Sunday, September 11, 2005

Day 5 & contest complete!

After an exciting, short task in extremely marginal conditions, the first World Sailplane Grand Prix is over. Chip got 5 points today, so he and Tim will end up tied overall with 5 points each. The weather really was quite challenging. The pilots launched with an 1,100 meter tow height (400 meters lower than usual) and with low clouds all around. Before the start, we could see everyone flying in and out of clouds. The first turn was Vinon (site of next year's Club Class World Championship) to the south, and the weather was better there - fast flying under cloudstreets. On the way back, things got tricky. A thunderstorm formed over the airfield. Some pilots went on the east side of the River Durance and some went direct to the next turnpoint on the west side. Most got the second turnpoint. It was very weak into the third turnpoint and most chose to land at Saint Auban. Mario Kiessling (Germany) went south (opposite direction from the turn) and found a big climb. He was able to complete the difficult task and float his way home to win the day. Sebastian Kawa still wins the Championship.

The Salon of Saint Auban continued with flights by the tiny gliders and tiny towplanes, big gliders doing aerobatics, and a beautiful Stearman biplane.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Day 4 complete!

After much struggle, we have achieved a contest day! All it takes is one finisher, and Mario Kiessling of Germany managed to complete the task after 5 plus hours of flying. Tim, like many others landed back here without finishing the task, but his tenacity seems to have paid off with a 5th place finish (we hope). Chip unfortunately landed out near Digne les Bains, but he was OK.

Tonight we have a banquet and then one last possible day of flying on Sunday.
More later,

September 10 Day 4 underway

Saturday 2:45 pm
We have blue sky, some cumulus clouds, warm temps, and day four is underway! The task is a 294.5 km pair of triangles to the north. You can watch the live tracking, but since there are only 10 VPos units here, you can't see Tim or Chip. But you can get the general flavor of the race.

Chip came back first yesterday and for a second we thought he might have won the day. But unfortunately he had bailed out of the task. Many landed out, including Tim (pic at right). Because I had hurt my leg and had never taken apart an LS-6 before, we had to round up someone to help me with the retrieve. Eventually Michele from the French Team's technical service was recruited to ably assist us. When Tim's flight was scored this morning, he was just a hair out of 9th place for which he would have earned one point. Oh well!

My leg is feeling better after resting and applying various salves to the injured area. I have handed off the wing running duties to others, though.

Today the Salon de Saint Auban is in full force. No, it's not a hair salon. It's a show of various sailplanes and light planes, combined with an air show which is going on right now. Here are a few pics of what's on display.

Clockwise from top left: The Antares electric motorglider, The Taurus, and the new Discus 2 C.

The pilots are now getting low in the same area where everyone struggled yesterday - near serre poncon. Stay tuned to the official site for details. I am going out to watch the airshow...

P.S. Tiny gliders!

P.P.S. Renee Fontin, one of the officials here, has a French moment.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Sept 9 Pilots on task & my hamstring

Ouch! I was running tim's wing today when I slipped in the mud...just a little bit, but OUCH! Hamstring? I am going to the Dr. after the task. Don't worry, M&P!

After a rainy start, the weather has cleared up and the pilots are out on a 193.9 km task but with a relatively low cloud base, it should be interesting. I will keep you posted after the Dr. visit.
(Pic at right: Marina Galletto (Italy) with Tim and Tor Johannsen (Norway) of the IGC.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

September 8 Rain, Rain go away!

We began Thursday with more rain and a fairly bleak forecast...for more rain! The day was cancelled at our 1:15 meeting. However, the pilots had a lengthy discussion about possible alterations to the rules to prevent very low, very fast finishes. Note to self: pilots have way too much time to think when it's raining.

The forecast for the next few days looks better. If we don't fly, there's no telling what the pilots will want to do to the rules!

more news on Friday...Susan

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Rain, then Competition Day 2

Just when I thought another day was going to be lost to rain, the weather totally changed and we did have a valid competition day. Last night it rained heavily with lots of thunder (!) and lightening(!!!) that was kind of unsettling to this tent dweller. Fortunately, the tent did not spring any leaks. The morning looked like more rain, but most of us put water in the gliders, hoping the day would develop into something workable. At about noon, the contest officials told us to dump ballast and pack the hangar - it was going to rain again. At the 1:00 weather update, the forecaster from Meteo France said that he thought we just might get a break in the weather. He was right. We began the launch at 3 p.m. in warm sunshine, with an east/southeast wind and lots of interesting clouds in the sky.

