Edition 2002 story of 494 

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Story of 494

Previously published in issue 101 of the Midland Gliding Club Newsletter.

By Paul Garnham
Euroglide is a 2000 km competition/rally around Europe, held biennially and organised by the Eindhoven Gliding Club. As many of you will recall, Duo Discus 494 first competed in 2000. Phil and Diana King had already blazed the trail in previous years and convinced us without too much difficulty that this was an experience not to be missed. So it turned out, as you will see from my account of the 2000 event (in Newsletter Number 88). We were therefore keen to participate again this year, with the same team of Julian Fack, Paul Garnham, Richard Hinley and Nick Heriz-Smith. The 2002 event suffered a couple of hiccoughs, first when it was discovered that the planned dates coincided with a NATO exercise, and second when Bourges became unavailable as a turn point, replaced by Romorantin. From the accompanying map you will see that the course represents quite a ramble around Europe, taking in Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Germany. In fact the total distance was 2211 km. 13 days of competition were allowed. The calculator indicates a required average of 170 km per day, in principle not too demanding, but we all know how European weather can spoil things. In the end it was quite surprising that we managed to beat that average by a considerable margin, completing the course in 8 flying days.
  Day 1  
We arrived at Eindhoven Air Base, a military and civil establishment. We had pre-booked a room on the airbase, and I was pleasantly surprised at the standard of accommodation, light years away from the RAF huts of distant (but not fond) memory. The welcome at Eindhoven Gliding Club is always good, a pleasant bustling clubhouse with plenty of beer, food, and good humour. Of course everyone speaks English. As usual the briefing was exhaustive and exhausting, resulting in a good night’s sleep.
  Day 2  
The day dawned with a promising sky. Phil, Diana and nephew Mike Witton who was crewing, had arrived with 618 and we rigged the gliders side by side. Julian and I were to take the first leg. Little did we know that we were going to get off to a magical start, and that soaring conditions would slowly decline thereafter. We launched at lunchtime behind a wheezing Husky that could only manage 2 knots and he courteously waved us off in sink at 1700 feet. We soon recovered and cleared the rather complicated Eindhoven zone. Heading south we were often in company with other gliders; later the fleet spread out and we could fly for hours or even days without seeing another competitor. Flying conditions were good as we flew towards the first turn point at Dahelemer Binz. Belgian airspace is designed to deter general aviation and gliding so we wobbled along the Belgian/Luxembourg border, trying not to be in either country (for airspace purposes). A high cloudbase (6000 feet) gave comfort when flying over extensive areas of forest that made our own Wyre Forest look entirely non-threatening. We felt that soaring conditions were good but not outstanding, but we seemed to be covering the ground well. After over 6 hours in the air we landed at Montargis airfield in France having competed 532 km in the day, our best flight ever. Speed, at 81 kph, was not wonderful but we would later think of it with longing as the conditions deteriorated towards the finish of the comp. Several other gliders arrived. I seem to recall that the evening arrangements at Montargis were somewhat complex. We took a taxi into town, hoped that Phil, Diana and Mike would meet us there for a meal and later bring us back. To cut a long story short, they didn’t and we walked a long way in the dark (literally and metaphorically), and hung around roundabouts at midnight before we were all reunited.
  Day 3  
Nick and Richard departed towards the turn point at Romorantin (central France) and rounded it, returning to St Florentin where we met them. (278 km average 53.4 kph). We had fond memories of St Florentin. In 2000 we had a fine barbecue there, as many Dutch Eurogliders had landed, but this time the place was like the Marie Celeste, even the power club was closed. The spider I dispatched in the loo in 2000 was still there. Nevertheless we met the CFI’s son who organised a tug for us the next day. We dined at a restaurant familiar from our 2000 visit.
  Day 4  
