Linda Salamone's Blog

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Australia Part 1

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Monday, February 04, 2013

Forbes Afterthoughts
It’s hard to believe it’s over. We’re driving to Stanwell Park after the awards ceremony- grateful to be out of that crazy heat but sad to be leaving all the same. I’m disappointed with my accumulation of points- I know I have more in me. I’ll get my excuses out of the way : new glider, new site, bigger conditions than I have ever flown in, not much real “team” flying, and way longer tasks and many more flying days than I could imagine. On the advantages list: I had a GREAT place to stay with laundry service, a few late dinners provided by a super sweet and capable hostess, the best driver I have ever had bar NONE, a better glider, equipment support from my housemate Blenky and Kraig and Moyes, instrument and harness support from Mitch, the men’s team’s kindness on all things flying related, oh and did I mention the greatest driver ever in Mike McFaddin?… I could go on…. So, I’m just plain SLOW. I could ballast up and I think controlling the glider with full vg (jeez I am getting the whole VG on finally!!!) would be easier. But I don’t want to fly with ballast- until I see how people glide and leave me in the dirt. Then, I think I’ll try ballast. Back and forth. I very much want to be a better race pilot. I learned more at this comp than any other, got more usable info out of my 6030 than ever, and had so much kindness from the people here, and so little drama… It really was one of the best experiences of my life. I just wish I freakin’ flew better!!! Food is wicked expensive in Oz. I spend $50s like $20s. Beer is exorbitantly priced, wine is so-so. No tax (well it’s built in) and no tipping. Which sucks because service can be lacking and you have no way to send a message in either direction. There are a lot of pretty good food options all over and I never had much trouble eating well and avoiding the stuff I don’t want to be eating. We all sort of over did it in the retrieve car on salt and vinegar chips. But the HEAT. OMG, it was indescribable some days. That practice Sunday I flew just to get into air temperature I could breathe in. Then the night of the opening ceremony had me rolling around in a bed of ice. Late at night! I drank so much water and hardly had to pee. Leaving Forbes yesterday we had more of the same. Full cloud cover and windy, but it was like standing in front of a giant hair dryer set on high. Unreal. Yesterday was the hottest day in Sydney on record. There were 54degC readings further west last week. Hottest ever. And here we suit up for 13,000’ climbs and sit under our gliders with helmets on waiting for our turn to launch. CRAZY!!! Much of what I experienced, I’ll forget until reminded. Exceptions will be: ½ of Team Canada- America’s hat, and having enough coins to buy a pony… maybe. Packing and repacking- tough to do all day unless you start early in the morning- (and we did), 3rd degree sunburns and zinc, dildos and lawn bowling, blown zippers, broken backplates, salt vinegar chips, kickboxing kangaroos, Italian coffee in a land of shitty coffee, Elvises, new friends, old friends, great retrieves, spectacular sunsets…

Thursday, January 17, 2013

FForbes Task 7 and 8 and 9 and 10... Well task 7 was just horrible for me. It was windy, gusty and the climbs over the paddock were crowded and difficult. The 249k task was pretty much straight downwind so after my scary tow, I figure all I gotta do is turn and drift all the way to goal. Except I didn't. I went on my first glide with 2 guys below me and the huge gaggle going back for the second start. I saw a glider turning high-ish to my right, on the upwind side of a long ridge and a guy way left and low on the lee side of the ridge. One of the guys below me picked left, I chose right thinking upwind of slope was better. I got under the guy and found nothing and when I looked he was gliding to the lee side away from me. So I followed but now I'm pretty low. The two gliders climbing behind the ridge were going up fast and I just got there too low. It was a gnarly snaky spit-me-out over and over piece of shit and at 200' I finally stopped turning and landed. I kept thinking I'd get in it solid and get back up. On the ground, moving my glider in stiff wind to shade to break down I see the WHOLE gaggle fly over my head. UGH! Really bad day. Jamie had landed already and Rob was still flying for a while and Mike and I went to pick him up and grabbing James when we passed Polona. Lots of good (horrible) retrieve stories since the area all the way to goal had zero cell coverage. The guy staying in my house has kangaroo hunters shooting at him and wound up sleeping in his vehicle at a closed gas station along with Mitch and his driver. Long day for some of them. Not so for me... I'd trade (well maybe not the getting shot at part). Task 8- much lighter winds. In fact it was L&V a lot so the launching went really slowly. The tow was really nice and the boomer I pinned off in was 800fpm smooth all the way up. Problem was that I was alone. Everyone had left. It was a big triangle task with 2 starts half an hour apart so everyone was just plain gone. I went on glide to the start and almost decked it right