Friday, July 9, 2010

July 9

Martin Grant

The weather continues under the influence of the same high pressure centered in central Eastern Europe, giving a dry, stable north westerly flow across the Contest region. The Weather guy caused great hilarity in describing the retreating occluded front as those "stupid clouds and cirrus". A long racing task was set for the Standard Class, with the forecast for morning cumulus, lessening to blue thermals in the afternoon. A beautiful cloud street appeared early, leading to the first turn point but after the launch it weakened noticeably. The launch was continually postponed, giving little time for the task. Cumulus was scattered, and very shallow, indicating imminent blue conditions. The ridges gave the best promise, with High Cumulus, but it seemed that the valleys were filling with stable air. So, after following an erratic signal from Peter's Spot, the dreaded phone call came explaining that he had turned the first turn point but on the way back he landed East of Zilnia. He had tried to jump across the Martin valley, but there was not much lift on the next ridge and he got too low to connect with the thermals. He was in a good field, slightly uphill but recently harvested.

The drive to the field was fine, no Tom-Tom this time, just old fashioned technology in the way of a map. (Maps are excellent, I hope they catch on.) We met in the local village, again with great help from the locals, and drove along the narrow roads to the field. At this point, I think I need to draw a veil over the events that led to the trailer being beautifully suspended over a river bed, with the wheels spinning slowly just above the water. But it was close to a farm, and once more the locals rose to the occasion, planks appeared as if by magic, bottle jacks were brought, men jumped into the water in their socks, and soon the trailer was back on its wheels on the correct bank. All done with no common language other than signs between us. More veils should be draw over the rest of the trip to the field, but eventually the glider was in the trailer, and it was brought back to civilization by a four wheel drive vehicle - using a different road. Task setting seems to be slightly overset, but this is the World Championships! Local knowledge continues to be worth its weight in gold and the team flying pilots consistently come home.

This is now being written on Saturday, and it is even hotter. The high pressure is drifting overhead, and it was forecast again to be predominantly blue with scattered cumulus over the mountain ranges. The local forecast consistently underestimates the temperature, and it is now in the low 90's and very humid. A 370 km task was set for the Standard class, which was hastily reduce to 310 km on the grid as the promised thermals took much longer than expected to appear. We could hear the sniffing Duo Discus fire up the turbo once or twice, which is never a good sign. Huge gaggles appeared after the launch, and there were many gliders lower than I bet they found comfortable. It seems that the launch is always about 5 minutes too early, leading to scary times for the first launches in the World Class. A few relights from the club class, including those rugged individuals who like to land in the opposite direction to everyone else and one fine pilot who felt he need to test his wheel brake before he ran off the end of the airfield. (It didn't work)

Around 2pm, the gliders seemed to making better progress and there was more air between the lowest gliders and the hills. Many more relights, mainly from the Standard Class which I suspect was launched into a less than perfect area. Just had a report that Mike Smith has landed in a deep wheat field around 60 km away, and a strong crew is gathering to lift him out. A total of 11 land outs so far in the Standard class. Peter is making good progress, rounded two turn points and making progress towards the third. I don't think it is quite as forecasted, as there is more cumulus than I thought there would be, and in places, it looks really good. I think jumping the valleys will be the difficult part of today. The task is set using the ridges as much as possible, and I am hopeful there will be many finishers. So far, as I type this, the club class are finishing and two World class gliders have arrived. Land outs are now up to about 20, with a steady stream of trailers leaving the airfield. It seems from control that Peter is the last out, and the Spot is showing rapid progress towards the finish. There is a dying cloud street leading back from that area, and if Peter was in contact with the street it should lead him home.

Sadly, it was not to be. Peter landed about 30 km away. This time, the retrieve was perfect, great field beside the road, good access, easy de-rig except for the trailer ramp collapsing from old age. He was the closest land out, and might have just needed 1 more thermal to get home.

Sunday dawned with different air. The forecast promised regular Cumulus over the hills, and the task followed the high ground nicely. Again a good task of around 370 km, and the promise of a serious racing day. The launch went smoothly, no significant problems getting away, and Peter had strict instructions not to land out, as the the ramp for the trailer was still under repair. And so it proved - the Austrians, armed with local knowledge reported that it was almost a tourist task with plenty of time to admire the scenery, with no serious slow points. Peter was more conservative, and deviated to the east on the long leg to the North West, but still raced around in a fast time to come in 21st. Almost everyone returned safely, and at times, there were 12 gliders scattered over the field and another 8 on final approach. There was some confusion on our behalf because we had forgotten what to do when our Pilot got back, but luckily it came back to us, when someone reminded us that it had a lot to do with celebratory beer. It was good to have the whole team back in one piece.
-Martin Grant