Friday, July 2, 2010

Practice Day 1

The first few days of the Practice time allocated before competition saw many members of the US Team frantically trying to get their rented gliders in to a fit state to fly competitively. Francois Pin found his PW5 had been delivered with recently and badly sanded wings, so was handed a bottle of polish and was told that before it could fly his long suffering crew should apply this all over to protect the surface. Dottie could be seen for the next few days with polishing cloth in hand accomplishing this onerous task with grim determination. Bill Snead's Polish Club PW5 was in much better shape, but he spend at least one day trying to make the trailer lights work. Peter Deane in his German LS8 flew on the prior two days and was inspired by the beautiful countryside, but was wary of the limited land-out possibilities because of the extensive wheat fields and forests.

The airfield itself is at the North end of a delightful Valley in Prievidza, and consists of a rectangular grass field with only just enough length to safely launch the grid as long as the World Class were the first to go. Some of the heavily laden Standard Class gliders needed what seemed to be the full length of the field to start climbing. Peter Deane remarked that he much preferred the Tow Planes with retractable gear because when the pilots pulled up the gear straight after take off, at least they then started to climb. All this can be forgiven for the Airfield environment, with the Medieval style Castle overlooking the airfield from the West Side ridge. Because Prievidza is found in the western third of Slovakia, we are nestled in a beautiful valley with low mountains all around it, called the Tatras.

So, Today was the first Official Practice Day, allowing both the Teams and the Airfield Management to fine tune the procedures for launching the three classes in a timely manner. The first impression of the Organization is that it is very good and well thought out, giving us high hopes that it will be a tightly run Competition. We also had our first official Pilot's meeting this morning, and it was so crowded that there were barely any seats left, even in the back of the hangar. The USA Team captain and assistant spent most of their day in the comfy team office monitoring the radio reports and making emergency runs to Tesco, the local Wal-Mart. Fortunately, they were able to find some much needed office supplies, and bring some improvements (like a trash can) to our office.

The weather in the region is presently dominated by a slack pressure gradient over most of Eastern Europe, with a moist North to North Westerly flow across western Slovakia. A weak trough over the border between Germany and the Czech Republic could brush the Northern end of the task area tomorrow. Thermals appear to start early, with the first Cumulus appearing around 9:30 in the morning. By noon, there was the start of clear development, and the indication of many convergence zones over the mountain ridges. East and North of the Airfield towards the lower Tatra Mountains, the early cumulus soon developed into towering cumulus by mid afternoon and Thunderstorms late in the day. They did not seem to affect many people, and a substantial shower bearing down on the airfield as the Competitors finished dissipated well before it caused any problems. It appeared to be difficult sometimes to find a decent climb off tow, leading to some very full gaggles before conditions improved. There didn't seem to be much in the way delaying tactics, and most Competitors left soon after the start lines opened.

Each class were sent to Assigned Area tasks to the North East, the World Class had three turn points for a distance of around 217 km, The Standard and Club Class shared similar 4 turn points for around 278 and 275 Km respectively. The task times of 2:45 for the Standard and Club, and 2:30 for the World Class were pessimistic, and finish time were substantially lower than that. All the US pilots who flew got back with fast times, and there were 3 or 4 reported land outs from the other Competitors.

Tomorrow's forecast shows similar conditions, but the Thunderstorms have built earlier and more impressively each day, so there is some apprehension that they could have a significant impact on Tomorrow's tasks.

-Martin Grant, Blair Mockler, and Dick Mockler