Diving for Race Starting Line

iPad-Thailand Trip 2633

Here is Santiago Lopez’s formula for diving for the start:

I recommend climbing 300 m ( 1000 ft) above the maximum altitude at a distance of 1 km (0.55 nm) from the start and then dive to a speed close to redline, and watch out for flutter, especially when the start altitude is above 2000 m. For standard class planes and others with a lower redline speed, reduce the height of your dive 10-15%.

Centering Thermals


Image via Wikipedia

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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US Nightly Soaring Day 7 (Offline)

Some US pilots started up a new race series on www.gliderracing.com, the site that hosts the Monday Night Soaring Series.  The U.S. race is held every night at 9pm.  That’s usually too late for me, but you can download the flight plan after the race and do it offline.  I did that this morning.  The race was an AAT with a distance of 150 km and a minimum time to complete of 1 hour.

Below you can see the task with the two large 12 km areas at TP1 and TP2.  The object is to fly as far as possible within the designated area in a time of one hour or greater.  Your competition speed is calculated by dividing your time on course by the distance made good between the start, TP1, TP2 and the finish.  In the graphic below, the solid red line shows my actual track around the course.  The dotted red line shows the straight line distance between the extremes of my track. On TP2 I went outside the area for a few kilometers.  That distance doesn’t count, so you can see that the dotted line stops at a point intersecting my track and the outer perimeter of the TP2 area before turning back to the finish.  From this I can see that I would have been better off continuing south before turning toward the finish on final glide.


Here was my strategy and mistakes that I apparently made. The wind was from 316 degrees so I was flying directly into the wind on the first leg (TP1 is the upper left circle).  Because of this, I wanted to make this leg as short as possible.  Ideally, I would fly only to the nearest edge of TP1 (You have made the “turn” wherever you cross the perimeter of the turn point.)  I didn’t do this because I needed to average 20 minutes or more per leg so that my total time would be equal to or greater than one hour. My time to the perimeter of TP1 was about 19 minutes but, because of flying upwind, this leg should take more time to fly a given distance then the next two legs.  It’s OK to fly longer than the minimum time as long as you can maintain or increase your average speed.  What you want to avoid is flying a shorter duration than the minimum time.  If you fly less than the minimum time. your average speed will be calculated by dividing your time en-route by the minimum time, rather than your actual time.  To avoid this scenario, I extended leg one a bit beyond 20 minutes and planned to fly deep into the TP2 area to extend my distance before turning on final glide for the finish. If I could have continued leg two straight to intersect the perimeter further south, I think I could have had a little better average speed.  I would like to have been able to turn on final glide a bit sooner.  I had almost enough altitude at the point that I turned East and caught my last thermal a bit outside of the perimeter.  The problem is that I would have arrived early at the finish.

This was a fun task with strong and plentiful thermals.  It allowed me to concentrate on my AAT strategy rather than survival.

Earned my 2000 Kilometer Diploma from Condor Club!

Saturday and Sunday I made a flight of over nine hours and flew a total distance of 2,367 Kilometers, earning me the 2000 Kilometer Diploma rewarded by the Condor Club website.  This was only a couple of days after doing my first 500 + Kilometer flight.  The 500 Kilometer flight was an all thermal flight and I flew it on line so I was unable to pause and I finished in about 3:45.  I started out the 2000 Km flight just to test the task, a 4000 Km task in the Canadian Rockies!  I decided to keep flying it.  At first I thought I would have to fly the whole thing in order for it to be a valid flight.  As I flew, I had a lot of time to think and I suddenly realized that if I could fly over 2000 Km and land back at the takeoff airport, it would probably be considered a valid flight.  Sure enough, that was true!

In a way, the 500 Km flight was more satisfying since I flew it online and it was an all thermal race with excellent thermals.  My average time was a very respectable

Badges and diplomas details for Korkiley:

