2009 Cal Valley XC report
For the 2009 Cal Valley XC contest I joined Jim Rolle and Bruce Moore's team "Broken Aero". This was my first Cal Valley so I was looking forward to a new experience and did not know quite what to expect. I emailed some of my SVSS clubmates about the food situation as Cal Valley is 50 miles from the nearest gas or restaurant and was informed that I could bring a salad for some sort of an SVSS potluck. As it turns out, the rather unorganized food drive resulted in some of the best eating I've ever had at an event, and not just for SVSS but for the entire XC group. We were lucky to be able to rent the closed down restaurant and have access to a full professional kitchen, reefers, etc. We had tri-tip, a couple cases of Bill Curry's excellent Merlot of his own vintage, the worlds best chicken, Ron McElliot brought an assortment of gourmet sausages, pasta salads, full breakfasts... Fantastic.
Friday was practice day. At the last minute John Ellias could not attend due to a family emergency and Rich Beardsley was pressed into service as CD so we drove out to help him set up the turnpoint markers. I knew nothing of Cal Valley and was surprised to see a regular grid road layout like a giant development (in the middle of nowhere) with a few ramshackle trailers and houses here and there. Dry, desolate, tumbleweed type country with a large dry alkali lake bed.. Turns out Cal valley was a large land speculation deal in the early 60's that didnt pan out when the water supply didnt show up. Pretty miserable place to live. But looked like fantastic flying country. We got back to the lodge to learn that Greg Norsworthy had a flyaway and lost his primary glider. Several searches that evening could not locate it.
Saturday was the distance task. The winches were set up an easy walking distance from the lodge. Wind was about 5mph from the northwest.
My team discussed strategy and decided to go straight down the course and try out the new southern legs. Once out on course conditions were challenging but pretty good as the afternoon winds had not yet come up. Thermals were very strong in places and so was sink so we tried to get as high as our eyes could handle. Note here: Conditions were perfect for Team Aloft and they reported altitudes of 5000+ ft AGL. I dont know where the thermals topped out but my team bailed at around 3500 ft in some of the real hatsuckers. Dust in the air and 50+ year old eyeballs makes things pretty scary at those hieghts. Once we hit turnpoint F at the south end of the dry lake we kept going to see what the new course looked like. The first 8 or 9 miles were very good but then the valley started to close in and conditions became challenging. The wind shifted to a more north easterly, almost perpendicular to the road and coming across the nearby chopped up hills that lay along the San Andreas faultline. This broke up the thermals pretty good and we encountered what seemed to be good lift several times and after 2 or three circles it would dissappear and we would net about minus 100 or 200 ft. This, plus the valley floor rising up about 900 ft in elevation killed our flight and we landed out about 3 or 4 miles short of the last turnpoint K. As we were packing up Team Skynet, err... Aloft, showed up having just rounded turnpoint K. They stopped when their robot plane found a nice thermal RIGHT ABOVE OUR HEADS..... I looked up to see their plane about 2000 ft up and could only wish we had been able to hook that one. These guys seemed very relaxed... one of them was munching Cheetos and watching a movie on his Ipod, another (the spotter??) was taking a nap, one was reading a magazine, the driver was yakking with his girlfriend on his cell... none of them were looking at thier plane.. They drove off towards victory while I was surveying my wornout, windburnt, sunbaked crew.. All in all the distance flight was a very good one. We made 36 or 37 miles, good enough for 4rth (3rd if you dont count the robot). Next year I hope they keep these new course additions but maybe add another turnpoint in the middle of the long (18mile) J-K leg, the first half of this leg is very nice and the last half very challenging.
Saturday night was another excellent dinner with good stories, some pool games and a very cool demo of Team Alofts GPS data that came from the data loggers they generously gave out to all teams.
Sunday was speed task and we knew we were in trouble when the wind picked up early. Getting off the field was tough. Rich Beardsley got off early and that was a winning move. Greg Norsworthy spent the morning once again looking for his lost plane, this time using a small digital video camera taped to the bottom of an electric Easy Glider. Luckily he found it. Repairable but pretty banged up. Of course, after we spend hours trying to find enough lift to get off the field, Greg shows up, launches and is gone (crammed into the trunk of his Toyota Corolla). Once we got off the field things improved quite a bit and we were able to reach turnpoint F fairly quickly in about 25 minutes. At the turn we could find thermals but were blown downwind so fast that by the time we made it back we'd lost our altitude gain and had to repeat all over. When we did make our move north we fought the headwind in a losing battle and landed out 1.6 miles from turnpoint F which was good enough for a third place finish (ahead of the robot too!).
Cal Valley was a very good weekend, great flying and good company. See you at Montague.
Last edited by TrekBiker; May 31, 2011 at 01:52 PM.
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