THERMALING INTO WAVE

Imagine strong thermals rising through a strong wind.   We have two types of current colliding at right angles, so there might be significant turbulence and thermals may not have consistent texture or shape.   When wind distorts them, a subtle variation of the uniform circle may help to maintain position within their cores.   Flying a broad, flat turn on the windward side of each circle and a tight, steep turn on the lee side can offset that tendency to drift downwind from the best lift.   This is essentially the same maneuver that power pilots refer to as ‘turns around a point’.   Of course such a complicationcould be overdone, and the thermal lost altogether.   Experiment with this, and return to simpler techniques of they seem more effective.

Where thermals are rising steadily from a stationary source, but the wind is strong, a tentative figure-eight is at times useful.   It eliminates the weaker, downwind half of each circle by turning into the wind each time you’re headed across the wind, and is safer than full circles near a hill.   This is simply a shortened version of standard ridge soaring technique, and will sometimes be the only method that works.   (Figure-eights are valuable in rotor and wave as well, for the same reasons.)   With multiple sailplanes in close proximity, however, changing directions in this way may not be sufficiently safe…

     However you work this thermal, if you know or suspect there’s wave overhead, leave your thermal from the highest point you can reach and fly directly into the wind.   Then, with a little luck (and if you hold your tongue just right) you might achieve one of soaring’s most special miracles:   THERMALING INTO WAVE!