Preparation - Action - Lessons
Adam Wolley - Nov. 8, 2012
After the UK JWGC2005, I focused on my career and the initial goal: To be based in BNE for a reputable airline. Though during all that time without gliding, the burning desire to compete at a high standard always lingered. In this article, I tell of my preparations, action time at the Club Class Nationals, and one big mistake I made to ultimately miss out on a podium finish.
Preparations: Glider, attitudes & time in the sky
It was the year of 2011; VH-GQT, my fathers old Cirrus 75 came up for sale. This was my opportunity to start working towards my next goal - to make the seniors Club Class team, Finland 2014; before embarking on the final lifetime goal of getting my best mate (and other team mates), David McManus to World Champion status.
My father and I started working on this excellently maintained glider straight away, no stone left un-turned with regards to the tweaking of the gliders performance. While I'm not the (2nd) greatest pilot (yet!) to take advantage of the gains in the glider performance, I'm a firm believer in getting points for free - I've always made sure at every competition I enter, as of Day 1, there's no excuses for putting in my best performance each and every day. Anything that comes up, and I haven't prepared for, is my lack of attention to detail/preparation.
Every rostered day off, was dedicated to practice with the exception of a couple of tweaks that took a weekend longer than expected. Kingaory Soaring Clubs culture is second to none in Australia, we all practice & have fun with purpose, normally as one. Every weekend, rules, tasks and de-briefs are set - always tailored to the conditions, up coming competitions and practice techniques.
My focus on these practice days was to gain confidence in changing gears, probability, 2 x short AAT's per day to get to know my glide computer (ClearNav!) intimately, the first 50km and the last 90km of a flight. Finally, enter every competition and coaching course I possibly could. Notable fortnights were with G Dale, the Australian Squad and the Multi-Class Nationals.
Action: Kingaroy, Club Class Nationals, 8-19 OCT 2012
The championship airfield and organisation, ready. The glider, ready. Self, ready. Day one had arrived, feeling good with plenty of positive energy - just as I had worked towards and envisaged. My game-plan, DON'T LOSE TODAY, or any day. It was a day of changing conditions, first in the blue not above 5,000'AGL in the valley, then into a wave affected day with CU to 8,000'AGL, signing off with a 15kt tailwind to take us home.
I made a late start, due to the thermals having no punch to them, as well as not going to an ideal height. Finally I get a climb that's worth taking right over my start point, time to have some fun! Up the valley towards Wondai, I line up the local thermals, and soon notice gliders on the second leg. I repeat to myself, don't lose today. Keep flying your own flight Adam. The pattern of the day came into play regularly, in this section - it was the red paddocks with farmhouses surrounding them.
There's "Mike Fox & Victor 4", fantastic. Great start, now just caught up with great company on the second leg. Don't lose today. I back off and let Allan and Jim do the work - though still keeping an eye on things. Sadly, this didn't really work for me - three times in fact Allan left me, each time picking him back up using my own race attitude - lesson?
We enter the wave affected sky, instantly it's apparent that you need to be on the Northern side of the CU's and never low with the cool ground and strong winds. With markers ahead, it was a case of picking the line and taking people down one-by-one. Turning for Chinchilla, I luckily made a 90* turn to fly downwind of track, but directly cross-wind following the highway. This lead to the next pattern of the day, giving great air on all glides, I later found out by an experienced local, it was a wave system set up by the air being compressed together by the scrub, river system, highway and the Bunya Mountains.
Mike Fox, wingtip-to-wingtip together again just past Chinchilla into the dying sky. One last go at trying to play the game safe. It works, we ease onto a safe final glide and coast on in with good air all the way in.
Day Winner, just!
This set the tone for the start of my competition, with the words "Don't lose today" frequenting my head. Until…
Lessons: The day I lost the nationals
The day, started out with me having mind-sets, right from getting out of bed, to task planning (almost tasked in the wrong direction), and ultimately…
…my flying, diversions & climb selection. Sadly I didn't do anything about these feelings until it was to late, ie - touchdown at Kingaroy. A safe flight all the same, but I forgot my game plan (later found out in my post-comp self debrief): Don't lose today.
Start. Easy strong first climb, looking ahead, blue hole with patches of wisps over the scrub (with potentially strong climbs), or deviate 45* off track to follow a street that curved back into the turn before a blue hole. I've seen this situation before into this turpoint, so I take the street and have a stress free run - looking to my right, the others gliding out slowly from a CU that didn't work to few remaining good chances. I'm happy with my decision, though this ultimately set me up for a loss for the day. My mindset on deviations being a good idea.
I take nice climbs to get me to base before a 30km round trip glide in and out of the blue turnpoint. I've almost caught up V4 and MF again today, I grin. Back to the CU, I take a normal 4kt climb while I consider my routing options. 1st section, an easy one to make, so I took the street that is 30* off course and runs back in towards goal. I had good lines of energy, took a few nice climbs, nothing showy.
Decision point. Link up a number of normal looking clouds back towards track, then onto a small good looking street, 50km in and out of the turn with regular thin CU's & company, or; take the deviation of 30* further to the right for a street, over the scrub where stronger conditions should be, though no gliders. It's Day 5 - hindsight, not a good time to be doing this.
My mind on deviations being a good thing for the day, my chance to go blistering fast, it was go time! Or not.. good energy lines were a result, though no big climbs as expected. Down, down, down. I fall off the end of the street, not being high. The CU's ahead look good, though always on my right side. Further right to try and line up CU's, what is going on?!
I'm finding myself frustrated.
Getting lower still, I'm pushing for the 8kt climbs that I know have to be around. I finally call it quits and take a 5kt climb for 4200' after 75km of searching. Leg stats: 56:1 for 15km glides at 75kts. I mosey on into the turn, out of the turn - though because I took all of those deviations, it was inbound at ~50* from track.
I realise my error. Frustrating!
One of my strengths though, learnt from my father at a young age, forget about the point just played and focus on the next one. I'm still struggling to find decent climbs, and generally out of the correct height band. I've realised that I need to just keep pushing on, what is done, is done. Touchdown at Kingaroy.
I lost the day, by losing.
Lesson learnt, big time. In future, I'll mention these mindsets or however I'm feeling to my team (or Dad at a local comp) - so that everyone is aware of them, and apply the appropriate race technique for the day so as to spend my/our points wisely.
From there, I dropped & gained points - finishing in 4th after 9 days of quality racing, just out of Stephen O'Donnells third placing. The big points of note on how I flew for the rest of the comp after that day. 1, flew too conservative too early, and 2, after day four - I forgot to tell myself consciously, don't lose today!
Big pennies have dropped after the nationals, I'm now armed with some great knowledge of soaring & lifes lessons, feeling quietly confident of where my future race endeavors are heading. Bring on the pre-worlds!
First up, thanks to my parents and sister for making this comp and my result happen, I couldn't have done it without you. The countless days away with preparation, the blood & sweat put into the glider, and the roof over my head is massively appreciated.
Thanks to Greg Schmidt and his terrific team behind him for the championships. It was a nationals unlike any other that I've been to for a while, extremely relaxed with a friendly nature. I think this was due to the slightly smaller fleet than usual, the varied competitor personalities and some fantastic & varied weather conditions. The big ticket item though, the catering put on by Rob Butler, John McGrath and others - simply amazing. It kept everyone together. Every. Single. Night. People in the clubhouse past 1800 at the nationals, what the!? Simply outstanding :
Thanks & congratulations to Jim Crowhurst who won his first nationals, loved our daily laughs and chats through the comp - kept it all light hearted and fun. Can't wait to fly with you again soon mate!