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Windy HG Launch from Bates
In response to Dave Teal's launch quandary on Sunday, 9/19/04
Sorry you didn't get off on Sunday. The wind picked up pretty fierce. Once you make the jump you can handle a lot of wind because you can give ground. You don't necessarily have the option to give lots of ground at Bates until you're high enough to jump back, so if it gets too windy and you're too low to jump back, you need to pull the bar in and land on the beach. You can land on top, but if it's real windy, I recommend the beach. Go out over the water a little ways to get out of the lift band.
There is usually more wind in Ventura because of the river mouth venturi effect. Be prepared to land in a lot of wind. It's not too bad if you put down on the beach, but if you go inland, it can be rowdy. Don't put the nose down after landing, it will break your glider or deform your ribs. Muscle the nose just slightly negative to keep the glider pinned into the wind. Get unhooked, then try to turn the glider cross wind, or you can fly it with the wires to a break down location. It helps to have assistance.
The trick at Bates is timing. It's common for the wind to build. When it gets strong, the direction usually isn't as good as when it first comes in. Typical progression is for the wind to build, as it gets stronger you initially get higher, but eventually the direction gets more cross from the right and you need to pull in to keep from backing up. You usually achieve your highest altitude as the wind is building early in the day. You need to be set up on time. Sometimes the window is several hours long, but Sunday, it was probably only about an hour for HG's and the window for jumping the freeway in a PG was less. You want to set up before it gets soarable. Observe the ocean. You want to be ready when it happens. You can always break down, but you can't go if your not set up. Launch when your comfortable it's soarable so you don't flush. Don't wait till everyone is getting high. You can play around in the air till it starts to get stronger (do some wingovers and have fun). When you think it's time to test for altitude, sit on the sweet spots and go to min sink, giving ground if necessary. If you have the altitude to jump, take it and go. You have more options once you connect behind La Conchita. PGs have the advantage of quicker set up, but HGs have a wider operating envelope.
I recommend getting down below the lip into uniform air flow when launching in windy conditions. If you are on the lip, you can get one wing further forward and more out in the vertical flow while the other wing is back in different flow. Launching from the lip is much more hazardous because it's easy to get turned badly (locked out). Look at the picture from Sunday. The glider wants to weathervane to the right because it's cross from that direction. This leaves the left wing further out in the airflow than the right wing. Your left wing wants to lift, and your right wing wants to drop. If you are on the slope 15 or 20 feet below the lip, everything is in the airflow so its easier to balance laterally and less likely to lockout.
Launching from the lip is more convenient and appropriate in light conditions, but when the wind is strong I recommend avoiding the airflow edges. There are also pitch considerations. The glider wants to pitch up if your on the edge because the nose is out in the vertical air and your tips are back in more horizontal air.
Launch straight away from the hill even if it's cross (perpendicular to the slope, not the airflow). The air has a vertical component that will pull you forward when you crack the nose. You can feel if the pressure is laterally balanced as you lighten the down load. You control the download by adjusting the pitch. The base tube is the pivot point so you push or pull on the down tubes to change pitch. If it feels close to even laterally, crack the nose and follow the glider (it will go forward on its own, no need to run). I don't try to lift the base tube in strong wind. I keep it on the ground, raise the nose a little to lighten the down load, and if it feels sorta straight, I let it go and follow. If it doesn't feel straight when the download is lightened, I reload it and adjust one wing forward or back, then repeat. Sometimes I keep an upwind foot on the base tube to keep it from sliding forward until I like the feel.
Kite the glider down over the edge and hook in after it's in place. You probably can't do a hang check on the slope, but you can do a walk through. It helps to have wire assist, but itís important they know what you want. Go over your commands prior to execution, even if your using a seasoned crew. If you enlist a spectator, make sure you explain what they need to do and quiz them on the commands. Be authoritative with your wire crew. Bark if necessary, but make sure you communicate. If you only have one wire person, put them on the upwind wing to kite the glider over the edge and down the slope to your selected spot. You can back down while you throttle pitch with the nose wires from the front. When you have the glider in place, have your crew come around to hold the pitch at the nose wires while you hook in. Take control of the pitch, and then send them back to the upwind wing. Put your most trusted crew on your upwind wing. They can help fly the glider away from the hill if necessary. You'll never blow a windy launch at Bates if you have good crew on your upwind wing, and if your a seasoned upwind wing wireman, you'll never let the pilot blow a windy launch. If you have 3 wire crew members, all the better. Just make sure they know how to respond to your commands. Go over the process before taking the glider over the edge.
© copyright 9/21/04
may reprint with notation