Tuesday 9th July 2013
Thunderstorms and Mayhem
A bit of a late start after last night’s impromptu beach party. Finishing yesterday’s blog and then nipping down to the local shop for our breakfast, I then roused the troops. Remind me not to knock on Neil’s window again to wake him up – the sight that was revealed as he drew back the curtain… ok, moving on.
A quick baguette and croissant breakfast and we were off to briefing. The car park looked ominously empty. Having experienced briefing times changing frequently during the day, many pilots are now guesstimating when the right briefing time is, drifting in sometime after 9am. This morning was no exception but with most pilots arriving before 9.30 a weather briefing was held, with a site to be announced later. So, much the same as yesterday with storms forecast for later in the day. The delay in leaving gave me a chance to introduce Richard Hunt’s Tracker which received immediate interest from some pilots.
|A picture book alpine view from Semnoz take off|
|AIR Pilot Walter Geppert inspects Neils wing|
|Team GB - Chocks away!|
|Bomber "scratching" at ridge height|
Meanwhile Andy had glided out to the next ridge on the way to the start cylinder. He too was getting drilled to the ground. 1000’ above ground… 800’… 600’… With pilots landing around him, Andy then found a core that took him all the way back up above ridge height. “Andy to Ben – just doing TP1 and 2 (Revard) – on my way to TP3 (Quintal). That-a-boy, Andy. With conditions the way they were, British pilots used to flying in very weak conditions can do very well by exploiting every last drop of lift. Today was turning out to be a prime example, with Andy “Buzz Lightyear” Hollidge flying superbly. Could this be his day?
|Fred answering concerns|
As all this was going on, launch was becoming quite an excitable place. While all the rigids were flying, there was still a large number of flex pilots waiting to take off from the Womens and French Open. With the end of the launch window rapidly approaching, soon there was a stream of pilots launching in to a more buoyant sky as the sun came on to the ridge once more.
Francoise, current leader of the Womens championship, immediately took a climb to the left of take off, just about keeping below the base of the cloud while other gliders joining her climb did disappear in to the haze. Not very clever , especially after all the specific warnings at briefing.
|Corinna waits at launch|
|Not the most orthodox of take offs|
I don’t know how, but amazingly Corinna managed to retrieve the situation, get the glider flying, and clear the trees. A universal sigh of relief from everyone followed, including from poor old Mr and Mrs Schweigershausen who had witnessed it all.
|Looking down the ridge towards Annecy|
|Gliding out to the valley|
Not wanting to rely on third hand information, I requested confirmation over the safety channel. No reply, so I phoned through to the safety officer on the landing report phone number. Am I pilot reporting in? No, I am the British team leader. What is the situation with the task. I have heard it is stopped. Yes, it is a stop. Can I confirm that the task is a stop, stop, stop? Yes, it is a stop, stop, stop.
The message could not have been clearer.
“Ben to Team GB, the task is a stop, stop, stop. Please make yourselves safe and land”.
|Crossing the gap in the ridge|
With Andy and Luke back at Douusard, I drove back, picking up two rigid pilots (including Tim) and a flex I jokingly said that the price of the retrieve was ten beers Our foreign counterparts were extremely grateful for the lift, especially when Bomber opened up the centre console, which doubles up as a fridge, and produced a beer for everyone. Stopping in Saint Jorioz to get some supplies, Tim and his flying buddy returned to the vehicle and donated a pack of beer to Team GB. Nice touch chaps.
|Flying the same task, apart from the final (yellow) leg|
Leaving Neil to sort the vehicle out I went to find Andy in the Doussard Hall. You can imagine the look on his face when I told him. He was absolutely deflated. Together we went to find Yves, one of the organisers, who arranged an immediate meeting between myself, Andy, Claudia (FAI) and Fred (in charge at launch). I made it very clear that I did not want to cause any unnecessary upset to the competition and rather than file an official protest, would rather find a mutually acceptable solution, one which would reward Andy appropriately and fairly for his flying. After all, everyone was trying their best to run the competition well, and there is no point in throwing one’s toys out of the proverbial pram. Lessons learned for next years Worlds though...
Back at the camp site, and after a culinary delight served up by Luke, we went through some GoPro footage and photos. A message pinged through on Facebook chat from one of the organisers. A decision had been made on what to do about Andy’s flight. Yes, go on. Huddled around the computer we waited for the verdict... Andy was to be rewarded with an extra 20km on his flight – having taken his height at the time of the “stop”, a generous glide angle of 15:1 had been used to calculate a nominal distance. Well, until we can see for ourselves what that means in relation to the other pilots, then we wont know whether it is fair or not. I suspect that we will never get a satisfactory answer – could Andy have caught up and overtaken the lead gaggle? Flying as well as he had been, anything was possible…
Roll on tomorrow.