2017 Junior World Championship- Lithuania

JWGC 2017 Daily Reports- Daniel

See https://ussoaringteams.org/team-updates-from-daniel-sazhin/ for pictures

July 19th ~ Off to Lithuania

Finally, after months of preparation, the junior team is ready to head to Lithuania for the upcoming Junior World Glider Championships. There will be 70 top pilots from all around the world, competing in two classes: Club and Standard. I will be flying in the Club Class along with my two teammates, Noah and JP Stewart. We also are honored to have Fernando Silva as the team captain, plus John Good and Tony Condon as experienced crew.

The contest will last from July 29th through August 13th. The results will be on http://www.soaringspot.com/en_gb/, though the contest is not currently listed. Most of the team is departing today and we will be arriving at Kaunas tomorrow. I will try to write up a short daily report to keep everyone in the loop.

July 21st ~ We have arrived

Yesterday, we all arrived in Pocunai. The travels for most of us were uneventful, except for Fernando. His plane had issues in Atlanta which made him miss the connection, though he found a later flight. We’re now all here minus JP who will be joining us next week.

The area near Kaunas is quite pretty, with big fields and lovely houses. We were also greeted with a bright blue sky with puffy cu. Unfortunately the temperature is quite moderate…. not optimal for higher cloud bases. But when you hear from the locals that they describe the weather out here like in “London”, you gotta be happy with what you get.

The airport is quite awe inspiring. It is a mile by mile grass square. They have an enormous soviet style hangar, filled with eight will tow planes, maybe a dozen jantars, assorted gliders and three An2 airplanes. State sponsored soaring back in the day didn’t do too badly over here.

We’re settled in our accommodations, which is a small rented house on the airport. We will be getting our equipment together today and hopefully will be flying soon.

July 22 – Noah and I take flight!

Yesterday we’ve made great progress. We now have two out of three gliders and they are nearly ready to fly. Noah and I were able to borrow a club Jantar standard 2 to do a local orienting flight. Both of us flew!

The weather was quite nice, with cloud base a bit over 1600m. It was very Cordele-like. We towed with a 40m or so long rope, which was quite exciting. The tow plane looks rather big when you’re right up against his tail!

The glider flew very nicely. I really like how the Jantar flies. I found that I could thermal it at a hair over 80 km/h with 40 degrees of bank and make it climb like a top. It grooved very nicely in the lift. It does not have a tremendous amount of aileron authority, but this is mitigated through entry technique. Have a little extra energy when sampling the air and then bank and yank when ready to turn. When done just tight, the glider transitions into thermalling flight magnificently.

We were encouraged to do some spins by the locals and so I did. The glider behaves very nicely and has a lot of warning before departing. You can load it up quite a bit with no issues. But man, if once it does depart, it really goes! The glider spins really beautifully and recovers normally.

I especially paid attention to the final glide paths to the airport. Right now it is a bit disconcerting… they are all full of crop. However in a week most of it will be cut down. Anxiously looking forward to then.

It’s a blast! We should be able to fly a club ship today. Our ships should be ready Monday.

July 23- Out on a practice task that ends up in a nice field!

Yesterday (7/23) was a really fun soaring day. I took up the club Jantar 2 again and this time went out on task. The task was a 290km racing task which took us east and north of Pociunai. This is really special here as we got to fly right over Vilnius, the capital of the country. The airspace will be open the next five weeks because the runway is being repaved. The locals are very excited about it too… some said they haven’t flown in that area in 20 years!

The day was a bit tricky. There was quite a bit of serious cirrus to contend with. At times the band’s got thicker and pretty much shut things down. I found I had to make some pretty radical deviations to stay in the air. I didn’t have too much trouble until I was more than halfway across, abeam and then south of Vilnius. I was getting low and the sky looked dead ahead. I ended up going way east toward clouds to stay up and made a really convoluted path to the turnpoint.

I managed to find some sun and climbed up again. I only needed around 300 more feet and I would have had enough to float on home. I flew best glide the whole way back, trying to find a nibble of lift. No joy.

