December 31, 2009
July 5, 2009
The weather has turned markedly cooler and sweaters and jackets were required by the less hardier types like myself. The awards ceremony was held at just the right time as less than half an hour after it ended rain had set in. We are in Helsinki at the Radisson downtown and are going to make a small tourist excursion and dinner tonight before we start our return journey tomorrow morning at 6:00am.
CLUB CLASS TOP 10
STANDARD CLASS TOP 10
July 4, 2009
While waiting for briefing to start we were entertained by Harry Sundström the president of Räyskälä Foundation on guitar and US crew member David Bargainnier on harmonica. Their impromptu jam was greeted with warm applause as was a later announcement of 2 euro beer for happy hour at 19:00.
The weather has turned a lot cooler and we again have cloud cover over much of Finland. A clear weather hole developing over the contest site and a 282km nominal distance AAT task has been set for both classes, the only difference is the start line locations.
The clear hole disappeared shortly after the start line opened it is now completely overcast. Chris and Nathan KS were the first to start and we have just heard them discussing going on or making for home. It seems last minute heroics is not on their agenda and they are not concerned about ending the task early. We expect to hear them calling a finish any minute.
July 3, 2009
July 2, 2009
We have not seen many foreign licence plates on the cars on the roads (of course excepting those at the gliding field). There are cottages to rent around here, but it seems that it is Finnish people who normally visit this area as our cottage only has instructions in Finnish – usually you find English instructions when you travel. We have found TV programs in English (with Finnish sub-titles) so we can watch something when we arrived home tired. Fishing from the dock by our cottage is better than the TV – we have not caught anything else yet – we probably need to go out in the boat again. It is pleasant to stand on the dock dipping the line, enjoying the scenery and watching the sun trying to set in the never-ending daylight.
Alcohol Killer a drink in cans is available at the
Sika Saloon in the briefing hangar, open for business at 9:00a.m.
Sunny and warm but uncertain weather. We will have two racing tasks, taskB is a bit shorter and does not reach as far east to avoid showers associated with a cold front which is due to pass through this evening and tomorrow. we are on the back of the grid today and first launch is not scheduled until 11:30 and in reality will probably not take place until after noon.
Highlights at briefing, more gaggle flying safety discussion with SeeYou playback of a near miss. Karaoke night tonight, they don't have our music so fortunately for all concerned we will not be able to perform.
After briefing the task set for Club Class is a 344km assigned task Standard is flying 556km. Contest Director Silve mentioned he wanted to keep to racing tasks rather than distance and endurance! TK and KS started at 14:16 and we also heard Corey and Devin of team USA starting at the same time but not necessarily from the same spot. The start line is 10km long and has been set to as much as 20km when both classes used the same line.
July 1, 2009
Weatherman Janne explained that although the models did not predict soaring possibilities the holes in the top cover suggested we may have a chance to fly. The task delivered at the grid for Club Class is a 2.5 hr AAT nominal 268km, min 175 and max 375. Chris and Nathan KS started at 14:13 from the top of a gaggle after debating the merits of being first to start. Last transmissions suggested conditions were not as bad as they seemed at launch time. It is sunny and warm and we might just get time for a dip in the lake before the anticipated finishes around 17:00.
The terrace at Café 26
Last minute makeup!!???
The long grind to start altitude
June 30, 2009
I think that the lake is a little cool for swimming – 19 C, but the Finnish think that is warm!
Yesterday Chris produced a result more consistent with first two contest days and the practice days. Out landings penalties, warnings and airspace incursions by other competitors contributed to his improved total standing.
The tasks took a long time getting started with the last launch in club class rolling at 13:16. Large gaggles drifting towards the start gate, standard class were dropping water in preparation for the big grind ahead. Earlier the sky was punctuated with the odd cumulus but now at 14:45 there is high cirrus cover and blue thermals to around 4,000 ft. It looks like it could be tough going.
June 29, 2009
Although English is the main language members of different countries communicate in, I have been in a few situations when another language was more useful in making a clearer communication. Just this morning I was talking with one of the French crew members and after establishing Yannick lived in Strassboug to his amusement and delight we carried on our conversation in German.
