The final day of JWGC2017 brought strange weather. Somewhat against probability, most pilots managed to complete a short task, which provided a much better ending to our competition than three straight no-fly days would have done.
The important weather features were very high temperatures (in the 90s – most unusual for Lithuania) and a strong cold front approaching from the west. This was forecast to give troublesome winds, a north-south line of strong convergence, then rain and even hail as the front arrived in late afternoon.
Our tired airmass needed lots of heating to make acceptable lift – by 2pm sniffers were still struggling in low, weak thermals. At about the point when most were giving up hope, improved lift was reported. Soon, climbs to over 5000’ were possible, the launch was underway, and the 1.5-hour task looked possible. Pre-start climbs took some pilots over 7000′.
Satellite loops clearly showed the problem weather approaching from the west, so the US Team decision was to start early. This yielded early finishes (comfortably ahead of the bad weather) and moderate speeds. The fast pilots mostly had later starts, which meant better lift (in part due to the strong convergence) but problems with rain on the final leg home from the east. A few outlanded because of this, but most were able to finish, some with thunder rumbling nearby. Most gliders were “in the box” before heavy rain (and indeed some small hail) arrived.
The stormy weather proceeded to dump substantial rain on the field, and to knock out all electrical power for several hours. Among other problems, this threatened food at beer service at the end-of-contest dinner, all arranged for the briefing hangar. The day was saved by calling on the nearby LAK factory, who kindly arranged the loan of a diesel-powered generator.
The Club class champion is Julian Klemm of Germany, who stood second yesterday, 151 points out of first. With an excellent flight, he won both the day and the contest. The German team consistently has excellent preparation, support and gliders of the highest quality. The Std Libelle is considered about the most desirable glider for Club class, and the German examples look as if they came out of the factory last year and then spent a month being carefully sealed and tuned. Germany of course also consistently sends excellent pilots to every WGC event – the pool of talent is deep there. For evidence, note that all six German pilots finished in the top 10 of their class.
The Standard class champion is Sjoerd vanEmpelen of the Netherlands. He achieved this without finishing in the top three on any task – which means he was much more consistent than other pilots. In the tricky and highly variable weather we’ve come to see as typical of northern Europe, this is a rare and valuable quality – one that many teams (the US Team certainly included) need to work on.
Our team achieved some good results. The standard of their cooperative flying was notably high – about as good as that of any team here. When they got the start time right (consistently challenging) they reliably scored well. So the entire team needs to work on doing better at that. All three felt they learned a great deal, and are eager for more WGC flying.
JP Stewart with Tony Condon
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.