• Dancing With Angels

Last weekend friends invoted me to tag along on a jaunt down to Torrey Pines. Once one of the premier soaring sites in the U.S., today sailplanes show up just a few days a year to enjoy the lift created by the ocean wind blowing up the cliffs that tower 400 over the beach. The mix of model sailplanes, real sailplanes, parasails, hang-gliders, and seagulls is spectacular and well worth a visit if you're in San Diego, whether the big birds are there or not.

I took advantage of the opportunity to experience an exilerating winch launch in a Blanik. All my glider experience has been at the end of a rope behind a tug, and the catapult-like acceleration and steep climp was a thrill.

Chuck Deerinck was assembling his DG-800s and I was lucky enough to get some interesting shots of his launch,

flyby (click to enlarge),

And recovery (click to enlarge).

Here's a piece that John wrote describing a very different kind of soaring:

My weekend is finally over. It is midnight, and I am completely exhausted, but I couldn't sleep without writing about today.

I worked on my glider all weekend long in the hangar, and it rained a lot, so the flying was very difficult. On Saturday, I had one 40 minute flight, that was very fast, and the only lift were little "wavelets", and only existed within a few hundred feet of 2000 foot cloud base. The second flight was in heavy rain, so I was basically forced down in about 30 minutes.

Sunday was looking like more of the same, but near the end of the day, the clouds began to break up. I finished the work I was doing, and launched at 4:30.

After a 2500 foot tow, I got off tow in light lift, and began working the leading edge of a cloud street. As I got higher, the lift got better. At about 8,000 feet, I was struggling a little to get higher.

Then I saw very fast rising tendrils of mist, forming above a few clouds, and when I flew into these, they provided spectacular lift. At one point, I was on the North side of the clouds as they exploded upward, blocking me from getting back to the airport. I turned west, and headed off at 100 knots down the side of the cloud street, around the end, and back east towards home. I resumed my search for lift, and soon I was at 11,000 feet.

The view was amazing, truly stunningly beautiful. In a DG-800S, with its incredible view, you almost forget that the glider is around you. I think the pictures here are pale in comparison to being up there, but they are still pretty good as photos go. I was thinking "This is the stuff that only Angels get to see".

I saw a full moon come up over the clouds to the east. I saw the sun setting over the Pacific, and the entire ocean turned fluorescent orange. It was very bright up high, and the lure of staying high was very strong. I looked down between the clouds, and saw the shadows on the ground getting very long, as the sunset was nearing. I contacted wave lift, and quickly and easily got to 13,000 feet. I hadn't turned my oxygen on when I was on the ground and didn't want to stretch to reach it, so given the approaching sunset, I decided to stop at 13k. Otherwise, I am sure I could have made 18,000 feet with ease.

After flying around at 130 knots for a while trying to loose altitude, but still doing nothing but going up, I finally pulled my spoilers, said goodbye to the Angels, and began my decent. I landed, and learned that of the two other gliders that launched, one fell out early, and the other made it to 9,500 feet.

Once again, my DG helped me to achieve what I likely couldn't have done otherwise. We put the glider away in the freezing cold and dark, but I couldn't get the smile off of my face. As I go to sleep tonight, and wish that my family was back from Italy, I still have a smile on my face, knowing that today I was dancing with Angels.


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