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Uvalde Glide 18M / 15M Contest - Aug 9 Report


In few places in the world is a low morning overcast good news to soaring pilots. But experienced Uvalde pilots see this as the sign of what may become an excellent soaring day: the stratus layer should dissolve into cumulus clouds that persist and guide a sailplane around a long task at high speed.

Today we had the stratus layer, and the noon cumulus.  But the forecast said these would all dry up by mid-afternoon.  As the overcast was thick and had only just begun to break at 10:30, this seemed unlikely.  But weatherman Dan Gudgel said that the various weather models agreed, and so we prepared assigned tasks thought to be suitable to decent lift in the blue.

These contests boast a strong contingent of Australian pilots. One is Gerrit Kurstjens, who is flying with John Buchanan in a Duo Discus.  As you might guess from his name and accent, he hails originally from Holland. He has no shortage of tales of glider flights over much of the world.  Here’s a sobering one about contest flying in the French Alps:

Gerrit had been selected for the Dutch team for the 1997 World Gliding Contest in St. Auban, France.  Thus did he attend the 1996 Pre-World contest, known as LavenderGlide (the French alpine foothills are known for their fields of lavender). One evening he enjoyed a dinner with Fredrico Blatter, a prominent Swiss pilot with a great deal of alpine soaring experience.  The next day a task was set well to the north, which led pilots through a mountain pass into the valley where the city of Grenoble is located.  Weather wasn’t the best, and it declined during the day.  When Gerrit and several others returned to the pass on their way home, they found it blocked by cloud. The detour via a lower route would be long – possibly too long to allow a finish.  What to do?

Several pilots had a simple answer: they soared up into the cloud (using GPS guidance), popped through the pass and headed home.  Gerrit’s choice was a motor start, a long and difficult flight home, and a resolution not to participate in the 1997 World contest – he did not wish to be faced with the stark choice between safety and a decent score.  He was greatly saddened to learn the next day that, near the same pass and only shortly after he’d been there, Fredrico Blatter collided with the terrain and was killed.

The forecast of blue conditions proved to be spot-on – by mid-afternoon not a cloud was to be seen.  That’s not to say lift was poor – pilots reported reliable 5- and 6-kt climbs, occasionally better.  But with no guiding clouds, speeds suffered a bit. Yet the tasks worked out about right, and nearly all pilots got home. 

Baude Litt had another fine (flapless) day in 15-Meter class, winning at 125.5 kph (78.0 mph).   Ron Tabery was again best in Open class, with 73.2 mph.  18-Meter class had the best speeds of the day, Bruce Taylor finishing on top at 135.1 kph (83.9 mph).


- John Good

Posted: 8/9/2011


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