From my perspective , I can divide my flying experience at WGC into three stages or phases :
1. Practice - easy and fun flying .
2. From contest day 1 to contest day 3 - shock therapy
3. From contest day 4 to contest day 6 - trying to fit in .
We had 6 practice days from December 31 to January 7. The style of flying on those days was almost like on a regular XC day at SOSA, or some of the contest days at Canadian Nationals . We were setting up our own tasks or flying as set by organizers . Start time was flexible and in the biggest gaggle before the start we had not more then 10-12 gliders, and usually 4-5 on course. Even when the results were not too good , I could easily see my mistakes and ways to fix them, blaming most of it on being rusty after sitting on the ground for 4 months. This simple answer made me overconfident .
2. First half of the contest .
But when the real contest started my confidence was gone from day 1 . I was shocked by the speed and aggressive style of flying by most of the pilots in my class . Before the start, gaggles were still more or less organized, and when we stopped climbing after reaching thermal top there were just a few pilots who were trying to cut through and get inside , closer to the core to gain extra few feet . It changed when we went on course . Cutting in front of the other glider in the thermal , trying to get a stronger climb , starting to turn in the new thermal just few seconds after leaving previous one, or changing direction and crossing in front of a glider going straight was becoming a normal style for many pilots . It takes time to get used to this way of flying, and in the first few days I was spending too much time trying to adjust my piloting skills, and was lacking in tactical thinking - I just didn't have time for it .My other weakness, which affected my results, was the speed of decision making - I was too slow . If you think that flying in the gaggle is simple - just climb with the fast guy and move along - you are wrong Following this simple formula, you will end up on the bottom and lose the group at the end . A gaggle or group with 15-25 gliders is always evolving; it separates into a few independent groups , converges into one group again , all while moving forward. This pattern repeats very quickly. You are constantly facing choices of following different groups , climbing in different thermals, or moving from one group to another . To make those decisions on time during the flight can put you on the podium, and making them too late might put you on the field .
3.Second half of the contest
Understanding of the gaggle style of flying, and a way of dealing with all tactical and strategic problems, came to me a little bit too late and didn't leave me any time to work on the details . The weather gave us only three more days. Finally the fun part of flying came back . I started enjoying flying and even prestart gaggles didn't irritated me anymore - I realised this just a part of the game, and you have to have the patience to be part of it .I started to fit in and as a result my confidence come back together with the higher scores .
A final note of gratitude:
Our crew and team captain Joerg have done an amazing job helping us and supporting us in this event . I'm very grateful for the efforts from everyone within and without the gliding community that made participation in 2017 WGC possible - we couldn't have been there without you. And a big thank you to our Australian hosts for their hospitality toward all of us pilots and crew.