Saturday, 16 July 2011

Sweden - Sunday 26 June 2011 - The Journey Home

With everything packed away and the Closing Ceremony finished, we hitched up the trailer and headed off on our journey home.  We’d been gone for about 25 minutes when the Team Captain called and asked us to return to the airfield to pick up the team mast as no one else was prepared to take it home….we had no choice and so had to turn around.  After loading the mast into the glider trailer, we set off for a second time.
We had a ferry to catch – so the aim was to get to Calais before midnight on Monday 27 June.  The journey somehow seemed a lot easier going home than on the way up to Sweden, probably because the weather (now that the competition had finished!) was warm, dry and sunny.  The route was similar – South through Sweden, across the bridge into Denmark and into Germany which, when you are driving through, just seems to go on forever and this is where we stopped overnight and slept in the car.  We rose early in the morning and set off once more, finally clearing Germany and into The Netherlands, then Belgium and finally France.  We arrived at Calais at 16:30 – much earlier than anticipated and paid extra to be able to get onto the 17:20 ferry to Dover.

We had another comfortable ferry ride across the channel.  Back on UK soil, I followed the Tom Tom navigator in the car, only for it to direct me to the Channel Tunnel!.  With no other option available I had to drive through the barrier with a special pass for me to be able to exit further along the road – it clearly looked as though this happens several times a day…very odd.
The earlier ferry meant we arrived home in the day light and were able to start emptying the car and trailer.  Several of our neighbours came out to have a chat and find out how I’d done in the World Championships. 
The following day Tuesday 28 June, we took the Mosquito out of its trailer to properly inspect the damage that occurred during that last field landing.  We also rigged the glider to make sure that everything went together properly and so that we could check the controls and deflections.  Fortunately, other than a couple of scratches beneath the starboard wing and a small dent in the leading edge filler, everything was absolutely fine.

Sweden - Sunday 26 June - Closing Ceremony and Results

Today dawned bright and sunny…which was a shame after such a rainy day yesterday.  We got up pretty early because we wanted to get everything packed up before the Closing Ceremony started, which meant emptying out the tent, de-rigging it and cramming as much as possible in both the car and the glider trailer.  Even though we’d given out all the gifts to the competitors, there still seemed to be no more room in the car than when we first set out!  We literally just managed to get everything packed away as the Closing Ceremony started at 10:00 in the glorious sunshine.
Both the Club Class and the Standard Class had a total of 5 competition days, and the 15 Metre Class had a total of 6 competition days.  The British Team finished overall in 4th Place.

Club Class

Total points
Agnete Olesen
Std. Libelle WL
Ayala Liran
Great Britain
Std. Libelle
Amelie Audier
Std. Cirrus

Standard Class
Total points
Sue Kussbach
Gunilla Lindell
Discus 2T
Gaby Haberkern
Discus 2b

15 Metre Class
Total points
Susanne Schödel
Ventus 2ax
Anne Ducarouge
ASG 29
Alena Netusilova
Czech Republic

Where did I finish in the results?  Well I finished in 10th place in the Club Class.  I was disappointed not to have a podium place, but I don’t think that looking at back at the weather conditions and my glider’s handicap that I could have done a great deal better.  It has however, made me think that it’s time to buy a different glider….

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Sweden - WWGC2011 - Saturday 25 June 2011

At briefing this morning, the Director apologised for the shambles that was yesterday….

The Director set a further briefing at 12:00 because the weather was poor – of course, he was in such a difficult position after the bad decision he made yesterday, that I believe he felt that he had to send us today, even if the weather was worse than yesterday.

A task of 137.4km was set for the Club Class (Start Echo – Spannarboda – Sura – Gunnilbo – Tuna – Arboga).  All gliders were on the grid and the first launch set for 14:00.  Sure enough, they launched us first and by the time it came to my launch, it was raining heavily – I had no choice but to pull off the grid.  It continued to rain as they launched the Standard Class. 

I couldn’t get a launch until after the Standard Class had gone, and it wasn’t long after I’d launched that I started.  Ahead of us to the North were multiple bands of rain – my worst enemy.  I flew to the west with a handful of other gliders, then alongside a huge rain shower.  Somewhere at the other end of the rain shower was the first turning point, but it was under a lowering cloud base and heavy rain.  After several attempts, I made my way into the turning point and my FLARM kept going off indicating imminent collision as gliders were descending through cloud (which is forbidden) it was very frightening indeed).  I managed to work my way round the turning point and back out to the North where I climbed up again and considered my next move.  The next turning point was back through the rain shower and I knew I didn’t have enough height to get through the rain and to the better looking weather.  I could see other gliders making a run for it, so in I went, but as predicted, there was no lift just incredible sink.  I saw a suitable landing field, popped out of the rain and headed on track – but all I could see ahead were forests and lakes. 

