1998 1-26 Championships - Elmira, NY

By Rosealie Keene

This year, the 1-26 Championships were held in Elmira, NY, home of the Schweizer Aircraft Corp, the National Soaring Museum, and Harris Hill Soaring Club. They all put on a great show, including 4 out of 8 contest days, a party and open tour of the Schweizer factory, a visit to the Glenn Curtiss Museum, and many other activities.

The inconsistent weather kept Contest Director Kai Gertsen on his toes. With the support of Contest Manager(‘s) John and Jennifer Trimber, chief towpilot and weatherman Steve Gardner, Corky Gill, Clarence C., the National Soaring Museum, and numerous HHSC members, the contest was a great success.

On one of the practice days, mother nature delivers a cold front passage with wind gusts to 52 kts and heavy rains. Unfortunately, the strong winds pull tie down stakes out of the ground and send Gordon Ewart’s #109 ‘flying’. After the blinding rain subsides, #109 is found upside down on the other side of the fence. Damage is enough for Gordon to pull out of the contest, however, a generous Bob Rippstein offers to team fly his #569 with Gordon.

Wednesday, the first planned contest day, is a blowout with northwest winds 25-35 kts. and overcast skies. Thursday, the sky begins to clear, winds are northwest 10 to 15 kts, and the forecast looks optimistic. With grid time approaching, the sky fills out nicely and Kai calls a 3 hour POST. Most pilots find the thermals unpredictable and difficult to read. Shifting gears from speed to simply completing the course becomes priority.

Fourteen of the 28 contestants make it back to Harris Hill, with Mark Keene leading the pack at 32.5 mph. Kevin Ford and Ron Schwartz are second and third at just under 30 mph.

Friday’s weather looks good, but doesn’t develop as forecast. Kai opts for changing the task in the air to Blue Swan, Elkland, and return, an 80 mile task. Even though the task is in the direction of the best looking weather, only 5 pilots complete the course. Pat Tuckey wins the day at 27.6 mph, Mark Keene and Bob Templin sneak in around 23 mph. Les Schweizer and Bill Vickland are the only others to complete the course. Kevin Ford comes close with 76 miles.

July 4th is a wash out, so pilots and crews celebrate by visiting the local wineries, hiking up the Watkins Glenn Water Falls, and visiting Corning Factory. The Schweizer Corp. and family host a picnic, an open house to their factory and for the night owls, a fireworks display.

Sunday brings clearing skies, with a forecast high of 76 degrees and cloudbase at 5000’. A two and a half hour POST is called, with a mandatory first turn at Bath. Light northerly winds blowing across the Fingerlakes produce a challenging blue hole over the start gate. After a late start, Pat Tuckey wins the day at 28.0 mph. Ron Schwartz and Bob Gravance are second and third at 26.3 and 26.1 mph.

Day 4 is a nostalgic return to one of the traditional tasks of the early 1-26 Regattas at Harris Hill. This type of race includes flying a designated assigned course with a remote finish at Hammondsport. The forecast includes light winds, a high temperature of 78 degrees, and max lift of 311 fpm. The tops of the lift are expected to be 5800’ with thickening cirrus.
The task is 40 miles with Avoca as the first turn. Due to the thickening cirrus late in the day, only half the fleet completes the course. Most pilots can’t make Avoca and simply land at Hammondsport.

Bob Quas wins the day at 39.8 mph. This is Bob’s first time winning a contest day and his speed was also the fastest, giving him the President’s Trophy. Ron Schwartz and Justin Poet find themselves second and third for the day.

The next two days are a wash out as a cold front approaches the area, so an early awards brunch is called for Wednesday morning. Thanks to the Harris Hill organization, a great time was had by all.

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