Tips For The Racing Pilot

About the author
Tony Timmermans has been gliding since 1949. He has represented New Zealand at the World Championship level, and is a member of the Auckland Gliding Club. This has been taken from the web site

This is a compilation of things Tony has learned over the years and passes on to students of cross country soaring.

  • Before crossing the startline try and assess the average thermal strength and from that calculate the time it will take you to finish the task. From the weather forecast you know approximately what time the thermals start dying out, and by deducting your flight time from that, you find your starting time.

  • If possible let up to 2/3 of the other gliders go ahead and mark thermals for you. the key to fast cruising is the average strength of thermals used. thermals that are weaker than the average must be rejected unless you are low and in danger of landing.

  • On long glides a deviation of 10 deg. is negligible on cross country speed, and only deviate more than 20 deg. if climb rate on course does not exceed 200 ft/min., in which case a deviation of 45 deg. demands a rate of climb of more than 500 ft/min.

  • To obtain the highest possible cross-country speed it is imperative to cover the distance with the maximum amount of straight glides.

  • Interruptions of the straight glide result in a momentary reduction to zero of the cross-country speed, but also an added loss of potential energy due to a higher rate of sink while circling.

  • The lower you can enter a strong thermal the longer you can take advantage of it and the faster will be your cross-country speed.

  • When you have just entered a thermal and are still low, search out the sky ahead and decide where to go next, as when you are low you can see the clouds ahead much better.

  • If you are high for long periods, as in street flying, the only way to assess what lies ahead is by looking at the shadows of clouds on the ground.

  • In general you will find a thermal which is marked by cloud on the upwind side of the cloud if wind strength increases with height, and on the downwind side if wind strength decreases with height.

  • Also note that on some days the strongest thermals will come off the highest hills, out of open mines, from swamps, townships, sheltered valleys and sunny slopes.

  • On very cloudy days follow the sunny patches.

  • If your turnpoint is downwind then make sure you are high on going around. If upwind turn at the lowest safe altitude that will put you in an average thermal on the next leg.

  • The last climb before final glide use your final glide calculator, taking into account thermal strength, wind strength and direction, distance to go, and the weather on track.

  • Dolphin soaring - ease off only if less than 450 m, pull up only if more than 450 m. c ~

  • The fastest pilot is one who is prepared to take well calculated operational risks in prolonging glides and sacrificing lift, coupled with good navigation and reading of weather conditions ahead.

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