Forbes Flatlands, Day 5, (k)not to be.

I could not fly yesterday, we had some logistical problems after the car broke down, and I did not get the retrieve seat I thought I would due to communications problems. I was ditched in our house, and spent the day there, bummer.

Since I scored 0 yesterday I was way back in the towing order today, I got a retrieve organized thanks to Sasha, and we got early out in the field to be ready in time for the long task.

Towing was way to slow for the long task, and I was still on the ground when the first start gate opened. I got a looong tow in sinking air, it took twice as long as normal to get up to release altitude and we still towed for 200 more meters without finding any usable thermal. During the tow I felt one of my harness zipper lines had come loose on takeoff, and was slapping against my thigh, I did not worry about it as it was the left one that I use to close the harness, and it is short and could not catch or wrap itself around anything. I did not want to take my hands of the speedbar while towing.

I released in a weak thermal, that died quickly, and glided downwind to search for another. As I was gliding I tried to close my harness, but felt something sticking and I could not get the zipper more than 10cm closed, it felt like a shoelace had jammed. I soon hit a new rough thermal and concentrated on getting up, the zipper could wait until I was higher.

I got up to 1800m and started to work the zipper problem again as the thermal got a bit weaker and wider. I could see there was nothing stuck in the zipper, and I could open it fully, but it jammed after 10cm every time. I know from experience it’s not realistic to fly a long flight with the harness open, so this was a major issue.

I tried standing up in the basebar to reach down and drag up the zipper manually, and try to find the problem, but it’s not easy in rowdy air to keep control and reach inside the harness boot. I could not find the problem and gave up standing in the basebar after a few scary loss of control moments in the thermal.

I had to land to fix the problem, but I had now drifted quite far away from the airport, and it was getting late. I took a weak lift and glided 15km back to the airport in strong headwinds, I arrived with some height to spare, and struggled to get down in the thermals kicking off the field (As usual when you don’t need them). By the time I was down the tugs were in the hangar, and it was getting too late to attempt the task.

The problem was that the handle to close the zipper had been flying in circles during the tow,  creating a massive twist in the zipper line inside the harness, so much that it wrapped around itself creating a loose knot. When I first tried to close the zipper I tightened this knot without realizing it, and the more I pulled the worse it stuck, preventing the rope from sliding through the pulley in the boot of the harness. I checked that it worked before takeoff as part of my pre-flight, so this was a new issue for me.

So the best day, world record longest task, cracking conditions, good chance to do a new personal best, and this happens. If I was superstitious I’d say I was cursed in this competition. At least I do not have to do the 6+ hours retrieve drive back from Manilla tonight.

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