Today began with more grim weather – and a near riot. I’m happy to say that both situations saw improvement by the end of the day.
After substantial overnight rain, we again awoke to overcast skies. Having adapted (to the extent possible for glider pilots) to this difficult weather pattern, we were trying to get our minds around the possibility of a third straight no-contest day. But the forecast was cautiously optimistic – and the predicted clearing arrived around 11:30. Conditions improved steadily, launches went off as planned, and we ended up with the best conditions and speeds of the contest thus far.
The day’s area tasks proved a bit short for the good weather. Both in Standard and 20-Meter classes, some pilots flew close to the maximum possible distance in less than the specified minimum time. Despite this minor glitch, it’s fair to say that everyone’s mood has brightened considerably.
The near riot calls for some explanation: The FAI is the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (read: International Airsports Federation) – a venerable organization that does not take itself lightly. This contest is held under the FAI’s auspices, and thus is required to observe approved decorum, which includes playing the FAI anthem at opening and closing ceremonies, and displaying the FAI flag. This flag has become a common focus for pranks – the goal of certain mischievous individuals is to steal it out from under the noses of contest organizers, then hoist it in unapproved locations and circumstances, etc.
This has happened here. Unconfirmed reports say that there were two FAI flags, both of which have disappeared. Contest organizers are Not Amused. At the morning pilot briefing, it was announced that no flying would happen until a flag was returned. When the assembled pilots realized this was meant seriously, many of them rose and loudly booed. The mood was not good.
I’ll note that this rather heavy-handed approach seems out of character for WGC2016, where the general approach has been mild application of authority, resulting in a very smooth-running, low-stress contest. I’ll also say that FAI flag capers are becoming a rather stale joke – this was mildly amusing when it was a fresh idea, but that was quite some time ago.
When the booing subsided, the pilot briefing was terminated, to be re-convened in an hour. At the second briefing, it was announced that gridding, launching and flying would proceed as normal (to everyone’s relief, as there were now ample signs of good weather arriving).
It’s unclear how this ends. The FAI flag is said to be an essential part of Sunday’s closing ceremony. The general hope – and expectation – is that the pranksters relent and the flag(s) reappear.