Björn Gintzel flies to his second victory of the day.

After Wednesday had to be canceled due to the weather, the hope of being able to fly a competition day on Thursday was not very high. The weather forecasts were too bad. However particularly with a Grand Prix, even a small weather window is sufficient to fly a task.

Against all expectations of the pilots and the organization team the weather conditions on May 30th improved. Bernd Schmid was already sitting in his sports director’s office early in the morning. While it was still raining outside, he had already prepared the day’s tasks for the two classes. According to his plan, the Gliding Grand Prix in Elchingen should consist of at least three competition days.

“We will only give up in the evening – at the end of a day!”

Schmid had prepared a task of 174.14 kilometers for the 15-meter class. From Elchingen to Gerstetten, from there to the Hesselberg in Franconia. Along the north side of the Nördlinger Ries to Solnhofen close to the Altmühl-valley. From this turning point, against the wind, back to Elchingen. Along Danube River and around the Swabian Alb, it rained repeatedly throughout the morning. With severe rainfall the pilots faced a critical situation right at their first turning point.

Even Tilo Holighaus, the skilled top pilot and former Grand Prix world champion had to experience this painful first-hand. He couldn’t race at all. Right from the start he was lower than the rest of the field of gliders. He tried to fly his own line against the wind. But he didn’t manage to gain altitude and follow the others. After just 45 minutes, he had to land again in Elchingen. Without a chance of finishing in the points. Paul Schwarz from LSR Aalen flew in a skillful manner and joined the field. Björn Gintzel, Nils Fecker and the English pilots flew together and made the best of the weather conditions.

Tom Arscott with his Ventus 2a, Nils Fecker with the LS8a, Paul Schwarz, Jan Frederic Müller, Chris Hiller and Steffen Göttler practically never lost sight of each other after the second turn. The last 25 kilometers were characterized by a thrilling duel. The English world champion Tom Arscott and Björn Gitzel from the FG Dahlemer Binz (Eifel) flew wing to wing. With an overcast at the last flight section there was hardly any thermal development. With a last bit of energy left Björn Gintzel was a little faster than the English world champion. Tom Arcsott came second. Nils Fecker from LSG Erbislöh Langefeld came third.

Some pilots, as Neil McLaughin from England and Steffen Schwarzer, had to land before reaching Elchingen or switch on their engine just a few kilometers at a distance of the finish line. Paul Schwarz made it to fourth place.

The 20-meter double-seater class had a dramatic day. Their task of the day led them from Elchingen to Gerstetten; from there via Ellwangen to Wemding and back to the Härtsfeld. The total length of the task was 136.41 kilometers. However, incoming clouds and rain showers hampered the teams in their gliders. Even before take-off, some had to start their engines and did not even climb to a good altitude. The leading Austrians Wolfgang Janowitsch and Andi Lutz flew back to the airfield and made a second overflight. They then chased after the other aircrafts in a thrilling race to catch up.

The minimum distance for a Grand Prix is 100 kilometers. But these 136 kilometers were the most exciting experience we’ve had in gliding in recent times. Onto the second leg, up to the turning point in Wemding, things went quite well for the crews. The strong tailwind helped them to achieve good average speeds. But a big rain shower over the Nördlinger Ries and right above the turning point literally cut the pilots off.

The crews following the leading field completely ran out of thermals. A lack of sunlight made it impossible to find uplifts. Erwin Ziegler and Alexander Schmid in the Aalen Arcus, the Belgian team Christian Bielen and Vital Timermann, the Austrians Andi Lutz and Wolfgang Janowitsch, Alexander Scheuble with his partner Daniela Zink and the Stuttgart team Elias Weber with Felix Losberger had to circle far away from the turning point in Wemding for over 45 minutes. Flying into bad weather would have meant outlanding inevitably. Eberhard Laur and his partner Kevin Schmidt from Laichingen skillfully flew around the rain shower further south. This gave them a clear advantage over the others.

Tragically for the Aalen crew Ziegler/Schmid, only a few meters lower than the Austrians and Belgians, they did not catch the connection to the rescuing thermals. The Ulm crew Alexander Scheuble/Daniela Zink were also unable to gain the necessary height to glide safely back to Elchingen. The Belgian crew Christian Bielen/Vital Timermann flew a few more kilometers back to the west, found the thermals there at low altitude and won the third task in the double-seater class in an exciting finish ahead of Eberhard Laur/Kevin Schmidt. Elias Weber and Felix Losberger came third.

The last double-seaters to reach the finish-line at Elchingen airfield were the Austrians Andreas Lutz and Wolfgang Janowitsch. Alexander Schmid and Erwin Ziegler did not manage to finish in the points. They came in fifth.

Due to the heavy rainfall on Friday, a possible fourth day of scoring was already neutralized in the morning. The Grand Prix ends on Saturday evening with a big closing ceremony.