Another day with very good soaring weather, though also with challenges. The weather forecast focused on a window of soarable weather between clouds associated with the low-pressure system retreating away to the east, and another disturbance approaching from the northwest. As we’ve come to expect here, the task-setters got it right: all classes were sent on area tasks that first went west (toward the clouds), then east (back near home), then northeast. This fit the actual weather well, thought it did lead pilots into areas with cloud and even rain threats (west) and areas with blue, weak lift (northeast). Thermal tops ranged from 8000’ (west) to 4500’ (northeast). I’ll note that from a task-setter’s perspective, a variety of conditions during a task is a feature, not a bug.
Karl and Sarah got it almost right. They looked at potential problems in the first turn area and decided to bank on predicted improvement to the northeast. This didn’t really happen: conditions there were blue and weakening by mid-afternoon – pilots who went deep into the first turn area, though many struggled a bit there, achieved better average lift, and thus better speeds.

I’ve noted how the Hungarian border (a short distance south of Szeged) is an airspace barrier for glider pilots. Today, several fell victim. The direct route to and from the first turn area for both 18-Meter and 20-Meter classes would naturally cause pilots to fly rather near the border with Serbia. And a northwest wind meant that any pilot climbing in a thermal would be drifted toward that border.
Of course, all pilots carry instruments (typically, rather sophisticated and expensive ones) to warn them of this, as the penalty for even barely touching forbidden airspace is fatal to your contest prospects. And all pilots, especially those who regularly fly anywhere in Europe, should be sensitized to this problem, which exists at almost every glider site. Nonetheless, in the 18-Meter class it appears that 5 pilots crossed the border today, and thus suffered the penalty (first offense: you are scored as if you had landed at the point of entry). At least one of these was a short incursion (though this does not mitigate the penalty); others look like long transgressions, lasting more than 10 minutes. Given the importance of this, and how it sets at nought all the enormous effort and expense required to compete here, it’s hard for me to even guess what might have been the cause of this lapse.

I’m happy to report that, as expected, the repair of WO’s tailwheel was successfully completed last night. Indeed, Wolfgang launched and flew as normal, finishing 4th in 18-Meter class. Tilo Holighaus indicated that this was in the category of routine emergency repairs – nothing at all exceptional.
In truth, this is little more than a vestige of the way things once were. In olden days (say, back to the 1970s) pilots apparently flew harder and more recklessly. Landing damage was, if not routine then at least fairly common. At a world contest, it became normal for extensive repairs – say, a fuselage with the tail broken off – to be completed overnight. Biggo Berger of Schempp-Hirth tells of the “repair wars”, when anyone at a high-level contest with any glider repair skills accepted the idea that he’d be hard at work from sunset to sunrise, and pilots would of an evening drop off a collection of mangled fiberglass, confidently expecting it would be restored to something resembling an airworthy glider by launch time the next day.
These heroic – even superhuman – efforts are now (perhaps mercifully) a thing of the past. Yes, you can stuff your Ventus tailwheel and hope to fly the next day, but break your fuselage and you’ll be on the road by morning, headed to Kirchheim unter Teck. I doubt there are many regrets for those old days, but we should perhaps bow to the uncommon few who had the skill and tenacity to make these now-forgotten miracles happen. “There were giants on the earth, in those days.”
If you happen to cross paths with Biggo (one of the living giants) buy him a beer and get him to tell you stories of those days.

You can find the latest contest scores at: