On May 2nd & 3rd the Florida Soaring Society had their second mixed winch and ALES soaring contest at the O.W.L.S. field at Kennyworld in Morriston, Florida.
I participated in the soaring event in the novice class.
The weekend called for nice weather. It was expected that the wind would be relatively consistent but a bit on the breezy side. The project average for Saturday was 5-6 m/s with it being slightly less windy on Sunday, ~4-5 m/s.
I learned during the previous event that my Gracia Maxi tends to not do the best when the wind is high. After the first FSS contest at Christmas, Florida I adjusted my speed flight mode to add a little more reflex to the trailing edge to better help penetrate through the wind. This ended being a good adjustment. As I’ll explain later, my ability to get back upwind from chasing thermals was greatly improved.
For the second contest FSS changed the rules for ALES contestants. Previously, ALES pilots would have 30 seconds to fly their plane to altitude with the clock starting as soon as the motor started. This would give the ALES pilot a 30 second advantage on the winch pilots since the winch pilot’s time started when their glider came off the winch line. Since this change occurred I swapped over to 4s so that I could rocket my plane past altitude and gain a little zoom height as the speed bled off.
When arriving to the field I noticed it was going to be much cooler than I anticipated. At least it was cold by Florida standards. However, the humidity was low and after the sun fully came out it made for a pleasant day. My only concern for the day was how the wind would end up working out.
I was nervous getting out my glider and putting it together. Less nervous than the first contest in Christmas, FL, but never-the-less, nervous that I’d make some faux pas or go home without a glider. I was able to quickly find some pilots that attended the first contest and got caught up with them on how they were doing. I was glad that I recognized many of them and better, that they recognized me.
The first task for FSS is generally shorter than the others. For Saturday the first task was for 7 minutes. After my performance at the first contest I was really worried that I wouldn’t make my full time. I didn’t get full time during any round. This time it was different. I made my time and a little over! I enabled my telemetry logs and the above is my altitude chart from the first round.
For all other rounds the time to meet was 8 minutes. Even though I met and went over my time for the first round I was still worried about how well I’d do. It turns out that I was able to find lift again and stay up for the full 8 minutes plus two extra seconds, essentially scored as 7:58.
For the first two rounds a pilot named Ben was my timer. He is an outstanding gentleman and a great pilot. He helped me find the lift I needed to stay up in the air. Ben provided some great pointers. Throughout the weekend he and Donna (I think that was her name) helped me by timing my flights, spotting my landing approaches, and pointing out lift. Without their help I doubt I would have done as well. Thanks Ben and Donna!
The third flight didn’t go as well as the first two. The total time was around 5:56. After my initial launch you can see that I catch a good thermal but after a while I get in some sink. I fall to about 400ft and am able to keep it there for a while. Again, I’m unable to keep or find a ride and get stuck in some more sink and dead air till I finally have to land.
Flight #4 went better but I think my plane was ready for the lunch break. I was up for about 6:42 seconds. After getting some light lift I basically sat in dead air and came down a lot earlier than I wanted.
The rest of the flights were’t that spectacular. Also, I was trying to get my telemetry to record only when I cut my motor off at altitude which caused me to loose the data for the rest of the day. I believe it was my 6th flight that lasted under 3 minutes. Since the day progressed quickly we had an 8th round which let the pilots throw out their lowest round.
After all the rounds I came in first place for the novice class! There was only one pilot in the novice class, me. Paul, one of the guys running the show, let me know that if I were to have been in the expert class I would’ve finished in 7th place. Not too shabby for my second contest.
After the contest ended I hung around and threw my Storm DLG. I got a couple good flights in, but nothing longer than a minute. I got a couple of pointers from the guys that were hanging out. A few of them took a look at the DLG and thought it was pretty well made and that it was in great condition. I was really pleased with this, but I kind of knew that since Mickey, the previous owner, had really liked it.
The second day started off much like the first, cool with a light breeze. I felt like I learned a lot from the previous day and my confidence level was high. To test how the air felt I took a few throws with my Storm DLG. I even got some advice from a great pilot named Jeff. He’s very competitive and is probably one of the most dedicated pilots I know, but I was very pleased that he took the time and helped me out.
If it seems like a recurring theme, people helping me, it is very much so. One of the best aspects about the FSS events is that the participants are very kind and helpful. I’ve been able to learn a ton about how to fly my glider and increase my general RC knowledge-base through asking questions and watching the experienced pilots fly. I highly recommend any new soaring pilots to attend one of the events. Even if you’re a bit on the shy side they’ll get you having fun and enjoying the contest in no time.
