Another decent soaring day in Pociunai – our second in a row. Unfortunately, it had some traps, and one of these caught our three US Team pilots.
We have post-frontal air, so bright sun producing plenty of cumulus clouds. We also have a bit too much moisture on the ground, leading to spreading clouds that cut off the sun’s heating and in some cases produce light rain. The areas of rain are troublesome – for a substantial time they can suppress lift in an otherwise productive sky. So it was that Noah, J.P. and Daniel got low at the first turnpoint yesterday, could not find a saving thermal, and landed not far south of the main Vilnius airport.
You may ask how it is that tasks are being set that take pilots close to – indeed right over the top of – the airport that serves the largest city in Lithuania, which typically handles around 3000 flights a week. Airspace forbidden to contest gliders normally surrounds Vilnius out to a distance of 40+ km. But for five weeks this summer, Vilnius airport is closed for runway construction (airlines are using Kaunas, the second-largest city). The surrounding airspace is thus temporarily available to gliders, and the Pociunai task area includes – for this one contest – quite a bit more territory within Lithuania than it ever has. This is said to be the first such case for the past 50 years, and perhaps the last for another 50.
The three US Team outlandings were again in one field, this time a small one with uncut (but rather low and scruffy) wheat. The Jantar gliders (commendably strong) handled this without difficulty. The farmer was initially unhappy with what he thought were three joyriding pilots making uninvited use of his field; he wondered why they hadn’t used the adjacent field (containing numerous 7-ft pine trees). When he understood that these were motorless aircraft, he calmed down a bit, and the gift of a small bottle of vodka definitely improved his mood. About two hours after the landings, three trailers arrived and the gliders were soon packed away and rolling west, back to Pociunai.
I was driving the car towing MZ (Noah Reitter’s Jantar). Tony Condon, towing BC (J.P. Stewart’s glider), was in the lead because he’s the slowest: the Hyundai SUV has again reverted to “safe mode” (turbocharger disabled), and with a trailer in tow is thus limited to about 90 kph on flat ground, and something like 50 up even a gentle hill. Looking for a place to break the drive (figuring it would be easy to catch up) I spotted a woman at the side of the road selling some sort of pinkish-yellow produce. On inspection, these proved to be chanterelles, a choice edible mushroom popular here. We bought a kilogram for 5 euros – about 20% of the bargain price anywhere in the US. We are now researching recipes – current thinking inclines toward an exotic spaghetti sauce, or perhaps sautéed chanterelles on toast.
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.