Benalla Storm

Benalla Storm

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Club Class Nationals - Day 3 Take 1 & 2

Monday, January 17 - Take 1

The day was forecasted to be decent so we all pulled out to the grid and got set to go. The Sports Class launched first and it didn't take long for them to struggle hard. Benalla was stuck in a blue suckerhole. Launching for Club Class was held, and soon the day was scrubbed. However, a ways off to the West we could see a new air mass moving in, so several of us sat tight on the field, watching out for "grid rash" as the grid dismantled. Tobi and I decided to go for a short-ish local flight so he could actually see me fly to better mentor me. A "local" flight soon turned into Tobi dashing out at 2500' feet towards the first turnpoint. Although I thought he was crazy, I followed along. As soon as we hit the new air mass the day was booming. We did a lead-and-follow, mostly with Tobi leading and me following. As we neared the first turnpoint Tobi suggested that we complete the rest of the task, so that's exactly what we did. It wasn't quite as legendary as that story I hear of Jerzy Szemplinski going to fly a cancelled task without even turning once, but we made it around! I learned a lot by watching Tobi flying off in the distance, faithful that a thermal would come up when he needed it. I saw him being very selective for only the best part of the cores. And hopefully I can start reading clouds better and better, picking the strong energy lines. Due to the outstanding handicap of the Libelle against the LS4 I ended up "winning" the day, and was given my first daily prize bottle of wine the following morning.

Tuesday, January 18 - Take 2

This day was a struggle all the way around the task. Lift didn't get any higher than 5000' ASL. Gaggles were prevelant throughout the entire task. By the first turnpoint at Dookie four pilots in the Club Class had landed out. I was 1000' over the first turnpoint, but managed to hang on as I watched another glider land in a red field. My goal from the start was to fly the minimum task distance and make it home. Things were going pretty well along the second and third legs, and I managed to stick with a slow but moving group of people. I got stuck again on the north side of the river, and lost quite a bit of time there. Along the Warrabie ranges I met up with lots of other gliders, and started to get excited for home. I took the highest climb I could north of Lake Mikoan, and was hoping that would be enough to take me home as the south side of the lake was dead due to lake shadow. Unfortunately I didn't make it home, but I managed to make it to the final turnpoint, the Winton Racetrack. Coming in I cleared some high trees on final and did my best to bring that Libelle down. Without a working wheel brake I was forced to intentionally ground loop to avoid running into the fences at the end of the raceway. Luckily my glider and myself both had no damage. I managed to find some employees of the racetrack to open the gates, and my retrieve crew was there very quickly. Although I was disappointed to landout, I was still very happy with my flight. I made it around the course much further than many of my fellow competitors. I also took the final climb available right to the top, but the Libelle just couldn't make it home with the low height and strong headwind. Plus, it makes a great story to say that I landed in the middle of the Winton Racetrack! After we de-rigged we pulled the top down on the convertible and enjoyed a cold beer in the middle of the racetrack before driving home towards the sunset.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nats Day 1 & 2

I am terribly sorry to anybody who has been following my blog that I have not been diligent at updating it. For more up-to-date information from the contest directors please check out this website:

I will attempt to update the first few days, but it's already late so I will see how far I get...

Day 1 - Saturday, January 15

The best way to describe my flight on the first day was cautiously. My main goal was to stay up and get around the task. I had never flown a Libelle cross-country, and was very conscious of the fact that the performance and flight characteristics would be very different than the LS4 I had just been flying. As a result of this caution my speed was very conservative, 72.4 km/h. I made a large tactical error in the first turnpoint, making a huge deviation in an attempt to follow the clouds which in fact did not add any distance to my score. Lesson learned. Another thing I did this day was second-guess myself on several occasions and allow the flying of other pilots to influence my decisions. As Tobi said to me after, "Have a little self-confidence Selena." Otherwise the flight was alright, I came in just slightly over time. It was really good to be back in the air!