Once I was down to 600m, I paid a lot of attention to the fields. Most were in crop and quite a few were hilly. There were very few options to choose from. Finally, I found a 1000ft long fallow field and made a full pattern for it and landed. I used up about half of it… the Jantar carries a lot of energy, even with the soft ground! Ended up only 16km short of the finish.

Once I landed, I was greeted by the farmer. I asked him if he spoke English and he looked confused. Then I asked if he spoke “Rusky”, his face lit up and he replied “da”. I promptly told him I am an “Amerikanitz” as Russians are not held in high regard in Lithuania. He said he was happy that I landed safely and that he had no issue with the trailer going into the field and taking the glider out.

John Good, Fernando, Noah and Gvidas, my Lithuanian crew came to pick me up. They took a club trailer, which made it a bit more exciting. Luckily Noah and John were particularly adept at figuring out the engineering talent of the people building the trailer. We finally got the glider in without too much of a struggle.

It’s raining today, so we’re going to be working on the ships. It’s a blast here.

1st official practice day (7/27)

Yesterday (7/27) was a great day for us. Noah and I took up our gliders for the first time and went for the task. The task was a 250km racing task, which took us West and North. The conditions were tricky, especially since the wind picked up considerably more than anyone expected. We started earlyish, at 130pm to insure that we would make it back for supper.

Noah and I had no issues getting together, though early on, we were both a bit distracted trying to learn how to fly the glider. The jantar 1 is a bit of a truck when it comes to centering thermals and requires quite a bit of work. However, once it is centered, it climbs quite reasonably. And it glides really nicely. As such, it required a bit of tuning and finesse to learn how the ship wants to be flown. And the answer is that it wants everything to happen slooooowly and deliberately. Much like an open class glider.

Once we went on task, we struggled on the first leg with one low spot at around 450m or so. But then the day kicked on and we blasted on off toward the turnpoint. After the turn, the downwind run was quite fast and we found good lift. After the second turn, things got quite tricky for us.

Firstly, I got into air that Noah didn’t connect with.

This resulted in us separating and required me to continue ahead. Secondly, we picked the wrong line, to the west. This resulted in a succession of long glides, into the wind with no lift and several low points before climbing out. I felt like I was flying a 126 again!

However, this situation afforded us the opportunity to practice “elastic team flying”, in which the lead guy provides information to the fellow trailing, who can use it to catch up. This worked out very well for us, with Noah chipping away at the separation. By the end, he finished very closely behind me.

The bad decision on the third leg was very costly in speed, but from a practice point of view, we had a very successful day. We’re glad we made it back and that we got five hours of flying in our steeds for the next two weeks.

Today (7/28) looks like a flyable, but short day. More tuning, adjustments and practice to come! Sunday is the first contest day and the beginning of next week looks quite nice. Things are starting to heat up!

7/28 Practice Day 2 hour area task

Noah and I are down safe after an awesome flight. Low, fast streets worked out great until the day collapsed and we couldn’t climb out. Crew on their way, full report later.

7/28 Recap of flight

Greetings from Pociunai,

So yesterday (7/28) all three of us flew and had a very nice day. The conditions early in the day looked quite bleak and we doubted that (Noah and I) would even attempt the task. However, when we took off, the conditions actually were much better than expected, though with low cloudbases, only 900-1000 meters AGL. The clouds though were really solid, with very good lift underneath. Once the gate opened, we started and caught quite a bit of the gliders ahead. Noah and I were flying very efficiently and had a really good run into the first turnpoint.

At this point, the sky was starting to get quite gray with all the approaching mid-level cloud cover. We arced out to the North, toward the sun and then started heading East toward the next turn area. The conditions got weaker and weaker, and we were quite happy to stay with several other gliders. However, as we got into the second turn area, we found a couple reasonable climbs and our last one before the turn was a good 4.7 knots average! Not bad at all.

After turning the turn area, we tried to find that solid climb once more. No joy… Now following several other gliders, we sniffed around for something else. No joy…. The sky immediately ahead of us had now shut down and there was no way to continue without going into really nasty terrain. We elected to deviate North, along with the tailwind toward clouds in the sun.

