As is often the case, yesterday's grim weather brightened considerably shortly after the decision to cancel the day was announced. There was enough sun on the ground for just long enough to start the second-guessers speculating on what might or should have been. Then, as predicted, clouds overdeveloped, some gust front indications were seen in the distance, and it became abundantly clear that a fair and safe task would be impossible.
The US Team decided that the right task for the day was a group meal at the estancia (ranch house northeast of Chaves, where some of us are staying). Head chef for the evening was José Ignacio Otero, the extremely capable assistant crew assigned to glider PG. José is a man of many talents, and among them is the preparation of Milanese, which is essentially veal cutlets, pounded, breaded and deep fried. These made a meal to exceed anything found in a Chaves restaurant.
|The multi-talented José|
Our large and capable fleet of towplanes is available for aero retrieves, and the announced cost is quite reasonable. But so far we've seen only a handful of these: they are offered only to pilots that land at actual airfields, of which there aren't vast numbers in the Chaves task area. And when it's normal to have a choice of beautiful agricultural fields within easy reach (many outlandings here don't require a pattern - just proceed on course until your wheel touches the ground) airfields have lower than normal appeal.
Fifty years ago, a more rugged race of men walked the earth and things were different. At the 1962 pre-World contest in Junin (around 450 km north of Chaves) the Argentina army had helicopters on site, ready for impromptu aero retrieves from most fields. The glider pilot had to be prepared for an exciting trip home, mostly done at altitudes below 50 meters. When this became dull, the helicopter pilots decided to liven things up by not taking out slack in the towrope, thus "jerking" the outlanded gliders off the ground with maximum drama. This came to an end when it was attempted with a heavy Open-class glider which refused to accelerate at the expected rate - the stout towrope thus yanked the helicopter to the ground, and bits of helicopter rotor narrowly missed the glider and bystanders. (Gliding is a lot more tame than in the old days).
Today's weather actually looks grimmer than yesterday's. At 10:00 we had low cloud cover, occasional light rain, and a cold wind. (When you're trying to fly gliders at a site 100 km northwest of cold South Atlantic waters, a southeast wind is not what you most hope for.) The announcement of a noon grid time was met with unfavorable reviews by many pilots and crews, who are less than eager to undertake the considerable effort of preparing 84 gliders for flight when mist is falling and the probability of motorless aircraft staying aloft looks to be around 1 in 200. But there is a strong sense that we need more competition tasks and must be ready to seize any flying opportunity that comes along.