I turned back towards my chosen field, which was a cut hay field that ran down to the huge lake and was surrounded on two sides by forest.  I called GB Team up on my radio to inform them of my position prior to landing.   I started the downwind leg in torrential rain and then noticed that the wind had changed through 180 degrees.  Do I continue to land with a tailwind up the slope or do I land into wind where at the end of the field, it slopes towards the lake.  I had a split second to decide and I chose to land towards the lake – bad decision.

I approached at the right speed low over the boundary and landed in the field rolled up a slope and unable to get the brakes to work at all, I rolled over the top of the hill and down towards the lake.  I was going to end up in the lake, no question about it.  Experience took over and I ground looped the glider to the right, trying to get the starboard wing to strike a boulder and stop me from going into the lake.  I just missed the boulder, but the starboard wing went through a wood and barbed wire fence and the main wheel ended up in a ditch with the nose against the barbed wire.  I was OK, but there was an almighty crunch as I rolled into the ditch.
Shortly after I'd landed, the Russian pilot Nina, also landed in the same field and she walked down the field to find out if I was OK. 

Steve and Michael found their way to the field with the trailer and they also brought an extra helper, Tom. 

To be able to de-rig the glider we had to cut the barbed wire as we couldn't remove the wooden posts until this was done.  I took off the tailplane and we removed each wing in turn and laid them on the ground.  This then enabled us to lift the glider fuselage together out of the ditch.  Remarkably, there appeared to be little damage - the undercarriage looked OK, there was some damage to the surface where the barbed wire had cut into the wing during the de-rig, and the starboard flap edgehad been scraped in one place along with two deeper scrapes on the underside of the wing.  It looks as though I have got away very lightly indeed.
Upon our return to the gliding club, we learnt that everyone had landed out in the Club Class and that it would not be a competition day.

So unfortunately, all they day's efforts were in vain, and that was the end of the competition.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Sweden - WWGC2011 - Friday 24 June 2011

The forecast at briefing today was for 2-4 octas of cumulus with a cloud base of 1100m and a wind of 230 degrees, 12kts at flying altitude.  A Racing Task of 214km with multiple turning points was set for the Club Class. 

The sky looked great as we went into briefing, but as we came out, there was spreadout above the cumulus and the temperature had dropped.  We duly sat on the grid whilst the initial launch time of 11:30 went past, then 12:00 and as 12:30 approached, the British Team were dancing to ABBA on the front of the Standard Class grid to the merriment of the other pilots, as the Director called for a re-brief for the Team Captains at the front of the grid.  The new task had been reduced in size (and number of turning points) and was now a 123.9km triangle, start Delta to Ramnas, Spannarboda, FTPN and back to Arboga.  Launch was set for 13:00 and the Club Class was launched into a bleak looking sky spot on 13:00.

I was in the second row from the back of the grid for the Club Class and took a launch behind one of the Dynamics.  I soon found a weak thermal and climbed in amongst other gliders, but I eventually became fed up with the gaggle not being in the best place so left, to go to a cumulus that was developing in the Start Zone.  But here again after a few turns, there were so many gliders, we were not making best use of the lift, so I left and went to another good looking cumulus over the town centre.  I hit the lift with 2.2kts, the best climb of the day so far and the other gliders were rapidly joining me as the start line was to open in the next five minutes.  I re-centred and the lift turned into a solid 5 knot core, then 7kts and as I was hundreds of feet above the others, a call came over the radio ‘The Women’s World Gliding Championships Club Class is cancelled for the day, Club Class is cancelled for the day’, just as I hit 7.7kts in the thermal at 36000ft….I couldn’t believe it; the thermals were stronger and the cloud base was higher than the previous flying day when they sent us over the most unlandable area, and now they had cancelled a much better day!  I had no choice and had to go in and land because that’s what the rules state, so land I did. 

As Steve and I were readying the glider to tow off the grass strip, the Director then scrubbed the day for the Standard Class gliders too.  He had already cancelled the launch of the 15 metre class and their gliders remained on the runway.  Once all the classes had been scrubbed, two of the Standard Class gliders decided to go ahead with the set task, and they successfully completed it.  Needless to say, many of the competitors were not happy with the Director’s decision.