The task was a 151km "drag race" task. Tim completed the task, finishing 11th for the day. No points, but he kept up with the field most of the time. He said that he had never raced so fast so low all day long!

In the first group of 7 finishers drag racing for the finish line was Petr Krejcirik. He was coming in for a straight in landing when he ground looped and ended up sliding by tail first before coming to a stop. Fortunately he wasn't hurt, but some repairs to the glider are going on right now.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Day 2 Rained Out!

t rained a little over night, and this morning's forecast didn't look too good. There seemed to be a chance for a small window in which to fly between 12 and 3 p.m. We were given a task and gridded the airplanes. Here's what the sky to the west looked like at 12:45. Dark! Ominous! The wind was out of the east/southeast. Unfortunately, about 1:00 the moist air from the Rhone Valley overcame the drier airmass to the east. We were told the day was cancelled and that we needed to get the gliders to the hangar quickly. Within just a few minutes, all 17 gliders were safely packed in the hangar.

It's still raining steadily at 3:35 p.m. Urgh! The forecast for tomorrow? Who knows? One website people are looking at here is

It has all kinds of good European forecasts...well, it has all kinds of accurate forecasts, even when the weather is kind of unfortunate.

(Pics from top to bottom: Grid with dark clouds. Bruce Taylor (AUS) helps pack the hangar. Tim and Chip chat with Mike Young (GBR) about flight computers while eyeing the darkening sky.)

Monday, September 05, 2005

Sept 5 Cancelled due to rain

At our 12:45 meeting, it was clear that the weather would probably not support any meaningful task today, so the day was cancelled. All the pilots then met with Competition Director Roland Stuck to discuss altering the rules regarding the start. Ideas to maximize safety as well as viewer friendliness were discussed, such as a speed limit, a different length of start line, different altitudes for the "line," and eliminating all restrictions on height and speed crossing the line. We believe we have all come to an agreement to keep the mandatory, limited altitude start line for purposes of spectator-friendliness but to raise it to 1500 meters MSL from 1400 meters MSL, to mandate all gliders be "behind" (relative to the first task leg) the start line during the two minutes prior to the opening of the line (again for spectator-friendliness), and to require all competitors to cross the start line at no more than @ 170 km/hr no higher than 1500 meters MSL. The pilots all agree that these small changes to the start rules will enhance safety while proving the concept of the regatta start and its ability to enhance spectator appreciation of this new form of glider racing.

We found out there's a new feature on the official website where you can run up to 3 flights from the previous day in a simultaneous view. Check it out using the link at right.

Contest Day 1 Summary

Well, everyone made it home yesterday. The day winner was Sebastian Kawa (Poland) with a speed of 121 km/h. Second place pilot Friedeman Kuster (Germany) was only 8 sec behind. Tim made it home, but a thunderstorm formed right between the airport and the last turnpoint. He landed in the rain and we took the last spot in the packed hangar, completely drenched. Tim was not actually last! Our friend Vladimir Foltin (Slovakia) hung out beyond the storm and came in 57 minutes after the first place finisher.

The weather for today...
Today there are storms to our east associated with a cold front. We expect another met report at 12:45, because there may be a small window for flying.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

First Task Underway & Opening Ceremony

Well, we are officially underway!
Yesterday a number of pilots took the day off. Tim and I drove to Lac St. Croix and around the area. It was still very hot! We returned in time for the opening ceremony, which was quite laid back: speeches by the local mayor, the president of the French Gliding Federation, and Roland Stuck, the Competition Director. Playing the FAI anthem, and of course, FOLK DANCING! There's always folk dancing at these occasions. These dancers were particularly cute and their performance appropriately short!
The weather for today looked weaker than the past few days have been. However, by launch time, the higher clouds had cleared. The original task was changed on the grid to reflect changing weather conditions. A pretty good crowd watched both on the screen in the meeting hangar and outside as the field circled near the start line. It was pretty exciting. Today, the 10 tracker units were randomly allocated, and both Tim and Chip have them. Tim also has the filming equipment on board, so his cockpit is pretty crowded!
The task is about 318 km, so we expect them back by about 5:30 (10:30 Central Time).
You can watch the live tracking at the official contest website - see link at right.