Julian and I set off behind a Pawnee (with retractable rope) and headed for the next turn point at Lachen Speyerdorf near Mannheim. Phil, in 618, was often close by, and as conditions were blue for much of the time we helped each other a lot by marking thermals. We passed Troyes and headed towards Nancy, where we had landed in 2000. Leaving it well to the north we headed across the extensive forest of the Pfalzerwald north of Strasbourg as conditions improved. Again the cloudbase was high and anxiety levels remained fairly low. We arrived at the turnpoint, nicely marked by what appeared to be a nearby factory on fire, and we could see gliders soaring. Despite the late hour (about 1830) conditions were still good so we continued south on track, but soon realised that the day was almost over. We overflew the airfield at Landau. It seemed ideal, an autobahn junction and the town adjacent, and lots of gliders on the ground. So we gently drifted down to a nice welcome with the news that a National Soaring Course for women was in progress. A Falke with registration D-KMGC stood close by, so it must have been the right place to land. Another good evening was spent in town, followed by a peaceful night at the airfield campsite. (375 km flown average 58.7 kph).
  Day 5  
Richard and Nick’s turn. Mike Witton and I went shopping in Landau while preparations were being made. We were having logger download problems, something that hounded us for the whole of the trip. Blast the technology! The formidable women’s cross country course members - no, I mean the formidable fleet of the women’s cross country course, were on the grid, but we were allowed to pull 494 and 618 to the front. Our gallant crew found things quite difficult, as did Diana. Julian and I drove off but paused often, keeping in contact with our pilots, and hearing their blow-by-blow account. We hear that Diana is landing somewhere near Augsburg. 494 soldiered on, although good cumulus were in short supply. Eventually they landed at Eichstatt near Ingolstadt (home of Audi) (328 km, average 53.2 kph). A lovely airfield, elevated, and surrounded by a common. The long climb with the trailer to the airfield was interesting. The club was not exactly open but happily a barman was there and all was well. Nick and Richard were on their second large bottle of Weissbier before we arrived. A tug was arranged for noon the next day. We had a very pleasant evening in the beautifully restored baroque town centre, and camped on the airfield.
  Day 6  
Rain early but things soon improved, but the tug pilot arrived late. Probably just as well. We took off at 1300 and were soon scrabbling for lift over the enormous Audi factory. A Phantom from a nearby airfield was an unnecessary distraction at this point. Soon we were able to make progress along the Donau river towards Regensburg and made the turn point at Cham Jahnahof only a few miles from the Czech border. This was really an important point because we now turned north to fly into the increasing headwinds that plagued us for the rest of the trip. Trying to make progress into 20-26 knot winds was not easy and progress was slow. We got very low at one point and were soon scratching away on a small ridge. Getting low in strong winds is not much fun, but very satisfying if the outcome is a successful climb. Clearly some ‘weather’ was approaching from the north west. Landing at the Wasserkuppe was an optional extra that attracted more points, so we were keen to do it, but with 100 km still to go we used up our last thermal, the sky ahead was slate grey and we were soon looking for a friendly airfield. A gliding site at Bad Konigshof beckoned and we landed, to be met by a very pleasant mother and daughter out walking their dog. (322 km flown, average 59.8 kph). A phone call, and a tug was promised, to tow us to the Wasserkuppe (some “improper” forward movements are allowed by the rules). An immaculate Robin from Saal/Saale arrived and we took off again. He towed us to about 6000 feet in a 28 knot headwind before deciding that Wasserkuppe was clamped in, so a return to his airfield seemed sensible. Thus it was that we sampled the delights of the very pleasant club at Saal/Saale. We learned that members of the Dunstable Club visit it on occasion and the mad English are well understood/tolerated. This is one of the joys of Euroglide. You don’t know where you will be at the end of a day, but happily it’s usually an interesting place with friendly people.
  Day 7  
Weather lousy. Using the concessions allowed by the rules we rose early and towed the glider to the Wasserkuppe. About 5 other Eurogliders were there. Usual bedlam due to the many visitors and tourists who frequent the hill. Richard and Nick took off at lunchtime, towed by a Robin with retractable rope. Several gliders returned for a re-light (or 2) but our gallant team got away first time and headed off into wind. By Kassel they were struggling and eventually landed at Warburg, a small gliding club near Paderborn. (127 km, average 42.3 kph). There I had a fascinating conversation with Heinrich, a submariner in WW2, who had been a prisoner near Witney and therefore spoke perfect English. After a quick tour of the club and declining their kind offer of a winch launch, we de-rigged and drove a short way to the next turn point at Oerlinghausen, one of the major gliding sites, visited by us in 2000. Despite our previous visit we could not remember the best way to nearby Bielefeld. Some hours later (or so it felt) we arrived and selected a suitable hostelry (remarkably a Cretan restaurant). The streets seemed full of noisy Turks celebrating some kind of success in the World Cup (3rd place I think).
