Two & Out: May Thermal Duration Cut Short by Severe WX

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By Dan G., MVSA Webmaster

Yesterday’s May Thermal Duration Contest was called after two rounds due to weather.

Related: May TD: Hot Two Heat up 2023 Race

Another week of weather watching goes as far as two rounds before a severe spring storm system threatens the field. The day didn’t start this way.

Bob W. unlocked the gate shortly before 9am. He drove north along a thin patch of grass before slowing for the Bob G., May’s Thermal Duration Contest Director, passed. They assessed the winds and setup the winch to launch into the light winds from the south. It was a humid 80-degrees with light winds and bugs – the kind of bugs that hang out on your sunglasses. It was looking like a good day.

Wind Direction and Speed – Historical Weather Data Source: Weather Underground

Early tests of the winch and hi-start showed light lift nearly everywhere.

The usual suspects of contest members arrived slowly and the meeting seemed to be waiting on later arrivals. It was to be a normal contest with the first round beginning a little late at 11am.

“The winds were mild and the lift was abundant,” Robert S, MVSA Club President wrote on Saturday evening in the club’s Google Group.

A family of guests invited by Robert S. arrived during round 1. They quickly were briefed about contest and began timing. By the end, the grade aged school daughter was calling out times by the minute. Dan G. described thermals as warm air that rises and eventually the moisture freezes and creates clouds. He pointed at a growing thunderhead to the west of the field and commented – that is not a cloud – but the frozen remains of lift.

The wind began to shift from the 3mph South Southwest (SSW) at 9:51 AM  – to 8mph East South East at 11:51 AM according to Weather Underground’s historical weather – (

Rich S. landed low on the tape after battling the growing breeze from the South Southeast. He was not happy with the landing or his time.

““So … all was well …. until it wasn’t. The weather started turning and the radar reports from the cell phones looked really scary. Lots of dark skies and lots of thunder rumbling.”
Robert S., wrote in the club’s Google Group

Bob G., the CD, commented on the change in wind direction, it was feeding a weather system. A few flyers in the ramp area began checking their phones. Bob G. checked his phone as well. A weather system of severe weather could be seen 20-30 miles away. There was a discussion. He put down his phone and picked up his transmitter for a third RES flight.

Weather Radar from the “Radar Scope” app at 12:41 pm – 30 minutes after the contest was called.

“So … all was well …. until it wasn’t,” Robert S. wrote. “The weather started turning and the radar reports from the cell phones looked really scary. Lots of dark skies and lots of thunder rumbling.”

Bob G. launched against on the south pointing winch line and caught lift quickly. He flew the for entire 10-minutes and made a high scoring landing. On the walk back to the pit area he heard thunder and saw flyers had packed up their planes. He had hoped to get one more round in but with the thunderclaps getting closer the reality set in. The call must be made. He talked with Bill R. on the walk back, ‘it’s time’ and ‘that flight probably won’t be counted’.

The contest was officially called at the end of two scoring rounds and the contest would count.

The flyers and guests switched from flight ops to ‘what can we do to pack it in’? The family gathered retrieved the winch pulley, the landing tapes and helped where they could. ‘Where does this go?’ asked the grade schoolgirl with three rolled up tapes in her hands. A member’s shade tent was all packed in a minute or two. Lightening was seen a few miles north of the field. It was all over faster than it had begun. The vehicles slowly left as the rain began.

“So ,,, after two rounds for me and some others and maybe 3 rounds for a couple we hurriedly pulled the planes apart, packed up and got out of the field just as the wind and rain arrived,” Robert S. wrote.

Bob G. remained. He had forgotten to collect the hi-start. He wrapped the hi-start under the safety eyes of Bob W. (a precaution due to the lightening) as light rain began to fall on the field. Bob W. stayed to make sure the CD was not hit by lightning. The rain intensified as he drove the highway back to town. Even in the morning, the forecast showed the intense weather beginning around 5pm. In the end, everyone was safe and two rounds were flown.