Edition 2004  

euroglide 2004 logo

Tales of Euroglide

Previously published in issues 113 and 114 of the Midland Gliding Club Newsletter.

By Paul Garnham, team 494
Euroglide, the 2000+km competition/rally efficiently organised by the Eindhoven Gliding Club, takes place every two years, and for 494 it was the third time. On this occasion (as I no longer have a share) my participation was by courtesy of Julian and the syndicate, to whom I am deeply grateful. This time the team was Julian, Richard Hinley, myself and Eddie Humphries (who is also deeply grateful). We were giving Julian's new motorhome its first serious outing and it proved to be an excellent vehicle for the job. The only other UK teams were Phil and Diana King with LS8 618 and George Metcalfe from Lasham with his ASW28 104. The remainder of the field were predominantly Dutch with one or two Germans, Belgians and a Swiss.

We aimed to get to Eindhoven by Sunday lunchtime, well in time for the beer scrum and the lengthy evening briefing, and this we achieved. As the plug had been pulled at a late stage (due to "operational requirements") on the luxurious Dutch Air Force accommodation previously offered, and sampled by us in 2002, we checked into the nearby Novotel, a very acceptable alternative. They tried hard to make us feel welcome, even to the extent of dispensing Euroglider" condoms in the loo, but I fancy that was just coincidence.

For the rest of the trip Julian and I slept in the motorhome while the hardy "youngsters" had tents. Setting up beds in motorhomes always seems problematic (except in mine of course). In the past I have reported on splintering timber and late night carpentry in Julian's previous motorhome and even in the new one there were minor breakages. Also, actually creating the two beds from the assortment of variously shaped cushions seemed a task worthy of the Krypton Factor. Each night a different arrangement seemed to emerge. Only one "incident" occurred when, in the middle of one night, a cry of "aaaargh" followed rapidly by a crash as Julian hit the floor, suggested that part of his bed had somehow "flipped over".

  Monday 28 June  
Next day, Monday, we fortified ourselves with a Novotel breakfast and went off to the briefing in the clubhouse on Eindhoven airfield, running the customary gauntlet of the military checkpoint. With a ridge of high pressure in charge, the weather seemed set fair for some serious soaring and we were told that we would be going round the course in an anti-clockwise direction (see the accompanying map).

