The turn out for the second annual St. John record encampment was smaller than last year (St. John is located in Northern California’s coastal range). Most of the Sonoma wing pilots had just gotten back from King and could not make it. Matt and Lori as well as Greg Sugg came straight from King, without stopping by their houses first. Thursday, July 3rd we had Vince, Nancy, Matt, Lori, Greg and Jon present. Matt had an incident at King, which took his glider out of action for the time being. Jon was nice enough to bring up his spare Fusion for Matt to fly. After we had all set up, Greg noticed a problem with the heart bolt on the glider Matt was going to fly. Greg and Matt started working on the problem. It was getting late, almost two o’clock when Jon and I decided to fly and if Matt and Greg could fix the problem, they would join us.
I launched right after Jon and had to fly over to the switchbacks to find any lift. Jon had found something to the left of launch. We climbed over the top of the mountain to 9,500′, which was the top of the lift, and headed north. I did not find the convergence line as well as I have in the past and was getting lower than I was used to. I heard Jon say he was climbing at Alder Springs road. This was the last I heard from Jon until he landed. I arrived below the mine at Red and climbed my way over the top to continue toward Paskenta (33 miles). The lift turned on just south of Paskenta and I was on my way. When I was at the 48-mile mark, I heard Jon call that he was on the ground on Lowery road just north of Paskenta. Nancy was already past him by this point. Matt and Greg had just landed at the airstrip on 308 and said they could pick up Jon.
The lift along my usual route was not as good as times past, but I had a good tail wind. There were a couple of times I was working zero sink and drifting almost 6 miles. I was low past Anderson (70 miles) and climbed 200′, which gave me enough to glide to a field on Hwy 44. I landed there and was greeted by a nice gentleman named Michael . He owned the field I landed in. He said he was on the phone when he looked out and saw me on the ground. He told the person he was talking to that a plane had just crashed in his field. I said it was a much better landing than a crash. Nancy arrived just after I landed. The distance was 82 miles.
Jon went home on Friday and Rich Sauer, Linda and the kids arrived a short time later. I launched first, a little earlier than Thursday, but probably not early enough. I found a great thermal right in front of launch and climbed in it all the way to 10,500 (launch is 6,200′). Rich was climbing right under me and we headed north at 10,500 ft. At the first ridge to the north (4 miles out) we found another good thermal and climbed back above 10,000′. I was able to find the convergence line and several times flew in it for more than 7 minutes during which time I did not sink at all. I could have made it all the way to Paskenta (33 miles) on a glide from that second thermal. I stopped at a thermal a couple of miles past Red to wait for Rich. Once he caught up, we flew together for most of the rest of the flight.
The lift was much better than Thursday, with many climbs above 6,000′ out over the flats (the central valley between Red Bluff and Redding). The wind was much lighter so we were not drifting as well as I had hoped. Just south of Anderson we got stuck for 14 minutes in very light lift. We only climbed 1,000′ in that time. This did give us enough to get up Dechutes road. I had left first and was down to 1800′ (about 1200′ agl) when I found a good thermal. Rich came in under me by about 300′ and found the lift much lighter. I was climbing at 400 to 500 fpm where he was climbing at 200 to 300 fpm. I topped out at 5000′ and he about 3000′. This is where we separated. I glided over to the field I had landed in the day before and climbed back up to 4,500′. Rich was really low and managed about three more miles than I did on Thursday, about 85 miles. At the 87-mile mark I had another great climb to 6,200′. I climbed with 5 hawks for most of 3000′. I was flying up Oak Run road headed for the 100-mile mark. The terrain climbs about 2500′ at this point. At the 96-mile mark I was at a pass that I could just glide over, but I could not see what was on the other side. According to our reconnoitering, there should be a field there to land in. Not being able to actually see it I chose to play it safe and land at the 96-mile mark. A new absolute distance record for St. John! There were three fields to land in, but none of them were very close to the road. From the one I chose, I had to hike my gear about 200 yards up hill to get to the road. Rich helped me hike my glider out. Thanks Rich. Linda was right there to pick me up. Thanks Linda.
During our flight we could hear Matt and Greg having a great flight. Actually we could hear only Matt because Greg’s radio was not working. They managed to fly together quite well in spite of the radio problems. Matt landed on Johnson lane at 51.7 miles and Greg landed at 54.7 miles.
We left for home Saturday so Nancy could get some time off driving and have some time for herself. Matt, Lori and Gregg also headed for home as well. Saturday looked even better than the previous two days. Even though we did not have a great turn out, we did manage a new site record as well as some darn good flights. Matt got his third best at 51.7 miles; Greg tied his best at 54.7. Jon made it past Paskenta 35.1 miles (he could have flown much further if his radio was working). Rich made his second best flight with 85 miles. I had flights of 82 miles and 96 miles (new rigid and absolute record). It is just a matter of time before someone cracks the 100-mile mark.
Record flight: 96 miles, to Oak Run Rd., 7/4/2003