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Kansas Invades New Mexico

By Steve Leonard

A few months ago, I left the story of my summer’s flying adventures off after my Kowbell flight and the drive to Hobbs, New Mexico. This is a continuation of my summer flying adventures. This chapter, at the Region 9 Soaring Championships held in Hobbs, New Mexico.

The National Soaring Foundation was sponsoring a Regional Soaring Championships from July 9-13, 2001. As luck had it, my Kowbell Crew was able to get time off from home to not only chase me on Kowbell, but also come on down and spend a week with me at Hobbs. He was coaxed into doing this by also knowing that Bob and Barbara Leonard would be there. Also present from Kansas would be Dennis Brown and Bob Holliday, each flying their Glasflugel Mosquitos. Dave Leonard (OK, he is from Colorado now. But he started flying in Kansas.) was also attending the contest. The time leading up to the contest had been a bit more damp than the locals would like, but not so much as to ruin the chance for really good soaring. Practice day (Sunday, the day Ray and I drove in), looked good. The pilots I spoke with said it had been OK, but not up to Spectacular Hobbs Standards. But things were drying out and the long range forecast looked impressive. Getting hotter every day with little chance of thunderstorms.

The first contest day had us 15 meter guys (Dave, Bob Leonard, and myself) flying an assigned task of 165 miles up to Morton, over to Levelland, then home. The sports class guys (Dennis and Bob Holliday) had a 2:30 task. The sky filled with good cu for the entire course. The winner in 15 meter was John Seaborn (there was an article in SOARING about him a couple of months back. Really great guy.) with just over 77.5 MPH. Dave got fifth for the day with just under 75 MPH. Dad and I took tenth and eleventh, with 68.9 and 67.5 MPH. I didn’t have any real problems, I just never connected on the first leg, and that slowed me down. Dennis and Bob Holliday took fourth and fifth in Sports with 55.8 and 55.3 MPH. Dick Johnson won the day with 64 MPH. Kansas had a respectable day, with our lowest scoring team member still getting 863 points. Remember when looking at the speeds, the Sports class is flying without water ballast.

The second day had our classes each assigned a Modified Assigned Task, or a MAT. The sports class was sent northwest to Lovington, then farther north to Tatum. After that, the pilots got to pick where else they wanted to go, with a return to the field after flying 3 hours. The 15 meter was sent north to Crossroads, then south to Eunice, then wherever we wanted to go, with a return home after 3 hours. I had a relatively quick run to Tatum, but found the going a bit tougher getting to Eunice. The clouds were mostly off to the west over the rougher ground. Dad, Dave and I all rounded Eunice at about the same time. I decided to go west to get to the clouds. They looked to be quite high and I was hoping things would really be cooking. I was not disappointed. I reach my first selected turnpoint (called Railroad Crossing) and got to the clouds at the same time. My first thermal was more than 800 feet per minute to nearly 13,000 feet. I ran north under the clouds to a turnpoint called Hagerman Cutoff. I then turn and ran back down the line of clouds, picked up one (Maljamar) between Hagerman and Railroad. There were few clouds between Railroad and home, but the minimum time had elapsed, and I felt I had been making good speed, so it was time to get high and head for home. John Seaborn again won the day in 15 meter with a speed of nearly 90 MPH! The second place pilot was over 10 MPH slower. I had managed a very good for me flight of 78.5 MPH, which was good enough for fourth place for the day! Dave took sixth, and Dad ended up in eleventh with a speed of nearly 71 MPH. Dennis won the day in Sorts class with a speed of 61.8 MPH. Bob Holliday came in fourth with a speed of 55.9 MPH.

