Saturday, 12 January 2013

Friday 11th January 2013: The race is on...

Friday 11th January 2013

After yesterdays excellent results, I was hoping that we could build on the improving performance and continue to climb up both the individual and team rankings. Unfortunately our only female pilot Kathleen Rigg, who had been struggling with the heat, declared herself not fit to fly today so we were already a pilot down.

Down at Competition HQ the remainder of the team attended the briefing for the 203km race to goal via one turn point on a dog-leg course first to the South then on to the East.
Listening to the description of the terrain given by Jonny Durand, we quickly examined the course track on Google Earth to try and get some clues of the lay of the land as the goal field was indicating a 2800' elevation. It became apparent that the race started in flatlands but ended up in mountain-esque type country. Definitely worth noting the landscape just in case a hill popped up in front of you on a final glide to goal....

At the airfield the guys were dropped off at their designated rigging spots with all but Grant in the Green line. Very soon the first pilots started launching - with Steve Gale on hand at launch I took the opportunity to get some photographs of the gliders towing towards the camera as opposed to away (most of the time you snatch a shot at launch as they fly away from you). So, here they are:

Carl take off
Carl on tow
Busy rigging

Dave Matthews

A Dragonfly waits...

While one launches...
Gordon on tow

 A dust devil rips through launch...

Gary checking the sky

Gary launches...

Grant takes off

Moyes vs Wills Wing

Tony on tow...
A Dragonfly lands
A beautiful sight.

With all our pilots airborne and climbing well, Steve and I left the airfield quickly to start following the course. With a tailwind forecast for the first leg and a strong cross/headwind forecast for the final leg to goal, we were both concerned that the pilots would struggle after the turn point, so instead of driving straight on to goal, I too followed the dog leg course. With Steve at the back and me at the front we had any retrieve eventualities well covered.
A Dragonfly tow...

As it turned out, our caution was misplaced. Listening to the radio, it was obvious that the Brits were once again right up there at the front, speeding from climb to climb, with Carl, Grant, Dave, Gary and Tony sticking quite close to together. Gordon had slipped back and had got low, causing him to slow up and lose about 15kms on his team mates. As I sat waiting just north of the turnpoint on the main road to the goal field some 100 kms away, I noticed that the wind had switched from a Northerly to a Westerly, also making the second leg to goal a downwind section. I quickly reported this over the radio to the team as I got a visual of "my boys" taking a climb before gliding to the turnpoint at Tyagon.

"Grant 6000', gliding for turnpoint.... Grant 103km from goal, 5500, 4 up, on track...." From that point I knew it was going to be a quick section to goal. Without further ado, I was back in the car (luckily a V6 3 litre monster) and gunned it (legally of course) along the main highway towards Bathurst. The usual posse of team cars were leap-frogging each other along the main road, with drivers innocently asking "Zo, vere are ze Brits? How far fon gool are zey?" and me responding with the stock answer "Oh, I think they are doing ok!" All is fair in love and war, and flying...

Another nail  biting finish followed. Tony, racing on down track while the others had deviated off to a ridge to the left of track, could not get the next climb and was down at 60km from goal. Meanwhile, having found the goal airstrip perched on top of a hill up a dirt track, I quickly reported the local terrain to the team. "Airstrip on top of hill with land falling away around it...2800' elevation.... Wires, water, trees and livestock surrounding the strip.... Only safe place to land is on the strip. ... facing West in to wind". Unfortunately my transmission came at a time when the lead flyers were struggling to find the last climb before going on finals in to goal  - I was soon asked to maintain radio silence while the boys sorted themselves out. Understandable and no offence taken - I would have done exactly the same. Bless their hearts, they even apologised as soon as they had landed. Now that gets a big tick up in my book - a bit of humility and respect goes a long way in this world.

Tina points out lead gliders

Watching the sky and staring up track, again I was hoping for a British glider to come over the line first. Grant had stayed with the main lead gaggle while Gary and Carl had gone freestyle, attempting to find better conditions than the ones Grant was reporting. But it was too late. 
The chaos at landing...

Manfred Ruhmer came out of the sun like a ballistic missile, glider whistling through the air. What seemed like less than a minute afterwards, Grant (8th), then Carl (TBC as like the others), then Gary were soon in goal in amongst a small swarm of other pilots.  Reporting that we had three in goal, Gordon and Dave were next to arrive. 

Carl, Gary and Grant celebrate
Another fine performance from Team GB. The results are still being finalised as I write. The Brauniger software situation has caused numerous problems, but they have reacted very swiftly to my phone call and email about the download problem and have now provided a work-around temporary fix for the World Championships, while working on an update to solve the bug. Lets hope it works - just checking on the scores this evening, it seems like Gary and Carl have not got any lead points, placing them behind Gordon who cam in ten minutes behind. I can feel an appeal coming on. Sorry Wes.

So, we await the final scores and the updated individual and team positions. I would be surprised if we haven't stolen another place or two....


  1. cracking reporting Ben, am a tad jealous of the temps out there, its forecast =10 & snow in SE uk on sunday, poss -15 mid next week, i jest not.

  2. Another great report Ben. Team GB doing the country proud keep it up guys