Today’s important weather feature was a passing cold front that gave us early low cloud, then good lift and lots of northwest wind: gusts of 20 kts on the ground, and 25 kts at cloudbase. The front took its time passing, which delayed the launch until 1pm and left us with short (2-hour) tasks. It also lived up to its name, with temperatures and wind chill low enough to cause everyone here to break out the warmest clothes available. The Australians checked weather at home and reported that summer in Europe can be colder than winter in their country.
The Club Class was last to launch, and most pilots delayed their start until around 3pm. Initially, conditions were very good: strong thermals producing nice cumulus clouds organized into good streets by the strong wind. But as the afternoon wore on the cumulus clouds started to spread out and lift weakened while the wind persisted. The return home, directly into the wind, was starting to look difficult.
By 5pm, various real-time tracking displays (closely watched by crews every day) were telling a grim story: all pilots were over their 2-hour task time and all were headed toward home, but few were making any progress at all. Climbs were still available, but the altitude gained in each was barely sufficient to make up the ground that had been lost to wind drift while circling. In the end, only one Club Class glider returned home: an ASW-24, which is close to the best-performing model allowed in this class and thus the best choice for making distance against a strong wind (we presume that the skill of the pilot – Angelika Mayr of Germany – also had something to do with this result). All the rest outlanded south of Zbraslavice.
Sarah flew in company with Ailsa McMillan of Australia today, and their partnership worked reasonably well. They landed together in a nice field near the town of Humpolec, about an hour’s drive from Zbraslavice. The retrieve went well, and we were back home by 8:30 pm.
Which was a good thing, because this had been declared International Night, when all teams are encouraged to offer food and drink typical of their country to the assembled multitudes. Sarah had brought large quantities of pecans and Jack Daniels Honey (mixed with lemonade) as being typical of eastern Tennessee. The pecans were popular and so was Mr. Daniels latest (though it seemed to me the crowd preferred it straight).
A loud band (thanks be to whoever invented foam earplugs) kept the crowd entertained, the food and drink on offer was impressive, and no one who wished otherwise had any excuse for leaving hungry or fully sober. I should note that whereas some rumors had it that Christine Grote was in questionable shape from her rough landing on Day 2, she was present at International Night, prominent among the dancers, and quite evidently in good health. She is a favorite here, and we are all sorry she is now headed home.