Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuesday, 27 July, 2010 World Championship Szeged

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The weather briefing on the third possible contest day (official Day 1) was depressing and ominous: "If you finish, you must glide." Perhaps this puzzling directive suggested that pilots who start their engines on course would not be considered finishers. In the end, only two pilots glided home. The rest either started engines or landed out.

Open and 18-meter classes launched successively and toward the end, simultaneously, and 18-meter Danish pilot Arne Boye-Muller(AB) said he was at the gate and on the verge of starting when officials cancelled the task for 18-meter. The 15-meter class had to wait on the ground for several more minutes before they, too, found their task scrubbed. Because conditions were so weak, officials feared too many planes would have been bunched in too few thermals, according to Chief Steward Brian Spreckley. But as a Dane, Boye-Muller was disappointed. "This is our kind of weather," he said. "I was ready to go."

Open Class had a two-hour turn area task, and waiting for the gate to open, Garret Willat (W) radioed to Ron Tabery (SS), "Looks like you can have either rain or 1500 feet." "Or both," Tabery replied. Later, Tabery said, "It was the weirdest contest start I've ever made. I went through the gate and made an immediate U-turn," to avoid the wall of water facing him. Open Class flew in rain and clouds for most of the task. Most made it through the first turn but faltered just beyond. The top twenty pilots, including the US pilots, made at least the second turn before calling it a day. Willat spotted a likely hay field with two gliders already landed, while Tabery went on slightly further to a plowed field. Finally too low to hope to climb again, both pilots started their engines and motored home. Arne was right—it was the Danes' kind of weather: the only two pilots to finish under their own steam were Jan Andersen (A) and Poule Larsen (HJ) who flew 186.3 (82.9 km/hr) and 185.7 km (79 km/hr) for 480 and 478 points on a heavily devalued day. Tabery came in 7th with 125.6 km and Willat was in a 6-way tie for 8th place with 123.5 km. Only the finishers' speeds are listed on the score-sheet: for everyone else, the scoring is strictly for distance achieved.

In this rainy weather, we try to forget that a flood wiped out most of the city of Szeged in 1879. The city that we see today is a 19th- and 20th-century Szeged, built mostly after that catastrophic event, when the river Tisza overflowed its banks. To prevent future floods, in 1883, the town vowed to build a cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of Hungary. Plans for the neo-Romanesque building were drawn up in 1913, and it was finally consecrated a cathedral in 1930.  Last night organist Robert Kovacs presented a recital at this Templom Fogadalmi, with music of Franz Schmidt, J. S. Bach, Robert Schumann, Cesar Franck, and his own improvisations. Afterwards, many on the U.S. team met for dinner at what has become the unofficial team office: the John Bull Pub, just a few blocks from the cathedral, near the University, Hungary's second largest (30,000 students).  

Gena Tabery