115+ Mile Final Glide at 214 kph!

Day 3 at the 18m Nationals in Nephi. The weather forecast promised strong lift, increasing thermal heights, especially to the south, light winds, and nice cumulus clouds throughout the entire task area. The only question mark was the possibility of overdevelopment. But no thunderstorms.
The task committee gave us a lot to work with by declaring an AAT with 3 hour minimum time and two big turn areas at Delano Peak in the Tushar Mountains and Lamersdorf Peak in the Wah Wah Range.
The Region 9 Sports Class launched first today so the tow planes would have less fuel on board for towing the heavy 18m ships which are all laden to the legal brim with water ballast. If conditions are this good, you want your glider to be as heavy as allowed so it will glide further at high speeds.
When our turn came the day was fully developed and I caught a 9 kt climb off tow that took me all the way to cloud base in no time. Then I went to explore the clouds to find out if there was a pattern for lift and sink distribution below our puffy friends. As expected, the best lift tended to be on the south-west side, which was upwind and facing the sun.
I was itching to get going and when the gate opened I was among the first to cross the start line. I figured the fast guys would catch up to me sooner or later and I would get plenty of company soon enough. The first clouds were lined up well and I knew where I wanted to go and was able to enjoy my glide out in solitude.
The start went quite well but after maybe 30-40 km the clouds were not working nearly as well as they had before. I noticed a convergence line on the east side of the Canyon Mountains that was to the west of the clouds and that helped me along until I found a good climb south of Williams Peak.
From there I tried to stay high as I saw some of the Sport Class gliders struggling low along the Pavani Range. A small wildfire had just started above one of the ridges north of the Kanosh Canyon and that was one more reason to stay very high in case a TFR would be declared (this did in fact happen later in the afternoon). Far below were a few paragliders directly above the fire getting smoked.
I tried to leave the area as quickly as possible and flew to the east of the Tushar Mountains to get a bit deeper into the first turn area. These mountains are absolutely spectacular. Several years ago I participated in a trail marathon that went all the way to the top of Mt. Delano – one of my most demanding foot races. I always marvel how easy it is to climb these mountains in a glider by comparison.
This was also the section were I was being passed by the fast guys who had started later than me. They kindly marked two good thermals for me that took me all the way to 17,000 feet. Thank you! The fastest pilots kept going further south and I decided once again to fly my own race and took a promising line to the west towards the second turn area. My flight computer predicted 30 minutes overtime even if I would only scratch the second turn area so I figured I had gone far enough to the south anyway.
I got some great views crossing the Tushars from east to west, heading past Beaver towards Lamersdorf Peak. I found a good climb over the Mineral Mountains just west of Beaver and the clouds continued after a modest blue hole to the west.
I got into the second turn area and my flight computer still showed 28 minutes of overtime. A great looking line of clouds curved directly into the direction to the finish. The computer said I would need to fly 202 kph average for the rest of the task – the remaining 188 kilometers or 115+ miles – to arrive on time.
That speed seemed inconceivable to me so I turned north towards the finish.
At MC4 I was about 6000 feet below final glide path but the line of clouds ahead looked excellent and I was sure to find some good climbs along the way.
Well, the clouds were even better than expected. I remembered that the line was the result of two convergent winds: a southerly wind to my right, and a more westerly wind to my left. These two wind streams were coming together, pushing the air up along the way. The result was a lift band that stretched all the way from the second turn area to the finish more than a hundred miles to the north.
All I had to do was stay relatively high along the west side of the clouds and the convergence propelled me forward while the tail wind pushed me along. It was a spectacular part of the flight because it was so easy. I just continued straight, slowing down in the strongest parts of the lift and flying faster in the weaker parts.
I continuously gained on the final glide path and the predicted overtime got shorted and shorter. My ground speed started to exceed 200 kph and soon I started to wonder if it was in fact possible that I might come back below minimum time if the line were to continue.
Well, continue it did. By the time I was abeam Filmore my flight computer showed that I had reached final glide altitude at MC4 and when I reached the Canyon Mountain it was obvious that I would arrive too early and too high. I put the Ventus in speed flaps and pushed the trim all the way forward to run 130 kts and I just kept the nose pointed at the finish.
I eventually reached the finish cylinder about 800 feet high and arrived with almost 5 minutes below minimum time. That’s unfortunate because it means my average speed for the flight was only 142kph instead of the actual 146 kph. (This is because the flown distance is divided by the minimum time and not the actual time if one finishes early.) (My average speed for the entire 188km final glide was 214 kph.)
But it was great fun nonetheless. For the future, I just have to take the possibility into account that a great looking line might work even better and allow for an even greater time cushion. It would not have been hard to go a little deeper into either of the two turn cylinders.
Today’s winner was Rick Indrebo with a speed of 163 kph, closely followed by Sean Fidler and Bif Huss. Rick and Sean also took the lead overall closely followed by John Seaborn who is in third overall.
My daily score today was 872 points, a good improvement over the first two contest days.
Flight Trace on WeGlide: https://www.weglide.org/flight/79788
Race Results on SSA Website: https://members.ssa.org/ContestResults.asp?contestId=2486&ContestDetailId=24325&ContestName=2021+18%2DMeter+Nationals+at+Nephi&ContestDate=7/2/2021&ResultsUpdate=True
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