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The NSW State Championships this year was my frst experience at a state comp. My competition skills were pretty well non-existent, since my last competition had been at Easter in Queensland in 2012. Nonetheless, having bought a sailplane in 2018 after a prolonged break from gliding, I sent in my registration for the 2020 NSW State Championships with the blessing of my CFI. My goal for the competition was to get home everyday after completing each task, and to fly faster.

NSW Jacques Grails

Jacques Graells in his JS1 over Lake Keepit. Jacques finished in 4th position in 18m / Open Class.
Photo by Jacques Graells

By Kimberly Olsen

COVID 19 impacted the event, causing lower than expected numbers, so the fleet was divided into ‘long wings’ and ‘short wings’. Final honours would be divided into 18m/Open, Standard/15m and Club Class. Short wings were to fly the competition dry and were weighed on Day 1. Practice day dawned bringing conditions that promised to be tricky. Racing tasks were set for both long and short wings. Short wings were to fly 230k and long wings 294.5k.

Promising Practice Day

My flight began with a good start at 8,000ft. I took a few turns in the first 30km before connecting with 8kts to just over 10,000ft. That left me with a 29km run in some softer energy to the top of Mount Kaputar, which I crossed at 7,100ft, where I topped up again in 8kt. Running down the ridge to the second turn, I just missed the can so went on to the planned climb and returned, as the next leg took me back over the can without deviating too far. A good climb two-thirds of the way down the second leg left me with a 72km final glide via the last turnpoint.

Paul Dickson (109.2 kph) took line honours in the shortwings, closely followed by Kel Burgess (106.92 kph) 24 points behind. In the long wings, Brad Edwards (127.72) led Bruce Taylor (126.28) and Jacques Graells (119.83). I was astounded to see that I’d managed to take 3rd place in the short wings, second in Club Class with 99.70 kph -- a completely unexpected result on practice day. I was now keen to see how the rest of the comp would go.

RT NSW State Championships 20 Val Phillips

David Turner from Lake Keepit SC came 3rd overall in Sports Club/Std/15 in his ASW 27. Photo by Val Phillps

Blue Start

At briefing on Day 1, the weatherman Mak Ichikawa promised a blue day for the first racing day, and that’s exactly how it played out. Thermals were bubbly and broken with few visible indicators of lift but the fleet managed to achieve a high rate of task completion with only two outlandings.

Task setter Bruce Taylor advised us that the long wings had a racing task of 338.90km initially to the northwest to Gurley silo, east to Bingera and then south to Rangari and Lake Keepit. The short wings had an AAT of 184.78 km / 442.41 km.

I had a not so good start at 6,355ft. On the first leg to the northwest, I stayed north of the line, figuring I could use the range near Mt Kaputar for a considerable part of the flight. I’m not sure the hills were an advantage this day. On the second last leg, I found myself arriving early so I pushed into the final turnpoint at SplitRock Dam to manage delta T. I was soon in real need of a climb, which I managed to find over the top of Mt Bora hang gliding platform, giving me a final glide of 35km. It wasn’t my best flight but certainly not my worst.

Bruce Taylor (QR) led the long wings home yet again with an even 900pts, closely followed by his usual sparring partner, Brad Edwards (1B) with 724. Among the short wings, Allan Barnes (S7) walked away with the even ton and Kel Burgess (XBY), showing great consistency, occupied 2nd place yet again with 880pts. I managed 5th in short wings with 78.2 kph

QR NSW State Championships 20 Val Phillips

Bruce Taylor in his ASG 29 added another championship 1st place to his impressive collection in 18m/Open Class.
Photo by Val Phillps

Local Knowledge

Day 2 promised 10 to 20kt northwesterly winds, the very direction of the strongest conditions. High level cloud threatened to the southwest. Tasks were set at 3.5 hours for the short wings and four hours for the long wings.

My assessment of the weather was that I’d need to stay a little south of the track to make the best use of the lift on leg one, which would place me in the best spot to connect with the forecast front, arriving from the west. This turned out to be a good decision, since I found myself able to connect with decent climbs, while others to the east were reporting weak conditions.

Dave Pickles called that he was outlanding at Narrabri as I began to climb under one of the first Cu’s in 7kts. From that point it became a high speed run north to Moree, staying just a little west of track to make the best use of the pre-frontal conditions. Watching the approaching front, it soon became clear that it would then be necessary to stay east of the road from Narrabri to Moree and to overfly Mt Kaputar, so as to avoid the growing shadows and approaching rain showers. I did just that, and finished with a 77km final glide.

Mak Ichikawa had this to say about the day, "Matthew (Scutter) would have said, ‘The forecast was perfect.’ The day developed as advertised except the start was slower, but that is the nature of this year. The crucial decision was where to turn in the top sector. Bruce showed us another good decision, coming back from the direction of Castletop and planning to turn more east than where I turned. Hard to beat this local guy here at Keepit!"

