Sunday, July 18, 2021

Chelan 2021: The Circle Jerk!


Can’t stop turning!

The 2021 Ozone Chelan Open in Chelan WA just finished up and we had a big show of Hawaii monkeys there for the fun and the dust. The old crew:  JK, Doug Hoffman (with son Matt) and I, along with the Maui guys Jeff and Louie. The hard charging newer guys, Drew and Marc. And the new comp pilots; Patrick, Marcel, Marissa and Nour. Reaper was also on hand volunteering and doing Reaper stuff all week. Alex couldn’t make it this year due to mechanical problems, lingering symptoms from his pneumonia, but was fully involved from back in Hawaii. 

A lot of the gang arrived early and enjoyed hot but great flying conditions in the lead up to the comp. They were quickly scoring 10k+ altitude easily and flying great flights. 

In fact, the whole time we were there it was super easy to climb out from Chelan Butte, quite atypical, not the crazy scratchfest from below launch. Not saying it wasn’t at times hard to climb out, but 15 minutes after launch you could top out in the start gaggle. 

The Ozone Chelan Open was a EN-C comp, with lower rated gliders and mentoring from the top US comp pilots. Every day Nick, Josh, Mitch, and Henzi were sharing nuggets of knowledge for how we might fly the tasks better. 

Below are a few of the highlights from the days:

Day1/ Task1-A straight forward task over the flats that would have us land back at the Soccer Field LZ. 

Climbs were high going past 12k for some. While cruising at about 10k’ with Jeff, a jet buzzes by at the same altitude and swerves to avoid gliders. It looked like a firefighting tanker, really close headed to Chelan, amazingly a second one passes a few minutes later. No one seems fazed and there are quite a few things flying by all week. 

JK, Drew, Marc and Jeff all cruise in, bucking a solid headwind, to make goal. Louie and I don’t make it in downed by the headwind. 

I was low trying hard to climb to move forward. The retrieve van was parked below me many times, like a spider waiting to catch another fly in its web. I tried hard to fight it, but eventually succumbed to my fate. The rest of the gang ended up somewhere along the course. 

Doug Hoffman, free flying logs a 165k flight out east!

Day2/ Task2- A task is called first heading west toward Stormy Peak, a direction I haven’t flown before. An amazing start with everyone high, snowy peaks in the background and tons of thermalling gliders to follow. Nour and Marissa are up there. 

Marissa not familiar with making turn points on FlySkyHy, doesn’t realize you just need to pop the blue bubble at the radius of the turnpoint. She picks the highest peak, Stormy to fly to the center of the circle to tag deeper and does it, she reported it to be turbulent but beautiful. 

To show how much flying and communication has changed, Alex spots it while tracking the comp from home, he puts it up on the Monkeys Telegram group to let Marissa know she only needs to pop the balloon. Marc comes over the radio to let her know she doesn’t need to do that and luckily because the next turnpoint radius is even bigger. 

I go from 11k to scratching the hills for a long time and finally have to call it to land by the Columbia River. Marissa, after a day of epic thermalling, lands by the river as well. We are probably a mile apart, but on opposite sides of the river with 20 miles either way to a bridge across. 

Jeff’s wife, Patricia, is an enthusiastic launch and retrieve driver, with tons of energy. She scoops me up with icy beer and a smile. 

Nour lands in the valley after some epic flying. Everyone else crosses the river to tackle the rest of the task. Louie, JK and Jeff aren’t able to clear the rim to get into goal. 

At the Goal Soccer Field, Marc, Drew, Marcel and Patrick make it in. 

Drew actually comes in for a slight downwind landing, drops his glider in front of the trees, steps out of his harness and runs to the bathroom with a bursting bladder. The crowd erupts in cheers!

Patrick pulls off the last guy in Goal. He got low trying to get over the rim of the plateau. He was out of his harness to land, barely above the ground he got some slight bubbles of lift, that let him surf through the canyon terrain to make it into Goal. 

