An encouraging weather forecast today, leaving little doubt that some good motorless flying would be possible in Lithuania. This was a welcome change from morning uncertainty.
The initial task had pilots headed west then north, but this was changed when satellite loops showed that the northwestern turnpoint would be a candidate for overdevelopment and light rain. The revised task sent all pilots southwest into Poland. The Club class was able to ride a line of convergence that led to good speeds and the best altitudes of the past 2 weeks – in a few areas, climbs to 6000’ were possible. Both classes turned in the best speeds of the competition thus far, and our string of many outlandings (more than 60% of all flights until today) was broken – just one trailer departed the airfield.
The US Team decided on a “start late and run down the gaggle” strategy, and this worked well. It initially looked questionable, as the Lithuania team (who are of course savvy about local weather) started soon after the task opened. But a line of convergence like today’s is apparently not a common feature here and they failed to anticipate or fully connect with it, so the later starters did much better.
Daniel and Noah finished 4th and 5th, just behind the three Polish pilots who started about 2 minutes later. J.P. Stewart got briefly disconnected from the convergence and took some time to get back into the band of best lift, but then flew the second half of the task well, to finish 16th.
The evening entertainment was “ground slides” in the LAK-16, a curious and popular feature of Pociunai. The LAK-16 is a “primary” glider: short wings, open-air cockpit, low performance. At the edge of the airfield is a system of cables and pulleys mounted to the ground that stretches downfield about 600 meters, in a continuous loop. Anchored to the ground and driving the cable system this is an old truck (which made its last wheeled journey long ago). A sort of sliding shoe can be clamped to the cable; a short towrope is attached to this and then to the nose of the glider. This arrangement means that during the run down the field, the maximum altitude possible is around 3 meters.
This setup is clearly not aimed at experienced cross-country pilots. The principal customers are kids, from about 7 to 14 years old. The youngest fly with a metal bar bolted to the top of each wing, acting as a permanent spoiler that makes it impossible to get the glider airborne. They thus learn to control the glider in “fast taxi” mode before being cleared for low-level flight. The kids also learn all the tasks necessary to push gliders into position, help the pilot get strapped in and hook up the tow line. The one adult-only job is driving the old truck.
Despite it not being aimed at them, older kids (up to age 80 or so) are fascinated and eager to try this kind of flying. The US Team was well represented yesterday evening and all who wished to got the chance to fly (under the careful direction of the experienced teenagers). Flying came to an end after sunset, with the full moon (partially eclipsed) rose in the southeast.
Ready for an adventure
Noah gets instruction
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.