Junior pre-worlds in Rieti 2006

By Bert Schmelzer

Italian lifestyle, Italian food, Italian sun, Italian thermals : those were the 4 main factors that made a success to the 2006’s Junior-pre-world in Rieti.

Like every big competition this one encountered its organisational starting-problems. But with some Italian management-style those were getting solved during competition and, more to the end, most issues were at normal standard. This, of course, was mainly important to the benefits of the ground crew, which had to sustain in Sahara-like temperatures.

For the pilots the choice between flying overhead in some places very inhospitable terrain in blue thermals during the training week and relaxing at the swimming pool was not always easy. Perfectly timed, at the beginning of the competition, weather changed and thermals were marked by beautiful clouds. Long runs underneath cloudstreets made life easy on the last training day. Racing around a 300 km task has never been so easy. Average speed: 150 km/h!

During competition itself, most of the days where soarable for a couple of ‘booming’ hours, after which heavy thunderstorms developed. My brother and I had been flying all week in an information team, which worked very well, to the benefit of both of us. Starting in to the last day in 1st and 3rd position, closely followed by Swiss and Austrian mountain pilots.

Not willing to play to get trapped into their tactical start games, we crossed the line pretty early, in the hope to still get a sunny path in the very quickly overdeveloping-low-cloudbase-sky. One of the Swiss’ spies was not fooled by my brother’s distraction manoeuvres and stayed on our tail for the first part of the flight. By flying too aggressive in these weak conditions, we had to take a slow climb and saw some of the Swiss getting closer by. Somehow we managed to escape out of their sight and by following the info’s my brother gave me, I could get away from them. The heavily-ballasted Discus 2 made progress by following a line of convergence deep in to the first sector.

The key point of the flight was, as always in Rieti, the moments where you have to change gear. At this exciting final day of the competition the big decision was on the second leg near l’Aquila where a last good climb was followed by a long slow glide into the next hills. Most pilots were dashing off full speed. Arriving there just high enough to make it on top of those hills, meant climbing away without any problems. In the meanwhile I saw a lot of gliders low down who could not cross the hills, and even worse, which had to make an outlanding, including a couple of the Swiss, who were flying all day the total-risk-strategy. The rest of the flight was pretty uneventful. Although as well my brother as I were not sure if we had shaken off the Austrian pilot Falkensammer.

Getting out of the cockpit after a long final glide and realising that no direct opponents had already finished, gave a reassuring feeling. As finally scores dropped in, and Leonardo Brigliadori asked for not one, but two Belgian flags, plus the national anthem, it was time to celebrate deep into the wonderful Italian night.

Sebastian Kawa

article kindly made available by
Marina Vigorito Galetto

With 5 gold medals in four years, Sebastian Kawa can already be considered a legend of the International Gliding Community.

He was born in 1972 in Bielso-Biala, in the south of Poland; Sebastian begins to fly in 1988, after an excellent career in the sailing boats, winning several National Polish championships in the 420 class and a silver medal in the World Cup.

The end of the communism gives new opportunities to the Polish economy and it improves in few years the life style; this is the occasion for a very young Sebastian to show his extraordinary talent in Gliding.

His behaviour during the contests is always characterized by a great regularity, he makes very few mistakes and he has a natural attitude to the tactical aspects of the
competition. Moreover he is much careful also to the physical shape and succeeds to face stress very well; his job in hospital has by sure helped him in such sense.

In 1995 he could already be European Juniors Champion in Poland, but the theft of the photographic equipment caused the lost of a contest day. The photos, found after the official closing of the championship, demonstrate that he would have won with wide margin and the IGC conferred to Sebastian a special diploma, not being possible anymore, the amending of the official results.

He gains the first title in 2003 in Nitra, Slovakia, winning the World Class World Championship. In 2004 he becomes World Champion of Club Class in Elverun, Norway. In 2005 Sebstian wins the European Championship of Club Class, again in Nitra and also the first World Sailplane Grand Prix in Saint Auban, France, when he can demonstrate to be perfectly at ease also in mountain, in spite
of the indubitable supremacy of the two worldwide best pilots of the mountain flight: Eric Napoleon and Giorgio Galetto.

I meet Sebastian right after the official announcement of the cancellation of the last competition day: he is again the World Champion of the Club Class.

