Due to travel and the general disruption that always follows the end of a gliding competition, this report is being filed rather late. So readers will already know that Sarah Arnold earned the silver medal for second place at the 2017 Women’s World Gliding Championship, after an excellent performance extending over 12 task days (a number of valid days achieved in worldwide WGC events perhaps once in a decade).
Yesterday’s forecast for the final task was for another day of strong thermals to impressive altitudes under good cumulus clouds. And so it proved, with best climbs of 8 kts to over 8000’ (conditions Uvalde would not blush for). It wasn’t entirely problem-free: some large areas free of cumulus clouds made pilots struggle to find the best course over a 3-hour turn-area task.
Sarah began the day 70 points behind defending champion Sabrina Vogt. In such circumstances, there’s a temptation to try some risky “go for broke” strategy that might produce an improbable win. Sarah’s choice was much more in line with her general strategy for this contest: a steady flight aiming at a good speed and score. This she achieved, with a speed of 102 kph, good for 6th place and 929 points. A win would have required a significant stumble by Sabrina, who did not achieve her strong reputation in gliding by making many. She had a very solid 4th-place finish and thus earned the gold medal.
At today’s Closing Ceremony, a proud moment was seeing the flags of the three top-placing Club Class pilots hoisted: Along with 2 German flags (for first and third), there was the Stars & Stripes. Sarah received a silver medal, an elegant glass trophy, a certificate of achievement, a bouquet of flowers and a crystal vase in which to place them – along with much applause and congratulations.
Sarah feels the best pilot won the contest. Sabrina and her teammates Sarah Drefenstedt and Ines Engelhardt had some stumbles during the long contest, but were very consistent toward the end, steadily climbing the cumulative scoresheet. Sarah reports they fly very smoothly as a team, needing no help from others to achieve excellent speeds and scores.
A 12-day contest is long enough to wash away the effects of luck and leave little doubt that the scoresheet accurately reflects the order of merit. So I think Sarah – and all who have supported her – can be especially proud of her excellent finish, which correctly shows her to be among the best in the world.
It may be worth noting that her fine result included no daily wins – it was not the product of brief flashes of brilliance, or a focus on daily placings; instead, it came from a steady approach that emphasized sound tactics and a belief that consistent quality flying would yield good results. This can be seen in her day-by-day progress in the overall standings from the start of the contest, after a disappointing result on the first day: 16, 12, 8, 7, 6, 3, 2, 2, 3, 3, 2, 2.
With the success of WWGC2017, Zbraslavice will have greatly enhanced its reputation as a contest site. The brilliant weather of 2017 is no guarantee for the future, but at least suggests good prospects. The first-rate performance of the contest organization impressed everyone. Championship Director Vladimir Machula and his entire staff impressed everyone.
Our move out of rooms at the mill building and into new (and tolerably grand) accommodations for the final two contest days has an interesting footnote. During our final week at the mill we noticed activity by heavy machinery working nearby, along the ditch that once brought water to the mill. We guessed this might have been inspired by the planned wedding festivities, and on Friday evening we investigated. Sure enough, water was flowing and (to the evident approval of wedding guests watching it) the waterwheel was turning, for what must have been the first time in years.
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.