We woke to heavy rain today, which was just a taste of what had fallen overnight. It looked like there should be no hope at all for any chance of soaring. But the rain tapered off, and then at 9:00 came the message that gliders should be gridded in time for a noon launch. Clearly, some view of the weather justified optimism.
Crews dutifully prepared gliders for the trip out to the launch area – only to be drenched by a downpour that began around 9:20. This turned the field (already soft) into mud, and caused a serious re-think of the day’s plan. The decision was to cancel tasks for all but the 15-Meter class, which had achieved just five scored tasks out of 11 scheduled contest days, and was certainly owed a good chance at another. And (despite appearances) the weather forecast said this should be possible.
There’s room here to stage one class on the lone paved runway, which avoided problems with a very soft airfield. It seemed unlikely that the low overcast could clear and give way to soarable skies, but that was the forecast – and it came to pass. The 15-Meter class launch began around 2:00, into a sky full (perhaps a bit too full) of scudding cumulus clouds.
The issue was wind (around 20 kts) which clearly would make soaring difficult. On the ground, it was a crosswind for Runway 26, and it soon became clear that this would be a challenge for launching as well. Sebastian Kawa (flying a Diana-2, which has never had a great reputation for easy low-speed handling) had a scary takeoff, veering far to the right of the towplane (almost off the pavement) and barely managing to regain control.
Shortly later, all flying was cancelled. Rumor had it that the tug pilots had decided it was too risky. This was a shame, as the skies continued to produce cumulus clouds (often in streets) – but when tug pilots become reluctant to fly, wise glider pilots concur (they have little choice). So we’re down to one day left, which seems to have a decent weather forecast (though probably blue – yet again).
I should give some details of the JS-3 Rapture – the newest model to appear in 15-Meter class (and which seems to be going quite well). The wings (unsurprisingly) are said to be closely based on the very successful JS-1. The fuselage is entirely new, and incorporates numerous innovations. The most obvious is the wing junction, which happens very high on this glider compared to others. It has a retractable tailwheel (which may or may not be robust enough to deal with outlandings in typically rough fields). It has received praise for its comfortable cockpit (tested on the ground by many interested pilots here). A striking feature is the way pitot and static probes are mounted: not on the vertical fin, but one at each end of the horizontal stabilizer; this is said let them sample less disturbed air and thus give more accurate indications.
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.