Friday, August 10, 2012

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.

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