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.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Sweden - WWGC2011 - Monday 20 June 2011

After the early day scrub yesterday, the Met Man said that he had ‘some small hope for tomorrow’ which we took to be in the positive.  At briefing this morning, the Met Man had a handful of Soundings and didn’t know which one to believe.  He said that he would go for ‘the least optimistic one’!

An Assigned Area Task was set for all classes with a minimum distance of 152km and a maximum of 260km to be completed in 90 minutes.  Two areas were North of Lake Hjälmaran, two on the South side and a control point to bring us in on the airfield; none of the areas were larger than 12km radius.  And ‘Oh by the way’, said the Director, ‘there is no landable field North of the lake all the way up to the airfield’!.  ‘There was a cry of outrage from more than one Team Captain!  It would mean that the Club Class would have to fly in excess of 100kph in order to complete the task successfully, AND there would be a straight glide of approximately 30km with no possible lift and certainly nowhere safe to land.  ‘The Briefing is closed’ said the Director, and that was that…

So with the glider already on the grid, I programmed the LX and Steve programmed the IPAQ and we waited for first launch at 11:30 as I was on the front of the grid.

Then there was a call on the radio ‘Would all Team Captains please meet at the front of the grid at 12:00’.  Following the re-brief, Mel handed to us our new tasks sheets.  The Task Setter had shifted some of the assigned areas further to the East so that we would be flying back over Lake Hjälmaren at a slightly narrower point and the overall length was now a minimum of 124km and a maximum of 226km.

By now a huge storm had built upwind of us and the sky was growing ominously dark.  All of a sudden there was a call on the radio ‘the Women’s World Gliding Championships has been cancelled for the day’.  It was a scrub.  I was surprised as it was only 12:20 and perhaps the storms would pass through and it would be OK on the other side.  As it turned out, they were right to scrub; there were thunderstorms and the sky was completely washed out in all directions around us.

It meant a leisurely lunch. Fran chilled out; Helen completed her blog, (or was it Raz the mascot?) whilst Jo ate smelly fish and cold Baked Beans!!! 

Sweden - WWGC2011 - Sunday 19 June 2011

Just when I need a good flying day in order to fly well and gain some more points, the weather is poor and the day is scrubbed. 

During my last flight, besides not doing so well, I had some gremlins in the LX7007F in that it came up several times with a ‘GPS Bad’ screen, meaning that I lose the navigation and glide information on the screen.  In the UK this would be very inconvenient, here in Sweden in the middle of a World Competition it is extremely important that this instrument works because the turning points are miniscule points in the middle of totally forested areas and virtually impossible to pick out purely by eye.  On top of that, the turning point area is only 500m, and can easily be missed without the necessary instruments to ensure that you have actually been through the designated area.

So this morning, Steve spent quite a bit of time considering what could possibly be causing this and he also called the Distributor in the UK.  After a couple of hours of work, he had moved the FLARM wires as far away as possible from the LX unit itself and positioned the aerial for the FLARM as far forward in the cockpit as it would allow.  The only way to properly test the outcome will be by flying the glider again.

We had been invited to dinner with Gill Spreckley and Helen Hingley this evening after a Baroque concert that we all wanted to attend in the local church, so we decided to go into Arboga to buy a bottle of wine.  We soon discovered that none of the supermarkets sold any wine at all.  After a trudge through the town we could not find any wine/beer shops and ended going back into the supermarket and bought a bottle of cider…hopefully that should go with a curry.

The concert in the local church was excellent.  There were four young musicians playing the harpsichord, cello, lute and treble recorder.  It lasted just over an hour and the encore was justly deserved.  Following the concert, all the attendees gathered outside the church and sang something with several verses; we’ve yet to work it out what it was, as we are not sure whether it was something religious or perhaps the National Anthem…I’ll try and find out today.

We had a very cosy dinner at Gill and Helen’s ‘cabin’.  Most Swedish houses have a cabin in the back garden – it just seems to be the thing to do.  The cabin had everything you needed from a small kitchen to a shower and a tiny bedroom on a sort of mezzanine floor in the roof space.  Dinner was perfect and afterwards I played my guitar (played for my supper I suppose) rather badly I thought, but Gill and Helen seemed to enjoy it.  I definitely need to do more practise…

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Sweden - WWGC2011 - Saturday 18 June 2011

Aaaaargh!  Can you recall the first word repeatedly uttered by Hugh Grant’s character in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral?  Well that’s what I felt like saying today.

