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Swedish Champion again! 

We are at Arboga airfield, in june 1983. The sun is shining and the sky is blue. It is morning on the last competitionday in the Swedish Championships in soaring. We have had a very nice week with a lot of flying in all kinds of weather. This time I´m flying a borrowed "Hornet" and have the lead in the standardclass.

Today is the final day. Just 14 points behind me in the list is Börje Ericsson from Uppsala. 14 points, that´s basicly nothing, maybe one minut during one single flight. We are well aware of the situation, Börje and I. Today all is about coming ahead of the other one.

The meteorologist promises dry thermals. That means no cumulus to aim at. But the thermals will be strong and reach the 2000 m level. We get a triangular task on 340 km. It lookes like a worthy finish of a good competition.

Me before takeoff. The nice hat provided good protection for the sun, and something to talk about for my fellow competitors. 

Up in the air I notice that the thermals are just as good as the meteorologist promised them to be. I don´t wait very long, and pay little attention of what the other pilots do. Tactics of the type of intrigues is something I let other pilots practice. I normally fly my own race. On the radio I can hear that many already have started, so I pass the startline and go north towards the first turningpoint, some 100 km away.

Just some 10-20 seconds later I hear Börje pass the startline too. He had been on my tail without me noticing it. His tactics seem to be to try and disturb me, and make me loose my balance. Well, I wont fall for such simple tricks, I try to convince myself. 

Then I see Börjes LS1 gliding under me. He has higher speed then me, but seems to get a better glide anyway! How on Earth can he get that glide on his LS1? Now I start to fell the stress coming.

Suddenly Börje finds a climb and starts a steep turn. I reach the thermal just above him, but he passes me almost immediately. I very rarely gets passed in a thermal, but this time I have no chance! ”What the h-l?” Now I´m cursing loudly in my cockpit, while I can see Börjes LS1 dissapear upwards and get smaller and smaller. At this moment Börje is the Swedish Champion.

”Calm down, Mats. Calm down.” The mental part of myself slowly regains controll over the emotional. ”There is nothing you can do about this right now. 340 km is a long way, and we have barely started. Do your own flying now, and forget obout this.” I decide not to even look where he is going, and instead tries to choose a path over dry and high terrain.

I find a good path. With 160-170 km/h on my glides, and 3-4 m/s climb every time I circle I reach the first turningpoint in about one hour. As I approach the photosector I notice that Börje hasn´t reported turning on the radio yet. I got here ahead of him, that feels very good! I take my pictures and quickly report on the radio. I want Börje to hear this. He can always get a little disturbed. Now we are fighting over a champion titel, and no one gives anything for free.

Börje passes the turningpoint a few minutes later, but now I have the psycological advantage as I´m ahead of him, now going sothwest. We soon reach the so called 70 km forest, an area with absolutely no place to land except a few lakes in the forest. With dry thermals up to more then 2000 m it should be no problem to pass it. 

But now everything starts to go wrong! Here is nothing but sink, and I can see my altimeter rapidly go downwords. On 1000 m it´s no fun anymore. The ground is about 200 m higher then Arboga up here, so my real altitude is 800 m. Finally I can see a sailplane soar high up ahead of me. At this point I have no idea that the pilot is Ove Engström, who is going to win this day because of the strong position he now has been able to reach.

On 800 m indicated altitude, some 600 m above the ground I get 1 m/s. If I start climbing in 1 m/s when there are 3-4 m/s it means I will probably loose my title. But if I don´t climb now there is an obvious risk of having to land in a lake. That would be a disaster! I need less then one second to decide, and I start climbing. 

It takes time, and as I approach 1400 m I leave the thermal and tries to find something better. 15 km ahead I´m rewarded with 2-3 m/s and soon reaches 2200 m. Now I can leave the 70 km forest and have the second turningpoint straight ahead. 

Here comes the next problem. A cirruslayer has drifted in from the west and is now covering the turningpoint area plus another 20 km. Cirruslayers has a nasty habit of killing all thermals, and I once again reach 2200 m just as I reach the layer. Now it´s a matter of being careful, and try to climb if an opportunity is given.  I go for the turningpoint.

Then, right in the photosector, everything happens at once. There is a 2 m/s climb, as a gift from above, and at the same time a whole gang of sailplains reaches the place at almost the same altitude as I have. And look who is coming there, Börje Ericsson! Obviously he also encountered problems over the forest, and now we will have a race all the way to the finishline!

After regaining altitude we all glide towards the sun again, and towards Arboga. The cirrusshield has reached even further now, but after a 30 km glide we reach the sun. Here are no thermals though, and we have to glide almost another 20 km before we ger 1 m/s. It´s not much, but it´s starting to get late now, and we all climb to 1200 m before the thermal stops.

We are some 8-10 sailplanes, and nobody seems to be interrested of flying alone. The weather is poor now, and at such times it can be wise tactics to be many, if you want to find thermals. Now it is all a matter of getting home, and it seems we all sense we are the ones who have a chance doing it. Those behind us will have a difficult time in the now rapidly subsiding thermals. 

After a couple of more 1 m/s thermals we are 40 km out from Arboga, and we once more get 1200 m. A final appraoach with no margins is possible now, if we don´t get to much sink. Everyone seems to feel this will probably be the last thermal we will get, and with maximum glide we all start the final approach. Now it´s only a matter of reaching the airfield! 

There are no more climbs, but when we are 10 km out of the airfield I can see Börje, who is now a little higher then me, increasing his speed to reach the finishline a few seconds earlier. My altitude is really to low to speed up to much, but I too start building up speed. I don´t want to give Börje too many seconds. I level out a little as I pass some industial chimneys outside of Arboga, and then follow the terrain towards the airfield some 2 km ahead. When I reach the runway my altitude is just a few meters, and I lower the gear and pull the brakes just as I pass the finishline. I´m 6;th for the day, Börje is 5;th, maybe half a minute faster. 

We are both uncertain of who really got the title. I congratulate him, and he congratulates me. When we get the final score we can see that Börje got two more points then me this day, and I won with 12 points in the total. This may be the smallest margin anyone has ever won a Swedish Championship. It feels as if we were equals, after one weeks flying. But it is a competition, an with the points on my side I could once again call myself a Swedish Champion! Jummy!

© Mats Olsson

Landing after passing the finishline
 All material: Copyright ©Mats Olsson