CLIMBING INTO WAVE

One of the greatest and most satisfying challenges in soaring is working rotor turbulence and eventually climbing into smooth wave.   Never assume that it can be done, but always consider that it may be possible.

It’s extremely important to stay UPWIND of any newly forming clouds – even those high above or well beneath you.     When they appear, go there fast, note some certain landmark directly below, and keep all forming cloud downwind of you.

The kind of maneuving required to climb in rotor is very different from ordinary thermaling technique.   Only the windward side of a rotor offers lift, and its lee side promises very strong and possibly violent sink.   Fly any full circles relatively slow and wide while facing into the wind, but then much tighter on the lee side to hurry you back around into the wind.   Expect to fly very few circles (maybe only one) before leveling out and penetrating further into the wind as the rotor you’re in drifts away and new ones rise in its place.   You’ll often need to employ hard, diving direction changes, short, steep pull-ups, and exaggerated S-turns into the wind.   Be constantly alert for increases in lift, and turn quickly toward any upward or lateral impulse you feel within the airflow.  Your mantra must be:   INTO THE WIND!

As you climb, when the lift becomes broader and less turbulent extend your penetrations into the wind, widen turns even more on the windward side, and feel for the smooth flow of wave.   Transitions into strong wave can be startlingly abrupt, but also may be gradual or even sporadic.    Even after protracted periods of smooth wave-like lift, you might experience occasional relapses of turbulence.  This almost always means there’s newer, and probably stronger lift directly upwind of – and above –  your position, so speed up and move further upwind immediately.