“The Brits call you Sebastian “lucky” Kawa. How much counts for you the luck factor in a contest?”

“In this contest I have been fortunate. Above all at the beginning of the competition, I had to take many risks and I have always been lucky, while my partner has lost many points and I was so sorry for him.”

“What do you mean saying that you take many risks? Are you the kind of pilot that risks a lot during the competitions?”

He turns very
serious. “You must always make the calculation and understand how much does it cost the risk that you are taking and to decide if it makes sense. “Risk” for me is to make an outlanding and lose many points, not to fly in an aggressive or dangerous way.”

“Do you like the Team Flight?”

“I would like to have a partner, even if I find pretty hard to share the choices with an other one. Perhaps I have not still found the right partner. By sure the team flight offers many advantages, more opportunities. Above all in the difficult days, with not exceptional weather conditions, to be able “to touch” more air helps very much. Anyway, the level of the two pilots must be homogenous, otherwise it is only a problem for the more expert pilot”

“You have the reputation of being a cold type…”

He interrupts to me laughing. “But who, I? You say seriously? All my friends call me “the Italian “, because I am very expansive, I gesture when I speak, and I never hide my feelings!”

“You are the “Number 1”, but you, how you look at yourself?”

“In the life every day I look like a very ordinary one. I am a doctor, I work in hospital for many, many hours, and the children seem to have the wish to born in the middle of the night! A new born doesn’t really care in you are the “number 1”, and it helps to keep your head together.”

“Nevertheless everybody consider you as an admirable adversary”

“During the contests I am very different. If I must defended myself, I know how to be very much determined. In this competition I have nearly left
very early, with the thunderstorms one could not wait too much and make strategically departs, but I knew I had the French behind all the time and this has truly tired me, also because they could count on weather information during the contest that I did not have. But I was able to not let me go down an to maintain the concentration, that has been one of the more difficult things.”

“Mountain or plain?”

“Mountain, by sure. In the flat lands you cannot invent anything, it is only tactical. In mountain instead, you flight! Then you have many more opportunities, you take your own decisions. Moreover, the mountain is more selective, you can truly appreciate the differences among the pilots.”

“You win nearly all the contests to which you participate”

He interrupts
me a little bit upset: “In New Zeeland I didn’t win”

This s the time for me to laugh. “In fact, I have said nearly! How do you find the motivation in order to go ahead and to continue to win?”

“This is a true problem. I suffer from “depression post contest!” He says to me with a smile. “I feel as a deflated balloon now, it always succeeds after a victory. Then I come back to he life every day and I find again the motivation and the will in order to go on”

“Are you instructor in your club?”

“If only! I would like, but I do not have time. Anyway, I follow the pilots already licensed, most of all the youngest. I fly with them cross-country flies, and I try to transmit to the others my experience. I think I would be a good instructor, I like it so much”.

Sebastian wants to chat, and therefore I let him speak about himself.

“Well, it is the very first time that I truly feel the heaviness of the contest. I felt responsible in the comparisons of the Team and of my partners. Perhaps I am growing as pilot. In effects, I feel myself more mature and aware.

I have never considered myself as the best one, during all the contests to which I have participated. I did not believe of having the same opportunities of the others, above all of pilots with many years of experience more than me. Perhaps I flew in a different way, more instinctive. Here instead I felt myself very responsible, not because I had to demonstrate something to someone, this not. Rather, I knew that many persons had many expectations and that I could not disappoint them. There were almost 10 pilots at highest level; I could not sure underrate them.

When I fly at home, I experiment a lot and it helps me to find my limit. Often to the Nationals in Poland, many young pilots strike me because I try to find new ways, new roads, but it doesn’t’ matter. I am aware I am a kind of model, and I try to be a positive model, as much as I can.

Here in France I had to be the coach of the young pilots, but unfortunately they were interested more to the French girls and to the party at the swimming pool, than to the results!! In Rieti it will be much different! To bed at the 10p.m. and no party, it’s a promise.

Very few people at the hospital know that I fly. I try to keep separate the two things; they are two different aspects of my life. Sometimes, when I exit from the hospital, I take the Pirat of the club and make some acrobatics, it relax me so much. I fly to find my dimension, my relax and to escape to the problems of the everyday life.

This is Sebastian “magic” Kawa

Vinon, July 28th 2006