The first round of the day had a target of 6 minutes. All rounds after that were 8. My flight wasn’t nearly as good as my opener on the day before. I only achieved 5:38 by pretty much just gliding around in dead air. I got a few bumps of lift but nothing sustaining.
Ben flew before me. I should have followed where he was flying. He was able to make time and from what I saw was in lift for a good portion of his flight. I decided to head up and out to a different spot but it just didn’t turn out to be a good decision.
The next round was a jump of two minutes in length. After my first flight I was concerned that I wouldn’t find the lift I wanted. I decided to follow everyone else heading off towards the south and east to find lift. In the above log you can see that I immediately got into some good lift but then got into some dead air. Luckily I was able to save the flight by riding a bubble and keeping the plane into the wind. I really overshot the time and was done at 8:26.
As I explain this next part reference the graph above. At about a minute till landing (650 seconds) I know by visually ascertaining my altitude that I was going to make time. I now needed to bring the plane into a pattern so that I would be coming right up to the landing tape when the clock ticked to 8 minutes. I decide to try bringing the glider down by making big circles and pointing the nose down. My first three descending circles are pretty steep. I knock over 200ft off my altitude within 40 seconds. However, I didn’t burn off enough altitude quick enough. The plane really wanted to stay up. Wanting to get as close to 8 minutes as possible I put the glider in a steep dive trying to modulate speed with the flaps (690 seconds) and come down to under 100ft in 10 seconds. That was a loss of 300+ feet. You should’ve seen the wings flexing. Even down low I was catching ridge effect off of the trees and hills as I was circling around burning off more altitude. Those are the large spikes at 706 and 720 seconds.
What the second flight showed me was how much stress is applied to the large wings of these gliders. I even talked to Dillon Graves, one of the Juniors Team USA F3K pilots, about this. He told me that even the super sleek carbon Xplorer2’s see the same effect, although to a lesser degree than a woodie. He ended up suggesting taking out some of the reflex on the ailerons in crow to help take a little stress off the wing.
Rounds 3 through 5 saw some really shoddy flying by myself. Round 3 was really short. I don’t remember the time and my telemetry glitched out. Round 4 wasn’t much better time wise. I expected to get just under 7 minutes, however, I got my first 0 score. As I was getting ready to turn onto final approach I went to set the flight mode to speed to add some reflex for coming back upwind. I accidently pushed up on the wrong switch and activated the launch program. The motor cut on giving me a 0 for the round!
The last two rounds for the day had the most massive lift. The lift was so strong and persistent that I thought I was going to have trouble getting the plane back. It also got pretty windy. I knew at some point that I was going to have to push the Gracia Maxi in a high wind situation to see if it would penetrate through the wind. I also figured that I did have a motor on it and that I could just kick it on to avoid losing the plane. It turned out that the adjustments I made or my speed flight mode with the additional reflex helped.
I made my time for round 6 with a time of 8:03. Looking at the back half of the altitude telemetry graph you can see that it took some effort to get out of the sky. Even after dropping down a bit I would still be in lift and rise up a bit. Luckily I was able to put the Maxi on the ground just a little over time.
The last round, round 7, was even more impressive than the previous. I found the most massive lift of the day. I got into the thermal right at the correct time and just it just kept going. As soon as I hit the spot and started going up the winch started up and everyone headed over to where I was circling. Early during the flight some buzzards were off in another direction. I was tempted to break off an head towards them. It turned out, however, that their ride blew up fairly quickly. In fact, they ended up joining me!
This ride topped out at over 1000ft! Coming down from that altitude meant that I needed to start early. I misjudged how hard it was going to be getting the bird down. I went over by a little more than 20 seconds. I did get good landing points, though.
For day 2 I again took 1st place. Again, being the only novice competitor. I was very happy! My placement improved by a whole position from the first contest!
The weekend was great. I continued to learn and improve even over those two days. I received many complements from my fellow pilots and was even told that they could see considerable improvement since the first contest. The weather was absolutely beautiful and great for soaring. I had heard how nice the O.W.L.S. field is but didn’t realize how much of an understatement that was. I hope to be getting down their more often to fly in the future.
I want to give a big thanks to Ben, Donna, Paul, Chuck, and John. They went all out to make me feel welcome and helped me out a bunch with timing. I can’t wait to see everyone at the next FSS event, FSS #3, at IRKS in Cocoa, FL! I also want to thank Ken for letting us use his great facility.
Oh, I did take a few pictures. Not many because I was busy flying!