WGC2017 enjoyed its first truly hot weather today, which (as expected) delivered much the best soaring conditions of this contest. The high temperature at Benalla was reported to be 107 F, and north of here (where two of the three classes were sent) it apparently reached 111.
“But it’s a dry heat.” Well, in northern Victoria this is nearly always the case. The very hot days are associated with northwest winds that bring in air from the parched & broiled interior of Australia. Humidity is extremely low, as evidenced by the fact that much of the task area was again free of cumulus clouds (only the extreme northern sections had some). It’s rare indeed to fly in strong thermal lift two miles above the ground with no scrap of cloud above you.
On the ground, crews and contest workers baked; in the air, pilots were mostly cool and comfortable, cruising at altitudes that occasionally exceeded 13,000’. As a safety measure, WGC2017 very sensibly provides oxygen at no charge to pilots; no doubt quite a bit was consumed today. (In Australia, supplemental oxygen is required above 10,000’; savvy pilots start using it around 5000’.)
The Open class had a heroic task today: 747 km. Given the 4-km-radius finish cylinder, this means that 31 pilots did over 750 km. They were led by Michael Sommer of Germany (defending World Champion) who managed 161.4 kph, which equates to 100.25 mph – not too shabby for 465 miles without using an engine. Some grumbling was heard at the morning pilot briefing when this long task was announced, but it proved to be an excellent call, which nearly all pilots completed.
The 18-Meter class had an area task not quite as far north as the Open class, but still into strong conditions, which allowed 6 pilots to cover over 700 km. Unfortunately, it was a tough day for Sean Fidler, who has been turning in excellent flights during this contest. He managed to come to earth just a couple of kilometers short of the finish.
The 15-Meter class was sent off to the west, into conditions predicted to be good, but not quite “booming” (not the first time the “short-wingers” have drawn the short stick on tasking direction). Though they didn’t find fields of cumulus clouds or reach the amazing altitudes enjoyed by the other two classes, nearly all completed the 500-km task. Bouncing back from his outlanding yesterday, Uys Jonker took first.
Benalla’s dry heat can be put to other uses than keeping motorless aircraft aloft: it provides about the best clothes-drying conditions found anywhere. Homes in this area typically have a washing machine but no dryer – the latter would be a waste of money and space in a climate where the first clothes hung on a line are dry before the last ones are pinned up.