As I sit in the hotel room at the Sydney airport and get ready to head home, here are some final thoughts about the competition.
Although the weather for the 2017 WGC was not up to expectations for Australia the task setter, Tobi Geiger, did an outstanding job setting challenging tasks during the competition. There were no easy days and nor should there have been given the calibre of pilots at the competition.
This competition, for me, was flown as an individual pilot as after the opening ceremony, our team captain informed me that the other 18 M pilot told him to tell me that he did not wish to team fly.
I would like to provide a few statistics. We flew a total of 7 contest days. I had a very good start to the contest and was able to hold an overall position in the top 10 for the first 4 flying days. I had 3 out of 7 days with a top 10 finish in the 18 M class with my best finish in 2nd on the first contest day only 23 seconds slower than the day winner on a 282 km racing task. I had higher daily placings on 3 of the 7 contest days than the "highest placing North American pilot", I tied on 2 of the contest days and I placed lower on 2 of the 7 contest days than the "highest placing North American pilot". At the end of 7 contest days, 13 points, or 0.213% separated me from the "highest placing North American pilot". A virtual tie in the big picture.
The competition featured a majority of racing (assigned) tasks in the 18 M class. In the blue conditions we had most flying days this made tactical flying a critical skill. One could not charge off into the blue and expect to do well on their own. I found the thermals to have very small cores and while you could feel the bubbly air around the thermal, without the help of a few other gliders, accurately pinpointing the core and getting centered quickly was difficult. At times you just couldn't find the core on your own. One day, while flying several hundred meters to the left of another glider, I felt the energized air of a nearby thermal and moved left, striking a solid core and a 6.8 kt average climb for 2000 ft that put me on final glide. The other glider missed it. I beat him by 4 km/hr as a result of that one thermal that day and that made a 50 point difference in our scores, that day. In this context, 13 points is a couple of seconds over the several thousand kilometers that were flown in 7 days.
What is this tactical flying that I mentioned above? Flying alone at a WGC is discouraged by the scoring system. Under the FAI scoring system, the points distribution is decided by the majority of the pilots. If 1 pilot completes the task and all the other pilots land out then the 1 finisher will earn 1000 points and those who landout will earn about 900. Since so many landed out, the lone finisher must have been lucky and is therefore awarded a lower point differential as the scoring equations focus on the majority of the group. In the opposite situation if everyone completes the task and the 1 person lands 1 km short of the finish line his individual effort will earn him all of about 350 points compared to close to 1000 for the finishers. It is very hard to gain points and very easy to lose points with this scoring system.
With this kind of scoring the tactics require that you be part of the majority. To do this, you need to wait at the start gate until the majority have started and then start a few minutes later and catch up. Since everyone knows this, no one wants to start and be the fodder at the front, so you wait, and you wait, and you wait until there is almost not enough time to complete the task before starting.
To avoid some of this, the task setter started setting longer tasks that would require everyone to start earlier or risk not getting home before the end of the day. This helped a bit as it shortened the amount of start gate games, but it did not stop it.
You have probably seen the pictures of the huge gaggles that formed prior to the start. This is a direct consequence of this tactic. No one likes it, everyone complains about it, but nobody does anything about it. There were discussions amongst pilots and I think many are getting tired of the game - hopefully, this will lead to some changes in the future.