What an absolutely extraordinary soaring day! We started out with a bus broken down…. Again!!! We stopped in the little Nissan van to make sure the US Team made it to the field. We grabbed Phil Barnes to add to Frankie so we had two towers and got all the Juniors on board as they were first up at 8:30am. We had Dillon stashed in the trunk of the van and four people in all three rows of the van for a total of 13. It was a crush I can tell you with four across The front with a stick shift.
We arrived at the field to witness much frost from freezing overnight temps and a biting wind of about 5 to 10 mph already. The CD announced that the start would be delayed as a result of the missing bus load of competitors and we spent an hour warming our hands and devising strategies for keeping faces, necks, fingers and legs warm in the increasingly cold wind.
The girls were sent on a shopping mission to obtain balaclavas and scarfs etc – meanwhile we made do with everything from newspapers stuffed up our jumpers to stolen airline blankets wrapped around our necks. It was bloody cold. I mean ridiculously cold….
When we started flying the juniors I went out to launch Dominic in Slot 2 at about 10:00am and I was trussed up in about 5 layers just to function.
Tristan was first up and found super lift which he took way downwind to speck out and return to claim a great 960 points with a terrific all round flight. Dominic’s first launch using direct tow in about a 10 to 15 mph wind saw him work left and forward with the pack to hook up in some real nice air and get out for a great flight and 949 points. Dillon was third up in different air to the previous group and though we tried to work some small pops we couldn’t get out and came back to the LZ for a landing as we were now past our halfway point. We tried to take a small pop on the way to the LZ and unfortunately it didn’t work and we ended up short of the LZ and gave up a lot if points.
Dillon was first up the next round 4 in the juniors who were flown back to back so we went to our new lane and launched again. The flight was text book, with Dillon hooking up downwind and getting huge lift to finish up miles high and coming home already at 5:00 mins in. Dillon kept the model under white clouds as he came home and spend three minutes descending to take the round with a 9:52 and 100 which yielded him the 1000 points for the group. Dominic was next up and with a great first launch he floated behind the group and lingered longest of the pilots but missed the landing so we relaunched his second model to grab a time and a landing. It was super unpredictable air and just prior to the launch the wind calmed some and switched to a cross from the right. In hindsight a direct tow was not the best option and his launch was not good but Dominic did the best possible with his launch by finding good air and turning in stronger and stronger lift as he floated back down wind. He took the Supra to a height and distance beyond any I have seen him fly before and started for home about 5 minutes into the flight. As he worked upwind it began to snow. The model became harder and harder to see but Dominic did a great job of keeping it in sight through the snow and maintaining sufficient altitude at the same time to get his full max. He made a great flight to score 949 points. During Dominics round Simon Borst (the junior for Canada) lost sight of his model and never saw it again in spite of his team spending a couple of hours looking for it. Tristan was last to fly and once again he found good air after a great launch by going right away from the sinking pack and flew way downwind in strong lift to make his times and take the 1000 points.
Cody was first up of the seniors for round 4 and launched with a direct tow into the South. It was very sinky around the launch area and he went right toward the dark clouds and hooked up at a pretty low altitude. He made his time for a 9:54 and a 99.
Toms launch in Round 4 saw him cross with a wild swerving green Xplorer flown by the Russians in the adjacent lane. The planes touched and made a loud clack. Tom immediately requested a reflight and was granted one so he came in and landed. Daryl was about to launch when the Russians parachute blew across Daryl’s line and he was unable to launch and he also claimed a reflight.
Bob was in group 4 and immediately after launch he realized he was in lift and started circling downwind. Soon some of the other pilots joined him drifting downwind in very strong lift and got super high. He easily pushed home and lines up for landing a little late so he bumped the ground picking up some weeds to stop the clock and the flew on to the spot and stick 100 for the 1000 points. He claimed later that it was an accident but it was a beautiful thing to watch. Brendon flew in group 6 and launched with a new flurry of snow and managed to get 4:45 and a 98 landing with a fully ballasted Icon 2 (35 oz).
