By Peter Kelly
This is a personal report (thus far) about a visit to Montague-Yreka Rohrer Field Airport located near Yreka in northern California (see Map) in early June, 2016. The airport is located in the Shasta Valley. See photos of this incredibly scenic place at the City of Mt Shasta web site. We’ll be racing our gliders around the Shasta Area Monday thru Friday. Sunday, June 5th, is a practice day, and is the weather forecast indicates that will be the best soaring conditions of the entire week! It’ll still be spectacular all week as well, but Sunday may be the best of all. You will undoubtedly be seeing some pretty neat photos of the local area, especially Scott Valley and Mount Shasta itself.
Image in Google Earth
Note: the dashed line along the top of the image is the California – Oregon border
I am hoping to get inputs from others for posting to this page. I expect it will provide information to the reader about both the social and the flight ops aspects of this event, however, it is filed under Social, rather than Flight Stories of the VSA web pages because it is more about thoughts and feeling, rather than technical discussion about finding lift, accomplishing tasks, racing, etc..
The Spirit of Soaring
This event is not about competition or racing, in my opinion, although, it does appear to be a version of the “VSA Race Series” (similar to the races held in 2015) displaced to a remote location – ie, Montague. But that’s just my impression. I believe this is about the spirit of soaring. Define it as you wish, since “spirit” is a different concept for each individual. But I will tell you what I think this event is all about. It’s not just a social event and it not just a series of Races. I can’t describe it adequately, you/ I can be sure of that, but that has never stopped me before, so I keep trying. People who have been around the sport of soaring know about the kinship that sometimes / usually develops between participants. Our friend Gary Kemp can probably write a few words about this, considering he just published his book about his lifetime of soaring. Here is a link to Amazon.com and a description of Gary’s book – “Finish the Task”
Lots of personal friends and acquaintances are made, some more lasting than others, but this is more than that. Besides a kinship with others, every soaring pilot experiences a supreme feeling of accomplishment when they hook into that thermal that shoots him upward like an express elevator. An elevator that is on its way to the top floor of a very high building (some, that haven’t been to big cities, may have never been on an elevator that ascends several floors per second, so that may be a poor example) . Or, this feeling might be equivalent to the sensation experienced by a fisherman who finally hooks a sports fish that requires all of his skill to bring in. Or a golfer who is hitting all the clubs with good distance and precision. There is no time for chatting or discussion, only concentration, and staying focused on what is happening. After the climb (or after the fish has been netted, or after the 18th hole) there is a feeling of euphoria – you just know you experienced something very special. For a glider pilot, it happens repeatedly throughout the flight and then when you finally do make it home, it’s a culmination of feelings, and near total exhaustion, for some of us. It’s difficult to explain these feeling to others after the flight, but we all try, if there is a receptive audience for our narrative. And that brings us back to the kin ship with others. Those who are patient enough to listen are somewhat listening with maybe a sense of (feigned) admiration. Yup, can’t describe it well, but this event is more about the spirit of soaring, rather than the determination of a winner of a contest.
My plan is to keep editing and adding to this page as the event unfolds… maybe with a little help from others, hopefully.
This event is a week long expedition, not related to the VSA, with the following attributes:
- Conducted by The Mayes Family
- Williams Soaring Center is essentially closed for the week – from Saturday to Saturday June 4th through the 11th
- There are 12 pilots flying informal, but scored, tasks. Handicap adjustments will be applied.
- Adjustments also made to the scores for those carrying water ballast. All rules are very similar to the VSA Race series.
- Most pilots will fly a practice day on Sunday, June 5, and “contest” days will be Monday thru Friday
- Every contest has customary attributes and this contest has these:
- Manager, Director, Scorer, Banquet, Souvenir T Shirts
- Daily pilot meeting
- A daily task to be flown
- Evening social hour
- Daily Winner
- Winner of the Contest
Contest flying is a lot of fun, if you have the right attitude and understanding about contests themselves. The scores are somewhat meaningless due to each glider having different performance characteristics, and tasks being more appropriate for one class vs another class of glider on any given day. See my discussion of this issue on the VSA Race page. BTW, differing opinions on that subject are appreciated and will gladly be posted to that page, if you want to take the time to email your thoughts for publication…. firstname.lastname@example.org
It is rare that good soaring conditions would persist for longer than a few consecutive days at a time, thus most contests are scheduled over at least four or five days. It is just as well, since most pilots, especially those old codgers (me included) over age 60 or 70 who become fatigued after a day or two of intense flying. Besides, without your spouse along to share the social aspects, socializing with other couples becomes a chore after even a day or two. With these considerations, I figured three days at Montague would be enough for me, so I only fly Sunday to Tuesday. Wednesday to Friday, my friend Bob Ireland will be flying the ship. I’m anticipating that I’ll post a few flight reports and post a few photos. I’ll update this page after the first practice day, Sunday, June 5th.