then. I stuck with a climb on the edge for so long I got the 2nd start. Then I was completely alone for the rest of my flight. It really makes for slow going but I took the entire time taking in the scenery and just enjoying the hell out of my flight. The climbs were smooth and nice and getting to around 6k and spaced perfectly like 5k apart. I found the rhythm of the day and it was really sweet. I had a couple wedgies at the 1st WP that were being polite. On the way to the 2nd the day just sort of ended. It was late and I had been in the air a long long time. But this time I was relaxed and less sore. Jamie and Rob kicked my butt, but I was in a much better frame of mind than the day before. And I landed really well. Task 9 I pretty much have had enough of flying alone and with a radio on but no one to listen or talk to so I begged the guys to let me on their frequency. I promised I wouldn't say anything unnecessary and I would have gone so far as to scrub their toilets if they hesitated. But it was cool and after an easy tow, I got to hear what the climbs were like and how high to expect to get. And it made me go a lot faster plus I had pilots around most of the flight. On the way to the first TP, I almost got sucked right into a cloud. Great smooth huge climb and I pull out and go on glide right under this fatty and I pass some pilot who is just turning and turning and turning. I feel the suck and I stuff the bar to my knees to get to the edge, just getting halfway whited out. I look to my left to see this idiot still turning in the dome when he realises what's about to happen he dives right towards me and I get a little terrified that we are going in right next to each other. Nasty little scare. Oh and I should say I got stupid low before the start and almost decked it right away again. Guess I need that incentive to stay HIGH. This task was a huge one and I just wanted to keep moving. Before the 1st TP James and Mitch landed and then after it, the whole sky shaded over with some high stuff and still big dark cu's producing lift somehow. I got alone for a little bit but then I found my "hat"- Canadian Rob Clarkson. Did you know that Canada is just America's hat? That of course, makes us the pants... but I digress. Rob and I bumbled towrds the second TP and almost made it. The sky opened up again but after another almost 5 hours in the air I just ran out of steam. I could tell he was also and the other guys were closing in on the last TP and heading to goal. But I was done. I saw a glider down, thought it was Rob and went to land in his field - after making a pass 1 k further to make sure I had him beat... I yelled down for a wind direction as it was pretty light at the moment and saw it was Tove. She starts kicking dirt but it was not clear, then I yelled BEND OVER. She seemed confused and I just guessed at what she was getting at but it was clearly downwind on final. I had enough altitude to turn 90 degrees right but a thermal was literally kicking of and it was everywhere and nowhere. I pounded in pretty good :-( Poor Sandee... Tove had a similar bad landing with a stuck zipper and no wind. I found myself stuck in my harness as my zip was hung on on a leg strap. She helped me out and my handy dandy driver Mike (part Magellin, part McGyver, part Dr. Laura) arrived with Glen Jamie and Rob so we had to leave Tove out of cell service. That's the biggest retrieve problem- noservice anywhere. Thank God for the Spot that Jim Prahl loaned me! Heaps of kangaroos playing chicken with the car on the way back. We never seem to get back in time to get real food in town- everything closes at 9. But we just made it back fast enough to grab the last dinners at the Inn and that was the end of Task 9. Task 10 was a big out and back with a waypoint halfway on the way back. For some reason I thought that was on the way out so there was some confusion when during the first leg I saw people already coming past me and thought they were super duper fast! But I was slow on this day for sure. I broke my first weak link since almost a year behind the trike. I just got ridiculously high on him and went to release at 100' but it snapped. I landed in the huge thermal we just flew through and in front of all that were left on the launch line- thank God it was a decent one or I'd still be getting critiqued. The seond tow put me in a fatty and when I got off it was straight up to 6k. I yoyo'd for awhile while I listened to the guys make headway. I had been feeling really nauseous on the ground and it was getting worse in the air. I didn't want to puke in a full face helmet. The air was HUGE and the climbs were all 8-900fpm. I thought about just landing- this being the last day and I am so tired and sore and sick. But then I thought about being on the ground at 42degrees C... screw that! So I just tried to make my way along the course as best as I could. Once again alone, but on radio with the guys. Zac at one point asked if anyone had seen Paris (who had no way to communicate ). I said I had never been to France even, and Zac came back, a little irritated and asked if I had seen him. I said I was so far behind there's no way anyhow, but then I had to ask why I was seeing pilots going the other way if the lead guys just made the 1st TP and were still 50 k away from the second