Better (but still blue) weather today allowed long tasks for all classes, and WGC2017 enjoyed a good racing day that (unlike some recent examples) was by all reports entirely free of midair “unpleasantness”. Probably not everyone is completely happy, as the long tasks claimed 19 victims who failed to make it all the way home. (Current reports suggest the outlandings were done safely.) But a “normal” WGC day was welcome.
Tasks were long by design, aiming to motivate pilots to start promptly. This largely worked: only a few played the “go late and catch the early starters” game, and of those who did, not all were successful. I count 95 pilots who did at least 500 km today, which is not too bad in a sky without cumulus clouds (or indeed any other kind).
Among the non-completions were some prominent names including Bruce Taylor and Matthew Scutter of Australia, Ricky Brigladori of Italy, and Uys and Attie Jonker of South Africa. Uys (pronounced as “Ace”) and Attie are flying the first two examples of their brand new JS-3 Rapture (brought to Australia by air freight, presumably at vast expense) and had been doing a fine job of showing its capabilities (they were in second and third prior to today). Watching the tracking displays it looked as if they bit off just a bit more than their new glider could chew by going deep into both turn area, thus leaving themselves a long hike home late in the evening. Despite this, their design efforts (quite remarkable to date) are sure to receive continued strong attention.
On the subject of outlandings, I should note that while much of the Benalla task area has significant quantities of large to enormous fields, not all of these are as friendly as they look from the air. The lurking villain is SWER, which stands for “single wire earth return”. This is a scheme by which electrical power is delivered to remote areas on the cheap: a single smallish wire leads from a main power line, cuts across fields in no very orderly way, and arrives at a remote house or building. Being small and single, the wire can span an impressive distance – which is another way of saying that its supports may be unobvious it may be nearly invisible. And invisible wires are the stuff of glider pilots’ nightmares. We gather that wire strikes are by no means common, but do happen enough to be an issue and cause pilots to lose sleep.
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.