Andy Davis - BBC
Following on from the entries received from the highly experienced Dutch team, the British team has now been decided and is no less accomplished with a long list of top competition results.
Team Captain Max Kirschner said, ‘It’s great to be bringing an experienced team to Benalla, and we are looking forward to the competition. I’m also looking forward to meeting old friends, having spent many British winters enjoying the weather at Benalla and the hospitality of the Gliding Club of Victoria.’
Max was the Summer Operations Manager at Benalla for several years and so may be the British not-so-secret weapon when it comes to the region’s logistical and flying challenges. He is photographed here at the Australian Multiclass Nationals in 2012 where he was the weather forecaster.
Team Captain Max Kirschner
Open Class - Andy Davis and Russell Cheetham
Andy Davis, two times World Gliding Champion, has maintained his current IGC Ranking of 7. He won his first world title at Borlänge, Sweden in 1993 in Standard Class. He went on to fly WGCs at Bayreuth 1999, Mafikeng 2001, and Leszno 2003 where he again took Gold in Standard Class. He also represented Britain at the Worlds in Sweden 2006 and took Silver in Open class at WGC Leszno 2014. Along the way won he won the South African Sailplane Grand Prix in 2012.
Since his Gold medal achievement in 2003, Andy has competed in numerous British Nationals, winning seven times including 2015, making him the current British Champion in Open Class.
Andy Davis - by Ritz Deluy
Andy, 59 years old, is an airline pilot by profession and was surely born to fly. Can Andy achieve an historic third win at WGC 2017? Entries for Benalla are flowing in now and we shall soon learn who his rivals for the top spot will be.
Teammate Russell Cheetham will undoubtedly be among the top competitors challenging Andy in open class. Russell is a highly experienced and successful competition glider pilot with European Championship titles in both Open and 18m Class.
Russell Cheetham - byRitz Deluy
Russell also flew in the 1999 Bayreuth and 2001 Mafikeng WGCs, and many British Overseas Championships at Ocana, Spain. He also competed in European and British Championships, Worlds at Sweden, Germany and Hungary. In 2014 at Leszno, Poland, he achieved his best placing at a Worlds coming in 4th in Open Class. In the FAI Sailplane Grand Prix, just finished at Varese, he came 7th. Russell’s home club is Husbands Bosworth, is 55 and ranked in IGC position No.12.
18m Class: Steve Jones and Peter Harvey
Steve’s first WGC was Omarama in 1995. He won the first ever 18m Class World Championships, which were held at Lillo, Spain 2001. At Leszno 2003, he took the Silver medal in 18m. He took the Silver medal in Open Class at Szeged, Hungary in 2010. At Räyskälä 2014, he finished in Gold position in 20m Two Seat Class, flying an Arcus with Howard Jones. He also flew at the WGCs in Sweden 2006 and Germany 2008. Steve has finished in the top eight positions in all of his WGCs. Of course, he has also flown many European Championships and British Nationals. His current IGC ranking is 36..
Pete Harvey- byRitz Deluy
Pete Harvey is the Chairman of the British Gliding Association. Pete stared his flying in Hang gliding having gained international success he moved to Gliding. He won the European Gliding Championship three times in a row in Open Class in 2005, 2007 and 2009. He has represented Great Britain in seven WGCs. Six in Open Class and at Omarama in 2007 in 15m. His best World Championship placing was 5th at Uvalde in 2012. He ranks 34 on the IGC ranking.
15m Class: Ed Johnston and Derren Francis
Ed Johnston of Lasham GC won the 2015 British Nationals in 15m for his best competition result to date. His ranking is up seven spots at No. 100, putting the entire British team in the top 100 pilots in the world. Ed’s first European Championships were at Lusse, France in 2000, flying Standard Class. He has flown in 18 British Nationals and came 6th at WGC Uvalde 2012 in 15m. At 45 years old he may be at peak age for gliding and a highly competitive entrant.
Derren Francis’ IGC ranking is down but he still comes in at No. 84 in the world. He has flown numerous British Nationals in both 18m and 15m since 2004. He has been a regular at Hahnweide and flown two European Championships. Derren is the only first-time WGC contestant on the British team.
Working from my office in Sydney, reading about the long and illustrious careers of all the WGC Benalla pilots entered so far is humbling. The European gliding calendar is rich with competitions, locations and varied gliding terrain and weather. At the same time, Benalla has its own charms and challenges and lots of booming gliding conditions. But look out for more about that as we get closer to WGC2017 Benalla.