To no one’s great surprise, today was declared a rest day: no flying and no morning briefing. After yesterday’s mass outlandings and International Night (which always takes a toll on the health and fitness of many), it was assumed that only a truly great weather forecast would justify a task day. Morning weather briefly made the choice look questionable: at 10 am cumulus clouds dotted the sky. By noon, a solid overcast as far as the eye could see in all directions confirmed the decision and silenced the second-guessers.
I think it’s safe to say that the Czech Republic has made a good impression on all here. The countryside is scenic, getting on toward beautiful. Rolling hills restrict outlanding choices, but not unreasonably so – it appears some 35 gliders came to earth safely yesterday. The drives made by crews to retrieve them were in most cases notably pleasant. The Czech people are consistently friendly, helpful, and tolerant of those who don’t speak their (difficult to many) language. English speakers are not all that common here in the countryside, but with good will on both sides of the conversation, it’s easy to manage.
The Czech language has affinities with Polish, but I’d call it easier for an English speaker. You have a fair chance of pronouncing place names correctly – or at least understandably. The significant town north of us is Kutná Hora, and the English rendering of this matches the Czech closely. The city just north of there is Kolin, which they render as “Koleen” – fairly normal to a speaker of a language with Latin roots. (By contrast, consider the large Polish city of Wrocław, the proper pronunciation of which is approximately “Vrotswav”.)
Czech-speakers’ pronunciation of English is generally good. We’ve noted a few quirks at the contest briefings: the daily process of weighing gliders is called “weighting”, and the path flown to a landing is often referred to as a “circwit”. (Czech has highly a highly regular mapping from spelling to pronunciation; English may be the worst major language in the world in this regard). I hasten to add that this is a conspicuously well-run contest – one of the smoothest WGC events I’ve attended.
Roads are mostly good. Except for a few of “Interstate” quality, they twist and wind a lot and often pass through villages, slowing progress considerably. Posted village speed limits are low: often 40 kph (25 mph). But the locals seem to largely disregard this, so it’s not easy to know just what you can expect to get away with. On open country roads, 100 kph seems fine, and you’ll occasionally be passed by cars doing at least 130 (80 mph). Enforcement appears to be sparse, which dedicated retrieve crews appreciate (and are prone to take advantage of). Rumor has it that if stopped you should plead ignorance of the language and customs (easy to do) and you’ll be let go. I hope to avoid any need to test this.
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.