We were also warned that conditions might deteriorate as the week progressed. Eddie and I were reeling from repeatedly clouting our heads on the edge of the motorhome cab, something we found quite painful (frequent cries of "Oh Dear"). Eventually we learned to duck sufficiently but it took a long while. Clearing the Eindhoven zone at Leende (15 km), was the first, and sometimes tricky, task but the next turn point at Klippeneck lay well over 400 km to the south. As readers of my 2002 account will remember the first part of this leg is not straightforward as one is flying close to the borders between Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. Complex airspace has to be avoided, and straight line tracks cannot be followed for long. In the south there are also some "transponder only" zones, a portent for the future? Julian and Richard were about halfway down the grid. They took off at 1210 and did not return. Cloud bases of only about 3000 feet were reported, and after only 55 minutes they descended to 1400 feet QFE. Thereafter the day improved rapidly. As they had disappeared, Ed and I set off south, using autobahnen where possible. Aachen, Koln, Karlsruhe passed by. 494 was making good progress and we soon lost contact. We heard that George Metcalfe had landed out close to Eindhoven and had taken a relight but amazingly he later caught up with 494 near Karlsruhe. Cloud bases kept improving, eventually reaching 7500 feet by 1630 and the soaring was good. We motored on in the general direction of Klippeneck. By that time it had gone blue and by 1700 494 was short of good thermals. Later, somewhere near Stuttgart we had a phone call to say that 494 was down on an airfield at Eutingen near Tubingen (416 km flown in 5hours 40 minutes). They would see us in the village (near a bar of course) and we duly met up at 2000 hours for a meal. The beer there was very good (indeed the pils and weissbeer were excellent all over Germany). Maybe because of that, the locals seemed to shout a lot, even in the course of apparently mundane conversation. A couple of other Eurogliders were at the airfield including a Belgian Janus with instrument problems. The crew worked late into the night and were very grateful for the loan of a Garmin aerial which Julian just happened to have in his pocket.
  Tuesday 29 June  
Tuesday dawned blue with cumulus soon developing. The high pressure was holding. Eddie and I, still reeling from the ritual head banging, had the task of getting to the turn point at Klippeneck (45 km distant) and then setting course for Sonnen, some 360 km to the east, right in the SE corner of Germany where it adjoins the Czech Republic. Once again conditions were good and we arrived at Klippeneck with plenty of height i.e. 7200 feet. We heard that Diana was landing there due to a problem with her ASI. There was plenty of gliding going on and it looked a fine sight among the hills and forests. We turned to the north-east and set to wend our way between blocks of airspace and danger areas. At first the going was good with cloud bases of 7-8000 feet. En route we saw an ASW with a TOP engine, a sort of bolt-on job, and a little later a Learjet passed about 1000 feet below us. We were now getting into territory that was familiar to me from previous trips. Ulm and Augsburg passed by. Well north of the Munich zone we passed Ingolstadt (Vorsprung durch Technik), flying close by the Donau river and then south of Regensburg. However as we proceeded east the cloud dissipated and the thermal cut-off was remarkably abrupt. At this point, for some reason, the GPS began to lie about distances. We were soon wondering whether we could make the turn point at Sonnen. Diana in 618, who had almost caught up with us (despite her visit to Klippeneck) was having similar concerns but thought that she could make it to Vilshofen, some 35 km short of the turn point (and she did). We thought we could too but encountered nothing but sink and the word "nearest" seemed to sum up precisely what was required. "Nearest" turned out to be the gliding airfield at Deggendorf but we became very concerned in the last minute or so as we could not see it from our low altitude although the GPS said we were practically there. Finally, desperately short of angels, we arrived. We had flown 360 km that day in 5 hours 15 minutes but we were north-west of the turn point by about 60 km.

Deggendorf, which supported general aviation as well as a gliding club, was pretty quiet. There was a small restaurant and a bar. Two attractive girls came in. One wore a yellow T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Everyone loves a German Girl". Shortly afterwards, her boyfriend, a trainee commercial pilot arrived, and it was he who flew the tug next day when Julian and Richard set off on the next leg.

