Today was the fourth and final practice day. All of the team members are up to speed and are ready to go. The equipment is tuned and ready to race. The pilots are 100 percent race ready. We are really excited!
Since Noah need to scrutineer his ship in the morning, only JP and I were going to fly together today. Our wonderful crews, Luke and Jonathan did a great job prepping the gliders and getting them out to the grid. We had our morning briefing and headed on over to our ships.
The weather did not pan out as forecast. High cloud cover from precipitation to our SW came quicker than expected and kept the conditions from triggering locally. The organizers delayed launching the grid and then changed to a new task. This gave Luke a great opportunity to practice changing the task for the LX 9050 on SeeYou while on the grid. We were ready to go in no time!
While the grid was being postponed, it was a wonderful time for socializing. I met the Norwegian team with their ASW-15s. Noah and I flew with them quite a bit on the second practice day. We also got to hang out with the Australian juniors. They put their best pilot into the cockpit today, but unfortunately he won’t be flying in this competition. He aged out from racing in junior contests, at least in kangaroo years. He’ll be acting as their crew and moral support!
A little after 1pm, the Contest Director cancelled the launch. JP and I launched anyway since we wanted to keep fiddling with our equipment and found a couple thermals to scratch in north of the airport. We had no trouble staying up, though couldn’t climb much above 800 meters.
I was content to simply stay up, relax and enjoy the view. It is much less stressful being up here than on the ground. The LS-4 was flying so exquisitely well. It thermals like a dream. You can’t do wrong in a turn. It is happy going slow, it is happy going steep and fast. Some thermals need a little bit of finesse, but the glider works with you. It is said that the LS-4 is the black Labrador of sailplanes. This ship is especially friendly and affectionate.
The conditions slowly kicked off and we slowly worked our way to the north with other gliders. Much to our surprise, we managed to eventually climb up to 1600 meters and a cloud shelf opened up ahead.
I was pretty leery of taking much sporting risk, especially on the practice days. I didn’t want to deal with a retrieve and tire myself out when the points don’t even count. And my first reaction looking at the rain and cloud shelf was ugh. I didn’t want to get in there and then have it build into a storm and deal with thunderbolts and lightning. But upon second inspection, it was holding steady. The CAPE forecast in the morning was not very energetic. It shouldn’t blow up into anything ridiculous and so I joined JP in running the line.
And it worked great! We managed to maintain our altitude and bump along several smooth and wide thermals without much difficulty. No worries there at all. We went a ways into the turn sector, got to the edge of gliding distance from home and headed back.
We had no intention of going to the second turnpoint today. But it was clear that if we were racing today, there would have been a lot of strategic decision-making. Is it possible to make it around the shower to the other side? Would we need to hold and allow conditions to cook? For how long until the day collapses? Or maybe accept it’s a distance day and max out the first leg and do the best we can on the second? We discussed this with John Good, our team captain and worked on how the team can benefit from such information in flight.
After working our way closer to home, JP and I parted ways. He wanted to fly for longer. I tested out flying the ship at high speed and the vibration in the tail came back at 165 km/h. I wanted to get back home and diagnose that.
I practiced a final glide along the way. To my surprise, the MC4 glide completely fell apart. I ended up about 150 meters low at the steering turn and had to dig out from about 300 meters AGL near Szatymaz Airport. I was perfectly content to land there if I needed to; one of the nice things about the fact that we are taking gliders apart every day is that landing short is of not much greater hassle or consequence. I dug out in a weak thermal and got myself on a fat glide and slid on home on a straight in final. Along the way, I inspected the fields on the approach path for future days.
In world competitions, they prefer to use straight-in finals as their default landing procedure. This lines everyone up in a predictable fashion. Each country teaches circuits their own way and each pilot has his own idea of how to do it. But if you give the pilots just enough energy to make it home, the thought is that there is little else they can do other than manage their energy, drop the gear and land straight ahead. For pilots in lower level competitions, this might sound crazy. But it actually works very well. If you scout out the fields short of the airfield and have a plan for each step of the final leg, it is a safe way to do it. And this really is the best way to manage getting 70+ gliders down on an airfield in a short time span.
In any case, it wasn’t busy today. JP joined me shortly thereafter and Luke pulled us back to the trailers to disassemble.
We think we figured out what was making the vibration in the tail! The tailwheel rotates very freely and is slightly out of balance. At 165 km/h, it would start to free wheel, causing a real racket. We put a little pad to provide a bit of friction on the wheel and we suspect that this should solve the problem.
Afterwards, we went off to a team dinner. The Hungarian folks renting out the houses to the US and Australian teams threw us a little party and made wonderful Goulash soup. The teams commingled and we had a wonderful evening.
Tomorrow is the opening ceremony and Sunday is the first contest day. We are now resting, and getting a couple more team things done in the morning. It’s almost time to race!
See my flight log here.