Our Team in Rieti

Our Team in Rieti
The US Team and Crew




Sunday, July 20, 2008

Final Notes

The closing ceremonies are over, the fields are quiet and almost everyone is on their way home. Closing a contest like this is always a bittersweet time with everyone sad to leave the comeraderie and excitement but happy to be going home after so long in Rieti. I thought it was interesting to note the seating arrangements during the ceremony with the dignitaries in the first row, the Italians in the second and the USA in the third with the remaining countries seated in alphabetical order. We felt very honored!

So at this point I will say goodbye to all of you who have been reading this blog. Thank you very much to Stephanie whose behind-the-scenes work as our blog editor has allowed everyone to share in the competition. I invite you to stay tuned to the upcoming WGC in Lusse.

Arrivaderci from Rieti,

July 20, 2008--Competition Day 11 and Summary

It's early Sunday morning and the competition is officially over. Competition Day 11, the final day was flown pretty much without incident. All of our pilots returned back to Rieti with 5 of them flying completed tasks. The day was one of a sky full of cumulus-though not all of them were working. We had Pat (7th) announce final glide and landing, followed by Francois (13th) saying "I'm 10 kilometers out, but I don't have final glide". The next we heard was that he was here at the airport. That was followed by Chip (38th) announcing "10km, no finish". Soon thereafter Mark (19th) announced and arrived at the field for a finish. Then we waited for the Club Class, who had launched last. Pretty soon we heard from Manfred (34th) that he was on final glide. I asked him how he was doing and he said "I'm in fat city!" Jonathan (36th) soon followed with his 10km call and was on the field.

And then the pilot scramble started. Pat taking his instrument panel out of W2, replacing it with the original, and returning it to the club, Jonathan and Alessandro getting P8 back to the hanger, Manfred, Carolyn and Giorgio preparing 99 for travel, along with Mark and Quay and Chip and Paul. Instruments, cables, loggers, stakes, trailer plates and ropes were returned to their owners. It was a continuation of the frenzy yesterday afternoon as tow ropes were collected returned for deposit refunds, tow bills were settled, ATM's used, final prices on our "office" were negotiated and tickets were purchased for the Farewell Party. And Carolyn had to fix another flat tire! The car has no spare.

Enjoy some of our "Packing Up" photos as well as a few of the final competition day. (Note from the Editor: I don't think I've ever seen a wing runner like that out at Bermuda High!)

Later this morning we are head to the Closing Ceremony which will be held in the center of Rieti. The original time of 10:30 was changed to 12:00, and I know some of our pilots are eager to get on the road, on the bus or on the train. Many leave Rome early in the morning and two are driving to Germany. I leave for Rome tomorrow and arrive back in the USA on Tuesday. It will give me a chance to have dinner with Giorgio and Mariangela this evening.

Giorgio, my good friend from last year, was an indespensible part of this team. There wasn't anything he refused to do when asked and he did it eagerly. He took a towplane flight to Rome for a license validation, drove to Terni to pick up a package that was mismarked, settled insurance problems (including one of his own when he accidentally backed into my car. It's amazing how fragile the bumpers on a tiny Chevy are), arranged to get flat tires fixed on a Sunday, and on and on. Mariangela always prepared lunch in the campground for the three of us and refused to even let me help her clean up. We usually fit lunch into the time after the first class was launched when I was monitoring the radio for gate openings. Once all three classes got into the air it was generally too busy to do much more than make announcements, take start times and deliver them to the scorer.

I would also like to thank the entire organization for all the assistance they provided to our team throughout the contest, and especially for their assistance in getting Jonathan back in the air for the first day of the contest. Without their help Jonathan would have been unable to compete.

And while not a formal part of the contest this year, Alessandro Bruttini was of tremendous help to all of us. His generous repair of W2's tail skid and many other helpful actions really made a difference. And on top of that, after two years of being in Rieti, we have become friends. That is most rewarding to me.


Friday, July 18, 2008

July 18, 2008--Competition Day 11

The rain got us! Day cancelled.

But these two photos Mark took yesterday are exceptional. He took them by holding his camera outside the canopy and pointing it up toward the gaggle--just hoping he could get a photo. And he did!

For the rest of the day, we are all catching up on odds and ends--booking hotel rooms in Rome for the return trip, handling insurance matters and finalizing our finances.

Tomorrow will be our last competition day and we're hoping for a good one!


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day 10 Update

What a surprise! Launch time was announced as 12:30 and everyone was waiting for the announcement that it was being delayed because of very heavy cirrus. But that was not the case. At 12:15 the radio announcement came in confirming a 12:30 launch! Here in the campground everyone was running to the grid! Apparently the sniffer was reporting 2-3 meters of lift and good altitudes. The weather reminded me of a contest in Florida where we were Charlie launched the fleet with a complete overcast and managed to get a task completed.

As the day progressed, the cirrus thinned and everyone went out on course. The speeds were surprisingly good and the number of outlandings was very low. A very surprising day! Speaking of outlandings, Chip was back here in the campground office discussing the insurance problems involving his trailer, when he asked if we were getting the scores online. I said yes and we went to the standard class results where it showed the one outlanding. I mentioned the outlanding and Chip said "Yeah, I was following that guy and he really didn't do me much good!". (The outlanding was only 53km from the start.

