Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Home Stretch! The Real Deal Day 13

We have made it to the last day here in the U.S. Team room!  And after yesterday's performance, what a success to begin on!  First and foremost, a big congratulations to Dick Butler (DB) and Ron Tabery (SS) who took open class yesterday with first and second place.  It was a very close one amongst the top five day winners of open; there were only two points separating DB and SS.  As they took the day together,  it looks like team flying for the U.S. Team is really beginning to pay off!

Of course in the Team room this morning everyone was in a celebratory spirit!  Really it was the best yet.  Almost every seat was filled with smiling people and Team supporters all around.  And of course there was much applause for every member of the hardworking U.S. Team who has devoted their time and effort.  Plus a standing ovation for Dennis Linnekin (El Capitano!)  

The day is off to a great start already.  Since grid begins at 12:10 today, I am now headed out for some more dust and wind!  More updates to come soon on the home stretch here at WGC Uvalde. 

A standing ovation for the final U.S. Team meeting!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gena Tabery, On the Fly: Teamwork

The United States team operates at a disadvantage, compared to other countries, because its contest rules specifically forbid team flying. Most U.S. pilots have not flown collaboratively with a teammate until they reach the world competition level, and they cannot adequately benefit from the advantages of sharing information in flight.  This spring many members of the U.S. Soaring Team met in Chilhowee, Tennessee for a week specifically to work on team-flying strategies, coached by former  15-meter World Champion Brian Spreckley. The team met again in Uvalde for the informal practice period prior to the official practice week.

Absent from both of those training periods were Open Class pilots Dick Butler and Ron Tabery: Mr. Butler was still finishing his Concordia glider, and Mr. Tabery had work commitments. While the rest of the U.S. team pre-practiced in Uvalde, the Open Class team met up in Kerrville, Texas, to work the tough hill country area away from onlookers eager to catch a glimpse of the Concordia. They also wanted to work on team flying. Both Mr. Butler and Mr. Tabery are known for their individualism, and it was a matter of great speculation as to how well they would take to working together as a team.

All doubts have been put to rest. “Dick is my mentor,” says Mr. Tabery. “There is no one else in the U.S. I would rather fly with.” As for his part, Mr. Butler says, “Ron and I think very similarly. I admire his decision making greatly.” Taciturn on the radio when flying alone, the Butler-Tabery team has astonished their teammates by the amount of consultation and conversation while racing. “Those two are like girls at a prom,” says 15-meter teammate John Seaborn. Mr. Butler has joked, “I’m afraid our teammates are going to kick us off the U.S. frequency if we keep on talking like we have been.”

Other countries very greatly in the time spent training for a world championship. The German team is famous for their organization, and before each championship they spend two weeks training in St. Auban. This year they spent additional time in Uvalde prior to the official practice period. But as is true for other countries, not every team member can get away from work obligations to attend such extended training. And they are flying unfamiliar aircraft. One team member reports that he had flown his new Quintus M exactly twice before it was shipped to the U.S.

The entire Australian team flew at Uvalde last year in the Pre-World competition, and several members of that team had extended practice periods here before this WGC. David Jansen came to Uvalde at the beginning of July and spent the entire month flying here. In contrast, the South African team had no formal training as a team and also have new planes to contend with. Laurens Goudriaan reports having flown his JS-1 four times before arriving in Uvalde. However, that team has the advantage of two sets of brothers who have flown together for years. Similarly the Belgian team does not train, and they are flying ships they had flown only a few times before this competition.

The British team, also flying new planes, goes through no formal training. “But we are familiar with each other and have flown together before. We fly cooperatively,” says Open Class pilot Peter Harvey. The Polish team has no organized training period, but Open Class pilot Wiktor Kozlik reports that at their national competition, they are assigned a partner with whom they will fly at the WGC, and they fly their national competition with that teammate.

The Italian team does not organize a training period for their pilots, but their pilots traditionally have flown with their teammates. Says Katrin Ghiorzio of her husband, 15-meter World Champion Stefano Ghiorzio and his teammate Thomas Gostner,  “Thomas and Stefano always fly together as a team.” They fly several European competitions before the WGC. “But this year,” says Mrs. Ghiorzio, “so many of our European contests had bad weather and rain, and they could not fly. And the conditions here are so different, the practice was not helpful.”

The French, who appear to have more group cohesion that almost any team on the field, devote at least one week each spring to training at the national center at St. Auban. Other than that, says Open Class pilot Sylvain Gerbaud, “We prepare for competitions by flying competitions.” And when he says flying, he means team flying.

Long Racing Tasks

All US Team pilots have started.  Today's cumulus field is even and widespread and covers the entire Uvalde task area.  Task distances today:  15m: 618k, 18m: 652k, and Open Class:  685k.  Based on their start times, we expect the Team to return between 1845 and 1930 or earlier.  

Top Of The 12th!

We are in the final two day push towards the finish of WGC here in Uvalde!  But among the U.S. team, optimism reigned all morning for contest day 12.  As Bill Elliot (WE) put it, "Glider pilots are always optimistic.  Even at 500 feet, there is always lift ahead." 

While we only hope to see the U.S. pilots at 500 feet twice today - once on take off and once on landing - the rest of that sounds like the spirit as we near the end!  Sitting on the grid for launch (from my view in the air conditioned motor home - more lessons learned) I can see that Open class and 18M have launched.  The 15M launch is still in progress.  Again from the ground I am hearing, "a classic Uvalde day."  Expect updates soon on this prediction once the start gates open...  And go Team USA!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Team Flying

Looking at Spot Tracker information and listening to radio transmissions it's clear that Leonard and Seaborn are still flying as a pair and both just reported 30 kilometers out on final glide.  We can see and hear Butler and Tabery and they are still together as well with about :35 minutes to fly.  Gary Ittner is about 2 miles ahead of Bill Elliott and they're collaborating well.  Gary just transmitted "found 4 knots 74 out."  Just received another transmission from Gary reporting "5.5 knots" in that thermal.  Smiles all around the US Team Office.

All US Team Pilots On Course

The satellite shows very few cumulus along the first legs of today's tasks so it's a good day for team flying.  Looks like all three pairs of US Team Pilots are doing just that.  Seaborn and Leonard started together at 1436.  Butler and Tabery at 1451, and Elliott and Ittner at 1511.  Cu fields are building at the southern portion of the task area.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On the Fly, Days 9-10

Day 9 was a day of long distances and fast speeds. Germany’s Open Class Michael Sommer’s (EB) speed of 157 kph (97.5 mph) was the third fastest of the contest. On Day 5, Mr. Sommer flew the second fastest race of the contest with 159.2 kph (98.09). But the top speed of the competition thus far is that of Open Class pilot Peter Harvey of Great Britain (CA), at 161 kph on Day 7, or 100 mph. Conditions have also allowed several long distance days. Two days included tasks over 700 km, four over 600 km, and one over 500 km. Only two days have been called under 500 km.

Speeds and distances like these are what have endeared Uvalde to Americans and made it legendary in Europe. The first glider competition I attended was the 1999 WGC in Bayreuth, Germany. When Europeans found out I was from Austin, Texas, the first question they asked was, “Is that anywhere near Uvalde?”

At the beginning of Day 10, Germany remains in first place in the Team Cup Competition with 8243 points; Great Britain is second at 8202, and Poland is third with 8194. Organizers calculate the team cup points by averaging all scores of all pilots flying for a given country, accumulated to this point.

Although there were some exceptionally good moments on Day 9, it was also a day full of holes into which one could step. Day 10 is forecast to be windy, dry, and blue. Windy it is: while one of the line crew amused himself by jumping on a pogo stick, a pilot observed that his vertical jumps were not much higher than those of the wingtips bouncing in the breeze. It is windy enough on the ground to shroud the grid in a continuous cloud of dust, but some pilots familiar with the area question whether it will be as blue as forecast. All three tasks are fraught with danger, as they all approach or in some cases overlap restricted or forbidden air space.

Dreaming Of A Cloudy Day

Blue right...  The sky's view from the grid this afternoon was packed with clouds, to say the least.  It is now
expected to blue out later in the evening.  Here in the team room, they are waiting for the pilots to hit the start gate.  Already there is coming some positive feedback from the air, "it looks pretty good!" is how it sounds...  And on the ground it looks like more of the hardworking U.S. team is dreaming of the skies...  Gotcha El Capitano!  

Team Spirit Day 10

Success!  Everyone made it to the team meeting this morning after last night's international party!  And what a night it was.  The U.S. Team's tamales were great, and it was even better watching people attempt to chew through the corn husks...

Dennis is now briefing the team before launch.  It will be "windy and dry today... very dusty on the grid..."  What a surprise.  Grid is at 12:30.  So no napping in the team room... yet.  Looks like a short area task today with lots of blue...

Task distances for day 10 are set as follows:
15M - 474K, 18M - 496 K, and due to a start gate change, Open - 481K

Too much team spirit to fit here in Uvalde...
For everyone!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dave Leonard (ZL) just reported 50 kilometers out and on final glide.
SS and DB just finished and are both in the landing pattern.  WE and P7 finished about 20 minutes ago.

Hardworking Crews

Our crews begin the day early and work hard.  The Team office is usually quiet and not a bad place to recharge before heading out to the runway to meet your pilot when he lands.

High Cirrus

The US Team Pilots are all out on course.  There are fewer weather threats in and around the task area today.  Thunderstorms are not expected and the sea breeze front will move slowly and not be player.  Pilots will find thermals of 5-7 knots and climbs to 9,000'.  We're watching high cirrus drift in from the Rio Grande which has diminished the field of cumulus clouds at the southern end of today's tasks.

The Real Deal Day 9

It's day 9 here, with only five more days to go.  Lengthy turn point tasks have been set for today.  So to the U.S. team, let's go get 'em!  This morning Dennis welcomed some true friends of the U.S. team into meeting, Rob Ware, Sarah Arnold, Karin Schlosser, and Heinz Weissenbuehler (the latter two also being some sort of "supervision," a.k.a. my parents...)  Ignore that.  But anyway, it is really great to have you all here!  

Dennis will post soon with task and weather information.  Expect more from me after launch!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Half-time Through, And It's The Bottom Of The 8th!

After the rest-ful rest day that yesterday was, day 8 is already nearing its end.  The tasks today were all under three hours.  And we have officially made it half-way through the 2012 World Gliding Championship!

Active storm outflows are approaching the area within the hour.  As always, here in the U.S. Team room they are following the weather closely for the shortest task of the contest thus far.  Currently our pilots are on task near Laredo and out of radio range.  But they will be home soon - landings will begin within the hour - another fast day it is!

More updates on day 8's results with details on some real rest-day fun, soon.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Day Six

Weather for Day 6 fell under one of two headings: Severe Storm or Blue. Pilots’ descriptions of it ranged from “interesting” to “terrifying” to “ghastly.” As a result of what Weatherman Dan Gudgel described as a “smile” of a front reaching completely across the state, all three classes had the potential of facing storms in the Hill Country. For 15-meter and Open Class it was Fredricksburg (Turnpoint 3 for 15-meter, Turnpoint 2 for Open Class), and for the 18-meter Class, it was the second turn at Kerrville, just 25 miles from Fredricksburg. The few pilots who reached that second or third turnpoint early escaped most of the drama, which included multiple simultaneous lightning strikes, strong winds, pounding rain, dark skies, and finally a wall of storm. Rain shredded tape and tore off yaw strings, but most of the damage seemed to be fixable. Gudgel said thunderstorm tops reached 53,000 feet, releasing energy equivalent to an atomic bomb.

From that maelstrom, pilots flew south to cloudless skies and tried their best to make it home to Uvalde, which was under a tornado watch. According to CD Ken Sorenson, 80% of the 18-meter class made it home, 70% of the 15-meter, and 65% of the Open Class. Several pilots landed just before sunset.

Open Class pilot Petr Krejcirik (RX) of the Czech Republic had some trouble at the launch. Unaware that his dive breaks were open, he found himself unable to self-launch, rolled off the end of the runway, and damaged the gear box. He did not fly, and it is unlikely that his plane can be repaired for this contest.

US Team Pilots

Checkin' the task

"Hey, only seven hundred fourteen point nine kilometers today"

Visit from a friend

We were happy to see Michael Griner when he stopped by the US Team office.

Competition Day 7

This morning followed the usual schedule, despite yesterday's dark weather and landings that lasted later into the evening.  As of now in the team room they report that there appears to be no major weather concerns.  A later day start for the day here, but all minimum task times are set for 3:15 hours.  "Wow!" is all the crew here can say, in regards to the altitudes already being reported on the radio.

The grid today was blistering again, but a great time in the company of Everett Benson, Dennis's 4 year old grandson.  The official U.S. "Team Pilot 2034" (it's on his team shirt, so it is official) helped to point out all the planes landing and taking off during launch.  I hear his favorite plane is already the P-51 Mustang.  It looks like they really do start these U.S. pilots early...

All U.S. team pilots have started on task.  Here are their start times for day 7:

15M, Dave Leonard -15:00
15M, John Seaborn - 14:58
18M, Bill Elliot -15:09
18M, Gary Ittner - 15:09
Open Class, Dick Butler - 15:18
Open Class, Ron Tabery - 15:17

More to come soon... 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Competition Day 6, Watching Closely From The Team Room

I have returned to the U.S. team after a break at the pool (airport bum, but it comes with the territory).  But in the team room, it doesn't seem like they have gotten any rest.  Everyone here is busy, as they keep a close eye on the weather.  Gary is giving a play by play of the the pilot's movements via spot trackers, and Dennis is sticking close to the radio and watching the radar.

Mark Keene has driven east of Uvalde to Hondo, where he is watching the weather from the ground.  There are two lines of thunderstorms that Open class and 15M are working through for today's task.  Tabery (SS) and Butler (DB) are right in the middle of the dark weather now.  John Seaborn (A8) and Bill Elliot (WE) smoked through these areas of rain showers and are still on track.  From the radar, it looks like rain is headed the Uvalde way...  But for now, all U.S. pilots are still in the skies.    

10 August, Blistering Speeds

Some pilots considered yesterday a flying rest day, due to the brevity of the task. If the length of the task was unimpressive, the speeds achieved surpassed everyone’s expectations. Contest Director Ken Sorenson characterized them as “blistering.”

Few world championships have sported average speeds as consistently high as they have been here, this year. In the Open Class, whose high speed yesterday was 159.21kph ( 98.92mph), the average speed for the first five days is 150kph (93.2mph), and that average includes an atypically fluky first day. The 18-meter high speed has been 154kph (95.69mph), with a five-day average of 148kph (91.96mph). In 15-meter, the high is 149.3kph (92.7), with a five-day average of 145 kph (90.09mph). For those who are new to the sport, it is important to remember that final speed itself is an average, which includes all time on course—both thermaling and running. Actual running speeds are far in excess of the race average.

Altitudes are also exceptionally high. Those who fly Uvalde often are accustomed to reaching 7,000’ or perhaps 8,000’ on a good day. A 9,000’ day is an anomaly. Yesterday, 11,000’ was not unusual, and some reported going as high as 13,000’. Pilots who seldom even bring oxygen to Uvalde are not only installing it in their cockpits, but using it.

Contest organizers have established a few customs for honoring winners at the daily Pilot Meeting. Pilots are seated at tables according to their team country. The team table for the winner of each class sports a flag corresponding to the color of the winner’s task sheet: Green for Open Class, Yellow for 18-meter, and Blue for 15-meter. The color-coding, something that Assistant Contest Manager Kerry Huffstutler instituted many years ago, is more than a convenience—it is an important safety measure that assures that no pilot will walk away unawares with the wrong task sheet.

There is also a team contest going on—with high honors to the team earning the highest number of cumulative points. Current standings rank Poland first, Germany second, and France third overall. The flag placed at the table of the first-place team is one that contest organizers have deemed the most treasured in Uvalde: the Texas State Flag.

On Day 3, U.S. Open Class pilot Dick Butler (DB) won the day with a speed of in his new Concordia. OSTIV (Organisation Scientifique et Technique Internationale du Vol à Voile, or the International Scientific and Technical Soaring Organization) President Loek Boermans and Gerhard Waibel, both of whom worked with Butler on the design and fabrication of this ship, were in pilot meeting to enjoy the win. On Day 6, both came to the launch to see Dick off. Mrs. Waibel (Tilly) raised both fists above her head as the plane lifted off the taxiway, while Loek and Gerhard laughed and mimicked the droopy uplifted goony-bird wings of this 28-meter wingspan marvel.

Launching Now

WE and P7 are up and checked in on the Team frequency.  Today, A8 and SS have "WAY Aero" trackers aboard their sailplanes.  These trackers update fairly often.  You can watch their progress here:

Team Prep For Competition Day 6

It is now day 6  in the U.S. team room!  Grid time is at noon today.  Racing task, it is!  Also, a much longer task has been set - not a rest day by any means.  But with lunch in the team room, everyone still seems to be in good spirits.  Not yet good enough to be singing...  But at least they're thinking about it.  The final note of the morning meeting sounded something like this,
"Should we sing the team fight song?"
"...You mean Kumbayah?  Isn't that the team fight song?"

More updates on the day to come soon.

Also, be sure to check out this AOPA article on Dick Butler and his groundbreaking sailplane design here:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Short And Sweet, And They're Off!

All of Team U.S.A has now set out on task.  It looks like today will be a speedy one for all.  Open Class and 15M tasks are set for a minimum of 3:00 hours.  18M is set for 2:45 hours.

Here are the U.S. start times for day 5:
15M, Dave Leonard -13:36
15M, John Seaborn -13:29
18M, Bill Elliot - 13:59
18M, Gary Ittner -14:11
Open Class, Dick Butler -14:22
Open Class, Ron Tabery -  14:22

Today 18M's Bill Elliot (WE) has a live tracker in his ship.  Click the link below for the site to follow him on task today!

Day 5 Weather

At this morning's pilot meeting, Most Excellent Contest Chief Meteorologist, Dan Gudgel, briefed that the Uvalde racing task area underlies an air mass that is moist and possibly moistening further.  This moisture, combined with a phenomenon he referred to as a "deformation axis" in the hill country north of Uvalde, may be the trigger for significant thunderstorm activity this afternoon.  Dan stated that there is good potential for thunderstorms to reach Uvalde with surface wind gusts as high as 35 knots this afternoon.  These winds will be from the north and contest management has reminded teams to review the local procedure for landing to the north.  John Good has expanded the finish rings for all classes to 15km and increased the minimum finish altitude to 3,000' msl due to the possibility of heavy weather as racers complete their tasks today.  Crews were advised to tie down their trailers.

Dan expects a maximum temperature of 97 f. today and 5-600 feet per minute thermals early in the afternoon increasing to 7-800 fpm later in the day.

"Captain Snifftastic" is up and doing his thing now.  The launch is set to begin at 1220.    

"The Real Deal," Day 5

Keeping you out of the loop is not my job!  But yesterday I got the chance for a flight with the Sniffer (widely
referred to as "Sniff-tastic" here in the U.S. Team room), so I didn't get the chance to post.  However, I did get to see most of the U.S. team in the sky!  I caught all of them I think, except for Butler and Tabery of Open class who seem to hide out very well from the large gaggles here.

A shorter task has been set for day 5 today, as some dark looking weather is expected later.  In the U.S. team room after a quick meeting, the pilots and their crews are preparing.  "Every day's a new day," says WE crew Gary Carter.  So now let inning 5 begin!

More soon from me after launch...  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

SS Ground: Hannes Linke on 1991; Mennonites on Soaring

At the U.S. Team Party, Hannes Linke, Competition Director of the 1991 World Gliding Championship in Uvalde, reminisced about setting tasks at that contest with Judge Hal Lattimore and Wally Scott. Judge Lattimore, SSA President, had directed many competitions, and Wally Scott of Odessa, a multiple-time Barringer trophy winner and one of Texas’s most active record-setting pilots.

Every morning, Linke said, at 8:00, meteorologists Dan Gudgel and Walt Rogers would give the three task setters a weather briefing. Then starting at 8:15, the three directors worked feverishly and vociferously to assign tasks for the three classes, the Judge recording everything in longhand, “just to slow us down,” said Linke. By 8:45, they were finished. “That thirty minutes every day of those three weeks was the most fun I’ve ever had,” said Linke.

Linke was determined to hand pilots a printed task sheet, rather than one handwritten, something that had never been done at the WGC. One day, lunching in downtown Uvalde, he and Bill Ivins ran into a Uvalde County Agriculture Commissioner. “By the end of that lunch, Bill had talked the county out of their printer for the period of the competition, and we had our printed task sheets.”

After our glider launched today, we made our way over to the tie down area where about a dozen girls and young women sat in the shade at a picnic table and on lawn chairs, wearing black headcoverings, long dresses, and tennis shoes. As they watched the launch, they played with their i-phones, texted, and chatted quietly. Uvalde natives, they belong to the United Church of God in Christ Mennonite, and they were enjoying the competition. They seemed particularly interested in the tow planes and were trying to count how many different ones there were (on a good day, there are eleven). One suspects a romantic interest in one particular pilot—the blue and black checked plane seemed to trigger the most attention. I asked whether they might take a glider ride themselves, and they said no, but friend of theirs had been up. “He said it was really quiet up there,” they said, which is not how I’ve heard competition pilots describe their variometer beeping, radio squawking, ga-jug, ga-jug, ga-jug turbulent cockpits.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Concordia Wins Day 3!

Very fast is right!!!  Watching the scores being updated on the screens at the Big Tent, I had to rush to a computer to quickly update.  Congratulations to Dick Butler for taking the day!  THE CONCORDIA WINS DAY 3!  And all of Team U.S.A. has made it back to the airfield, as well!  It looks like tonight we really have something to celebrate!

I will update more on final results later this evening.  Already over at the U.S. Team Party, Oreo (the Longhorn) has a line of people waiting to get a picture with him.  And of course, everyone is crowded around the P-51 Mustang...  Pilots and their toys...

Day 3 Finish!

Butler is back and very fast...first report is 154 kph (92.5 mph)!  Tabery, Elliott, Ittner and Seaborn are home and ZL is on final glide now.  I wanna to see a score sheet!

More From Competition Day 3

Hannah Weissenbuehler here, helping the U.S. team to keep you all updated!

It's "the real deal day 3" here in Uvalde.  With longer tasks today than yesterday.  Another speed task today, and  all of 'our boys' have set out on task!  Here in the U.S. team hut they are following the pilot's movements closely on the radio.

Team Captain Dennis seems positive again today - as he says, today is "inning number 3 of a 13 inning game."  And after a better day yesterday, all the pilots set out on a good note.

Here are the U.S. start times for day 3:
15M, Dave Leonard - 13:54
15M, John Seaborn - 13:50
18M, Bill Elliot - 14:16
18M, Gary Ittner - 14:13
Open Class, Dick Butler -13:57
Open Class, Ron Tabery - 13:57

On the ground, it is Brenda Seaborn's birthday today!  There's some really good looking carrot cake in here - happy birthday to you, Brenda!  The U.S. team will be celebrating tonight in the Big Tent on the airfield.  There will be a Texas Longhorn Steer (a real steer!) whose name is Oreo and an auction for two rides in Mark Huffstutler's P-51 Mustang!  I wonder who the lucky winner will be...  Also, I heard mention of a dunking tank.  The question is who's going in first?

More updates soon on the movements of the U.S. team pilots...    

6 August 2012--Uvalde is No Vacation in Greece

In Alice Munro’s short story, “Runaway,” a character muses on a recent vacation in Greece: “At first I was bewildered. It was so hot. But it’s true about the light. It’s wonderful. And then I figured out what there was to do, and there were just these few simple things but they could fill the day. You walk half a mile down the road to buy some oil and half a mile in the other direction to buy your bread or your wine, and that’s the morning, and you eat some lunch under the trees and after lunch it’s too hot to do anything but close the shutters and lie on your bed and maybe read. At first you read. And then it gets so you don’t even do that. Why read? Later on you notice the shadows are longer and you get up and go for a swim.”

It’s much like that at the WGC in Uvalde. At first, you are bewildered. It is so hot.  But it’s true about the flying. It’s wonderful. And then you figure out what there is to do: you drive a mile down the road to Wall Mart to get a new tube for your wing wheel and another for the bicycle, because both have thorns in them.  Then a mile in the other direction to HEB to get water and cheese and beer, and that’s the morning. And then you eat lunch at Subway, and you launch, and then it’s too hot to do anything but return to pick up your laundry, go back to your hotel room, and lie on your bed and maybe read. At first you read. And then, you don’t even do that. Why read? Later you notice the gliders will not be returning for another two hours and you go for a swim.

Meanwhile, you watch Spot and you listen to the radio, if you can, and you try to discern when the gliders will return. When you get a good idea, you grab more water, rush back to the airport, and wait till you hear the 30 k out call on the radio. Then you grab the wingwheel and the tail dolly from the truck, run out to the taxiway, place them behind the orange cones, and wait for the finish call. When you hear that, you grab the tail dolly on one arm, the wing wheel in the other, and watch for your pilot. When you see him nearing the taxiway, and then floating down the taxiway, you stand about 40 feet off the taxiway, wait for it, catch the wing, and run to place the tail dolly on the fuselage, the wingwheel on the outer wing, and then you start pushing the plane off the taxiway. You hope that there are no other trucks or cars or planes in the way.

You are crewing for one of ten or more planes landing at once. You are all trying to do this, and you are all trying to get your plane off the taxiway at this point, without impeding anyone else, and without impairing your chances for making it safely to your tiedown area.

You push the 1875 pound plane back to the tie down and begin scrubbing bugs from the wings. All 92 feet of them. Then the tail and the nose. Then you start putting on its pajamas. Meanwhile, it’s still 100 degrees.

So it’s a little like a vacation in Greece. Except for the dust devils.

Today I asked a German crew member what they call dust devils in Germany. He shrugged his shoulders. “Nothing. We don’t have them.”

Competition Day 3

Well, yesterday was a bit more like it.

The 15 Meter guys, ZL and A8, have launched and checked in on the Team frequency.

From the weather brief at today's pilot meeting:  The high that dominated our weather has drifted west to the four corners area.  The task area has enough moisture to support scattered cumulous today and that's what we see outside right now.  Today's maximum temperature will be 101f.

The 15M start line opens at 1321.  The Open Class start line opens at 1330.

5 August 2012

On the first official day of the contest, 21 of the 23 countries represented here have flags flying from poles placed in a semi-circle in front of the competition headquarters. The big tent stands ready, stocked with snow cones, local honey, soft drink, beer, and bar-b-q, as well as, of course, t-shirts, caps, and bumper stickers, courtesy of local vendors and the Soaring Society of America. To the side of the tent, a deflated bouncy house lies waiting for start up. There will be fewer children here during the official contest; some teams, notably the French, have sent their families home. 

Uvalde Chamber of Commerce threw a colorful parade yesterday with local businesses sponsoring each of the countries. We especially enjoyed the German team dressed in cowboy hats, boots, and jeans, the Austrian team in lederhosen, and the Polish team riding a float next to the largest bar-b-q cooker anyone had ever seem. The U.S. team rode in long-finned 1950s convertibles, with Shriners in go-karts behind them and the high school marching band bringing up the rear.

After Opening Ceremonies at the Honey Bowl Stadium, pilots and crews took advantage of the free afternoon to visit local attractions. The huge Oasis hunting/fishing supply store sports an awe-inspiring selection of trophy deer, elk, rabbits, bobcats, wild turkeys, pheasants, javelina, quail, bears and bear cubs, as well as an ample salad bar. While enjoying her greens, a mildly horrified member of the Dutch team inquired, “Are all these animals for sale?” When told, no, she pressed on, “Were they all killed here? Why are they here? What do they mean?”

Ambitious tasks today: 554 km for the 18 meter, 577 km for the 15 meter, and 630 km for the Open Class. A couple of weather worries: a disturbance in the Gulf that seems to be moving southwest toward us, and the usual afternoon sea breeze front. These potential trouble makers are particularly worrisome for the Open Class, whose last turnpoint is Yancy, to the southeastern quadrant of the task area.

1 August 2012

As Uvalde approaches record high temperatures for the day (1 August predicted 106 F), security at this World Competition is heating up, as well. Every official pilot and crew car must have a parking sticker to enter the tie-down area. Every glider pilot and crew member has a badge with a photo, and on the back of the badges is this explanation, in case of a landout: “I am participating in the World Gliding Championships in Uvalde . . . Unfortunately, I have landed my glider here and may need your help. My crew will need to bring a trailer to retrieve me and the glider.” A British pilot remembers landing once in the rural south of the USA and discovering that he and the locals couldn’t understand each other’s English. He handed over a similar written explanation, but it was useless: his new acquaintances couldn’t read.

Shopping downtown today we discovered Texas Cedar Oil, which at first glance, appears to be a lovely way to refresh your cedar closet and keep moths away from your fine woolens. Closer inspection reveals the fine print on the business card: “Looking for a fresh alternative to traditional scent camo? Successful hunts without smelling like urine.” Maybe the pilots can use this to freshen their cockpits.

31 July 2012

Shopping downtown today we discovered Texas Cedar Oil, which at first glance, appears to be a lovely way to refresh your cedar closet and keep moths away from your fine woolens. Closer inspection reveals the fine print on the business card: “Looking for a fresh alternative to traditional scent camo? Successful hunts without smelling like urine.” Maybe the pilots can use this to freshen their cockpits.

30 July 2011
Uvalde is Ready
Gena Tabery, SS crew

Those of us who have been to coming to Uvalde for years (if not decades) appreciate how much effort has gone into readying the airport and surrounding grounds for this World Championship. The tie-down field, which often vacillates between dust bowl and mud pit, is green, with more grass than stickers, few mesquite thorns, and ant mounds clearly flagged. There is ample room in the tie-down area for open class ships, who often have trouble maneuvering their big wings around other gliders and trailers. And next to the road, under neatly trimmed mesquite trees, are hopeful wooden picnic tables.

While most teams are split according to class, within class, country pilots are grouped together. Several have put up large tents, where crew can hang out in the shade during the heat of the day, next to the empty trailers. French, German, and Belgian crew have been spotted floating in hotel swimming pools in daring bathing suits, while U.S., South African, and Australian crew, for whom the sun is not a novelty, tend to head for their electronic devices in darkened, air-conditioned hotel rooms.

Hotels are struggling to accommodate the soaring visitors, who operate according to a different schedule. Many prefer to ready their ships by the dawn’s early light, which makes breakfast problematic. The hotel breakfast is not ready before pilots and crews leave at 6:30, but then again, what is available is gone before they return. And the food: it seems Europeans prefer yogurt, fruit, granola, and wheat bread to bacon, eggs, and waffles. The hotel manager says, “I am ordering ten extra crates of yogurt and fruit. You guys are, like, healthy.” To which the French crew member replies, “We are all sportif.”

Many Uvalde citizens have opened their homes to competitors, who are enjoying their inside peaks at truly Texas houses. Last night we saw one such group—pilot and family alongside local family—having their pictures taken together at a local steakhouse called “Lunker’s.” On the wall above them, the flat screen television showed beach volleyball players competing at the London Olympics, complaining of the cold. No such complaints will be heard here, at this World Championship.

Gena Tabery (SS crew)
29 July 2012

Julius and I towed Ron’s trailer (SS) yesterday from Kerrville to Uvalde, following Rick Sheppe, who was towing Dick Butler’s (DB) trailer. Ron and Dick had been flying for several days, working the bugs out of Dick’s Concordia and a few onto the leading edge of their wings, trying to achieve the mind-meld that will enable them to team fly against the rest of the Open Class.

All was fine with our caravan until we arrived at a Border Patrol blockade about 20 miles outside of Uvalde on Highway 90. Border Patrol re-routed all traffic onto a Farm to Market road that was wide enough for one-way traffic, but not for a highway’s worth of eighteen-wheelers and glider trailers. To accommodate oncoming traffic, everyone had at least two wheels in the dirt, kicking up a storm of red dust. One ought not to have been allowed to drive in those dust clouds without an instrument rating. When asked later what it looked like, Julius reported, “I don’t know. I couldn’t see a thing.”

When we finally completed our long u-turn into the Dust Bowl and arrived back at Highway 90, there was another group of Border Patrol cars and officers, carefully examining the cars of a passing train. Shortly afterwards, we arrived at a billboard proclaiming, “Uvalde Welcomes the World,” with a gorgeous photo of glider in flight. What a relief! We were beginning to wonder.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dave Leonard just called on final glide and will be finishing and entering the pattern shortly.  Looking forward to seeing the Team's scores!
Ittner, Elliott, Butler, Tabery and Seaborn have all finished.  Waiting for Dave Leonard to call in on the Team radio.
Well, they're all out there and still seem to be flying in pairs.  No significant convective returns showing on the radar.  Perfect soaring weather here at Garner Field.  

Competition Day 2

All US Team Pilots are airborne.  The Open Class and 18 Meter start lines are open.  The 15 Meter Class opens at 1426.

Weatherman Dan Gudgel stated that due to a low pressure gradient across the Uvalde Task Area, he expects little influence from the sea breeze front.  He estimates the sea breeze winds will reach Cotulla (town 60 miles southeast of Uvalde), at about 7pm this evening.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

This was a difficult weather day.  The convective activity that began along the Texas coastline blew up over San Antonio resulting in a gust front that effectively killed lift in the northeast quadrant of the task area.  Unfortunately, all three classes had their final turn points located in that quadrant.

Gary Ittner, John Seaborn and Dick Butler landed out at airports.  All pilots and sailplanes are fine.  Ron Tabery extended his engine near the last turn point and motored to Uvalde.  Bill Elliott finished and, at first glance, has 750 points for the day.  Down to 1,000 feet and 28 kilometers from home, Dave Leonard found a half knot thermal, slowly drifted with it toward Uvalde, and finally had enough altitude to make it.

There are twelve contest days remaining.

Contest Day 1

The launch is underway.  Four US Team Pilots have reported up on Team frequency.  Weather building southeast of Uvalde is a concern this afternoon.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Parade and Opening Ceremony

The 32nd FAI World Gliding Championship opens today. In less than an hour, the US Soaring Team will join the national teams from twenty-three other countries in a parade through Uvalde to the Opening Ceremony.

Friday, August 3, 2012

7th and Final Official Practice Day

We are happy to add and welcome Christian Streifeneder to the US Team as additional crew for Dick Butler.  DB and crew are busy today further prepping Concordia for the beginning of competition on Sunday.  John Seaborn, Dave Leonard, Bill Elliott, Gary Ittner and Ron Tabery will all be flying today.

Last evening, a lovely breeze arrived at the airport during the combined Team Austria/Team Germany party.  The party was a great one and made even nicer by this "sea breeze front".  Although we're still under dry conditions and high pressure, Dan Gudgel forecasts a return to more "Uvalde-like" conditions by Sunday as moisture from the sea breeze flows into the contest area.  

The launch is about to begin!   

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Dave Leonard landed back in Uvalde, Ron Tabery is on left base for the 15 taxiway in Uvalde and Gary Ittner landed out.  Gary and his sailplane are fine and his crew is on the way to retrieve him now.

Official Practice Day 6

Nice, cool 78 f. morning here today.  The expected high is 103.

Dave Leonard, Gary Ittner and Ron Tabery will be the US Team Pilots flying today.  John Seaborn and Bill Elliott are on rest days and Dick Butler is doing some minor work on Concordia in a hot hangar with crewman, Rick Sheppe.

Chief Meteorologist, Dan Gudgel, briefed that the contest area underlies a dome of high pressure that will limit climbs to 8-9000' above the ground.  He also stated that the satellite water vapor loop shows a "dry slot" over Uvalde so the day should be cloudless.  I just stepped outside...not a cloud in the sky.

Today's launch began at 1350.  Tabery (SS) started at 1447, Ittner (P7) at 1450.  The 15M start line is open and Leonard (ZL) is getting into position to start.