Today was a great day for the US Team! We all made it around a short Racing task, with the Club Class team driving hard with the fast gaggle. It wasn’t especially fast on the scoresheet thanks to waiting a ridiculously long time to start.
The task-setter was not terribly optimistic this morning and set a short 165 km task. The weather quickly developed up to forecast for once; we were up to 1500 meters and there were even wisps in the task area. Instead of the slow struggle that everyone geared up for in the morning we were getting ready for making serious speed.
What a difference it was from yesterday! Being up at 1500 meters rather than 950 just looked like a completely different universe. We were relaxed and I was even getting a little sleepy going round and round in the flat start gaggle. We are going to have to wait a long time for this group to go.
Close to 1:30pm and the early starters started to go. The gaggle kept going round and round.
2pm…. 2:15…. Okay this is getting ridiculous. The day is going to start tapering soon, let’s go already!
2:45pm, the Germans finally couldn’t take it anymore and filed out of the gate.
And the race was on. We managed to resist the urge to go for a minute and then went full afterburner. 18 gliders were driving hard now.
When chasing down a gaggle you have to drive as hard as you can possibly go. Get dropped off and you’re done. We are riding the end of the day; if you fall off the back there’s a good chance you *will* land out. You’re in for a real Nantucket sleigh-ride when racing a group.
First thermal and you pull in tight and hard into 4 knots. The top elements are starting to leave, gotta get ready to go. The first sign of the lift tapering off and you dive out toward the next one. Eyes are focused on the whole group of gliders, watching which ones are rising and falling in the glide. The US team in turn was providing lift and sink reports
1.9 down on the left...
1.1 on the right… shifting right!!
Glider turning 11 o-clock low.
Tally ho! 160 kmh?
We managed to catch up to the Germans quite quickly and rounded the first turn with them. Then the conditions fell apart ahead and we were getting lower and lower.
One of the annoying features of these kinds of gaggles is that usually handful of people lead them and most leech off the back. When things got tough and the US team found itself at the front, we fanned out with the Germans to try to find the next thermal. When we did, I was at the very bottom end and missed the bubble. I watched the whole herd come in above me and out-climb me. Now I was chasing from below, desperate to avoid falling off.
When the thermal tapers off, you have to go. If you stick around in 1 knot trying to get back in the band, they’ll drop you like a set of car keys.
Approaching the Tisza River, it got weak. We were watching pilots on final glide back home and we weren’t even halfway done on this task. The thermal weakened and I had to leave low once more over the valley of death.
Crossing toward the turn there was a nice large town that would hopefully generate a thermal. David Collins flying 1A started with us and got ahead of the group. He was sitting in 4 knots and I dropped the nose to catch him. And sure enough, I connected with a strong bubble and worked my way back up to the whole group. What a relief!
Coming back across the river, we once again got slowed down and struggled in 1-2 knot lift. Noah left with the Germans when it got weak and the thermal recycled for JP and myself. When Noah reported that the lift was better ahead, we dove off ahead and connected with him.
But it wasn’t there when we just arrived and moved on. Now we were driving the gaggle.
Looking ahead we were going to better terrain over the third turn. We were far enough from the river and we were heading toward infrastructure and a couple wisps. Maybe we could find a decent thermal there?
We dumped the nose and drove along with the gaggle giving chase. At the turn there was lift but it was not organized. We flailed around a bit and the herd came in above. Damn!
But little by little we managed to find bubbles here and there to work our way up. By being in gear, we managed to outclimb the bunch and get ourselves in a good position for the last leg. Finally we were once again with the Germans, gliding along toward a thermal marked by 1A. It was a solid 3 knots and we were now looking at final glide.
Final glides are my specialty on this team. I rarely bust them and yet I consistently gain on others by being a bit more aggressive when it’s appropriate. And looking ahead I can see a nice road, infrastructure and wisps along the way. The air was lifty and the spacing of thermals was close. This was a day we could bump up very nicely.
So when the glide computer was in the ballpark, I announced I was leaving the thermal.
Noah and JP were surprised as we were a bit low on the glide, but gave chase. We left the whole bunch behind us.
And sure enough, the glide improved and we got fatter and fatter. JP nailed it and cruised on home. I pushed over a bit early and then had to pay for it when I hit some sink just short of the finish and had to slow down. Noah was in the middle. But in the end we beat all but the British home; those guys were well on top of the last thermal and just mowed everyone down.
In the end we were among the top finishers of our starting group. What a fun day!
See my flight here.
See our results here.
Thanks to all our supporters back home who have given us the opportunity to represent our country at the Junior Worlds!