From yesterday evening, this was looking like a difficult day. A high-pressure system south of Australia has delivered southerly winds – not what Benalla pilots wish for. They bring in cool, stable air that gives weak lift to low altitudes in severely blue skies. In the aftermath of yesterday’s midair collision, it’s safe to say that no one here was looking forward to a weaker blue day with the inevitable gaggles and the stress they entail.
The scheduled first launch time got pushed from 1:00 to 1:30 to 2:00 as the sniffer reported slowly improving conditions. Then, rather suddenly, the announcement came that the day was cancelled for all classes. We took this to signify a conclusion by the organizer that the day had no hope of delivering soaring conditions that, in our current somewhat fragile mood, would have been deemed acceptable.
So we wound up with another rest day, the third thus far. Of seven scheduled days, the Open class has managed 4 scored tasks, the 18-Meter class three and the 15-Meter class just two. The coming week brings a much better weather forecast, and we certainly hope to improve on what has to be considered a sub-par first half of the contest.
The gliders of the 18-Meter class tell an interesting story. By far the most popular is the Schleicher ASG-29, flown by 24 of the 43 pilots (including 6 of the current top 10). The JS-1 is next, with 7; Jonker Sailplanes has captured a much smaller share here than in Open class, but currently owns first place overall, with a JS-1 flown by Killian Walbrou of France.
Just 4 older Ventus models are present. But the almost-brand-new Ventus 3 is here in force (at its first World Gliding Contest), with six examples. Characteristically, Schempp-Hirth has put these in the hands of some very good pilots, including several former world champions. Thus far they are holding their own (3 of the top 10 places), but those six have some work to do if they are to finish on the podium.
The Ventus 3 fuselage has only modest changes from the Ventus 2. The wing is entirely new, and very “Arcus-like” (matching the general ”multi-angle” wing shape of the extraordinarily successful two-place, 20-meter span Arcus). Schempp-Hirth is said to have a substantial order list patiently waiting for this glider, and no doubt hoping and expected that it will show itself well here.
Perfectly cloud-free skies are not the best for soaring, but they do have other advantages. Benalla is small enough and isolated enough to have very good sky viewing at night. The full moon of a couple of nights ago was impressive, and Venus is about as bright and prominent as she ever gets in the evening sky. Mars is lurking just to her right. Apparently, Neptune is also nearby, though invisible without a telescope.