OPEN NATIONALS REPORT

The genesis of this championship was a dream from many years ago; a dream that my brother, Tom, and I would someday be able to soar together. The dream came true in 1994. During the intervening years we have flown thousands of miles together.

Before the 1998 Sports Class Nationals, neither of us had flown along the Appalachian ridges. Since the 1999 Open Nationals were going to be at Mifflin, we decided to enter the Sports Nationals to learn about Eastern soaring and to practice for the 1999 Opens. We soared 11 of 12 days including several ridge days. (Click for details.)

In 1999 we arrived in time to fly both practice days. Both days had interesting soaring with southeast winds. The locals were saying this was most unusual as normally southeast winds are accompanied by rain. We had fun flying on the "back side" of the ridges.

Day One, May 18, was one of those days where it is important to just get around. The task was 138.46 miles, Carlisle, Mifflintown, Selinsgrove, and return. As during every day, the start was a GPS start that occurred when the pilot flew out the top or side of a six-mile radius cylinder. At launch time it was "mostly overcast." Never more than 3,200 feet above ground , we got around. The final leg included some back side ridge flying. As during every finish, the GPS finish cylinder was of a one-mile radius with a bottom at 500 feet above ground.

Day Two, May 19, was the first good ridge day of the year. At the suggestion of Mission Advisor Striedieck, Charlie ordered low level attacks on Cumberland Airport, Lock Haven Airport, and the tower at Mill Creek, a distance of 293.17 miles. We roared down the Tussey Ridge, leading a pack of composite penetrators over Cumberland. We decided the enemy forces were best evaded along Tussey so we egressed back along the Tussey route. Blasting back north we pulled up in a thermal to a make the transition from Tussey to Nittany. We expected to see formations of white lemmings but were surprised to find we were "alone and unarmed." Since none of them had passed us, it met that the swarm was attacking Lock Haven from the Bald Eagle flank. The key to achieving the tactical surprise that comes by being first over Lock Haven would be the transition from Nittany . The force was with us as we hooked a 5-knotter that lifted us high enough to dart into the 1/4 mile radius scoring circle and return to Nittany. Then it was a fast dash to the south end of Nittany. Enroute we encountered 18-meter fighters piloted by Striedieck and Seymour so our choice of attack routes was verified. The transition thermal was weak but with a 20-knot breeze pushing us toward the last target, we were able to in short order reach Jackís Ridge. We were now on final glide to the Mill Creek turn and home. Our achieved speed of 87.94 mph was a direct result of knowledge learned during Sports Class missions. It was the fastest speed during the Open Nationals, earning us 1,000 points for the day and the Larissa Stroukoff Memorial Trophy and vaulting us into first overall.

Day Three, May 20, had us tasked 211.44 miles to Midstate Airport, Nesbit Bridge, Woodward, Clark's Ferry, Mill Creek and return. The fast pilots used ridge on the second and last legs. This was another fun and challenging day. Dick Butler showed he's back with a daily win that pushed us back to second overall.

Day Four, May 21, was a 4-hour Pilot Selected Task. We decided that 1330 hours would be a good start time. A serious amount of cirrus entered the task area and we spent the day trying to stay in the sun. By 1700 it was getting real soft so we finished early. Others had the same problem and we ended the day at the top of the cumulative score sheet by three points.

Day Five, May 22, was one of those days that you don't want to be at the back of the grid. We were next to last and when the task opened we were no where near ready to start. A front was coming and the weather iffy. We were tasked 114.93 miles to Penn's Cave, Keystone Gliderport, Spruce Creek, Penn's Cave, Mifflintown, and return. The score sheet was turned upside down as the early starters clobbered the late starters. We ended the day tied for third, 19 points out of first.

At the end Day Five, Tom and I had flown cross-country on 18 of the 19 days we had spent at Mifflin in 1998 and 1999. Unfortunately, the streak was interrupted by poor weather for four straight days, setting up a run for the gold on May 27. During these days we had a big controversy over piano smashing. By a vote of 39 to 37 the pianos lost. I was team captain for the Open Smashers. We won the coin toss and beat the 18-meter whippersnappers. I also made the mistake of suggesting the rules for the softball game and ended up in charge. We used Air Force party rules. The offense provides the pitcher who gets to make only one pitch per batter. The goal is to serve up a fat pitch that can be hit. If the batter doesn't get a hit, the batter is out. Each side got to bat 12 people per inning. These rules eliminate arguments over balls and strikes and make the game go fast. We played four innings which ended in a 24 to 24 tie. Given the enthusiasm we decided to declare victory and call it an evening before one of the many competitive players got hurt.

Day Six, May 27, was forecast to be a great ridge and thermal day. I was hoping for a 4-hour Pilot Selected Task with each turn only allowed once. Charlie gave this task to 18-meter Class and challenged us with a 285 miler to Bedford Airport, Nisbet Bridge, Schuylkill Airport, and return. We flew the first leg along Tussey, the seond leg along Bald Eagle Ridge, the third leg in thermals, and the fourth leg in thermals and ridge. It was a close, fun race. We earned 982 points for the day and won the contest by 5 points.

The closing ceremony was the best ever. Charlie Spratt, Chairman of the SSA Awards Committee, and Karl Striedieck arranged to have the SSA Medallions at Miffllin so they could be presented in an Olympic style ceremony complete with podiums. We especially enjoyed the ceremony which should be the model for all future contests.

I want to dedicate the victory to Jackie and Tom. Jackie has been our all-star crew chief who used last year's spring vacation to sand the wings. Yes, Dear, it was worth more than five points. I've got 965 hours in the F-4 Phantom II which has a crew of two. Tom is the equal of the best F-4 Weapons Systems Officer.

Jackie and Chris were home working (Thanks!) and mothering so our crew was Mike Robison. Mike is a student at Penn State and a member of the PSU Soaring Club. He did an outstanding job. (How outstanding you ask? If he lived closer, he would be allowed to date Julie.) He was assisted for the first week by Kevin Pufpaff, a buddy of Tom's from high school.

My thanks go out to all who made this contest possible. Contest Manager Iris Striedieck again set the example for others; CD Charlie Spratt was at his best; Operations Officers Brian Glick and Paul Weeden kept everything going smoothly; Scorer Mark Maughmer, Jr. did a great job while working long hours; Weather Guesser Richard Kellerman was "cracking good"; GPS Verifier Jacquie Daherty was another busy MVP; Retrieve Director Becky Thompson was kept busy by the 18-Meter Class (During the entire contest, only one open sailplane needed a retrieve. Love those long wings!); Social Directors Joanie and Kori Maughmer made the evenings fun and nourishing; PSU Soaring Club provided all kinds of help; and the locals such as Brian Glick made Mifflin a great place to race and have fun. We sure had a great time and went home with big smiles on our faces.

Soar safe,
Jim Payne