Thursday, January 3, 2013

Good report - Uno

John Good writes about yesterday:

Today was the first official practice day at WGC 2013, the first day of good flying weather since Saturday, and the first without rain since we arrived at Chaves.  Pleasant temperatures, moderate winds and a sky full of small cumulus clouds (well, perhaps half full - from northwest through east) has improved everyone's mood.

There was room for improvement.  We've seen enough rain, wind, low cloud and cold temperatures to make us believe this was going to be a tough contest.  This area of extensive flat terrain, mostly under cultivation, has seen an abnormal amount of rain over the past few months.  Many fields have standing water and half-submerged fence lines are a common sight.  The airfield had numerous areas of soft ground and mud, which made moving gliders challenging (some were thoroughly "bogged" and had to be rescued with tractors.  Takeoff rolls on the wide & smooth grass runways were sometimes uncomfortably long (grass will probably soon need to be cut).

The Otto Ballod gliding club is an old one, dating back more than 80 years.  At the eastern corner of the large airfield, an area of tall trees provides shelter and shade for hangars and a camping area.  We've seen the need for this in the form of strong winds on several days.  New Year 's Eve was probably the champion thus far:  Around 5am a sizeable tree came down in the camping area, reportedly taking out three tents and slightly injuring one sleeping camper.  Driving downwind that afternoon, I was able to "pace" the shadow of a low cloud (base 2000') and found it was doing around 88 km/hr.

At an international gliding competition there is strong demand for internet access.  At the pre-world contest here last year service was reported to be good throughout the camping area.  This year, service has thus far been spotty and available only when very close to the contest headquarters building (the problem may have something to do with the winds and their effects on the antennas).  We are all hoping this will soon improve, but in the meantime reports such as this one may not always be posted promptly, and flight log submission (which is reasonably easy when online) is clearly going to be challenging.  We have rented a bicycle (apparently not always an easy thing to do) and plan to keep a wheeled courier busy shuttling thumb drives and flight recorders from the runway to the Scoring Office, trying to conform with the very short 30-minute time allowed between landing and submission [since changed to 60 minutes, still too short. Ed.]

The practice period usually offers some controversies, and indeed we have a few.  A surprising ruling in Club Class says that gliders may not carry fixed ballast, whereas the rule has long been understood to prohibit only disposable ballast (i.e. water).  This new ruling means that lightweight pilots may not be able to fly at the standard handicap weight of their glider.  This of course raises questions:  What is ballast?  Does a heavy chain that could be used as a tiedown count?  Will all gliders be inspected to ensure they are carrying nothing that isn't essential?  We await word on how this will play out.

The announced finish geometry has raised some eyebrows: it calls for a minimum height of 50 meters at 3 km, followed by a "direct" (i.e. straight-in, with no turns) landing.  That's a 60:1 glide ratio, which could be a challenge for any glider flying into a headwind - we've seen that Argentina headwinds can be something substantial - and a PW-5 even when winds aren't a problem.  Unless finishing at a high speed (which implies poor management of the final glide), a pilot following a 60:1 glideslope has no excess energy to deal with traffic or other problems.  When a dozen or more gliders may be finishing together, this could get interesting.  Another complication is Ruta 3, the major road that passes close to the threshold of Runway 31 (a common finish direction) and which carries substantial truck traffic.  Perhaps for this reason it has been announced that a glider flying across it should be at least a wingspan above the ground; judging from today's landings, this rule will need some enforcement

Pilots reported very good conditions today: cumulus cloudbases were above 5000', and best lift was around 6 knots.  The launch took a long time (as is normal on the first full practice day) and the 330-km task for Standard Class had pilots finishing around 6pm, which was clearly a bit after the day had started to die.


  1. Thank you for the news - we have been wondering how you are all getting on with Englandy weather. Hope the technical and meteo conditions continue to improve. Does the hired bike come with or without a rider!?

  2. Both the bicycle and the rider have proved essential in this internet-free zone. The rider's name is Jose. We haven't named the bicycle yet.


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