Monday, August 9, 2010

Al Tyler - Final Thoughts

I guess I should be very sad with my 45th place finish but I actually flew pretty good in the worst conditions I have ever flown. I worked very hard to get ready for this competition. They say luck is when preparation meets opportunity and I just could not seem to find the luck I needed at the critical times.

The tactics to prevail on task in the very large gaggles in extremely weak conditions must be experienced to understand. Although I had studied these tactics I still could not make myself be patient enough and took too many risks. John Cochrane and I did get the opportunity one day to display our team flying skills in “strong “ conditions ( 3500agl and two knots) and this was my most satisfying day. I was also happy to make almost as much distance as anyone else on the day that the entire 15 meter class landed out in Serbia.

I want to thank my wonderful crew for all their support. I must have worked my crew harder than any U.S. pilot that ever attended a WGC. Thank-you Rob, Rhonda and Wesley. I even forgive you for remarking on a retrieve well after midnight that you had driven more (expletive) miles than I had flown!

Dennis Linnekin’s execution of the Team Captain's job neared perfection. Always upbeat and positive and never failing any pilots request. Dennis even found an alternate Team support group in the staff at the “John Bull Pub”. The entire Team worked very well together and all the crews were ready and willing to assist each other. I would like to especially thank Adnan Mirsa ( unofficial Team psychologist ) for helping me maintain a positive attitude. Adnan is truly one of the most positive and upbeat people I have had the privilege to be around..

The competition suffered in many areas. Organization and facilities were poor at best. The task setter evidently did not pay much attention to the weatherman . Launching 150 gliders into a sky with bases at or slightly above tow altitude was asking for disaster. I think it was a miracle that no one was killed. Having said this I must complement the small group of very young workers led by contest director Milan.

I will remember with fondness all the fun of the opening ceremonies, international night party, closing ceremony and especially the new and renewed friendships. The retrieve stories (especially Serbia) will be retold and embellished for years to come. I would like to leave you with a quote from Rob while leaning against the car that was attached to the trailer that was two feet deep in Serbian mud: “8H if we ever get out of here I am never crewing for anybody ever again !!!"

Saturday, August 7, 2010


The farewell party is over. Many are remembering the good friends from all over the world we have met this week, and perhaps regretting a bit the number of trips we made to the free schnapps table.

A while ago I sent a few friends a picture from the grid with the caption, "the reason soaring is more popular in Europe than the US." I can't post it here, but let's just say it involved the different approach to sun exposure and the number of youthful members of the fairer sex in European glider fields. My wife, Beth, grumbled a bit about it, so in her honor here are two more pictures from the grid.

Let's call the first, the real reason soaring is more popular in Europe than the US.

This little guy was just adorable. Yes, there are lots of families and kids here. Part of that in turn stems from the creature comforts. This airport has a nice bar and restaurant, a great water park nearby (see Gena's post below), and it's close to a cool city with great restaurants. And all the Europeans are complaining about how spartan it is.

And second: For a true pilot, there is only the wind, the clouds, and the sky:

Thanks for all your support, we're coming home

John Cochrane

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Slides of Szeged

My favorite pilot briefing took place on the day after the day in which not one pilot in any of three classes completed the task. The contest organizer began with an announcement: "I would like to apologize to the pilots." And then he introduced the task-setter.

Two days ago, on a non-flying day for Open Class, we visited the local water park, which has, according to 9-year-old Alex Cheatham of the British team, the LONGEST WATERSLIDE IN EUROPE. As it turns out, the Szeged water park has not only the LONGEST WATERSLIDE IN EUROPE, but also an entire Crayola Crayon box of swooping, twirling, spiraling, and plummeting slides in an indoor-outdoor, complex of waterfalls, lap-pools, and spas, with deliciously warm water. My co-crewmate, 9-year-old Julius Tabery, particularly loved the green slide, which had a few turns and a steep and rapid descent into an outdoor pool. He also favored the red slide, a generic twisty-turny slide that deposits swimmers suddenly into a funnel, around which one spins several times before being dumped gracelessly into an indoor pool. And there was, of course, the blue slide, which is the LONGEST WATERSLIDE IN EUROPE, accessible only via elevator: a covered spaghetti downhill ride from a four-story height, with skylights of various colors, including rainbows, stripes, stars, and polka-dots. My favorite slide was the open-topped yellow slide, which languorously winds its way from three-stories in the air to a waiting open-air pool, with a lovely view of the sky available the whole way down.