go to top
  Wednesday 30 June  
Wednesday dawned clear, with deer strolling by and hares gambolling on the airfield. One inspected Ed's tent. We are now close to the centre of a weak high pressure area. Cumulus seemed reluctant to put in an appearance, but cirrus did. Julian and Richard now had to fly south-east to the turn point at Sonnen before returning north-west towards the Wasserkuppe. The morning remained stubbornly blue and by lunchtime it seemed that it would remain that way. News arrived that Phil had turned Sonnen and was heading north-west. 494 launched at about 1400, too late in hindsight, and Ed and I parked by a lake and snoozed while Julian and Richard flew to Sonnen and back. As they passed us, it became clear that although cloud bases were reasonable, the climbs were not, and a solid cloud sheet moving in did not help. It seemed that they might be taking an early bath at Cham airfield. Ed and I then made the mistake of driving our combination through Deggendorf's narrow streets, a task made even more fraught by roadworks. Driving towards Cham we heard that 494 had indeed landed there (160 km in 2 hours 40 minutes). As 494 arrived Julian called "494 downwind for 09" and got the anguished reply "no, no not 09, 10!" The sky had become overcast, and the beer was soon flowing as the locals made us welcome and offered us the freedom of the clubhouse. We camped nearby for the night and found a good restaurant by the river in the rather dull town, where the main attraction was a stork's nest perched high on a tower.
  Thursday 1 July  
Next day, Thursday, the sun shone fitfully and a strong SW wind blew. Low pressure centred west of the UK was beginning to dominate. As there seemed no possibility of a tow, we decided to go forward by road (up to 100 km allowed by the regulations) to Weiden, where we heard that facilities would be available. I don't recall killing an albatross on the way but misfortune seemed to be in plentiful supply at Weiden, which has to be my least favourite place on this trip. When we arrived, Phil and Diana were there along with several other teams. The sky did not look promising, but a tug was organised for 1400. After launching two single seaters, including 618, the tug pilot took exception to the cross-wind component and decided to stop. Phil reported broken thermals as things steadily deteriorated. After a delay the tuggie returned to the fray and launched us into a grey sky. We fell down after struggling for 20 minutes. We took another tow. The sky on track looked even worse but we got a climb locally to 6000 feet and set off. The headwind was about 20 knots. A large shower then blew rapidly across our track and killed the air stone dead. We sank down and in desperation I tried hill soaring, but the topography was unhelpful. I tried to soar an isolated hill with a village wrapped around it. There was some gusty lift but more than enough sink as well. When we realised that we were admiring the lines of bedroom furniture in the village houses it seemed appropriate to depart. Happily a superb grass field like a cricket pitch presented itself not far away and we were not too dismayed at landing out. Unfortunately our struggle had resulted in only 28 km of forward progress so a further advance by road was not permitted (you have to fly 30 km at least). So back we trundled to Weiden, had a few beers and considered strategy. One Dutch glider was still there. Meanwhile Phil had made it to Rosenthal (about 31 km from Weiden and only a few km further than us) before the weather had closed in. Next day they towed to Bayreuth. Meanwhile we had to deal with Weiden again.
  Friday 2 July  
On Friday early rain gave way to sun and showers and even the odd thunderstorm. A series of troughs was on course for our area. A tug was promised at 1230 with the proviso that only one launch would be possible (due to tuggie having to go back to work). Ed and I took a launch into a rainy sky and were back within minutes. Miraculously another launch was possible after all! This time the sky was more open and some local heating gave us a thermal or two to 5000 feet QNH and we set course in the only possible direction 215 degrees(!) towards Amberg, clearly not a step in the right direction. We reported our intention and the team got on the road. As we approached Amberg the soaring improved but heavy showers and storms could be seen to the west, so we settled for Amberg. As the motorhome and trailer appeared we stayed airborne to direct them to the airfield, situated in a rather secluded valley. We landed just as a thunderstorm arrived overhead. Only 34 km flown but at least we had earned the right to trail again if need be. Amberg airfield is a delightful place, set in a little valley with a stream, framed by trees and with two smooth grass runways of the greenest green. The clubhouse is spotless and with great pride the President showed us round the new hangar, largely built by club members. Now, each time I risk a hernia trying to move the hangar doors at the Mynd I have this frustrating vision of the superb sliding doors at Amberg. Later the leader insisted on taking us into town and marched us around at breakneck speed to see the sights of this lovely medieval centre. We then retired to a theme pub for a meal. The President was quite a talker and spoke good English. He seemed very keen to instil into us his view that the UK must join the single currency.