Someone seems to have taken a fancy to our flag as it has gone missing from the flag pole, I have brought a spare ensign to reestablish our presence on the flag line. I guess we should be pleased someone felt the Canadian flag is unique or valuable enough to steal. Of course it might just be that the flags were purchased on the government's best price criteria from a far east supplier and that the grommets didn't hold when a front went through a few nights ago.
We have two tasks today to the west in anticipation of weather problems in the east. Task A is a 320km assigned task and Task B is a 3.50hr area task 259-575km, both tasks are squeezed in between the opposing terminal airspace areas west of Tampere. At 11:05 I was summoned to a Team Captain's meeting at the front of the grid. The standard Class are being moved to another runway because we have a slight tailwind component and we have received confirmation we are flying the assigned task A. First launch is scheduled at 12:15.
At this moment David Bargainnier father of Devin of the USA team is adding a bit of big city flavour to the warm summer weather on the ouside terrace of Café 26 with renditions of familiar tunes on his harmonica.
It is 5:15 a few landouts have been reported we are getting ready just in case as cmost of the pilots are in the same area about 30 to 40 km from the finish. Re the contest finishing Friday or Saturday that has been updated we will fly Saturday if it is flyable.
June 28, 2009
Sniffers at 11:00
At the front of the grid
June 27, 2009
It is just past 11:00 and the day has been canceled. After that the weather looks good for a number of days.
June 26, 2009
The long days of flying are also amazing – the contest has lucked into some great soaring weather at the moment. Chris and Andy sat through many days of rain and cold before the contest, so they are appreciating this weather. We get up early for us (we are all night owls not early risers), are rigged by 9, team captains meeting at 9, pilots meeting at 9:30, gridding closes at 11 and first launch at 11:15 to 11:30. The flights are long, so the finishes have not been coming until around 6 and there have been landings as late as 8. After de-rigging, we have a beer and post the blog, leave for dinner and then its bedtime!
Most of the junior pilots are flying longer tasks than they have ever flown and at faster speeds, so are experiencing many personal bests. It is interesting to overhear them chatter about their accomplishments. It is a pleasure to be here and see these young pilots fly so well.
Briefing this morning was opened with another great piece of video from Hubertus W. Huvermann, view the videos from the Pics&Stories tab on the contest site. Hubi nearly made his last film today. I backed into him when leaving the grid and knocked him over. Fortunately he recovered quickly and assured me there was no lasting damage but I took him to the accident and first aid team to make sure.
Finishes today will be on the same runway but the contest director has ordered unofficial photographers to stay away. you will need toview the photos on Pics&Stories.
The tracking software has new links:
Google Map or Google Earth
June 25, 2009
At the end of the first day there were a lot of tired faces and early nights to prepare for today's task offering. Chris's day went well yesterday but his decision to fly the clouds to skirting a blue hole did not work out and he ended up having to accept less than optimal lift to stay in the game, much the same as the guys who went through the blue. The earlier pilots had a bit less trouble which increased their separation and points.
The weather continues under the influence of a large high pressure region rendering a good looking sky with flatter cumulus and has illiminated the chance of spreadout which has been a factor in the past four days. The temperature is also a comfortable 23-25°C so the lake by the saunas is beckoning.
The task today is 50km shorter for each class, Club Class will fly 480.7km. If you have been looking at the task maps you will notice the usual zig zaggy affair with long legs east and west. All of Finland is restricted airspace. The last page of the following pdf file airspace illustrates the restricted airspace sectors. Each day airspace sectors are opened up for glider flying and the pilots have to take particular regard for the ceilings as they cross into a new sector. The grey areas are no fly zones so you will see the reason for the long east west legs and the minimal turns to the north and south.
It is 15:00 local time and the tracker equipped aircraft are in the area around the first turnpoint. We will check in again when they get closer to home.
June 24, 2009
The task today is 531km
Chris has been underway about an hour and the tracker has him in the area of the first turnpoint.
