A difficult and eventful day today. The primary responsibility for this lies with a convoluted cold front just west of Lithuania, forecast to meander during the day in ways that modern weather resources can not be expected to accurately predict.
In the face of this, tasks for the Club and Standard classes seemed a bit puzzling: both included turnpoints that would take gliders well west of home, into areas that were likely to be troubled. A standard practice here has been to announce a primary and alternate task, and the alternate has often been an area task, which is the right choice for uncertain weather. But today’s alternates were fixed tasks similar to the primary, with no possibility for pilot option at any turnpoint.
The Club Class task took pilots west on their first leg. Tim and Mike got to the first turn, then turned southwest into a substantial wind. Mike got low, took a long climb that drifted him well north, and then started a long struggle to stay airborne and clear of forbidden airspace over the territory of Kaliningrad. He fought this battle for nearly 2 hours, but achieved no progress and eventually landed safely. He twice got within a few hundred meters of illegal airspace, but never entered it.
Tim made decent progress against the wind into Poland, but grim conditions there forced him (and more than a few others) to land. Poland takes a back seat to no country in the arena of unique place names, and in this case defended its reputation nobly with the name of the local village: Czajewszczyzna. Team captains here are required to submit outlanding reports that include the name of the nearest town; Fernando Silva was glad he was required only to spell this, and not to pronounce it.
Tim’s outlanding, into a tricky uphill field with wires to avoid, was a safe one; not all pilots did as well. One Club Class glider somehow managed to end up on top of a Polish house, its broken fuselage draped over the peak of the roof. Reports say that the rescue was a complicated one involving a large crane, a helicopter, and many skilled professionals. The pilot apparently suffered significant – though not life-threatening – injuries, including broken bones. The glider is a writeoff; the house is presumably repairable.
It was a mass landout day in Standard Class – only one early starting pilot got around the task. The big problem was the second turnpoint, well to the west and solidly in the area troubled by cloud associated with the meandering front. Considerable struggle took many gliders far off course, but this merely postponed the inevitable – nearly all landed on the third leg. The one finisher (Dennis Huybreckx from Belgium) fell behind the main group, but under dark skies found a weak climb that allowed him to reach areas that had recycled. He then romped home in fairly good conditions, no doubt having enjoyed the sight of dozens of his fellow competitors awaiting retrieve from fields below.
The 20-Meter Class task took pilots east and north, away from the problem weather (but in a narrow slot between closed airspace associated with both of Lithuania’s two large cities: Kaunas and Vilnius). Despite no nearby cold front, conditions were still challenging and only 4 pilots completed the task. Among them was Mike Robison, flying as a guest – he’s listed at the bottom of the scoresheet with zero official points and a note that he achieved 993 “virtual” points. We’re a little frustrated by that, but quite grateful that he has been allowed to fly after the departure of co-pilot Larry Timpson.
We have a report from Larry that the operation for which he returned to the US was successful, and he can expect a good recovery. He also notes that doctors have told him his decision to depart the contest was the right choice.
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.