go to top
  Saturday 3 July  
The following day, Saturday, the sky did not look encouraging, still very overdeveloped and with thundery activity not far away. A procession of troughs was forecast. Thankful for our visit to Amberg, we trailed back to Weiden with little enthusiasm. The place was pretty dead, as was the sky, so we trailed on to Bayreuth airfield to find 4 or 5 Dutch teams who had spent 4 damp days there while we had been seeing the sights. Conditions did not improve so we went into town to stock up on supplies. The supermarket proved such a treasure trove that we emerged with a trolley piled high with 4 digital cameras at 10 Euros each, an electric drill or two at 19 Euros, a vacuum cleaner for the motorhome and sundry other bargains. The food took second place. All those distractions meant that we had failed to notice the improving weather. Scrambling back to the airfield at 1600 we were too late to fly but learned that Phil King had managed 100 km that afternoon. A consolation evening was spent in the dignified centre of Bayreuth where a Festival was in full swing, with live music, stalls, food and drink aplenty.
  Sunday 4 July  
On Sunday we found ourselves between troughs and the outlook was not good. Julian and Richard took a tow during one of the sunny breaks. Ed and I departed by road but as we got to Bayreuth we heard "494 downwind" on the radio so had to scuttle back to the airfield. They took a second launch and got away. An airship passed slowly by (as they do). Clearly soaring conditions were not good and another trough was close as they arrived at Coberg. A biz jet was held in order for them to land. They had flown 55 km in 2.5 hours! Ed and I had trouble finding the airfield. It turned out to be on very high ground above the town and close to the imposing castle. The airfield was more of an airport, immaculately manicured, and with serious aircraft in the hangars. Gliding was also in progress, courtesy of a familiar blue and yellow Skylaunch winch which made us feel at home right away. As usual we were welcomed and invited to use all the facilities, including those in the impressive four storey control tower. We walked down into the attractive town through leafy residential areas. We had selected an appealing Greek restaurant for our evening meal but were disappointed as they soon locked their doors in order to watch Greece play Portugal in the European Cup. We took a taxi back to base and ate at the airfield restaurant (and watched the match as well). We heard with some dismay that one glider had already finished (How??!).
  Monday 5 July  
Overnight rain gave way to fog and yet more rain on Monday morning. A mad aviator in a Cessna took off in 00 visibility. About this time I was suffering from an allergic reaction so a mercy dash into Coberg was necessary for anti-histamines. The sky remained depressing and the wind had increased to 20 knots westerly so reluctantly we decided to trail to the Wasserkuppe. Four or five Eurogliders were already there. We heard that one or two had given up already. Frequent heavy showers prevented any useful flying so we renewed our acquaintance with the excellent gliding museum and took a walk to the famous monument to fallen aviators. That evening we ate at nearby Gersfeldt.
  Tuesday 6 July  
If you read Part 1 in the last Newsletter, you may recall that Eddie and I had taken off from the Wasserkuppe in 494, and were heading north towards Gustrow (north-west of Berlin). We crossed the Harz mountains but then began to struggle, getting rather low near Helmstedt. It was Tuesday of the second week.

Not long after our close call at Helmstedt, and with conditions still deteriorating, we found ourselves struggling again near a small village called Meiste. This time there was no saving thermal and a field was required. The best on offer seemed a smooth-looking arable field, devoid of crop. I set the Duo up on approach. About half-way down finals we both exclaimed "Oh my goodness, there are plants growing in it" (or words to that effect). Not much later it became clear that we were arriving in a field of asparagus! I don't believe I had ever seen asparagus growing before. The plants look quite insubstantial, and the field was heavily ridged and furrowed. I landed along a furrow and we stopped very quickly in the sandy soil. We had taken out only three plants.

It was not long before our first visitors arrived, two young women from the local village. They spoke no English but Eddie managed to entertain them with sign language and party tricks for a considerable time. Unfortunately they had called the police (you know - air crash, mayhem, etc) and it was not long before the local bobby arrived with blue lights flashing as he attempted to destroy his Passat on the bumpy field. I walked over and assured him that all was normal, no damage or injuries. Having expected a major emergency he was somewhat perplexed and called up his superiors for instructions. "Breathalise them" was obviously the first command. He produced the device but unfortunately the batteries were flat. Uttering a curse he threw it in the back of the car. About this time a reporter from the local paper arrived and he spoke a little English, which helped. We handed out our prepared statement in German about Euroglide, thoughtfully provided by the organisers, and no doubt it formed the basis for his piece in the paper. Having spotted Eddie 100m away by the glider the cop decided to call him over for questioning and produced a loud hailer on the end of much curly wire. He prepared to address the nation. In the interests of minimising the impending bureaucracy I persuaded him that Eddie was merely a passenger and not a pilot (sorry about that Ed.) Then it was decided that paperwork would be the thing to have so I had to produce everything, passport, C of A, insurance, the lot. "Come with me" said the cop and we drove off at frightening speed to the local nick where many photocopies were taken and I had a decent cup of coffee. He was a nice man, but out of his depth. Back at the field the farmer and his son had arrived and were surveying the field. They were charming and not at all worried about our intrusion. With considerable reluctance the farmer accepted a modest "landing fee". Meanwhile the policeman, realising that he had forgotten to ask for my Pilot's licence started to jump up and down and flap his arms, a most peculiar sight. So for the second time the rugged construction of the Passat was put to the test as he drove off in a cloud of dust. By this time Julian and Richard had arrived, so we speedily de-rigged 494 and as soon as the policeman returned we departed, with sighs of relief, to the nearest gliding field at Gardelegen. That day we had flown 245 km in just over 5 hours, just a bit on the slow side.