Yesterday it was uncertain whether there would be any decent flying weather, but the Met Man had indicated that he thought there may be a usable slot.  When we awoke, there was 8/8ths low cloud, scudding across the sky and Steve said ‘You won’t be flying today’.  Never-the-less, I checked out the competition notice board which stated that we needed to grid before briefing. 

Unusually at briefing, the organisers set two tasks an A and a B task for all the competitors.  At last they had set some reasonably sized tasks in the region of 260km for all classes.  This would give me the opportunity to get ahead of the others in the Club Class and use my handicap to my advantage.

Out on the grid the weather was now beginning to look good with organised cumulus forming and as we thought we were about to launch at 12:00, the Competition Director requested a briefing for the Team Captains at the front of the grid – the task had been changed.  Task C was now reduced by 100km and the turning points to the South had been removed.  We now had a task of 151.4km through start point Bravo – Hed – Odensvi – Lindesberg – Morskoga – Arboga.

I was close to the front of the grid and the first of the Brits to launch.  I soon soared away with no problems, but both Ayala and Liz were struggling, with Liz almost requiring a relight.  Brian Spreckley had given us a remote update on the weather as we had an occluded front just to the North of us and two fronts to the South of us, and the Met report had indicated that these would move and cut off the soarable weather.  However, Brian had indicated that he thought that the gap in the weather would remain. 

As I was climbing before the start was open, the upper Cirrus cloud moved further towards us from the South and was beginning to obscure the sun from the ground.  As the start line opened, I was at cloud base and I could see a good thermal on track, so I decided to go through the start – this was to be a big mistake.  I was out on my own and initially finding thermals of 3 – 3.5kts.  I went through the first turning point and was just through the second when Ayala and Liz started, followed by the rest of the pack 35 minutes after I’d started.  The weather was clearly improving rather than getting worse and after initially struggling at the beginning of the third leg, the latter part of the leg was much better, even though it was alongside the three large lakes.  I could hear the rest of the pack catching up with me with better thermals. 

I managed to stay ahead of the rest of the gaggles and finish before them, but it was a poor day for me personally.  It had taken me 2 hours 9 minutes to complete the task and I came last on the day.  Liz completed the task in 1 hour 46 minutes to come second and Ayala completed in the same time and came first for the day.

In the Standard Class, Fran and Gill did much better than their previous flying day, completing their task (173km Start Delta – Stora – Gunnilbo – Lisjo – Iresjon- Arboga) in 1 hour 37 minutes and 1 hour 40 minutes respectively, coming second and fourth for the day.

Competition is all about being consistently good.  The mantra is ‘stay airborne and get home’ and preferably you do this in a fast time.  Well for me today, even though I’d managed to get around the task and home again, it was no where near as fast as all of the others in the Club Class.  I’d started 35 minutes earlier than anyone else, and unforeseen by anyone, the weather became better and better as the day progressed and I completely missed the best part of the day. 

In the evening, 11 of us went out for a meal in the Chinese restaurant in Arboga.  Whilst there, a local Swedish woman asked if we were from the gliding competition.  When we replied we were, she wanted to know who was winning, when we stated that we had a day winner and someone who came second that day, she became really excited and asked for Ayala’s autograph!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Sweden - WWGC2011 - Friday 17 June 2011

Today the rain started at 08:00 and continued well into the early evening with some heavy downpours.  At the briefing at 10:00, the contest Director declared that there would not be a task set as the weather was not going to be any good at all, and therefore that it would be a ‘Rest Day’.  In International Competitions like this, there is always a rest day, unusually on the 7th day after 6 days of flying, well we’ve not yet had the 6 flying days nor the official rest day, so it was good to get it out of the way at least.

Steve and I had put out the gifts given to me by GE Oil & Gas to present to the competitors, on the tables in the Briefing Room early in the morning as agreed by the British Team because it seemed rather appropriate to be handing out umbrellas and associated produce on such a wet day.  All the gifts were very well received and the competitors gladly posed for a photograph holding their new umbrellas.

