A home inspection appointment interfered with my joining a southside session this morning but the wind gods arranged for a rare southside evening session. This provided some interesting variety but also cause for caution. Locally-driven weather offers a southerly morning wind and a northerly evening wind so if you find yourself flying on the southside in the evening then you are dealing with front-driven weather which can be messier.
I arrived at the hill ~1545 and remarked that the wind felt somewhat mild. As I walked from the parking lot to the ledge I could feel that the wind was moderately strong and very smooth. Ben noted, however, that PIREPs from a few moments earlier had indicated lumpy air so I blended this awareness with my direct observations.
Ben suggested that I try a different wing, if just for variety’s sake, and I strapped into it with curiosity. I actually quite liked it from the get-go though with so many variables in play I must reserve my judgment. In any case my launches proved quite smooth with each one involving a really satisfying skid at the outset.
I received my first hint about the wind’s quality as I warmed up with some kiting. Perhaps three times the wing abruptly deflated and not always owing to a passing wing’s wake turbulence. I persisted, however, and soon I was forward kiting and about to launch. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Ben noticed I had a twist in my lines and so I spun around, deflated, unhooked, and tidied things up. With things righted I was in short order off to the races.
I did not catch the wind in a way to go soaring but the flight proved middle-of-pack in duration and quite enjoyable overall. On a handful of occasions the wing bobbled in a fashion somewhat unsettling, sometimes wanting to pendulum and other times wanting to get ahead of me, but always I managed to keep things under control, the most troublesome moment finding an effective counter in “do nothing”, and on many other occasions just being super active on the brakes to probe for data.
The main regrettable facet of this flight involved poor wind cognizance. My touchdown proved very smooth, if a bit fast, but it was also quite long of my aiming point, owing in large part to non-existent wind at the bottom to which I was lamentably oblivious until after I landed. I also neglected to take a wrap of the brake handles which yielded me less control authority and thus I came in a bit hot compared to earlier flights. Nonetheless my fast trot felt very clean and I put the wing down in a satisfyingly organized fashion.
After getting a ride to the top I set up for another flight and very quickly was off again with minimal struggle. On one occasion as I was forward kiting the wing spilled way to one side and almost tugged me off my feet but I spun around adroitly and avoided any meaningful drama. Once I got going the bulk of this flight unfolded fairly similarly to the last one but also I managed to cheat back toward the hill with successive turns in a way that extended the experience though could not quite transition me into soaring. During my final approach I did have the presence to check the wind flag, but I really ought have checked it much sooner and repeatedly as this minor improvement only meant that I knew I was a dumbass sooner. I was set to be at least less long in my landing on this flight but then I got drilled by a strong gust and ended up just as long again. Alas. Nonetheless my touchdown was again satisfyingly smooth.
The flights I took in the past two nights were not mind blowing in the way earlier flights were and yet they were among my most deeply and holistically satisfying experiences. A lot of things are suddenly clicking at a higher level with the consequence being more performance for less struggle. Perhaps most noteworthy by the end of the evening was that my knees felt great. No longer was I punishing them with messy launches and hard landings. A variety of actions are beginning to feel far more natural with the consequence being a much gentler treatment of my body.