As we were heading North, I was particularly interested in the fields underneath. However, this was some of the most dismal landing area I had ever seen. Most of the fields were covered in crop and were very hilly. We were gliding and gliding along and finally I found something that looked least bad. I had to burn along a lot of altitude to finally get to it and dumped it in from around 500ft. Not really pleased with the landout procedure on this one, but it was the best I could do with what I had.

The field itself was fallow and a little soft, though with rolling crests and troughs and lots of rocks. I aimed for a crest, flared, landed and then rolled up and over and down the little hill. Most of the rocks were small, though I had to aim away from a couple bigger ones at the base of the hill. After rolling 100 meters, I stopped about 150 meters from the end of the field. All was okay!

Noah was a bit higher than me during this episode and went about two miles farther with a Libelle. Both of our retrieves worked out okay, though mine required quite a journey on gravel and dirt roads. We got back by 6pm.

Thanks a million John Good and Gvidas for coming to get me!

7/30 Contest Day 1

Greetings from Pociunai!

Yesterday (7/30) all three of us made it around on a tough first day. JP and Noah had a pretty good day, managed to get together and stay together. My radio failed shortly after takeoff, which left me on my own for the day. I connected with the mega pre-start gaggle (50 gliders), found the Brits and decided to stay with them. We started somewhat late, though with a small, fast group.

The six of us took the Southern route and all was going well early. We fanned out, raked the sky, cored thermals and moved on at a high rate of speed. This was until we pretty much hit the dirt. Then the gaggle exploded in a rather spectacular fashion. Everyone went into completely different directions. I still stuck with the Polish guys. Finally, down at 900ft with a brisk headwind, I turn around to go back to a nibble of lift and I watch the Pole that was trying to thermal at 450ft landing in the field below. I hit 0 and stuck with it, which got stronger and finally got me to cloudbase 20 minutes later. I decided that this whole gaggle thing wasn’t working for me today and shot off on my own.

It was 3:45pm and I still had another 40km to go into the wind. And this was after a somewhat late start! I had to go quite fast to make up the time and hopefully not get shut down at the end of the day. Almost every glide and climb was a struggle.

I ended up on the leg that had all the outbound gliders heading downwind, eastbound. It was quite a sinker when I saw most of the gaggle 15km from the turnpoint, with me over 30km behind. Stick forward, 140 km/h.

After rounding the turnpoint, I did okay for two glides. Going into the forested moraine, I drove a bit too hard. The sun lined up with the street and cycled it out and again I was struggling low. I would find a 1.5 knot thermal and stick with it for 500ft just to be able to reach the next landable area.

At the last turnpoint, I finally found a climb to cloudbase at around 1500 meters. At this point, I resolved to stay high at all costs. I almost had final glide and the clouds I headed to North bound did not work. However, I found good air under the street there and made a 90 degree deviation to stay with it and hopefully find the thermal. North of Alytus it is normally quite crappy at the end of the day. I decided that I was not leaving this area until I had final glide, no matter what. After flailing around and taking anything, I finally connected with 4 knots and got myself a cushy final.

The last leg was just about the only time I made good decisions. I made up a lot of time at that point.

I was really glad to have made it back. The three Poles, all excellent pilots, landed out. There were quite a few pilots that have obliterated their chances at remotely doing well on the very first day of the contest and I was inches away from doing the same. It sure did require pulling a couple rabbits out of my hat though.

Today looks like a rain day. I’ll gladly take the rest!


7/31 Thoughts on this cancelled day

Greetings from Pociunai!

Due to thunderstorms passing through what would otherwise be grid time, the day was canceled at the pilot’s meeting. I think all three of us took this with a sigh of relief as we appreciated the day off. We went back and met as a team and debriefed our experiences from yesterday and discussed landing options. Later we tuned our gliders some more and went to Kaunas for supplies and sightseeing. It was quite fun, especially since we had two local Lithuanians from the airport as our guides. We strolled through the center and went to the old town. Kaunas is a beautiful place and quite relaxed. No place is particularly packed, but it does seem to have a nice, steady rhythm to it.

We got back around 7pm, tuned gliders some more and then I had a very nice chat with Tony. Our conversation later developed into discussing what does flying in a world championship mean to us. Reflecting upon this, I figured I would share this with everyone.

