BASS East Coast Handlaunch Classic

BASS East Coast Handlaunch Classic

Drela launches

Hey all! Just back from the BASS East Coast Handlaunch Classic, and I’ve just posted the photos I took over the weekend in the 2005.05.14 – BASS East Coast Handlaunch Classic gallery.

Bruce Davidson, Ken Marks and I took the 10-hour trip up to Baltimore to fly. The conditions and the contest were great! Bruce got 3rd in Expert on Saturday, and I got 1st in the Sportsman class (out of only 3 pilots). Ken suffered a battery failure that put his nice, clean Taboo XL out of commission, but returned on Sunday with one of Bruce’s back-up ships! Bruce was in the running for wood on Sunday up until he got swamped in the rampant sink behind the lift-producing trees and treed his plane! Ken improved on his standing from Sunday, and I managed 2nd in Sportsman (out of 4 pilots).

Today, I wrote a note to the SALglider Yahoo Group about my experiences at the contest, and Jose Bruzual from the Eastern Soaring League asked if he could use it for the ESL newsletter. Click “Read more” to read my take on the ECHLC contest (and contests in general) from my “sportsman” point-of-view.

I attended the 2005 BASS ECHLC over last weekend with a couple of clubmates (Bruce Davidson and Ken Marks) from Louisville, and competed as a sportsman in my second-ever handlaunch contest (third-ever soaring contest). As I’ve come to expect out of contests, I met a great bunch of people and learned just how I’m flying, how well my PLANES are flying, and how I can improve both!

On the personal side of things, I learned that contrary to popular belief, Mark Drela actually walks with both feet on the ground, and arrived at the contest in a Honda hatch-back and did not, in fact, descend from the heavens :) He does have an uncanny knack at seeing imperfections in airfoils from great distances (I had brought my recently-completed Allegro-Lite). This is the only indication I have seen of super-powers! Also despite his own statements, I did see Phil Barnes smile on a couple of occasions. Denny from Polecat Aero was there with his family — and I’ll tell you his son is one nut that didn’t fall far from the tree!

After having followed the RCSE and soaring-in-general over the last couple of years (I’ve only been flying sailplanes for 3 years or so), and hearing war-stories from a good number of my clubmates, I’ve heard many names that repeatedly pop up — Names like Breck Baldwin, Tom Kiesling, Kevin Sharbonda, Don Vedder and Erich Schlitzkus (among many, many others). Not to say that I was star-struck or anything like it, but it was great to finally meet these guys in-person and see them fly! You’ll never find a bunch of nicer, more knowledgeable or helpful guys than you will at a contest. If there was any pressure on me at the contest — it was pressure for me to apply what I was learning right there on the field! The “elite” of the soaring world are not “elitists” — they’ve just become part of the woodwork.

Anyway — back to the contest! Erich Schlitzkus (Saturday’s CD) and Don Vedder (Sunday’s CD) ran a great, smooth contest with great weather and plenty of flying! We did 10 rounds on Saturday and 6 or 7 (can’t remember) on Sunday. Two flight-groups with seeded-man-on-man scoring made for quick rounds, but lots of flying! The weather was nigh-on-perfect, if not a little windy with only a spot of rain on Sunday. The Villa Maria field offers a lot of “character”, and with the winds shifting nearly 360 degrees over the 2 and 1/2 days I was there, we got to see and fly every facet.

One thing I’ve been trying to do at contests is to try and time for whomever would have me as a timer. Timing I find to be a little harder than actually flying! Keeping an eye on the watch, your pilot, the other pilots, their planes, the wind vectors, birds, bees, errant sunglasses and hats is pretty demanding and then they want you to do math at the end of it! Normally when you fly you don’t have the chance to look around and see what everyone else is doing — timing gives you the chance to be in the thick of the action and to check out the action directly. The comparative aspect of contests helps immensely in the search to find what you need to work on, be it your plane or your skills.

In the end, I won 1st in the sportsman division on Saturday and got 2nd in sportsman on Sunday (Doug Harnisch beat me soundly with a couple of Group-A level scores). However — my only complaint is that we could have used more sportsmen! There were only 3 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday! I know I’m not that good to deserve a first and a second, especially with the way I was flying both days! I don’t know if it’s pressure or fear or what keeps the number of sportsmen low, but contesting is the best thing I’ve done to sharpen my soaring skills — but really even that is second to having fun! Every contest I learn a little more, and meet a ton of great people. If I keep this up, I’ll be moving up to the bottom of the expert class in no time (theorhetically)!

So, c’mon sportsmen — get out and get active! You’ve got so much to gain from the great community that is the soaring world.

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