Sunday, 26 April 2020

Report on Centralines Central Districts Gliding Championships 2020

Gliding Hawkes Bay & Waipukurau hosted the Centralines 2020 Central Districts Gliding Championships from Waipukurau Airfield from the 22nd to 29th February inclusive. The aim was to have a friendly, low key contest with tasks achievable for pilots of all abilities and glider types. Local airspace is unrestricted to 9,500ft which minimised potential airspace issues.

With almost 30 entrants, even after some last minute withdrawals, word must be getting around that the event is worth attending. Task setter Graham White did an admirable job with a field ranging from a PW5 to ASH25M.

Under the aegis of John Etches the contest director, things got off to an inauspicious start with practice day seeing just a ferry flight from Bridge Pa and a local area familiarisation flight by the Auckland Duo Discus. It did, however, allow pilots to arrive and get rigged and ready. Sunday then proved to be a damp squib with no flying at all.

With the positive attitude of the contest director helping the weather, the next seven days were all soarable even though it looked unlikely on some days. Pilots enjoyed thermals, convergence and wave at various times. Mike Strathern also reported doing some ridge soaring in a Libelle.

While there were just three contest days, local, no stress, flying was possible on other days with some notable flights. On the Wednesday with local conditions dying just after the start of the contest launch, conditions looked great on and over the western ranges. Taking a long tow in the ASH25M, Graham White and Jason Kelly were joined by Tim Bromhead in his Ventus CT 17.6m to explore the western ranges area south to in sight of the windmills and northwest past Taihape at heights of over 9,000ft.

There were only a few landouts during the contest with Derek Shipley taking the prize for achieving the most. He has written a separate article about his exploits. A longer task and the weather bluing out earlier than forecast on the Friday saw the most landouts in a day.

Youth pilot Kieran Cassidy, flying a DG 101 in his first contest, impressed with his flying abilities to finish 2nd on the 3rd day and 4th overall in the racing class.

A large contingent of pilots camped on the airfield and they were well fed with club run BBQ’s on the Sunday and Wednesday nights. The final dinner was held at a local cafĂ© on the Friday evening.

With a cold front approaching with predicted rain mid-afternoon, the contest was declared ended on the Saturday morning. However, as forecast, there was good, silky smooth, easy to get into wave ahead of the predicted rain which allowed climbs to 9,500ft (the local airspace limit) without problems. A number of pilots took advantage of this while most packed up and headed home after prize giving.

Congratulations to the winners:
Open Class:
1          GOP   Tim Bromhead                                    2,986
2          GDX   Nigel McPhee & Lucas Bottin           2,019
3          GVA   Stewart Barton                                    1,958

Racing Class:
1          GNM   Trace Austin               2,685
2          GHN    Mike Strathern           2,462
3          GKP    Steve Foreman            2,289

Sports 13.5m:
1          GNR   Grahame Player         1,637
2          GGN   Clinton Steele            1,479
3          GET    John Tullet                 1,414

Thanks must be given to all who helped run the event – contest director and scorer John Etches, weather man and task setter Graham White, BBQ organiser Brian Kelly, tow pilots, ground runners, radio operators and flight followers, time keepers etc. Without your help, contests cannot be run.

The 2021 event is currently again scheduled for Waipukurau in the last week of February so mark your diaries now and we look forward to seeing you then. 

Moon landing by Derek Shipley

So with a great looking sky, probably one of the best of the week, I headed into the foothills of the Ruahine Ranges in ML, all too confident that the lift would be plentiful. Not so, and the 3,000’ on the altimeter was barely 1,500’ above the lower slopes. Very quickly the game was up and I was looking for landout options.

All went reasonably to plan, and although downwind with about 5 knots behind, the paddock was large and had a body of dry looking grass which offered a nice bit of drag on the undercarriage, and it was very slightly up hill. The landing roll was however a rougher ride than expected and went on a bit longer than I might have hoped.

Canopy off, and expletives out of the way, it was time to have a look around.

The first thing I noticed was rocks.... everywhere. Most scattered on the surface some embedded. They varied in size from cricket ball dimensions up to rugby ball size. They were spread about at approximately one metre intervals. I had to be grateful that I hadn’t damaged the glider. The general view is that I had landed in a dried out river bed.

The second thing to notice was this was a very isolated little spot.

With sporadic cellular coverage, communication with contest director John Etches was patchy, but good enough for me to let him know that the surface was, ignoring the grass, a bit moon like, and for him to let me know that access for a trailer looked very short on prospects. There followed a period of no cellular contact while I walked around to see if the rock count was less in other areas. Meanwhile back at base, pouring over Google maps and talking with tug pilots, it was decided to send the Citabria out with Ross Kent and Pawnee pilot Ron Sanders to size up whether the Pawnee could do a retrieve.

They circled overhead, and eventually landed a couple of paddocks north of me. It was a good choice, with fewer rocks, but enough to still play on the mind.

Together we sized up the best area to try and tow off and pushed the glider up to what would be the starting point for the take off. It was far from perfect, and as Ron and Ross left me, the best thing I could do was occupy myself with rock clearance. I would have needed all day to get sufficient rocks moved off to reduce the risks to an acceptable level. It kept going through my mind, that just one rock could upset the Pawnee or the glider. I had set up an old fence post to support a wing for takeoff, but I was racked with doubt that I could keep the wing from dropping. The cellular signal wasn’t playing ball and so I couldn’t communicate these concerns.

Fortunately, back at base, there was some thought going into things, and I was very relieved to see the Pawnee approaching in company with the Citabria. So, assuming they could both land safely, I would have a tow and a wing runner. I have to say I was uneasy watching the landing roll of both aircraft, I knew the further into the paddock they ran the more rocks there were. Both bounced around uncomfortably from a spectator’s view, but thankfully, Ron Sanders in the Pawnee and Neil Faulkner in the Citabria had made it through the landing.

Using a short tow rope, and with a bit of headwind, we managed to get the combination airborne more quickly than we might have hoped. Without Neil running the wing though, I just don’t think I would have wanted to risk it.

About 10-15 minutes into the tow back towards Waipukurau I was pleased to see the Citabria come alongside.

Undeterred, the next day I landed out again, which surprised some people....yeah right. Anyway that’s another story.

In case it is not obvious enough already, I am very grateful for everyone’s help on the day.