The round 4 Reflight group including Tom K and Daryl meant we had no Team protection. Prior to launch Daryl found his left flap had a frozen servo and they had to quickly tape it to the root. For launch Daryl cranked in a bunch of down aileron trim and then cranked it back out after the zoom. He and Tom hooked up downwind in a monster thermal and made their times. Daryl said the Icon was a bitch to land in this wind with one flap but he got it done in some tough conditions.
The juniors were next up for their third round of the day. Dominic was first to launch and he took his Supra upwind to the right and hung with the group. A couple of times he tried turns that didn’t work out in the air we were in. A couple of juniors went downwind in the pops as they came through and one had to come home and relaunch. We made it past 5 minutes so were were hopeful that a good landing might give us a pretty good score as most of the other pilots were also getting low. Unfortunately we didn’t make it back to the LZ landing about 100 metres away and we took a new launch on the Xplorer to get a landing score. Tristan was next and once again he scored maximum points with a masterful flight in super lift. Tristans consistent piloting and great judgement have put him on top of the contest after the 5 rounds flown. Dillon was the last junior to fly and though it had stopped snowing it was getting colder as the sun passed its zenith and started setting in the west. According to the weather reports today was the first time in recorded history that it had snowed in all 9 provinces of Sth Africa on the same day. Michelle Goodrum said she had never seen snow in Johannesburg in her entire life. Dillons last flight didn’t go ideally as we failed to get him out and landed at about 6 minutes but missed the LZ in the wind but the 660 points he got moved him up from 16th to 11th.
Round 5 Cody was fully ballasted with 40 oz of brass. (He says that is more ballast than he ever thought he would use in the Egida.) The model went right in a very strong blow and Cody didn’t find any air. Some birds suddenly got airborne and started to circle about 100 feet up 300 meters downwind. Cody tried to reach the air but prudently returned to the LZ with 2:30 gone and got relaunched with just over 7 mins on the clock. Unfortunately Lane 2 launched about 30 seconds earlier and the rest of the group followed. Cody got out from the top of the launch and with a wild ride downwind he made the rest of the clock and got another 99.
Daryl’s round 5 launch was bitching as our direct tows really started to kick in, and he finished well above the group zigging right and findings great patch to check out on the group. They were all forward an soon followed him downwind to hook up also. Daryl got a low 9:50s score with a 99 landing to put him in second place a few points behind Joe W.
Tom flew the Fosa again with the wind really ripping and a bad throw saw him pop off and wrap around for an immediate relaunch. The relaunch gave him a potential of over 9 mins and he floated out front with the Fosa for about 4 minutes while all but one of the other pilots relaunched. Tom hooked up with 5 to go and completed a great 9 min plus flight for 960 plus. Bob flew second last in Group 5 and during prep time he saw a huge black cloud passing the field and Bob and another German pilot flew downwind to it to hook up in massive lift but a long way downwind. The German blinked first and took a path back crosswind and suffered from bad sink so Bob took a different path and found great lift to make or back for another 100 landing. All the other pilots had landed more than 2 minutes earlier so Bob absolutely smashed them. Brendon was last to fly again in group 6 and after a great launch he sky surfed over the group until a thermal popped and took if downwind further than anyone else and was the only one to max the group. The landing was really crappy by Brendons standards but he still buried the group.
At the end of the day the team had moved up all round and the juniors had also improved their position.
If you check my gallery of photos on this page below, and the videos on Facebook you will see that the conditions we flew in were the most extreme you can imagine with a high of around 40 and numerous snow falls as we flew, to go along with a gusting wind of more than 20mph. It was bitterly cold and we had to dress pretty weird to stay warm. The lift was incredible at times and at other times it was hard to find but it was certainly very testing.
A soaring day to be remembered forever!