After lunch, many of the competitors including ourselves, went to Arboga to the ‘Robot Missile Museum’ .  What an interesting place!  Besides the obvious missiles (included a sidewinder missile) they had models of various turbine engines, marine engines, V1 doodle bug, as well as a couple of simulators.  We all had great fun as we were shown round, climbed into cockpits and tried the simulators.

Back at the camp site I changed into my running gear once the rain stopped and went out for a 30 minute run alongside the river that runs by the Arboga Gliding Club and towards the large lake.  Besides a trot back form the Standard Class rigging area to the camp site yesterday, it was the first proper run that I’d managed to fit in this week. 

We are not sure whether there will be any flying tomorrow because of the weather.  The Met man seems to have a little bit of hope that there could be a break in these poor conditions, but we shall have to wait and see.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Sweden - WWGC2011 - Day 2 - Thursday 16 June 2011

Today was a waiting game.  At briefing they set a 135.4km Polygon from start point Delta – Kolsva – Stenby – Stora – Arboga.  The problem was that even though they delayed the first launch until 12:00, the sky did not look good with a relatively low cloud base and spreadout.  I took a climb to the East of the airfield and was eventually joined by many others from the Club Class.  I ended up circling and circling for 2 hours before it became possible to get sufficient height to be able to go through the start and reach the next climb at the end of a cloud street with the Czech’s. 

I flew down the cloud street to the end and then through the still air under the spreadout round the first turning point at Kolsva.  I caught up with Liz and Ayala just after the turn point (they had started 6 minutes before me) and went well South of track to another street which took us most of the way towards Stenby.  Conditions were not easy – there was little in the way of lift beneath the spreadout cloud ahead.  We were a little undecided which way to go following that and took the turn in still air and I then led the way towards a small cumulus cloud towards Stora.  Liz called me back as they had hit a good thermal and we climbed there and were caught back up again with the Czechs. 

We headed off towards Stora where at the end of the lake we could see a gaggle of gliders thermalling.  Liz and Ayala were a little way ahead of me now and I was playing catch up with them but there were another 6 or 8 gliders on my tail following my every move.  After taking a thermal before and after the turn at Stora, we headed off on the last leg.  There was a choice of a large dark cloud under which we could see other gliders turning, or a newer street that had developed to the left.  Everyone seemed undecided as to which route to take and I went under the black cloud and pulled up in good lift at the end of the run before turning for the street.  I stopped in a 3.5kt thermal where several others joined me and Liz and Ayala stopped to the side – I think they got a better thermal and this is where they got ahead of me again. 

We all ran under the developing street which gave us good lift and a fast run home.  I hit the 3km finish ring after Ayala and Liz and it was sheer chaos as there were many finishers at once, all doing direct landings on the runway.  I elected to pull up in some final lift and do a circuit on the grass side thereby giving myself ample room to land ahead which was also closer to the trailer, rather than be a tangle of landing gliders on the runway.. it turned out to be a sensible decision.

A look at the results later showed a total score for the day of 427.  It also shows that it was in fact myself that physically went around the task at the fastest speed at 68.7kph i.e. faster than the day winner, but because of my glider handicap I was placed 13th.   Ayala did it in a speed of 66.5kph and came 3rd and Liz completed it at 67.1kph and came 5th.  Message to self…must find a Sugar Daddy to buy me a new glider…..

You can view the day’s results at this link:-

In the Standard Class, Gill and Fran faired a bit better today, both getting back from a 162.3 km Polygon – Start Charlie –Hed – Hellingsbro – Fornaboda – Stora - Arboga .  Gill came 14th at a speed of 70.5kph and Fran 15th with a speed of 69.2kph.

In the evening, a large contingent of the British Team went out for a meal at the local Pizza place in Arboga and we had a great time and some lovely food in the evening sunshine, which I can assure you goes on and on and on….

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Sweden - WWGC2011 - Day 1 - 15 June 2011

Well this was the first official day of the Women’s World Gliding Championships.  The sky looked typically British with initially a low cloud base and the potential for overdevelopment.
At briefing, the weather forecast was for showers just to the North of the area and the potential for the cumulus to go to great heights.  The task set for the Club Class was a 129.3km Polygon with three turning points – Start Bravo – Hallstahammar – Stenby – Hed – Arboga.  In order to try to get everyone on task before the weather set in, an early launch of 11:15 was set with the Club Class going first from the grass and the Standard and 15 metre classes off the runway.