To me, flying in a world championship is the one and only time my passion for soaring attains a truly higher purpose. It is an incredible honor representing the United States of America. I see my role in this event as representing my country with dignity, performing at the utmost of my ability and being a great teammate to my two comrades. When it comes to the actual flying, this results in it being the most meaningful that it ever has or probably ever will be for me. And when it comes to the actual business of flying in formation, it makes it incredibly fun. The very nature of the game here makes it highly advantageous to be cohesive and when it works, it is unbelievably awesome.

I am really honored to be here.

8/4 Finally Contest Day 2 and a very good day for the US Team

Greetings from Pociunai,

After four days of waiting, we finally had a contest day! And the US team had a very good day. The three of us effectively tied for second on a distance day that resulted in everyone landing out.

The challenges were namely that the wind was quite strong around 17 to 20 knots and high cloud cover was building in during the day, which would clamp down on the thermal conditions. Since there were clouds and good streeting, we figured it would be best to start early. 15 minutes after the gate opened, we started with a whole armada of gliders. We all did one turn shortly thereafter, but it didn’t amount to anything. We kept going, but no one went with us!

We looked at each other and the flarm and said heck with it, it’s time to go. We trusted that we could fly effectively as a team and avoid getting overrun.

Most of the first leg was done without turning. We all floated along under a street, nursing the gliders along in weak, but fairly consistent lift. Approaching the turn, we were getting worried. It didn’t look like the clouds would work, so we made a big deviation to find a climb. This didn’t work and we ended up low anyway. On the way out, we saw a stream of gliders heading our way. Starting to get worried.

After going a long way, we were down to 400 meters agl. We gotta make this climb work! And sure enough it did. Next we found another climb close to the second turn and nursed it in there.

We now had airspace to contend with on the downwind side, yet were forced to go downwind of course. We hit a weak one over the edge of a forest, all three of us scrambling along in 1 knot. One suggested to go and the other said hang in there, it feels like it’s out there. And sure enough it developed into 2.5 knots and we were out of the doghouse.

At this point, it occurred to us that the gaggle was nowhere to be seen. We made good time on the second leg and the cirrus was clouding over the sky just behind us. Time to step on the gas!

The next couple climbs were great. We finally got up to 1500 meters and even saw 6.5 knots on the averager. But the sky ahead looked like it was falling apart. We dialed back.

We kept gliding and gliding and just a whole lotta nothing. Jp got unlucky and dropped off a bit. Finally at one point he had to deviate away from Noah and myself. We found weak stuff and parked in it, drifting downwind into the forest where there looked like there was better lift. And then what do you know, Jp comes back, at the same altitude! He found a four knot climb and caught back up. Noah and I were relieved.

We tiptoed into and out of the turnpoint, but now the sky ahead looked absolutely terrible. We tried all we could, but we just kept getting lower and lower. The fields where we headed weren’t that great, so when we found a solid cut hay field, we were quite happy. After having tried a .4 knot for a while and down low, I was the first to land. My teammates followed.

It was a weird feeling being all three in the same field. The first thought was, “Fancy to meet you here!” The second was how cool it is was to see the pilots come out of these machines. In the air when flying as team, I guess you associate the pilot and the machine as one entity. And then here we are all together.

We had a good time on the retrieve. I put my Russian to use once more as a translator with the locals, who were quite friendly. The crews came with their trailers in formation. Everything went smoothly.

Yesterday we acted splendidly as a team. It is absolutely amazing to be part of it. When it came to the flying, we did as well as we did because we were flying collaboratively. There were many decision points and we were flexible and constantly adjusted, using each others strengths to the max. We also effectively sampled the air and pulled the teammates that were dropping a bit lower by rotating the formation. When it works like that, it’s poetry in motion.

Let’s see if we can keep it up. I sure hope we do. Today is a new day and should be better than yesterday. Off to the races!

8/5 Contest Day 3

Greetings from Pociunai,

Unfortunately, day three did not work out well for us. We fell out immediately after the first turnpoint on a day when a substantial number of pilots made it to the finish. Competitively, this is really bad for us as we had effectively lost 700 points on the pack. 

