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Sep 22

Written by: Jeff O'Brien
9/22/2009 6:27 AM 



We stopped by a Saguaro Cactus "park" on our way home and took a walk through the prickly country.

We've been having 7 to 11 filled days. Up at 7am, breakfast, blogging, pilot's meeting, setting up, staging, flying, driving home, dinner, e-mailing, and bed by 11pm. It's the best kind of busy-ness.



Saguaro's take up to 75 years before they sprout "arms". They live for 150 years. They're found in only a small portion of the desert US.

A 70 mile zig zag task was called. I was the fourth person in the air and was able to stay relatively high during the 90 minutes before the start. As the first start time ticked over, I was topping out outside the start circle and decided to drive upwind to catch a climb inside the start circle and get the second start.



The bloom of a barrel cactus.

This ended up being a huge mistake. Others stayed back in light lift and everything upwind was going down. Anyone who drove upwind lost thousands of feet and in the end we had to go outside the start circle to get partially back up before tagging the second and last start. I'd played a horrible start game and was penalized.



Soon Davis and I were down low, and when he found 100fpm, I ran to the hills to hopefully catch strong lift on the high ground. I found broken lift, while Davis' climb totally turned on and he gained thousands of feet on me. This was mistake number two. Others were beaming out while I was stuck lower and struggling to find strong lift. I was definitely frustrated seeing others blaze ahead.



I had a mostly solo run between the first and second turnpoints crosswind trying to link up stronger climbs and not get too low. Things were going ok, not fast, but reasonable. This trend would continue.



The internal ribs of a dead Saguaro.

I just couldn't get up into the power band of altitude over 7000ft. and find strong climbs. I was always groveling between 5 and 7000ft. I dove into the second turnpoint low, and worked the mountain range which wasn't producing. I got high enough to cross the interstate to Picacho Peak where I found more mediocre lift.



I hit some 600fpm that got me to 9k finally just before the last turnpoint. It was 35km downwind to goal, and I stopped for a couple of short mediocre climbs to ensure I'd make goal as Zippy was reporting sink on the last leg. I'd spent the entire day trying to play catch up from a poor start and just didn't find the strong climbs I needed to make up ground.



It was a fun day of course, but frustrating. The important thing was I made goal which is keeping me consistent enough to stay in the hunt. I can only try and improve on my mistakes today.

Airtime: 4:00. Flights: 1. Miles: 70.

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