Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 6th February 2021 Condor Racing

 This Saturday due to lockdown we met up for our Condor flight. There were 3 pilots missing from our normal crowd. 

The task set was Long Mynd, Nymphsfield, Weston-Zoy, Chard, Cullompton, Bovey Tracey, Brentor. Distance 304km or 190 miles. All airspace is active, including Bristol airport which is Cat. D airspace, and the red rectangle over Weston-Zoy to make life a little difficult. Weather 14knts from NE, Cloud Base 4593ft Variation low, Thermals Strong Variation low, Width Normal Variation None. For those that have read last week’s blog, a number did complain about the strong turbulence that was set last time, so this week it’s set to weak.

Glider Type = Diana2 only. Aerotow to 3500ft.

After a quick briefing during which I mentioned that Bristol Airport is Class D airspace and no one here had a radio license so we had to fly around it and I also mentioned that the thermal width setting to normal meaning that all the thermalling would need to be done at 45o. Two pilots choose a relight (have another start) after running into trouble. At the start a few or us chose to make life easy and set my altimeter to QHN, meaning we only had to stay below 2000ft when we arrived at the temporary airspace over Weston-Zoy. Alan, Hugh, Phil, Ed and I also chose to fill the water tanks on the gliders, Simon and Matt elected to take half tank, though Matt emptied some out early on. We all started close together with Alan getting the best start followed by Ed, Phil Me, Hugh, Simon and Matt. 

Matt confessed after a restart that he hated the Diana2 as he could never get it to thermal. After getting low again he was left with no option but to press Q twice which gives you 2000ft in height, it also penalises you with 100 penalties points each time it is pressed. Poor Matt had a hard time and ended up pressing Q quite a few times. 

Phil, Ed. Hugh and Alan over 9 miles ahead
Half way to Nymphsfield Hugh had overtaken me and was catching Alan. As we approached Nymphsfield over the River Severn, Phil was bringing up the rear and Alan had trouble with a few thermals. As I said at the start you need to keep at least 45 degree bank or you slipped out of them, they were also a little harder to find. This allowed Hugh to take the lead with me following a few miles behind. 

Next obstacle was Bristol airport. By the time we got there I was catching Hugh who ended up choosing a cloud further away meaning he took a longer way around the airspace, which allowed me to scrape by. At this point the places were Matt with the aid of the Q button was in front, though with penalty points this put him last, me with Hugh right behind me, Phil, Alan, Ed and Simon were all close together. At this point Alan decided to empty his water tanks which made life easier for him.

The next obstacle was the temporary class A airspace over Weston-Zoy. Normally no one would set a task through it in real life, However it does mix things up a bit and does test all the pilots. As I approached I took a quick climb which allowed me to increase speed close to VNE (maximum flying speed without damaging the glider) and as I entered the zone I was under the 2000ft height. I don’t think I would do this is real life. As I lost height I started to slow, meaning I could stay close to the 2000 feet. A lot of banter often goes on over team speak, I heard Phil ask Hugh “Do you really need to be climbing so high just before the controlled airspace!!!”  Once I had reached the turn point I noticed there were very few clouds again. However one was placed nicely over it, I know it’s not real, But it’s isn’t very comfortable being at 1400ft QNH with a glider full of water. I climbed to just under 2000ft and set off again, this time flying at 60knts to maximise the distance for the height I had, I did have to top up my height again near the end of the controlled airspace. As I emerged from it the sky was nearly all blue, not many clouds within flying range. I noticed a few wisps of white. A cloud was developing, what timing!!  I headed for it and started climbing in a strong thermal giving me between 6 and 8 up. It was then I noticed Phil had emerged from the airspace ahead of Hugh. He had a good 2nd leg and taking 2nd place.  

Phil, Hugh and Ed not far behind.
No major airspace to deal with now, towards Chard then Cullompton, Bovey Tracey. All this way I had Phil close behind me. I knew I had the advantage as I was a good 1500ft higher, though one missed thermal could change everything. 
Hugh’s View as he flies over Dunkeswell.
Plenty of height to fly over the ATZ
After Bovey Tracey the flight computer was saying I had enough height to make it back to Brentor. However what the flight computer didn’t know is I had to fly over Dartmoor first so I took a final climb to give me plenty of height. The thermal was a good one giving me a between 8 and 10 up.

If only we had lift like this at Dartmoor!
Now a dilemma, do I stay and get more height allowing me to fly a lot faster to the finish, or level early and fly slower so not to lose the height. As I was climbing so fast I choose the height and then fly very fast to the finish. As I was leaving Phil joined the same thermal. Once Dartmoor was behind me I pressed W to empty the water ready for landing.  One rule we have is that you must finish with enough height to do a circuit and land safely. I went through the finish at 130knts with 1400ft QNH or about 600ft above the ground at Brentor pulling up to convert the speed to height and climbing to over 1000ft, plenty of height for the circuit and landing. Phil wasn’t far behind, with Hugh, Ed, Alan and Simon bringing up the rear. Simon only started flying in September, with the lock downs we have had he did really well only using the thermal helpers twice. Matt finished 1st but due to using the Q 14 times finished last. Was a good mornings flying, But I am really missing getting in the air for real. We are all hoping it will not be much longer.

Final Positions

Rick Wiles

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