During the day, my back had started to go into spasm and I was having difficulty walking (don’t worry, this occurred before the dancing to ABBA, but that didn’t cure it).  Fran had found out that she had passed her Chiropractic exams the day before and did a wonderful job in re-aligning my spine again with some rather tortuous methods, but it did the trick and I was able to walk a bit more normally again.

In the evening, we were all invited to have drinks and some nibbles with the French Team.  After that we went back to the GB camp where we ate freshly baked banana cake, I played my guitar and the French came and joined us.  Ayala played some chords we sang crazy songs and generally had a great time.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Sweden - WWGC2011 - Thursday 23 June 2011

At 05:00 this morning there was an almighty crack of thunder that rumbled on and on…this was the start of some spectacular storms and heavy rain.

Briefing was held at 10:00 and I had a mention for third place in the Club Class.  As the rain continued, the Director scrubbed the possibility of a task for the day.

Here is the link to the Arboga official web page:-

Having written about the Swedish terrain during yesterday’s flight, I wanted to show you a picture of a typical clearing that we came across whilst driving through the forest.  From the air, these clearings look like large brown flat areas and you can be fooled into thinking that you could land in them.  However, upon closer inspection, you can see trees that have been left standing, there’s scrub, undulating ground and huge piles of cut trees.  If you landed in one of these areas, you’d be doing some serious damage to the glider, and probably yourself too.

The picture on the left is a forest clearing.

The picture on the right shows the rocks that are often in the forests, but also dotted around in the only landable fields.

 Below I've uploaded a short video of when I flew on one of the practise days with Brian Spreckley.  It clearly shows the Swedish terrain and you can see the brown forest clearances in the middle of the forests.

The difference between this practise flight with Brain and the competition flight I had yesterday, is that the practise flight was conducted at a height in excess of 2000m (6000ft) which makes you feel an awful lot more comfortable when flying over this type of terrain.

Sweden - WWGC - Day 5 - Wednesday 22 June 2011

Good news!  Overnight due to other pilots receiving penalties (airspace infringement), I managed to pull up another 2 places and therefore I am in 10th place overall and not 12th after all.

Today the Competition Director set a 2 hour 15 minute Assigned Area Task for the Club Class, start Bravo – Karbenning – Sala - Skinnskatteberg – Sura – FTPN – Arboga.

This time at the back of the Club Class, I was launched last and after flying around for an hour or more, had to have a relight.  The cloud base was low (2500’), there was spreadout, a trough to the South of us and we were surrounded by low pressure areas; the thought of drifting across the unlandable countryside did not fill me with glee..

Liz and Ayala had already started and I went through the start line shortly after my relight at 14:09 from 2500’…not a lot of height.  For this flight, you have to imagine the area of land in the middle of the task area that we had to criss-cross three times, is completely unlandable.  Now in the UK, I am OK with gliding across the countryside at 2000’– 2500’, but the forests, clearings and lakes that constitute the central area of this task are totally out of the question for an out-landing.  You can therefore fly across it anyway in poor soaring conditions, if you are tired of living, or you can alter your course to take yourself across the river ‘valleys’ where there tend to be some landable areas.

I could hear that Liz and Ayala had diverted to the East to fly over the fields, but I flew North because I was with the Club Class Leader Amelie Audier (France), which took us across the dreaded unlandable area.  I stuck with Amelie and two others  for the first half of the first leg, sometimes with myself leading to find thermals, and sometimes with Amelie leading.  But there came a point when I looked ahead and thought ‘she’s crazy’, that I left the three gliders and turned towards the East, where, if I could no longer stay airborne, I could at least land with relative safety. 

I struggled for some time over a massive area of lakes, but eventually slowly climbed away.  It was at this point that I noticed Amelie coming into the thermal below me, but she couldn’t connect and I later learned that she landed out somewhere  in this area.

Liz and Ayala were now in the same vicinity as myself and I went across to their thermal to join them, but the bubble of lift was above me and I couldn’t connect with them.  I pushed into the first area, climbed, then headed South Eastwards towards the second sector at Sala.  I had already seen several gliders in fields and here on Sala Airfield, I saw another two.  I flew into the area, and then decided to go completely off track, downwind to the North East.  At first, I thought that this decision was the wrong one and was cursing myself, but in fact the big black cloud beneath the spreadout did eventually work and I gained my highest climb of the day (3700’).  Ahead of me was a dark, black cloud street and I was able to glide on track into wind using the lift beneath it.  This enabled me to catch up with Liz and Ayala, although I never saw them.  Shortly afterwards, I heard them both land out safely.

