The weather at Szeged has improved, enough that a good task was possible for both classes. The day offered challenges, but 66 of 81 pilots got home and I expect all were glad to at last get into the air.
Both classes had Racing (aka Assigned) tasks that took them west on the first leg, through some areas that received substantial rain over the past two days. The Danube river valley came into play – the Standard Class had to cross this wide, damp area twice, and not all pilots succeeded. But in general lift was available when needed, and good speeds were possible.
All Szeged tasks include a steering turnpoint (known as IRIS) about 11 km from home, which causes every finish to come from one safe direction. Conditions on the final leg to IRIS and then home were challenging for both classes, and caused some scores to change significantly. Among those who struggled was Michael Marshall, who’d had a good run with a number of others until that time. The US Club class pilots got slowed a bit, but didn’t really get stuck the way some others did.
The contest organization here deserves good marks for an efficient launch operation and landing procedures that have now been ironed out into an efficient system. Pilots arriving reasonably high can fly a simple landing pattern; those with less energy can land straight-in.
Crossing the road that forms the northern boundary of the airfield is a sensitive point. During a 2010 World Gliding Championship here, the fence along this road was the finish line, which naturally meant that pilots wanted to cross it low and fast, then land straight ahead on the grass runway. One pilot concentrating on his finish failed to allow for a truck traveling along the road, resulting in a spectacular collision, a damaged truck, a wrecked glider and serious injuries.
This accident has been made much less likely by pushing the finish area several km north of the airfield: by the time a pilot is crossing the road, no points are at stake, speeds can be moderate and concentration need not be intense. After trying various road-crossing ideas to accommodate safety for both road vehicles and gliders, the final decision for our contest is an admirably simple rule that says “Fly across the road safely, no lower than 60 feet.” This seems eminently sensible and practical, but already today we saw one arriving glider that appeared meaningfully lower than that. It’s worth noting that a long, wide, “airport-quality” cut hay field lies just north of the road – a perfect place for a pilot who’s unsure of his energy to select, with no points lost by landing there.
Leigh’s connection to soaring and competition is through her husband, SZ, for whom she’s crewed for 44 years. She’s a passionate supporter of the US Teams and loves contest reporting. She currently resides in both Steamboat Springs, Co. and Greenville, SC.