04-28-17 G-Cup + Convergence Day

I didn’t get around to the report until later than I should, but better late than never. This was another rather intriguing day, that started with low expectations. I decided to attempt the Governor’s Cup North, the go-to 2:45 hour inter-club TAT task. I like to do this task on trickier days, saving the best days for bigger distance flights. The conditions were to be blue, initially light NW, but shifting SW. The day was predicted to start earlier and that it did. The first launcher at 11am in the 2-33 stayed up for an hour!

I ended up launching around 12:10pm, but this was still rather reasonable. I took a slow climb up to 4800ft and shot off on course in the already better than expected conditions. There were clouds in the distance, though the sink was simply atrocious. I was dropping out of the sky at 22-1 glides. But when I did contact lift, it certainly made up for it, with solid 4.5 knot climbs from bottom to top. By the time I made it to Sunrise Mountain, I was already climbing to 6,500ft. Not bad at all!

Looking out ahead, I saw the tell-tale signs of convergence setting up in the distance. The wind was light out of the West, though the Catskills overpower this suppressing force. I decided that this would be another good day to explore the Catskills Convergence.

At this point, my battery started dying… I took a lemon this time. I shut the radio and Kobo off and just used the trusty Borgelt variometer and my eyeballs. It’s also why the power chord was dangling on the Kobo for the remainder of the flight…

Getting up into Wurtsboro, I took a slower climb and started tipetoeing into the Catskills. I connected with the lift near Piolis and climbed up a little over 6000ft. The air was rather scary here… no clouds over the Catskills and a real mess of haze and moisture to the SE. The convergence didn’t seem all that organized, though it was definitely there. The only lift around here would be the thin line between the two air masses.

I poked along the line, milking the lift as best as I could. I knew if I fell out of it, I would not be able to climb out in the bad air to the SE. 6000ft is just not that much altitude over 4000ft MSL mountains. However, I saw that the air was constantly building on the NWerly side and the consistent motion in the clouds gave me enough confidence to keep going.

Once I got to the NW side of the Ashokan reservoir, I decided I went far enough and turned back. I simply wasn’t high enough to be comfortable to keep going. The convergence also split off, so it would be highly committing to keep going. i was rather satisfied with my foray into this forbidding land and finding this wonderful lift, but it was time to go back.

Flying above the clouds and just floating along was a really surreal experience! It is an amazing and distinctive form of lift, with it’s own rules and rhythm to how it works.

Anyway, coming back I found a nice climb at the end of the line. I worked this up to 7500ft, as high as it would go. The air going back looked rather unwelcoming, so I figured I ought to take as much as I could.

On the long glide toward Wurtsboro, I found really smooth air. Finally, I stumbled into 2-3 knots up; wave! Out of curiosity, I did a couple S-turns. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what set it off. The wind speed was so low in the boundary layer that it surely could not have been terrain induced. My best guess was that it was set off by wind shear, as the wind shifted SW as I continued further. It was really cool and very distinctly wave. Climbing up in the convergence evidently got me above the boundary layer…

After my short excursion in the wave, I continued SW. The wind now was getting stronger and stronger. After nipping the Middletown sector, I saw the last line of clouds near High Point. Going toward them, I started dropping out of the sky. The wind picked up to 15 knots and the bad air just made me come down like a set of car keys. I gingerly climbed up and worked these clouds over to the far side of the NW ridge. It was clear that making home would be a struggle and I would need all the height I could get.

Continuing SW bound, I got a marginal glide home. I was looking to get another climb to pad my glide toward Blairstown and then ideally get to the Hackettstown sector.

But instead, the air goes bad and I become a glass brick. I see the Upper Reservoir rise in my canopy and I start to pay a lot of attention to the fields off my right wing. Lower and lower I go until I find a weak thermal. I end up drifting as much as I was climbing… My last hope was to keep bucking the wind and try to find the next bubble in the line. Down to 2200ft, 600ft over the ridge I found it! I sure was thrilled… I sure as heck wouldn’t have gotten squat over the fields nearby. I tightened into the climb and corkscrewed up. Man I love this glider!

Continuing toward the ridge, I had glide made back to Blairstown just fine. Now I was looking for a nice climb to make the last run to Hackettstown.

Well I found it right over the crest of the middle of the ridge, near the reservoir. It was a rather strong thermal. SeeYou said the average was 666 feet per minute. How about that….

The final glide was quite fast and easy. I slid back home and decided to call it a day. Four hours seems like just zipping around the patch nowadays.

It’s a real blast flying out of Blairstown, NJ. The more I fly here, the more I find how nuanced and dynamic the air really is. I always keep looking forward to what is in store next time.

Thanks again Aaron Stout for towing and Aero Club Albatross for letting me fly this outstanding sailplane. It occurred to me I had never landed it out and not for the lack of trying either. I think Erik Mann secretly put helium in its wings when we restored it! It just has such a wonderful knack for getting out of trouble.

And thanks Michael Opitz for teaching me how to fly the Catskills convergence at the 2016 Club Class Nationals at Wurtsboro. My landout on the 4th day, when he was cruising at 8000ft really made an impression on me. It’s been a lot of fun playing with it since!

Find the flight log here.

I’ll be flying tomorrow on what looks like an outstanding SE ridge day. Two of us will be looking to see if we can make the Potomac on the SE side of the ridge. If all goes well, we would soar the back-side of the Tuscarora beyond McConnellsburg PA, which would be a first. We shall see…