Monday, January 7, 2013

Good report - Cinco

WGC2013 report - 07 January

Yesterday proved to be every bit as tough as it looked. The blue conditions and severely strong wind matched the forecast. What didn't match was the lift strength - instead of the predicted 5 to 7 knots, pilots generally reported that 2 was typical and 3 really good.

The result was a day of 100% landouts, with the exception of a dozen or so pilots who couldn't get away from the airfield or who chose to abandon the task. The rules say that 25% of pilots must achieve 100km for a task to be valid. This distance is not scaled for performance, which makes things hard for the World Class, which yesterday did not come close to achieving a valid day. As I write this, the issue for Club Class is in doubt - some 25 pilots (including Sarah Arnold and Sean Franke) landed in the same large field which gave them a distance (97 km) just short of what's required. Standard Class had plenty of distances above 100km - though not much above - yielding a valid day that will be heavily devalued.

One of the 23 gliders in this field
Cars and trailers racked up a lot of miles yesterday, on retrieves that ranged from routine to eventful. The Chaves task area has lots of large, flat agricultural fields that generally offer good landability, but by no means always good access for a trailer. Phil Gaisford (PG) and Peter Deane (YG) landed in a large cut wheat field near the first Stand Class turnpoint, yielding a respectable distance of 104 km. We set out around 6:30 for a drive that looked to require about an hour.

This would have been right if not for a surprising number of traffic lights in the town of Benito Juarez that have a 3-minute cycle (with an average of one car crossing during that time) and a final stretch of 20 km on a roughish dirt road, but we arrived in decent time. The huge field (about 1.2 x 1.5 km) proved not as trailer-friendly as we could have wished. It has just one gate, and to reach the section where Phil and Peter had landed requires crossing a wet area, home to a muddy ditch - and, as we soon learned, about 300 million mosquitos.

There was no way to get trailers across that ditch, so we had to drag the gliders about a quarter-mile, then disassemble them and carry the pieces a few hundred feet to the trailers. While we were doing this the sun set and the mosquitos intensified their attacks, often forming large clouds of, say, 20- or 30,000 whose whine could be heard a long way off. We had mosquito repellent which we slathered on and which seemed to have some good effect. But this is clearly a product aimed at a "green" market with claims such as "natural herbal formula", whereas when besieged by mosquitos with a collective mass measured in tens of kilograms you want the nastiest chemicals known to science - pure DEET, perhaps with a leavening of PCBs and a touch of asbestos would have been fine with us. We killed large numbers, but they got away with plenty of our blood.

Spurred to a brisk level of activity by these attacks, we had the gliders "in the box" and were rolling toward the gate by around 10pm. A search for a lost cellphone offered a final opportunity for the mosquitos to revenge their fallen friends - but the phone was found where it had been left (on the fencepost next to the gate) and we back on the road in time to reach home by 11:30.

Not all landout adventures went as smoothly. We heard a report of one trailer that jackknifed and rolled (without glider, according to rumor), leading to a mangled trailer, a damaged car, and a shaken (but uninjured) driver. Another trailer apparently had a wheel come off. One glider fuselage was this morning seen in a hangar, upside down, with main gear removed (perhaps suggesting that not all fields are perfectly smooth).

So all in all a roughish day, but well within the scope of what's possible at a world-level contest when condition get tough. Today we have a forecast of post-cold-front conditions, which are said to involve wind (this time south-southwest), decent lift to around 5000', and some cumulus. As I write this the wind and cumulus are evident; launch is scheduled to commence at 1:30 (about 20 minutes from now).

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