See the page 0n Williams Today, for a discussion by others about this “event”.
The current list of turnpoints that pilots will be using for navigation around Montague are published and may be found here. Here is a link to the RASP. Select Montague on the top right of that page – thank you Andy H. for running Dr Jacks’ products.
The location of Key Landmarks on the RASP charts…
The above is an overlay of turnpoints for the rasp. Each dot is a TP. The big one is Mt Shasta. Lat/Long indexed to the + marks. You can use it if you copy it, then resize so it fits correctly on to a RASP chart.
Map of the near turnpoints, Click to Enlarge.
The play area for racing has a perimeter of about 374 km:
Here is the list of points on that perimeter:
Might just as well show you a few photos that were snapped by glider pilot Rich Parker back in 2005. I’m sure the volcano hasn’t changed any since these photos were taken. This is a rare treat, especially when you consider that very few people have ever seen images of the volcano from this perspective. It was a similar outing as to what we are dong this week – a week of fun flying. Lift was so good that Rich circled Mt Shasta in his 1970-ish single seat Libelle glider more than once and snapped a lot of great photos, with some looking directly down into Shastina, the smaller cone on the west side of Mt Shasta. Check them out here, just closed the new tab when you are done.
Update – 10 pm, Sat night, 6/4
Overcast and hot and humid today.
Wx Fcst -for tomorrow-
RASP says good lift, nice thermals everywhere, however, I can see high potential for thunderstorms. It might be a short day, and hurry back to get gliders tied down, or disassembled and put back into the trailers to prevent damage.
Update 10 PM, Sunday night, 6/5
Practice Day today. 12 ships raced around a practice course. Weather was cooperative. A snapshot of Mt Shasta as viewed from my glider at 10,000 ft near the town of Yreka. Photo was taken before the gate opened at 2:15 PM
Lots of photos to display see them on this next page….
Update a couple of weeks later
This event was full of enjoyable social time for all, but I can’t resist the urge to tell you about the flying. We each carry a GPS recording device, and we later display the track of each pilot in a different color on the same page. I show you a few of the images here.
On Day 2 (Tuesday, 6/7/16) we had lots of photo ops, nice picturesque clouds, and we all of the ships flew up, down and across the valley to the west of Yreka. Here are the graphics produced by See You of the days GPS flight logs from Day #2. First leg everyone is traveling from the five mile start around gunsight to the bigger circle around Callahan TP. If you enlarge this, you will see the call sign of each ship. This was my one moment of glory, call sign 88, as I was the first one to reach the circle, and I was in the lead for a few brief seconds.
Note: The snow covered mountain in the lower right of each image is Mt Shasta.
I was well on my way to the second circle (top right of the image, but as yu can see, many of the flapped ships went deep into that first circle down south and were now heading NNE towards me.
The third turn was Wrights Lake TP and that is the medium size circle on the upper left. You can see all of the fast ships hace fown to the back of the second circle and are now about to pass me by:
I make it a short turn in that fourth circle but NF and YE are already ahead of me and PS is about to each that 4th TP.
Many are still heading into the fourth turn while others have already completed the course (but they had chosen not to fly as far – thus their overal speed is low, since they flew less than the minimum time)
One image prior to the finish….
And here are all tracks of all the gliders on all of the flights during that race. You can readily see it would be impossible to compute the speed flown by each of the pilots if we didn’t have a good software program for scoring.
Some photos of the last 45 minutes of flight. Campare and see the clouds take different shapes as I approach them.
Southbound the last four miles of the race. Mt Shasta standing majestically at the south end of the valley.
View from my cockpit as I entered the landing pattern
At the end of the day I had expert assistance with Rex and Nick parking the ship for me.
I’ve got dozens of cloud photos to post, from earlier in the day as well.