  Day 8  
Very generously I think, we let Richard and Nick have another go. It was warm and sunny but now the breeze was from the west i.e. still a head wind. About 8 Eurogliders took off and again some had to return. Near Beckum we noted that our team were “going quiet” and not long after, they landed in a field of maize. Bless the Garmin in the motorhome, it soon put us on track and we found 494 up to its wingtips in maize. Nick and Richard were having a friendly conversation with a farmer and his family, who appeared not to notice that their maize crop had deteriorated somewhat; indeed it deteriorated further as we de-rigged with some difficulty. Happily the damage to 494 was slight and after a few jolly exchanges we left, wishing that all farmers were as understanding. (42.5 km, average 17.3 kph!!) All this time 618 had been catching us up and landed nearby. We visited a club at Dorsten Canal but they suggested that we press on to Dinslaken, only 8 km away, where we might get a tow. So we all ended up at Dinslaken, home of the factory that makes the Extra aerobatic aircraft. Several other factories and clubs were in evidence, one running CT ultralights, of which more in a moment. The gliding club operated from nothing more than a summerhouse but they made us welcome and we camped out in the trailer park
  Day 9  
Steady rain. Not a good day for the campers (618). We rang Iain Evans in UK who confirmed that things were looking duff. Getting weather from the control tower was next to impossible, the wait for their computer to access the weather site became just too embarrassing for Julian and me. So, we spent the day shopping and eating in Dinslaken. The rain continued and the campsite became much less attractive. Mike Witton was forced to abandon his tent, with most things afloat. As night fell the rain ceased at last.
  Day 10  
More rain and a strong headwind. What forecasts we could access, including local opinions, suggested that the day would be pretty awful but that there might be a short window of opportunity in the early afternoon. The prospect of reaching the finish tape at Venlo (only about 50 km away, just into Holland) seemed bleak and the forecast for the next few days was depressing. We ordered the tug for 1300 as some sort of grey cumulus seemed to be forming against the greyness. 494 and 618 waited at the end of the hard runway. Soon the tug arrived. It was a sort of glass tadpole, a CT ultralight with a Rotax engine. With considerable faith, we hooked up, and it worked! The hard runway helped and it was unusual to see the tug take off first. Do not get the idea that this is just what we need at the Mynd. The climb rate was respectable too, and we bored into the 25 knot headwind to about 3000 feet. Frankly it was a struggle, as Diana and Phil, who tried to do the same a little later, found to their cost. A power station on the Rhine saved the day. After some interesting IMC work in the steam and smoke, we clawed sufficient height to make a glide into Sevelen, a nearby gliding site. Desperately low, we just couldn’t find it even though the GPS said we were there! Eventually it was identified as a small strip in what appeared to be a former railway cutting. I declined to go there in view of the conditions and chose a nice flat grass field about 0.5 km away. As we were on final glide laughter broke out. There were runway markers! It was an alternative landing strip. The great relief and satisfaction that we felt was completely out of proportion to the length of the flight. Its importance was that even though we hadn’t made it to Venlo, we were close enough to trail home and stay within competition. rules. The statistics for that flight tell a tale of struggle - 32.9 km flown, average 32.9 kph! Sadly Diana and Phil didn’t get away that day as the window closed, and they were stuck in the Dinslaken mud patch for a further day or two. Later we trailed to Venlo airfield and handed in our paperwork and log. Finding Venlo airfield, even with GPS, was almost as great a challenge as the flight. Then, off the Antwerp for a well earned night in a comfy hotel.

So that was Euroglide 2002. Despite the poor conditions towards the close, we averaged nearly 255 km each day. We came 9th, with twelve gliders finishing behind us, so not too bad an effort, and much better than last time when we were really novices at the game. The experience was quite different as well, but equally full of challenges and interest, nice people and, oh yes, some wonderful soaring.

Can’t wait for Euroglide 2004.

Paul Garnham
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