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Liebe Flugfanatiker,

Der Aviation Sports club (ASC), sprich die Fluggruppe bei welcher in in Neuseeland fliegen, hat einen wöchentlichen elektronischen Newsletter "Warm Air". Für diesen Newsletter habe ich einen Bericht über meine Teilnahme an der neuseeländischen Meisterschaft geschrieben. Vielleicht findet das jemand von euch interessant und ansonsten hat es ein paar schöne Bilder.

Liebe Grüsse,

Yves

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Normal people would just follow the signs and highways until they arrive at Taupo. Really smart people would trust their GPS and therefore add some travelling time to their trip. Fortunately Delia was sleeping and did not realize the extra hour it took us to get there.

Before the national championship started, we had time for one familiarization flight. Delia went up in the Ask-21 while the Libelle went with me.

The flying around Taupo is just marvellous. It’s a constant scenic lookout with great landscape without having to climb up a mountain first.

An unusual thing for me was the presence of the geothermal lift sources. One can see the steam going off from a great distance and one can smell it until the very top of the thermal. My strategy for the nationals was to fly consistent, get around on every task and let the handicap of the glider do the rest.

On most of the days, the weather did not match the wishes of the pilots. Low cloud bases and over developments resulting into rain made the flying interesting and sometimes a bit difficult. In these weak conditions, the performance of the glider does not really matter, since everybody has to use every lift available. I would say, the Libelle was the perfect glider for this weather since it’s a very light weight plane and therefore perfect, when it comes to climb in weak lift. Grace to this weather/Libelle constellation, I was able finish third and second during the first two days.

Interestingly, finishing the task on day two brought maximum 46 points out of 1000, which is a very small reward for getting around the tough task. This was due to the scoring formula, which devaluates days, when pilots are struggling. Although this was a bit disappointing, the same formula helped tremendously later in the competition.

My plan to fly consistent worked out quite well except for two days:

The first exception was on day three. The day provided us with probably the best weather of the competition. We had to fly up to Matamata and down into the mountains at the west of Lake Taupo. The run up to Matamata was good, and the ridge worked quite well, although I still didn’t dare to go as low on the ridge as several people did.

My average speed was quite good after the first waypoint. On my way back direction south, I put myself into a rather uncomfortable position. I couldn’t find a strong climb to get away from the ridge back to cloud base. So I had to accept some week thermals, which made me loose time. Furthermore the clouds were lower in the north, than in the south which made the flying direction south more challenging. Instead of being patient and find some lift, I tried to carry on and found myself very low over a paddock. One glider was already sitting in the paddock and waiting for company. It was around downwind altitude, where I finally found a 1kt climb. I slowly left the paddock and all the unpleasant thoughts behind me and carried on direction south.

This whole manoeuvre cost me 30 minutes and a lot of confidence. I couldn’t get back to my normal “keep going – fly fast” mode and landed on place 8 this day.

The second exception was on day seven and a more pleasant one.

The weatherman forecasted great weather at the briefing. I was sceptical, because the model I was looking at forecasted high clouds, which block all the thermal activity at the beginning of the afternoon. So I decided to wait around Taupo until all the high clouds were gone to start my task. After a half an hour of waiting I realized, that the weather is not going to improve at all. Therefore I started the task towards Waiohau (direction Whakatane). I felt a bit lonely on the way out, until I found Steve in his LS-4. We flew the rest of the first leg together.

After the first turn point, there was a big decision to take. It turned out to be the decision, which made me win the day and therefore the competition.

There was rain on the way to the second turn point.

Option nr. 1 was, to fly back the way I came from in order to fly around it. I considered this as the safe and also the better option.

Option nr. 2 was, to follow the small ridge into the last sunny spots, around the back of the rain. This was de option I actually picked for a funny reason: In gliding, people often say: “I was thinking about doing that but I decided against it.” So, instead of going with the supposed safe option, I decided for the experimental one.

The decision paid off. I spotted the JS-1, which overtook me earlier, and climbed some weak thermals with it. Then, I got low and lost the JS-1. After getting even lower, I finally found the relieving climb and I was back in the game. On the way to the turn point, the Libelle was washed several times by the rain. But since the good energy lines are usually where the rain starts, I had a good run. I took my time to gain more altitude and found myself at 7’500 ft, 70 km out of Taupo. On my way to turn point 3 I saw the JS-1 coming in underneath on its way to turn point 2. Being faster than the JS-1 in a Libelle on an 85 km leg made my day.

I didn’t make it to the next turn point. Nobody did it that day. But with the altitude I had, I was able to glide to an airstrip “River water lodge” which is 20 km out of Taupo. I fought against some geo-thermals for a half an hour and finally gave up. The river water lodge is a great place to land. The manager offered me a drink in the air-conditioned lounge 25 meters away from my glider. I barely finished my coke before my retrieving aero tow arrived.

All the other glider landed somewhere around the first turn point that day. The nice scoring formula gave me 1000 points, whereas the others got only half of that. This 500 points advance on the rest of the gliders did the job.

The last day was the day we finally got to fly to the volcanoes. I lost my concentration shortly after I crossed the start line and didn’t find it during the whole flight. It took me an hour to reach the first turn point. I forced myself to forget about the 290 km in front of me and just went flying for fun. The view was perfect, and the flying along the lake towards the volcanoes a real delight. The only unpleasant detail was the missing clouds and thermals. The Libelle had to do a lot of long glides in air which was way too calm. I made it back to the airfield but I didn’t get the last turn point, although it would have been possible. Somehow my concentration was vanished and the Libelle had to do the most of the flying by itself without getting much help from my side.

Since only two pilots finished the task, I still came in third and could keep the lead in the ranking.

Thinking back at all the flight always puts a smile on my face. Although I had a closer look at some paddocks than I wanted to, all the flights were interesting and fun. This adventure was definitely worth all the sleepless nights, which will follow now in order to hand in my master thesis on time.

I want to thank Graham for providing glider, car and a lot of moral support. Gliding needs more people like Graham!

Delia did not come to New Zealand with the intention to crew for me. She did it anyway. Thank you! <3

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