Thursday, 10 January 2013

Wednesday 9th January 2013

Day 3 Task 2
"They'll go up-diddly-up-up, they'll go down-diddly-down-down"

What a day. I'm exhausted just thinking about, let alone re-living it through the blog...
The day started as normal, with the standard weather and task briefing and the usual Team GB huddle to discuss the days task and tactics. Normal that is until I couldn't find Tony. As I was searching around competition HQ my phone bleeped with a message from him "Having a dump if you are wondering where I am". Yes,thanks Tony, too much information, but well done for letting me know. At least you are respecting the party line of keeping your Team Manager informed...

With a later launch start, a team visit to the coffee shop followed to kill some time while I went to buy more First Aid supplies to patch up Dave's knee. Then it was on to the airfield where 6 out of our 7 pilots were rigging and launching in the "red" lane, and only one, Grant, was in the "green" lane. Carl had put his name in to the hat for the early launch lottery and won 3rd launch of the day.

Having had a fairly relaxed start to the day, I suddenly found myself rushing from one glider to the next with water, food, marker pens, while also grabbing gliders to stop them cart wheeling in dust devils, and assisting my pilots at launch. With a gusty SSW wind, a strong inversion at 5000' and blue skies predicted, it was going to be a challenge to reach goal some 162 kilometres away to the north via one turn point.

Carl takes off

Carl was soon away on tow and was meant to be followed quickly by Tony. Unfortunately Tony experienced a "harness malfunction" which required me to quickly fix the problem before he missed his designated tow slot (thereby forcing him back to the back of the queue). Luckily, I still managed to work on the harness as Tony got clipped in on the trolley, and just about remedied the situation as he was hooked up for the tow. With a reminder to pull the speed-bar in,Tony got away cleanly to join Carl.

Ben assists Dave at launch

The rest of the team were soon airborne, finding a climb to the left of the launch line and drifting back over the airfield to the north. Some gliders struggled to get up, and I was surprised to see Tony coming back in for a relight. Kath suffered a weak link break trying to stay at the right level behind the Dragonfly and landed just behind the rigging paddock.
Steve Moyes helps mend glider

Both pilots got in line for a "re-light" and quickly got a second tow. Unfortunately for Kath, she had the same problem keeping the tow-line under tension and suffered her second weak link break of the day, and to make matters bent an upright on landing. Luckily Steve Moyes, owner and director of Moyes Gliders, came over and changed the upright in lightening speed to get her on tow again.

Coming in for a relight
In the meantime our other pilots were working hard to stay high. Over the radio we heard a sudden "Aaaaaaaaagh....!" and found out that Gordon had nearly had a mid-air. 
Kath tows up, again...

Gaggle flying 
As the task start time of 2.40pm approached Trudy and I set off to chase the lead gaggle containing Carl, Dave, Gary, Gordon and Grant, just as Tony and Kath got back in the air. Based on the experience of Task 1 I know that the speed with which these top international pilots fly is very high and it is very easy for retrieve to lag some way behind, unless you really push on. The last thing you want in these conditions is to leave an already exhausted and dehydrated pilot standing around for hours in 45 degrees of heat, so getting to them quickly once they have landed is VERY important.

Chasing the gliders down course, the teamwork again shone through, with clear radio communications to help each other. With some inspired navigation Trudy got us on track with the gliders by using drive-able dirt roads, cutting out a huge dog-leg of tarmac road. With dust flying up everywhere as we hurtled along, some Australian wildlife came for a closer look.

Nearing Turn Point 1 at the 130km mark, we were back on the main road. Parked up in a lay-by we could see a lead glider, followed by a gaggle, gliding downwind at speed towards the finish. From the radio communications, we knew that Grant had by now pulled ahead of the rest of the team and was flying very fast towards goal. Was it him in the lead? With little time to reach the designated landing zone we raced on and arrived just in time to see the first gliders landing. Unfortunately it was not the red and black of Grant's Moyes. As we waited, we heard over the radio that Carl was down at the Turn Point. Other gliders were also slowing up  - with increasing high level cloud,  it seemed that being one thermal behind the lead gaggle was making a big difference to the air on the final glide in to goal. However, Kathleen had made fast progress down the course and had almost caught up after her later start. Things were looking promising.

Grant crosses the goal line
Minutes later,Grant came speeding over the line in 6th position. A fantastic performance! He well and truly deserved his goal beer. Shortly afterwards Gary arrived in 21st position - all we needed now was a third glider in for a good team score. But where was the rest of the team?

Gary on finals

Radio silence, then...
"Dave down 3km from goal".
"Kathleen down 500 metres from the goal line"
Gordon? Where are you? Surely, but surely I would see the blue under-surface of his Moyes RX 13.5 whistle over my head. Phone rings....
"Gordon down 12km from goal."

Gary thumbs up
Ouch. Having witnessed and listened to the fine performance of the team for the vast majority of the 162km flight, I found it hard to believe that we had not got a third man in to goal. With the Aussies, Americans, Italians and Austrians all getting a "full house", our team points will inevitably suffer.

And Tony? After three launches, he was having one of those days when things just don't go right and landed to score 17km. Ah well, at least he had time at the hotel to fix the problems for tomorrows task, the only downside being that the second retrieve car, which had been out of contact all afternoon, was delayed by well over an hour, leading to long retrieve times for Carl, Dave and Gordon. Not a problem when the air is cooler, but I cant have pilots waiting out in the bush in extreme heat for very long - it can be lethal. Time for a team meeting in the morning...

Kath quite literally flying the flag...
The drive back proved to be almost as eventful. Having been warned about Kangaroos playing chicken across the roads at dusk, we nearly had a head-on crash with a monster of a "Roo" that literally bounded out from the bushes in front of us. With Kathleen screaming "Kangarooooooooooo...!" and me heeding the local advice of stamping on the brakes, not swerving (you will probably turn the car over) and preparing for impact, we avoided writing us and the car off by a matter of inches. 

Finally back at the scoring room just after 11pm, Grant's track log could not be downloaded from his Brauniger IQ Compeo - a problem that seems to be plaguing the latest software for this instrument. Luckily the back up Garmin provided a scorable trace, but with so many pilots experiencing this problem at the Worlds I was on the phone to Brauniger asking for an immediate solution. Hopefully I will be able to report tomorrow that a fix has been supplied.

So, an interesting end to an interesting day. Lets hope it becomes a little more predictable tomorrow.

Full results here:

Gordon launches

Zak Majors


  1. another excellent blog Ben i am really enjoying reading them
    Thank You

  2. Desperate bad luck on the team score with so many close to goal. But very well done Grant and Gary. Go team GB! :-)