At last a day with some genuinely good weather prospects. In the eastern US – well, at least the northeastern US, where I live – we look forward to the passage of a cold front, as this brings clear skies, cool temperatures and good soaring. And so it did here in southern Lithuania. (We feel we were owed something like this, after a sizeable stretch of tricky conditions).
All tasks took pilots southwest, well into Poland. Lithuania is a substantial country (about the size of West Virginia) but here at Pociunai we sit just south of the large city of Kaunas, and forbidden airspace associated with its airport means that tasks must mostly use areas to the south.
But not too far – about 50 miles south is the border with Belarus, and pilots that carelessly cross this can expect a most unfriendly reception – and a serious penalty in this contest, which neither they nor their retrieve crews are likely to be able to rejoin promptly. The same (or worse) fate awaits a pilot who strays 50+ miles west into Kaliningrad, a Connecticut-sized Russian enclave (i.e. part of Russia, but disconnected from it) that contains the only ice-free northern Russian port (formerly known as Konigsburg).
The saving grace is the border with Poland. This is a sort of tasking “gate” to the southwest, only about 40 miles wide. Poland and Lithuania get along well: glider pilots may freely cross this border and those who land in Poland face nothing more hostile than a change in language and unfamiliar choices in beer.
So it’s scarcely surprising that longish tasks from Pociunai make ample use of Polish airspace – as they did today. It’s worth noting that the border is an interesting area to a glider pilot. Geologically, it’s a glacial moraine, which means lumpy, small fields that are quite tricky for gliders to land in. But if it’s in sun it tends to produce good lift, which (hopefully) means that landing should be rare there.
We had plenty of sun on the ground, and plenty of cumulus clouds. Possibly a few too many: a carpet of well-developed cumulus is not what soaring pilots most want to see at 11AM – it tends to imply too many by 4pm. But winner’s speeds were the best of the entire contest period thus far, and all but a handful of pilots completed their tasks.
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.