My First Thermal Duration Contest

Thoughts from my first thermal duration contest. Read on to find out how it went.


What I learned Flying a TD Contest

Well I finally did it. I've been saying I wanted to fly the "big planes" for years, but I've mainly focused my efforts on 1.5M hand launch gliders at F3K contests. A couple of months ago local pilot and friend Scott Shaw who has competed in TD for years asked me what DLG he should get to give that a try. I went out with him a few times and as we were talking about soaring and competitions he mentioned he had two Supra Pro's I could use. My eyes lit up and I took him up on that offer.

I got the planes set up on my radio and put a few test flights on them with a hi-start and then Scott showed me how to do a winch launch. It was tricky at first, but after some practice I felt pretty good about it. Scott mentioned there were two contests coming up soon, the Mid South at Triple Tree and the MVSA Adam Quennoz Memorial Gateway Soaring Open near St Louis. I wasn't able to make the Mid South due to family visiting, but I said I'd plan on attending the St Louis contest.

That contest took place this past weekend. I was nervous going in because it was my first one and I knew I had a lot to learn. I'm a competitive person by nature, but I had planned to fly in the Sportsman class on the first day so I could figure it all out. Turns out that no one else was flying Sportsman so I would have to duke it out with the experts. I didn't plan on doing well, I just wanted to have fun and learn.

Being an F3K guy, there were a few things to get used to. In F3K, we mostly all launch at the same time, but in TD, the launches were staggered. This meant the first guy flying might be much lower than the last guy and that can throw off a read because you see a plane much higher than yours. F3K has many tasks, but TD has just one, fly longer than anyone else up to 10 minutes. Timing is important in both types, but landing exactly on time is key in TD. You want to land the plane at exactly 10 minutes, oh and you have a spot landing tape that adds bonus points to your score too. Landing at the point the tape is staked to the ground gives you 100 extra points with less points dolled out for landing farther away from the stake. The landings were one area I knew I needed to focus on since I'm used to light F3K planes stopping on a dime with the brakes. These big planes carry more energy and just have a different feel to them so I had to get used to that.

So how did it go? Quite well actually. My launches were going well and I was getting enough altitude to have plenty of time to search for lift. These big planes cover ground faster than a DLG so you have more options and time to find lift, and since they are larger planes, you can fly further away and still see it. That meant I nearly always made my time. Sure there was the odd round where no one flew for 10 minutes due to weather conditions which keeps things interesting. 10 minutes isn't a gimme, even launching as high as we do. I had one really bad round where I hit nothing but sink and landed in about 3 minutes.

These big planes fly great and I really like the Supra. It just feels good in the air and thermals like a champ. I had a really nice save with it deep and about tree top high at around the 5 minute mark. I needed lift or to come back and try to land. Scott and Wayne were still up in a thermal and they were going to crush me. I got lucky and when I moved left down the tree line I hit a big low level thermal and cored that sucker up and out to easily max out the time.

My landings felt pretty good too. I had a couple right on the 10 minute mark and a couple of 9:58's or 10:01's, but what really surprised me was the spot landings. I was mostly in the high 80's or low 90's with a 60 and 70 thrown in to keep me humble. I also had one zero landing where I couldn't make it back to the tape. I love the challenge of this, getting the timing down to land as close to the 100 pt mark as possible at exactly the right time takes a whole lot of skill and practice. It's super challenging and that's a good thing.

We wrapped up after only 4 rounds on Saturday due to a major storm that blew through, but I ended the day in first place! I couldn't believe it. I had a blast whether I did well or not and it was great to meet and hang out with the guys. On Sunday the weather was nice, but challenging at times. I ended the day in 3rd place, but took the weekend in first to receive the Overall Champion trophy! How cool is that. Now I know they won't all go that well, but man this is fun and I owe a huge thank you to Scott for lending me his planes so I could give this a shot. I'm holding on to these Supras and I've already signed up for the NATS Unlimited and F3J so I can't wait to do this again next month!!

If you've have never been to a contest, you really should go. It doesn't have to be all super intense competition, it mostly is just you and some great friends out flying for the day and there's not much that's more fun than that. Go do it!

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Jun 14, 2018, 09:35 AM
Registered User
Great job Jason, you are spoiled now for sure. Best of luck at the Natís
Jun 14, 2018, 09:48 AM
Registered User
Great write up and great flying. You shouldn't beat a man with his own airplane.
Jun 14, 2018, 10:36 AM
If it's R/C, I LIKE IT!
Nikolei Zinsli's Avatar
Nice work man!!
Latest blog entry: 93" AJ Laser 230z
Jun 14, 2018, 11:14 AM
Registered User
rockbus's Avatar
Nice write up. Congratulations.
Jun 14, 2018, 02:53 PM
Wishing I was at Torrey Pines
dee-grose's Avatar
Way to go, Jason! I'm surprised you were able to fly without your old ASU hat!

And I think if I were Scott, I'd take my planes back and tell you to go get your own. Not cool to whip the guy that lends you his planes! LOL

Jun 14, 2018, 03:13 PM
RCG Admin
Jason Cole's Avatar
Thread OP
Thanks all.

Ha! My ASU hat is falling apart after more than a decade. Luckily I like the Bruce hat we got at last years event. It was close, but Scott beat me on Sunday for the day, but I just edged him out for the overall win. He said he was happy to see his old planes back in the air. Fun stuff!
Jun 15, 2018, 10:46 AM
Registered User
Merk's Avatar
Nice job Jason.
I really like my Supra also.

Jun 15, 2018, 10:54 AM
Flying High

It was a pleasure having you and the guys from out of town at our contest. It was fun watching you fly in the contest and thanks for timing me once. Good luck at the Nats and keep having fun!

Dave Quist President MVSA
Jun 16, 2018, 07:01 AM
Balsa breaks better
Thermaler's Avatar
Ah, the first contest. I remember mine well, Thank You Dad!
One fine 35th birthday present, spending the weekend with Dad.
Novice Class - 2nd Saturday, 4th Sunday, 1st overall!!
Congratulations on your first contest and win Jason!!!

Jun 16, 2018, 07:19 AM
RCG Admin
Jason Cole's Avatar
Thread OP
Very cool!
Jun 16, 2018, 07:28 AM
Wayne Wimbish
wdwimbish's Avatar

It was great meeting you and flying with you. Don't let anyone be fooled. You are a very talented flier and your F3K skills transfered over well to the larger format. Landings were really the only obstical you had to overcome. I have always thought that flying F3K really improves your flykng skills in all categories. You just reinforced that thought.

Well done my friend. See you at the nats.

Latest blog entry: Paying for Purchases by PayPal
Jun 16, 2018, 12:49 PM
Red Merle SJ VIII
Curtis Suter's Avatar
Nice synopsis.
Glad you had fun...Congratulations!
Jun 17, 2018, 08:06 AM
Registered User
Wow!! Really nice and special trophies!!

Jun 20, 2018, 12:36 PM
Just out for fun
graywoulf's Avatar
Jason, I feel sorry for you in that you can't find a better job than this...
Last edited by graywoulf; Jun 21, 2018 at 11:45 AM.

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