Since the beginning of 1997 there have been 10 serious accidents involving gliders. For this same time period in 1996 there were only three. Seven of the ten were landings that were short of the runway. This is way too many. Certainly there has been a good bit of wind this winter and spring. However, that is not a good enough excuse for landing short. The traffic pattern is not a simple rectangle or series of angles (TLAR) that can be flown the same way under all conditions. Rather, the traffic pattern is a dynamically changing concept that needs to be adjusted for various conditions and situations.
The usual reason given for landing short is either "I hit a lot of sink" or "The wind was stronger than I thought". If these pilots were flying the traffic pattern properly neither of these conditions would have caused a short landing. Certainly it would have changed the pattern that was needed for a safe landing but that change could have been and should have been made had the pilot been thinking clearly and taught properly about the traffic pattern.
Let's take excuse number 1. "I hit a lot of sink". So what??? Cut the base leg in closer to the end of the runway or even over the end of the runway and land a little long. When you are getting low due to sink forget about TLAR or getting to some angle or position past the end of the runway. Turn your base leg and land long. For those concerned about crashing off the far end of the runway please note that of the ten major accidents none have involved flying through the airport. I for one would much prefer to worry about a long landing rather than a short one. There are many ways to make a sailplane come down and stop - full spoilers, slips, ground loops after touching down. There are no ways of making a sailplane go back up once you are too low to clear the obstruction on the approach end of the runway.
As for excuse number 2, "The wind was stronger that I thought",my first question would be did the pilot adjust for the wind he thought was there? The speed adjustment is supposed to be normal pattern speed plus 1/2 the estimated wind. Here at Bermuda High we teach that there are three things that MUST happen on windy days in order to be safe in the traffic pattern. They are:
1. Fly higher throughout the traffic pattern.
2. Fly faster - normal pattern speed adjusted for the wind.
3. Turn the base leg in closer to the runway than normal.
If all this happens and on your base leg you decide you are too high all you have to do is let the base leg slide out away from the runway just a bit and you can land easily in the middle of the runway. Remember it is much easier to make a sailplane come down than to make it go back up. Don't let yourself get in the position of trying to make your sailplane go back up. Come in high, fast and turn your base leg in tighter to the runway on a windy day.