Tidbits - Frouwke Kuijpers the Dutch Team Captain about Roland Termaat
Tidbits - Carol Clifford - Team Captain South Africa
Championship Gliding - The Sporting Aspect
Each morning the gliders line up on the grid and launch after the thermals set in, using either tug planes or their own retractable engines. They all release or retract their engines at a predefined altitude. This is known as the release height, and from here on the gliders can only rely on the thermal energy supplied by nature to stay aloft.
The gliders taking part in a competition are divided into classes. These relate to differences in geometry and design, which also determine a plane’s performance. The 15-meter class and the 18-meter class have wingspans as indicated by their names. Their maximum take off weight is 525 kilos and 600 kilos respectively, including the pilot. The open class is free of wingspan limitations and thus open to innovation. In this class gliders may not exceed a take-off weight of 850 kilos. Now it is easy to understand why the gliders must pass over scales every morning in order to insure that everyone has a fair chance.
Every morning at the daily briefing each class is given its own task in accordance with the weather conditions. Pilots may have to cover a distance of up to 700 kilometers on a good day. After the last glider in a class has reached the release height, a virtual starting line in the air is declared open and each pilot must cross it within a certain period of time. From that moment on the race has begun for that pilot. Now it depends on tactical skill and the correct appraisal of the weather to complete the task with the greatest possible speed. The flight is over when the sailplane crosses the goal line which is visibly laid out on the airfield. Whoever completes the task the fastest and thus with the highest average speed (speedscore) is the daily victor and receives 1000 points. A special evaluation formula takes into account the different average speeds of the other competitors and calculates their respective points for the day.
Sometime the weather turns bad. Some pilots are able to make it home to the airfield, while others have to land out safely in a meadow or field. These out-landings are part of every pilot's training and are quite normal. In this case the distance covered counts (distance score). Long slender trailers are towed to the places the gliders have landed and they are stowed away and returned to the airfield. The following morning a new competition day begins.
Soaring conducted in this manor is a fascinating and attractive sport, combining human beings, nature, and technology.