Day three found the classes again flying a MAT task. 15 meter was sent 88 miles north to Portales, the back south to Maljamar. Sports class was sent north to Crossroads (44 miles), then back to Tatum. All tasks were again a three hour minimum. As with yesterday, there were excellent cu on the first leg and most of the second leg. I had made what was seeming to be fantastic progress. I made it to the first turn (88 miles) in about 52 minutes, and had rounded the second turn (total distance 179.5 miles) in two hours! As there were no cu south or out to the east (over the more friendly ground), I turned and headed back north to the better looking clouds. I got back with the clouds about 20 miles north of Maljamar and considered running back north towards Kenna. I thought about this for a while, but decided that I had been having a fabulous flight and I would sure hat to mess it up by trying to fly farther than needed. From where I was, I could go to Caprock Station and on home and that would put me just about on 3 hours. Any longer (and Kenna would have added about 50 miles more), and I would be at risk of having to take a weaker thermal and ruin my speed. So, I headed to Caprock Station, and took one more thermal about 25 miles out to get me high enough for a really fast run home. I was on course for 3:06, and had flown 261.1 miles. My speed for the day was 85.17 MPH! The fastest I have ever averaged on a closed course! And it was good enough for second place, less than 1 MPH slower than the winner! Dave took fourth for the day with 83.4 MPH, and Dad hung on for eleventh after a rather low scrape with 75.7 MPH. Dennis took third for the day with 66.1 MPH, while Bob Holliday took one too many turnpoints and had a tough time getting home. But he did get back with a speed of 52 MPH over a distance of 229 miles.

After three days of flying I, had moved myself up to fifth place in 15 meter class. Dave was in third place, only 43 points ahead of me, and I was less than 100 points out of second place. Dennis was in third place in Sports class, only 30 points out of the lead. This was starting to get fun!

The fourth contest day saw the 15 meter class being assigned a task of Lamesa, Morton, and Return for a distance of 228.6 miles. The Sports class got another 3 hour MAT, with assigned turnpoints of Denver City and Tatum. Joe Shepherd won the 15 meter task with a speed of 87.3 MPH. Dave took third for the day with a speed of 81.8 MPH. Dad got another eleventh with 74.55 MPH, and I fell back to lucky thirteenth for the day with just under 73 MPH. I had a tough time in the blue and got down to about 1500 feet on the second leg. A bad decision at the second turn put me even farther behind. On the last leg, I watched as most of the Standard Class ships caught me and tried to pass me. I left that thermal and tried to outrun them. As I was about to top out of the next thermal, here they all came again! This time, I was almost high enough to get home without circling again. I had a bit of luck with some lift on the way home and managed to beat all of that huge pack home by about 5 minutes. One of them got ahead of me, but I was able to pass him about 5 miles out. Dennis slipped to sixth place daily for the day with a speed of 58.7 MPH (the winner did 66.5 MPH). Bob Holliday took seventh for the day with 55.7 MPH.

The last day was going to be a bit trickier. There was a lot more moisture in the air and a front was moving in from the north. 15 meter was assigned a task of Littlefield (88 miles North!), to a highway intersection of roads 180 & 303, and return for a distance of 217.8 miles. The Sports had a 3 hour MAT with assigned points of Hamilton (13 miles east), highway 180 & 303 intersection, and Seminole. Things got tricky at the north end, and one of the 15 meter pilots got caught at Littlefield. I re-discovered that the Zuni does not climb well with a bunch of bugs on the wings. I struggled around the course with 74.8 MPH for tenth place, ending up eighth overall. Dad improved his daily placing to seventh and ended up eleventh overall. Dave had an excellent flight until he got really low on the last leg. He worked his way out of that hole and ended up slowest for the day with 74.1 MPH and ended up fifth overall. Just one point out of fourth and five points ahead of sixth place! John Seaborn won the day and the contest in 15 meter with a speed of 88.5 MPH. Dennis and Dick Johnson tied for first place daily with a speed of 68.1 MPH. Dennis ended up in third place overall, with Dick Johnson winning the Sports Class. Bob Holliday took eighth place for the day and sixth place overall in Sports Class.

Hobbs had once again provided some of the most wonderful soaring conditions I have ever experienced. If you ever get a chance to fly or even crew at Hobbs, I think you should take the opportunity. The flying is fantastic and the people are warm and welcome you with open arms. Even if there is not a contest there, consider taking a soaring vacation to Hobbs. You won’t regret it. You can even work in a day for the family, as Carlsbad Caverns is only about an hours drive away!


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Published and maintained by Jerry Boone, Hutchinson, KS