Day3/ Task3- Today’s task is a letter Z shaped run, south, straight back north, and back south to goal. 

Everyone heads off SE at the start to cross the river. I am climbing nicely over the flats when I notice my track line pointing at the start cylinder. I immediately think about flying back but about 2 seconds later realize how stupid that is. I am here to fly, not worry about my score on paper. But with the jostling at the start and my instrument not being read right I was caught a few meters out of the circle. 

It was a little tricky, Drew missed it and caught it early to fly back. Maui Louie missed and flew to goal for no score. 

The gang who survived the climb out on the flats got great flying. I heard people went to 15k. Huge lift often comes with huge sink and I sometimes found myself locked in to sink hole. It was important to stay with other gliders. 

Drew figured out how to fly straight and stay high for a very nice 18th place for the task. Mark and Louie got goal. Jeff veered a little on final and sunk out before goal. I sunk out a little further out, as the lift faded and the drift increased until it became obvious I wasn’t getting anywhere. Luckily when I hit the road for retrieve, Reaper came over the radio that he would be there in 3 minutes. Cold beer, killer smoky sunset, a fast ride and last call food waiting at Quick Wok, made for a great day. Thanks Reaper and quick thinking Louie for ordering us food. Patrick and Marissa ended up somewhere behind. With a kudos to Marissa to really dialing in big thermalling. 

Conditions most of the week were cloudless and usually smoky from all the wildfires in the area. This day I would find myself flying nearly alone. Climb up and find half a dozen guys in the haze, as I head to 12k’ I would see I am really with 20 guys. This process would keep repeating itself all day. 

Day4- Cancelled for wind. 

We ended up on Reapers rented float boat on Lake Chelan, terrorizing the locals and breaking most of the rules. For Pete it is called Wednesday. Possibly more tiring than flying. Of course Matt Henzi flew to Canada anyway, but flew back into the US before landing. 

Day5/ Task4- A classic 130k Chelan downwinder is called. Lift and thermal strength is less than in previous days. More typical Chelan conditions to me. 

If you survived the crossing and avoided getting rimmed, then you were good. 

Somewhere about halfway at the next crux, Banks Lake, lift got weak and the wind cranked up from the south. I pulled over a bunch of circling gliders at 6k’. After circling for too long I saw that I wasn’t getting higher and neither were the gliders below me. Lots of hope I guess. On top of that another 8 gliders jumped in want some of it. Shortly after everyone left to go hunt elsewhere. 

I glided across the lake and went for the Coulee City turn point, a known sinkhole. For a moment I considered skipping the point and gliding downwind, but I stuck it out in hopes of a likely miracle. I landed near the turnpoint but so did lots of people. I think 14 made it to goal. 

I called Patricia to see if she was near and she pulled up in seconds. Best retrieve! We picked up Louie, JK among others. Jeff got the turnpoint and frisbee’d low surprisingly far, only to have a wingman climb away, while having to land. 

Day6- Everyone is jazzed up for a final task to the north to Okanagan. Half the field is in the air, when Matty starts to get reports of high winds coming in. The task is canceled and the comp ends with a fizzle. 

I had a blast, but never landed on the grass of goal. I will have to fix that for next time. 

The wrap party goes on with food and beer flowing. Our own Monkey teammate Marissa gets 3rd place for female rookie EN-B. Not bad for never having thermalled until last week. 

The flying is still on in Chelan. The US Paragliding Nationals start and all the top guys and girls have been flooding into town. JK, Louie, Jeff, Patricia, Doug, Matt and Reaper are in. 

It is great to see all the new faces and energy going into comp flying. Not just the usual old suspects. I plan to be there next year. 

As a final tip, if you want to know how to thermal in a gaggle, just do the right (or left) thing and do your part like a circle jerk! 

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Sweet writeup Dave, thanks! What a week. I'm still in a bit of a haze but I'll post up my 2 cents soon enough. Marcel made goal 30 min before me on task 2. He had several stunt doubles flying similar rigs but he sent it for sure on the 100k triangle day