Air Hotel Grand Prix 2011 - QSGP2011

21st - 28th May 2011

Friday 20.5. - Arriving to Nummela

Today's pictures

It’s Friday 20.5. and I am at the competition office in Nummela. Last autumn Visa-Matti (the competition director) asked me to do the website for QSGP, just a simple site which would be the place for the competition information. At that point I didn’t know that I would be needed in the actual competition as well.

In wintertime Visa-Matti started asking me when I am planning to come to Nummela for the competition, like it would have been obvious that I will work at the competition as well. So after having fun in Nitra and Vesis, it’s again time to do the real job as a webmaster/photographer. During the competition my photos will be on the competition site www.qsgp2011.fi/pictures, after the competition I will move those on this site. 

It is afternoon and 5 pilots have arrived already, there are some routines like registration and technical inspections going on before they are free to go practicing.

Tomorrow is a training day, briefing will be at 10:00 and we will see how things are going compared to the normal gliding competition. I am waiting for those short tasks, and excitement of following who will be the first pilot to finish – would it be like Formula 1 on sky?

Saturday 21.5. - practice day

Today's pictures

Today started really early (at 7:35) as we were told to come for organization meeting. I didn’t notice any meeting took place, as everybody just were doing their own things. I overheard that it will be windy today, but still very good, better than yesterday.

Briefing was at 10:00 and all pilots had arrived with their crew members. Tapio (Tourula) our met man told in the briefing that there is a cold front making some Ac and Sc clouds on Tampere area, but on task area we should have fairly strong thermals (2-3 m/s).

Towings were supposed to start at 12:30. At that point we saw some high cirrus clouds and felt how wind was getting stronger. So it wasn’t that warm weather for waiting in the grid. Anyway we didn’t have to wait too long, as towings started at 13:00. We have two tow planes and we were hoping that towings would be over in 40 minutes. Visa-Matti (competition director) said that as it is first day, it might take a bit longer. Launches took just about one hour. We saw lots of landings back so in total towings took a bit longer.

In this competition start line won’t open as in normal gliding competitions, as competition director will announce when it will be open and how high it will be. That is strange – in a good way I mean. Today altitude was 1000 m QNH and opened at 14:45.

We sat on the Airhotel terrace and saw how Visa-Matti announced the start line opening counting down from 10,…, 3, 2, 1 go, and at the same time pilots went in one group over our heads. That was great to see. Only couple of hours later Markku Kuusisto (PI) was first to finish 5 minutes before he was followed by other pilots.

We had short and informal Opening Ceremony in front of the Air Hotel at 19:30. Roland and Tapio Pitkänen from Finnish Aeronautical Association wished everybody welcome and safe flights.

Tomorrow briefing will be at 11:00, as every day from now on.

Sunday 22.5. - first official competition day

Today's pictures

This morning was really beautiful, I had almost one hour walk around the airfield and found really nice scenery in the end of runway 27/09. As this airfield is located on top of 100 m “hill”, I could see down on beautiful lake. I have to go there again with my camera.

Briefing was at 11:00, and that mixed heads of the organization... Everybody was ready one hour earlier than they should have been – obviously we are so used to have the briefing at 10:00. In briefing Visa-Matti gave a 191 km task, as with Tapio they assumed that today speeds would be around 90 km/h, so it would take plus 2 hours to fly that long  task.

It’s been hectic day since the briefing: first setting up the tracking screen on the Air Hotel restaurant, doing some photos for that, taking photos on the grid, constantly updating the website, answering phone etc. There weren’t that much time between the starts and finishes, only two hours or so, during that I’ve been checking one text which is about to go to ILMAILU (our aviation magazine) and choosing photos for that. Now everything is ready except the scoring, Roland, Hannu (Niemi) and Visa-Matti are trying to figure out what SeeYou thinks.

I am leaving the airfield, have to go home and take care of some family business (99 year birthday party). I am coming back tomorrow and let’s see if we will fly or not, as it seems that the weather won’t be that good. Hmmh…perhaps it’s time to show some Finland to Roland and Melissa.

Monday 23.5. - rainy day

No picures from today

I came back to Nummela early in the morning with Olli Teronen, I had to leave my car to Markku. In the morning I had a look of the weather satellite images and it was quite obvious that this day will be resting day. It started to rain during the briefing, had a short pause and then continued until the evening. So it wasn’t flying day at all.

Visa-Matti drove us (Melissa, Roland and me) to visit Räyskälä, but it was as depressing as all the other gliding fields are during the rain. Nobody but only sad looking planes waiting for better weather.

This day was also computer problems, first I tried to fix a small thing on the competition website, but made a mistake and ended up fixing the mistake for hour or so. I had my laptop with me in Räyskälä, but somehow it had switched on in my bag and it was piping hot when I opened it. Luckily nothing was damaged even it first looked like I have to take this to the maintenance. Now I have backup computer with me.

In the evening we had dinner here in Air Hotel and had a walk with Melissa, Kimmo and Antti (Koskiniemi) around the airfield and saw the facilities. We started planning some program for coming evenings, but it might not get into action.

