Last Fall I sold Discus A #144 to Al Baker. He graciously agreed to let me fly it at the Standard Nationals at Minden. Since I had not raced in Standard Class for three years, on Saturday, June 12, I flew three landings in the Discus and practiced thermalling for a couple of hours to recalibrate myself to "kiddie gliders."

On Sunday, June 13, I practiced by flying 282 miles from the "Old Car" south of Mountain Valley Airport (Tehachapi, CA) to Minden-Tahoe Airport, NV. The first half of the course was blue with thermal tops at about 12,000 feet MSL. Under the first cumulus east of Bishop, I climbed to 17,000 feet MSL and flew the 140 miles to Minden under a great cloud street without circling, a great omen.

After a day of practice, June 15th was a no contest day due to poor weather.

Day One, June 16, CD Al Leffler tasked us 272 miles to Basalt, Tiger Field, and return. The high ground between Minden and Basalt had great soaring with high based cu, something that would occur each day of the contest. The second leg required a major decision; do you go straight on course in the blue or detour under cu to the Pine Nuts?. I went straight on course but was too conservative so I ended up 16th, 75 points back of Chip Garner who won at 91.8 mph.

Day Two, June 17, was a 306 miler to Bishop, Mina, and return. Again the Hilton area high ground spawned great high based cu. The Whites were blue so most of the pack went to Bishop via the Glass Mountains. I had trouble getting out of the valley. Otherwise it was a good day.

Day Three, June 18, was a difficult day. We had a 221 miler to Tiger, North Mono, and return. At start time a big band of cirrus was approaching. I went to a sunny area on the high ground north of Silver Springs and was not able to connect. Falling off toward Silver Springs, I was rewarded with lift over town near a lake where I would not expect lift. In survival mode, I dribbled into Tiger and then south over the higher ground to the ridge at Schurz. There I made a good climb and the rest of the flight was much easier with cu markers.

Day Four, June 19, was a 257 miler to Basalt, Hawthorne, North Mono, and return. The major decision of the day was how to get from Basalt to Hawthorne. Going left of course and getting high at Lucky Boy Pass was the ticket to a good speed.

Day Five, June 20, was what has become the common long task at Minden, 362 miles to Independence, Basalt, and return. On the first leg, pilots have had to decide whether to use the Sierra (the shortest distance) or Whites (the best lift). With only a few cu in the Sierra, most pilots chose the blue Whites. I had a good run to the end of the cu about 15 miles from Boundary Peak. I got hammered in sink and arrived at the Whites at 11,500 feet MSL, much lower than desired. I ridge soared south, looking for a decent climb. I stopped in 5 knots before White Mountain and disciplined myself to get on top as I watched the wad pass overhead. Fortunately, once on top, I was able to find a couple of great thermals that got me into and out of Independence okay. I was back with the lead pack by the time we got to Basalt. Good cu on the way home made it a fast trip despite some wasted time finding a good core at Mt Grant.

June 21 was a rest day. We enjoyed the day hiking in the Sierra west of Lake Tahoe. Good looking cu populated the area.

Day Six, June 22, was a defining day with the obligatory task to the north. The task was 272 miles to Fallon turnoff, Herlong, Tiger Field, and return. We had nice cu south but the course was in the blue. The task opened at 1321 hours. I wanted to start about 1400 hours. Knowing that I would get clobbered if I started before the wad, I hung out much longer than I wanted. I started at 1424 hours followed by a big wad. The first leg went well despite the blue. The key to the second leg was getting high enough before Pyramid Lake to get to Air Sailing with enough to find lift. I dribbled to Herlong and back to near Tracy in survival mode. East of Tracy I had a good climb with 99 and CG that got me to Dayton Valley Airport at 800 feet AGL. There under a wisp I found 1 knot that gradually got better and was 8 knots when I left on final glide. Only eight pilots finished.

Day Seven, June 23, was a 282 miler to Mammoth, Flying M (Hilton's), North Mono, and return. Cloud base was as low as 14,500 feet MSL so it was important to not get too aggressive.

Day Eight, June 24, was forecast as a wave day. Al sent us on Task B to Bridgeport, Dayton Valley, Sweetwater, and return. This offered the possibility of using thermals, wave, and/or ridge. I spent some time before the task opening trying to get in wave. I was not able to connect so after start I used thermals to make a good run to past Desert Creek Peak. Approaching Mt Patterson, I saw a glider circling relatively high over Sweetwater. I headed that way and as I approached the spot, a lower glider was circling and dumping water. The lower pilot left so I pressed on toward Bridgeport. I got hammered in sink and began to worry whether I could make Bridgeport so I got conservative and made a giant downwind turn to Helmut's Peak southwest of Hilton's. There I made a climb and went to the south side of Mt Patterson. I climbed enough to get to Bridgeport (which had Xed out runways due to a motorcycle race) and return to the ridge. I now figured I was way behind the fleet. I climbed on the north side of Patterson and as soon as I was high enough to get to Mt Segal I pressed. From Segal, I ridge soared to Dayton and back. A few turns at Segal got me back to Desert Creek Peak where my spirits soared as RO, 7V, 2XX, and CG pulled into the thermal. The glider circling high at Sweetwater was AA, the only pilot to find the wave. He won the day big.

The Awards Banquet included an Olympic style ceremony complete with podiums. Given my slow start, it was great to make the podium, finishing third with the best performance by a pilot without winglets. Chip Garner (with Maughmer winglets) flew a great contest and is a deserving winner. Second place, Doug Jacobs, the "Babe Ruth of Soaring," again had a great contest.

Discus A sailplanes finished first, third, and sixth. (The significance of this is left to the reader.)

I would like to thank Jackie for crewing and to thank Al for trusting me with his glider.

My thanks also go out to all who made this contest possible. Contest Manager Elden Hinkle did a great job; CD Al Leffler set the most challenging series of tasks I've ever flown (it's as if he went back through his logs and picked out all the toughest tasks of yesteryear); Mountain Mike and Don Schaue kept operations going smoothly; Weather Guesser Doug Armstrong was great as always; Gate Keeper Mary Eileen Sasso kept the pilots in line; and Michial Trayler did great job of getting the scores processed. We sure had a great time and went home with big smiles on our faces.

Interesting sidebar: In the mid 80's, Rick Walters, Chip, and I all began to seriously race in LS-4s. In 1999 we're respectively the 18-Meter, Standard, and Open champions. Other Californians who started racing then are Roy Cundiff and Gary Ittner. It'll be interesting to see if Hobbs will be a sweep!

Soar safe,
Jim Payne