Fortunately, once launched I was able to stay airborne until the Start line opened.  Liz, Ayala and I had decided to go as soon as possible after the line opened in order to beat the showers which would kill any lift in the area.

A word about handicaps – my Mosquito has a ridiculously high International Handicap of 1.07, whereas Liz’s Standard Cirrus is 1.00 and Ayala’s Libelle is 0.98, so immediately I am at a 9 point disadvantage compared to my team mates.  This basically means that I have to work twice as hard in an attempt to fly much faster than the others in order to get any kind of reasonable score on a daily basis.

Another word about the Mosquito – it’s absolute rubbish in the rain; the wing section is such that once the wings are wet, it practically falls out of the sky, so I was extremely keen to get going early in order to avoid the showers.

Once away from the Start at 12:24, I completed the first leg with no problems, it just felt a little slow.  I turned Hallstahmmar and decided to run back up the track I’d gone into the turning point, i.e. South of track.  However, this meant that I was on a collision course with the Standard and 15 metre class gliders as they flew in the opposite direction to me towards their first turning point.  I put up with this for a while as it was clearly a good line of energy, but chickened out in the end and turned towards the North, through the centre of the second and third tracks. 

The second leg wasn’t a particular problem and I in fact caught up with Ayala and Liz in a thermal half way along the track.  Both were higher than me and pushed on again.  Around the second TP at Stenby and clearly ahead of us were huge showers falling in curtains from two lines of large streets of clouds.  I pushed on now with a gaggle of gliders with Liz and Ayala at the top.  There was no choice but to go through the shower at right angles – I was not looking forward to this and asked Liz if there were landable fields ahead, she replied in the affirmative.   I pushed on through the showers and watched with dismay as I lost a 1000ft more than any other glider.  On the other side we were able to climb again at Hed just in front of the next shower with me starting at the bottom of the gaggle. Around that TP and I turned towards the South – the last leg with not quite enough height to get back with and yet another, bigger shower to go through this time.  However the glide from the first shower to the second had a line of lift and I actually gained height in a straight line with wet wings.  The others were able to push on ahead of me through the shower with no problem.  I entered the shower which was much heavier this time and I had 6 knots of sink. I continued to push forwards as the rain became heavier and the forward visibility reduced quite dramatically.  I popped through on the other side and in the distance I could see the runway at Arboga (it is 1200 metres long!).  With wet wings, I wanted to ensure I could actually get back and on the other side of the rain shower there was 10 knots of lift – I did a couple of turns then headed for home. 

I completed the 129.3km in 1 hour 39 minutes at a speed of 78kph.  The winner did it t 84kph, and if you check out the provisional results, you’ll see I came 13 with the speed of 78kph and the next 8 pilots above me on the scores did it in more time than I (i.e. slower), but this is the effect of the handicap….

The Standard Class (in which Fran and Gill are flying) and the 15 metre class both had the same task – 156.6km Polygon – Start point Delta – Hallstahammer – Lindesberg – Hed – Arboga.  Unfortunately, both Gill and Fran were cut off completely by the rain showers and landed out in the same field 30 km short of Arboga.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Sweden - Tuesday 14 June 2011

Today at briefing a minute’s silence was held following the death of a Finnish pilot in a mid-air collision with another glider during the Finland National Glider Championships on Sunday.  Immediately following this, the Director informed us all that there had been an ‘incident’ at the Arboga site yesterday and proceeded to show us photographs whereby two tugs towing up two gliders were extremely close and then the Pawnee clipped the tailplane of the tug which was in front of it – clearly he had not seen it even though the glider pilot had called out on the radio and had released the tow rope.  The photos of the damaged tailplane on the Dynamic tow aircraft were quite horrific – it was amazing that both planes landed safely with neither pilot injured.

During the briefing, it was decided that there would not be a task because the weather forecast was not for soarable conditions.  This meant that we could have a day of rest, which was handy for me as I was not feeling particularly well – I felt as if I were about to have a migraine attack, and this strange and unpleasant felling lasted all day.  I had a couple of naps during the day, which is extremely unusual for me.