Going into the day, our assessment of the weather forecast was that it would be a distance day again, or a day with low completion ratio. This put the emphasis on starting early, which allowed for the possibility of finishing, or at least going a bit farther than the rest. We decided to start on the southern side as it took us over more favorable ground, which increased the odds of finding a good climb prior to the first turnpoint. With this all in mind, we started as the gate opened and snuck away, out of the start.

We had a very fast leg under a cloudstreet. We floated along at 1300 meters, though we were riding the street along with a strong tailwind. The problem was that the street ended up shifting off course and the sky was not all that developed over the turnpoint. We down shifted early, looking for any lift. Finally we came to a point where we had to decide to make a radical deviation away from the turnpoint toward a dark cloud, or continue toward it low. Looking at the sky near the turn, it did not look great, but neither did it look dead. We figured that while not ideal, we should be able to find a climb along the way, or shortly after rounding it.

However, this was not to be. We couldn’t find anything on the approach to the turn. At this point, landability became a major concern. The best we could do was head south, across the wind whole maintaining in touch with fields. There were a couple scraggly cu along the way and the area was somewhat industrial, along the edge of Vilnius.

No joy whatsoever. It was completely dead. The wind picked up to 22 knots, with no indication of any bubble anywhere. I picked out a field and after crossing it to the south, realized that there was nothing left for us to do and was the first to land.

It was a short, 800 foot long field, but into the wind. However on final, I realized it had wheat in it. I stretched out my final as long as I could to give room for my teammates and then promptly groundlooped in the middle. The wheat was quite low, not much higher than knee height. But it was enough. I got out, tailboom was intact and now I saw Noah coming in. 

Now he groundloops, the other way. I run to him, he gets out and we push his glider off. Then we sprint back to my ship, parachute on and all and heave the glider out of the way for JP. He was right on the edge of the field as Noah then runs out to get my canopy and back. JP lands shorter yet and also goes for the spin. 

We were fortunate that we did not damage the gliders. All I had to do was retape the wingtip skid, which fell off and clean out wheat stubble from my wheel. My teammates did even better having seen me groundlooped first. While I landed with low energy, JP and Noah came in full stall, which certainly helped.

Next to add to this adventure, the farmer showed up with two family members. He was upset that we landed there. He was speaking Russian to his family and off I went to try to smooth it all over. After a lot of apologies and explaining we did not intend to land there, I called the organizers of the contest to have him to talk to them. 

They spoke for ten minutes and then his demeanor changed. I think at some point in that conversation, it became apparent that these things don’t have engines and we really did not land there on purpose. He said, “Well just give a bottle and we’ll be square.” In Eastern Europe a bottle of vodka is an essential part of a landout kit, for just this very purpose. Noah and JP were surprised when I told them to get the bottle out of the battery box and then I gave it to the farmer and shook hands. Russian came in handy once more.

Next, it turned out that Noah lost his Delorme satellite tracker in all of the commotion to clear a space for JP. We started looking for it, with no success. It is awfully ironic not being able to find a satellite tracker! At one point we decided to go three abreast and rake the field. It was just like how we team fly! Later, we found it on the ground right next to the glider, much to everyone’s relief.

Finally, our crews came and we took the gliders apart and went home. We got back right as the folks in our class were finishing. No doubt that was not easy to accept, but as Ned Kelly said, “So is life.”

Doing the analysis to see what went wrong, there is nothing really obvious that we could have done differently. Given our strategy, we executed it as best as we could. It is really easy to say that we simply should have avoided the turnpoint for a while longer, but there’s always a balance in the risk and reward. We tried to do everything we could to stay high. At one point we were at a junction where we could have accepted a massive loss while being very committed to one cloud or continue along a path that we figured should have something albeit perhaps a weak climb. None of us read the sky as being dead. I don’t think that given our strategy and line that I would have done anything differently.

That being said, it was clear our strategy was suboptimal. We made a couple assumptions, namely that the conditions overall were weaker than they really ended up, that nonetheless it wouldn’t be a problem staying in the air and ultimately that we did not need to stay with the main pack. The conditions having turned out stronger made it much better to start later, which in turn made the conditions stronger on the first leg. Secondly, the read that it was not a problem staying in the air was incorrect. Fundamentally, we picked the wrong approach for this day.

