Monday, 15 July 2013

World Championships - Sopot, Bulgaria - Day 1 - Task 1

Johannesburg to Sofia via Istanbul
A pleasant drive through the sun flower fields from Sofia to Sopot admiring the gorgeous cloud streets set the tone for the 13th FAI world championships:  Mellow and seriously organised.  Management secured 'casa Africa' for the team.  My serviced 'crib' has aircon (it works) and clean sheets plus en-suite bathroom with shower (replete with real hot water 24/7).  The house is the talk of the town with vicious rumours circulating about how we outbid other teams to secure the mansion (including pool, boma, flat screen & volley ball court).  Whatever the case, I have never been this comfortable at a competition outside of South Africa ever... so I guess a BIG thank you to Jan & Chrissi for making it happen.
The launch is massive and the ride up the cable way is relaxing in a simple kind of way with 101 two seat open chairs, recently refurbished, slinging us up to launch over roughly 2 km of cable.  A 75 odd km out-and-return east-west course was set with two turns points before goal amid great excitement at the super sweet cu's and wind dummies melting into the clouds.   As is so often the case, the valley clouded over and 150 pilots were stuck on launch well after the race was due to start.  Make that 149 with Marco Littame who smoked every-one by 100 points getting off shortly after window and flying around the course alone while the rest of us were cooling our heels waiting for it to start working.  We eventually got off with the lead gaggle bouncing along at base dodging clouds along the way before getting flushed at the easterly TP.  The lag gaggle got the jump after the lead got flushed in the lee of the northerly wind.  RusselA managed to make up lost time flying a more direct line with AndreR a few minutes after to goal.  Chris landed inside of speed section but short of goal with Nev, Khobi and Stef going down at the sucky section near P1.
There will be many disgruntled pilots seeing as it felt like a bit of a lottery with many world title contenders down and out on the first day.  The Swiss, German, British and American teams were among many of the top teams who got caught out with Italy, France and Brazil putting in strong performances.  The up-side is that it is only day 1 with a high probability of good hard racing to come and perhaps a fist day shake-up will break the recent trend of EN-D processional course flying.

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