Author Archive for John Good

Rafting the Hiwassee

Rafting is a popular activity in the hills of eastern Tennessee, and the Hiwassee is reckoned to be a good river for this. But a raft made by Schempp-Hirth is probably a poor choice.

Good report – Dieciocho

WGC2013 report – 19 January – Final
WGC2013 ended around 6:30 this evening on a distinctly high note: today’s tasks had 100% completions and the best overall speeds of the contest.

The big news today was that local favorite Santiago Berca (SI – Argentina, and a great friend to the US Team here) was with a superb flight able to overcome a 125-point deficit to win the Club class, giving the host country two of the three titles awarded here.  His teammate Sebastian Riera (IG) had little trouble holding his lead in World class. In Standard class, no one should have been surprised that wily veteran Sebastian Kawa was able to hold his lead and add another world championship to his trophy case.

Phil and Peter in Standard class had their best speeds and daily placings (9th and 10th) of the contest.  Their comments were along the lines of “This is the weather we all came for.”  Sean Franke did not have quite the day he hoped for in Club class, but his final placing of sixth overall is highly commendable.

Everyone is happy that after a run of very tough weather the contest was able to finish with two good soaring days.  A band is now warming up and we are soon off to the closing ceremonies, followed by a farewell party that starts at 10:30 and will likely last until around dawn (though I do not plan to be there especially late).  We expect that our Argentine hosts, who have been hospitable throughout, will be especially so tonight as they celebrate a successful contest and a couple of popular champions.

Good report – Diecisiete

WGC2013 report – 19 JanuaryIn yesterday’s battle between good and evil weather influences, the good won: we wound up with a mostly blue day with thermals that were neither high nor particularly strong, but were consistent enough to produce a good rate …

Good report – Dieciseis

WGC2013 report – 18 January

As everyone knew they would be, yesterday’s tasks for all classes were cancelled around 2pm, in the face of entirely hopeless conditions: low cloud, mist and a cold southeast wind.  Perhaps a dozen gliders were never placed on the launch grid – their pilots had decided that the chance of flying was not worth the effort.

The mandatory improvement in conditions shortly after cancellation was again seen, but it was slight: the sky brightened a bit and the mist stopped falling for an hour or so.  Not the most incorrigible of the second-guessers was able to make the case that we should have waited longer.  There was a considerable body of thought that, with impossible conditions and a weather forecast that offered not the slightest chance of useful improvement, it was a waste of time to put any gliders on the runway.  It’s fair to note that contest organizers are ill advised to closely consult crew comfort in making their decisions – this habit often leads to lost flying opportunities.

Our morning routine here usually includes a visit to the Hotel Paris, which is something of a social center in the town of Gonzales Chaves.  Its confiteria features good coffee and reliable internet service, which have made it popular with many at WGC2013.  I expect hotel management will be sorry to see the contest end.

Within walking distance of the Hotel Paris are three food markets that have met our needs rather well, but which require some adjustments in planning.  They open around 8:30, but always close from noon through 4:30.  Beer and wine are readily available (the latter is excellent value in Argentina – $3 buys a good bottle) but are not sold before 10am or after 9pm.  Cheese selection and price are favorable.  Fresh produce is not impressive.  Breakfast cereal – especially low-sugar varieties – seems hard to find; mushrooms close to impossible.  Meat is inexpensive and of good quality, which makes sense in view of the Argentine preference for – and skill at – carne asado (barbecue).

Today’s morning weather looked much improved: at 10am, plenty of low cloud could still be seen, but sun was on the ground and seemed to be gaining the upper hand.  The weather presentation at the morning pilot briefing described a flyable but tricky day, with sun, southeast winds (mercifully not strong) and cloudy areas to the southwest all contending for mastery.  The general sense is that conditions to the northwest (where tasks have been set) may be decent, but it will not be wise to plan on a long-lasting day.

The FAI is the Fédération Aeronautique Internationale, the umbrella organization for air sport competitions around the world.  The FAI flag is always displayed prominently at such events, along with flags from all participating countries.  It was announced at the pilot briefing that two of these flags are missing: the FAI flag and the one belonging to Team Argentina; information as to their whereabouts is sought.  We immediately considered the possibility that Heinz Weissenbuehler had put in a stealth appearance, his presence at a world gliding contest being reliably associated with missing flags, banners, etc.  But a thorough search turned up no sign of this, so the missing flags are a mystery.  One rumor – of dubious reliability – has it that the Argentina flag is missing because someone determined that Team Argentina might have something to do with the disappearance of the FAI flag.  We await developments. [Editor’s note: any potentially libelous statements in this paragraph should be attributed to the author, and not to the US Team as a whole.]

