Thursday, September 19, 2013

What I Saw Sunday

Sunday in The Valley Of Speed was the windiest day of the weekend. There was rain near sunset again Saturday, just like Friday evening, though not quite the gully washer intensity. Rain should settle the dust, smoke and haze, but the rain was minutes in duration not hours…

Sunday’s wind certainly raised plenty of dust…my tripod, set up as a monopod with only a single leg extended was too much of a sail when the wind gusted. I made only photos Sunday, it was just too windy to follow the race with a 432mm telephoto lens! Trust me many of the photos were shaky too!

I looked at the skies and mountains several times to see the ‘Autumnal Light’ that traditionally I notice for the first time every year at Reno/Stead Airfield. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know what I was looking at by Sunday.

A months-worth of Rim Fire smoke had blown away before I arrived, but isolated thunderstorms and their brief but powerful Outflow Winds kept the particulate counts high over the High Desert…waddya gonna do?  

I saw two good Unlimited races Sunday…

The Silver Race was almost stately compared to Saturday’s Gold Heat. Without Strega in the heat, the pace was…let’s say…graceful…

As the winds freshened Sunday afternoon, I began to fear a Gold Race cancellation for high winds. Fortunately there were no looming thunderheads…no chance of rain, and the wind was steady, not really that gusty.

Finally we heard the Racer’s Introductions over the radio…at last the planes took to the sky and formed up with the Pace Plane and flew out behind Peavine Mountain, to line up for the start.

Down The Chute they came…Voodoo on the Pole, and Strega bringing up the rear.

“Gentlemen, you have a race” crackled the radio and the throttles went forward.

Voodoo lead September Fury, followed by Czech Mate and Rare Bear. Strega was passing the backmarkers like they were standing still. Voodoo’s first lap was 504MPH and change.

Strega was flat out flying! By the fourth lap, September Fury May-Day-ed and landed safely. Strega passed eternal nemesis, Rare Bear, and blew by Czech Mate. She was 7-8 seconds behind Voodoo…

The two highly modified P-51s outclassed the rest of the field, my favorite, Precious Metal ran around in fourth, sounding like a million bucks.

That’s the way they finished. Kudos to Stephen Hinton in Voodoo who took his fourth Reno Gold in four years of racing! His first three wins were in Strega.

Had Strega qualified without drama, what a race that would have been!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Annual Autumnal Light Review

Well I reached my annual milepost on the way to Winter. I’m up The Hill for a weekend of National Championship Air Racing at Reno/Stead Field. This is the 50th Anniversary Championship.

I rolled out to Stead Friday afternoon about 45 minutes before the Unlimited Gold Heat, under partly to mostly cloudy skies. I wasn’t thinking about the quality of the sunlight while chewing the fat with the fenceline regulars I know from previous years in The Valley Of Speed.

The impending thunderstorms encroaching on the race course cancelled the final race of the day…the same Gold Heat I’d bet my whole stake on…time-wise…

Saturday morning I ran downtown to poach the Truckee Library’s wifi signal to post Saturday’s blog, and through the narrow slice sky of my street, I could see a pretty thick smoky haze partially obscuring the Carson Range…on the bright side however, I see where the Great Smoky Mountains got their name...

I arrived in the VOS a half an hour before the Unlimited Heat Silver 3B. Catching up on the day’s news with my fellow Fenceliners, I learned that the Unlimited Bronze Class was cancelled due to a dearth of entries.

Three time defending Unlimited Gold Champion, ‘Strega’ would race her way in via the Silver Class.

There was an AT-6 Heat, and the highly promoted “Jetman” did his show…from our vantage point he wasn’t even a spec in the sky…

Finally the big warbirds launched for the Silver Heat. ‘Strega’ easily went from worst to first.

It was hot out in the High Desert…I took shelter in the car…it’s like the seats fold down into a chaise lounge! I’m reading “Hidden Warbirds” by Nicholas A. Veronico a new book chronicling the finding, recovering and restoring of lost WW2 aircraft.

Still a couple of hours to kill, I looked at Twitter. Oh my God! @AmericasCupLIVE tweets: TIM TNZ Capsize! What? Via Twitter I sussed that the Kiwi
S capsize wasn’t terminal…TeamOracleUSA won the first race, the second race was abandoned on the second leg due to the Wind Limit.

Finally the Gold Unlimited competitors took to the sky. Large puffy Cumulus clouds filled the sky. Their shade was more than welcome. It was almost 5PM, winds were still MIA

Fenceline view of show center in the distance

‘Voodoo’ the P-51 lead them ‘down the chute’ and it was ON First lap was over 500MPH! Sadly we heard a pop pop pop  sound and Race 232 ‘September Fury’ pulled up, called May Day and made an emergency landing with Space Shuttle Astronaut Hoot Gibson at the stick.

‘Czech Mate’ finished second, ‘Rare Bear’ third and ‘Precious Metal’ fourth.

With ‘September Fury’ likely down for the count, there’s still three planes with a shot at Gold Sunday afternoon: ‘Voodoo, ‘Strega’ and ‘Rare Bear’

I got home to the DaveCave just in time to watch my San Francisco Giants destroy the LA Dodgers in their house. Final score? 19-3 The most runs scored against the Dodgers ever in Dodger Stadium!

After the ballgame, I caught the replay of the America’s Cup Race. The Kiwi’s didn’t capsize ‘all the way’, their wing never touched the water…it was close. The blew a turn by not reversing the wing. It didn’t ‘pop’ and over they went. 45° of heel easy before the wing popped and the yacht righted itself, committing a right of way foul on the Americans in the process! Wing trimmer error…perhaps a hydraulic problem?

The bigger news is the Americans made some changes to the boat, and I suspect fitted it with new foils, they looked faster Saturday. The proof in the pudding awaits Sunday.

Saturday's skies were too busy to get a glimpse of Autumnal Light conditions...I know it's's time...