Well, we had a pretty good run. Once again, we didn’t make Lookout Mountain and actually didn’t even make any new airfields, but we sure did have a great time with some beautifully called tasks under fantastic skies. Unfortunately, this morning we woke up to an updated windier forecast that expected. We had desperately hoped to fly west into Alabama for the last day, but could quickly see that the wind was likely to stop us. Although the direction was pretty good, it was just too strong and gusty to safely tow or land in. After an hour or so of waiting and watching, we called the day. It’s always a sad way to end a comp, but we also didn’t want to end on a really sour note like an accident, so we thought a nice BBQ lunch at Americus airport, followed by the prize-giving was the best option.
There were heaps of people that made this all possible. We have a fantastic, nearly all girl crew of Trudy, Karly, Alaina, Nicole and Kayla along with Steve Kroop our launch director this year, Timothy who handled all of the air traffic control and Davis Straub giving us the weather information we needed to figure out where to go. Deserving of a very special mention though, is my right hand man Mitch Shipley. Instead of competing this year as he normally does, Mitch generously agreed to jump in and take so much of the load off of my shoulders. Mitch was the Meet Director and scorekeeper and in all honesty, I couldn’t have done it without him. Thanks a million Mitch!!!
We don’t really know what we’ll do next year – we could rally, we could go back to Americus or we could do something totally different. We’ll see how things pan out. But for now, thanks everyone who joined us in all of this craziness and we hope you had as much fun as we did.
Here are the top dogs – Jonny in first, Oleg in second and Pedro in third place. Excellent job boys!
The crew crowned our 2015 Ladies’ Choice award winner a few days ago. Cory Barnwell, the 2014 Ladies’ Choice passed the tiara on to Ollie Chitty, the young up-and-comer from the UK. Ollie has worn the tiara proudly and looks gorgeous (and very fast) in it!
Back at Vidalia in the center of Georgia, the tast committee had a hundred different options for today. We changed tasks a few times, but eventually ended up going to the west north west about 94 km. It was a really good task call and goal was awesome – one of those days with everyone in a happy, party mood and no one complaining that the task was too easy, or too hard, or too anything – other than fun. Cory Barnwell had yet another goal finish and got a special welcome from the crew girls ;-). This atmosphere makes the logistical stresses all worthwhile.
All of this running around from place to place is exhausting for all of us! Because of the strong wind and big gust factor we got a much needed rest day yesterday. That meant exploring the sweet onion capital of the world. Some went to the Vidalia Onion Museum (yes, there’s actually is a onion museum), the girls (and some boys) got pedicures, one of our crew hotties even took 2nd place in the Daisy Duke contest. But, most importantly, we all relaxed and stayed in one place for another night. (Sorry, but I have no pictures of the Daisy Duke contest)
Great to be back in Moultrie, Georgia. This is a beautiful huge airfield where we have been on each of the previous Rallies. Unfortunately, it has always been windy there and the forecast originally called for significant wind today. Luckily, it was lighter than what they called for and totally manageable, just not the direction we would have liked. So, the task committee originally called a 180km task all the way to Vidalia to the east. But just before the breifing, 2 of the 3 were second guessing and I was hoping for a very doable task that would have a lot in goal. The previous two days have been hard work with only 2 in each day, so having a bunch in goal was what we wanted. So, they cut the task down by 40km to the little town of Hazlehurst. I was pleased with the call because we had quite a few happy guys in goal (probably 20 or so) and 140 km is plenty anyway. Young Cory Barnwell even made goal and had a PB! We had a quick drive the rest of the way to Vidalia then to dinner to enjoy our favorite Tree House restaurant where we partied last time we came through here 4 years ago.
In other news, Dustin was super fast in, but had a strange problem with his instrument and it deleted his tracklog. He didn’t have a back up :-(. He was not a happy camper.
Tomorrow is looking potentially windy, so it’s hard to say whether we’ll fly. Everyone I’ve heard from seems to be up for a little rest day anyway.
Still moving north and hoping we can keep it up. Today was Live Oak to Moultrie, Georgia and yes, we finally crossed our first state line, flying 117km to the northwest. Unfortunately, it was a difficult headwind task and like yesterday, only two made it in. But this time it was Jonny and Larry Bunner, with yesterday’s leaders falling a bit short. This will move Jonny up into first place.
Jeff Shapiro describe the flight as a “bar fight”….yeah, I guess it was quite a trudge upwind and really impressive that so many made it so far. With Jonny and Larry making it in today, this means that so far the collective “we” (being at least a couple of pilots) have flown the entire Rally course from Quest – just not the same pilots every day. Let’s hope we can do that the entire route with someone (hopefully many) at goal every day.