Tuesday 24.5. - windy day

Today's pictures

We had briefing at 10:00 and Visa-Matti gave two tasks, A with 100 km and B with 176 km distances. Towings were postponed only for 5 minutes till 12:05, and we towed only first two planes. Wind was already quite strong in that point and either of the pilots didn’t stay up. Radio Suomi visited us, so I believe they got some radio conversation on tape. Before the towings we had some fun with Keni and camera, he started posing me and playing “master crew” with the radio. Notice on the pictures his windbreaker outfit.

Visa-Matti cancelled the task after we saw that pilots were coming back. It was anyway great to follow from Melissa’s iPhone how high the pilots were. So before pilots told us the altitude on the radio, we knew it already.

Afternoon we had a walk to “Nummela city” with Melissa, bought some important articles like whiskey, pretzels, toothbrush, decaffeinated tea and toothpaste. We walked back as well, after climbing up the hill through the forest we felt that we had earned beers… The evening went cozy in the Air Hotel, having wine and dinner.

We have to have a competition day tomorrow, as we need three competition days to have a valid competition. To make a valid day, only one pilot has to finish the task, and that’s enough. Let’s see what happens.

Wednesday 25.5. - another cancelled day

Today's pictures

We followed today’s weather since yesterday evening. We knew that there will go a narrow band of rain showers in the morning and weather should get better around 14:00. So we had the briefing at 11:00, and towings should have started at 14:00. We had two tasks, A with 144 and B 100 km distance. And today we had third tow plane (Pawnee from Räyskälä) to help us, so towings would last less than one hour and start for the task would be earliest the possible, as the tows would be quite late. Launches were postponed until 16:00. After nine gliders had been towed, most of them had to land back. That meant that we would have to tow them back and that would have meant really late start. Even the task was only 100 km, Visa-Matti realized that there isn’t enough time to do that. So he cancelled the day.

This is getting pretty exciting, as we need three valid races to get a valid competition. Weather on Friday and Saturday looks so bad that we will have to try having two races on Thursday. That will be the same time something unique, since that hasn’t happened in the history of Grand Prix, they always have had only one race per day. Finland is really good place having two races per day, since on good day thermals start to develop early and day continues late. So let’s hope we will manage to do history.

In the evening we had small barbeque at the club house, just few beers, sausages etc. Everybody went to bed early, since the briefing will be at 9:00 on Thursday morning.

Thursday 26.5. - Historic day, two tasks 

Today's pictures

What a day! We started the day with the briefing as normal, but earlier than usual (at 9:00). Towings started at 11:30, and start line opened 12:30. First task was 100,6 km, and all pilots finished it less than 1,5 hours. At 15:00 we were ready to start the towings again, and start line for second race opened at 16:05. Second task was 160 km, and only two pilots landed out, everybody else came back.

Scoring program of course isn’t designed for this historic situation, but that doesn’t stop us from doing this.

As we managed to have these two tasks today, it means also that we have a valid Grand Prix competition! Now I have to go outside and give a hug to the three best pilots with daily prices of course…

Tomorrow starts with the briefing at 10:00

Friday 27.5. - Another rainy day

No pictures from today

Even we had two tasks yesterday, we had dinner quite early and I was able to go to bed early as well (after watching Dr House from TV :-). In the morning Visa-Matti was laughing that there will be some thermals today, 0,1 m/s up till 300 meters. So there will be thermals, but not too good. We had briefing at 10:00 and our met-man Tapio told us that today isn’t a flying day as there is a front over us and even there are holes in it, those won’t come over Nummela. Also there is coming a complex (other) front from South-West direction. If we have any luck, we will have a task tomorrow. After the briefing the pilots, Visa-Matti and Roland had a brainstorm session (how to improve Grand Prix).

There has also been some confusion of the height limits on start and finish lines, I don’t know are QNH and QFE causing the confusion or the air pressure and other settings…it’s sad to anyway see when there are pilots coming fast and first over the finish line but dropping down on results after having harsh penalty points for flying too low – not by altitude meter but altitude measured by GPS.

This day has been dedicated for sleeping and eating.

Saturday 28.5. - farewell party

Well at least we tried: We had the briefing in the morning and Visa-Matti gave two tasks to the pilots: shorter A task and longer B task. The idea was to follow the weather until one o’clock in the afternoon and not to make final decision before that – if it wasn’t for flying.

Tapio and Visa-Matti followed weather radars and weather websites if there would be any glimpse of a hope. Also webcams are really handy tools, since you can follow how the weather is developing around cities. Last photo I saw was from Salo (front was moving from South-West direction) and it wasn’t any better than in Nummela. Finally at 13:00 – and sadly – Visa-Matti had to make a decision that this wouldn’t be a flying day.

So we had prize giving ceremony at 16:00, we had time for couple of beers and then we had farewell party and American style barbeque. It was inside and provided by the Air Hotel, lots of hamburgers, ribs, chicken wings etc. Most of the pilots left before that, as some of them had to take the plane back to the aero club so others could fly the plane on Sunday. So there were only 20 people partying. Besides there was football final on TV, perhaps that had some audience from our group as well. I don’t know about others but we ended up in the competition office to drink some (=all) of Melissa’s whiskey, since she couldn’t take that back home with her.

On Sunday we said good bye to those who still were there and we all went home. It was time to get back to normal life and start working.