It was the first day of Bendigo Gliding Club’s Melbourne Cup Weekend. I had arrived the night before, late enough to setup camp and find dinner. I had managed to duck into Bendigo to pick up a few items that I had forgot to pack, back just in time for briefing. Jarek had used the time wisely, by rigging his PIK20 WQF.
Briefing told us it was going to be reasonable conditions blue day with 4kt climbs to around 4-5000ft. Tasking was a 217km Assigned Area Task. Not too big as the weather was due to soften the climbs around 1700ish.
I ended up rigging Geelong’s LS4 UKA after briefing, with a little help from Jarek and Mike Durrant.
After most people started gridded at around 1300, Jarek launched first, at 1318, and headed off into the wild blue yonder.
Once I had finished getting ready, I gridded and launched at 1348, behinds Bendigo’s Eurofox. Climb rates were around the same as the Supercub, and I released at 1800ft AGL in what I thought was decent lift. Unfortuneatly I couldn’t stay in it, due to the thermal being narrow and broken, and my reduced currency in a glider. I had struggled to gain around 200 ft, so I decided to see if I could find something better. I did not. I did, however, find 6kts of sink. I ended up joining downwind at 1000ft AGL, and managed to turn into base at 1200ft, my best climb of the day. Bah!
Jarek had much better luck. After going east to Elmore, he pushed north to Echuca. After Echuca, Jarek went west to the Mitiamo Forrest, a reliable source of climbs.
Feeling enboldened, he decided to push up to Pyramid Hill. Unfortunealy, because the day was ended he didn’t see another good climb, and outlanded just west of the Mitiamo Forrest, on the way back from Pyramid Hill.
At around 1600, Jarek calls the club phone and asks for a retrieve. I dutifully hook up WQF’s trailer to Jarek’s car and I head north. As it was about 40k as the glider flies, it did take some time. Jarek rang to assist with directions. He could see the rail track with a good dirt road on the same side (east) , and he could see the Mitiamo silos, and advised that I should turn off at the silos and follow the track up.
I had plugged in his coordinates into google maps, which was telling me to go to the east, though the Mitiamo Forrest. Knowing google maps has been known to lead retrieve crews on wild goose chases, I thought it was more prudent to follow the advice of a much more experienced glider pilot.
This turned out to be unwise. The track Jarek led me down only went for about 500 meters before becoming a swamp.
Jarek had decided to walk down from his outland paddock, an estimated 15 minutes. As it was about 4k, at turned out to be about 45 minutes. During Jarek’s time on the tracks, he heard a “toot toot” of a train, with two engines at either end with some empty flat beds in between. This forced him onto the service track. I waved to the drivers as they passed my location.
Normally in such geographical embarrassments, one would just turn around and backtrack. This proved rather difficult, as the track was only just wider than Jarek’s car. Reversing up the narrow track proved beyond my skills. So we disconnected the trailer and swung it around (WQFs trailer is reasonably light without the glider). Jarek then volunteered to turn the car around.
The narrowness of the tracked necessitated a 1000pt turn.
At a point in this display, Jarek went a little too far, and managed to get the rear wheels a little over the embankment.
Whilst we were trying figure out a way of extracting Jarek’s car, we heard a now familiar “toot toot”. The train had decided it didn’t want to go south, and North was a much better option this time of year. As the car had its nose over the track, Jarek had to reverse a bit more down the embankment. We now had a beached car. No amount of rocking back and forth was going to get us out of this mess.
Jarek and I then headed into town, and found a local who had a ute to drag us out. He did tell us that it was the first time in months that a train had come by this way.
To get to the falcon, he had tow the trailer out of the way. Then he used a lifting strap to tow the Falcon out of the ditch.
We thanked the kind local, and headed on our way. Coincidently the was Google had originally advised.
We had a look at the northern approaches to this paddock, but it required traveling down beside the railway track. Deciding we had pushed our luck enough for one day, we went around to the south side of the paddock. We found a gate, unfortunately padlocked. We tried lifting it off the hinges, but it was too rusted on.
We found a wider service road (the one Jarek had found earlier, but was only one paddock long), a part of the fence was down, allowing access. It was a good, if remote, paddock to have a outlanding in.
Once we arrived at the glider, we were joined by about 10,000,000 assistants. They didn’t assist much, being mosquitoes, just lots of biting.
Between being bitten , and the failing light, it would have been one of the quickest de-rig I’ve seen. We then drove back to camp, taking a route away from the tracks, for a return at 2115hrs, to some roast dinner, and a quenching ale.
Stats for the day:
- Mike did 256km at 72km/h
- Jarek did 150km at 53km/h
- I did 10k at 65km/h
- 40k retrieve in 5 hours