Often the glider would be towed up by another aircraft. This club uses a tractor's PTO to wind a cable attached to the front of the glider. It moves so quickly that it hauls the glider up several hundred feet into the air, where it hangs like a kite for several seconds before disconnecting from the cable. That's a rush. The glider runs maybe 100 yards along the ground before liftoff, then rises up to the release height-all this within a matter of seconds. Once it's at the peak of the cable's extension the pilot pushes a pedal that drops the cable. All this takes maybe 7 seconds. Then you start to nose dive a bit until he picks up enough speed to steer. At that point he needs to find a thermal as soon as possible or gravity wins. It's actually pretty safe. You'll remember the pilot who landed the plane in the Hudson River. He was a glider pilot first, which is probably what saved the flight as he knew how to land without alternate power.
So even if the pilot can't find a thermal he knows how to guide the craft downward without free fall. The problem with the altitude change, whether up or down, is that it needs to be in a circular motion. And that's when my lunch decided to pay me a little visit.
Oddly enough, I was the last one of the group to go, and everyone else made it without using the barf ziplock. Of course, I gave everyone else a hard time, but then it came back to bite me. Grant's ride was probably the most amazing. I don't remember the maneuver the pilot used on him, but it is where he climbs as fast as possible, then leans the glider over to the side and free-falls. Grant is a little bit of a thrill seeker and he said he almost lost control of his bowels when this happened. I got a nice, smooth, reasonable ride and still ralphed, so I can't imagine what would have happened if they had done that to me.
All in all, a fun afternoon, although it really did take me about 2 days to fully recover from the motion sickness. Ick.