No problems with cloudy weather today. You can find it well to the south and far to the north, but the Benalla task area was almost completely blue.
Which is not to say trouble-free. The issues today were cooler than ideal temperatures and a dose of westerly wind predicted to break up weak thermals. With a high in the upper 80s it really was quite pleasant on the launch grid – which we’ve come to believe is not a good sign (if folks are at all comfortable on the ground at launch time, pilots will probably struggle in the air).
The moderate conditions produced a couple of hours of weak, low lift that led to numerous launch delays and several task changes. We wound up with short tasks for all classes, which actually did a pretty good job of using the available soaring weather while allowing most pilots to get home (thermals just a bit stronger and less broken than forecast helped). So we have our first full competition day at WGC2017, which has improved the outlook of pilots, crews and contest personnel.
Looking at gliders in this contest, some recent big changes are evident. Probably most striking is Open class, where the JS-1c (from Jonker Sailplanes) is being flown by 23 of the 35 entrants. (Those 23 must represent a significant percentage of the total JS-1c production to date.) By contrast, the “big two” factories (Schempp-Hirth and Schleicher) combined have just 3 gliders in this class. I imagine you’d have collected some strange looks if you’d just a few years ago suggested that a sailplane built in South Africa would achieve this at a World Championships.
Also significant in Open Class are the “super” gliders from Binder – most notably the EB-29R. I’ve heard this referred to as the “production Concordia”; certainly it embodies Dick Butler’s concept of a mega-span ship with a thin and narrow wing that can achieve a wide wingloading range, making it a formidable performer in both weak and strong conditions. The JS-1c is no slouch in weak conditions, and is a proven screamer when the lift is strong; the showdown between these two contrasting designs.
We’re all now comfortable navigating our way around Benalla. We know the fast route between our team headquarters (a largeish house) and the airfield – this takes 4 minutes (or a bit longer if you closely conform to speed limits – which glider pilots are not especially good at). We’re now adept at traffic circles (aka “roundabouts”), which are common here and do a much better job than stop signs (which are rare – yield signs seem to be much preferred). We know most of the restaurants and the important stores. Some of the names are clever – I especially admire the bicycle store near our team house: “Wheelie Awesome”.
John Good has been a member of the US Team at many World Gliding Championship events, serving as crew, Team Captain and report author. He was the Deputy Championship Director/ Task-setter at the 2012 WGC in Uvalde, Texas and brings a wealth of international rules knowledge as Captain.