Greetings from Montlucon! Today started with pessimism and then high hopes for flying, followed by pessimism again. As we rolled into the airport, the sky became more and more gray, with ominous showers lurking in the distance. When we arrived at the meeting, we were told by our wonderful weatherwoman, Aude Untersee not to worry as the day would have a drying trend into the afternoon. Alas this was not the case as the showers simply developed more and more over the day and resulting in the tasks being cancelled for all classes.
The morning briefing was a bit chaotic. When the tasks were unveiled, there was confusion over the complicated airspace in this region. Unlike in the United States where you could fly pretty much wherever you want *other* than the couple places where you cannot, in Europe it’s fair to assume you can’t fly in a given area unless you are absolutely sure that you can. There are many prohibited and restricted zones over antennas, nuclear power plants, and military zones. These zones get opened and closed at various intervals, making it challenging for pilot and task-setter alike to account for them. We even have a maximum ceiling of 2,100 meters (6,100ft), kind of like Class A airspace back home. In any case, when the tasks were unveiled, there was some doubt over which airspace was open and which was not for the day. The pilots at the meeting were expressing their fears and concerns over the sporting implications of accidentally entering certain airspace, which were promptly addressed by Thierry, our Contest Director.
Subsequently, I hurried to get my glider on the grid prior to the 11:30am deadline and went to meet with my teammate JP to talk strategy for the day. Our team forecast by weatherman Walt Rogers agreed with Skysight’s pessimistic forecast of extensive showers in our task area. If we managed to launch at 1:20pm as the organizers hoped, this would suggest that we should get going on the 150 km task lickety split as the gate opened. On the other hand, Aude Untersee’s forecast suggested that the showers would dissipate as the day went on, with good soaring conditions later in the afternoon. Note that Aude is an excellent glider pilot, having flown several Junior and Women’s World Gliding Championships, and works for the Geneva weather bureau. She is certainly to be trusted as an expert in her field! Given her forecast, the thing to do would be to start late, even as late as 4:15pm for the 1:45 hour task. The big question was determining whether this was a “Walt” or an “Aude” day, and JP and I bounced off ideas as to how things might develop. We even leaned that the day was developing more optimistically as the forecast radar showed the showers dissipating earlier than expected, just as Aude predicted.
Optimistic that we would race, we got back to the gliders just before 1pm. At this point a heavy shower passed overhead, drenching all the gliders on the grid. We stayed in our cars to let it pass and Aude wrote a cheery WhatsApp message showing a webcam of beautiful skies 70km upwind of our location, encouraging us with better weather to come soon. Once the immediate rain passed, we got our flight computers and gliders to go.
Then we waited and waited. The clouds refused to go away and the angry showers still seemed to linger off in the distance. At this time we took the opportunity to talk to our Ukrainian and Italian friends on the grid. We commiserated and bantered with regards to the weather, our sailplanes, and our home gliding clubs. The Ukrainian fellow, Misha flies a Jantar Standard 3 and took a lot of interest in our polypropylene towropes. They don’t see these kinds of ropes in Europe very much, generously provided by Sarah Arnold for each of the six team members. Writing this, I realize that it may seem unusual that each team has its own ropes at a contest. Well at this meet, each glider has its own rope, hooked up and ready to go to the glider prior to launch. The ground crew then attaches the rope to the towplane and the glider gets launched. The ropes are then released at the end of a tow to be retrieved by the team crew.
It’s also worth noting that JP is also flying an ASW20a in this contest, allowing us to team fly very effectively together in gliders of the same performance. That said, I have to be very careful to always stay wingtip to wingtip with him over the meet. If I were to get ahead of him, the IRS would be after me! For our European friends who don’t appreciate the significance of JP having “IRS” as his call sign, in the USA the IRS is the Internal Revenue Service, responsible for collecting our taxes.
In any case, we kept waiting and waiting and the weather refused to improve. Finally just shy of 3pm, the organizers told the Club Class that our day was cancelled. We proceeded to return our gliders back to the trailers, getting drenched by heavy showers along the way. Standard and 15m classes were cancelled about an hour later as well.
If nothing else, all of the 95 gliders at this meet had a very nice “glider wash” courtesy of the Montlucon skies. Poor Donat had wiped down my ASW20A two times today
In the end, today was a great “trial” run of a real day, for everyone at the meet. Thanks Walt Rogers for his excellent forecast! Everything got ironed out that much better and we are raring for an honest soaring day to do some racing!
Thanks to my friends at Aero Club Albatross, who have given me all resources, mentoring, and opportunities to grow as a recently aged-out junior pilot. Thanks to the many people who support me and the US Team to make flying at a WGC possible.