I was one of the very first launches and the air was cycling upwards, and I soon found myself at cloud base around 1700m. As the launches continued the air cycled downwards and I was drifting further and further away from the clouds with the start in a blue hole. Most other Club Class gliders experienced this too and I found myself in the most disgusting thermal with 25-30 other gliders. The group wasn't really moving down, but we weren't going up much either. And the organisation was terrible, one big jumbled mess of fiberglass floating around the sky. And then someone at the top would decide to switch directions and we would all be forced to turn the other way and re-organise ourselves from the top down (I was near the bottom). One pilot from the Netherlands Tim Kuijpers managed to hook into wave and found himself at 2500m. Then they announced in the air a start altitude cap of 2000m and he had to come back down. Finally the air picked up again and the gaggle got to cloud base and we set off.
When we started I found myself somewhere in the middle of the gaggle. There were many gliders ahead of me and above me, and several gliders also behind me. I was still cautious about the start because the air didn't feel very strong. I decided to head downwind and east of track to avoid the Black Forest. This ended up being one of the best decisions I made all day. I managed to cruise along at cloud base as I heard the Aussies getting lower and lower. They think that they got dumped in the lee of the wave that was created by the Black Forest, and after having the vario pegged at -10kts found themselves in paddocks with several other gliders. The radio got pretty boring after that... I didn't have the heart to tell them, but as they were landing out I joined the Belgium DC Niel Deijgers in a thermal that averaged 8kts to 7500ft. (I definitely owe him a beer for that one!)
I flew along with the now much smaller group along to the first turnpoint. We managed to duck into the circle and head back along the clouds to the second point. I saw DC low around the first point and I was a bit worried that he may have landed out. 10 minutes later he joined my thermal with the group higher than me! The cloud street we followed to the second point was beautiful and we went fairly quickly. A few times we got lower in the working band, but I managed to always stay within it with the group. We all shared times leading out, but when I did I made sure that they were still on my flarm behind me. Nearing the second turnpoint the strong part of the group got about 200ft above me. I decided to continue following them despite my lower altitude in order not to lose them. However, they slowly drifted further and further ahead and I drifted a bit further away from cloud base. It worked out that a few other gliders joined in behing a bit lower, and we stuck together again. We all opted to follow the cloud street back south. Initially this led us 10 degrees off track, then 20, 30, 60... However, going towards Musbach was a huge massive blue hole with a few despairing cu's scattered through. The cold front was moving in, taking a lot of energy, and leaving big areas with no sun getting through to the ground. Eventually I ran out of energy and I landed at an airstrip with 6 other gliders. At least I had company!
The most impressive thing about yesterday is Tim. He flew the entire task by himself and was the only pilot to make it home!! UNREAL! I think the key is that he managed to leave so early giving him more time when the air was still working. However, there were many other pilots that also left early and they didn't make it home so this shows what a good pilot he is.
Three people from the Standard Class made it around, but at this point it looks like it won't count as a day as 25% of the field has to fly a minimum of 100km. Club Class has a day and I finished the day in tenth place. WooT!