Day 2 - Sunday, January 16

I was determined to set out this day and fly my own flight. Although I would obviously pay attention to what others were doing, I didn't want to allow them to undermine my own decisions. The first leg went really well, and I was pretty stoked about my flying. I flew about 65km in about 45 minutes, so I decided to cross over the river and keep going deep into the first sector. Although this may have been a good decision at the time, it probably is what cost me at the end of the day. The second leg was much slower, and I found myself low. Luckily I had other gliders in sight, and used them to stay out of trouble. I realised that it was crucial to stay well within the higher working band as the lift was much stronger. At one point I found a killer climb to 7000' and soon found many other gliders underneath me. Boosted with confidence I carried on to the second turnpoint and started to head for home. It didn't take long before I found myself slipping out of the working band and was moderately low. I was anticipating a lot of sink while crossing the river, so decided to search for a climb before heading over. This resulted in me scraping north of the river between 800'-1500' for about 30 minutes. Brutal. Once I managed to climb away from this I was incredibly happy. Although I was still very cautious along the way, home was within my sights! I caught up with some other gliders along the way and had a good run until I got to Lake Mikoan. Just before I hit the lake I found the same two gliders in a mediocre climb. At this point I did the maths (I have no reliable flight computer) and thought I was on final glide. The previous day I had seen a glider circling at almost precisely the same point when I thought I had final glide and ended up being glad I trusted myself to leave them and head for home. No such luck this day. In doing my final glide calculations I neglected to sufficiently account for the wind and for the fact that I had drifted downwind from the final turnpoint. I landed myself in a paddock 8 km from home. Lucky for me I have made some great friends here. My text instructions to the retrieve crew were: "Grass is very high but field is dry. Bumpy. Bring a big vehicle if possible." Apparently they didn't believe me when I said the grass was high, they just thought I was short. Pictures will follow, but needless to say I am very glad that four people came to pick me up. Around the area where I landed there were grazing fields for livestock, a major highway, and lots of trees. I turned into a field with crop, and only on final approach did I realise how high it was. I will describe my stop into this field as a hockey skate stop, an analogy which goes over the head of most Aussies, but one that I hope my good old Canadian friends will understand. Luckily the grass absorbed most of the abrupt stop and both myself and the glider stopped in one piece. I was very frustrated with this outlanding as I was the only one to landout and I feel that had I been smarter it could have been prevented. 

Goodnight for now.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Nats Day 1 - Take 4


There was a pilots meeting today discussing rules. It quickly turned into a heated debate. It was interesting to be a part of, mainly because I was mostly sitting in as a spectator.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nats Day 1 - Take 2 & 3

The contest yesterday was scrubbed due to the rain. I went with several other pilots on a delightful bushwalk (hike) in the southern part of the Strathbogie Range. Walking through Australian forests in the rain is wonderful. It is warm so the sensation of raindrops on your skin is delightful. Also the rain brings out some of the smell of the gum trees so you are constantly inundated with fragrances. We even saw two kangas!

Today I am rather skeptical that a task will be set as I have woken up earlier than normal to the sound of pounding rain on my caravan. I am part of the task-setting committee so I guess the official decision will be made soon. At this point tomorrow is looking like a possibility (Friday), but we are all anticipating that Saturday will be the first official contest day.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Nats Day 1 - Scrubbed

We woke up this morning to rain. The day was cancelled. The positive part of this is that I now have a fully-functioning audio vario and my glider is all set for the contest.

Contest information can be found at:

Club Class Nationals - Practise Day 1

The weather for the practise day looked marginal and rainy, but a task was set. I didn't spend too much time thinking strategy for the task. Shortly after briefing I headed to the "glider hospital. It was time to get to work on the instruments. The audio variometer wasn't working and I was missing a Flarm, both necessary instruments for this competition. After some time we were able to get the audio variometer working. If you talk to me at some point I would happy to give an oral impersonation of it, but I am afraid that typed letters will not do justice the unbearable nature of the sounds that were streaming out of it. After making some phone calls we finally found several working Flarms in the club's workshop. To track down a working variometer we had to drive to Bright, about 1.5 km away. Fortunately the day ended up being as marginal as predicted, and I didn't miss out on any good flying. Several competitors landed out, and several others did not set out very far on the task.

