It’s been an insanely busy time since we left the US. Ceil and I flew to Paris on the 25th and met our fellow crew Jack Goritski. The next day we took a train to Brussels where we picked up the glider I’m renting for the contest. Then off on a 600 mi drive through Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and finally Poland to the contest site north of Ostrow-Wielkopolski, Poland. The airfield here is the biggest glider site I’ve ever seen. You could easily fit two or three Air Force Academy glider fields into the site. The glider launch grid is gigantic. There are three classes of gliders, each class is divided into 10 columns of 5 gliders each. As enormous as the grid is, the field swallows up the 130+ gliders we have here. Ostow is a wonderful Eastern European city. The people are very friendly and happy to be invaded with hundreds of glider people. It’s going to be a great place to have a contest.
On top of the normal workload associated with preparing for a glider contest, which is substantial, we’ve been challenged with a number of new issues. The glider I’m renting, which is a beautiful nearly new Discus 2bt has a completely different instrument suite installed from what I’m used to. It also has a motor, which is great if the day goes bad and I have to land out, but requires a whole new set of procedures to operate properly. On top of that, in European soaring, everything is metric. Instead of knots, they use meters/second for climb rates, km for distances instead of miles, etc. It makes for a tenuous hold on my situational awareness as far as I’m concerned. We’re also competing under a different set of rules from the ones we use in the US. The main difference is the use of a Start Line instead of a Start Cylinder and there is no altitude limit. This makes for interesting changes in starting strategy. Finally, we are able to fly as a team,(which is strictly forbidden in the US), with all of the subtlety of team tactics.Taking a drink from a firehose is an apt description of what we’ve been faced with. I’ve flown as much as I can during last week’s practice days trying to master all of these issues.
The flying has been excellent so far. The flying weather is similar to good flying out of Perry, SC or Cordele, GA,( without the humidity!) Most days have seen good Cu with bases around 5000′ AGL. On two days we topped out at almost 9000′. On top of that, we’re able to fly with the best pilots in the world. As a result, I think I’ve already been able to improve my soaring, (time will tell!)
The preparation is now over. We’ve been working on getting to this place for 9 months now, (really for 18 years since I raced in my first contest). I’ve been saying all along that with all the required preparation and seemingly infinite details that had to be resolved just to get here, that I would be happy just to have the glider hooked up and be able to get airborne. We’re well past that tow now. The learning curve has been steep and is still climbing, but we’re well up the slope. The opening ceremony is just a few hours away.
Thank you very much to all the people that have helped along the way to get Ceil, Jack and I here. We’re ready to Race!!
Leigh’s connection to soaring and competition is through her husband, SZ, for whom she’s crewed for 44 years. She’s a passionate supporter of the US Teams and loves contest reporting. She currently resides in both Steamboat Springs, Co. and Greenville, SC.