The slide I absolutely did not want to try was the purple slide, a quick and nearly vertical 10-meter descent into an indoor pool. Of course, everyone insisted. I tried once and backed out. The second time, I closed my eyes, took the plunge and then, after violently bumping my head toward the end, forced a whole lot of water up my nose while skiing across the pool on my back.

Back at the airport the next day, I kept thinking about those slides and my contest experience as crew. When you tell people you are going to Europe for a glider competition, they envision the yellow slide—a lovely tour of European countryside, with blue skies and good food. On a good day, the pilot gets the blue slide. But for the crew on the ground—at least for the emotionally involved crew—the contest is the purple slide: a terrifying, gut-wrenching I've-faced-my-worst-fear-and-survived-it, but-it-wasn't-all-that-much-fun kind of ride. And yet we keep going back.

In other news, more than one U.S. pilot is disappointed today. WE crew Carol Elliot says the best remedy for a bummed-out is pilot to throw him into the hangar with 150 other pilots, each of whom has a story to tell. In that milieu, you just have to get over yourself. Says Carol, "It's like socializing your puppy."

So tonight we attend the final banquet, visit with the other pilots and crew, and hear the other stories. We'll eat and drink and socialize, and after a while, we'll forget the purple slide. It will seem like yellow, all the way. Or, for some of us, THE LONGEST WATERSLIDE IN EUROPE.

Gena Tabery, SS crew


"The tasks are cancelled for today."

And with that radio announcement ended the World Gliding Championship of 2010.

Now, as the thunderstorm pounds down on the office, here are the results of our efforts:


Ron Tabery: crewed by Gena and Julius Tabery and Peter Fuss: 7th
Garret Willat: crewed by Ant Bilsev: 19th

18 Meter:

Bill Elliott, crewed by Gary Carter and Carol Elliott: 30th
Tom Kelley: crewed by Mathias Ignacz: 48th

15 Meter:

John Cochrane, crewed by Adnon Mirza: 27th
Al Tyler, crewed by Rhonda and Wesley Tyler and Rob Ware: 45th

Thursday, August 5, 2010

15 Meter Race


Today everything clicked. I was in the right place at the start, and saw a huge gaggle leave including all the big names. I waited a few minutes, and then it was time to go. Alas, my teammate Al was too low, but with the main gaggle gone in 2500’ cloudbases, late in the day with a long task, I couldn’t wait. The scoresheet is interesting for the start times. You’ll see how vital it was to go with that group.

I dumped all my ballast on the first glide, and was getting worried, as the clouds looked even worse and even lower and I didn’t see any gliders. Have I missed the gaggle again? Then as I got down to about 1500’, the clouds parted, and there in front of me was the entire 15 meter class, spinning around. I came in underneath them at about 1000’, and instantly connected with 4 knots. It tailed off, and I moved to a second group and again connected, this time leaving most of the first gaggle behind.

The next two legs were really pleasant. I was dry. Everyone else was carrying a full load of water. I was able to easily outclimb them, but at 70 knots with 3000’ cloudbases nobody is running away from me. It took 3 thermals to work to the top of the stack. Then, I was able to stick with a fast group of 5-10 gliders pushing forward. There were some patches of spreadout and a low moment, but otherwise we were working from cloud to cloud with good vertical development.

