Sunday, February 19, 2006

Rats in Nanakuli

Four Rat Race hopefuls (Greg, Alex, Ray, and I) and visitor Peter (CA) hiked up Nanakuli midday Saturday. The sky was hazy, but had some clouds in it, too. When Alex, Ray, and Peter launched, winds on the Nanakuli side of ridge (SE facing) were 6-20, with very long cycles in the 14-18 mph range. The early launchers were soon specks high above with both strong ridge and thermals to work. I was afraid it would pick up more and hastily took off in what I perceived to a be a long light cycle. It sure was a long low cycle -- lasting until the lift switched around to the dump side! Poor Greg!

I soon joined Alex and Ray for some turning practice in the 3000-4000 ft stratosphere. It was great with the three of us near together -- sometimes in the same core, sometimes not, who's got the best core? which way to turn, what radius to take, try to match radius with your fellow glider? leave your weak lift for what they've got? At one point, Alex came over to join me in a nice thermal I was trying to figure out. He was soon rocketing up directly below me. I've read (Pagen) that ascent rate is higher at the bottom of the thermal. Seeing is believing! I barely made it out of his way in time.

Greg, OTOH, had to give up on the town side, and move over to the dump side, where, while it was clearly blowing up the face in the 15 mph range, it failed to provide the lift needed to send him up to our domain. Meanwhile, Alex, Ray, and I were finding perplexing conditions in the air. We all landed safely on the beach in some pretty strong winds which were very soon fickle with their direction. (I was flushed, they chose to land.) Also during this time, Leo and Scrappy had hiked up to a higher launch, only to later decide it best to hike down. Seems like a wise choice.

It was a great day for those of us who made it up, and the possibilities were well worth the effort in trying, for those who didn't, I think. Nanakuli gives and takes, but when it gives, it gives big!


Alex said...

Thanks for the great post, Sandy. I added a picture I took of Ray headed towards the power plant. Ray's heading is pretty much into the wind in the photo, which should give folks an idea of how SE it really was. I'm glad it was still wrapping around into Nanakuli while we were landing at the beach.

It sounds like the guys were starting to launch at Makapuu right about the time we were starting to feel the wind blasting offshore from the back of the valley. I guess we could have blazed over to join them to complete a circle island flying tour! Or at least opposite corners.

Thanks to Peter for our pre-hike sandwiches and for shuttling pilots back to their cars. And thanks to June and Greg for helping Peter launch while Ray and I just blazed away from launch without a care. I know that Greg paid the ultimate price of being the last guy to launch. We definitely owe you one, Greg.

June, you did a great job in the thermals out there. I think you're ready for Woodrat! I'm sure you'll get some more good practice in NZ. Peter did a great job too! I have to admit I was never that comfortable with the wind direction out there, and once the clouds started to build up I got even less comfortable, which is why I landed first. I guess I need some fear control techniques! Let's go do it again when we get some sunshine back. Nanakuli is a great place to practice for a comp. After all, look what it's done for Doug!

Brazilian Ray said...

I was really happy to see you guys (way) up there! It was quite bumpy and a little weird in a Nanakuli way.... I think the winds from the ocean (with lots of whitecaps) were meeting the trades and creating a convergence line. I got lift way over the ocean and needed to pull big ears to land when the flags and whitecaps were giving up to the OTB trades... sure enough, trades were blowing at the beach after I landed.

In the air we could surf the clouds as they were being formed on front of our eyes, sometimes running away as if it was chasing us!

At Nanakuli we're always learning something. I remember my very first time there, when at high launch Doug took a clean (and dry) shirt from his bag and said: one for the hike; one for the flight. I'll never forget that lesson. I think Alex learned a lesson a couple a weeks ago (as much as Greg yesterday) when me and Doug had an epic flight and he couldn't join us because he was behind... this time he literally ran up the hill and launched first!

I'd like to mention I'm proud of Sandy and Alex for hanging beyond their comfort levels in bumpy air and answer my call for Nanakuli. That pushed us all higher and longer. Too bad Alex’s radio died and we couldn't get everybody together for an XC. Maybe next time!

Brazilian Ray