Saturday, July 10, 2010


Written by Martin Grant, crew to Peter Deane

The Practice days are over, and the operations have been fine tuned. Saturday was the opening ceremonies, mercifully short speeches, a good Air Display which allowed us to escape into cooler clothes and get ready for the first contest day. The banquet in the castle was well done, the food was good but we blew it by latching on to the wrong tour, so we got a great tour of the castle at night, ghosts included - in German. But never mind, it was fun, and after a considerable number of the local brandy/jagermeister concoction, I wouldn't have understood it in English.....


The first contest day was a disaster for the US standard class guys. The weather was dominated by a long finger of upper cirrus and mid level cloud that, at times killed all convection. The satellite picture showed a break running down from the North giving a possible start around noon and so it proved. As soon as the sun was on the ground the thermals started in a weak and ill defined fashion. The whole grid got away safely  into a few well populated thermals. Mike Smith landed back after being towed into the drop zone which was totally devoid of any lift at that particular time. Mike restarted well - and hit ground at an airport 30 miles out on the first leg. Mike had used prior experience as to where to go, Peter joined him at the same airport on the second leg.... Peter explained that he had gone to a region in the hills that had worked well in the past, and now was totally dead. He flew out into the valley and met even more dead air. In fairness to both, most of the hot shots did badly as well, so there was a degree of luck attached to the day. Others explained that to do well on a day like that required team flying which the top teams have down to a fine art. The Germans smoked around at over 100kph.


Tuesday's tasks are cancelled as the decaying frontal systems that drenched Western Europe moved into the area. The grids were set up, all the Standard Class gliders were rigged, ballasted and ready to go before briefing, so during the briefing a solid mass of stratus moved in and looked like it would soak the Airfield. Luckily it missed but there was a mass rush to get back to the trailers and derig. So this gives a little time to mention the second contest day.


Contest day 2#


The day started with similar weather as the last few days. High cirrus, and early cumulus and the threat of towering cumulus in the North West.  The satellite suggested another break in the cirrus moving through during the early afternoon and the thought was that this would mean that the thunderstorms would be given plenty of chance to form. In fact there must have been some more stable air which moved in and started to squash the cumulus on track. The launch went well, a couple of relights, but most got away cleanly. As the area dried out and the cumulus were fewer, there was nervous looks skywards! Just as I finished yesterday's report, formatted it and pressed "send" I got the shout that Peter Deane had landed out......  He had talked about trying to fly with the Brits for a while, keep the task short and not risk too much in the valleys were there fewer cumulus. There was a fairly good path over higher ground, but a couple of areas where you had to cross a valley to get to the turn cylinder. I had been tracking his Spot, and it had switched to 30 minute reports, hence I had no idea that he was on his way to a field, and the retrieve would end up as an epic story.


The first error was that there was a mix up on the formats of the Lat/Long from the Flarm unit and the Tom-Tom Navigation unit in the car. One must have been decimal, the other degrees/minutes. I had this uneasy feeling that there was an error, as I began to suspect that we were diverging from where the Spot suggested he should have been. Well down the road I began to disbelieve the irritating voice on the tom tom. It was set to Jamaican, and one more Hey mon, turn leefft at the nex' roun about and it would have been thrown out the window. So, more conversations with Peter, navigation now by an old fashioned map to the local town which Peter thought was the right one. As it turned out it wasn't but we had good fortune to drive past the field from the opposite direction. In the mean time though, a massive thunderstorm was bearing down fast. We caught the edge, but the outflow from the storm was at least 50kts at ground level with horizontal rain and as I saw more of the side of the trailer in mirror than was seemly I parked in the lea of a large building to wait it out. We were pelted with bits of trees, cats and the occasional dog for about 10 minutes. Lots of lightning and rolls of thunder to the East, but the storm passed quickly and we were off to the field. The next bit of good luck was that four glider pilots from the local airfield had spotted Peter and had come to help. The spoke good English, and kept him company as we drove the last mile or so the field. The bad luck was that the downpour had soaked the field such that top couple of inches had turned into a glutinous mass of extremely thick and slippery mud. He had landed in this truly massive field, conservatively estimated as around 3/4 mile each side. And of course he was at the opposite end to me, stuck in the mud on the access road. I managed to disconnect the trailer and drive the car to firmer ground, but the enormity of the problem was beginning to become obvious, as the sun started to slowly sink in the West...  Peter and the three guys from the local club started pushing the LS8 down the hill, but the wheel attracted so much mud it stopped turning and the only way it was going to move was by sliding it. The young lady from the gliding group drove their car down hill on the other access road and managed to make contact with me. The others gave up moving the glider and walked down to meet us. A quick phone call to Preividza Airfield solicited the information that the rest of the team would be delighted to come and help, but..... They had all been drinking, to celebrate Francois' second place in the world class. As there is zero tolerance for booze and driving, that was no help. By now our shoes were covered in mud, each step was getting heavier and as the field dried out a bit walking got more difficult as the mud built up under our shoes. Our luck turned back to good, as a couple of guys with a Jeep drove up the access road. Much discussion in Slovak and very broken English had us driving the Jeep to the glider with a strong tow rope. It towed the glider back to the trailer easily but definitely sliding rather than rolling. The salvage of the trailer was relatively straight forward and the glider de rigged quickly. Until we came to think about the gear - It was a solid mass of mud in the wheel box. Much groveling in the mud, and many handfuls of straw and mud pulled out let the gear come partially up, we strapped the doors partially closed so it wouldn't drag on the trailer floor, just as it got truly dark. So a rousing Thank You! to Ladislav, Ales, Vrata, and Martina from the Czech Republic! We got back to Prievidza at around 11:30. 


In the morning we went straight to the water hoses, and hosed the glider down before rigging it. It took ages to get the mud out, but we soon had it clean and presentable again. Many good pilots logged slow times, and it was not clear what the faster ones had done differently, maybe local knowledge really helped here. Mike Smith managed to get round in the standard class, at an admittedly slow speed but all congratulations for persevering to complete the task. Bill Sneed landed in a very tall Wheat field, and also had an epic retrieve, but no damage. The two club class gliders also landed out, but did credibly. 


Forecast now suggested better weather on the way, temperatures rising to high 80's, and I hope, great soaring weather!