The first competition day of WGC2016 arrived with mostly overcast skies and a dubious weather forecast: We were told to expect low clouds early and high clouds (thick cirrus) plus some chance of rain late, with perhaps a few hours of partial sun between these into which short tasks could perhaps be squeezed.
All gliders (the final total seems to be 113) duly gridded near the north edge of our giant field, and at 12:30 the fleet of towplanes fired up and began the launch. (The total number appears to be 12, fewer that I had guessed, and probably not enough to complete the launch in an hour.) Clouds were indeed low, but pilots were able to connect with them and work weak but improving lift to about 3000’ above ground.
The Club Class was first to launch, and nearly all of its 49 pilots were on their way early. As the Standard Class (40 pilots) was being launched, skies near home turned dark and a few small areas of light rain were evident. This troubled weather caused significant problems for some, including 6 who either outlanded before starting or soon afterwards. Unfortunately among these were US Team pilot Bob Fletcher and many-time world champion Sebastian Kawa from Poland. Some others got very low, but were able to find weak lift and climb away.
The 20-Meter class (44 pilots in 22 gliders) launch continued under troubled skies. Only eight got started promptly. Three suffered a fate similar to the six Standard Class pilots. A good number had to land an re-launch – some more than once. So for many it was clearly a tough day near home, as forecast.
But the weather on course proved much better than predicted. Tasks had pilots headed southwest into Poland, where rain and thick cloud should have been trouble. Instead, there was sun and good lift. The only real problems on course came for pilots who started late and had to try to finish in dying lift late in the day. Among these were Mike Robison and Larry Timpson, who had to start their engine to get home (an engine start is scored as if the glider had outlanded).
In Standard Class, Phil Gaisford had a good flight (well into Poland – the only nearby country where Pocuiani gliders are welcome) and finished 9th for the day. In Club Class, Mike Westbrook and Tim McAllister did an excellent job of team flying, sticking close together for a flight of 222 km and finishing 18th and 19th for the day (but within 80 points of first place).
For full contest results, go to: www.soaringspot.com/en_gb/34th-wgc2016/results
Not for the first time, the US Team had dinner at Debesota, the airfield café. It’s attractive for good food, excellent prices (a commendable meal with wine or beer can be had for around $6) and because the alternative is a 15-minute drive to the nearest town. The kitchen and service staff are working hard to keep up with demand that’s roughly 20 times normal. Indoor seating consists of 4 small tables, but lots of extra outdoor seating (added for this event) handles the crowds.
We’ve encountered some interesting quirks to Lithuanian food. “Beef” is widely considered to include pork – indeed it seems unusual to find it means anything else. Pizza (pica) is common and good – it will have a thin crust and probably less tomato sauce than Americans are used to. It will always be served with ample amounts of both ketchup and a sort of yogurt-dill sauce. Though individually tasty, to us these seem inappropriate for pizza – but the natives ladle them on enthusiastically.
Late developments: Questions have been raised about the fairness of the launch for the 20-Meter class. It appears that not all gliders were towed to the same place and height (as the rules require), and possibly that some self-launching gliders failed to follow the correct procedures. On a day that featured big differences in weather over short distances, this could be important. We’ll see where this goes.
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.