Sunday, July 6, 2014

Competition Day 7: Team USA Club Class Pilots are First and Second for the Day!

WGC2014 – Räyskälä, Finland
5 July   (last day of this contest)
by John Good

 Today we received something pretty much everyone at WGC2014 would agree we’d earned: a truly first-rate thermal soaring day in Finland.  With warm temperatures, light winds, no rain, honest cumulus clouds, and good lift to altitudes that sometimes exceeded 6000’, this was the kind of day we all came here hoping to find.  About the worst that could be said it that the good soaring conditions were not uniformly spread across our task area – some sections were a bit short on cumulus clouds.

US Club Class pilots took advantage of the good conditions with impressive speeds that put them at the top of the score sheet: Sean Franke was first (at 96.8 kph) and Garret Willat was second (96.2 kph).

The champions are now determined.  In Club Class, steady flying put Eric Bernard of France on top, just ahead of teammate Killian Walbrou.  Give a large measure of credit to team captain Eric Napoleon, who for years has been able to take a stable of young, eager, talented pilots and turn them into champions.

Standard Class produced a surprise.  Many-time world champion Sebastian Kawa from Poland led this contest for several days, but fell into second on the next-to-last day.  He’s a formidable competitor when he needs to come from behind, and many here expected he’d be able to do this again.  But Bert Schmelzer of Belgium turned in an excellent flight that kept him ahead of Sebastian, and gave him the winner’s trophy.

20-Meter Multiplace class produced no surprise yesterday.  The “Jones Boys” (Steve and Howard) were close to perfect in this contest: they won every day but the last (on which they were second by just 6 points) putting them first overall by an improbable 871 points.  It shouldn’t really be possible to fly so well that pilots such as Antti Lehto (Finland’s ace) and Janusz Centka (Poland’s multi-time world champion) are contending only for second place.

I’ll note that I got to fly yesterday, on the best day Finland has seen in the past 6 weeks or so.  Jose Otero (crew for Phil Gaisford) and I were packed into a club ASK-21 on rather short notice.  The lift was excellent (7 kts to 6000’), the views of Finnish countryside (through characteristically clear Finnish air) were grand, and we had to use a lot of divebrake to be back on the ground ahead of the first finishers (as we’d promised).   While signing the logbook, I learned that this ASK-21 (which, as is typical of equipment in Finland, is kept in first-rate condition) is the veteran of 6500 hours in the air, over the course of 17,288 (!) flights.

We take leave of Räyskälä now, impressed with the site and the quality of the contest organization, and pleased that the weather “came right” at the end of the event. It’s worth noting that despite difficult weather, occasionally crowded skies and many outlandings, the worst damage seems to have been a gear-up landing at the home airfield.

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