Every morning, Walt Rogers sends us a detailed soaring forecast. He has been doing an excellent job and has greatly contributed to the team! Each day he has been pretty accurate. Walt’s key words for Sunday were:
“Both Skysight and TopMeteo are showing soarable conditions by 1300… heights 3600-4800 msl by the end of the afternoon. The day could last fairly late to 1800-1830 CET before strengths drop off. Average thermals 3-3.5 kts… but with the higher cu bases of 5500-6000 msl and “cloud suck”, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 5kts for the best of the day. Overall… Sunday will be good day… and long.”
I, in turn, interpret and calibrate his forecast for the US team. Here was my assessment:
This will probably be the best day of the competition. I agree with Walt’s prognosis, with the notable additions that: 1) The forecast temps at Montlucon are dropping off at 6pm relative to peak, and 2) Expect more of the same heterogeneous conditions in various parts of the task area. The experience over the past couple days suggests that until mid-afternoon the Cu are unreliable. Maybe today with higher clouds things will work out better, we’ll see. To the north by Issoudan looks excellent, even upwards of 2300 meters + at the end of the day. However, to the east and west looks trickier, although there are cumulus clouds predicted over the whole day. With any luck, we will be able to climb up under a reasonable Cu at the end of the day and avoid having to climb up for final glide in the miserable Montlucon hole.
Today should be the end of the strong soaring conditions as it will cool down rapidly tomorrow and through the end of the week. Enjoy today as there will be a lot of struggling to come.
Today, all the models and prognostications were wrong. The weather started falling apart on the grid, taking forever to heat up again. After delay and delay, the winds started to pick up. By the time we launched, the clouds started to wither and by the time the gate opened, it was a struggle to stay up. Club Class started huddling in a mega gaggle and the time started ticking away as most everyone refused to go. Approaching 4pm, the gaggle started to lumber out on course, getting lower and lower and lower. We all struggled at 800 meters, limping from thermal to thermal.
JP and I get separated early today in one of those weak transitions. I consistently radioed back to him expectations further along. Aside from a single 2 m/s thermal (woohoo!), it was very scratchy. At one point the clouds stopped and we made a 90 degree deviation along a cloud street to simple stay airborne. The wind picked up to 40 km/h and the thermals were completely torn apart. We kept struggling and struggling, still nowhere close to the first turnpoint.
At this point, I radioed to Montlucon:
“US Ground, US Ground, Whiskey Alpha.”
Colin Meade, our Team Captain replied:
“Whiskey Alpha, go ahead.”
“US Ground, we’re heading for a certain landout today. Tell our crews to hit the road and head north.”
About 15 minutes later, near Châteauroux, I led out of the gaggle a bit too far along an energy line heading toward a nice cloud. The line worked nicely to maintain my altitudes, but attempts to turn in it simply dumped me out of the sky. Coming back to the group did not help as the lift was too torn up to work with at my altitude. The wind was rip roaring through the area and I was not inclined to thermal at low altitude in these conditions. I set myself up for a pattern to an enormous cut wheat field and lined up parallel to the access road. With the 45 degree flaps into the strong headwind, it felt like I landed at a walking pace.
Much to my surprise, the sky closer to the turnpoint cycled in somewhat after my 5:30pm landing. This worked out for the group that kept struggling as they connected and managed to go another 140 km further, but still short of the finish. Everyone in my class landed out today. Only 19 pilots finished the task between the other two classes and none on the US Team. It was a brutal soaring day!
Donat was on his way and arrived in a little over an hour. We had the glider apart lickety split and headed back home. At least landing out early we had the satisfaction of watching the conga line of trailers driving down the small French roads, heading away while we were heading back.
When we arrived at 8:45pm, I linked up with Jen, my better half. She just arrived in France and will stay for the next week. She came at the perfect time, right as International Night started!
International Night is one of the most exciting and unique events at a World Gliding Championship. Here all the teams from the different countries prepare foods and drinks that represent their nation. Each team has a table and serves the crews and pilots of the other teams. Among the highlights were real Belgian waffles, Dutch cheeses and strupwaffles, Spanish paella, and Austrian speck. The Americans made S’mores and red, white, and blue fruit salad.
Of course there was the assortment of alcoholic drinks as well, with German beer, French wine, and an assortment of hard liquors. The US served Jack Daniels and Coke. But I can’t comment on their relative merits. That said, the organizers were shrewd to declare Monday a rest day, so pilots and crews alike indulged accordingly.
Thanks to my friends at Aero Club Albatross, who have given me all the 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.