Right now the rain is pouring down on my caravan roof. The weather for today and the next few days looks pretty bleak. That being said I am going to go get ready for the day, anticipating the start of Contest Day 1.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Contest Countdown

The atmosphere here in Benalla started out nice and quiet at the beginning of the week.  Since then it has been humming, then buzzing, and now the volume is at a minor roar.  Many competitors arrived at the field quite early in the week, escaping the flooding in Queensland, to get in a bit of practise flying before the contest.  Tobi Geiger flew 780 km the other day!  By today most of the pilots have arrived.  

With one of them came my glider.  I am quite excited to rig it tomorrow and take it for my first fly!  I will be flying a Libelle with the rego TX.  Everything I have heard about Libelles is quite positive for a Club Class contest, but I am sure it will require an adjustment in my flying tactics from the LS4.  Tobi has agreed to mentor me for the contest.  We spent most of the day faffing with colibris and PDAs.  We also talked about contest preparation and psychology while in the air, among other things.

For those who may know them, Adam and Patricia have been in Benalla for the past week flying around and doing some very impressive flights in the ASK 21.  They seem to be enjoying themselves immensely, and are the most pleasant and laid-back people to have around!  Many jokes have started about Canadians over-running Australia, a trend which I think ought to continue!

Tomorrow I plan to do a short flight with my new equipment and get to bed early.  Hopefully the rainy weather forecasted for early in the week dissolves so we can get off to a good start to the contest.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Just putzing around the skies...

I haven’t found the opportunity to get myself into a single-seat glider since JoeyGlide. The first few days after the contest I really needed a rest, the following few days the weather was poor, then I crewed for a friend for a gliding safari, and this past week the club’s aircraft has been booked solid.

So I was very excited this morning after briefing when a club member casually asked me if I would care to fly his aircraft today, a Speed Astir. Did he actually think I would say no?? His glider needed a minor repair and to be re-rigged and washed after yesterday’s landout. I also would need to land it at least once before going cross-country. I knew it was going to be a short day, but I was excited to be back in the air and having fun! I really wanted to enjoy myself in the air today before the pressure of the Nationals contest set in (contest starts on Monday!).

At 1330 I had my first launch and the day was booming! I decided to use spoilers so I could land as fast as possible and set out on task. I had in mind to fly a 2.5 hour task, focusing on flying the proper distance for time given the day’s conditions and practising my final glide. I set off to fly Corowa, Tocumwal, Benalla, about 220 km. I got to Corowa very quickly, about 35 minutes in. I think the strongest part of the day would have been to continue in this direction, but heaps of other pilots were out in that direction and I didn’t want to have to be constantly worrying about other gliders without a working Flarm. I opted to turn towards Finley, slightly north of Tocumwal. I felt the sky was getting weaker in this section so I turned early and headed towards Shepparton before heading home to Benalla. In all about 250 km.
 Throughout the flight today I really tried to focus on extending my glide distances and only taking the best thermals. I think I managed to do this much better during first stages of the flight when I was flying in the strongest air, but out near Shepparton I started to get low and the lift was weaker so I was forced to take weaker climbs. Another thing I focused on was really relaxing throughout the flight, both while cruising and climbing. I think sometimes I tense up which prevents me from truly feeling the air. I felt relaxed and un-stressed throughout the flight, and really enjoyed myself! ANDNDNANDNDNDNADND I successfully flew my first flight at 100 KPH!! I am very excited about this!

Tomorrow I have a glider booked and the day is looking good. I am planning to fill up with water and go hard!