We were all happy to cross the state line into peach country and found the usual southern hospitality at a local bar & grill. It’s a blast that we all get to hang out together for dinner and downloads every night – it’s half the fun of the Rally.
Here’s our “mountain”…with a Learjet squeaking in behind. Our tug pilots are awesome! After getting all the competitors in the air and on course, they fly the course themselves and are all ready to do it again the next day. If you want to see where the tugs are each day (and many of the competitors), check out the shared SPOT tracker page at http://www.flytrace.com.
We got lucky again with the weather on Day 2. So far, each day the forecast for the next day looks bad, but by the time we get there, it’s not that bad at all. We flew from Dunnellon airport up to one of our favorite Florida stops, Live Oak (although goal was actually about 15km east of the airfield to try to avoid the seabreeze and pushing any more into the wind than we already were). Dunnellon is huge and wide open and like most airfields we’re stopping at, they let us have the run of the place. We tow off the old tarmac runway here, which makes it really fun for the cart runners – they get a real workout chasing those carts a few hundred meters down the runway.
The sky looked perfect as we towed the last competitor in the air and although it was a fairly long one, we expected more than a few in goal 137km up the state. But, the forecast called for a chance of overdevelopment and thunderstorms further north late in the afternoon. With fingers crossed, I drove north spotting many of them overhead zigging and zagging to avoid the cells developing on either side of courseline. By mid-afternoon the clouds filled the majority of the sky and the lift was shutting down. Only Pedro and Oleg made goal, with many other top guys scattered along behind, just short of goal.
And we’re off!! We called a very early briefing (9am) because initially it looked like it would be soarable early and we would need to outrun some afternoon storms. Turns out we probably should have launched around 11am, but it didn’t look overly fantastic at that point so we stalled things until a more normal time. Unfortunately, that meant waiting out a few small cells that dumped rain on us briefly. In the end, launch started at 3pm – super late, but that was the best we could hope for under the circumstances….and, it was pretty decent call. Although the task was small, it was appropriate in the weather we had and about 20 made it to goal in McGin. More importantly everyone was happy to be up there and actually starting on course to the north.
James Stinnett won the day with Oleg a close second and Pedro in third. The scores don’t reflect that because Oleg had an instrument problem and hasn’t given his backup yet. Young Cory Barnwell – multiple-time ladies choice award winner and recent graduate from the sport class – was in goal with the big boys. Ollie Chitty, our other young gun here for the first time from the UK was also in nice and fast. All scores are up at http://www.soaringspot.com.
We found a great little pizzaria with craft beers and a huge terrace under a clear warm night sky to top it all off.
Tomorrow we fly from Dunnellon airfield, hopefully north toward the ultimate goal at Lookout Mountain!
….more than sticks ;-). So, a quick update on uploading your tracklog during the Rally. Of course if you’re a techy and want to email us your track log the moment you land, that’s fantastic, we’ll take it! It’s pretty simple, but we’ll put up very detailed instructions on how to do it here on the blog soon.
Meanwhile, if you prefer to just let someone else do it for you, hey, that’s what we’re here for and that’s what you’re paying for, so we will gladly do it for you. Various crew members will be driving along courseline toward the next stop and if we see you beside the road in a nice grassy field, we’ll stop and trade your instrument for a icy beverage and download it on the way to goal….that way, you don’t have to rush to get it to us. You can pick it up at goal so you can get the batteries recharged for the next day.
If you make goal, just come on over to the scoring table (we’ll have one all ready – hopefully before you even get there) where you can trade your instrument for an ice cold goal bear (or Coke, or water).
Organizer Terry Reynolds has also generously donated one entry fee into the Dinosaur competition. So, that makes 5 competitions. If you’re planning on going to any of these competitions make sure and put a bid in – you could save yourself a few bucks and support the national team in the process.
There was a bit of confusion about how the auction works. Feel free to email me if you have questions, but here is the deal: We accept “bids” by email (to firstname.lastname@example.org) from now until the end of February. The minimum bid is $250. The average cost of an entry into the competitions is about $300, so if your bid is the lowest, you could save $50 and help the boys out in Mexico. I don’t have many bids yet and your chances are good to win of the entries, so hurry up and send in your bid. Make sure you specify which competition entry you’re bidding on. The highest bid for each of the competitions wins one entry into that comp. If your bid is the winner, you donate your winning bid price to the team via the USHPA website at http://ushpa.aero/donation_usteam_form.asp and The Foundation for Freeflight will match your donation. So, if your winning bid is $289, the team gets $578 – everyone wins!!