During the evening time, it was the grand Opening Ceremony for the Women’s World Gliding Championships.  We all got changed into the official British Team gear, including the crews and whilst the crews walked across to the North side of the airfield as directed, all the pilots and the team Captains had the pleasure of riding to the Opening Ceremony in a mixture of old vehicles, vintage vehicles and carts which were towed by tractors.  We held our various National flags and it was quite a sight!

Various dignitaries from the FAI, the Local Mayor and Club officials gave eloquent speeches and finally the opening ribbon was cut (dignitaries included:- FAI President – John GrubbstrÖm, Olle Ytterberg, Bengt Lindgren, Hans Folkesson, Mats Lundqvist (Director)).  This event was followed by a spectacular airshow, opened up by a Hawker Hunter, a variety of glider aerobatics, ’Skybirds’ who were a group of female pilots flying Cherokees, aeromodel flying and parachuting.  It was a great experience and the activities continued well into the night with a band.

Tomorrow is the start of the official competition…here’s hoping that we have some good weather.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Sweden - Monday 13 June 2011

Today is practise day 2.  The wind is pretty strong, enough to blow tent doors open and there was some concern at briefing as to whether the tugs could launch safely in the cross wind on runway 33.

The Task Director set an Area Assigned Task (minimum distance 118km, maximum 220km) from Arboga to Fornaboda  – Sura - Gunnilbo – Arboga.  Directly after briefing we had a GB Team briefing at which Brian Spreckley gave all the pilots some very useful advice on coping with the flying conditions. The briefing then disintegrated a bit into more chit chat and I was becoming more anxious that I had still not placed the glider on the grid, marked or studied the maps or programmed the instruments.  An Area Assigned Task needs quite a bit more planning than a racing task and I was feeling decidedly unprepared.  In the end I left the meeting to put the glider on the grid and get myself sorted out, as it turned out in the end, rapidly followed by the others. 

I had just enough time to programme the glider and scribble some thoughts on the map and I was airborne. 

The thermals were much stronger than the previous day and the cloud base a more pleasant 4000ft.  Ayala and Liz still had not launched half an hour later and I decided that I would have to start the task alone.  I still had problems with the LX7007F in that whilst I was in the Start Zone, it started the task without me prompting it to do so.  I re-set the task once more on the LX until I was ready to go. 

I flew up a developing cloud street turning where necessary and then crossed at 90 degrees to the next street upwind.  This gave me solid lift all the way towards the first area and it felt great to be heading where I needed to in lift for a change.  This was not to last long because as I neared the place where I landed out yesterday, I began to lose height.  Down at 2200ft, I joined another glider and climbed back to a reasonable height, headed back into wind to ensure that I was inside the first area, before departing Eastwards on the second leg.  The clouds looked more broken and once again I found myself having difficulty in finding any good lift.  Circling in 0.5 – 0.8 knots, I was drifting downwind which was taking me across pretty unlandable countryside.  I made a decision to turn further Southwards which took me across three large lakes.  I became lower and called up base giving my position in case of landout.  I pushed further South and East just trying to stay airborne.  Eventually, I made the decision to abandon the task altogether – after all, this was just a practise day and I really did not want to land out yet again with the potential for damaging the glider.  If it had been a competition day, that would have been different and I would have persevered.

I found a 3 – 4 knot climb and took it to 3500ft, this now gave me the opportunity to head back towards Arboga Airfield.  A check on the instruments showed that I could now easily glide home.  I took the opportunity to check out the finish circle and practised a circuit on the East side of the runway and a long landing on the grass runway - my first landing back at the site.

I was back safe and sound, but I had aborted the task – something I very rarely do, and as it would happen, the majority of the other pilots completed the task, so the ‘results’ for the day showed me to be particularly low down which is a terrible shame.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Official Training - Sunday 12 June 2011

It is so much colder today.  It rained virtually all night and it was still raining when we got out of bed this morning. 

Briefing was held at 10:00 and a 135km racing task (Lindesberg – Koping – Hed – Arboga) was set in not particularly good soaring conditions. Liz, Ayala and I all rigged and put the gliders on the grid.  When it came to the launch time of 14:00, Liz and Ayala decided to pull to the back of the grid and I decided to go – I needed the local soaring practice if nothing else. 