Everyone is home, we had no outlandings and it is actually early in the evening. We are all watching the scoring as it is quite difficult to determine your position when the tasks are all Area Tasks. Check on www.WGCRieti.it for the results.


July17, 2008-Competition Day 10

It's about noon here in Rieti, and Day 10 is under way. Well sort of. We've been through our TC meeting, Pilot's briefing and strategy session with Giorgio. But we have a sky full of thick cirrus and diminished hopes for a flying day. The first launch is scheduled for 12:30 but will undoubtably be postponed. Trigger temperature is 30 degrees centigrade and the high for the day is predicted to be 31 degrees. So right now everyone is pretty much playing the waiting game.

I'll write more as the day progresses.


Official Day 9 Summary

When I last wrote, all the pilots were on course for their assigned tasks and as the day progressed it became evident that it was going to be a difficult time. There were some very early landouts and some very blue skies. The Club Class returned home first, followed by the World Class and then finally the Standard Class.

Manfred finished in 26th place in the Club Class and Jonathon had the misfortune to land out quite safely 2km short of the finish line. We had been watching him struggle for altitude here and in the valley close to Cantalice for quite some time. He was able to get to the last turnpoint and make the attempt to get home. His decision to turn back and take an outlanding in the field was a good one. There are high tension lines just before the finish line and he said he was too low to actually see them. And early in the contest a PW5 attempted to finish in much the same manner and crashed into a tree just before the finish. He was extremely fortunate to be unhurt, but he destroyed his glider.

In the World Class Francois and Pat finished the course, with Francois coming in second--missing another first place finish by 19 seconds. Pat's final glide was pretty tense as he announced he was on final glide, but was 500 ft below glide slope. His next call was that he had picked up 350 ft and he was announcing 10km and then a finish.

In Standard Class Mark came in 13th and is in 14th place overall. He had a difficult flight as well. There were some major changes in the standings in the Standard Class. The Italian favorite, Giorgio Galleto, had an extremely difficult day and dropped to 4th overall. There were 18 landouts in the class.

Quite soon after Chip launched I got a distressed phone call from Paul asking if I would call Chip on the radio and ask him if he had the car keys, and if he did, did he want to relight to give them to Paul. I got Chip on the radio and asked him if he had the car keys. Chip replied "Yes I've got them". I then asked him if he wanted to relight to give them to Paul. Very calmly Chip replied back "Why? Does Paul want to go somewhere?"
We all got a pretty good laugh out of that.

More later


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

July 16, 2008--Competition Day 9

We're into Day 9 of the Competition right now. Yesterday evening Mark, Francois, Manfred and Jonathan returned to the field--all completing their tasks. Pat landed out about 60km north of airport, and as you know Chip landed out earlier in the afternoon. Bogie was on his way to retrieve about 6pm and they returned around ten. I had reported that Mark was venturing off into the blue earlier and that he would tell us later what happened on course. Well apparently there was a short stretch of blue to the north and then some good cumulus as he proceeded further north. The Standard Class was pretty tightly bunched on the scoresheet with Mark right in the pack.

Manfred and Jonathan finished 24th and 29th and apparenty had tougher flights. Manfred commened that he was at Terni airport at 400 meters and was thinking of just landing. But then he said "I saw someone else thermalling 200 meters below me, and I just had to continue". Mark took this photo showing the end of a competition day on the grid, with things winding down. His other photo (above) is of Terminillo partially obscured by clouds.

And the big news of the day was Francois' win in the World Class! He had quite a good run and edged out his Polish competitor by 1kph. Francois was ready for some celebrating. So a group of us went to a restaurant a short way from the field and had an outstanding dinner. It is located in an old farmhouse and Mark and Quay had been their earlier in the trip. When you walk in and sit down the wine is served, and the food starts coming. Antipasto, more antipasto, pasta and more pasta, meats and desserts. No one went home hungry. Quay bundled up the pastries we hadn't eaten and I delivered them to Pat and Bogie who had just arrived back from their retrieve.

Today's tasks--Competition Day 9--were all Assigned Speed Tasks. The weather was predicted to be blue with little wind The launch was scheduled for 1200 but was delayed till 1335. There was a TC meeting on the grid at 12:35 and all classes had changed and shortened tasks. All the pilots are currently on course and we've heard of altitudes between 8000 and 9000 feet. There are a few clouds to the south, but the the Rieti Valley and north are quite blue. We also have some heavy cirrus moving in from the west. Hopefully it will not interfere with today's tasks.

More Later

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

July 15, 2008--Competition Day 8

When I last wrote we were preparing for the International Dinner and our pilots were all at home. Pat and Francois finished a respectable 4th and 5th in the World Class, Jonathon and Manfred finished 18th and 24th in the Club Class and Mark finished 20th in the Standard Class. As you know Chip landed out and unfortunately finished near the back of the field.

The preparations for last night's dinner were a team effort with all joining in. When we had nothing else to do in the preparations we were sampling Francois' wine in a plastic bottle. It was actually quite good.
The International Dinner was a resounding success and I believe everyone had a wonderful time. Gigi's artichoke dip and Carolyn's chip dip disappeared in short order as did the Coke.
Bogie and I arrived with the pizzas about 30 minutes after the event started and all six large boxes disappeared in about 7 minutes! Even Giorgio had great things to say about Orlando's pizza!