All of this stated, the winner of the day flew our exact same line and rounded the turnpoint just a little bit higher. He went right over our field and 1.5 miles away, found a 3.5 knot climb at 1300ft agl. At that point he reconnected with the clouds and blasted around. That was incredibly frustrating to watch…. we were so close!

But anyway, so it goes. We’re here and today is a new day. We’re going to continue flying at our best and make the most out of it. We’re going to advance in the scoresheet as much as possible and keep representing our country as best as we can.

8/7 Competition Day at the JWGC

Greetings from Pociunai!

Yesterday was another great day for us. Initially, we were somewhat pessimistic as the task was to take us into terrible air. However, the task was changed on the grid for a 260km sprint into Poland. The conditions kicked on and we saw it was quite good when we took off. It became clear it was a day to wait and make good use of markers.

We waited for just over an hour and started at the back of the pack. We were hitting four knot climbs with the group we were flying with. Later, we saw a convergence line moving in from the north and we all deviated to it. It was gangbusters! 7 knot climbs and really good air. We drove along, now making use of the jantars excellent high speed performance.

Upon exiting the convergence, Noah and I picked a very slightly different course than jp, which made a tremendous difference. We had to deviate from the developing clouds and our paths amounted to a 600ft separation. After rounding the turn, we caught the gaggle, but jp didn’t catch our climb. At that point, we separated. It was rather frustrating because these two uncontrollable factors caused a massive separation as we then ran with the pack and jp got stuck alone.

But so it goes sometimes. Noah and I connected with the pack and ran off with it. We cruised at 150kmh and hooked 5 knot climbs. We stayed with the climbs longer and worked our way forward. Finally, after hitting the turn, we were very close to final glide. After getting to Mc 3, 20 meters low, we bumped the whole way back, running down the rest and getting almost to the lead.

After hitting the steering turn, we hit a tremendous amount of sink and barely made the minimum finish height. I was looking rather closely at the fields short of the river. Luckily, the air got a lot better and we floated on home. Noah and I landed exactly at the same time, wingtip to wingtip. Our wings even came down exactly at the same time! It was an absolute blast!

Noah and I ended up fourth and fifth for the day, just behind the Polish team. Jp recovered well and finished squarely in the middle of the pack.

At the end of the day, we saw that the little primary glider, the lak 16 was being taken out to fly. Out here, they train little kids from 8 to 13 years old to fly in an open cockpit glider, using a cable to ground launch. They only get to a couple meters in the air, but the kids have a blast and learn the basics of controlling the glider. There 14 such schools in Lithuania, with 50 gliders. We came out and helped them stage and fly and all of us got to fly it too. It was really really really fun! I really enjoyed the open air and the slight insanity of the whole operation. I also fulfilled my long time dream of flying in a primary glider!

We had a really great day and now we’re looking at four good soaring days ahead. Let’s go flying!

8/8 Another Good Day

Greetings from Pociunai!

Team USA had another very successful day! The task was a 300km flatish triangle, with thoughts that it was going to be fast and relatively easy. The day was homogenous, with sparse cu that later dried out into blue. We expected everyone to wait for a while and got ready for a lot of start gate roulette.

We waited for two hours! It was really exhausting, but necessary. We finally started at 2:30, chasing the markers ahead, leading a number of notable teams behind us.

The first leg worked out okay. We ran fast with the pack, but our team got separated on an exit from a thermal. Radio communication has been a challenge for us, with problems from the panel radios. Almost every flight we are switching to handheld and then back. It is not uncommon to have to repeat oneself or speak quite s*l*o*w*l*y. 

When we split, we all went our own way in our own styles. I drove off ahead, trying to connect with the pack ahead. I flew in good air, got underneath, but couldn’t hook their bubble. Now I was getting low, desperately looking for a reasonable climb. I flailed around in 1 knot for a couple turns and finally found something close to 3. During this time, I was radioing back my position and JP was using this info effectiely.

We all merged at the first turnpoint, along with quite a few other gliders. After the turn, we found the lift was not good and this was under clouds. Looking ahead, it dries out completely and the sky had a little bit of a haze to it. It is approaching 3:45pm. This is no longer looking like a banquet task!