one FURTHER north. That's when I saw that the 1st was the furthest out and then we head back. Aha moment there. Shit, I just plug the route in and follow the stupid arrow and try to push upwind. Silly me... Damn blogger just lost the rest of this... ugh- I have no time left... Later... I'll finish - IN WORD!! Ok i found it: At some point these huge climbs (to 11000' agl) got really strong. There were thin-ish cu's, not like the day before, but it was really lifty. At one point I had a solid 8.4 on my 20 second averager for several turns. CRAZY! I'm just hanging onto the bar and praying not to find the edge of that sucker. It was 1600fpm for people not using m/s. Crazy. But now I am feeling much better and even the wire twangers aren't getting me all tense. I finally make the 1st TP and I am 3.5 hours into my flight. That sucker was 88k away. On the way back I got low, found my hat above me, and followed him from below. Then I lost him and the thermal at 6000' (which was feeling super low all of a sudden!) I was on my own the remainder of the flight and got another climb back to 10k but it is getting late. My final glide I knew I was just going to go for as many Ks as possible. My last flight in this great comp and I have a perfect landing with a bunch of sheep and watch the sunset as I pack up. And Mike comes strolling across the vast field with my wraps at the exact right moment- which is amazing since I have had no communication with him since I landed. And we head off the clean up for the party. Rob had me by a bit but he was already in the car. Jamie landed right near me but Glen already had her picked up. The party was actually a shitload of fun. The best part about these races is spending time with this eclectic bunch of people. And what a hoot they all were tonight. After so many days in the heat and the air and no time to socialize much, everyone seemed to just let go and enjoy themselves. Davis was all over the dance floor along with Zac and Mitch and Annie and Robin was playing the bongos with the band. Hilarious. Polona is such a blast to hang with- too bad she quit smoking though ;-) Okay so I'll try to come up with a link to pictures- there are so many on my Facebook. I just need better internet to do stuff like that. I'll also recap at some point general thoughts about this comp and a bit of my disappointment for not scoring better. But I learned more here than all the other comps I've been in combined. I'll elaborate later. Right now it's time to see Australia.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Forbes Day 5 and 6 Another crazy windy day at the tow paddock. I am beginning to believe that the organizers at launch think if they just TELL us it’s blowing 10-15 mph then we should just take that as fact and not question it. But no way n hell would I have free flown yesterday. No way… So I did what I do when I am faced with that dilemma- knowing better but competing. I just chunk it out in pieces. First: tow. Second (if I survive the tow): make it out of the start. Third: just grab as many Ks as possible and land safely. So my tow was OK, and the climb out sucked ass. But I just dealt with it in small pieces. Jamie decided not to fly so I’d be on my own. I was climbing near the paddock with Tyler from Canada, and getting good climbs after a scratchy start. And then I just kept slightly upwind of courseline and stayed within sight of other gliders. Eventually I started seeing pilots SUPER high and I tried to stay with climbs long enough to get to them. A little mountain range was on courseline that we’d have to go over but I was ridiculously high- like 9000’ so no problem. I saw so many others way higher and as I cruised to the first WP I started getting 10, 11 then 12,000’. Very freaking cold compared to the hellish heat on the ground. I stayed in it as long I could but I was FREEZING!!! I tagged the first WP and headed straight into the wind for the second. I left some 600fpm climbs at 12000’ because of the cold. My camelback was leaking and I was soaked and shivering!On the way to WP2 I got a bit low- like 6K off the ground and started to panic with 6K to go to the 2nd. I went WAAAAAAY downwind to get a climb with other pilots that I had thought was a mistake at the time but I was determined not to go alone. I got the climb and then tagged the WP but the wind was ramping up and I wound up landing shortly thereafter. Turns out I did ok for the day and my landing was great in the howling wind. I think I could have landed on a fresh egg and not broken it. Jamie and Mike were there in 2 minutes and helped me fly the glider to the shade and wind shadow to break down. There were sheep body parts everywhere. I swear they just implode randomly in the heat and their parts are scattered everywhere. We retrieved Rob and were on our way to Thai food in Parkes where the Elvis Festival was in full swing. The American boys and drivers joined us and basically just ate all our leftovers. And that was the end of Day 5 of the World Championships…. Day 6. What can I say? hot and sweaty on the paddock. Not normal because usually it’s not humid and the wind is blowing. But I was feeling so good from yesterday because my score was decent. I knew the forecast was for strong wind later and figured I’d just take the day in small pieces again. My tow behind Bruce was interesting to say the least- very active. He left me off in what I thought was decent but all the climbs in the 30K start circle basically sucked ass. I nearly had a midair with a combat and there were so many times when I got my ass handed to me by a ratty piece of air. We waffled low- maybe 4K off the ground for so long. The drift was enough to make me take whatever start I could- I didn’t care think it was the second- and I waffled along courseline fore a while. Slow low climbs, totally shaded over, tons of pilots around, crazy gaggles. 