This was perhaps the toughest day yet.
It involved assembling, gridding and launching 110 gliders (more than a few multiple times) only to see every one fall to earth in fields west of here (except those with motors, who flew home under power). And while about a dozen achieved the significant distance of 100 km, the rules require that more than 25% of gliders in a class do this for a day to be considered valid. No class met this standard, so it was all for nothing: every pilot scored zero for the day.
The morning forecast showed Pociunai in a gap between two “arms” of an extensive cold front. The optimistic view was that short tasks might be possible in this weather window. Contest organizers – especially those in northern Europe – are supposed to be optimistic, so it certainly made sense to give it a try.
But the weather didn’t break our way, and it really never looked as if it would be possible for enough gliders to manage enough distance. My hat’s off to the two Australian Standard-Class pilots (John Buchanan and Adam Woolley) who, flying in very non-Australian conditions, managed 132 km – best in any class this day. For this excellent effort they receive nothing beyond the respect of their peers (but there are worse rewards than that).
Some comments on Lithuanian trailer retrieves are appropriate: Though the country has little in the way of divided, limited-access superhighways, roads are generally in commendable condition and allow good speeds with a trailer in tow. Officially, the rural speed limit is 90 kph when unmarked, with some stretches marked at 100. Outbound on a retrieve I tend to drive a good deal faster than this. Police patrols in rural areas seem scarce – an important consideration. Our retrieve car (a Mercedes van) does a fine job of passing larger trucks at, say (theoretically) 130 kph – and truck drivers here understand good lane discipline. The van is equipped with a Garmin GPS whose database appears to have a deep comprehension of major and minor Lithuanian roads (including unpaved ones). This contributes significantly to fast and efficient retrieves.
Road signs are nearly all symbolic, employing the standard “Euroglyphs”. With a little experience these are easily understood, along with the circumstances when they should be obeyed – or not too closely. One common hazard is a pedestrian crosswalk, some of which incorporate a speed bump that with a trailer can’t comfortably be taken at much over 60 kph. The trouble here is that the markings are much the same both with and without the bump. It’s analogous to the cattle guards found in the American west: once cattle get used to the idea that a metal grating can’t comfortably be crossed, they will reliably stop for a painted representation. I don’t like to lose time slowing down when there isn’t a bump, but find I often do so.