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Twelve teams gathered at Siskiyou County Airport for the 9th Annual Montague Cross Country Challenge on June 10/11. This is a 2-day event, but almost everyone arrives Friday for a little practice and tire kicking.
Saturday's weather appeared ideal: light wind and good thermal activity were in the forecast. The task of the day was a 2-hour minimum race. This means, teams must fly as far as possible in the 2-hour time period, and the team with the best average speed wins. Teams may fly longer (3-hours maximum) if they think they can improve their score. The average speed is then simply the total distance flown divided by the total flying time. If a team is forced to land before the minimum 2-hour period, average speed is determined by dividing total distance by 2 hours; therefore, it is imperative to fly for at least two hours.
But the weather had other plans: a cloud layer moved in suddenly, cooling the ground and shutting off thermals, and many teams landed out before they could complete the 2-hour task. Those who launched early had the best chance of completing the task, and Team Rolle did just that with a very fast 21.65 mph. The second place winner, Team Brady, was 4 mph slower, which means Jim Rolle left everyone in the dust that day.
Sunday brought on a new task: a 18.25-mile round-trip race with a flying
finish near the airport. This task does two things: it heightens the
sense of urgency while flying, and it makes for a short day for those
with a long road trip home. Also, some teams flew two rounds (the fastest
one counts), and at least Team Tiltman did so without landing in between.
In my opinion, this race task has the potential of improving upon the current Montague speed record of 22.44 mph. At that speed, the 18.25 mile course would have to be flown in 48 minutes and 48 seconds. Given a good soaring day, aggressive flying, efficient use of thermals, and luck, I am convinced a 43:48 run with a resulting 25 mph average is possible.
I saw the new MXC cross-country glider for the first time at this contest. It is a purpose-designed XC plane with relatively low-aspect-ratio wing (14" chord) for visibility at altitude and a long tail moment with generous stab area for stability. While at first I feared it overemphasized thermal "hang time" at the expense of cruise efficiency, Dean Gradwell's second-place finish on Sunday showed that the plane moves along just fine. Dean's finish that day was spectacular to watch. There will be extensive testing of the MXC, and we'll publish the findings on this website.
Contest aside, Dean Gradwell's hospitality provides a wonderful venue. Saturday's barbeque, catered by a Montague business, is just one jewel in the crown this fun and exciting event deserves.
See you next year!
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