For possibly the first time here at JWGC2019, the weather exceeded the forecast. Not by a lot, and not for the whole day, but at least for a while lift strength and especially thermal heights were really pretty good. In the face of this, the tasks (no doubt set with the assumption of weak weather, and in view of zero finishers yesterday) were too short, as evidenced by the winners’ devalued scores (578 and 487 points).
At a WGC event, a short task on a good-weather day – especially one that’s mostly blue – is guaranteed to produce “start gate roulette”: everyone wants to start just a few minutes behind everyone else, then use them as markers to show where good climbs are to be found. So for the best part of 2 hours today, it was an aerial version of “After you, sir.” “No, after you – I insist”. The result – especially when the day weakens a bit – is that the late starters may struggle to get home. It’s strange that top pilots would deliberately delay their start until it’s too late to achieve good speeds – but the contest format, the scoring rules, and the advantage of flying with other gliders make this a (semi-) rational choice.
Today’s Club class results show this clearly: 18 pilots had start times more than an hour later than those who achieved the best speeds of the day. Among them were all British, German and Czech pilots – the three teams that hold the top 6 positions overall. US pilots started just behind the Germans, and achieved better speeds, which on most days would have meant excellent placings. Today, this was good for 22ndthrough 24thplace.
It’s interesting that this effect is not seen in todays Standard class results, which show that all pilots started over a span of just 27 minutes. Perhaps the fact that that class launches last each day has something to do with this.