08-09-21 | Day Two- Chasing Down the Gaggle

Greetings from Montlucon! Today had all sorts of unexpected surprises, most notably that we flew at all. The day started with thick mid-level and high-level clouds which totally blocked out the sun. And yet, the skies parted and the thermals kicked on, and the cumulus clouds developed, and the Standard and Club Class flew their shortened B tasks. JP and I started late, ran down the gaggle mostly, though JP and I unfortunately separated about 2/3 into the task. I succeeded in catching the front of the gaggle, hitting the final glide first and making it home, for a third place finish. JP landed safely just within the finish ring, 5km short of the airport.

This morning, among our surprises was seeing a 1911 replica of a Bleriot airplane being put together in front of the main hangar. Apparently Thierry our Contest Director is an airplane aficionado, with all sorts of interesting contraptions and toys in his hangar at Montlucon. I’d love to see this airplane fly sometime!

After the normal administrative elements of the briefing, everyone listened very intently to Aude, our weatherwoman. She noted that the high cloud cover would eventually burn off and we had the prospects of a pretty decent boundary layer.

Once we made it out to the grid, the sky only seemed to darken more and more. We talked to our Swiss, Italian, and Slovenian friends about our respective countries and glider clubs. We know Mark Travener from several Junior World Gliding Championships and enjoyed his company. It turned out his teammate Vojko Starovic is a member of the Slovenian parliament. I was surprised by this, considering the improbability of a US congressman being in our sport. But then further in our conversation we concluded he was no more than two degrees of separation from the President of Slovenia. When a country has a population of two million people, it’s amazing how everyone kind of knows each other.

Approaching 3pm, the skies parted and little cumulus clouds formed in the distance. The organizers finally got the gears of the operation going and told everyone to clear their gliders off the runway. We were going to fly!

Going into the short 150km task, it was clear that the soarable window was going to be short. We needed to get up and get going. However, predictably, the gaggle refused to go. The time ticking past 4:30… 4:45…. even 5pm, and only then did the herd charge off on task. We hung on for a little while longer to start just past 5:03pm. I don’t think I have ever started a task this late at a competition ever before.

JP and I were on high gear, chasing after the British, Germans, and the rest of the gaggle. But as we got going, the lift only got weaker and weaker. Going into the second leg into a quartering headwind, we got low and slow, the antithesis of the maxim “get high and stay high”. At one point we were down to 750 meters, totally rolled by the gaggle. We worked our way up, got to the turn and managed to merge in with the bottom of the herd. I connected and started fighting my way up toward the front of the gaggle. JP unfortunately did not connect with the bubble and struggled mightily for the rest of the task.

It was 6:30pm at this point and the day was dying. There were many gliders content to park in 0.2 m/s, just simply to avoid going down. There were many gliders in the fields below us. But we kept plodding along, slowly and surely. I kept my energy and pace up, slowly working further and further up and past many gliders.

My last thermal was a real surprise. Well after 7pm, we found a 1.5 knot climb for final glide. This sucker was perfectly smooth and solid and it took us up and away. I left first for final glide, at MC 1 m/s, 50 meters over the finish ring. I nursed the ship home, but the air was smooth and so the glide stuck just fine. I crossed the line, landed direct at 7:45pm and was content to watch all the gaggle streaming in behind me.

JP landed short, but just within the 5km finish ring in a field we pre-scouted for the contest.

In all, the day worked out very well for us, especially considering that about half of the class had landed out. For once, we manage to control the gaggle and the start and go when we wanted to go. The ASW20s worked very nicely for this strategy for the day, doing excellently on the glide and very well on the climb as well. Hopefully we can keep this going over the next upcoming days.

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.

See the daily scores here.

2 Replies to “08-09-21 | Day Two- Chasing Down the Gaggle”

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