Stoubie wrote:What kinds of shape should I be looking at in the dunes?
I have placed streamers on the backside of the dunes to check for rotor, but the wind seems to be very uniform really far back. Does this mean I'd have to worry about rotor possibly being up higher say 30 feet up or more?
What wind range would you recommend trying to learn this in?
You want the dunes rounded out, at the bottom. If the slope meets the flats in a sharp line (like at the bottom of a cliff), it can make a dead spot, or serious turbulence near the bottom.
You need a wind meter, not streamers, for this check behind the crest. Even IF there is no rotor (not likely), there will probably be a significant wind gradient, anywhere behind the crest of the dune. NEVER
land behind the crest of a dune (or any hill) unless you know about the air there. For you, for now, solo, that means just plain never.
Solo pioneering on an unknown site is about as dangerous as this sport gets. Have some friends with you, even if they are not pilots; that won't make the air any safer, though.
Fly with an airspeed meter, to get your correct cruising speeds. For your glider, any winds less than your usual flying speed will require that you crab across the dunes, to stay up. Any winds greater than your usual flying speed will be a challenge, to stay in front of the dunes. Watch the dune gooning videos. You want the winds low enough to need some crabbing, but not low enough that you are racing across the dune tops. Winds above your flying speed will keep you parked. With no crabbing speed, you will be at risk of an instant landing, with any drop in the wind (NOT recommended).
If you have a site where the weather forecasters have good records, see if the winds there are strong and consistent in the past. Chances are, one season of the year will be okay or even good, and others, maybe not. While it may
be possible to soar on the winds generated by a storm there, that trick can be very
dangerous. Storm winds can have big holes in them.
All that to say this: Solo dune gooning is risky, at best. Without an experienced dune gooner with you, the risks are huge. Aside from all that, you will have sand in every part of your glider, which is bad for the sail, and bad for the tubing. Salt air causes rapid corrosion, too. Many gliders used for dune gooning are old beaters, which the owners do not mind trashing.