40+ K out I went on a glide with (slightly behind) the gaggle, and they got so far ahead. When I saw them turning I knew I’d be really low beneath them but there were 2 guys near me. At 700’ agll they grabbed the climb. I got spit out like a read headed stepchild and when I pointed back at it into the wind I was going backwards and unable to punch into it. I drilled straight to the ground in 40kph winds and had a fuck of a time trying to pack up. I swear it ramped to 50mph and I was struggling just to get it wrapped up screaming at the wind to let up for just a sec while I secured Sandee. My driver was 20 min out and it was a long time laying on my keel and having visions of her tumbling away without me. My battens, once I finally got then out, went blowing across the field unbelievably. It was so out of control. Mike McFaddin has a video I will try to link. Crazy windy day. Still howling!!! I don’t know how I did but that huge gaggle left without me. So probably not a great day. I’m just glad I lived through the landing. Jamie wisely towed up and just landed at the field… Ugh.. what is with these task/safety committees??? Task was stopped probably right when the wind was the worst on the ground…..

Friday, January 11, 2013

Forbes Day 3 Task 2 Shitty windy, didnt even want to rig. But sheep (or lemmings) that we are... I rigged. At least this day was cooler- in the 80s instead of 110. But really windy. #80 or so to launch and glad to be that late and wishing I was later. With a 10K start circle I still wasn't certain with all that wind I'd be able to stay inside. The penalty for leaving early is a big fat zero for some stupid reason. I had the second roughest tow of my life behind Jim Prahl. Unbelievably crappy! And when I got off it was a Forbes 2013 Tsk 2 Day 3 Ok I am going to try this again. I had a bit written up but blogger lost it all and I am super frustrated with the whole computer thing right now. So this might just be tabular style data.... Anyhow shitty tow behind Jim Prahl. Crazy windy day that I would never normally rig in. Had an hour to try to stay in the start circle and since Jamie had no radio I was on with the guys after promising not to talk. I feel pretty alone out here in the flying thing... Wish I had a crew like some people have ;-) Anyhow, the hand of God basically pushed me to meters from the ground way too far from the tow field so I had to turn downwind and get into a climb to save my ass low. I took the first clock with NO one else and bumbled on down the course line. I did begin to see a few people and the climbs were good but the drift was bad. It was cross or quartering tail and like 30-40kph. Zac caught me after taking the first clock and I got to hang with him for a couple thermals. Then he left one and I followed below and behind and missed the climb he was in. I searched a while but found myself on the ground 70 K or so out.BUMMER! Ah well. I landed like a helicopter in crazy wind and had to hold the wires a while just to unhook. I had so much wond breaking down and I flipped the glider with two straight undersurface battens in. It tore part of Sandee near the batten pocket and I tried to put that out of my head as I struggled to put her completely away. It was HOWLING. I pressed my spot and waited for retrieve. And waited... 4hours later the car arrived. I had seen exactly 2 vehicles while I was there. 4 hours right? two vehices... one a cop, one a HG retrieve that never stopped to see if I was okay ... Mike arrived at sunset and of course nothing but McDs is open late... Today a much lighter wind day. I had a tow behind the trike that was fabulous and he waved me off in a boomer at 1700'. Crazy gaggles til the start and then we were on our way. Good climbs to 6K and then I got slow waiting for Jamie but my choice because now her PTT is fixed. She kicks my ass in climb and on glide. She overtook me at the 2nd WP when we got super low. I swear all the sheep below us farted in unison to give that thermal a reason to break free. I caught up to her on the way to goal and we took turns pulling each other along in the dying day. Finally there just wasn't anything left and with just 19K to go... we landed together. Forbes Day 5 task 4 I SUCK. I had this day so mapped out, even knew the terrain for the first half pretty well. And I had great climbs, felt like I understood the day, and was getting really high- like 7800' asl. Screaming climbs, best day yet. I was cruising right along in a hard cross wind 20k from the WP that, when I tagged it, was gonna put me in a straight downwind line to goal. Except I decked it before the first WP... I was at around 7K and went on a glide- ignoring Matjaz who seemed to favor downwind. Bif=g mistake- I wish i went with him. I got a climb right where Jamie and I dug our way out the day before but after that, I got crushed in relentless sink and just could get out of it. I got a few turns in lifting air but all alone now I started panicking and that is for SURE what grounded me. I started flying around like a crazy person. Jamie and Rob were high downwind so I headed that way. But all I got were a few teases of lift and then I was soaring these low hills in some big wind. Finally I unzipped and landed on a steep downhill, REALLY steep. But it hardly mattered because the wind was so strong. Mike was there in like 10 minutes to hear me wail and moan and basically be a big crybaby all the way to chase Jamie and Rob. It was a great day to fly and race. I just fucked it up royally. Yuck.