Waikerie on the southern bank of the flooded Murray River.
By Craig Vinall
This season, to match the Worlds at Narromine later this year, Australian competitions departed from the normal format of combining Club and Sports in one competition, and Multiclass Ballasted in another, in favour of 15 Meter, Standard and Club Classes at Narromine with Open, 18 Meter and Sports at Waikerie.
This may have been one of the contributing factors as to why one or more of the classes at each competition struggled to attract entries. The SGP held at Gawler just prior to the Waikerie competition also failed to attract a large field, with only six gliders entered.
At Waikerie, there was only one Open Class glider, ten 18 Meter entrants and only six in Sports. We had no entries for Sports up to November. Only by twisting a few arms and running the event unballasted, did we manage to get six gliders. But still not enough to award a Champion Trophy. All of the Sports Class entrants, other than Bernie Sizer, either wanted to fly unballasted or could not fly ballasted. Thanks are due to Bernie, who agreed to fly dry, as it ensured another two entrants.
Open and 18 Meter were combined and flown as an Open competition. Of note, Adam Woolley elected to fly his Ventus in 15 Metre configuration in this class and Matthew Scutter entered his Diana 2 (15 Meter only).
But a smaller competition does have its advantages. There was no hurry in the mornings and briefings ran smoothly. Gridding and launches seemed to be effortless, and the chat around the bar and the evening meals were so enjoyable. It was just nice to be there.
Bernie Sizer came 2nd overall in Sports Class, with CD Mandy Temple.
A Great Team
We were lucky to have such an experienced and competent team running the competition. Mandy Temple served as contest director with Peter Temple as task setter, and Matthew Scutter educated us about the weather. Matthew’s weather briefings alone were worth the entry fee!
The result was that we flew on at least two days, where we otherwise might not have. They were well tasked for the weather, with the result that people enjoyed their flights on those days.
Scrutineering was efficiently carried out by John Ridge and David Jones and, to allow competitors to dump down if needed, each competitor was weighed every day. This procedure avoided any possibility of a penalty, compared to random weighing.
Thanks also to our tug pilots and the wonderful support from both the Adelaide University GC and Adelaide Soaring Club for providing tugs for the competition. Launching was efficient and quick each day.
The wide open country near Waikerie.
We were also fortunate to have Jason and Sandy Goldup preparing evening meals during most of the competition. Jason’s skills are well known to those in South Australia and we had very pleasant evenings around the bar with pre-dinner nibbles and great main meals and desserts. A particular favourite was Jason’s freshly baked mini sausage rolls – exquisite!
The river was at peak flood during the competition, offering some unique views of expansive areas of water. Apart from the odd road closure, the high river did not really affect the running of the competition. However, the high water noticeably affected flying conditions near the river, particularly down wind.
Arnold Niewand in Open Class.
We had some very strong cumulus days mixed with the usual 5,000ft blue days. In Open Class, three of the eight competition days had speeds in excess of 150 kph and in Sports, three days with speeds in excess of 120 kph.
A number of days were affected by southerly conditions resulting in an increase in the wind from the south in the early evening. This is typical of Waikerie. A sea breeze, sometimes extending as far as Broken Hill, produces an overnight influx of colder maritime air east of the Adelaide Hills. This causes a late start to convective conditions on the following day.
On the first day, we did not start launching until 2pm with some Open Class competitors not on task until around 4pm. But cumulus was forecast to the west and the task was set to maximise the conditions. Shorter tasks were flown to enable the later starts.
On the second day, while the Sports Class had an AAT generally south of the river, Open was a racing task to the east returning over Renmark on the prediction of tall conditions in the latter part of the day. This did not eventuate with sketchy conditions east of Renmark and downwind of the river. There was one outlanding and a number of technical outlandings called when engines had to be started.
The Murray River in flood.
Day 3 promised better conditions to the west, so AATs favouring the west were set for both classes. Conditions began to improve with cumulus and height to the east on Day 4. A day was strong for both classes, but was followed by a southerly change, which meant we lost the next two days.
Day 5 was difficult for our task setter. An approaching front was preceded by good soaring conditions, and strong winds were predicted after the front passed. A great task was set. A large wedge to the west allowed you to fly as far towards the front as you could, followed by a leg to the south east and back to Waikerie that aligned with the predicted front. Several pilots were able to connect with the front for much of their flight.
We lost another day, but then flew each of the remaining three days with the last day promising to bring strong weather again – 8,000ft with cumulus. Day 6 was blue at just over 5,000ft and Day 7 was notable for cirrus and shaded ground, also 5,000ft.