More news soon!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hot, Hot, Hot

Hello from hot southern France. For the past two days it has been really hot, like 90's and very good soaring conditions. But did I mention it is hot? We spent the last two days getting the glider outfitted - the tow out kit, locating the trailer which is confusingly marked "EI" when the glider is Z2 - this sort of thing.
Today's practice task was a 362 km polygon with 5 points ranging throughout the task area. Many pilots did the task. 110 La Roche de Rame, 2 Aiguines, 76 Cousson, 55 Col de Cabre, 182 Rocher St. Jean. At the Cousson turnpoint, the altitude was capped to allow for filming by the TV crew. This was generally well received by the pilots. Chip Garner's glider carried the in-cockpit TV cameras today as well.
The flight tracking crew from Silent wings/VPOS arrived from Norway last night. They gave Tim a single tracker to cary today. He had experience with this for several days at the Club Class WGC in Norway last summer. So, I spent the afternoon in the meeting hangar watching "Tim TV" as his was the only glider being tracked live.
Tomorrow is the final practice day and we will begin the contest on Sunday.
Sorry, no pictures today! It has been too hectic to take pics!
P.S. Those of you who know me will find it particularly funny to note that I have a case of Laryngitis and have been instructed not to talk. A difficult task!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Spectacular Flying Days

August 31- Wednesday

Yesterday and today have given us perfect flying conditions with most of the local sources of lift working in their typical manner (unlike Sunday and Monday). Chip Garner arrived yesterday, and Chip is taking his orientation flight in the Duo Discus with instructor Olivier Darroze.

On August 30, Tim flew the LS-6 for the first time. He flew together with Vladimir Foltin of Slovakia, who is getting used to his borrowed DG 808, and Olivier with a student in the Duo Discus. After a six-hour flight through the mountains, Tim pronounced this one of his best flying days yet. All of the mountains and areas have names. Some are the given names, like Pic de Bure (the name of a mountain) but others are just colloquial glider pilot names (like "la route") The 500 - 600 km long grand tour included Plampinet in the north, Col du Vars, Pic de Bure, Col du Rousset, Serre de Montdenier in the south, and a run along the Parcours to La Dormillouse.

Sebastian Kawa (Poland), Club Class World Champion 2004, is flying the new Diana 2 in the contest. Tim flew along with him yesterday, as pictured here. The distinctive feature of the Diana is its very thin tail area. Here, Tim is flying along with Kawa on August 30. Here's the Diana on the ground on August 29.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Grand Prix Racing Format we're trying out, here's the lowdown: the start gate will open at a designated time. The clock will start then for all pilots. It's up to them to be in position to cross the start line at the right time. Then they will race around a set course for about 2 1/2 hours. There will be altitude caps at certain turnpoints. The first pilot to cross the finish line is the day's winner. As we really get underway, I will let you know the ins and outs of the rules. The races will be broadcast on the website (link at right) with live tracking during the task (probably between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. here - that would be 6 - 8 a.m. central time.)

I'll keep you posted!


Monday, August 29, 2005

Arrival at St. Auban

We arrived at the Centre National de Vol a Voile (French National Gliding Center) in St. Auban late on Friday night. We pitched our tent (yes, we are camping in a tent) and started to get settled. On Saturday it rained, so there was no flying. Instead, we went to the town of Digne les Bains where there was a Lavender-fest going on. (Photo: The entrance to lavender world)

Yesterday (Sunday) Tim flew with Roland Stuck, the competition director of the Grand Prix for about 5 1/2 hours in a Duo Discus.

There's a TV crew here shooting the competition for broadcast - maybe even in the US - as a 30 minute show. I tagged along while they filmed Tim and Roland, as well as other pilots, from the top of the Lure Mountain. It was a spectacular view and the pilots looked like they were having fun, too. (Photo: The Leading Edge TV guys filming as one of the gliders makes a pass. Note the confused hiker looking on.)

The weather for the next three days looks pretty good. Of course, the situation is more questionable on Thursday, when the practice days begin.

(Photo: These two camels were hanging out at the lavender festival.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Preparing for the Grand Prix

August 24
We are busy preparing for the First World Sailplane Grand Prix September 2-11, 2005 in St. Auban, France.

Here's the link to the official website: