The weather forecast called for a low blue day, with 3-4 kt climbs to 4,000 ft (field elevation is ~750 ft), with lift shutting down at 6:30 pm. Club Class drew a 370 km clockwise racing task which took them over the notorious Macquarie swamp, a broad river valley north of Narromine known for its soft conditions. The class launched last and got on course around 3 pm, giving them three to four hours to get around.
The U.S. Club Class team, Mike Westbrook and Tony Condon, started behind the main gaggle and made good progress until their penultimate leg over the swamp, where their climbs and maximum altitudes slowed. Around 6:30 I posted myself outside the aerodrome on the primary approach vector for all classes, hoping for some good shots of the team as they rounded home. Standard and 15 Meter leaders began streaming over but there was no sign of the Club Class; another check showed them in zero sink at 1,500 ft over the swamp. A few minutes later Team Captain Pete Alexander sent a WhatsApp message: Club Class was low and selecting fields. The next report, around 7:30, was they had safely landed together about 30 miles north of Narromine.
Time to hook up the trailer, get directions from the landout office, and head out into the twilight. I followed Leah Condon and Pete von Tresckow into the outback as the sun set just after 8. We saw a couple packs of kangaroos bounding along beside the road, the first we had encountered since arriving in country. Otherwise, the flat, mainly agricultural countryside was absolutely deserted: not a car, not a house, not a light, and completely dark once the sun set. We drove for the better part of an hour, first on paved then on dirt roads, along stubble fields and a few sheep grazing in paddocks, until we finally found Mike and Tony around 9:30 on a remote dirt road (they had left their gliders and walked some distance toward the main road).
The field was pitch black, but when we shone car lights on the two gliders, great clouds of gnats gathered, coating everything, and crawling into our mouths when we dared open them. A hundred feet away from the lights, the strangely configured stars shone intensely in the moonless sky. Five sets of hands made short work of the derigging, and by 10:30 we headed for home, arriving about 11:30. Thankfully my partner Gina had made a beautiful pizza dinner which we gobbled before collapsing into bed. A third of the class landed out this day.
WGC Australia – Team USA Page
~David Hart (FY – Crew)