The flying here is very challenging. The last 4 race days have had a little bit of everything – strong thermals, big gaggles, massive thunderstorms, thick overcasts, and landouts. A lot of landouts.
We’ve now flown 4/7 days. The 1st 2 days were canceled and today (8/3) was designated the official rest day, all due to weather. Each day has brought new challenges, and while some days have been easier than others, none of them have been easy. This is a world championship for a reason.
Day 1: An “easy” 300 km racing task. I started early with the Dutch team because we expected the thermals to die early. They mostly did, and the early start didn’t help. The 1st leg was tough and I was overrun by the gaggle before the 1st turnpoint. Conditions finally improved by the 2nd leg but the best I could do (I had dropped my water on the 1st leg) was to stay with the gaggle. Several gliders landed out, but I was fortunate to fly with “SB”, “RA”, and “S2” from the German team on the final leg. They showed me the way home. I thanked them with beer.
Day 2: A day for champions. I started after the gaggle and quickly caught them on the 1st leg. We had about an hour of fantastic soaring with 5 kt thermals and beautiful cumulus clouds. Then it overdeveloped – the skies darkened and the lift died. I downshifted into survival mode but it was too late. An extra thousand feet of altitude or starting the westbound leg 10 minutes sooner may have been enough to get me home, but it was not to be. I ultimately made a safe outlanding about 30 km from the final turnpoint. A small consolation was that more than 15 gliders landed in fields within 15 km of me. Side note: Alex is getting to know the neighborhood around Kiskunmajsa. My field was only a few km from the field I visited during my 2nd outlanding in the practice period, and it too was only accessible via a very sandy road!
Day 3: Another 300 km racing task. I thought I was fast – I started with the French team and several others. Then, on the 2nd leg, I saw an opening and took it. The leaders of the gaggle missed a 5 kt thermal that took me to cloudbase. I got home almost 10 minutes before them. I thought I was fast until I learned that a faster gaggle started later and overtook us on the first leg. Lesson learned.
Day 4: It’s not a good sign when the CD says before launch, “Well, if all of the pilots land out, at least the crews will get to see more of Hungary!” After a delayed launch due to overcast skies, they launched the fleet. The saving grace today was that cloudbase was over 5500 ft above ground. When the gate opened, the German and French teams made a run for it. Several others and I went with them. While the task was short (2 hours), the skies rapidly darkened and the lift died off. Miraculously, we found a 1 kt thermal that took us to cloudbase under dark skies. I had a 70 km, MacCready 1.0 final glide with less than 100 meters of margin. I’m not exactly sure how I made it home, but I did. Of those that finished, more received finish penalties than did not. At least 6 gliders landed in a field at the edge of the finish ring. I was glad not to be one of them. It was a very good day to fly with friends.
We currently expect to fly 5-6 of the remaining 7 days in the contest. Sunday is supposedly going to bring good post-frontal soaring conditions, so I’m expecting a long racing task. I’m learning a lot and having a lot of fun, but did I mention that the tasks are very tough?
Leigh’s connection to soaring and competition is through her husband, SZ, for whom she’s crewed for 44 years. She’s a passionate supporter of the US Teams and loves contest reporting. She currently resides in both Steamboat Springs, Co. and Greenville, SC.