The task looked a little ambitious at launch time but conditions seem to have improved and we are hopeful the day will not end in retrieve.
The grid from our position 111 near the back.
From the tracker we can see Chris is round the second turnpoint and about 300+ km into the task, progress to date would indicate a finish between 19:00 and 20:00, sky does not look too bad in the area they are flying.
The landscape reminds me of Muskoka or Haliburton – pine trees and white/silver birch trees and lakes. The lakes have swans on them, not loons. The terrain is flatter than Canada and there are more farmers’ fields, but no granite rocks. Road signs warn of moose crossing the road, so we do find many things familiar. Andy and I went fishing last night and we managed to catch a pike, but that was after we tipped the boat while retrieving a lure, nearly fell in, took water on board and had wet bottoms!
Chris and Andy seemed to be organized and ready for the contest. Chris had good flights on the first and second practice days, and is off on the first real day as I write this. It’s a long task, 531 km, but the sky looks good.
June 23, 2009
Google Earth http://www.spot-tracking.com/files/jwtracking.kml
Tracking does not work in Windows Explorer you will need to download a copy of Mozilla Firefox to view the tracking.
The opening day task we have been warned will likely be a long one with grid opening at 8:00am and tasks ready for pick up at 8:30. There will be a short opening ceremony before briefing tomorrow morning and launching is planned for 11:00.
June 20, 2009
The airport at Räyskälä was buzzing last night. Most if not all the teams have arrived and last night marked the start of the Finnish mid summer festival. This celebration started at 13:00 sharp, until Monday corner gas stations are one of the few places to buy forgotten supplies of staples like milk and more important beer. Since our arrival the weather has only cooperated sporadically and the start of mid summer festival failed to coax the sun out from behind the pouring rain and clouds. However at 22:40 when we set out to join the festivities at the airport it had started to dry out and the night light did not look too different from the light of the morning 12 hours before. Along the normally quiet route to the airport we had to negotiate parked cars and crowds of people making their way to the bonfires that were burning along the shores of the numerous lakes. When we arrived at the briefing hangar the newly constructed bar was conducting a brisk trade. We immediately ran into our friends from team USA and team Australia and got to know some of the British team who are our neighbours at the cottages we are all staying at. Shortly before midnight everyone trekked out to the centre of the airport to gather around a huge bonfire, members of various teams gathered around the bonfire attempted to catch a small rabbit that seemed to be drawn to the flames. No matter how many attempts were made to apprehend it the rabbit would escape into the bush and shortly after make its way back to the edge of the fire.
Räyskälä (pronounced Rouse - as in house – Kala) is home to about 1,000 glider pilots, power pilots and parachutists. There are over 150 trailers in the trailer park and the airport restaurant Café 26 is also the main information hub. There are a number of TV screens that show current satellite, weather and airspace information and high speed internet is also available. The other popular meeting places are the saunas in the campground. I have been told flights are sometimes cut short to make the 6:00 pm sauna.
The flying prospects don’t look too good until Sunday but we have been promised an improvement by the weatherman and we are expecting some reasonable conditions for the start of the contest. We still have a few last minute weighing issues to deal with to get the handicap corrected. From Sunday we should be ready for the main event which starts Wednesday, June 24. During the contest I will try to report the events as they unfold and I will publish the Spot Messenger URL for those that would like to track the contest live.
June 18, 2009
The next two days promise more rain so we will be into the Main event practise period before we see any more flying.
June 17, 2009
June 16, 2009
June 13, 2009
Yesterday I flew my first cross-country flight here in Finland. The cloudbase was low at the start of the day but there were cloudstreets and some strong lift. I first headed east into wind about 60km and then came back to the airport and went 40km downwind to the west. On the way back the clouds started over developing and I had to land off field. It was a nice big field and there were no problems with landing. The farmer was worried about his crop being damaged so we had to carry the glider out piece by piece. Other than getting a bit tired it went okay. Today we cleaned the dirt off the wheel and wingtips. I also entered in a small contest that is being run out of Rayskala called Jannen Kisat. The first day is today but it was called off due to weather. Tomorrow looks like thunderstorms but by Monday it should improve. Friday flight
June 10, 2009
We arrived Saturday in Finland and Timo, the fellow we are renting our glider from picked us up at the airport. On Sunday we went shopping for some food and had a quick look at the glider. Monday we started changing over the instruments. The weather was quite good and I got in a short flight at the end of the day. I had one thermal peaking at 9 knots. The PZL vario that came with the glider worked fine but the Sage did not. We installed a new capacity bottle for the Sage today and did some work on the battery circuit. Hopefully everything should be working by the time the weather picks up again.