Some reported climbs to FL125 and maximum task speeds of 135 kph. In the words of Justin Smith (CHA), “Turned out a cracker after poor lift pre-start. Eventually 12 knots through 12,000ft out west.” In Sports, Allan Barnes (S7) took out line honours at over 102 kph and David Turner (RT) rose four places overall with a 2nd place at 101 kph. I placed 4th with a speed of 89.3 kph. In 18m/Open, Bruce Taylor (QR) preserved his overall lead, topping the leaderboard with 135 kph. He was closely followed by Mak Ichikawa (1M), 0.5 kph behind.

Kimberley Olsen

Kimberly Olsen flying a Pegasse in Sports/Club/Std/15 class.
Photo By Val Phillips

Lost Time

Competitors woke to 8/8ths overcast skies on Day 3, as a cold front had passed the airfield overnight. The cold front and associated cloud continued its passage to the northeast as temperatures continued to rise. In the direction of the first turnpoint, some charitable Cu started to pop on this otherwise blue day.

Mak Ichikawa (1M) advised soarable heights approaching 6,000ft with 10kt westerlies, resulting in potential flight distances of 330-440km. He continued, “The day should start with 4 to 5kts to 4,500ft AGL at 12.30, reaching 6kts in the blue to 6,500ft AGL at 3pm, and die by 16.30 to 17.00 with the chance of a lift-destroying southerly.” Racing tasks were given to both fleets, 235km for short wings and 250km for long wings.

I felt it important to get an early start if possible, to make best use of the improving conditions near the Pilliga but unfortunately, that proved to be a bad decision. Although I had a good start, the thermals were few and far between for the first third of Leg 1 at that time. I deviated too far south to the hills and paid a high price in lost time, not to mention that the hills were not working as expected.

A good downwind run up the Piliga didn’t make up for it, as the time lost meant I was dealing with weaker conditions on the final leg. I was saved only by a thermal kicked off by mining activity. I climbed from 3,000ft to 5,000ft in the dustiest 5kt thermal I’d ever encountered, it smelled of Cordite.

S7 NSW State Championships 20 Val Phillips

Allan Barnes flying his LS8 into 1st place in Sports Club/Std/15 Class.
Photo By Val Phillips

Popping

Day 4 promised Cu and they started to pop as we began gridding. Oxygen systems were checked, as it also promised to be a high day. As it turned out the first leg proved difficult and very soft, at least as far as Barraba. From Barraba onwards, many of us in the short wings were able to connect with streets along the ridges towards Warialda where conditions got stronger and climbs over 10,000ft were possible. The radio was buzzing with comments from the long wings about soft conditions.

I had a great run to Warialda and Moree but was astounded when I returned to find a couple of gliders ahead of me. Clearly, my efforts closer to Moree were not as good as some. Conditions contributed to a wide spread of finish times with a stream of landings that started at 1648hrs and didn't end until 1826!

In 18m/Open, Mak Ichikawa (1M) showed he wasn't willing to relinquish his place, chalking up a blistering 142.3 kph. Taylor and Edwards rounded out the top three with 139.3 and 135.8 kph respectively. An honourable mention must go to Kerrie Claffey (T1) with 122.3 kph, nipping at the heels of the top three.

In Club/Standard/15m, Paul Dickson (UKC) reclaimed first place with 108 kph, closely followed by Hunter Valley's David Pickles (AY) and Keepit's own David Turner (RT) with 102.8 and 107.3 kph respectively. Allan Barnes (S7) held a commanding lead, but only 22 points separated David Turner and Paul Dickson at the end of Day 4.

Making his debut in competition flying was Keepit’s Tom Jamieson (XJY). Day 4’s task was Tom’s longest to date and he had this to say about the day, “I had the most appalling start ever imaginable. On my first glide through the line I flew down to the first area of Cu on track but found absolutely nothing. Before I knew it I was down to 1,800ft AGL.

“After scratching around for too long, I headed off under the Cu with a ruined 44 kph task speed. Over Barraba and Bingara I thundered along at a cloud base which aligned perfectly to turn at Warialda. It was much the same to Moree, by which time my task speed had risen to 95kph. Turning for Kaputar, things appeared to soften out, and lack of planning ahead caused a poor decision to disconnect with cloud base and slowed my leg down to 80kph. A solid final glide brought it back to 90. A very tiring and demanding day!”

Tom Jamieson Delilah Scott

Tom Jamieson-and Delilah Scott both came to gliding through the Australian Air Force Cadets. Tom flew an LS7 and finished in 8th place in Sports/Club/Std/15 class. Tom also plays a mean guitar.

Cautious

On Day 5, our weatherman promised another day of Cu in a weather briefing that reported the glancing influence of a trough with a cold front to follow in the coming days. Light and variable winds and 4-5kts to 4,500ft AGL at 12pm were to kick off a day capable of 575-805km flights. By 3pm, he was expecting 5-7kt Cu-marked climbs to 9,500ft AGL and perhaps 1,000ft higher in the north. Conditions were forecast to weaken considerably by 5pm. The shortwings were tasked a 314km racing task, Keepit - Tambar Springs - Edgeroi Silo - Keepit. The longwings were assigned a 387km racing task.

