Greetings from Montlucon! Today was the last competition day and we were expecting ground hog day once again; weak, blue, tricky conditions. Early on it took a long time to cook and the launch once again was delayed and delayed. I took the opportunity to walk up and down the grid to talk to a couple folks I hadn’t had a chance to during the contest. Among the interesting things was seeing the Finnish tow ropes, which looked like they can haul a beached cargo ship out of troubled waters. Those tow ropes never break!
When we launched, everyone struggled to stay aloft. The gaggle milled around in the blue just under release altitude. One pilot in 15M even landed out just outside of the start line! We struggled and struggled, trying to stay alive both in soaring terms and in the busy gaggles.
We expected that with the tricky conditions that our class would go in one big group. However, this was not the case. The class instead trickled out on course and we missed our first good opportunity to go. Returning to starting position took a while, though we linked up with Thies (IV) and Robin (RSM) from the Dutch team. We really like the Dutchies and were really happy that Thies was in contention for Silver. We were happy to aid them along on this final day.
We started as a gaggle and chased out on course. The thermals were still painfully low and weak, though the ground slowly dropped off heading north. I pushed out ahead as I was higher than the group, finding a thermal down at 600 meters at the edge of a field and a forest. No use hanging back in the gaggle today, if I mark thermals ahead then I am doing better work for the group.
JP and the Dutchies caught up and we were flying together. Thies greets us on our frequency and we start team flying as a group of four. The day got a bit better, with some Cu and 1.5-2 m/s thermals. We were driving hard, chasing down Robin who was a bit higher in his LS4.
On the second leg I led out a bit too far and diverged from a cloud that the group ultimately took off to my side. Rather than sidestep and latch into the group, I drove forward, again looking to mark a thermal. I had to take a large deviation to do so, but found 2 m/s. JP joined me, though the Dutchies took the straight line and got a little ahead.
We linked back up at the second turnpoint, though a little bit lower, perhaps 150 meters or so. We kept with them and when one bubble did not work for me, I kept going ahead. I found a weak bubble at 600 meters and the Dutchies and JP joined above. This gave the Dutch pilots almost enough for final glide, though the thermal weakened for JP and myself such that we deviated toward a baking field with a tractor, hoping to get a final climb.
It didn’t work. Other than a weak thermal down at 600ft that hung on at zero for a while, the day just simply gave out on us a little too early. I landed first in a cut wheat field and JP joined shortly thereafter. We were a little over 10km short.
We were very happy to hear that Thies and Robin made it back and that Thies managed to keep his second place position for the contest and we felt that our little group did just fine for the day. We started a bit too late which caused troubles at the end, but ce la vie. JP and I were happy that for once we managed to stay together the whole day.
The retrieves went well. We met our first farmer during the whole contest and this fellow actually spoke excellent English. Apparently he did business in Delaware in a past life and traveled quite a bit to the states. We thoroughly cleaned the gliders and brought them back home.
Among several notable traditions at world events are the closing party. After we arrived, we got a quick dinner at a buffet and joined the raucous group at the airport. Here the US Team shared the champagne I won several days ago and reminisced on recent contest stories and some John Good stories from back in the day. Later they turned the runway lights on and apparently the party moved up and down the runway.
Another tradition is trading team shirts. This year I arranged several, scoring Swiss, Italian, and Ukrainian shirts. The Ukrainians were especially fun, giving me a Ukrainian flag while they were at it. I really enjoyed the team and international spirit at this event.
Since I am in a bit of a rush this morning, I will leave concluding remarks for a later post tonight after I spend a bit of time reflecting on the journey while driving my trailer to Switzerland. Stay tuned!
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.