Mel Jenkins at the 2013 Auckland Regional Competition
It all started when the shippers emailed me and told me that 7C was going to have her MAF import inspection two weeks earlier than we had expected. We were already at Piako (Matamata) and I was booked in for a BFR (Flight Review) on the weekend. In a fit of excitement I asked if it would be possible for me to fly 7C in the Northern Regionals :) I didn’t confirm anything until I had the glider (there was a small issue of missing trailer keys) and everything was sorted and good to go - which was the Friday before… All week I’d been watching the fly faster course flying faster whilst sitting on the ground tidying things up from the shipping, so I was very ready for a bit of gliding.
Day 1 dawned, and to tell you the truth I don’t remember what the weather was like. It was a speed task kind of day, and indeed that was what they set. Up north (next to the Swamp), down south (near the dragons and unlandable stuff at Tokoroa), and home. The first leg was classic thermal cumulus, except that classically most of the clouds were decoys. Push on, Push on, and assuming you had the height you’d eventually find one that was new enough to be working. The first leg and a half was challenging but not really a problem, then the ground rose, it started to undulate, the landing options reduced and obviously the thermals went with them. Proper gear change to go into Tokoroa, I spent a lot of time in very week climbs < 1knot on several occasions, but it proved to be enough to get me out of the nasties and back home. There were several people who landed out at Tokoroa and for a time I was tempted to join them (when I wasn’t regretting not having joined them) I ended up making it round and to my surprise winning the day. Glyn wisely decided that the dragons were looking for food and made it home safely :) It was a very interesting first XC in New Zealand, and one I shall remember for a long time!
Day 2, another thermal day. It was a much better day with higher cloud bases and no blue bits. I discovered a nice sea breeze front that headed right to the first turn point (thank you to the Duo for showing me how to do that!) and then had an excellent romp across the swamp (thank you to everybody who told me how great the swamp normally was, I wouldn’t have been brave enough otherwise) then south of the airfield to come home again. It was a good day, and I even managed to find some time to take some pictures…
Day 3 was a very unstable day… We went north without too much trouble and then got cut off by huge bands of ran moving in from the west. It was a 2 hour AAT and nobody actually managed to make it round. I should have tried harder, but still it was ok :) It wasn’t long after landing that it really got very wet...
A misty day at Matamata. 7C tied down in front of the Soaring Centre Clubhouse.
Day 4 was another first for me - going XC in some wave. Ok not the epic Omarama style stuff but it was still very respectable and rather interesting :) I only managed to get into it because somebody else showed me how (this is becoming a theme) and unfortunately I went too far south to reconnect with it again coming home. A low scoring day so I didn’t beat myself up too much over it. Was just neat to get into wave and do some of the task above the towering clouds
Running the Ridge in wave:
Day 5… the ridge… the north westerly… wow! At Dunstable there is a ridge. It’s about 300ft high and about the same length as our airfield (which is about half as long as Stratford). There isn’t a large mountain called Te Aroha that pushes you to the ground with an evil vice like grip. It just wasn’t at ALL like anything I’d ever flown before. Fortunately for me I’d had plenty of excellent briefings on where to go, what to be careful of, and what to expect. So, whilst it was one of the scariest and most stressful flights I have ever done I managed to not blow it :) In truth I have a lot to learn as I was closer to the clouds than the hill for most of the flight - which on a NW is not a bad thing :
Day 6… THE RIDGE! A westerly with a bit out south. WOW. I don’t think there is much more to say but WOW ;) Still didn’t manage to scrape my undercarriage on the trees but it was my fastest ever flight and once I’d got over being scared was actually a huge amount of fun. I had realised before flying on Day 5 that speed = height (duh) and that at 120 knots you actually aren’t anywhere near as low as you think you are and this made a big difference to my comfort level. Racing task, 243km, Steve Care won the day with a storming 147.2kph in a dry ASW20! For those who don’t know he’s Mr Safety (no nominative determinism) so the ridge must be pretty safe at high speeds :)
Day 7… The last day… Still in the lead by a small amount (it had been eroding) and another NW day. Except today it was very windy, probably > 45 knots at flying height. And it was gloomy with tendrils of clouds almost touching the bottom of the ridge not very long before we launched. The Director, being rather good at these things, knew exactly the right time to launch and we were on the ridge just as base was getting sensible. The K8 reported that the cows were crossing the Te Aroha gap quicker than he was… Bryan O’Bryan showed us all how it was done, flying 15kph quicker than anybody. Pete Thomas always told me that the Hornet was under handicapped, now I believe him! Today was very interesting, we all lost > 3000 feet jumping from the ridge around the front of the mountain. I arrived around the front edge < 1700ft after having started down a street nearly at cloud base. Unlike yesterday this was an AAT and local knowledge really would have been helpful as not all of the ridge was working.
All in all an amazing week. The things that I will remember most is the hospitality and the helpfulness. Everybody went out of their way to make sure I know what to expected and help me gain that elusive ‘local knowledge’. I’ve never done a competition that
The cloud draped ridge:we have flown every day, or one with so many different types of conditions. Thank you to everybody who helped and especially thanks to John Griffin for the local tips (and being such a great director.) I would definitely recommend it to anybody :)
(What Mel modestly omits to mention is that she won the Club Class. Ed.)