The start of my flight was cautious. I snuck out, on task with a lower than expected start height, only to decide to return for a restart as I could see a huge Cu developing in the start sector. This gave me a much better start over some soft conditions. I found thermals hard to work until Tambar Springs, where I saw several gliders that were low. I took a good climb just after the turn and had a fantastic run up the Pilliga.

Things started to go soft again around Narrabri, so I went to the house thermal at the top of the Pilliga, west of town. I worked some wisps to Edgeroi but there were no great climbs anywhere. I deviated east and found a good climb over the trees, and climbed away from 3,000ft AGL. This allowed me to connect with the lift over Mt Kaputar, where I topped up for a 60km final glide. I heard a number of the long wings calling about difficult conditions as I topped up. It was good enough for 3rd place in the short wings.

NSW State Championships 20 Val Phillips 3402

Straight in landing over the Lake Keepit that now has water in it.
Photo By Val Phillips

Cat’s Cradle AAT

Mak Ichikawa's weather report started with, “Another Cu day, with Ci”. Skysight gave potential flight distances of 575 to 805km, with 4-5kts to 5,000ft AGL by 12:30. By 3pm 5-7kts to 10,500ft AMSL was forecast, with the day weakening at 17:00. That was the forecast, so what really happened? Actual temperature rise at Tamworth stalled at 11:30 and was sitting 1.5 degrees below forecast. As the temperature plateau continued into midday, both classes were set C tasks, a cat’s cradle AAT at 2.5hrs for the short wings and 3hrs for the long wings.

I had a shocker of a day. I just never got the feel for the day and as a consequence, failed to trust the blue conditions out on the plains. I wasted time diverting to wisps that did not work. I finished 9th, which is about where I expected to be when I registered for the event.

Daid Pickles took 1st place in the short wings and Club Class, with Allan Barnes 2nd and leading Standard Class. In the big wings, Bruce Taylor won the day with 125 kph. That really shows how badly I flew.

YL NSW State Championships 20 Val Phillips

Jay Anderson in his JS 1 Revelation
Photo By Val Phillips

Costly Distraction

I started Day 7 with the goal of flying better than the previous day and holding on to the place that I occupied. The AAT task was very similar to Day 6 with a start point north of Lake Keepit to Pineview to Terry Hi Hi, then to Wee Waa to Pine View to home. I edited the task from the day before while sitting at terminal 32 in a crowd of other pilots. That was my first mistake -- I normally enter my tasks alone at my computer, and recall feeling quite distracted.

I should have taken that as a warning sign. Fatigue levels were high on the last day. I launched and had a great start at 8,000ft. I set off for the first turnpoint expecting a gaggle of gliders to be following but none did. I wondered why, but continued and had a great run at high speed up over Mt Kaputar, clipping the Pineview circle and going a little way into the Terry Hi Hi circle before setting off across the plains, topping up anytime I hit 5kts or so.

1B NSW State Championships 20 Val Phillips

Brad Edwards in his JS3.
Photo By Val Phillips

The clouds were lining up perfectly for a return run but the overdevelopment at Mt Kaputar had resulted in downpours and lightning. The outflow from that was probably going to kill lift, so I turned at Wee Waa as late as I was game. This was a mistake. My delta T ended up being 15 minutes early, leaving me no choice but to fly close to the showers and lightning using the lift ahead of the showers to max out my distance in the last circle.

Unfortunately, all lift on track had gone, so I had to backtrack to my last climb to get final glide. I could hear from the radio calls that others had similar problems, so I thought was in with a chance. However, the final results showed I had actually missed the start my metres, flying parallel to it because I had an extra turnpoint from the day prior in my task. No wonder nobody had followed me.

NSW 1

Mak Ichikawa (18m/Open), Allan Barnes (Standard) and David Pickles (Club).

Happy Ending

In the long wings Bruce Talylor took 1st place, Mak 2nd and Jaques Graells 3rd. Short wings were led by Allan Barnes, Paul Dickson in second and Kel Burgess in third. I finished 9th.

Throughout the event the camaraderie was fabulous. It would have been great to see more women competing, but COVID obviously played a part in keeping some of our interstate sisters away. The final night dinner at Carol Gap is a tradition at Lake Keepit and the food was fabulous as ever. Errors notwithstanding, I was very happy with the results and enjoyed the event immensely. I may even continue with this gliding caper.

31 NSW State Championships 20 Val Phillips

Ed Marel in his ASH 31 Mi/21m.
Photo By Val Phillips

NSW State Championships Lake Keepit
14 - 21 November 2020

Sports (Club/Std/15)
1 Allan Barnes LKSC LS 8 6,062
2 Paul Dickson HVGC LS 3 4,939
3 David Turner LKSC ASW 27 4,695

18m / Open
1 QR Bruce Taylor LKSC ASG 29/18m 6,182
2 1M Mak Ichikawa HVGC JS 3 Rapture 5,915
3 1B Brad Edwards LKSC JS 3 Rapture 5,812

soaringspot.com or bit.ly/2JnvXmG