At this point, we had most of the gaggle ahead. Our split on the first leg slowed us down a bit. Our work was cut out for us. We needed to work our way through the gaggle, get to the lead, all the while avoiding not getting low and getting dropped off. This required a very delicate balance of going fast without pushing hard. 

We did this by not flailing around and flying faster in the cruise. Going 120 kmh doesn’t lose you much more than going 110. And we maintained good optionality in the climbs. We kept an eye ahead to see if the gaggle was doing better. If not, we were quite patient in the 1.8 knots we were getting and just get chipping away at the separation. We rarely left unless we saw thermals marked ahead.

After the second turnpoint, we merged with the leading pack, with the Germans and the Dutch team. It got really slow for a bit, down to 700 meters and .5 knots. It was already after 6pm and no one wanted to go speculating low for a climb.

We sat for a while in zero and then watched one fellow go out and try to find lift over a quarry. He promptly landed out.

Finally, we as a team decided to adjust and see if we could recore. Sure enough, 1.5 knots for another 300 meters. Again, no one wants to leave. We left once we weren’t climbing. 100 kmh, three abreast, sampling the air as much as possible.

Looking ahead, we see flashes! Staring at them rather intently, they’re going above the horizon. Nose down to 130, we now have a chance to drop the guys behind us. 2 knots! We climb to final glide. Many join above. When to go? Mc 2.1, 50 meters over, we leave.

Floating along at 100, we’re nursing the gliders in good air to pad the glide. It’s getting better and better. We’re now up to Mc 3.5, 35 meters over. Time to speed up. We’re ahead of the pack! The air is dead smooth. We zip into the steering turn and then hit the finish right on the money. Another really efficient final glide.

The glide into the airport was a bit exciting. I hit a whole lot of sink immediately prior to the finish and was again intently looking at the fields below. It got a bit better and I nursed the glider on final. Gear down, cracked the spoilers and landed. As I got out, there was a stream of fiberglass coming in behind. It was almost 7pm and we were exhausted. What an exciting day!

International night began at 8pm. It was a real blast. All the teams prepare food and drink that represents their country. This year, the US team prepared hotdogs, which were quite the hit. We enjoyed sampling many of the dishes and talking to our fellow contestants.

Today is a new day. It should be another good one. We are having a blast and are flying quite well. Let’s go flying!

JWGC Final few days and wrap up from Daniel

Greetings from Kaunas!

The contest is now over and the team has now cleaned up and split up to our respective destinations. I am now in Kaunas and will be heading on a week long road trip through the Baltic countries. I apologize that I’ve fallen off my contest reporting the past couple days. I reached a point in the competition when my energy level dropped off and my efforts had to be much more focused. Over this period, we had two contest days and a lot of rain and more grid squatting.

Day Five as it were was quite exhausting. The day had much stronger wind than anticipated and the lift was much weaker and lower than what was expected. A couple folks that started early did quite well, having managed to fly the wisp line to the turnpoint. The rest (us included) were not in a good position to start and the day cycled out rather abruptly and severely. The wisps dried out and the gaggle was barely staying up, let alone making headway. Finally, at 1:45pm, we all lumbered out the start into the 20 knot headwind.

We started 300 meters lower than the rest, but simply were forced to go. We did not have any choice and any hope of staying up would use the markers ahead. Somewhat miraculously, we caught the pack on the first climb and happily merged in with everyone else. The climbs were painfully slow and weak. We were drifting backwards as much as we were going forward. This persisted the whole way to the turnpoint, where it got even worse. We could see the turn, but could not make any headway or gain any altitude more. When we finally had enough to make it, our average speed was 27 km/h for the first leg. I reckon I could do better on a bicycle!

At this point, it became rather apparent that it was a distance day for us. Everyone in the pack had a heck of a time rounding the turn, but we did a bit worse. We got all split up, though I managed to find Noah and we were finally on our way on the downwind leg. The goal now was to make all the distance we could on this one and then land out on the third leg, which was back into the wind. The downwind run was essential… everyone was going to make it to the next turnpoint. However, the differences on the following leg were going to be relatively small, so we flew conservatively.

