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Programme and Project Management by Ed Johnston

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EGC 2011 Pociunai

Slowly Declining Conditions

6th August: Survival for some

Our glorious air has finally abandoned us, with a front pushing in from the west on broadly Southerly breezes. The ominous pre-frontal cloud was visible before briefing and over the field by the time we launched into pretty much blue skies. I was at the back today and although they had the dubious pleasure of being first into a rather marginal sky, Russell and Gary were able to hook up and stay together. I never got up to join them and they got into a good starting position and went.

Eventually I got up behind them and left leading out a big gaggle, just to get us all going. At that point I was pretty convinced we would not complete the task and the others had a serious advantage being further along track when the party stopped.

Finishing after SurvivingIn fact conditions improved down the first leg and then up between the TMA areas and soon we were climbing at occasionally 5kts and bumping against the 5000ft ceiling. By the time we turned the north turn points, it was looking grim ahead with the front well over the task return leg, so we all went cautious, some more so than others. In fact there were improbable thermals under slate grey 8/8 cover and the bolder pilots did well. Russell stayed ahead but only just due to the bigger gaggle having a better run on the first two legs. He then speared straight for the last TP which I thought ‘bold’ as it looked completely un-soarable and a long way to get back to a glimmer of sunshine. I went for the sun, in company with Gary, and together we first got zero, then a slowly building thermal to 2.5kt and enough height for a slow, nervous final glide.

Very pleased to be back as it was definitely a day to lose, rather than one to win!

Turns out though that the people that pushed harder did better. Incredibly there were quite a few moderate thermals under the 8/8 and folk just got away with it while under similar UK skies, it would have been curtains.

Competition Day 7

As forecast, a cold front was coming over us from Poland and the condition were deteriorating. Weather was better to the East, so tasks were set in that direction. Two sets of tasks are set, longer optimistic `A' tasks and shorter reserve `B' tasks, if the day proves to be worse than hoped. The A tasks for 15m, 18m and open-class are respectively 366km, 365km and 387km. The fall-back B tasks are about 100km shorter.

First launch was delayed from 1100 to 1145, with task A set. Over the airfield the sky remained blue, with no cumulus clouds forming. As the day progressed this turned to white as high level cirrus moved in along with the cold front. Pilots reported that the blue conditions fortunately did not apply to the rest of the task, although it was apparently a very tactical day.

Picture: Team GB base camp is just like Butlins.The results for the British team were distinctly average in the 18m class. Unfortunately this means that we have slipped down the rankings and Russell dropped back out of the top three. The two polish pilots, Karol Staryszak and Zbigniew Nieradka have the top spots, with Karol enjoying a 150 points lead. However, the next few positions are very close, so there is still a lot to play for. The final outcome may depend heavily on how many flyable days we have in the next week. The surprise of the day was that Wolfgang Janowitsch, Austria, landed out. That mistake dropped him from 5th to 11th place; a bad day can take you out of the running.

The 15m results were also not so hot. Nick Tillett did okay but Chris Starkey landed out. In contrast, the open class had a great day, taking the second, third and forth positions, missing out on first by a gnat's whisker. In terms of the scores there is very little difference, but getting first place has a certain amount of kudos attached, and more importantly, a free bottle of wine. Overall the open class pilots are in seventh, tenth and eleventh positions. First place, held by German Markus Frank, has a nice 200 point lead, but the middle of the table is very close.

Weather for tomorrow doesn't look so hot, but I expect a task will be squeezed out.

7th August: A long way home

Bright and clear once more, though the air was noticeably warmer and more humid. We were set a pretty ambitious 380k, with a 300 fall back, then set about waiting. A brisk southerly breeze kept temperatures down and that proved the problem for the morning- not reaching a rather high 26 or 27 degree trigger temperature.

Kim getting ready to fly As the start was pushed back we saw the snifter slowly going round at 400ft over the trees and eventually sink back to earth. We first fell back to the B task, then amazingly for an international, we were given an assigned area C task and sent to work.

Weak and varied thermals were available under reasonable cumulus, but not all worked by a long way. It was clear that we had a challenge on our hands for the day. I was very keen to get going and at one point, we had cloud base in the right place looking at a line running to the first sector and was itching to go. Wolfgang did but Russell steadfastly refused to leave, wanting to stay with the gaggle. A big mistake as Wolfgang was one of two finishers.

We messed about for another 30 minutes or more, then went off making decent progress to the first sector into wind. I made another small mistake and got out of touch again. I think I am focusing too much on the other gliders, not enough on my flight and sky.

A day for BIG wings Down wind I slowly caught up as conditions started to deteriorate. Eventually we got into the final sector and I was in similar location but a bit lower than Gary and Russell. We then made our second big mistake, believing that our distance stopped when the 2 hours of the task run out. In fact you scored all the distance you flew. With this mistaken impression, we continued down wind (no windicapping) to get maximum distance then Russell landed and Gary and I lit the turbo. Three long saw tooth climbs later we got onto a slow but safe glide back to the site with half a pint of fuel left in the tank.

It was concert night at the airfield with various classics being performed in the hangar while we scoffed our food in the bar, heathens to a man.

Rest day tomorrow, and not a  day too soon!