June 4, 2009
April 18, 2009
I am now down in South Carolina crewing for my father at the Region 5 North contest in Perry. He offered me to fly the practice days, then he will fly the contest. On Friday it was blue but we had good lift to 5000ft and once got to 6000ft. I flew 306km Friday flight. Saturday was not as good. It was blue with high cirrus moving in. I didn't get much more than 4000ft for most of the day. I stayed much closer to the airport and did 192km Saturday flight.
March 29, 2009
I went to the Benalla Golf Course again to get some pictures of Kangaroos. I was quite successful this time and got some nice shots of females with there baby joeys. There was a mob of them sitting on the green of a hole. They are Western Grey Kangaroos and are a bit of a pest at the golf club.
|Photos of the Kangaroos|
March 27, 2009
Since the mid week operations here at Benalla have virtually finished I have had some time to discover some more of Australia other then the airport. I went down to Torquay on Monday and met up with Simone. We signed up for a beginner surfing lesson and both of us managed to stand up and surf for a bit. We then went to Queenscliff on Wednesday and did a dolphin/seal swim and snorkeling trip. On Thursday we took the ferry to Sorrento. It was a bit overcast on the way over but by the afternoon the sun came out and we had a nice view of the Rip, the narrow entrance to Port Philip Bay.
|Photos from Torquay, Queenscliff, Sorrento, Airey's Inlet|
March 21, 2009
"Various measurements of the peak originally called by that name showed it to be slightly lower than its neighbour, Mount Townsend, and the names were thereupon transposed by the New South Wales Lands Department, so that Mount Kosciuszko still remains the name of the highest peak of Australia, and Mount Townsend ranks as second."I headed back for the most part the same way I came in. I snapped a few pictures of Lake Dartmouth and Mt Bogong on my way. At one point I had to remind myself to concentrate on flying fast instead of taking pictures so I could make it back to Gough's Bay for a shot. I made it to Gough's Bay at 6:00pm took a picture and headed back to Benalla for 6:30pm. Total distance 482km. Saturday flight. An unexpected couple of days.
|Photos from the flight|
February 23, 2009
Today I had my first trip into the hills to the east. Ben Loxton came out again this weekend and we started out together but split up shortly after. There is still a lot of smoke in the air from the fires making the visibility a bit murky but still good conditions. I had a pretty good run to Mt Beauty where there is a soaring club. It is right next to Mt Bogong, the highest peak in Victoria at 6,520ft. I went north from there with the intention of going all the way around the Albury control zone. I hit blue and then decided to come back down to Mt Beauty to get home. I took another look at Mt Buffalo and was going to go home but I figured I would go to Lake Nillahcootie first. I had a good run there bumping myself to final glide height in the clouds. When I made the turn at Nillahcootie I hit lots of sink in the blue and quickly went under final glide. I had to take some weak climbs to make the rest of the way home. I forgot to bring my camera which is a shame because there was some nice photos to be had. Feb 22 flight
February 12, 2009
As you may have heard in the news there has been record breaking fires around Victoria close to Benalla. There was a large one about 40km to the south of Benalla that was pushing towards us but has been contained. There was one to our north-west about 20km away but moving the other way. The main highway to Melbourne was shut down on Saturday and most of Sunday. People who drove through afterwards said it was looking quite ugly with charred land and animals on the edges. We have a chopper pilot who fights fires that is based at the Benalla airport. He has been away most of the week fighting the fires and came back for a bit with some horrific stories. He is flying the helicopter in the picture above. It is raining right now here and hopefully it will be the end of fires for now.