At Gardelegen we met up with several other Euroglide crews. As usual in Germany the clubhouse, normally locked up on weekdays, had been thrown open to us. "If you use the bar just put the money in the pot in the microwave" was typical of such greetings. There were hot showers too. We were promised a tow next day during the lunch hour of the tug pilot, a local teacher. Although Germany has been re-unified for many years now, for the most part it is still easy to tell which bit you are in. There is still an aura of under-investment and run-down infrastructure in much of the former East. With the gliding clubs it is easy to tell. Those in the former East typically run Bocians, Blaniks, Puchaczs, Pirats, and Jantars and the tugs are Wilgas. Happily there is no discernable difference in the welcome that is characteristic of the people. The clubs, whether in the former East or West, and with perhaps only one exception, were uniformly hospitable to us. We were most grateful. Sometimes we couldn't get a tow when we would have liked, but during the week that would have been a problem at many clubs, wherever they were.

go to top
  Wednesday 7 July  
A promising blue sky greeted us on Wednesday and inviting cumulus were forming quite early. A DG Self-Launcher fired up and disappeared at about 1030, leaving us with several hours of frustration before the Wilga pilot turned up and began his extensive pre-flight checks and lengthy warming-up. It took ages. The best part of a gallon of oil went into the engine. I persuaded him to let me go along on the first two tows and that was fun. Then the Duo went and by that time it was about 1400. Conditions looked good but we had lost hours.

