Light rain and thick cloud this morning postponed briefing and grid time, and created much doubt that any task would be possible. But small patches of sun were in view by 1pm, and by 2:30 pilots were launching for a short turn-area task. Nearly all Club class gliders started promptly, and for a short while things went well: a nice cloudstreet allowed good speeds toward the southern edge of the initial turn cylinder to the west – no circling needed.
But the cloudstreet curved south, well away from the first turn area. Soon all gliders were making 90-degree right turns, into an area of overdeveloped clouds and poor lift. Then began a long a difficult struggle: many gliders joined a single weak thermal about 800’ above the ground. The struggle persisted for about 40 minutes, at which point just three pilots had managed to climb away, all the others having landed (in an area that fortunately has numerous recently harvested wheat fields).
Among those who managed to stay in the air was J.P. Stewart. Having climbed back to an acceptable altitude, he set off on a highly irregular journey around the task. To stay aloft in a deeply troubled sky required huge deviations that at times had him headed almost directly away from the next required turn area. In the end, his persistence and slightly improved conditions allowed him to finish the task – one of just three to do so. Unfortunately, the Club class task is not valid: under WGC rules, at least 25% of pilots must achieve 100km, which only 4 of 38 pilots managed to do.
Many of the flight traces are strange indeed. Wind was northwesterly and strong, so the drift in weak thermals was a big problem. Several pilot got so far downwind while still trying for the first turn area that they actually entered the third one – after more than an hour of flying, they were only a few km closer to the first turn area than they had been at the start (in view of the strong wind, they were effectively further from it).
The Standard class managed a valid day with eight finishers. They had somewhat better air and fewer wind problems (due to better performance) but pilots still had to struggle in creative ways: the winner’s flight trace showed that he visited the 4 turn areas in the following sequence: #2, #1, #2, #1, #3, #4.
Daniel and Noah did not land together, but both had good fields, and the retrieves went well. Noah’s field was enormous by Lithuanian standards – it would not be out of place in Australia. It hosted around a dozen glider landings – substantially more than Pociunai saw yesterday. Ours was about the 6th trailer to arrive, and the first to depart for home (we’d have been quicker if some crews had been a bit better at negotiating a rough and narrow entry path).
In the evening, the moon (one day from full) put on a good show, back-lighting an area of mid-level cloud, then briefly emerging from it. In just 15 days it will be new, and for the US will produce the best solar eclipse since 1979. The path of totality crosses the gliderport at Chilhowee TN, where I plan to be.