I flew as far as I could along the street and at the end of it, all that lay ahead were scrappy bits of broken cumulus.  I had already chosen a field to land in when I took a very good climb from 2000’ with a 15 metre class glider.  This took me back to 3000’ and I glided out back on track. 

Ahead looked grim and for a few minutes, I was very concerned about airspace as a pink sector was showing up on my IPAQ, and I finally had a change of heart.  All that lay ahead for miles and miles was forest, lakes and forest clearings. 

I flew down track as far as I could, then turned back to my landable field, in which there was now another glider.  The field had power wires along the Northern edge, and was surrounded by forest on two sides, but it looked like grass.  On the approach, there was heavy sink and as I dived through the sink, then pulled out my airbrakes which drops the trailing edge flaps to give me more float, the pilot of the other glider ran for the road!  I rounded out and realised that the grass was very long indeed and I held the wings level for as long as I could, the wheel touched down and I crunched my way through what felt like rocks.  The right wing went down with the heavy heads of the grass and I couldn’t prevent a groundloop through 90 degrees to the right.  I came to a jolting stop.  I was OK, but was the glider OK?

I leapt out of the cockpit.  All the bits of the glider were still attached (if you have a groundloop with the tail on the ground, you can sometimes break off the tail at the narrow point on the fuselage, fortunately, I had the experience to raise the tail).  The pilot of the other glider (Stefanie Mühl, Germany) came and spoke to me saying ‘I tried to warn you that it was not a good field’.  I couldn’t blame her in any way; I had also independently chosen the same field before she landed in it. 

I took my GPS position and called Steve and whilst on the phone went round checking the undercarriage, undercarriage doors, tailplane and wing tips…all seemed to be OK.  The ground was hard earth – it appears that some kind of critters (I haven’t a clue what they were), had dug up the whole field and the hard crunching noises I heard as I landed were the tops of their burrows.  The grass, nettles, thistles etc. that were in the field were as tall as my armpits.  At the edge of the field was a ditch, a dirt road another ditch then a bog.

Steve arrived with the trailer and Michael, shortly followed by the German retrieve crew with additional helpers.  There was no choice but to remove the tailplane, then take the wings off and leave them in the field and roll the fuselage into the trailer that we’d positioned like a bridge across the ditch.  At this point, a local fisherman (Sebastian) arrived and offered us assistance which we gladly took and he was able to help in carrying the wings to the trailer.  It was hot and hard work, but we succeeded.

We headed off back to the airfield and arrived back at 20:30 where the rest of the British Team had very kindly laid on a cold supper for everyone (it was very welcome).  We quickly ate the food and whilst the others prepared for Babajaga night (the induction process for new female pilots flying in the World Championships) and International Night (whereby some teams prepare typical food and drink from their countries), Steve and I went out to rig the glider again to check that everything was OK.  Other than a little play in the tailplane on the fin, and plenty of dirt and grass stains, everything seemed to be OK.

A review of the scores for the day showed that I was in 3rd position, Ayala in 6th and Liz in 9th.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Sweden - WWGC2011 - Day 4 - Tuesday 21 June 2011

21 June – the longest day, and the longest flight so far…

The dawned (actually it doesn’t, it just seems to remain light all the time…) and Steve said ‘you won’t be flying today’, it looked so rubbish. 

At briefing, they set an Assigned Area Task of 3 hours with the basic turning points of start Alpha – Iresjon – Enaker – Bodas – Arboga.  So far we’ve been doing flights of 130 or 150 km which are giving me a problem because of the glider handicap – I need a longer flight where I can use the flaps and glide further in order to be to shake off the other gliders.  Today’s task might be that opportunity, although I tend to struggle with AATs.

The glider was already on the front of the Club Class grid, so with a launch scheduled at 11:30, I quickly programmed the LX.  Liz, Ayala and I were talking tactics, when Steve and Mel suddenly decided to shift the FLARM and LX aerials and wires once more in my cockpit.  Fortunately, the competition Director delayed the launch by 30 minutes until 12:00, otherwise I wouldn’t have been ready to go.

