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ROFL! I'm not sure that I could have written it any better myself! A little further commentary and amplification:
This was Brian's first time out as an observer, which gave me fits trying to break him in, but he did ok in the end. ;-)
Since I had never flown Jack's before, I wanted to see someone else launch first, so that I could see what the air was doing, and if there was anything special to take into account. After watching Lewis, I new what _not_ to do, and figured that it would be a relatively normal slope launch.
After I launched, I made a few short passes trying to find that "ridge lift" that I've heard other pilots talk about, but, again, with no luck. I turned out to the LZ, perhaps a little later than I should have, but I had talked to Rich Hays before I drove up, who advised me that "If you can't make the LZ, there are plenty of other fields along the way that you can dump out into." Sure enough, there were a number of well-mowed fields before the road, and I kept them in mind as I approached. As I arrived over the field, I had plenty of time to look at the wind sock and decided on an approach; I realized that I wouldn't have enough altitude to do a full downwind-base-final approach, so I angled downwind to cross over the powerlines at 100-120', and then turned into the wind to land. (The field is the "size of Nebraska"; how could I miss? How could anybody miss for that matter?)
Apon returning to launch, we started setting up our gliders again when Rolf showed up. He and Brian went to check out the launch conditions and discoved that the "lull-and-gust" from earlier had smoothed out into a pretty steady 10mph almost straight in breeze; this time I went off first, and turned in a little closer to the hill; I felt like I was scratching pretty close to the trees below me, but for once I wasn't going down! A minute or two later I realized that I was back at launch altitude, and made my first turn around; by the time I returned to launch I was already 50' over, and it only got easier from there! I spent the next 45 minutes going back and forth along the ridge, holding on to intermittent 20fpm lift (they said they could hear my vario from the ground, emitting a single lonely chirp every 20 seconds...), but maintaining my altitude. Gradually, I expanded my envelope, exploring the lift band, and topping out at 270' over launch; when Brian launched, I followed him for a while, which was pretty cool, as I could better see where to go. Eventually, as the sun started to go down and the air started to become less stable, I manouvered upwind of the launch site, then turned toward the LZ. With no wind at all in the LZ, I ended up having to run out my landing, but I stayed on my feet (and inside the field).
Result: my first ever flight above-launch, and 55 minutes, my longest flight ever!
Seriously now: Kudos to Brian, who called the weather conditions perfectly and picked a great site for a bunch of IIs; he worked with all of us, and was incredibly supportive. It was great to have an observer flying the same glider that I was; when he joined me up in the air, I was able to follow him, knowing that my glider would respond to lift and sink the same way that his would, and it turned out to be very educational.
All in all, it was a great day!
I thought I'd give Ralph a chance to report his first soaring flight, but since I've heard rumors bouncing around the grapevine already I'll go ahead and report the day. The other participants can send in their own versions.
I arranged to have Rolf and Ralph meet us up at Jack's, as Louis wanted to do a few training hill flights before driving me up. We arrived around 5 pm to find it puffing and lulling at up to 10 mph. Puffs were quite long enough for launching, but the slot had grown up a bit. Mashed down some of the taller weeds. If nothing is done within a few weeks it won't be launchable unless you bring tools (and rope) for a decent clearing job. The LZ on the other hand is newly mowed down to the nubbin.
Ralph showed up and we shortly ready to launch. Louis was first, and I partially blame myself for what happened. I told him to wait for a strong cycle, then keep his nose down (problem on the training hill) and run like a bat outta hell. That boy can sure follow instructions. He plunged like a rhino straight down the slot, and in my fevered imagination I remember his nose cone parting greenery like the prow of a ship parts foam. Just when I thought he was about to run pell-mell into the trees at the bottom he pops out and clears them by about two feet. If you open your mouth and vocalize as you suck air, you make this kind of wispy strangling squeak. Well, that's what i sounded like. I turned to Ralph, who was typically unflappable. "Bad launch", he said. "I'm in a falcon, so it should go smoother". or something like that.
True to his word, he did a flawless launch, though I discovered the helpless pangs of not being able to judge altitude from launch. I needn't have worried; he's got much aerotow experience and did fine.
Went back up to the top, and Rolf shows up just as it begins to blow straight in around 10 mph, smooth as glass. Ralph launched first, and after several passes at a conservative speed, figures out it's okay to slow down and turn less often. He goes right up and is soaring for the first time. Remains up for an hour.
Launch Rolf, who drops a wing and does a j-turn towards the side of the slot facilitated by a weed his wing hits after the turn. (remember the sound of sucking air?). He proceeds to pull the most amazing G-force inducing save I've ever witnessed and whizzes out the bottom of the slot. He boats out a couple hundred yards but on account of the wind can't hear the radio coaxing him to try out the ridge if he feels calmed down enough to soar. Sleds down.
I launch and soar for a bit before coming down. I get complacent and cocky about dead winds in the LZ, and manage to overshoot a field the size of Nebraska by about 50 feet, bending my first down tube in about two and half years. Serves me right.
Nobody else was there, not even the locals. (Okay, I guess wuffos are people too, and we had a grand contingent) Louis was kind enough to sacrifice a second flight so I could fly instead.