My JoeyGlide experience started the year before at Lake Keepit as a coachee, when I thought how good it would be to be racing in a single seater the following year. I approached the Australian Junior Gliding Club and was allocated their Astir CS VH-WUA for the Comp, and so it began!
We arrived at Narromine with a day to spare ahead of official practice, as it turned out this was very useful as WUA was just out of the workshop from Maddog Composites, where the cockpit had been repainted and refurbished. After an afternoon of tweaking, it was ready for a week of comp flying.
On the official practice day, there was a buzz around the briefing room as it was the first flying day of the 10th Junior Nationals. We were on our way by 1300 on a 2hr AAT, into an unpromising sky. Dylan, Claire, Ben and I started together and enjoyed a long glide in each others company – down quite low. Eventually we found a weak climb, and I turned overhead the Glendambo airstrip, planning to touch the sector at Mullengudgery and head home. The air was feeling increasingly smooth as I slipped along past Warren, where I turned and started making my way home. Near Trangie I was low and couldn’t escape bad air, so I made my first outlanding just 4km short of the airstrip at Trangie. As I climbed out of WUA and activated my SPOT, a glider cruised overhead, dumping water ballast on me!
Day 1 saw us on our way on a 2.5hr AAT under much better conditions than yesterday. I felt good in the glider as I made my start on track to Gilgandra again. I had a bit of a plan, drive fairly deep in to the first sector, touch the sector at Nyngan and use the southern time soak as required. I was finding good streets and areas of good air although flying conservatively, being straight off the back of my outlanding yesterday. I rounded Nyngan and touched the final sector 30km south-west of Narromine to come home four minutes overtime at 93km/h, yes! I later found that I had placed ninth for the day (which was to be my best result) which was a great feeling.
The pilots arrived at briefing on day 2 looking quite relaxed, as the day was shaping up to be a non-flying day due to the lingering thick high cirrus. Stunned silence rocked the room following Shinzo’s weather report, as a 500km fixed racing task was presented to the pilots, with Adam Webb posing the question ‘Who will be flying 500 today?’. One by one pilot’s hand’s went up ensuring an immediate $2 fine – The day was canned. Everyone piled into cars and headed down to a local pub for lunch before a fun filled afternoon playing lawn bowls.
Day 2 take 2 was also cancelled on the grid, so we all went down the river for the hot and dry afternoon.
The following day was the third attempt at day 2, and I was feeling a little nervous as the weather was predicted to be better with 5-6kt climbs to around 7000ft and rumours of a 300km fixed racing task. We received our task sheets at briefing and it was to be my first 300km, heading south to Tichborne and Condobolin. I had a good run to Tichborne and across to Condobolin, taking a climb over ‘The Dish’ at Parkes. As I got closer to Condobolin, I was lucky to spot Sam Schoneveld marking a needed climb 10km out of the turnpoint.
The majority of the fleet were home and tied down while the sky had closed in on Claire, Webby and I while we made our way along at 60kts under solid cirrus. I had final glide, but only just, so I stopped 40km out in 1kt. Claire kept cruising on and reported nothing but smooth air on track to Narromine, so I left my 1kt with 500ft final glide margin. I flew home in smooth air and landed having completed my first 300km, and Dad was there to greet me with a huge grin and a can of Coke. Competition flying is really good fun!
Day 3 was fun, with better climbs than yesterday. I was having a good run right up until I needed one more climb for final glide. I just couldn’t find the climb I needed, and I watched my speed unwind as I wasted time. I came home after 330km at 96km/h, a little disappointed but having learnt plenty.
Day 4 was predicted to have better conditions yet again with a 300km racing task to the east set. Off tow I had a little trouble getting away, having released into not much. After a little perseverance and hard work, I was at the top although a little tired. Water, a few sips of Gatorade and two Carrots had me ready to race again.
Through the start gate and on track to Gilgandra, I was trying to take advantage of the 10kt tailwind by putting in long but efficient glides, and connecting with good climbs at the bottom of my height band. After turning at Gilgandra, I was on track for Wellington, up nice and high with consistent 7kts, in company with Claire, Nick and Andy. I began a long, smooth glide 30km out of Wellington, from around 9500ft down lower and lower. After rounding Wellington, I started the leg towards Peak Hill and tracked straight into wind over the high terrain to the west of the Wellington township. Down through 2500ft, I looked at my averager and saw over 7kts down, and was in a little shock at how quickly the flight had unravelled. I turned across the wind in an attempt to escape the possible sink street I was in and to try the (well, I’ll call them mountains) which I thought would be a good trigger point, as they had the Sun and 10kts of wind blowing over their faces.
I was wrong and found equally bad air, and continued crosswind as I picked a paddock and was ready to land. I felt a kick and bumb, and rolled back into wind while feeling my way through the air, flying into the sun and away from the ‘mountains’.
Down to 2000ft (1200ft agl), I felt a bump and turned tight. I was climbing very slowly, but the thought of outlanding 90km from home after having such a good run kept me motivated to get the best out of the thermal.
I remembered Andy Maddocks’s words on the grid the previous day. He said “When the going gets tough, relax your grip on the stick, sit back, and go again.’ Which I thought was very good advice at the time.
My little bubble gained some feel and I was able to centre a rough 3kts.
As I climbed up through around 2000ft agl, I spotted another glider at the same height thermalling about 2km away. I watched it for two turns before making my way over and pulling in underneath XOM, finding 6kts. “Hello Wooahh!” came over the radio, it was nice to know someone else had had a tough old time. “Thanks for the climb Webby” I replied.
I took Webby’s climb to the top, and set off for Peak Hill once again. It was at that moment when one of the three kiwis flew past, and I followed Nick for as long as I could, cruising probably a little too fast. In hindsight this was a good kick-start to get racing again after my low spot. I made sure my run home was a safe and enjoyable one, and I flew into the finish sector having completed 320km at 97km/h.
JoeyGlide had turned out to be a very big learning experience; I had had some great fun in my 5 days of flying so far, and I was sitting in 11th place overall heading into the final day. I knew the weather would be good, and Beryl Hartley even joked about a 4hr AAT for the final day.
It turned out Beryl wasn’t joking at all, and we were on our way on day 5, heading for Cumulus past Gilgandra. I had a conservative day overall, and never seemed to be finding the climb rates that were reported over the radio (rookie error?). I arrived 30 minutes under time but still had fun. I landed next to Martin in his Salto and was just in time to watch Andy Maddocks and Nathan Johnson do their finishes in their last JoeyGlide – well done guys.
I left JoeyGlide having achieved my Silver C, and parts of my Gold and Diamond badge. Overall I had come twelfth in my first competition, and it was a great first comp. At JoeyGlide, it is awesome to have people the same age as you, who also love sharing stories about flying gliders and having a laugh over a can of coke. This year, I was lucky to have the honour of flying the Astir. It is a great glider which I had lots of fun flying my first competition in, and I’m sure many a junior will have many achievements flying WUA in the years to come.
Thanks goes to our comps director Liam Donald and the outgoing Australian Junior Gliding Club committee, for their hard work and long hours put into running a very fun and successful JoeyGlide.
I already can’t wait for next year!