Today marked an end to trouble-free weather and straightforward soaring. Plenty of wind, extensive clouds and even some wave effects produced the first “shake up the score sheet” day at WGC2022. In 20-Meter class, Karl and Sarah managed to take advantage in a big way, taking first place in Arcus N1 by a convincing margin.
Their class was last to launch today, and all pilots suffered for it. Conditions near home, initially rather good, steadily deteriorated as clouds spread and cut off solar heating. Faced with the threat of a day expected to end early, all pilots wanted to get going on their 294-km task – 14:00 looked like about the right time. Few were much above 3000 ft by then, but waiting longer looked like a bad idea. Off they went, N1 among them. Low-altitude struggles quickly ensued, made worse by a substantial headwind.
After more than half an hour, N1 had achieved less than 10 km; the others were doing little better. Karl and Sarah took the difficult decision to return for another start: they risked falling hopelessly behind if the conditions continued to decline, but wiping the slate clean after 40 minutes of painfully slow progress seemed like a good bet.
It was. Conditions began to improve about 30 km on course; after another 30, gliders were getting good thermal climbs to over 5000 ft. The course ran west: across the Danube River, climbs went well over 6000 ft. But the return to Szeged looked like a problem: near-solid clouds had cut off the sun. They patiently worked a good climb before re-crossing the river, then headed carefully into the grim sky.
One last thermal allowed a climb that left them 2000 ft short of the altitude needed to get home. Prospects for another were poor. But clouds ahead suggested the possibility of weak wave lift, and this they managed to find. It wasn’t strong enough to climb in, but it offered an extended run in weakly rising air that steadily improved their glide. A few turns in a final weak thermal sealed the deal, and they finished comfortably. Their speed was 104 kph, both their worst (as in slowest) and best (as in top-scoring) of the contest.
This excellent flight, on a day that was difficult for all and dreadful for some, has jumped them well up the cumulative score sheet: they now stand in 6th place, just 21 points out of third.
The other classes had eventful days, though perhaps a bit less so. In 18-Meter class (whose pilots were first to launch, making it easier to escape the problems that developed near home) speeds were good, but 9 pilots failed to finish, and two who did were low enough to earn substantial penalties (which accrue at the rate of one point per meter below the specified minimum finish altitude).
In Open class, speeds were very good and just 3 pilots failed to finish. But in a huge shock, one of them was Michael Sommer, the task winner yesterday, a multi-time world champion, and pretty much king of the Open class for as long as anyone can remember. He managed to get low shortly after starting and had to fire up his engine, for a scored distance of just 18 km (in a machine capable of gliding that far from a height of around 900 ft). I imagine he’ll get some ribbing for this – but probably not too much from glider pilots: we’ve all been there; ours is a sport that humbles its people regularly, and a poor choice of pastime for those with fragile egos.
The briefing hangar was this evening the site of an interesting spectacle: glider WO (a Ventus 3 belonging to Wolfgang Janowitsch) was sitting on wooden supports, belly up, with much attention being paid to the tailwheel area. It seems that Wolfgang, in compliance with instructions here that insist on a long landing (to leave the runway clear for others) rolled long enough to cross the concrete marker that denotes the end of the grass runway. There’s plenty of grass beyond it, but this concrete object is not flush with the ground, and the impact managed to smash WO’s tailwheel up into its fuselage.
This would normally put a glider out of commission for several days – indeed, most pilots would be thrilled to find a shop that would promise to accomplish such a repair in a week. But things are different at an important glider contest. First, the request goes out for tools and repair materials, which are quickly offered. Next, the people with the skills to do such a repair are told of the need, drop whatever they were planning to do, and come to assist. In this case, these included Uys Jonker (who runs a glider factory in South Africa) and Tilo Holighaus (likewise, in Germany). The idea that these over-qualified experts would not respond, or (as in the case of Uys) would leave a fellow competitor (one who’s eminently capable of pushing Uys down the scoresheet, and eager to do so) to fend for himself simply wouldn’t occur to anyone here.

You can find the latest contest scores at: