21 January 2017

34th World Gliding Championship in Benalla Wrap-up

Saturday, January 21 was the last day of the "Worlds" in Benalla, Australia. It was a difficult day with fairly weak blue thermals. A strong and cool southerly wind suppressed thermal development and broke up the lift that was there. There were substantial numbers of landouts in all classes. The 15m Class fared worst with 13 competitors of 35 landing out.

In 15m Class, 1st place was hotly contested between Makoto Ichikawa (Mak) of Japan and Polish pilot Sebastian Kawa, who is probably the most successful glider pilot of all times. We started the day with Mak being in the lead by 33 points but he didn't have a good day today, placing 21st for the day and receiving a 20 point penalty. So, by the end of the day Sebastian had won another World Championship with Mak coming second overall.

Our 15m Class pilots, both novices at World Championships, had mixed results today. Sergei did well, placing a respectable 13th for the day, moving up five positions in the overall score to 24th place which is a good result for competing the first time at this level and considering that he had to recover from a landout a few days ago. In the last few days of the competition Sergei seemed to have found his groove.
Luke on the other hand did not have a good day. He had trouble getting away after the start and fell behind the field. In the end, the day died on him and he landed out 30 km north of Benalla.

In 18m Class, French pilot Kilian Walbrou successfully defended his 1st place and became World Champion ahead of Mario Kiessling (Germany) and Mike Young, UK.

I was hoping to see our 18m pilots finishing in the top ten and perhaps even get to the podium. Dave was off to a great start, finishing in second place on the first competition day. After three contest days, he was still in 4th place and after Day 4, more than halfway through the competition, he was in 6th place, still in the top ten. Unfortunately, he had a few bad days which dropped him out of the top ten.
Jerzy was off to a bit of a slow start but then improved, placing 8th on January 19th.
Today both Dave and Jerzy had a good run and were tied for 10th place with 851 points each. They both moved up a few places in the overall score to 14th (Jerzy) and 16th (Dave).

Open Class had an interesting turn of events. Michael Sommer, four times World Champion started the day in third position behind the British pilots Russell Cheetham and Andy Davis. Even though Michael placed 18th today, he managed to move up one place into second behind Russel Cheetham and ahead of Andy Davis.

The competition was difficult because, with the exception of one day, conditions were mainly blue and there was only one day offering typical Australian conditions with 8 - 10 kt climbs to 10,000 ft. The blue conditions resulted in extensive gaggle flying which is dangerous and very stressful. After the second mid-air collision, at least one pilot pulled out because he found it too dangerous.

Signing off from the 34th WGC

Gaggles, blue, very blue, plenty of dust during take off

This is how I will remember World Championships in Benalla:

We had only one day opportunity to fly with use of clouds and it was
only half of a day during contest.

The other day was one practice day with nice cumulus clouds.

Rest of the days were blue or very blue, this is how the weather lady
described them each day during morning weather briefing.

I started the contest with a penalty of 61 points for low finish because
there was plenty of sink

just 5km before finish cylinder and I finished below minimum altitude.

Almost every day take offs were in dense dust so any cleaning before
flight was useless and some times a tow plane was hardly visible during
roll on the ground due to dust.

First part of the contest was hard for everyone as huge gaggles were
very unpleasant and also two accidents in the air casted a shadow over
the whole event and were very upsetting.

European tactics of flying in the group is very tiring and taking away
all individual thinking from the pilot, scoring is very steep and loss
of 1km/h can cost up to 20 points

A land out meant practically elimination from any chance for good placing.

My best flight was on the day when we had 5 hours area task with some
clouds and I didn't see any glider from start to finish, high cloud base
and good lift was a nice reward

for such long trip to Australia.

I finished on 14 place after 7 racing days, which is not the best, but
it looks that it is the best result from North American pilots in all

Today we were served dinner sponsored by organizers: a freezing cold
rubbery chicken legs with also very cold macaroni with one mini tomato,
all served in a plastic box packed in huge gray paper bag.

Our Crew had to pay for this dinner $30 .

Thank you Joerg for managing our team and helping me and Maria in
glider preparation .

My best friend from school time in Poland Adam Zolnierczyk currently
living in Sydney visited us for 4 days during contest and was
crewing for me as well.

Container pick up for return trip starting Jan 28 is arranged till
then Joerg, Marian and Jarek will have opportunity to fly our gliders
for 4 to 5 days hopefully they will have better

soaring conditions .

Just after closing ceremony we drive back to Sydney to return almost
brand new cars with hitch to Manly Rentals which we had for duration of
our visit in Australia .

On Tuesday we depart Sydney for long flight back home.

Jerzy XG

Day 7 - Dave

The A task for today was a 370 km racing task.  I thought it was a little optimistic based on my weather assessment.  After re-gridding the entire contest between 1145 and 1245 to switch ends of the runway and the 15 M class launch and struggle for the first 30 minutes the 18 M class was put on the B task of 280 km.  At the end of another low, weak, blue day, this was a good task, but it was a struggle once we approached Corowa and then moved south towards the final steering point.

The deviation that you see to the west on the third leg south goes over a small set of hills called the Warby Range.  These hills are often the best source of lift to get home.  Today they were working, but it was still very weak.  I can't imagine what it would have been like without their influence.

I started a few minutes behind a pretty good lead gaggle and chased them down most of the flight.  At the first turnpoint, I had caught up, but was 1000 ft lower.  With only a 4000 ft working band (ground to 4000 AGL) I pushed to about 2000 AGL trying to stay with them, but it was always weaker down low.  I found a couple of good climbs on my own and by the second turnpoint I was with a group of 3 other gliders.

At Corowa, I was down to just under 1100 ft AGL and found a 3.2 kt climb that took me to 3000 ft.  The three other gliders were a little further along track and seemed to be out climbing me, so I moved to their thermal for a 2.2 kt climb up to 3800 ft.  I guess I should have stayed where I was.

Another run to the feedlot at the north end of the Warby range for a 3.1 kt climb and from there a couple of more weak climbs to get on final glide.

On the barograph trace, you can see the grey part of the trace before the start where I was down to about 1500 AGL trying to get connected and move to the start area.  I was getting a little worried that I might have to relight, but was able to connect to some weak climbs and slowly move up and out to the start area.

Today's flight was good for 10th on the day and that moved me up 2 places to finish in 16th.

Mid - Task Update

Our pilots are on the second leg of their respective tasks. It was not easy to get going. The 15m Class was first on the grid. They started launching at 13:00 into the blue. Soon large gaggles formed low as the competitors struggled to stay airborne. It was quite spectacular to see them dump water in the clear blue sky. Remarkably there were very few relights, if any - a testimony to the skills of the pilots at this level of competition.
The 18m and Open Class launch was halted until 14:00 to wait for conditions to improve. The had fewer problems and managed to climb out without dropping ballast.

Unfortunately, Luke got stuck low and for a while, it looked like he would come back for a relight. In the end, he managed to climb and continue on course.

In 15m we are seeing speeds of 70 - 80 kph, the 18m guys are running at speeds of 100 - 113 kph - the beauty of more wing span and full ballast.

We are expecting the 18m back around 6p and 15m at 7p

Hopefully nobody lands out. The closing party is at 7:30 tonight.


Karl from Optikal has been taking some awesome shots of glider and people. Check it out at www.optikal.com.au

20 January 2017

Saturday, January 21st - the last day of the World Championships

It was a chilly morning despite bright sunshine. It is slowly warming up now and there is promise for a decent soaring day. Conditions will be blue again(!) with thermals to 5000 ft. The gliders have been ballasted, weighed and positioned at the grid, with 15m in the front, followed by 18m and Open Class.

15m has a 3:30 AAT task to the NW with 235 km minimum, 364 km nominal and 476 km maximum. Task B is identical but reduced to 3:00 hrs.

The 18m task is a 371 km racing task to the north and NE.

First launch is planned for 12:30 off runway 26

Friday, January 20th

We woke to the pounding of heavy rain on the tin roof of our hotel. It was still raining when the pilots briefing had ended at 11:00. Eventually, 18m and Open Class were canceled before they had to pull out to the grid but 15m Class gridded on the the hard surface runway because the grass areas were quickly turning into a sea of mud.

Waiting on the grid for the weather to clear
It was uncomfortably cool as we waited for the low clouds to break up. Eventually it started to clear and the sun warmed the ground. However, the already brisk wind increased to a gusty 25 kts with a significant crosswind component. The launch commenced at 2p but was halted after a few tows that looked quite scary because of the wind. It was just too dangerous to continue under these conditions, so the day canceled for 15m as well.

Tomorrow, the last day of the contest looks like it will be another blue day with thermals up to 5500 ft.

The closing ceremony will be on Sunday at 11am by the flags.


Sergei , Day 5

The key for yesterday flight was patience at the start gate  . Our task was 370 km race
It took 2h 20 min from take off to the start for me . We were sitting in the start area between 5000 and 6000 , pretty much all class in two or three thermals ,constantly converging and moving around , but nobody wanted to start .. From the forecast we were expecting high clouds moving from the west into the task area and shutting thermals by 6pm . Base on my preliminary calculations we should be on course just after 2 pm , but nobody wanted to start and that was really hard to force myself to stay on start , knowing that there is a big chance that you wouldn't make it home . My only hope was that the gaggle make it around faster . And that was the case - all gliders which went early on course up to half an hour were not able to pull away from the main group and ended up finishing with it  As in the previous day I gave up 3 to 5 minutes on the start but that was my security cushion.

My speed was 112.3 km/h , which gave me 901 points and 15th place for the day .

Sergei , MS

19 January 2017

Day 6 - Dave

Last night was International night where many of the teams provide food or drink from their home countries for all to sample.  Between the set-up, manning the Canadian table for a while and doing some tear-down at the end of the night, I didn't have time to get to the blog until now.  Our day was canceled today due to the amount of rain that came down over night and continued until about 11 am.  The 15 m guys are on the grid on the paved runway, because the grass is too soft, and might go fly in 2-3 kts lift with 25 kt winds and 4000-5000 ft top of lift.

For the international night, David Cost-Chretien, a Canadian that now lives in Sydney supplied us with Smoked Salmon, Maple Tea and Maple Toffee for our Canadiana.  David runs The Canadian Way and imports and distributes Canadian items in Australia.  Besides donating all of the food, he also spent most of the night at the table serving the food.  His enthusiasm and generosity are greatly appreciated!  We also served up Forty Creek Canadian Whiskey and it was a big hit, with several people telling me it was the best tasting drink of the night.

Team 4D and Aussie Dave manning the Canadian Table

Yesterday's task was a 384 km racing task, once again in the blue.  Before the start I was getting to about 5400 ft and once again huge gaggles formed near the start point.  The forecaster and task setter advised that a high cloud deck would move in about 1730 and shut down the day.  All of the weather sites that I looked at said the same thing.  With this in mind I decided to start at 1400.  Once again, the models were wrong and the late starters flew in much better conditions and were able to beat the early starters.  I don't know if they have better weather information or whether they just took the chance that it wouldn't come in as quickly.

I didn't have any particularly bad or slow spots during the flight and kept moving on course.  I started a few minutes behind a group, but after about 60 km, some of them were gone and another was 2000 ft below me, so I ended up on my own for a while and then met up with a couple other gliders near the first turnpoint.  By the second turnpoint, I joined up with more gliders and we had a group of about 8 that eventually worked its way down to 3 and we ran towards home.  About 50 km from home, I felt some good air to my left and turned into it and was rewarded with the best climb of the day.  For several turns it averaged over 9 kts and overall it was a 6 kt climb for 2000 ft that put me on a fast final glide home.  The other two that were with me missed it and ended up taking weaker climbs and were slower getting home.

The pre start gaggles - 2W

To have a reasonable chance at the WGC especially on a blue day you pretty much have to stay with the gaggle, prefferably the fast one.  After the gate opened we climbed to 5500 feet and then descended to 4500 feet three or four times.  I decided that continuing the cycle another two or three times surrounded by 30 other gliders would be sheer lunacy and went on course alone.  The score sheet speaks volumes; the gaggle is much faster, but is it what flying sailplanes is about?


18 January 2017

Thursday, January 19th - 18m Contest Day 6; 15m Contest Day 5

It is a blue day today. Our pilots are on task. Our 18m guys are on the second leg of their 384 km Assigned Speed Task. Best speeds are around 130kph. Climbs are close to 6000 ft.

Luke and Sergei in 15m  started later and are also on the second leg of their 370 km AST.


There is a mid level cloud layer forecast to move over the task area later in the afternoon by about 5:30p. Hopefully our pilots will be on final glide by the time this happens.


17 January 2017

Day Canceled

Well, the band of mid level clouds moved only along its length, never sideways. So we stayed in the shade. After several delays they sent the 18m and Open classes home, postponing the launch for 15m until 14:30. It looked like we were really going to launch, as they ordered the cars off the grid but the day was canceled for 15m as well. Good opportunity to do laundry and stuff.

A band of mid level cloud kept us from launching. We could see the blue on either side of the band.

The forecast for tomorrow is sunny with temperatures in the low 30s. It looks like it will be a blue day with 4-6 kts up to 4000 - 5000 ft. By Ontario standards, it could be a nice day.

Wednesday, January 18

What a difference in terms of weather from yesterday! It is quite cool (20s) and Benalla is under a band of mid level cloud which is forecast to move out but at this point, at 12:00, we are still under the cloud cover. There is also a 20 kt wind from the south which will make things tough.

Launch is being planned for 13:00 with 15m Class in front. The organizer set short tasks. If the cloud band moves away to the north, we should see 2-4 kts lift to 4000 ft in the blue. Not great but flyable.

The organizers are hoping to get at least the 15m class on task as they are a day short compared to 18 m Class.

Both 15m and 18m have relatively short Assigned Speed Tasks

15m: 324km
18m: 297km


MS Day 4

After disappointing results from yesterday , I got a little bust for my self-esteem today .
Today we had a racing task of 484 km with the classic Australian weather - blue thermals up to 11,000 ft and 5-6 kt average  climb .Our class was the last to take off and our start was opened at 14:18 . After late start and land out as result from yesterday ,I decided to go on course without waiting for main group . I new that they will catch up with me , but I was wiling to sacrifice few minutes and connect  with the fast group .And that was exactly what happened - within 50 km after start I had 10 to 12 gliders joining and leaving in the thermals  .There is no big gaggles in the strong and fast days - speed of 100 kt and thermals of 5 to 8 kt will provide some separation  , so today I had groups of 5 to 7 gliders in the thermals during the whole flight and only 80 km from the finish I met the whole leading group of 15 gliders in the last thermal before the final glide . .9,000 feet was enough to get me home with the final glide speed  of 110kt and task speed of 129.4 km/h .
I was fourteen in the class - my best result so far .