This time of year is eagerly anticipated by hang-glider pilots in the northern hemisphere. Flyers flock to the Sequatchie Valley from all over higher latitudes as we experience springtime conditions earlier, so you'll hear some accents around town. Competitions are scheduled for this time with the expectation for some of our highest altitude gains and longest distances. However, the associated energetic fronts also bring volatile conditions and plenty of RAIN.
The 1996 Tennessee Tree Toppers East Coast Challenge was held to two rounds by such conditions, but pilots turned in impressive performances on task days. Pete Lehmann, Terry Presley, and Mark Bolt held the top three spots after flying to Pikeville in Sunday's round. Monday brought rain with the next frontal passage. Tuesday was blown out.
With SW winds Wednesday, the task was called from the Southwest Site to the north end of the valley. Brad Koji flew the 32.4 miles in 1:17:31 and moved from 11th to 2nd place by finishing first with an average speed of 25.08 mph on course. Pete Lehmann held onto 1st place by finishing second with a time of 1:18:39 and Vince Furrer was able to move from 15th to 9th by finishing third in 1:29:14. Terry Presley held 3rd place after finishing fourth with 1:30:17. Anne Horgan gave us a scare with aerobatics and a dramatic top landing immediately after launch, but she's recovering nicely after her aerial evacuation and a couple of days mandatory vacation. Maximum altitude gains were reported at approximately 7000 feet over launch, but Steve Lee at 7000 saw somebody specked out above him toward Dayton, way off course and REAL high. Nobody confessed. Who are you, mystery bird man?
Thursday was south so the field went to Whitwell, but found too much right cross and not enough lift. No task was called. Friday and Saturday promised continued southerly winds and rain associated with the next frontal passage, so by Thursday evening it was relatively obvious the meet was over.
Meet Director Rick Jacob opened the awards ceremony Saturday morning with thanks to Meet Organizer Katie Dunn and staff members Steve Bellerby, Bryan Burnside, Mark Furst, Anne Horgan, and Charlie Yowell for their excellent work. Gratitude was also expressed for Mary Clor's volunteer contribution and Mitch Shipley's weather forecasting services. Mike "Doc" Eberhardt received the Sportsmanship Trophy, donated by Goldtree Realty, for his emergency assistance at the Southwest Site on Wednesday. Terry Presley was presented with the 3rd place trophy and a check for $50.00. Brad Koji received the 2nd place trophy and $100.00 prize. Pete Lehmann, receiving the 1st place trophy and an Avocet altimeter/watch, said even though the weather is "unreliable" he finds this an enjoyable meet with many redeeming qualities.
The forecast calls for continued rain with SW winds Monday and Tuesday associated with the weekend's stalled front. Building high pressure will redefine and displace this front, bringing clear skies and NW winds by Wednesday. Another front follows closely though, backing winds to SW with rain Thursday and Friday. If this front doesn't stall skies should clear to strong NW winds Saturday, diminishing velocity but still soarable Sunday. The perfect weekend. See you in the sky!