Unfortunately Eddie and I were convinced that our heroic team would dash to the turn point at Gustrow and speed down the final leg, so we cut the corner, pulled into a lay-by and put our feet up. One glider went over, but not 494. Much later we had a call to say that they were down at Gustrow, 150 km from our position. (152 km in 3.5 hours). Cloud base was only about 5000 feet but after a booming hour the thermals weakened, despite the continued presence of cumulus. No doubt the influx of Baltic sea air was making its presence felt. Getting back to them proved a lengthy task. I made the mistake of trying to drive a direct line rather than keeping to autobahnen whenever possible. Anyway we had lengthy diversions, became unsure of the best route, and then failed to access the airfield easily even when the GPS said we were only half a mile away. As darkness fell, after a magnificent crimson sunset, we eventually made it. Gustrow is only about 50 km from the Baltic and the sea air tends to spoil soaring thereabouts. Some wily pilots, using the Euroglide rules to their advantage, had not turned the airfield at all but had cut the corner somewhat, thus avoiding the worst conditions. We learn!
  Thursday 8 July  
On Thursday morning the gliding club was a hive of activity. Rostock gliding club (on the Baltic coast) were visiting, presumably with the hope of avoiding the even worse effects of sea air at home. It was cloudy and although the locals managed a few winch launches, it was not long before rain set in. After a chat with them we decided to leave and drove about 55 km to an airfield at Neustadt Glewe, which seemed well set up. Lots of Wilgas and Zlins and an Antonov were lined up but there was no activity. We went into the rather run-down town for a stroll but the only highlight was a 1930's Swiss bus being used by a local tour operator. Then on to Ludwigslust(!) (I'm sure you are all familiar with it) a more refined town with an enormous Baroque palace in course of renovation, with a large forecourt and impressive fountain. It continued to rain off and on. Still no action back at the airfield but, short on ideas, we stayed the night there.
  Friday 9 July  
Inactivity was still the main feature of Neustadt as we departed on Friday morning for another airfield at Neu Gulze but no-one was there either. We were a trifle frustrated by now as the sky had cleared and Cumulus had appeared. We pushed on (still within the Euroglide rules) to an airfield called Grambeker Heide close to the town of M”lln. It took a lot of finding, being situated at the end of a long dusty track. The airfield was attractively located within a forest, with good facilities and several hangars full of interesting aircraft including some rare gliders. It seemed that two clubs were based there, the locals, and a club from Berlin (a long way to the East!). As we arrived we were greeted by two members who were doing a 50 hour check on the tug, a Rotax Falke. Although there were two winches, no flying was in progress and we could not get launched. The electric winch, lorry mounted, was quite new and the Berliners thought it was environmentally friendly but I have my doubts. Although very tidy it was full of Lead-Acid batteries and an expensive heavy duty cable had been buried the length of the airfield to meet its needs. Meanwhile a fine soaring sky mocked us, but it was short-lived. Other members turned up and gave us a good welcome. The keys were ours again and the beer flowed. I had an interesting conversation with a former He111 pilot who had been a POW in Peterborough from 1944-1946. As flying was off we went back to M”lln and explored. It is a very attractive town, in a lakeside setting a little to the south of Lbeck. We saw the sights and dined there in the evening. Back at the airfield some club members had arrived for the weekend so some convivial beer drinking seemed appropriate.
  Saturday 10 July  
Regrettably Saturday's dawn was grey with light rain falling. The locals didn't expect much of a weekend, so sadly we conceded that our Euroglide had really finished at Gustrow. With great reluctance we decided that the only sensible course was that which led by autobahn towards Eindhoven. Our decision was proved correct as the day was characterised by heavy showers or (in forecaster speak) "longer periods of rain". We set out at 1000 and it took us until 1800 to reach Eindhoven. A lengthy diversion through the centre of Hamburg didn't help. At Eindhoven they had been flying that day but in poor conditions. We handed in our logger traces and log sheets and departed to the familiar Novotel for dinner before setting off for the coast at around 2000. That part of the journey was particularly tiring, due to heavy rain, darkness and another long diversion at Antwerp. With great relief we arrived at the Dunquerke Campanile by 0030 on Sunday. By 0930 we were on the ferry at Calais where we met up again with Phil and Diana. Suddenly it was all over for another 2 years.
Sadly 494 completed only 1706 km (out of about 2200 km) and finished 15th out of 18 in the glider section. Phil and Diana went about 200 km further than us and came 12th.. George Metcalfe came 8th, a commendable effort on his first Euroglide. Throughout the fortnight we kept in touch with Phil and Diana whenever we could. It certainly helps to exchange information about weather conditions, airfield facilities and so on. I'm sure the Dutch have more of an advantage in that respect, due to their numbers.

It is worth noting that we did better than 5 of the turbos and self-launchers (20 in a separate class). I think that self launchers and, to a lesser degree, the turbos had potentially a considerable advantage but no less than 12 of them failed to complete the task. Of course that says something about the deteriorating weather. Those who were able to push on strongly during the first few days missed the worst of the persistent low pressure system that made it so difficult for the rest of us slowcoaches. In retrospect, aside from the weather, there were three pivotal moments; failing to get a launch promptly at Weiden, failing to get a much earlier launch at Gardelegen, and failing to realise that the corner could be cut at Gustrow, thus minimising the effects of Baltic sea air.

Notwithstanding the disappointing weather in the second week, our spirits were not dampened and as usual we thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns of Euroglide, our mystery tour of Germany.

Paul Garnham

go to top
Created by Poort