Competition at the International level would be impossible without an able person dedicated to a certain pilot: the “crew”. The level of expertise and competence of the field of competitors, the length of the event, complicated tasks and variations of weather are among the pressures that each world class pilot faces. The role of the crew person takes on a critical post in the arena of a WGC. It is no easy task.
Dealing with the day to day obligations, glider assembly and preparation most usually fall entirely on the crew chief. Many of these procedures at the world level differ from those at our regional and national events. Our support crew is an integral part of Team USA and share in the efforts for the entire team to perform at their highest.
Dave Weaver, 5E crew
From Dave Weaver, crew chief for 5E Erik Nelson. This is Dave’s 1st World Championship:
“On a procedural note, the gridding procedure is a little different than we are used to in contests back home. At the beginning of the contest you are assigned a row number and you keep it for the entire contest. 5E is in row #3 all the time. The twist is that row #3 is not always in the same place. It rotates through the field like our daily grid positions. Since you never know exactly where your row is located they have marshals to direct you to the proper grid location. It all works but it’s pretty manpower intensive.
The other thing that’s unique to these international events is weighing. They weigh every glider, every day. So, on the way to the grid you need a pass from the weighing officials when you drive across the scales. Everything must be in the glider, including drinking water, batteries and parachute. You are allowed a 2% margin on your reference weight so you really need to be accurate when you load water. If you are more than 2% over reference weight, you are sent into a holding pattern where you must dump down below reference weight and you go to the end of the que to get back on the scales. They won’t let you adjust weight while on the scale because they don’t want water in the area. When you drive across the scales alignment is critical. In order to assist the crews with precise alignment the weighing officials have set up a very clever gunsight arrangement that you line up approaching the scales. The contest officials announced today that an award will be given to the crew doing the best job weighing and gridding. In order to maintain the competitive edge of team 5E we plan to strive for this award every day. The precise criteria for this award has not yet been announced but we are confident that we will at least be very competitive.”
Dave on Opening Day
Noah Reitter & Paul Weeden, XC crew
Paul Weeden is a veteran US Team crew chief. His pilot, Sean Murphy XC, is competing in his first WGC. Paul is ably assisted by Noah Reitter from Sean’s home club, Harris Hill, and one of our current Junior World pilots.
Paul shared some thoughts after the 2nd competition day:
Team XC: Sean, Paul, Noah
“you have to make peace with the heat, and sun- as it ain’t gonna quit. assembling/watering/weighing and gridding in the morning is a lot like Hobbs, New Mexico, dry heat, stifling dry heat. We get out on the ramp by seven and do it all before the sun gets hot.. I cover up, and get it down to exactly how many steps it takes to do each task, and allow nothing extra. and above all drink the water, lots of water. When the pilot is with us on the grid, we take pains to keep him under shade. Both of our 15 meter gliders get taken apart each afternoon and put away. I think we’re the only ones doing that, but neither of our gliders have covers and frankly, we can get our Ventus out of the box and assembled in the time a 18M glider gets it’s covers squeegeed off and the covers removed. Besides, it’s a little glider and we can sleep all night without worrying about thunderstorms, winds or hail.. our pilot is doing well for this being his first worlds, finished near the top ten yesterday and he’s tanned, rested and in a great frame of mind for the comps. Noah and I have the glider in hand and deliver it the very same every day to our pilot for his use.”
Paul feels that our15 meter pilots have a great pairs-flying attitude and are honing their teamwork skills each day.
“The excitement/nervousness of the early practice period is well behind us all now, it’s the same every day now, one foot in front of the other, double/triple check everything and fly the contest.”
These guys are just a part of Team USA. Each person is an integral part of a whole and each are there for the others on the team. It’s hard work, but such thrill to be a part. Thanks to all of our support crew.
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.