Centering Thermals

Thermals

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I registered for the Soaring on Heaven races yesterday but received an email today saying that my account had been suspended because they couldn’t verify my information.  I started looking back at competitions that I had flown in order to give them more information.  One of the great competitions that I entered and will always remember is the 2010 World Gliding Competition in Szeged Slovakia.  I thought it was an excellent competition and as like the real contest as possible.  However the organizer got a lot of criticism from some very immature acting pilots and there was a lot of controversy over the winner who several pilots accused of cheating.  They said his name was made up and I must say that I don’t recall seeing his name anywhere since.  A couple of competitors, including myself, flew his flight track and observed an uncanny ability of the pilot to fly straight for the best thermals.  This is all documented in this thread on the Condor Forums.  I was reading some of that thread and came across these comments about the difficulty of doing that and some comments on centering thermals in general.

Here are the main points:

  • The biggest difficulty centering thermals occurs with a combination of windy conditions and narrow thermals.
  • In these conditions, it’s important to stay closer to cloud base where the target will be bigger and there is more room for error.
  • Test several thermals before race start observing the wind and sun direction.  Once you establish the center for on thermal, others should be similar.  You can use external view to determine your position under the cloud.
  • A few tricks distilled from these threads:
    • When you pull up in a thermal, start a slight turn to the right.  If the lift begins to decrease, immediately turn to the left and you should be bang in the center—in theory!
    • If there is no wind, turn 20 or 30 degrees in one direction while pulling up, then turn in the other direction—I’ll really have to test this one!
    • In windy conditions, fly toward the center of the cloud, then leave the center toward the wind direction.  If you fly where you think the center will be, you are taking a gamble.
    • In windy conditions, alter your course so that you enter directly upwind or downwind.
    • I the wind direction and strength vary with altitude, thermals can spiral and be very difficult to find.
    • Be able to thermal equally well in both directions!
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Author: korkiley

Systems Administrator at University of Vermont (retired as of 7/1/2012) Married Favorite Activities: Condor Glider Online Competition, Developing web sites, making espresso, and keeping a blog

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