Friday, January 18, 2013

Good report - Dieciseis

WGC2013 report - 18 January

As everyone knew they would be, yesterday's tasks for all classes were cancelled around 2pm, in the face of entirely hopeless conditions: low cloud, mist and a cold southeast wind.  Perhaps a dozen gliders were never placed on the launch grid - their pilots had decided that the chance of flying was not worth the effort.

The mandatory improvement in conditions shortly after cancellation was again seen, but it was slight: the sky brightened a bit and the mist stopped falling for an hour or so.  Not the most incorrigible of the second-guessers was able to make the case that we should have waited longer.  There was a considerable body of thought that, with impossible conditions and a weather forecast that offered not the slightest chance of useful improvement, it was a waste of time to put any gliders on the runway.  It's fair to note that contest organizers are ill advised to closely consult crew comfort in making their decisions - this habit often leads to lost flying opportunities.

Our morning routine here usually includes a visit to the Hotel Paris, which is something of a social center in the town of Gonzales Chaves.  Its confiteria features good coffee and reliable internet service, which have made it popular with many at WGC2013.  I expect hotel management will be sorry to see the contest end.

Within walking distance of the Hotel Paris are three food markets that have met our needs rather well, but which require some adjustments in planning.  They open around 8:30, but always close from noon through 4:30.  Beer and wine are readily available (the latter is excellent value in Argentina - $3 buys a good bottle) but are not sold before 10am or after 9pm.  Cheese selection and price are favorable.  Fresh produce is not impressive.  Breakfast cereal - especially low-sugar varieties - seems hard to find; mushrooms close to impossible.  Meat is inexpensive and of good quality, which makes sense in view of the Argentine preference for - and skill at - carne asado (barbecue).

Today's morning weather looked much improved: at 10am, plenty of low cloud could still be seen, but sun was on the ground and seemed to be gaining the upper hand.  The weather presentation at the morning pilot briefing described a flyable but tricky day, with sun, southeast winds (mercifully not strong) and cloudy areas to the southwest all contending for mastery.  The general sense is that conditions to the northwest (where tasks have been set) may be decent, but it will not be wise to plan on a long-lasting day.

The FAI is the Fédération Aeronautique Internationale, the umbrella organization for air sport competitions around the world.  The FAI flag is always displayed prominently at such events, along with flags from all participating countries.  It was announced at the pilot briefing that two of these flags are missing: the FAI flag and the one belonging to Team Argentina; information as to their whereabouts is sought.  We immediately considered the possibility that Heinz Weissenbuehler had put in a stealth appearance, his presence at a world gliding contest being reliably associated with missing flags, banners, etc.  But a thorough search turned up no sign of this, so the missing flags are a mystery.  One rumor - of dubious reliability - has it that the Argentina flag is missing because someone determined that Team Argentina might have something to do with the disappearance of the FAI flag.  We await developments. [Editor's note: any potentially libelous statements in this paragraph should be attributed to the author, and not to the US Team as a whole.]

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