Saturday, July 31, 2010

I wasn’t able to write for the last few days because I was out inspecting the fields. Which are lovely by the way. Landouts here are really easy and safe. 


Today went much better. I was last to launch, and ended up struggling to get up. Most of you have been there – overdevelopment looming, you want to start NOW, the huge gaggle is orbiting overhead and you just can’t find more than a knot. Eventually the whole gaggle left without me. Slowly I climbed up to take a decent start, 10 minutes late and all alone.


The first leg was slow, taking 2 knot climbs under soft clouds to about 3500’. Up ahead it was overdeveloping fast, with a line of much lower (!) bases in the first and second turn areas. I clipped the first turn area, and then went on to the second. Now I’m under the low bases.  I took one 2 knotter to 2500, then another. Just as I was running out of ideas, I saw off in the distance the 15 meter furball, down a soft line of clouds. I headed directly there, came in under them all at 1000’, in the rain, and connected at last with 1 knot. This is real desperation. Slowly, I followed the gaggle, bit by bit climbing through them. After 4 or 5 of these 1-2 knot thermals in the second turn are I had climbed to the top of the gaggle.

Conditions slowly improved on the third leg: solid 2 knots, then solid 3 knots, under higher and better developed bases. Alas my teammate Al didn’t make one of the really weak climbs and landed out. With really good clouds ahead, I led out, found my own thermal and beat the gaggle home.


You can’t ask for more: start late, catch the gaggle, climb through it, then lead out and get home. So far it’s 3d for the day on the scoresheet, but for me it’s a real accomplishment to play this game and do it right.


World championships are very different from US contests, in large part because of the different rules. The treatment of distance and speed points and the day devaluation formulas mean you need really different strategies. It’s easy to say “stay with the gaggle” in the winter, but there are all sorts of situations and all sorts of gaggles. Each day is a big learning experience on how to play this game.


John Cochrane