Not the day we were hoping for. Tomorrow has been announced as a rest day, with International Night scheduled for tonight. This much-anticipated event gives each team the chance to offer some sort of food, drink or both characteristic of their country. A good amount of planning and preparation goes into this.
The day looked straightforward enough. The weather forecast was fairly good, and moderately long assigned tasks were set for each class. We were told to expect a hot day with good lift improving through the afternoon and lasting until about 6:30, with some cumulus clouds to mark thermals by mid-afternoon.
The first sign of difficulty was wind – not serious, but strong enough to shred the lift and cause a troublesome amount of drift for gliders circling in thermals. Most pilots were able to get to good altitudes only occasionally, which contributed to late starts for most of the fleet.
The entire Standard class started late and was unable to find much in the way of good lift of their first leg to the south. Turning northwest, the lift was much the same, but an increasing headwind made for very slow progress. Halfway along this leg it became clear that a minor miracle would be needed to get anyone home. None appeared. Most pilots got past the second turnpoint as the day was dying, and the rest of the task was simply about how to extend the flight – in weak lift and a headwind – until the inevitable outlanding. Fortunately, this area has good fields (okay, “paddocks”) and thus far we have no reports of landing problems. Sarah had a good flight and was ahead of the pack as they day died, but didn’t have great luck finding the weak lift necessary to extend her flight to near sunset.
Club Class had almost the same task as did Standard, and suffered much the same fate: 100% outlandings. One difference was that Kathy and Sylvia again decided (correctly) that an early start was indicated, and they again made this work rather well. At 10pm many pilots are still on the road and have yet to submit their flight logs, but we believe Sylvia will have a distance close to the best.
The 18-Meter class was sent north into the hills for their first two legs, and this quickly turned into something bizarre. In an area where lift is usually enhanced, and where limited landability requires altitudes above 7500’ for comfort, many pilots were soon suffering at 4000’ and below. A few landed; others struggled desperately to climb and get away, which in some cases took well over an hour. A number got high enough to glide south out of the hills, looking like they were headed home to land. Most of these managed to finally climb and again set out on their task, avoiding the problem areas and now clearly convinced that it was a distance day for them as well – no chance of completing the 538-km task. So it proved, with only a handful of pilots reaching their final turnpoint far to the west.
Most World contests have at least one “mass landout” day, and we now have ours (let’s hope for just the one). The only pilots who made it home were those with motors, plus a few who returned home early in response to desperate conditions. International Night has been postponed, which frustrates the efforts of many who were preparing food that now must be stored or possible discarded. One bright spot is the rest day tomorrow – it will be welcomed by almost everyone.