It's the middle of Team Challenge 2013. I’m not competing but the forecast was awesome so I headed out to get some goodness with the assembled sky brethren and sistren. I started the day with a sledder on my new U2. First flight on this U2 for me, and only my second fight on a U2 with one test fight I did 2 years ago. I really enjoyed it. Hit the morning calm just as the sun was hitting the ground. It felt a little sluggish compared to the Sport2, but also very stable in comparison. I did a simple flight practicing a few coordinated turns along the way. Honestly my launch and landing kind of sucked. I popped the nose on launch. There was no wind, and the U2 is a bit more tail heavy than the Sport2 is. Actually the U2 is a bit heavier in general. Landing was also unsatisfying. I had a nice approach but I hesitated to flare and ended up going late. Ran a couple of steps and set the base tube on the ground.
The second flight was in active mid day so I busted out my trusty Sport2 155. Good launch and landing. I got up in light ridge and a nice thermal straight away. In my mind I decided it was a good day which is the point at which I blew the flight. In reality the lift was inconsistent at that time and as soon as that climb faded away I needed to be in survival mode. Instead Brandon and I flew South looking for something under the clouds but all we got was flushed. I headed over to the ridge for a refill and found nothing! I was barely able to squeak enough lift out of it to get back in range of the main LZ. I missed a thermal on the way back which Ethan was able to find and climb up to cloud base in. The difference was that he was willing to execute a search pattern and risk losing his glide to the LZ while I was playing it safe. I guess there comes a point when one simply has to commit. There’s always the bowl field.
Third flight of the day, and the second on my U2. This time the valley was glassing off. Smooth 10 mph wind blowing straight in. It was fantastic. A really smooth launch. Based on the first attempt I was much more aggressive with the nose and I had a very strong launch. There was lift everywhere. I suppose it was ridge lift but it extended all over the place. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to get to know my new glider. I noticed a few differences very distinctly. It is definitely stiffer in turn. It doesn’t require a whole lot of extra effort, but it takes a moment or two before it responds. If you try and muscle it around you’ll be over-shooting your turn every time. The Sport2 responds almost instantly, while the U2 has a momentary lag. As a result I had to always be thinking ahead of the game just a bit. Make a turn input, then back to center and wait for it to happen. If I held my turn input until the glider started to respond it would end up swinging around much steeper than I wanted and I would have to jump to the other side of the frame to get on track again. It is certainly not going to be as forgiving for flying up against the trees and such.
The second thing I noticed was that this glider loves to climb. I’m closer to the middle of the weight range in the U2 160, closer to the top on the Sport2 155, and maybe this has something to do with it. I felt that I was thermalling very sloppily, and I know I’ve got some time to put in before I’ll be truly dialed into the U2. Even so, I was able to climb just about as good as anyone. Brandon and I were in one thermal where he came in about 100 feet below me and I was able to keep him there. Ultimately I left it about 1000’ to early because the cloud looked to be darker out front. Sadly the lift didn’t fit my plan and I saw Brandon up at cloud base a while later. I never did get there on this flight. Sing it with me… “Love the lift you’re with!!” Throughout the entire flight I was able to keep up with everyone and was at the top of the stack for a good long while. The U2 likes to climb, what can I say? I can’t wait to see what I can get up to with this glider when I’m in the zone!!
The final thing I noticed was the glide speed and associated sink rate. It was really nice. :) No doubt that it out glides the Sport2 155. It’s wrapped up with the VG being a lot more meaningful as well. There’s a lot more rope to pull, and it makes a big difference. With the Sport2 I felt like 50% VG was default, and the only other setting was 100%. With the U2 there was a distinct difference in feel between 0, 50%, 75%, and 100%. Each step gets tighter and tighter. At 100% VG the U2 was definitely a bear to initiate a turn, and a bit skatey in yaw, but man I could fly at 40MPH and the bar pressure was minimal, as was my sink rate. The Sport2 would be plummeting out of the sky at that speed. That doesn’t appear to be the case with the U2. Perhaps it’s not really anything to brag about, but I was able to overtake all of the PGs at will without ever losing a foot of altitude on them, and some SS gliders as well. I was also able to make the 2 mile glide across highway 111 into the wind and arrive at the north face there with plenty of altitude in reserve.
The flight ended with a very nice landing. I think the 2 hours of getting used to flying the U2 set me up very well for a much better landing. I got popped a little bit on final and ended up overshooting the cone by about 50’. My landing was a smooth and gentle 1 stepper in no wind. The light bar pressure is going to take some getting used to on landing as well. I was keeping a gentle touch, but when I thought it was at trim and gave it a little push to test it out it turns out there was still some energy left in there. I climbed up a couple of feet. As soon as the climb stopped I paused a moment and flared and it was nice. I actually flared a little weakly or else I would have had the no stepper. Next time!!
All in all I am very pleased. I will miss the easy handling of the Sport2 and the almost careless way I could toss it around the sky with precision. I probably won’t be so bold in flying close to stuff, be it terrain, trees, or other gliders. The Sport2 is an amazing wing. I think Wills Wing has squeezed out as much performance as physics will allow while keeping single surface-like maneuverability. On the other hand I am going to really enjoy being able to stretch my legs a little bit. The U2 definitely is going to get me higher, farther, faster. I think it will be worth the trade given the increased climb and the fantastic glide. I am really excited to get dialed in and see what we can do. I think my playground just got a little bit bigger!