2002 story of PM & VW 

Euroglide 2002 story of PM & VW

Euroglide 2002

By Pamela Kurstjens

Pam and Gerrit Kurstjens are enjoying the European summer. Here is a report of the Euroglide Competition, which is a 2000 Km race through Europe, held every two years and organised by the gliding club at Eindhoven, in the Netherlands.

The route is different each time. This year, the distance was 2211Km, from Eindhoven, to Dahlemer Binz in Germany, across Belgium, to Romorantin, in France, then to Lachen Speyerdorf, Klippeneck, Cham Janahof, the Wasserkuppe and Oerlinghausen in Germany, finishing at Venlo in the Netherlands.

We have just got home after one of the best ever "Euroglide" competitions. We flew our Nimbus 4's "PM" and "VW".

Actually, as I write, it is still running for another week, but the first one home wins and we are home. The contest lasts 13 days. There are two classes, for pure gliders and sustainer/self-launching gliders.
Day 1, Monday 24th June 2002
We took off in order of performance, so our Nimbus 4's were at the back of the grid, and we launched 1hour 40mins after the first ones. For the first hour, the thermals were often difficult to find. After Dahlemer Binz we had a much better run.

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Pamela Kurstjens and crew, Stephan Kollaart and Jan Jacobs, on Eindhoven
We overtook everyone except Martin Smit on the way to Romorantin. We flew 635 Km in 6 hrs 30 mins with excellent conditions, cloudbase 2000m, and 3m/s thermals. 10 of the 28 gliders landed at Romorantin. Our crew, Stefan and Jan, stopped in Troyes for the night.

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Gerrit Kurstjens on Eindhoven. PM and VW shared the trailer and crew.
VW and PM on their way in France. The time and date of the camera were still set to "Australian" time (11 hours ahead)

Day 2, Tuesday 25th June 2002

Briefing on Romorantin at 10:30. The tug-pilot tells us there will be no thermals before 13:00.
The Nimbuses were at the back of the launch queue again, applying the rule of launching in order of performance. Also, the tug pilot at Romorantin disappeared just when the cumulus started. Typical Frenchman: Gone To Lunch.

Pilots that were behind us at other airfields were luckier, and so by the time we launched, some of the others were going round Romorantin turning point already and had therefore caught up on us. Very frustrating.

The weather on Romorantin at 12:05.
No thermals??..., the self-launching motorgliders are taking off.
We had cumulus, but weaker thermals than day 1. We flew northeast across France, crossing the German border west of Karlsruhe, to the turnpoint at Lachen Speyerdorf. We still had 900m, and I heard our crew arriving at the turn point just as I flew overhead. Several gliders landed there.

Gerrit and I went to the next airfield, Bruchsal, where they make DG gliders. 565 km in 6hours 50 mins, thermals 2m/s to 1700m, later in the day to 2000m. One glider is still ahead of us, all the others are behind although some are very close.
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Day 3, Wednesday 26th June 2002
We had a rocket launch behind a 360 hp radial-engined Russian Sukhoi aircraft more suited to serious aerobatics than towing. It got our heavily ballasted Nimbuses to 600m in less that 2 minutes!

After this exciting start to the day, we were soon back to reality, floundering around in very weak thermals for an hour, trying to get into the better conditions over the hilly country to the east of the Rhine valley. But it was just not working, and when things started to look really bad we dumped all our water ballast.

Minutes later, of course, we were climbing at 3 m/s to cloudbase, and soon after that passed a distinct barrier in the weather, entering much better conditions with a cloudbase of 2000m over the high ground. Now we had to fly the whole day without ballast.
We went south to Klippeneck, then east to Cham Janahof. Then northwards, passing Bayreuth, eventually climbing to cloudbase in the last thermal of the day. Now the big decision: where to land? It was 18:50, and we were at 2000m.

Germany is full of gliding clubs, but temptingly, just out of range ahead, was the Wasserkuppe. We decided to get there, gliding as far as we could and then starting our turbos 60 km out. A good decision, as it happened.

Our crew had made an inspired decision to go there as well, based on their interpretation of the weather, and occasional snatches of radio calls from various competitors. They have a lot of faith in us! We had flown over 8 hours, and covered 670 km. A beer, a good meal, and an exhausted sleep in the excellent on-site accommodation.
Day 4, Thursday 27th June 2002
Bad weather, but only 360 km to go to the finish line. The next TP, Oerlinghausen, was 180 km to the north, and the radar picture at 9am showed a cold front across the track with a lot of rain. The forecast for the next few days was poor. If we get stuck here, the gliders behind us will catch us up.

Our only hope is to try to get past the cold front, using our turbos again. We would have to soar for at least 120km first. It would be a race against time, and if we couldn't make it we might end up being retrieved back to the Wasserkuppe.

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Ready for departure on the Wasserkuppe.

Gerrit is a master at this sort of European soaring. Me, I like to have useable thermals before I launch, but maybe I'm too fussy. We launched at 10:10 am, from a 900m hill, under a 1500m cloudbase, and glid out over the 450m countryside very carefully and were soon below the airfield elevation. We spent ages in weak thermals, just staying airborne, but gradually things improved and we covered 120 km in three hours.

Then we reached the front, low cloud and rain, and started the turbos to fly under the cloud (turbo running, airbrakes open!!) and then climbed high enough under a dead sky to glide into Oerlinghausen. Ingo Renner greeted us warmly and secured a large lunch for us in their restaurant, part of their splendid new accommodation/office/gliding school complex.
We hoped to launch again as soon as the conditions behind the front improved. Eventually, at 15:40, we took off for the 180km leg to the finish at Venlo. The wind behind the front was a strong westerly, giving us a 45 kph headwind. The cloudbase was a respectable 1500m, but the thermals so weak and difficult to work that we could hardly make any progress.

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Leaving Oerlinghausen in the rain.

After three hours it was getting desperate, we were using broken blue thermals between 400 and 900m and drifting backwards all the time. Our crew complained that they were stuck in a huge traffic jam for an hour, but at least they weren't going backwards!

I could hardly believe it when we began to creep towards the Dutch border, still airborne at 8pm. Gerrit caught a bubble that I missed, and I had to use the turbo 20km before the finish. We crossed the airfield together, and flew a formation circuit and landing. 2211km in 4 days!!! The previous record for the 2000km race had been 6 days! Champagne all round.

Euroglide is Fantastic Fun!!!
Pamela Kurstjens

A Dutch version of this story and other gliding adventures of PM and VW are available on the Kurstjens website.
Pamela on Venlo, just after landing.

Champagne for the first eurogliders to finish on Venlo!!

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