February 1, 2009
The past week has been extremely hot with temperatures mostly in the 40's. This has translated into 12,000ft cloud bases and excellent soaring conditions. It was miserable flying the tug in those temperatures but I did get in some soaring of my own in. On Wednesday I had a flight with a young German girl who is backpacking across Australia in the club's new ASK 21. We got to 12,000ft and flew 209km without going out of glide range from the field. ASK 21 flight On Saturday Ben Loxton, a 26 year old pilot who just flew in the nationals here came up to Benalla to do some more flying. We decided to fly together along with a young Kiwi pilot who also flew in the nationals as well as joeyglide and has been living at the club. I had planned to do a 750km flight of Temora-Hay but had to take a relight and had a bad first leg which made me abandon task. I could not find a good climb above 6000ft until 170km in. Also my pda and colibri were not working. Ben had got to 11,oooft and had a much better run. I met up with him later but ended up going home early out of frustration. I flew 525km and Ben flew 750km OLC. Saturday flight Ben Saturday Sunday we expected to be a worse day and I was not planning to fly. Ben was keen to fly however, and talked me into flying with him again. I am glad he did. We started late and decided to go to Leeton, about 230km away. At the start the thermals were going to about 7500ft and 3-4 knots climb. Once we got to Urana, 130km out there were good looking cloud streets going straight to Leeton. Our first climb was 7.3 knots to 12,000ft. The rest of the way was much the same and when we arrived at Leeton we had plenty of time to go further. We were thinking about Lake Cargel 365km from Benalla but decided to turn back 50km short of it at 4:30pm. On the way back we had to avoid a number of thunder showers forcing a few changes from track. I started on a final glide home but noticed my tail wind had turned into a strong headwind and Benalla was under a large piece of overcast. I took a turn back to some cu's to get some more insurance height. Ben and I thought we were the last ones back but an hour later Michael Sommer came back in between the storms. It was neat to see a glider doing a beat up with lightning strikes in the background. I flew 652km at 122km/h Sunday flight Ben Sunday Michael managed to show up Friday night, fly 2 1000km flights and be back to work Monday morning. Just another weekend for the world champion.
January 25, 2009
Last night there was a lot of excitement about the weather for today with talks of 1000km flights. It did not turn out very good however but I flew anyways. The LS-7 was taken and the Mosquito went to a camp at Mt. Beauty so I flew the Astir CS-77. My plan was to go to Temora as most of the locals were going in that direction. I was below 4500ft for most of the way out. I got a bit past Wagga Wagga and decided I needed to turn back if I wanted to make it home today. I heard a few of the locals on the radio turning back as well. I did 422km total which is good enough for first in Australia on the OLC so far. I was the first glider to launch this morning and the last one back. It was a blue day again which seems to be the only thing we have been getting. My first flight here was in clouds and all since have been blue days. Its been good practice and even in the blue the weather can be quite good here. The link to the OLC is here:
January 24, 2009
Since Christmas there has been three contests here at Benalla. They started with a club contest then directly after, the Victorian state contest and then the Australian Multi-Class Nationals. The Nationals just ended yesterday and it has become much quieter around here. There were 60 competitors in the contest which required 7 towplanes to launch every morning. They had some spectacular weather with top speeds in the 150km/h range. The highest speed was by Tom Claffey in an ASG-29 at 165km/h over 498km. Scores are here http://www.soaringspot.com/austmulti2009/results/. The picture above shows six of the tugs we used. 3 CallAir A-9's and 3 Pawnees. There was also a Scout but it did not fly everyday due to cross/tail winds.
I did not get much glider flying in but last week I jumped in the LS-7 and flew to Gough's Bay, a small town 70km south of Benalla. I also managed to get a flight in an ASH 25 with Dave McManus the winner of the open class with Paul Mander. Dave is a former junior pilot who flew in the worlds in England in 2005. The ASH 25 is unique because they have added LS-8 winglets to it. I like the look of it but they tell me it does not go that well.