The week after my blown launch I took a flight. The launch went smoothly, and I clawed at the anemic lift for an extra two minutes. I capped the sledder with a fly on the wall at the training hill. The flight did it’s job of restoring my confidence, but it barely scratched my itch for airtime.
Dawn on Saturday announced the arrival of SPRING! From the forest critters, to the birds under a clear blue sky, life blared in a cacophony of sound. Warm rain from the night before, combined with 60 degree temperatures, had eradicated all but the last dregs of dirty snowbanks. Less than an hour after rising I was at the shop.
I was not surprised to find only Manuk, Dave Hopkins, and myself on launch that morning based on the iffy forecast. Woody Allen says 80% of success is showing up. Thermals alternated between the West and Northwest launches as we setup. Dave Hopkins launched first off the west launch, and worked his way up with no problem in abundant light lift.
The west launch at Ellenville is a tree lined slot. You have three tricky steps down from the road embankment to the launch. Sharon held my nose as I navigated them. A cycle was building and I was ready for it, maintaining my angle of attack with wings level. As soon Sharon cleared my nose I barked clear, and took a step. In a firm grapevine grip, I fought to keep my nose down, but my second step was on air. After levitating a dozen feet in a second, I transitioned to the base tube for more leverage, and began creep forward. The end of the west launch grass is only 50 feet away. I reached it in about ten seconds, easily a hundred over, and then I fell out of the core. I crabbed back for more.
Less than a minute later I had found the top of my lift. 800 over launch. The thermals drifted too far back over tiger country for me to chase them all the way in my Pulse. Dave Hopkins topped out only a thousand higher so I did not miss much. The cores were tight and punchy, with occasional snot ripper shots of lift. Manuk and I spent a half hour bouncing around, as Dave watched on high, zooming up and down the Shawangunk ridge in his ATOS.
I headed out for the valley to see if I could find something to take me higher. Just out a little way out I got smacked again. I cranked it over and as I centered up, I saw Manuk zeroing in. As he slipped in just above me, I saw a Redtail Hawk less than a hundred below join the circle dance. We climbed together in a tight little gaggle for a few hundred feet before I jumped out. I decided to end on a high note and headed for the LZ. As I reached it I could see that the wind was strong, but smooth with all the socks and streamers aligned. I put it down with a no stepper, in the only dry spot…the parking circle.
The blown launch has made each launch since more focused, and I don’t think that is going away. I bought a very valuable lesson at a bargain basement price.