As soon as I came off the aerotow, my trimmer mechanism collapsed; I could still fly the Mosquito, but I would be unable to trim throughout the flight. 

Conditions were tricky – the thermals were very broken due to wind shear and I soon found myself back down to 1500 feet off the end of the Arboga runway.  I eventually climbed up to the 3000ft cloud base in a 4.5kt thermal and decided to head towards the West side of Arboga town.  In doing this I went through the Start Zone and my instruments immediately said that I’d started the task and gave me heading to the next turning point.  I didn’t want this – I wasn’t ready to start.  I fiddled with the LX7007F trying to get it to re-start and eventually managed to find the right sequence, but as soon as I went into the start zone, it clicked over to the first turning point again.  Conditions were hard enough as it was – clearly some kind of setting had been mis-set as we’d had to change the length of the start line from 6km to 10km in the morning.  I left it as it was and decided to go on track. 

Occasionally I was with other pilots, but mostly I found myself on my own trying to stay airborne in an increasing NW wind.  Once I recovered from a low of 1300ft and again at 1500ft.  Climbs were only taking me to 3000ft maximum and the terrain was becoming increasingly forested.  Suddenly I had a 4 – 5 knot climb which took me to 3500ft and I glided into wind in zero sink – this helped me near the turning point at Lindesberg.  But the sky was quite different ahead now and although I tried several clouds, none appeared to have lift beneath them.  I chose a field alongside a road – a cut hay field, and then decided to try for a climb at a developing cloud into wind, knowing that I could turn downwind and still get into the field if required.  The cloud worked in parts, but I couldn’t get a sufficient climb so decided to go to the next could ahead.  This time I ‘burnt my boats’; the cloud didn’t work and I couldn’t reach the field downwind. 

I scoured the landscape for a suitable field – there was very little indeed.  I could make out a medium-green type of field, of which there were several, and I could see there was what appeared to be crop, but I couldn’t be sure if it were Oil Seed Rape, which I certainly did not want to land in.  I chose a copped field where there was plenty of soil showing through, but it wasn’t into wind and it was surround by tall fir trees on two sides.  Considering the possibility of curl-over form the trees, I put on sufficient speed to counteract any problems pulled out the airbrakes and landed, rolling a bit too rapidly towards the far fence line and trees.  I stopped rather conveniently alongside the gap in the fence by the road.

There’s always a deadly silence as you land in a field..just you, the surrounding nature and your pumping heartbeat.

I downloaded my logger traces and walked a short distance to a barn where I hoped to find a farmer.  Sure enough, there he was raking up hay in the barn where his sheep were still lambing.  I was worried as to what to say because I was sure (from previous experiences in the Czech Republic) that he wouldn’t speak good English if any.  I introduced myself and the farmer was fantastic.  He explained in excellent English how his eldest son had learned to glide at Arboga and that it wasn’t a problem at all that I’d landed in his field.  He gave me directions, requested that we didn’t drive onto the field and I wandered off to the junction at the main road to wait for Steve and Michael with the trailer.

An hour and a half later, whilst I was listening to the cuckoo in the forest (there seem to be many here), Steve arrived and we drove back down the lane to the field.  When we arrived I was shocked to find 3 other gliders had also landed in the same field!

We quickly de-rigged to ensure that the next trailer could get into the field OK, thanked the farmer and his family profusely and left back for Arboga.

Back on site we had the trimmer mechanism to fix, the LX7007F to re-set (it had been put onto an auto mode for the Start line) and the time to change (for some reason it was 2 hours out).  Then when we checked the logger trace we had a problem with that – it never ends.  As we were downloading the second logger, Brian Spreckley told us to drop everything and come and join them at the ‘Czech and German’ party in the briefing room.  We should have really downloaded the trace, but joined in with the food and beer (potatoes and sausage – what else!).

I then discovered that my engagement ring had broken…too many wedded years…

Fran said that she had seen the results and that I was first in the Club Class.  Sure enough when I checked on line, that’s what it said.  Somehow, I think that once they’ve reviewed my trace and seen that I’m in the same field as the other 3 (also club class), I think my scoring distance will reduced as I have the higher handicapped glider.  We’ll see in the morning…but it’s very nice to be first for a while anyway!