Good report – Quince

WGC2013 report – 17 January

As is often the case, yesterday’s grim weather brightened considerably shortly after the decision to cancel the day was announced.  There was enough sun on the ground for just long enough to start the second-guessers speculating on what might or should have been.  Then, as predicted, clouds overdeveloped, some gust front indications were seen in the distance, and it became abundantly clear that a fair and safe task would be impossible.

The US Team decided that the right task for the day was a group meal at the estancia (ranch house northeast of Chaves, where some of us are staying).  Head chef for the evening was José Ignacio Otero, the extremely capable assistant crew assigned to glider PG.  José is a man of many talents, and among them is the preparation of Milanese, which is essentially veal cutlets, pounded, breaded and deep fried.  These made a meal to exceed anything found in a Chaves restaurant.

The multi-talented José

We haven’t had a big retrieve day for a while, but the issue is still one for discussion and planning here.  Given the high cost of container shipping and the (now obviously wishful) belief that retrieves would be few, a number of teams decided to bring fewer trailers than gliders. It’s safe to say that many have by now repented of this decision – it makes for a late night when one trailer must fetch two gliders, each a 90-minute drive from home.

Our large and capable fleet of towplanes is available for aero retrieves, and the announced cost is quite reasonable.  But so far we’ve seen only a handful of these:  they are offered only to pilots that land at actual airfields, of which there aren’t vast numbers in the Chaves task area.  And when it’s normal to have a choice of beautiful agricultural fields within easy reach (many outlandings here don’t require a pattern – just proceed on course until your wheel touches the ground) airfields have lower than normal appeal.

Fifty years ago, a more rugged race of men walked the earth and things were different.  At the 1962 pre-World contest in Junin (around 450 km north of Chaves) the Argentina army had helicopters on site, ready for impromptu aero retrieves from most fields.  The glider pilot had to be prepared for an exciting trip home, mostly done at altitudes below 50 meters.  When this became dull, the helicopter pilots decided to liven things up by not taking out slack in the towrope, thus “jerking” the outlanded gliders off the ground with maximum drama.  This came to an end when it was attempted with a heavy Open-class glider which refused to accelerate at the expected rate – the stout towrope thus yanked the helicopter to the ground, and bits of helicopter rotor narrowly missed the glider and bystanders. (Gliding is a lot more tame than in the old days).

Today’s weather actually looks grimmer than yesterday’s.  At 10:00 we had low cloud cover, occasional light rain, and a cold wind.  (When you’re trying to fly gliders at a site 100 km northwest of cold South Atlantic waters, a southeast wind is not what you most hope for.)  The announcement of a noon grid time was met with unfavorable reviews by many pilots and crews, who are less than eager to undertake the considerable effort of preparing 84 gliders for flight when mist is falling and the probability of motorless aircraft staying aloft looks to be around 1 in 200.  But there is a strong sense that we need more competition tasks and must be ready to seize any flying opportunity that comes along.

Good report – Catorce

WGC2013 report – 16 JanuaryYesterday proved almost as good as the beautiful sky at launch time suggested it would be. The amazing altitudes promised at the pilot briefing did not materialize – pilots had to be content with 6000 feet instead of 8000. &n…

Good report – Trece

WGC2013 report – 15 JanuaryCompared to the day before, we got just a bit farther yesterday.   By 1:30 the low cloud layer had entirely dissolved and sun was on the ground everywhere.  The first launch was delayed a couple of times, but by aro…

Good report – Doce

WGC2013 report – 14 JanuaryChaves did not see a favorable weather trend yesterday.  The low cloud layer that had broken encouragingly by noon began to re-assemble itself by 2pm, as southeast winds continued to bring in moisture off the South Atlan…

Good report – Once

WGC2013 report – 13 JanuaryThough there will no doubt be some dissent from “Monday morning quarterbacks”, the decision to declare a rest day looks like a good one.  The predicted good soaring weather did arrive yesterday afternoon, but the fat cum…

Good report – Diez

WGC2013 report – 12 JanuaryYesterday’s weather turned out just a bit better than the pessimists expected, but still fell well short of what the optimists had hoped for.  The wind did increase, but only moderately – pilots reported about 55 kph (30…