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Jonathan Dietch
General Member

On Saturday, Gene drove up two loads of HGs around 1:00 and 2:45. He later drove up some groups of PGs. I launched at 2:23 for a 6-min flight but only gained ~140′ before the lift petered out. My partner launched 15 minutes after me and flew maybe 10 minutes before it petered out again. I broke down quickly and went back up with two visiting HGs. We were all on large single surface gliders with low to mid EN-B equivalent  performance. Gene’s ATV does not have a glider rack and we slung our HGs from webbing off the side. This is a good technique that I’ve used for years. In the near future Gene should have the ATV running which has the rack for two fully assembled HGs.

I launched again at 4:00 and after two moderate climbing passes I crossed the canyon by The Pond to the small spur on the West side inside the canyon. The breakaway lift was happening here and I gained 4200′ fairly quickly. The next pilot launched a minute after I launched and did figure-8s in front of launch for a long time before he sank out. I don’t know why he didn’t cross over and follow me. The 3rd pilot launched ten minutes later but I was gone and did not see his flight.

Around 5PM or so I spotted a PG between The 750 and Cloud Peak but no one else was up where I could see them. I saw others launch but by then it was pretty weak. I was careful not to place myself in a position where I might land inside the boundary.

1 – How to time launch?
2 – Which way? Left, Right, Straight Ahead?

The 350 launch is about 380′ above the LZ which potentially could be a 60-second flight. The wind at 2100’MSL was mostly due South which meant it was 25° to 40° cross from the left on the ramp which was an issue for us HGs. In the LZ the wind was SSW which was straight toward the ramp. There were many swifts gliding around, eating insect that floated up in thermals but they were not climbing more than 50′ above launch. There were no hawks climbing out from below the ramp to aid in seeing the air. Careful observation of the swifts showed the lift was too small to support a hang glider.

There can be a lot of time spent ready to launch but while getting hot an tired. Patience and observation are critical.  On my first attempt I failed to launch during a broad, long-lasting cycle. I believed there’d be more cycles as I waiting for my partner to finish setting up his electronics. I could have walked 30′ down the ramp to get out of his way and just launched there. By the time I decided to go the cycles were smaller in size. As a result I got an extended sledder. I did gain 140′ and could have crossed The Pond to the spur in the canyon. The trees upwind of the spur were shaking which is a good sign. I kept this in mind for the next attempt.

By the time the three of us were set up, it was barely even cycling and nearly dead at times. I spent 13 minutes ready to launch as I just waited and heated up. I noticed the streamers go limp in the LZ and reasoned that a large blob of air would heat up and kick dust devils which it eventually did. I observed their paths carefully and this is why I made the decision to head West as soon as I got above launch.
The trees around the Cross Country Ranch are an extremely effective indicator of the width, strength, duration and drift path of thermals coming through. Not all surface thermal pick up dust and become visible but the area of shaking trees and brush tell a lot about what’s coming your way. Birds are very useful if they are present.

Spending time ready to launch but not launching can teach a great deal about spotting signs of lift and even sink. This can be very helpful when flying X/C whether low or high in addition to making low saves. Launching The 350 is essentially making a low save right from the start of the flight.

The question of turning left or right or even straight from The 350 ramp depends on what the indicator of lift reveal. I highly recommend the 7-part video series of Joe Wurts lecturing the R/C glider guys.

2021-09-04 350 RX2-190