Not flying much due to work, health / surgery, kids and dramas, I ended up with some confident issues flying. At a recent competition in Chelan in the US, I enjoyed only about half the flying we did to be honest.
That reminded me that even after some 30 years flying, currency is still an issue for some. Pilots with less experience must experience this more. Others don't seem to have this issue at all: I endlessly admire how pilots like Reuben and Middy - after an entire year of hardly flying at all or only flying tandems on the coast - can jump on a EN D or comp class glider and fly very competitively and fast. It doesn't work like this for me, nor for a bunch of other pilots.
One of the ways for me to get over confidence issues, is to firstly try to get out and spend time in the air, but also by stepping back in glider class, to an easy glider. At times over the years, I have competed on un-certified top end gliders, at times EN Cs and EN Ds without any issues, mostly at times when I felt current. While I realise that the glider isn't the problem alone, flying a glider that is easy for me to handle in tough situations, takes one major worry out of my mind. The worry that with a major collapse in major turbulence, I would end up out of control and in a potentially dangerous situation. The lower rating the glider, the easier it less likely a major incident and the easier it is to recover.
Flying a high end EN B like the Carrera is perfect for me: With my level of experience, it is a very easy class, but with a high aspect ratio and nimble handling, and good speed, it does not feel dumbed down enough to restrict my flying. I fly the original Carrera version in size S now.
After a bunch of pretty bad flying in competitions, lots of worries about conditions and cascades I saw other pilots perform around me, reserve deployments near by etc, I launched into the last task of the Canungra Cup quite determined to make the most out of my last day XC flying for a while. I knew that once I got home, I need to concentrate on kids, teaching and business again and XC flying will be rare for a while.
The task was a 95km race to goal in good conditions for the first time during this competition week, even though initially cloud base was rather low. I decided not to start too early as I had noticed being a bit unfit and lacking stamina for very long flights. So I thought I go half way through the open window with enough time to get to cloudbase at the edge of the 8km start cylinder in time to be in a good position for the start of the race. The day seemed rather slow for starters with lots of pilots near launch struggling to get up. Well, my tactics kind of worked out: I launched and instantly found what must have been the strongest thermal of the day so far, which I managed to hold on to past many other pilots, straight to cloudbase! It was a fabulous fun climb which made me feel great. That is, until I looked on my instrument (which I could read for the first time in a year thanks to my new bifocal sunglasses - age has its own challenges..) only to find out that I was at cloudbase with 54 (!) minutes to spare to start open time. OMG, for one that had only managed to focus for about 1 1/2 hrs at a time that seemed a lot of hanging around and waiting! During those 54 mins mostly at cloudbase, dodging the white room, my fingers on my left hand pretty much frozen numb and I was doing up my jackets to the top to keep warm. I even had time to remembered to eat half my sandwich perfectly timed just before the race start.
fires on course, photo by Kris Ericksen
I ended up with a good start, with the early groups, which earned me just a handful of lead out points. The first or second big glide ended up with my first lowish safe, then a long, admittedly a bit slow flight over beautiful countryside I had never seen, all the way to the 95km goal.
I met and waved to a lot of pilot mates on the way, struggled through some slow and difficult climbed, enjoyed some really quick and good ones to cloudbase and navigated well through tricky terrain.
In very typical Eva style, I arrived at goal with a truckload of altitude - which I really shouldn't, as it means I could have left the last thermal much earlier and get to goal quite a bit faster. With my lack of flying time, and having had disappointing flights prior to this one, the distance was more important to me that the competition and the time, so while I know I can and should fly faster, I was just very happy to have had such an enjoyable long flight.
What was the best part of this flight for me, is the fact that I realised I had entirely got over my confidence issue in terms of glider / conditions / safety. While a bunch of pilots were talking in the retrieve van about the very rough parts of the course, the collapses they had, the reserve deployments etc, I realised that I had not wasted one minute of my flight worrying about any of this!! And that me, the pilot who usually seems the only person to worry about the safety issues, weather and collapses. There I was, happy and focussed without the slightest issue that worried me. I did have the odd small tuck, but I hardly took notice of these trusting my glider and my skills.
I did stop at a pass about 15km from goal and watched one lady pilot I was climbing with, diving into the back of the pass. I decided to let her go and perhaps beat me, which that turned out a rather rational decision as she ended up in a serious lee side situation unable to control her glider and throwing reserve. When watching her go, I did consider whether I was being overly careful again, which I often am, and whether she just knew the area better. Needless to say, I was happy with my decision. (Her glider is in steep terrain still, about 30m high and won't be recovered. She is well, which is the main thing).
How to cure confidence issues:
- fly a glider to suit your ability and you trust
- be curent - spend time in the air!