Let the games begin....
Its been a long day - and this was only Day 1, Task 1 of the World Championships. It is not going to get easier, especially as even though today's task was rated as "Hard", it was in fact quite short as expectations are that 300 km plus tasks will be set.
No time for messing around. Cars loaded up by 8.30am, Kathleen off to the Safety Committee meeting by 9am, full pilot briefing at 9.30am... finally to return back to base at midnight.
The day definitely proved to be eventful...
Immediately after briefing, Team GB got together to discuss tactics for the day with the general consensus that the forecast weak lift may well favour our pilots who are used to fighting for every bit of lift that they can find. Instruments and routes checked, Steve and I drove the team over to the airfield where they were to rig and launch from designated rigging areas (set up randomly for Day 1 but subsequently results based).
Tony Stephens was to be the first GB pilot to launch. Having watched some pretty hair raising launches yesterday I made sure that the keel support of the glider was set at a suitable angle of attack to prevent taking off in a stalled attitude. The other important element for everyone to remember is "pull on speed"...
|Did Tony pull on enough speed? Maybe not....|
Gordon seemed very relaxed, and was obviously enjoying the start of the comp. Launching in to blue skies he was soon high, trying to maximise height gain while winding down the clock to the start gate exit time. Tony struggled to connect with anything worthwhile and landed back at the airfield for a relight. Grant, on the other hand was having much more fun on the "Green" launch line, playing roller coasters with the trike in front, whose pilot eventually released the line for Grant to fly back to take off with.
Gary got himself ready to launch, helped by our flag girl, come launch marshal. Executing a perfect "wings straight and level" take off and tow, he was soon climbing above the airfield with Gordon, joined later by Grant who got up from low, and Carl who had a late launch - probably not a bad thing considering the day was forecast to improve later in the day and down track.
|Gary gets away straight and level.|
The launch procedure was not without incident. While helping Tony launch for his relight, I could hear Kathleen saying that she had landed. A few moments later a plea for help from Kathleen came over the radio asking for assistance to turn the glider the right way up... unfortunately the wind had switched direction and got under her wing.
|Kath needs a hand to turn the glider over and fly again...|
|But some were less lucky, with their glider needing significant attention.|
|Kathleen Rigg prepares for her re-light...|
|...and executes a perfect take-off.|
With all our pilots now safely in the air, Steve and I could think about getting underway on retrieve. We had agreed that I would keep ahead of the lead gaggle, while Steve picked up the rear. As the first Start Gate triggered, I made my way down towards Turn Point one, some 100 km to the SSW. Gary, Gordon and Grant took the second start gate, while Tony, Kathleen, Dave and Carl took the third - not a bad way of maximising team score opportunities.
Conditions were, as forecast, quite weak with maximum height gains of about 5300' but often flying between 2 and 4 thousand feet. Tracking the teams progress I could drive a few kilometres ahead and watch the gaggles approaching. The team were doing well, working hard to keep up with some pre-identified competition, while relaying over the radio their individual flight conditions and situation - it was true team flying. As I waited near the Turn Point, Gary was the first to make the cylinder with Gordon and Grant not far behind.
As soon as the lead gaggle made the turn point, the conditions improved dramatically and Tony was cutting down the distance between him and the leaders. As cloud base rose to 7500' I realised that it was highly likely that the team were going to make goal so I drove straight to the designated airfield, a further 50km away. Unfortunately Carl and Kathleen had got very low, and I soon received a call from Carl saying he had landed. Kathleen meanwhile managed to pull off a great low save from about 300' above the ground having ad to return to the Turn point for fear of having missed it.
Watching from the airfield for the first glimpse of a glider, I was hoping to see one of our wings first, but it was not to be.
Christian Voiblet on an Aeros Combat was the lead glider, followed quickly by a swarm of gliders, including Gordon Rigg, the first Brit to cross the line. Tony, Grant and Gary were soon to arrive, with Dave Matthews coming in quite low, just about pulling off a landing which required the First Aid kit to see to his gravel rash knees. Ouch. A bottle of beer placed in the hand certainly seemed to help.
Kathleen was still persevering, making her way steadily to goal. With the sun lowering in the sky, and most of the Brits de-rigged (apart from a certain Mr Rigg), the final British Moyes RX glided into goal.
|Kathleen crosses the goal reference line|
For the full results please visit http://www.forbesflatlands.com/results.html