JP finally rounded the turnpoint and found himself close to Jake Brattle (EKY), a British contestant, who was split up from his teammate. He got on our frequency and asked if JP wanted to work with him, who was glad to do so. At this point, Noah and I were pulling team JP and Jake, providing useful info ahead.

After we rounded the turn, we just caught up to the pack, though our climb petered out 250 meters lower. We all left, though the next climb was just a bit out of reach. Noah and I landed after having flown a tiring 150km, radioing back to JP/Jake that it got soft. They used this info wisely and flew another 25 km or so in the very weak conditions ahead.

A total of four gliders landed in our field, including Noah and myself, plus an Italian and a Dutch pilot. It was quite far from home and it took our crew almost two hours to get to us. The story does not end there… On the way back, my car broke down. The coolant system failed and we were stranded on the side of the highway. Luckily, two other Dutch pilots stopped with their trailers and gave me a ride back to the airport. We also got dinner on the way. Huge thanks to the Dutch team! Fernando and Gvidas stayed with the car and finally got back at midnight. It was a long and exhausting day for us.

The next several days rained out, until Day Six. We sat on the grid and waited and waited and waited. Finally, at 2:30, it looked like the day was not going to happen. Until it triggered! And man did it go. The clouds quickly went up to 2000 meters and we launched into strong lift. The task was a short, 1.5 hour AAT, which was quite reasonable given the convergence line coming in, with storms behind it. The storms were predicted to be quite severe, with significant wind, precip and even hail.

We decided that our priority was to make it around safely and get the gliders in the box prior to the storms hitting. We stood to lose much more breaking the gliders on the last day than to maximize points. As such, we started early.

I was in a starting position earlier than my teammates and we decided it was best I go alone and then radio back information ahead. I had a terrible first leg. I searched all around and could not find a climb. Getting lower and lower, at 800 meters I had to take anything I could. The climb finally built into 3 knots or so, but I was blowing back quite fast with the 20 knot headwind. My teammates, who started 12 minutes behind me soon caught and passed me 200 meters higher! I was now chasing them, low and behind.

At this point, the convergencey air was moving in from the west and we found good air all the way to the turn area. We found a good climb right on the edge, though I was still a bit lower than my mates. They decided to keep going a bit further in, though I was too low to do this and moved on to the next turn area. I stayed in the company of several other gliders and did not have much trouble. My last major climb averaged out to a bit over 4 knots. Somehow I managed to make a lot of time back on my mates, all the while providing info the whole time. I radioed the position of my last climb and we all were in it for a while.

I left for final glide first and let them know how it was going. It went quite well, though it was clear the storms were rapidly approaching from the West. The air was distinctly different and quite dark. I was quite happy to be getting back at the time that I was… later it looked like it would be quite grim. The final glide was working out well and I kept speeding up and speeding up.

For me, the last final glides in contests are always quite distinctive and memorable. It is the moment I reflect upon the whole contest and feel the intense satisfaction of having had flown in such a wonderful place. And it is also the bittersweet moment that this experience will be coming to an end. I joyfully looked at the airport once I had it in sight and made sure that I would remember it for years to come. Pociunai is truly an amazing place to fly and it was awesome to land on it once more.

We all landed in short succession and rushed to derig our gliders. They were all in the box quite quickly. The storm this time was as advertised… it came in with hail and massive wind and rain that was so strong that you couldn’t see more than a couple hundred yards. I was sure glad to be down on the ground.

Today we finally packed our things and went to the closing ceremony. It was an honor representing our flag and watching the flags of the winners being raised. We felt that we had flown very well, especially as a team. JP, Noah, myself, Tony, John Good, Fernando, Gvidas, Saulaus, and Gouda all worked at our best to make our team as competitive as possible. I think that the US Team has never been as cohesive and effective as it has been in Lithuania, both in the air and on the ground. The flying that JP, Noah and I were doing was magical. When we were on, we flew with the best of the other teams. We have learned a tremendous amount and we have a lot of work ahead to make us a winning team. We definitely need to work on competition strategy. We need to tune our ground support and definitely improve communications between the gliders and the US ground. We need more practice with distance days and very weak weather. All things that we will do in preparation for the next junior worlds in Hungary in 2019…!

Over and out,

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