Today is Competition Day 8 and everyone is in the air and on course. Tasks for the day are significantly longer--Standard 475km, Club 368km and World 295km. Everyone is headed to the south for a short run, and then a long leg to the northwest and back. Airspace that normally prevents flying northwest is inactive for today, allowing the tasksetter to use this part of the contest area. The terrain is not mountainous, but relatively flat with small rolling hills. The weather from Rieti Valley to the south has been good with a number of cumulus. The trip from here to the north will be very blue. I spoke with Mark on his way back through the valley and he indicated that he was slightly north in Spoleto--and headed into the blue. We'll just have to wait and see.

I got a call from Chip shortly after he got through the gate and he said "I thought I'd just get my landout out of the way early today". So we sent Paul off on a retrieve about 2:15pm for what will probably be about 4 hours total turnaround time. Right after that I got a call from Paul asking if I'd come down the road. He had quite unfortunately sideswiped a parked car with the back of the trailer. We left a note on the windshield, and the owner has already contacted Giorgio. Insurance time again!

Back with you later.


Monday, July 14, 2008

July 14, 2008--Competition Day 7

Yesterday was our rest day. Some of the folks went to Rome and some to Terminillo and some stayed put. I received a text message about 12:30pm from the organizers that there was a strong possibility of thunderstorms and hail in the area that evening. Giorgio, Edoardo, and I, along with Francois and Dottie helped get all of the gliders in their trailers. The hail did not materialize here at the airport, but we had some in the early evening at Contigliano.

Today's weather started out being fairly questionable. Enough so that there were no task sheets until a second briefing at 12:30. We had lingering clouds from the storms yesterday, and the forecast was for cloud bases at 1700 meters. Winds were forecast at 30 knots. At the final briefing tasks were handed out and all pilots were on a 3 hout TAT to the south, then the north..... The launch started at 13:30 and all of our pilots were on course by 15:36. We had reports of 5 knot wave over the end of the runway and I believe everyone got into the wave. Today was one of the first with an altitude start height--2800 meters--and a number of pilots exceeded that altitude prior to the start. We have no speed limit through the start gate, so as you can imagine, we had some high speeds crossing the line!

Francois just anounced his finish and it appears he may be several minutes under time. We are awaiting news from the rest of the team. Since the tasks took the pilots across Rieti Valley on more than one occasion, we have heard more talk from the pilots. It appears as if all are doing ok.

The crew members are also working quite hard preparing for tonight's Internatonal dinner. Gigi is making an artichoke dip, Carolyn a cracker dip and I plan on picking up some pizza from Orlando at his Pizzeria. We also plan to have wine and Coca-Cola. Sort of a hodgepodge!!

I just a call from CG who landed just a few miles from the airport. Paul is on his way to get him. Pat and Jonathan have landed and we are just waiting for Manfred and Mark.

More later


Saturday, July 12, 2008

July 12, 2008--18:45

All the pilots have arrived home and we're getting ready to go to dinner and looking forward to a day off tomorrow. I have not been able to check scores yet, but I spoke with Mark and he had a great run going until "I went on the 'wrong' side of the mountain". Local knowlege can play such a role in Rieti. I have not spoken with Chip yet, but he was not able to complete the course, and returned home to Rieti.

More later


July 12, 2008 Official Competition Day 6

It's Saturday afternoon here in Rieti and Day 6 is officially underway. Giorgio conducted our task briefing this morning after the Pilot's briefing in the hangar. We do these briefings in our "office" which is located in one of the hangars.
The heat there is unbearable after noon, but it does work in the morning. Unfortunately, the heat is not the only problem. The office has neither internet reception, nor the ability to use the radio.

All of our pilots are out on course. I just heard a radio transmission from Francois and it appears that he and Pat may be just over half complete with their 305km task. The Standard Class is on a 419km speed task and the Club Class is on a 3 hour TAT. Chip had a relight today and left the start line 27 minutes after Mark. He was in good company though, as a number of gliders went about the same time. From the ground, the weather looks pretty good. It was predicted to be a blue day, but we have seen a number of cumulus. Pilots were reporting altitudes of 10,500 ft prior to the start. Unfortunately, once the pilots leave the Rieti valley we no longer have any communication with them. On their way back to the north we can hear them for a brief period as they cross through the valley again.

Concerning Jonathan's 12 points for day 3: On Day 4 Jonathan took a relight because his wing tape had come loose and it was making a great deal of noise. He relaunched late and went through the start gate and traveled about 12km before deciding to abandon the task and return home. He was originally scored with 0 points. We put in an official query and discovered that he had e-mailed both the flights. The scorer was using the first flight in the e-mail, which showed no valid start. Using the second file--which took some work to change in the scoring computer--Jonathan was given the 12 points he earned for the flight.

