soaring 1/2 way up the east side of the microwave tower mountain from the new Idria valley, finally getting a climb at the end of the mountain before coalinga. I cut across the coalinga valley straight for black mtn. under a very good street and was surprised when I found myself at the turnpoint ahead of everyone else, I had gained 30 minutes! cool, Since I had to make the decision to continue to Taft or not, I continued south for 14 miles to check out the climbs, they were weak and disorganized, so I turned back, to meet Ramy at the hwy41 tp just as he turned it, I followed him for a few miles, and headed back on my inbound track. This is were I made a (lets say) tactical error on the way home. I ended up in the middle of the coalinga valley completely covered in cloud (all shade) and a strong easterly wind with no climbs, I kept going and got lower and lower. Then as I'm circling over new coalonga airfield at 1000 ft agl in 1 knot, I'm thinking to my self, how the @#$@ did I end up here, what were you thinking! I heard Peter 2T scratching around further south and that encouraged me not to give up.
Anyhow I lost an hour scratching desperately over new coalinga, the town and old coalinga airstrip, before slowly climbing up to 4,000ft 2 knots which gave me enough altitude to follow a ridge up to a castle peak, got to 5,500 and proceeded west into priest valley (i knew the west wind was also blowing from the coast, and needed that convergence). The middle of priest valley had a spot of sun in the middle, and a higher cloud base with a defined leading edge, I went straight for it, and boom 8 kts to 7,600ft cloud base was only 6,000 everywhere else. My climb showed a west drift, I indeed had found the center of the convergence, combined with sun on the ground gave me my best climb of the day. I past 3 gliders on the way home, Peter caught up and passed me too, when I had Hollister in glide, I was thinking "I cant believe I made it, I was sure I was landing out at coalinga". The flight was very challenging and rewarding. Great task Ramy, and thanks for setting these up! I wish I could attend
I have had several days to reflect on this flight, and compared to my flying a year ago I would have landed out in new idria, and broken my ship. For the newbys out there, (and im still one!) here are some of the most important things I learned so far:
1) Keep moving, get away from the bad air, don't spend anytime trying to find that elusive lift, it aint there!
2) Look for the sun and wind direction, think of the big picture, where are the winds meeting?
3) Where is the source of the lift? Specifically what's causing the trigger (wind, sun, terrain those are the ingredients, just figure out the recipe and it applies all the time)
4) Learn when to switch gears, from racing to survival mode, the earlier you can detect (plan your next move way ahead) this the greater chance you will have saving the flight.
5) Always take the strong lift, even if you dont need it, its altitude in the bank, you can always turn it into speed later, but never know when you might need it!
One of the worst habits I had in the beginning is thinking I had to stay where I was until I had my destination (or turnpoint) in glide (even if it was 30 miles away) As long as you have some alternates on the way, just go for it, (as long as you can see there are signs of lift on the way) Even on a final glide to hollister with no markers and strong
sea breeze, I have bickle, chrischensen, and at worst many fields on the way, I have set out below glide on several occasions, and even had to ridge soar the east foothills in the sea breeze to get high enough to glide the christchensen, when I get over christchensen I found I could bump my way to hollister. I never had hollister in glide until the last few miles.
Screen shots from SEEYOU software (now with 3D flight analysis!)