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|John Ellias' Report|
The Fall 2009 “Cal Valley” Cross Country event was held Halloween weekend this year. It was later in the year than it has typically been, and the weather was very pleasant. While not the booming, speck your glider out in two minutes type lift of late August, the soaring conditions were quite good and provided a variety of challenges for everyone.
Starting at the spring Cal Valley XC, the course has been greatly expanded over what has been used in the past. We choose to include the new turn points H, I, J and K, which are far to the south of Soda lake. Its approximately 40 miles from the start line at turn point A to the southern end of the course at turn point K.
The course takes you through a variety of terrain ranging from nice paved roads, well graded dirt roads, rolling hills off to one side or the other, dry lake beds, and vast areas of open grasslands. An off field landing can be achieved safely virtually anywhere along the course. It would be hard to imagine another location that offers a better flying environment than Cal Valley.
Eight teams participated this year and most arrived Friday night and stayed at the lodge. Rather than the traditional Friday night barbeque it was decided that since the mornings and evenings were a bit chilly we would rent the kitchen and dining room for the weekend and have all the meals there. Dudley Dufort, Ron McElliott, and Rich Beardsley did most of the cooking, and all the meals were tasty.
The forecast weather for Saturday was for light winds with a high of 77 degrees. Based on the forecast, CD John Ellias called for a long speed task from A to J and back for a total of approximately 66 miles. The wind started early and increased the further south we flew. Adding to the difficulty was the fact the winds were coming from the south instead of from the north as they normally do. This meant the teams had to fly directly into the wind for the entire long journey south towards turn point J. This, combined with the relatively low thermals that were topping out at around 500 meters, prevented any of the teams from making down to J. The Dust Devils with Dudley Dufort and Scott Woodward managed to scratch and claw there way a couple of miles past turn point H for a flight of 20 miles that put them solidly in first place well ahead of the rest of the field. They came back telling stories of low saves where they would catch a thermal down low and have to drive backwards while the wind pushed them in the wrong direction. They drove back and forth across the same cattle guard 3 or 4 times before finally gaining enough altitude to continue on their way into the wind and down the course. Team Screaming Eagles with John and Marquita Ellias was a distant 2nd going just beyond turn point F. Team Windward with Steve Henke and Bill Curry managed 3rd place landing right at turn point F just .2 of mile behind Screaming Eagles. A brand new team flying in their first contest together, team Windward did fabulous job coming in third, especially considering they were flying a borrowed glider that has seen its best days years ago. All the other teams landed very close to turn point F.
Sunday was another speed task with a shorter triangular course of about 18.5 miles. The weather looked very similar to day one except the wind was lighter and it was little bit warmer. Most teams got on course by 11:30 and carefully made their way around the turn points. By 12:30 it was clear the weather was improving and many of the teams opted to go around the course again and take advantage of the stronger lift that was now topping out at about 700-800meters. On their second lap around the course team Atomic Fireball with Rich Spicer, Kent Killings and Rick Johnston blasted around the course in only 46 minutes, good enough to take first place for the day. The Flying Tigers were close behind in second place with a time of 51 minutes. Dean Gradwell and Ron McElliott expertly calculated their final glide to the finish. They rounded G at 500 meters altitude and determined they could run the entire 5.7 miles from G to the finish without any thermaling. It was touch and go but in the end the Flying Tigers had just enough altitude to clear the fence at the south end of the field and cross the finish line with no altitude to spare. Sundays weather was much stronger than predicted and all the teams finished the task with the exception of Rich’s Brew which had a radio failure resulting in a crash.
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