I've received a comment from one of the readers asking for more information about the pilot's flights. I would like you to understand that the flying here is extremely technical and consists of thermal flying, ridge flying, seabreeze fronts and wave flying. Any day can bring any of these conditions, and reporting on the flights by someone not familiar with the flying here just isn't possible. As I've said previously, the Ritz Corner is an excellent resource to use, as it covers the activity here on the ground and in the air. We have 21 trackers installed in gliders and the flights of those people are online--with a 15 minute delay. Most of our pilots have flown with a tracker, and Mark is flying with one today. So if you want real time commentary and visuals, just go to the online tracking on the WGC website. In fact, Ritz has just been writing some commentary on the progress of Mark's flight!

Yesterday our newest crew member, Bogdan (Bogie) Szager arrived on site.
He is replacing Jacob as Pat's crew. We decided to break him in right for Rieti and asked him to help with Manfred's retrieve last night. These are the before and after photos.
Jet lag, high temperatures and a lot of work can cause this condition.

I've also included two excellent photos taken by Mark showing the sea breeze front pushing against the mountain, and the mountain terrains.

Tomorrow is an official rest day and their will be no grid and no flying. Giorgio's son Edoardo and his friend Cristiana arrived last night and a number of us will accompany them to Cantalice for what has always been a wonderful meal. I think we're all due a day of rest as some of us have been here for over two weeks.


Friday, July 11, 2008

July 11, 2008--Official Day #5

It is a little bit difficult to write this report every day. The contest organizers have such an excellent website reporting the tasks, the weather and regular updates of the launch that not much is left to report. I hope you have been going to the links shown in this blog. As a matter of fact, we will all sit here at Giorgio's with our computers and regularly pull up the scores for the day. The internet and their website are just top notch! So I am relegated to reporting some of the more team related events.

But I would like to announce that Pat had a very respectable 4th place finish in the World Class today. He has had a couple of disappointing days up to this point and it is good to see him back on his game today.

Yesterday Chip landed out and today Manfred also suffered the same fate. Paul is planning on writing up his retrieve and posting it to this blog. I just received a phone call from Manfred that he had hooked up with his crew and were on their way home. It's about 10pm here.

I think I'll cut this report short right now, as this Team Captain is pretty much losing steam. I do plan on telling you about this crazy television show that we see many times when we are at dinner. But I've been advised that I should put some thought into it's description, because it is rather unique and probably would be banned in many locales. But it is so outrageous that it is funny.

I also owe you a picture of the chicken feeding--easter egg hunt--that would be the retrieval of the tow ropes at the end of the launch. 110 of them in a single pile!

And I might also tell you about getting Jonathan 12 points rather than 0 for yesterday!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

For Your Enjoyment!

I know the US Team appreciates all of the support they've been getting so here's a little something to thank you. It's a slide show of photos taken so far this week of scenes on the field, the team and crew and the opening ceremonies. You'll also be getting a sneak peak at the fabled 'Team Shrub' and the 'Team Captain's Limo'. Turn up the music, sit back and enjoy!

Grazie from The Behind-the-Scenes Editor

July 10--Official Competition Day 4

Now we're actually on July 10th and it is actually Day 4. All the pilots have been launched, Pat Francois and Manfred are through the start gate and Mark and Chip are waiting to start. Jonathan took a relight to replace some wing tape which was putting up some very objectionable noise.

I would like to correct some information I posted earlier. The person who was kind enough to help Manfred with his IPAQ cable repair was Lucas Marchesini, CEO of DSX (Vehicle Dynamic Systems). Again--Thanks!

Yesterday Pat took two relights before he was able to maintain altitude. For those of you reading the "Ritz Corner" you will have seen comments about the relights and in fact it was mentioned that W2 was on the ground for a third time and had no more chances for the day. She mentioned that she was quite sorry for the pilot.Then she mentioned that the Team Captain had turned in a start time for W2, and that she would have to check it out. As it turns out, someone had seen W2 parked behind his trailer and had mentioned it to her. What they had seen was the other W2 on the field. Not Pat.

Ritz De Luy, who is writing the column came over to me this morning and expressed great concern that she may have offended us with her remarks. I told her that she had not in any way offended us and that we actually were quite amused with the writeup, since we knew there was another PW5 identified as W2 here on the field. That glider was withdrawn from the contest.

The photo shows our office setup again this year. !
As the afternoon gets later the amount of shade diminishes and everyone sort of shifts in closer and closer. Later in the afternoon we get shade from a couple of the trees and the folks spread out again

And for your entertainment I'm attaching some photos our youngest crew member--Jacob--has been taking while here on the grid. More later, Richard

July 9, 2008--Competition Day 3

For those of you reading this blog I apologize for not writing yesterday. We're all a bit tired from the activities of the last several days, and I didn't feel that I had a lot to say about yesterday afternoon. By the time I sat down to write the news we did have, I started getting reports of landouts, and that made it quite difficult to write.

After the short tasks of Day 2, we had much longer assigned speed tasks for Day 3. And unfortunately, the weather did not work out as predicted. It was quite a bit weaker and also a lot more blue. Jonathan and Manfred landed out--both very safely. Chip, Francois and Pat abandoned the task and landed back here, and Mark completed the task with a very respectable speed.