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Forbes Day 1 Task 1 Monday started windy-ish and ramped up a bit when we were rigging. The pilot meeting was thankfully brief but informative and a 158k task was set. Setting up was difficult and I had a middle launch order that I was happy with at first. But the wind was pretty gusty- gustier than I would free fly in, and Jamie and I soon had each other fairly defensive about towing at our appointed time. Like a good teammate I kept her company when she pulled out of line to go to the back. I saw some good carnage and some bad tows that could have been a lot worse. The gaggle was not high at all and sometimes when they made a push upwind, the lowest few had to re-light. Not conditions in the air or in the ground that I like! As soon as it was just Jamie and I on the ground, it started to feel like it was backing off. We gave it a few more minutes and suited up. I got behind an Italian tug pilot (white plane but not Bobby!) and he pulled me through some of the roughest crap 100'off the ground... and then began to THERMAL IT UP!!! I was at release altitude in a minute or two but I had slack in the line a few times and never felt like I was squarely behind him at all! It was by far the craziest tow I have ever had bar NONE. When he waved me off I didn't even want to take my hand off to pull the barrel, but I did and got right up to over 4K pretty quick. I watched Jamie tow up and hers looked like it took 10 minutes and by then I was drifting towards the start. When I thought she was off tow I called her on the radio and got no response. So I guess we are going on a silent course... bummer. We were gonna need all the help we could get as we were totally left behind. At first all I wanted to do was just get out of the start circle. At 10K radius, and lots of wind (20-25kph) that should be easy. I saw 2 gliders on the ground just before the start gate and since I was at a whopping 3K i figured I wont come in dead last anyhow. very climb for the first 30 or 40k was crappy. I would get to like 1500', find a weak climb, stay til 3500' then lose it, search for it down to 2800', go on glide, then repaet the process. At this point I am just trying to put as many Ks behind me as possible. I kept thinking, Ok 30K thats respectable after thinking I wouldnt make the start gate. Then, Ok 50K, that's better than 30K... and so on. At one point I had a decent climb, 50K from the turnpoint, and then after my glide was looking to land. I had some weak lift and stayed with it at 1000' just to pick out a better field and grab a few more Ks. The next 50K I did right at around 1800' to 2500' just turning and turning and turning. I was basically still blowing on down on course line so it was all about each and every kilometer. Over the town at the waypoint I got a half decent climb while trying to sort out what the actual point was. Right after I tagged the point and went about picking out my next landing field, I heard from Jamie on the radio. She said she saw me at the waypoint but she was in the retrieve car with awesome driver Mike McFaddin and so-so Canadian hat guy Rob Clarkson. It had been she that I saw landing (the only other glider I saw all task) around 60K back. I had been unzipped 3 times on this flight, but now it was after 7pm and there was still some life left in the day. Amazing to me, I went another 20K after that turnpoint that had seemed very pie-in-the-sky to me at 3pm. and landed with my chase vehicle right behind me. WAY TOO COOL! My left foot was completely wrecked when I landed- and it was a so-so landing- because for some reason I push my feet back painfully in the harness for hours at a time without realizing it. I had drunk my entire camelback and the calvary arrived in time to help me pack up and basically carry me home. We stopped in a town on the way back for dinner- begging the proprieters to serve us this late- and joined Mitch, Polona and James for a bite. So I was 32k short of goal, and feeling ok about it- until I found that 61 people had made it in. I guess it helps to have some company (duh!) especially in tough conditions. I promise to get the sand out and place better tomorrow. Many great pilots went down earlier than me, but I know I should have made this goal. Tomorrow looks to be windy with slow climbs and low ceiling. Oh- and blue. But I am a scratch pilot so bring it on. Jamie will sort her PTT issues out so maybe I won't be completely alone that way either. Oh and my glider has been christened "Sandee"....I love her pink little self!