As we approached Szeged, I was in the position we all dream of. I’ve caught the fast gaggle, and I’m just behind and a few hundred feet higher. I’m ready to pounce and blister home on the final glide. And we’re approaching Szeged…

Except, we have two more legs to go. And everything behind Szeged is covered with thick high clouds and no cu. I floundered a bit in a thermal, then went on to a group of three gliders working under the last cloud. ….Then they turn back and go to the place I was floundering, where now there is a big gaggle.

The worlds is about changing gears, and now we changed big time. All that ground gained against the gaggle goes out the window. I turned around as well, and patiently ground up to cloudbase. Leaving again with a group of 5 at the top, we glided across the dead zone at 53.000 knots, to start connecting with weak lift on the other side. The next two legs were very slow work with a group of excellent thermal piltos, stopping for every 1 knot thermal along the way.

And then it got really bad. I ended up with a group of 5 down at about 1,000’, looking for anything. It was an interesting experience. We wound up basically parked in a bubbly zone. The thermal would surge to 1 knot or so, and we’d gain 500 feet. Then it would die, and we’d lose about 200. And on and on like this. I must have spent 45 minutes with these guys patiently grinding around. I was frustrated that there seemed to be another gaggle down course ahead of us, but I couldn’t get to it.

Eventually our thermal surged just enough to get a final glide, so I closed the vents, and set of at 53.000 knots towards home. It all worked out ok and I finished uneventfully. I expected to make it home with awful speed, but it turns out the gaggle ahead of us all landed out, so I was one of the first finishers.


It’s been a long contest and a huge learning experience. Today everything clicked, and I think I played this WGC game and all its new tactics well. There are few flights where you don’t come home with some regret for some mistake. My wife emailed and said “hey, if this contest goes on another month you might do pretty well.”  Adnan recommends a steady pace of 930 points per day, which is pretty much how it worked out except for my stupid lawn-dart on the first day.

Once again, this has been a team effort, and I owe thanks to lots of people. Dennis (captain) Adnan (crew and coach) were right there today as in the whole contest. My clearnav has been working great, and the whole clearnav team has been wonderful about answering my testy emails about small issues here and there. The support we’ve heard from home has really helped keep our spirits up and enthusiasm going. And I shouldn’t forget my mom, who took me out for glider lessons all those years ago (1972!) I don’t think we ever dreamed it would end up at a world championship.


John Cochrane  

decorum violations

Pete Harvey was asking me the other night if anything gets me upset..I seem so laid back. Well pre-start I was wandering around the clouds, sometimes above some. Just waiting for the right time to go. I eventually visited the start gate gaggle, and wandered around the line.... then stopped connecting with the lift. This is where the violations started and continued to increase. All the way back to the airport where I had to relight. In such a haste to get back into the air, I tried stopping as quick as possible in a cloud of blue i was told.... so I could self-launch again (looking for a 5.00 x 5 10ply). Thanks to the few on the ground for making a very quick relaunch on the day. Eventually I got to the start gate and headed on course at 215...I really wanted 115 for a start. But off I went anyway. I flew a little slower than normal, really trying not to get stuck, and thermalled less. All in all the first leg went well, I should have cut it a little short, but I did not think the day would die as quick as it did. The next 2 legs went fine...all by was very lonely. Going into turn 3, obviously I went to far, as the beautiful Austrian had to come to the rescue. At the time there was a little cloud street that went into the turn, then another lining the way home....and it all went away.....and the violations started again.

August 5

All U. S. Team pilots have started their tasks and are out on course.

The weather to the west is ok, but soaring conditions north of Szeged are not as favorable. We have a metar report of scattered cumulus at 3,300' 80 miles west of Szeged. At Kecskemet Airport, 47 miles north, the report is of broken cu at 2,400', with additional broken layers at 4000' and 8,000'.

Open Class has a 374 km Assigned Area Task. 18 Meter has a 289 km Racing Task and the 15 Meter Class is flying a stange-looking "bowtie-and-a box" Racing Task of 294 km.