We had to make a trailer change for Gigi for insurance reasons, which entailed license plate changes. As it turned out, Alessandro Brutini, who has assisted us throughout the contest in many different ways, decided to ride with Gigi to help with the retrieve. Carolyn was pretty much ready to go and I programmed Manfred's coordinates into my Streetpilot and loaned it to her. Jacob--Pat's crew--went with Carolyn to assist. I am very appreciative of the assistance all the crew members have given to the other pilots and crew when neeed. It has made things much easier.

Crew and pilots were together by 9pm or so and returned to the field around 11pm. A long day for everyone, even the ones who landed back at the airport.

A couple of nights ago, Francois and Dottie came into the campsite and Francois immediately comandeered the entire office table--he said it was only a quarter of the table--and began assembling his newly purchased electric grill! It seems he just wanted some grilled meat. No pasta. After assembly he looked for a place to use the grill. Dottie told him he couldn't use our plastic table, and that the grass was a little too dry for it. Finally finding a suitable table, Francois plugged it in--and promptly blew our only circuit breaker. So after removing all the load on the breaker he was able to cook for about 2 minutes before the breaker went out again. He stationed Dottie by the breaker and just kept cooking.

Five of us drove to Cantalice for dinner and we all wondered if Francois and Dottie would have their meal cooked before we got home. I guess they must have, since they weren't here when we arrived.

More soon


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

July 8, 2008--Competition Day 2

It's a little after 5pm here in Rieti and our pilots are beginning to return. Pat and Francois have finished their tasks as they were the first class out, and the other classes will be following within the next hour or so.

Yesterdays Francois finished 2nd and Pat finished 15th in the World Class. Pat unfortunately had to make an outlanding after the last turnpoint. Jonathan finished 12th and Manfred 22nd in the Club Class and Chip tied for 7th and Mark 10th in the Standard Class.

After the last few days of frenzy, today seems quite calm. The launch was delayed till 2pm and went off quite uneventfully. The Standard Class gate opened at 1610 and I would expect them back shortly after 1800.

I've not written about the opening ceremonies yet, but I believe Mark's writeup may have covered a good bit about them. It has been mentioned by a few of the members of our team that we had a good deal of security around our team. I had noticed the same, but I thought it was just because we were on the end line of teams. But..... who knows. One of the welcoming speeches was notable in the way it was translated--"We welcome all the countries who have come to participate in this World Competition, and in particular we welcome the team from the USA". That was quite gratifying.

And the assistance we continue to get here on the field is also quite gratifying. Manfred had a problem with his data cable to his IPAQ and when I got on the grid there was a representative from DX taking care of the problem. Another heartfelt thanks!


Monday, July 7, 2008

July 7, 2008 Competition Day 1

It's about 7:45 am here and it's the beginning of the first Official Competition Day.
A lot has happened since I wrote last and I'm going to try and fill you in on what's been happening. On Friday Pat was unable to fly because of repairs being done to his glider. The tail skid had split from the handling during the retrieve. Not in landing. Somehow we found a willing magician who worked his tricks and has Pat ready to fly today. On Saturday neither Pat nor Francois flew, but the other four took a tow. Unfortunately Manfred and Jonathan landed out to the south, while Chip and Mark arrived home.

Manfred's landing was uneventful, but Jonathan was not so fortunate. His left wing caught on a massive low stump and the resulting "ground loop" caused the glider to slide sideways into a ditch. The glider came to rest with the fuselage in the ditch and each wing off the ground about 6". Jonathan was fine, but his glider didn't fare so well. The leading edge of the left wing was crushed, and the wing pin bearings were broken.
We sent three people to get Jonathan but it wasn't enough. We were extremely fortunate to be offered help from the Russian pilot, who had landed in the same field, and his crew. Without their help, the retrieve could not have been done. A warm thanks to the Russians!!

Jonathan returned about 8pm and by 10pm the glider had been inspected--roadside--by Giorgio Ballarati. In the dark it was difficult to determine the damage, but it was thought that the repair could be done in 2 days. Further inspection the following morning revealed damage that would take 4 days to repair--and that would be a field repair. It would have to be cut out and done over after the contest was over and the cost would be prohibitive.

Giorgio had been in contact with Ricky Brigliadori at Glasflaser and Ricky offered to substitute a replacement wing from a Cirrus he had. That would entail a drive to northern italy, fitting of the wing, and a return drive to the contest. A discussion with the stewards and the competition director, and research into the rules determined that if we had the glider back Monday morning prior to the first pilot's briefing Jonathan could fly. That was logistically impossible. And then the impossible was replaced with a small miracle.

Our magician made a call to the Italian Club President, as did Giorgio Ballarati, and we were offered one of the club ships--a DG300 in excellent condition!! After the short and simple negotiations were complete, it was time to put instruments into the glider, go back through scrutineering and register the pilot with the new glider. And then--we needed another calibrated Flight Recorder since the one in SA could not be installed in the new glider. And again our magician pulled a rabbit out of the hat! He provided me with a Colibri and all connections as well as the calibration sheet. With Paul's help all the instruments were installed and the glider was ready for scrutineering. I took the logger to the chief scorer, Angelo, and we soon had an official backup logger.

And then we recognized that since this glider was registered in Italy, Jonathan was required to have an Italian license validation. More help and assistance from people I do not even know. We were assured that we could have a validation by Monday morning. And that assurance is coming on a Sunday afternoon, the day of the opening ceremonies, in Italy.

When I sat down and started this report, and had written the first paragraph, I was called by Leonardo to come to the scorer's office to assist in the license validation. When I got there he told me what paperwork he needed from me and then informed me that we had to go to Rome to get the validation!!! And then he told me that they would get one of the towpilots to fly us to Rome to get the validation. We were also required to buy two tax stamps and to wire a certain amount to ENAC. Now our Giorgio went into action. He went and got the tax stamps, wired the funds from his account and flew to Rome, where the office was closed normally, but had been opened for us. He returned about 12:10 and handed Jonathan his Italian License Validation! Jonathan launched about 90 minutes later.

I have no real way to express my gratitude to all the people who were so helpful, from the Russian Team who helped with the retrieve, to our stewards, to the contest organizers, to Leonardo Brigliadori, to Giorgio Ballarati, our Giorgio and the many people I don't even know. And a special thanks to our magician. I've pretty much given my word that I won't reveal his identity till after the contest, but I will give hints in future reports.

I'm going to end this report for now. The launch is finished and 4 of our pilots are on course. If you've been to http://www.wgcrieti.it/ you'll have seen the tasks for the day, and you know the weather conditions are looking excellent.

More later


Some Insights from Mark

Welcome to my second blog. Today is Sunday July 6 and It's been so busy during the practice days that I haven't been able to sit down and write, but now Quay Snyder (my crew) is here and I have a little more time.

Today is the rest day before the first official contest day tomorrow. Final preparations like updating databases, weighing gliders, getting badges and taking naps are the order of the day. All the teams will march in some kind of parade through town later this afternoon. Of course, the weather looks good, with a few scattered cu's and good visability. The pictures we send just don't show the real beauty of this place.

Now a few more of my impressions of Italy, and then about flying. The people are extremely friendly and helpful. Twice, after trying to communicate with non english speaking Italians, they searched an entire store to find someone who could understand what I was saying. It's like a challenge for them and, when they find someone who speaks even marginal English, it makes their day. While activating my cell phone, I had to talk to the Italian shop owner in Spanish but, in most cases, just plain old crude sign language in the form of gestures along with some body English is enough. We've all had a good laugh about our experiences.

Lastly, I'll touch on the food. Richard told me that after he was here last year, he couldn't eat "American" Italian food any more. I can easly believe that because the food is unbelievable. The sauces, the pasta, the meats are all elevated to a level of taste that I, as a lover of Italian food, have never experienced. I've been told that this region of Italy is known as producing the best olive oil. Trust me that, even when I write this, I have a smile on my face because it is outstanding. Amazingly, it's inexpensive too.

Now, to the flying. This is one incredible place. I can confidently describe it as the ridges of Pennsylvania on a double dose of steroids.
The mountains rise to between 6 and 8000 ft, with smaller mountains, ridges and valleys in between. Very often, we have flown below the tops of the mountains but, more accurately, we fly below most of any given mountain. We can be ridge soaring 3000 ft from the valley floor, looking up at 5000 feet of mountain above us. It's truly awe inspiring and, it can be disorienting.

This is a place that changes daily and even hourly depending on the wind. Wind is a key element here because some areas will energize with only a 10 degree shift in a wind of less than 10 knots. Every valley has its own distinct weather characteristics, too. In the short time that I've been here, I've seen cloudbase change 1000 ft in less than 3 miles. If that's not enough to peak your interest, there are regular seabreeze convergences and thunderstorms too. It's a very challenging and exciting place to fly! Much more can be written but better that I tell you in person some day.

As for landing places, it's probably even more challenging. The area can be broken down into places that you can land, places with some landing options, and places with no possible landing option, aside from damage and injury. Two days ago, we had a briefing just on landing options, and it was sobering.
Some of these places are not for the unskilled pilots. Smallish fields are the norm, uphill landings are probable and in many cases, the pucker factor is off the scale. In some areas, we fly as we do in certain places at Ridge Soaring, from landable field to landable field. In his daily blog, Richard will tell you about some landout incidents that have happened so far.

After launch, we're usually towed to the "hills" south of the airport. Where I come from, they're mountains. From there we transition to Terminillo (pronounced like a double L is in English, instead of the Y sound in Spanish), the larger mountain to the East of Rieti. (see pictures) From there we get as high as possible and start on course. That all sounds easy but sometimes it's tricky, again depending on the wind. Yesterday, I did ‘S’ turns up one smaller mountain until I had enough room to circle, then thermalled to my start height.

Yesterday, we had a course to the south, to a turn area, then to another area in the North, then home. I went out with about 10 other gliders, including Georgio Galletto and his teammate, and Sebastian Kawa, a world champion. Conditions were mostly blue until the far south of the task area, and the winds were such that ridge soaring was unlikely. We all just dribbled out and took whatever short climbs we could get and, about 15 miles out, the group split up. I was able to get to a place that usually has good thermals but, of course, didn't. While searching, the rest of the group passed about 200ft overhead and we all went for another sure place. This time it worked and we were able to reach the clouds and run into the turn area. On the second leg, we took a climb to cloudbase, ran a short convergence line, then headed for the mountains again. As before, conditions were weak and we tiptoed to Terminillo, where things picked up some.

After this, I got a bit overconfident and left a thermal that would have taken me to the turnpoint and at least most of the way home. A while later I found myself at 1300 ft on a small ridge with a K-13. I was able to work up and get home, but it cost me lots of time and, in the end, I was 5th out of only 9 that completed the course. It was one of those difficult days that learning comes from.

As I write this, it's 3pm and I have some loose ends to tie up. Because of the pace of the contest days, I'm not sure when I can do another blog, but check back, and watch the results. Richard will have some daily reports.

You're supporting a good team, and we're determined to do well here. Speaking of support, I do want to thank all of you who have supported the team effort. Without your help a contest like this wouldn't be affordable. It's truly a privilege and an honor to be here and to be supported by so many friends at home!


Just a quick update. We just finished the opening ceremonies and let the games begin. All the local politicians gave their welcome and “vote for me” speeches followed by a Grob doing aerobatics. Some pictures are or will be included.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Official Practice Day #2

July 4 -The second Official Practice Day is well underway with all gliders launched and on course. As will be the case for the duration of the contest, the World Class was launched first, followed by the Club class and finally the Standard Class. All three classes were on Assigned Speed Tasks with distances of 227km, 314km and 400km. For task details and local real time WGC reports, go to http://www.wgcrieti.it/ .

Today the launch operations were under the control of the organization, with no control tower. Rather than 2 1/2 hours to launch the fleet, all the gliders were in the air in about 90 minutes. That's a pretty significant difference when it's 90 degrees and the sun is blazing down! I would imagine that when we have all our towplanes we will all be in the air within an hour.

Quay Snyder, Mark's crew, arrived this afternoon and we decided to break him in right. Pat landed out in a field at Spoleto and it looked like it would be a three man job to get the glider out. Giorgio an I got the trailer ready and were waiting to see how Francois was doing--Giorgio is the designated retrieve person for Francois--when Paul and Quay drove up. After a little discussion, we decided it would be better for Quay to do the retrieve with Giorgio, rather than me, as there are meetings tonight which must be attended. We also got a report from Francois that he was 10 minutes from the airport. So off they went! Pat's quite well and the glider is in a good wheat field. It may just be a little difficult accessing the field. I'll update you tomorrow with any news of the retrieve.

I've attached a couple of photos of the damage done to the crops and nurseries from the storm that came through.

The new tops of the maize are growing out already and I guess they'll restake the blown over trees.
The photos were taken in the area around Contigliano where I am staying.

More later.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

July 3--First Official Practice Day

Well, it's about 3:45 pm and the last of the Standard Class has been launched. The World Class launch was started about 1:15 pm. Everything today was delayed today due to the heavy rain and hail again last night. The rain was heavy enough to delay the safety briefing in the hangar. Rain and hail on a metal roof can drown out even the best communications system!
The launch went pretty slowly today as you can see from the start and finish times since we are currently under the control of the tower until the start of the Official Competition and this introduces some procedural problems into the launch. At the beginning of the Official Competition, the tower will be closed, and we should have the outstanding launch we had last year. I believe we will have in excess of 12 towplanes during the contest.

Work around the airport continues and sod was being placed at the pavilion and around the new office. The wireless internet has experienced some problems, but Selex is working around the clock in an effort to have everything ready. Today we have had excellent internet connectivity.

Since I wrote the above information, I have had to go and retrieve Pat from his landing--his crew will be here Friday--and we have all attended an Airspace briefing in the hangar. At that briefing we learned that the contest organizers will take over the airport tomorrow and we will operate without a tower. That means the 16 towplanes we have scheduled here will be able to launch the fleet in very short order. We are all pretty excited about that!

Pat had a pretty interesting launch today. He was hooked up to a towplane who thought he was two places to the left. When the towpilot noticed this, he slowly pulled Pat to the point where he was somewhat behind him. At this point we were about 200 feet down the runway! I was looking at Pat in the cockpit and wished him "Good Luck. Have a good flight" Pat just grinned. After he landed he was talking to me and said "I have never laughed laughed so hard in the cockpit in my life!!" I asked him what he was talking about and he said "I have never in my life been towed in a glider, and when I got to the end of the runway, watched the towplane retract his landing gear!" Pretty unusual experience. Mark commented "I know, I want to get a picture of that."

Tomorrow in the second Official Practice Day. We have a front passing through Rieti this evening, and the weather tomrrow remains a bit of a question. For those of you reading this, please go to the WGC homepage for real time reporting of the tasks, weather and regular updates of the contest (Ritz Corner). the home page link is on this Blog and is http://www.wgcrieti.it/

I've also attached three excellent photos that Mark took last week, showing the grid, the flying, and the local area from way above.

Hope to be back with you tomorrow.


Ciao from Rieti!

The US Team is together in Rieti.
All six pilots are here, and all flew for the first time yesterday, and then again today. We have been dealing with the typical problems of getting rental gliders, installing equipment,
finding our way around the city and learning to communicate. Mark has been here for a week now.

Francois, Dottie and I have been here since last Friday. Pat , Jonathan, Gigi, Manfred and Carolyn arrived on Saturday, Chip and Paul on Sunday. Our last two crew members, Quay and Jacob will be arriving this weekend. Francois' glider finally arrived on Monday evening.

