Competitive Gliding

An Introduction to Competitive gliding

It may surprise many people, but it is entirely possible for gliders to compete. In fact, like many sports, it evolved through competition. Ever since man first took to the air, intrepid pilots of heavier-than-air machines have been trying to out-do each other. Initially, it was who could fly the furthest (in the early days this was measured in metres), the highest (also measured in metres) and the longest (measured in minutes). However, as gliders got better, speed became important and duration less so: people ended up soaring hills for days, only stopping when they crashed after falling asleep. Not surprisingly, duration as competitive sport has tended to die out. Although there are still distance, speed and height records to be broken, when competitive gliding is discussed, it is usually referring to pilots racing against each other to see who can complete a cross-country task the fastest.

Cross-country flights are now measured in kilometres (many exceeding 500) and speeds are measured kilometres per hour (100 plus is not uncommon). There are also competitive aerobatic competitions, but these tend to be slightly less popular because of the cost involved (gravity, high speed and flying upside-down tends to make the flights very short!).

Cross-country originated as soon as both glider performance and pilot ability became good enough for gliders to fly away from the airfield. In the early days, it often involved seeing who could fly the furthest from home (called 'free-distance). This resulted in some incredibly long retrieves for the poor crew who had to come and get the pilot, and his machine, from some field many miles away from the base airfield. Modern competitions now comprise of closed tasks where everyone races around an aerial route that brings everybody back to base. The weather forecast and the performance of the machines, as well as the experience level of the pilots, dictate the length of the task.

by Al Nunn

World championship gliding is the pinical of competitive Gliding. Contested in a number of classes reflecting the characteristics of the glider. All gliders competing in a particular class will, therefore, have similar performance. This helps ensure that the competition is won by the most skilled pilot rather than the one with the best equipment.

The classes in which competition takes place at world championship level are:

15m Class

The 15 Metre Class, also known as the 'Racing Class', is arguably the most competitive class in the championships. Comparatively small (with 15 metre wing span), the gliders are very manoeuvrable, and have the benefit of lift adjusting flaps. This means they remain remarkably efficient, even at high speeds.

Standard Class

Standard Class gliders have the same 15 metre wing span of the flapped, 15m Class, but without the added advantage of the speed adjusting flaps. Traditionally, the Standard Class is entered by the greatest number of nations, making this class most representative of the international, sporting nature of the World Gliding Championships.

18m Class

18m gliders share many characteristics of the 15m class, but with the benefits of larger wings - 18m span instead of 15m. This gives them increased performance and the ability to fly longer and further, especially in marginal conditions, whilst remaining highly maneuverable.

Open Class

The Open Class gliders have the largest span, the highest performance and cover the largest distances. They represent the pinnacle of gliding performance, with glide ratios of 60:1 - that's the performance to glide around 10 miles from 1000' altitude. The Open Class gliders are the most elegant, with their huge wing-spans approaching 28 metres.

Club Class

The Club Class differs in that there are no definitive 'formula' rules. Instead, all gliders flown in a club class event must have a performance handicap within a pre-declared range. These handicaps will be used in calculating final positions on each day of competition. The purpose of the club class is to provide inexpensive, but high quality international competition and to enable pilots who do not have access to gliders of the highest performance to compete at the highest levels.

Separate world championships are held for men, women and junior (up to 25 years old).

The next men's world championships - the 29th FAI World Gliding Championships - will be held in 2006 at Eskilstuna in Sweden from 5th - 17th June. All classes will be competed for at this event, except for the Club Class, which will be held at Vinon sur Verdon in France between 14th - 29th July.

The 4th FAI Women's World Gliding Championships will next be held in 2007 at Bailleau in France and the 5th FAI Junior World Gliding Championships will be held in 2007 at Rieti in Italy.

Artical taken from more infomation on the 2006 more infomation on the 2005 more infomation on the 2003 World air sports federation

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