This article was first published in The Wimmera Mail-Times on Feb 11, 2016.
It is 1pm on Wednesday, and the sniffer has been sent up into the sky to test the conditions.
After two disappointing days on Monday and Tuesday, pilots were praying for better news, hoping to take to the skies for a full day’s flying.
Horsham Week Gliding competition director Ian Grant says the test glider – the “sniffer" – is towed into the sky before the rest of the field to ensure conditions are ideal.
"He’s looking for thermals to see if the air updrafts are of enough strength and height for the rest of the gliders to be able to climb up there," he said.
“We want him to be able to climb about 3500-4000 feat, but at the moment he’s just under 3000 so as the temperature he picks up it will improve."
The warmer the weather, the more heat can rise from the ground, creating columns of air the pilots use to rise higher into the sky.
With 39 gliders waiting on the tarmac of Horsham’s aerodrome, Mr Grant hears word from the pilot of the sniffer.
“I’m going through 3000 feat at two knots," the pilot said.
Mr Grant thanked the pilot for his update, and proceeded to give the flyers on the ground a 10-minute warning for take-off, but said the sniffer would need to start rising quicker before the rest of the pilots could leave the ground.
“He’s climbing at 200 feat a minute. That’s relatively weak," he said.
“We’d prefer it a bit stronger than that, hopefully at least 300 feat a minute."
Shortly afterwards, the pilots are towed – one-by-one – into the Wimmera sky.
Among those pilots is Melbourne’s Peter Champness, who is flying the only vintage glider this week.
“I’m the only person flying what you might call a classic glider," he said.
“We were hoping to have a few more here. It’s what they used to fly in the 70s."
Champness’ vessel was built in 1971 – he purchased it in 1998 – but during Sunday’s task in Horsham, he flew the furthest he has ever flown in the glider.
“I went more than 400 kilometres on Sunday. It was great," he said.
“Everyone had a fast day on Sunday. The thermals went higher than what they were predicted to."
While gliders did make it into the air on Wednesday, seven did not complete the course.
Five were forced to land elsewhere, while another two returned to Horsham.
Alex Kreti won the open class on Wednesday, averaging 84km/h.
Bruce Cowan averaged 92.5km/h to win the standard 15-metre class, while Phillip Ritchie won the club class with an average speed of 90km/h.
Gliders took the skies on Thursday to complete a 300-kilometre task that would see them travel to Wycheproof and Hopetoun and back to Horsham.
Thursday’s task was a Féderátion Aéronautique Internationale standard triangle, where pilots could earn official badges for a strong performance.