Appropriate and achievable tasks were flown on all days, including the low blue days, but as is usually the case, the better pilots do well on those days and it sorts the field accordingly.
The competition for Sports Class honours was between David Collins and Bernie Sizer. I think this might be the first time we had the same pilot, Sid Nankivell, finish 3rd on every day flown. So, Sid had 3rd sown up! For the first three days, it was a close tussle between David and Bernie – David won the first day with Bernie winning the next two and moving into 1st overall. But David flew very consistently and won the next five days to finish well in front of Bernie.
Special thanks to Jenny Ganderton and Robert Smits, who agreed to stay for the competition after coaching week, and well done to Rodney van den Brink, who flew in his first National competition.
At the launch point.
Open Class Sums It Up
The racing was tight over the first four days with day wins to Adam Woolley, Bruce Taylor, Matthew Scutter and Peter Temple. The lead changed each day until Adam came to the top on Day 4 and stayed in control until Day 7. But it is never over until the last day, which culminated in a dramatic change of fortunes. Going into the last day, only a few points separated the first three places with Adam on top, then Matthew followed by Bruce.
Perhaps it is best summed up by each of the pilots concerned.Bruce commented, “It was a smoking last day, and the best fun of the competition. Initially we had a 500km flight set, then it seemed to be very slow starting so we flew the B task of 385km. Once it fired up, conditions improved very quickly, not super high at just over 8,000ft, but the climbs were big and strong, and generally beautifully smooth. South, then east, north then home. What a ride! I spent quite some time with David Pietsch who was motoring along just nicely and we had a ball!
“Matthew Scutter had a great day, enough to jump into first place overall for another Nationals title. I just pipped him in raw speed but stayed in second place for the day and overall. Sadly, Adam had a low spot and it took enough time to get up and running to drop him back into third place overall. He’s been flying so consistently all competition and I was sorry to see him finish on a bit of a low note. It was the only day he was really off the pace all fortnight.”
CD Mandy Temple with Open Class champion Matthew Scutter.
Working Hard on Relaxing
Matthew described his last day by saying, “It's all over. The last day forecast was a ripper and I knew I needed to deliver something special. With both Bruce and Woolley in strong contention and Pete nearby, there was no way to cover everyone. The only solution was to ditch everyone and go for a big day win.
“I've been 'working hard' on relaxing in the glider because previously, I'd land exhausted and burnt out every day from being tensed up and focused the entire flight. But there was no relaxing allowed today. I dosed myself to the eyeballs on caffeine and sugar, tanked the glider to the gunnels and aimed to just keep running at cloudbase and hope Woolley and Bruce pushed too hard.
“I made some fake starts and waited and waited until everyone left so I had the sky to myself, then cruised 110kts all day and only took 6kts, never getting out of touch with the clouds.
“I've learned a lot this week from some excellent competitors who've kindly punished me every time I blinked, and I'm very thankful to Waikerie Gliding Club, Mandy, Peter and many others involved in the organisation who ran a dream competition. We had almost the perfect task for every day, almost no outlandings and no hassle at all.”
A Change in Psychology
Adam’s comments, “The last day. Taylor departed early. Scutter and I circled around at base, the last two to start. Scutter made a false start that I wasn’t aware of. I waited three minutes and then headed off to chase. My preparation for the day and my mindset were still the same as the start of the comp – just fly a consistent flight, you are strong at these days, no need to push hard, and keep doing what you have done for the whole comp.
“Stay focused. Scutter zipped past in the opposite direction just 5km after I started. I knew he was going back for a re-start. Instantly, my mindset went back into old Adam ways – ‘push like crazy, win every day, he’s not going to catch me!’ It was a classic Australian day, one that I could read really well. I get away with just about anything on days like this.
"The start was good, but then on the second leg, I descended into a different airmass that I hadn’t experienced before, and wasted 30 minutes climbing away from 1,000ft agl. The rest is history. I went from 1st to 3rd in a matter of seconds, and it was all because my psychology changed. Lesson learned.
Adam Woolley came 3rd overall in Open Class, with CD Mandy Temple and Pete Temple, who came 4th overall in
“Racing at its best. No quarter given and every mistake punished. Racing as it should be! It was a privilege to be just a small part of it and every pilot will have gained valuable experience. Can’t wait for the next chance to have a go.
Australian National Championships
11 - 21 January 2023
1 Matthew Scutter Diana 2 FES 5,932
2 Bruce Taylor ASG 29 E 18m 5,842
3 Adam Woolley Ventus 3T 15m 5,703
1 David Collins ASW 20 5,773
2 Bernie Sizer PIK-20 B 5,444
3 Sid Nankivell LS 3 4,695
Full results at soaringspot.com