Sarah Arnold and I are here at the 9th Women’s World Gliding Championships in Zbraslavice, Czech Republic. It’s Saturday evening, and we are just back from the Opening Ceremony. Tomorrow (weather permitting) will be the first competition day.
I must apologize for being late in filing my first daily report – I’d hoped to have made several by now. But both Sarah and I have been kept quite busy, both getting here (a bit more challenging that it should have been, as I hope at some point to describe) and getting her Standard Cirrus glider ready for the competition. And the struggle for internet access is proving to be at least as significant here as at other WGC events.
Zbraslavice is a small town about 50 miles southeast of Prague – and thus near the center of the country. (To say the name correctly, give the ‘Z’ only minor attention, and make “vice” sound like “VIT-se”.) The airfield looks to be well suited to a contest of around 50 gliders in three classes: the runway is 2600’ x 500’ of good-quality grass, and there is plenty of room for trailer parking, glider tiedowns, and a substantial tent village housing perhaps half the pilots and crews. The venue for pilot meetings is a large tent, which so far has been serving well – though as we’ve seen it flaps loudly when the wind approaches 20 kts (as it did on the final practice day, yesterday).
The local town of importance is Kutna Hora, some 20 km north. This is the place for serious shopping, a good choice of restaurants, and this afternoon’s Opening Ceremony. Kutna Hora’s history goes back a thousand years; it became rich due to local silver mines and one result of this wealth was the Cathedral of Saint Barbara, a most impressive building (sporting vast numbers of flying buttresses) begun in 1388 and finished in 1512. After suitable welcoming speeches and music in one of the town squares, contest participants marched around a half mile to this noble destination and were treated to a short organ concert – a standard of elegance it will be hard for future WGC events to match.
Following this, we returned to the airfield for a buffet-style meal (very well done) and a flyby of two Saab Gripen jets belonging to the Czech Air Force. The only issue here was the temperature – around 45 F – which had everyone dressed in the warmest clothes they had brought. I expect not everyone in the tent village will be toasty warm tonight.
Sarah and I will not be suffering. We have pleasant – and inexpensive – rooms in an old mill building, now doing duty as an annex to the local hotel. The walk up to our rooms is interesting, as it meanders between tastefully renovated sections and unrestored areas of the old waterwheel-powered mill. It’s also a serious climb: exactly 50 steps up to Sarah’s elegant loft room. Mine requires climbing a mere 33 steep steps – not unwelcome on a cold evening, and sure to keep us in shape over the course of this contest.