I was launched first into a low 2400ft cloud base and spent the next 2 hours just staying airborne by exploring the sky for lift.  The cloud base had risen slowly to 4000ft, but the problem now was that there were huge squally rain showers to the North crossing directly across our track out.  The time to start was now or never.  We started just before 14:00 and immediately as we headed North I had a problem as I had to fly through the rain.  Sure enough, as usual, with wet wings I lost a good 1000ft on the others and struggled for the whole of the next two legs trying to gain as much height as Liz and Ayala.  We went into the first sector as far as we dared before turning downwind (Westerly 18 knots) towards the second sector. 

Part way along the second leg, I was leading and Liz and Ayala had a good climb behind me as I headed for a different cloud and I lost them.  I did however get a very good climb under the cloud I’d chosen and by now another couple of gliders were on my tail.  I headed back on track and caught up with Liz and Ayala again.  

Towards the third sector I lost Liz and Ayala once more as I headed out further West than them along with two leading French pilots.  As we entered the third sector, I suddenly had grave doubts about the airspace and convinced myself that the French had led me into airspace – if this is the case, then I’d be disqualified for the day.  I lost confidence and decided to leave the sector at that point and head for home.  I turned 50 degrees off track and headed downwind towards the only clouds I thought that there might be a climb under, because to the East there were huge rain showers building.  I could hear Liz, Ayala, Fran and Gill all ahead of me, but couldn’t see any of them until I got under the cloud where I saw Gill in 59.  I climbed with her and several others until I could climb no more and set off in the dark distance towards home. 

There was one street a long way off and I could hear Liz and Ayala climbing there.  The Westerly wind was quite strong now (18 knots) and was blowing me towards Stockholm airspace.  I eventually contacted the East end of the cloud street, but trouble was ahead because it was raining on me again.  I got lower, and lower and at 1500 feet I called up to say I was struggling and because there was so much chatter on the British frequency, I had to turn the volume right down so I could concentrate.  I got a small bubble of lift and someone else came in and joined me, but it was no good.  I tried again as did the other pilot in different bubbles, and as I struggled with my broken 1 knot, I didn’t appreciate that the other pilot had actually found a better climb and had managed to climb away successfully.  I had picked a field in which to land, but I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.  Slowly I climbed but each time I did so, I was drifting towards restricted airspace and I had to keep leaving the climbs and pushing upwind.  On top of this it kept raining on me.  Eventually, persistence paid off and I slowly climbed through 2000ft, 3000ft, 4000ft and 5000ft then flew directly into wind down the cloud street.  I could see rain at the end of the street and to my left, the direction I needed to go, another huge squall line.  But I thought that there might be the possibility of running down the street I was under, bear left and fly to the West side of the other squall and hopefully have enough height to get home.

I flew down the street in tremendous lift.  I flew faster, then the rain hit, and boy was it heavy.  It was bouncing off the glider, through the vent in the front and splashing on my face.  I had to continue.  Conserving height where possible I pulled up, but the cloud bas was coming down to meet me and I had to dive beneath the cloud.  I had 5000ft and was 900ft under glide.

To my left was the huge squall and to the West there was sunshine, no thermals as the rain had passed through, but there was the chance that it was warming up the air. 

I could hear Liz, Ayala and Gill in difficulties.  First Ayala thought she may land out, then Liz did land out.  I continued on down…4000ft, 3000ft.  The radio had now gone silent.  I was 300ft under the glide slope but I continued on.  I had 20 km to run, 10 km to run but still couldn’t see the airfield because I was at such a low angle.  There was a bubble of lift and I turned, no it didn’t work.  I called Brit Base and told them the distance and height I had.  With the strength of the wind, I couldn’t make it.  Steve called me and said I should take whatever lift I could find…well I was going to do that anyway.  I called 5km and Steve asked if I could make the finish ring.  I didn’t think so, just then I got a burst of lift and turned.  I was at 600ft and the lift was broken, but I persisted and I turned it into 2 knots, 3 knots and climbed to 1000ft – I could now make it in.  I changed frequencies to the Arboga finish frequency and informed them I was at 3km and would do a direct landing.  The wind was a good 15 – 20 knots crosswind and I just managed to hold it on the runway.

The time was 18:15 and I’d been airborne for 6 hours and 15 minutes.  I was the last Club Class glider to make it home.  The Director came up to me and gave me a big hug – the Stewards and officials had been watching me as I started to turn in the thermal so low. 

I finished 8th for the day…much better than my previous flight, and I even managed to pull up 6 places overall to a more respectable 12th.