Pociunai enjoyed a sunny, cloud-free morning. But an area of cloud and rain marching northeast from Poland gave poor prospects for a flying day.
Yesterday’s mass-landout day put strain on many teams here. Fernando reported much discussion of tasking – not all of it entirely calm – at the morning Team Captains meeting. Some felt that long tasks in windy weak conditions over difficult terrain were a bad choice. Others took the position that in a World Championship, difficult tasks should be a normal part of the test.
I’m sympathetic to both arguments, but feel that it should nearly always be possible to test the range of pilot skills and identify who is flying best while still getting a decent percentage of pilots home most days. Yesterday’s task sheet included an Area Task option, which would almost certainly have resulted in far fewer outlandings while still rewarding the fast pilots with good scores.
In the face of a satellite loop that showed thick cloud overrunning us by late morning and a high chance of rain by mid-afternoon, it seemed likely the day would be cancelled early. This would have been a humane and popular decision in view of a considerable fatigue factor caused by yesterday’s long retrieves. But a normal launch time was set, which meant all gliders had to come out of their trailers, be fully assembled, weighed and hauled to the launch grid – for what looked like a 2% chance of actually flying. Inevitably, the 98% chance prevailed: flying was cancelled around 1pm, and all gliders were hauled back from the grid and put back into their trailers. (Competition soaring is by no means always the princely sport we like to brag about.)
Overall at JWGC2017, 490 contest flights have yielded 230 finishers – a completion rate of 47%. A few of the incompletions have ended at home (one Standard-class glider has a sustainer engine – making the pilot and his crew much envied by all) but well more than 200 flights have ended in field landings. So far, the record is good – the worst reported outcomes have been lost tailskids and some damaged landing gear doors (along with an angry farmer or two).
This is a tribute to pilot skill – that many outlandings would typically have caused at least a couple of gliders to have retired for repairs. Once upon a time (say, 30+ years ago) it was common at WGC events for damaged gliders to undergo heroic overnight repairs, and be ready to fly (if not always beautifully smooth and white) the next day. This approach – and the underlying idea that significant damage is normal – seems to have faded into history.
Two possible competition days remain. Weather forecasts are uncertain, with enough variability to support both optimistic and pessimistic views.
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.