The final day of WGC2017 was also the weakest, lowest, bluest and slowest – and the one with the fewest total finishers. It was a serious test and thus perhaps a fitting way to end what has been a very challenging contest.
15-Meter pilots were first to launch, and thought to be in need of a true challenge, to compensate for having achieved only 5 scored days. And they got one, in the form of a long area task with a first leg into the eastern hills. As has been the pattern, nearly all pilots waited until very late to start. (When you start a 3.5-hour task well after 3pm on a day when lift is predicted to be weak by 5:30 and dead by 6:30, your return home may be in jeopardy.)
In all, 13 pilots failed to complete their task. Those who did turned in notably low – bordering on pitiful – speeds. If this morning you had told Sebastian Kawa he’d manage just 81.5 kph, he’d have been sure his quest for yet another 15-Meter World Championship had failed. Yet this speed was good for first place, 1000 points, and a comfortable win.
In view of the 15-Meter class struggles (which were apparent well before the full class had been launched) the “long winger” classes had their tasks scaled back to semi-reasonable distances. Yet we still saw 8 outlandings in 18-Meter class, and 7 in Open. Speeds in these classes were a notch or two above pitiful, but still quite low (easily the worst of the contest).
In 18-Meter class, Killian Walbrou of France had little trouble holding his first-place position: he won the day (at 98 kph) and with it the championship. In Open class, results were not so straightforward: all pilots standing in the top three overall had uncharacteristically poor results. Michael Sommer managed to beat Russel Cheetham of Great Britain – but by only 12 points, which was not enough to overtake him, so Russel is the new Open Class champion. (Here again, had you suggested before the flight that 91 kph would keep Russel in first place, you’d have earned some strange looks.)
This contest has to be seen as a triumph for Jonker Sailplanes. Thirty-two of their models were competing here; they took first place in both Open and 18-Meter classes, and their brand new JS-3 achieved notable results on several days in 15-Meter class. Another new model here was the 18-Meter Ventus 3; by taking 3 of the top 5 places, it has begun to establish the sort of reputation that the Schempp-Hirth factory was hoping it might.
It’s now well past midnight, and I must get some sleep for a busy day that includes the Closing Ceremony and much disassembly and packing for the trip home. I’ll have one more post that comments on the US Team’s experience here, and the future of World Gliding Contests.