Competition Day 8

Grid squatting is the lingo used to describe the time when you are hanging around the launch grid, waiting for the weather to improve enough to get the gliders airborne. Or for the day to be cancelled. Generally it involves waiting for an announcement every quarter of an hour saying that the time for first launch is delayed by another 15 minutes. This is effectively dead time because you need to stay by the grid in case a launch is declared, and it is usually not a lot of fun because if the weather is not good enough for launching it is also not good enough for lounging around soaking up the sun.

The good weather we enjoyed last week has definitely been used up; today involved a lot of grid squatting.

Both Alpha and Bravo tasks were set at briefing, but even these proved to be to optimistic and a third task Charlie was given out on the grid. This was clearly put together with some haste as it was a two hour assigned area task where, in order to make the minimum distance in the time, a speed of around 110 kph would be required. That is the sort of speed you hope to achieve when the weather is good.
Picture: A "circumhorizontal arc" or solar halo rainbow seen while grid squatting. No pot of gold at the end, only Task Charlie.
Once launched, instead of getting going, the GB 18m gliders messed around on the start line, jockeying for position and, as a result, started behind the pack. After getting to the first sector and finding that the weather had deteriorated, they realized that they had little chance of getting back. In order to maximise the points they could get, the group decided to go as far as possible into the sector. This meant an long retrieve for the E1, a JS-1b, which had no engine. The two ASW-29s were able to get their motors started but they had a long into wind flight. It was touch and go whether they would be able to get back. I sat out on the field waiting it a state of great anticipation, thanks to the good book I was reading. Both did get back, with almost empty tanks. In fact, only two of the 18m gliders made it round the task. For the other two classes around half the competitors had to land out.

8th August

Rest day was very welcome. A lie in and lazy morning, replenishing the fuel was the only chore. The rain stopped late in the morning, but the rest day was well chosen- no realistic chance of a task.

After lunch we went to Klunas for a bowling session- Gary was the deamon, thrashing us all, followed by an excellent meal just off the town square. A really pleasant atmosphere with pretty much the whole team plus Mark Halliday from SA, all in a loft of a pretty ancient building. The centre was old and cobbled while the rest was pretty rough and industrial.

Bowling day out

9th August: Flying but No Contest

Dull and windy at breakfast, the weather soon started to brighten up as a cold front moved out of our area. However the wind persisted and the sat pics showed some trouble ahead. None the less, the organisation set a feisty 360k for the 18s into wind and Poland first with an area task as a fall back.

Grid part way through the launc Unfortunately predictions were correct. We got going into weak thermals which slowly firmed up, even though they remained very broken. We set up but did so split up again- I was leading but the others didn’t follow. At first we had some good running towards Poland, but it soon turned weaker and worse, eventually diverting miles to the south to stay alive. One by one we gave up the attempt and landed or lit up. Just before I did, I saw a lonely 18m glider high up while we were in the weeds trying to climb under a very promising looking cloud in the middle of a forest. This turned out to be Eric Bernard who managed to get that key climb at the right time and went round the first TP to make it a day, curse him!

International evening tonight and the Brits have pimms and sandwiches to offer to the host.

Festivities Not only pimms went down but all sorts of excellent food from all corners of Europe was on offer. The Belgian stand had all varieties of meat and cheese, the Poles had some very interesting stew and dumplings with great offerings from many other nations.

The Brits did well with games too, with Shaun being MC and getting participation from several in a glider pilot’s variation of an old rugby drinking game.

Competition Day 9

With yesterday's rest day out of the way it was back to aviating, or at least rigging and polishing.

Today's weather seemed marginal so two tasks set. The primary alpha-task was a speed task of lengths 330km, 360km and 380km for the three classes, while task brave used the same turn points but with assigned areas. After a bit of delay, launching happened with task A for all classes.

One of the Diana II 15m gliders was smashed on launch. I was watching our 18m grid launch so didn't see it happen. First I noticed one of the tugs going past without a glider, and then looked back to see what had happened and saw a glider in the grass with both its nose and tail sticking up into the air.

The PZL Diana II is unusual in a number respects but it is instantly identifiable from the pencil thin fuselage just ahead of the tail section. The Diana has a reputation for difficult take-offs; it is totally optimized for competition winning performance and comes up short in a number of other areas such as safety. Surprisingly, in this crash the fuselage broke in half just behind the cockpit where is thick, rather than in front of the tail where it is very thin. Fortunately, the pilot was able to walk away.

There was also an accident in the open class. A Nimbus 4 was not able to start its get-back-home engine and made a hole in a forest. It is incredibly bad airmanship to not have a backup field ready when trying to use the engine. Both wings were smashed and the wreckage will apparently be written off.

No one managed to compete the task, although enough people in the 15m gliders managed to fly 100km of the task (a distance known as “point why?”) and thus made it a scoring day in that class, albeit devalued heavily. I'm sure this was a small consolation for the people who struggled for hours in abysmal conditions in order to get a few dozen points.
110 coming in to land dumping water
This evening was the international party, where each country attempts to poison the other teams with their national delicacies and drinks. At the British table we had a vat of Pimm's. It tasted unlike any such drink I previously had, perhaps thanks to vodka fortification. For me, the star attraction for me was the Belgium stall where they had freshly made waffles.

A terrible day but a great evening.