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.