GPS Triangle Racing Report from Visalia Spring Aerotow
Rick Shelby was nice enough to put several sets of GPS gear together for the event and several of us tried our hand on the course.
Rick was first with his 1:3 LET Ventus 2 and made a good run. I thought the conditions were rather soft but others where claiming it was the best lift they'd seen at Visalia. I guess I need to stop flying at California Valley...
Anyway, Rick towed to just over 500 meters on his first flight and entered the course, which was arranged with the long leg aligned with the prevailing wind which also nicely coincided with the direction of the runway.
As I recall, Rick's first couple of laps were pretty fast without much loss in altitude. There was a nice thermal working at the upwind turnpoint (one of the house thermals at Visalia) so he was able to tank up there a couple of times while drifting downwind along the course; good strategy for sure.
About 15 minutes into his flight the sink on the upwind leg of the course was punishing. Rick was able to finish seven (7) laps in the 30 minutes in, again, what I thought where pretty mild lift conditions with wind gusting probably 10-15 knots.
We mounted one of Rick's GPS packages in my Tangent Nimbus 4 and we decided to see how fast we could do a single lap. Rick was my coach and was able to keep me on course pretty squarely even though the long wings of the Nimbus sometimes give the ship a mind of its own.
I have two "speed" settings for the ship; one with a little bit of reflex and some down trim, the other with more of each. The ship scoots pretty well for as light and "small" as it is. I was able to fly the single lap run in about 1 minute 30 seconds with a nice high-speed downwind finish along the tree line. That'll will definitely get your adrenaline flowing and put a smile on your face.
Rob Johnston was on a layover from one of his Air New Zealand flights and drove down from San Francisco to fly is Open Jantar. He and Rick fitted the ship with the GPS and transmitter and gave Rob a chance to show off his chops.
Rob's flight was later in the day, with a low setting sun so he had to battle softening conditions and deal with the upwind turnpoint being directly in the sun. Rob did a great job and got a feel for what this thing is all about and will hopefully spread the fire down on the North Island of New Zealand.
While we didn't do any man-on-man flying, it was great to actually get out there and DO IT after all of the hype, talk and speculation.
Thanks again Rick for all of the time and money you've put into getting this style of flying off the ground in the US and now other parts of the world.
It was great to see several people try it during the weekend. One thing that is a bit surprising to me is how quick everyone sees and remembers where the turn points are. Especially considering there is nothing to see, it's just a gps point. Everyone who flew did a great job staying on course when they weren't thermaling. It didn't take much direction from their copilot to keep them on course. Another thing that surprises a lot of people is how seemingly small the 500 meter course is. That is until you start flying around it in sink. The planes are easily visible around the entire course. Well, they are a bit hard to see when they are at 500 m altitude and at the turn point on a hazy day in Visalia. But Visalia has about the worst visibility of anywhere I have flown due to the rather persistent haze.