Greetings from Montlucon! Today, I report back as a senior competition pilot. In fact, when a friend of mine learned that I was selected for this Club Class team, he sent me a walking cane to signal my advancement in years. I appreciated the good humor, but this morning I almost could have used it. After having assembled the ASW20A every day for seven times, my back muscles have started giving out. The wings on this glider are freakin’ heavy. And this morning, I woke up with a sharp pain in my shoulders and lower back.
Until my back muscles heal up in the next couple of days, I have resolved not to lift anything heavy. Thankfully, the US crews and teammates took pity on me and helped me assemble. It was a bit embarrassing to have to ask Tim Taylor if he could lift the wing root and my crew lift the tip, but he gleefully obliged. All that said, this kind of stuff is no joke. A good junior friend of mine recently herniated his back bottom discs and recently had surgery after experiencing severe pain for many months. Phil, thank you for giving me the courage to swallow my pride and ask for help to avoid getting hurt.
Tonight was “French Night”, with appetizers and drinks for pilots and crews alike, so the organizers figured they would set a short task to get everyone back early. However, in all of the events that have tried using this rationale in task-setting, this never worked. Instead, pilots simply wait longer and longer in the starting area in huge gaggles. In Lithuania, I remember milling around for three hours on a “banquet task” because no one in the gaggle was willing to start. The Club Class safety pilot successfully cautioned against this eventuality, so the organizers promptly came back with a new task that was somewhat 50km longer than the original one, for a respectable 166km in Club Class.
Anyway, with the late finish yesterday and less restful night, I was a bit lethargic and grumpy. We had blue skies and the day was getting *hot*. JP and I were just somewhat unsettled in the morning, but things slowly ramped up for us as we headed toward our gliders for an earlier launch. Colin in the meanwhile helped work out a microphone issue in my glider. JP has had a hard time hearing me on his radio and Ross Drake advised us to increase the microphone sensitivity on the Becker radio. With Colin’s help, I followed Ross’ instructions and now the radio worked!
Today we were launching in the front of the grid, so we had to prepare for a *long* flight. We were fully prepared for the prospect of milling around for a long time until the gaggle got its act together and decided to go. After launch, JP and I were pleasantly surprised with stronger than expected thermals. The day was cooking off faster than expected and we were able to climb to 1,500 meters in reasonably coherent lift. This is a treat! In the past days it was wholly rational to soar in -0.2 m/s down. Today was a *real* soaring day.
After positioning ourselves in the starting area, we were surprised to see that some Club Class gliders were actually streaming out on course. For once the gaggle was going to go closer to the peak time! It turned out that the Germans snuck away and enough gliders chased after them that the race was on. We left toward the back end and rode the Nantucket sleighride.
When you leave late, the big gamble you take is falling off the group in front of you, so we drove hard. Our first real climbs were after the first turnpoint, and we really drove ourselves a bit lower than we should have. It took a while of digging around in 1 m/s to get reconnected.
However, on the second leg we started catching up to folks. The leading gaggle was almost in reach, so it was just a matter of keeping the pressure on. After a good climb before the second turn, JP and I managed to get connected with the main gaggle and start working our way into the hazy mess to the west.
For a while, going toward the third and fourth turns brought survival conditions. Gliders were landing below us and we struggled to climb even at 700 meters altitude. Some gliders dug out from very low altitudes here. The gaggle slowly lumbered along, until we hit 2 m/s (!) approaching the turn. After skyrocketing back up, we tagged the turn, came back to the climb and were in a good position to set up for final glide.
Team flying wise, after the second turn JP and I separated. I caught a bubble that JP didn’t catch and I went chasing after the gaggle. However, I radioed back information ahead, helping JP catch up. After I left for final glide, JP was set up solidly in a thermal and managed to then finish only three minutes behind me (20 points). On my part, the team flying helped me catch up to the gaggle and get established in the first place.
JP and I had a pretty good day, finishing in the top 1/3 of our class. We were happy with the day, intent on trying to stay consistent especially on the trickier blue days. As far as the other classes, pretty much everyone landed out. The banquet task concept did not work again. Standard Class did not get a valid day because almost everyone landed short of the 100km minimum distance. 15M did get a valid day, with Sebastian Kawa making it around with a handful of other folks. Everyone on the US Team in Standard and 15M landed out, with Sean Murphy (XC) having to carry his JS3 out of a field piece by piece. Everyone made it back safely to the airport one way or another.
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.