The organization here in Rieti is hard at work trying to complete the infrastructure for Sunday's Opening Ceremony. The pictures were taken on Sunday, and the work has progressed quickly. I'm sure it will be a race to the finish. We had a sample meal at the pavilion yesterday and will have lunches available during the competition. Our offices will be located in the hanger and our hope is that we can escape the heat there and have a place to meet. Air conditioning is not common in Rieti and temperatures have been running in the nineties with high humidity. We have been dealing with thunderstorms for the last several days and even had significant amounts of hail on Monday. The hail was pea sized here at the airport but golf ball sized in other parts of the city. There was significant crop damage in some of the surrounding areas.

Giorgio and his wife Mariangela are with us again and it is wonderful to see them. Some of you may remember that Giorgio served as our crew last year at the JWGC. At that time we learned he had been flying competitively in Rieti for 37 years. So Giorgio was our crew and our coach.
Giorgio had accepted a position as the coach for the Italian team prior to my contacting him about working with the US Team. We were very fortunate to be able to work things out so that Giorgio could be with us again this year. As you can see from the photos, he is already hard at work debriefing yesterdays flight--and repairing a broken set of eyeglasses.

Everyone has landed for the day, and we have a safety briefing to attend this evening. Today ended the unofficial practice period and tomorrow we begin the official practice period,
with morning pilot's briefings and tasks. Francois and Pat have completed their scrutineering, Mark and Chip are scheduled for tomorrow and Manfred and Jonathan are scheduled for Friday. Official registration begins tomorrow as well. Completion of these tasks will be quite a relief.

I'll be reporting more often as things get underway. Until then.....


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mark Keene is the First to 'Blog' In

Welcome to my first blog. I'll try to give you some highlights of the trip so far and my impressions of the flying and Italy.

After the Standard Class Nationals in Cordele, Chip and I dropped our ships off at the port of Charleston for their 12 day ride across the ocean to Bremerhaven Germany. Bremerhaven is in the north of the country. Alfred Spindelberger (Cobra Trailers) was gracious enough to bring our trailers from the port to his shop in conjunction with a delivery he had. He then took my trailer and fixed some problems caused by my neglect over the years. Thank you Alfred and Agnes!

Rosalie and I arrived in Frankfurt on the 20th of June, spent a couple of days at Alfred's place and then went to Kirchheim to visit the Schempp-Hirth factory and Tilo and Katja Holighaus. They were wonderful hosts and we had a great time with them and their three kids. While there, I had a Flarm installed and a few other things done to the ship, by our installer who was none other than Liz Schwenkler. Liz is working at the factory full time and is a newlywed. In November she married a local and they have a nice house in a small town outside of Kirchheim.

On Tuesday we drove from Kirchheim to Rieti, a drive of over 12 hours. In Italy and Germany, the speed limit while pulling a trailer is 80kph which works out to just under 50mph. It's difficult to go this slow, but with the threat of hidden speed cameras, cops with radar and steep fines, we complied to our best ability.

The car we have is a small one that gets good gas mileage and pulls the trailer very well. It looks like a very small Ford Taurus wagon. Speaking of gas, it's expensive! One liter is 1.5 Euro, which works out to be about 6 Euro per gallon. Now add the poor exchange rate and the cost in dollars goes up to $9 per gallon. To put it in perspective, for 12 gallons we paid over $100! It would take cost $270 to fill up the 30 gallon tank on my van. I'm glad we have a car that gets good gas mileage.

It was 1am when we arrived in Rieti and the airport was closed and locked so we parked in the police station parking lot and slept in the car. In the morning we dropped the trailer, activated our phone and found our bed and breakfast. Then Rosalie and I went to see Rome. Unfortunately, because she had to leave the following day, we had only one day. Rome wasn't built in one day and you can't see it in one day either. What we saw was interesting and educational. Rosalie left on Thursday morning.

Rieti is an interesting town. I'm told it's about 500 years older than Rome. The roads are laid out the same as they were back then too, with the addition of "modern" roundabouts. Recently, the've added one way streets to the mix. If that's not enough, the Italian driving habits leave a lot to be desired, but more about that later. Anyway, without my trusty GPS, I would be lost and out of gas somewhere in the mountains. After five days, I still can't tell you how to get to the bed and breakfast. One day, even the GPS got lost and routed me through a parking lot. It's favorite direction is "recalculating." I fully expect it to come up and say "you try to find it, I give up." At any rate, the database seems to be good.

Now to the drivers. In Italy there are no rules. Stripes dividing lanes? It's treated like spilled paint because many drivers take their half in the middle. Want to change lanes? Just pull into the car next to you and move him over. Passing on a two lane road, with traffic coming? No problem, there's enough room, if the mirrors aren't too wide. And there's only one way to find out. What we call aggressive driving and is outlawed in the US is the norm and expected in Italy. When we drive like "normal" US drivers, we get strange looks, not to mention having cars so close to our bumper that we can't see the car, just the driver who looks like he's in our back seat. It's truely a freeforall. An entire blog could be written just about our driving experiences so far.

I'll have more in the next day or two but for now I gotta go fly. Arrivaderci!