Test Performance Badge/Diploma Task Date
Distance performance 2367 km 2000 kilometers diploma N/A August 21st, 2011
Distance performance 520 km 500 kilometers diploma N/A August 19th, 2011
Gain of altitude 5714 m. Diamonds badge Nice flight for 3-Diamonds badge September 24th, 2009
Duration performance 3h 05m 13s Diamonds badge Nice flight for 3-Diamonds badge September 24th, 2009
Distance performance 308 km Diamonds badge Nice flight for 3-Diamonds badge September 24th, 2009
Distance performance 203 km Gold badge "Parcours du combattant" gold badge – Provence v1.20 September 23rd, 2009
Gain of altitude 3624 m. Gold badge "Parcours du combattant" gold badge – Provence v1.20 September 22nd, 2009
Duration performance 2h 44m 55s Gold badge "Parcours du combattant" gold badge – Provence v1.20 September 22nd, 2009
Distance performance 57 km Silver badge Bex ==> Rarron, ridge with K13 September 20th, 2009
Gain of altitude 1521 m. Silver badge Fayence==>Puimoisson thermals with K13 – Provence v1.20 September 20th, 2009
Duration performance 1h 21m 34s Silver badge Fayence==>Puimoisson thermals with K13 – Provence v1.20 September 20th, 2009

Steps to prepare for a Condor Team SA Race

The Team SA races are the ones that I do about 95% of the time.  These races come under two main categories, weekly races and challenges.  The weekly races are intended for practice (and having fun!)  There is one race per week.  In the past, each pilot was allowed three tries with the best out of three counting for the final score.  Recently this has been increased from three to five tries.  I believe this was done partly to discourage “cheating.”  The race organizers have stipulated that practicing off-line is not allowed and consider it cheating.  It may be a worthy ideal but I’m afraid that this may be a rule that is often abused since there is no way of enforcing it and it is incredibly easy to do.  But with five tries now allowed, there is plenty of opportunity to make any practice runs, official attempts.

The challenges are a series of two to eight races occurring two times per week.  Each pilot is allowed only one try.  For both weekly races and challenges, complete information for the race is posted on the Condor SA website well in advance of the race starting date.  In fact, race information is available for the whole series of races from before the series begins, throughout and after the series ends.  This is different from most “serious” races where race information is received an hour before race start.  The intention for the SA race format was to give people a better opportunity to participate then they would have with the “serious” race format.  Indeed, this and the corresponding reduction of pressure, are what make these races so appealing to me. 

I’m writing this article to document the steps that I take to prepare for a race.  I use a Compaq iPaq (thanks to a generous gift from my brother Aaron) to supplement the iPaq simulator in Condor.  I find the two to be complementary.  I’m not a sophisticated user yet, but being able to see the wind direction relative to your direction of travel is a great asset in itself.

The first step in my race preparation is usually to enter the task information into SeeYou PC and then to transfer it to SeeYou Mobile.  I outline the steps below.

First I go to the Team SA web site and select the current race.  Here is the race information for the race that I will participate in today.  I have had all week to make as many as five attempts, but I have not yet made any attempt and have only the remainder of today to do so.



The map is too small, and it’s awkward to resize.  The canvas size cannot be resized either.  After I get this information I open SeeYou PC and enter the task there.



  1. Click on the Add Task icon.  “Unknown Type of Task” will appear in the description column.  Use your mouse to Right Click on it and choose task properties.
  2. Enter the description for this task in the Description field of the properties window and click OK.
  3. Type Alt-1 to change to map view in Tasks mode.  Enter the waypoints one by one by right clicking on the map and clicking Add Waypoint Here.  You don’t even need to be in the correct location on the map because you’re going to copy and paste the latitude/longitude coordinates from the flight plan into the Latitude and Longitude entry area in the properties window.
  4. image
  5. Copy and paste the coordinates from the flight plan web page to the Latitude and longitudes fields above. I find the easiest way to paste is to select all but the ‘N’ or ‘E’ and then paste the coordinate that you copied. You may have to fill in zeros at the end of the coordinate.
  6. Type Alt-3 to change to list view.
  7. Click in the “name” field just to the right of Take Off.  Start typing the name of the take off until it finds the full name of the take off point that you added.  Use the down arrow to go to the  name field for Start and repeat.
  8. Repeat for all of the turn points.
  9. After you do the last turn point, down arrow to the next blank turnpoint, then type Ctrl-Del to delete each of the unused turn points.
  10. Correct the Finish name and the Landing name if necessary.
  11. Type Alt-1 to return to map view.  If you have completed all of the steps properly, you should see the task in its proper geographical location.
  12. It might be a good idea to double check the coordinates and altitudes in the waypoint properties.  There may be some very slight discrepancies in coordinates even if you typed everything correctly, but don’t be concerned about that.

You now have the complete task entered in SeeYou.  If you have an iPaq with SeeYou Mobile installed on it, you can now transfer the task information to your iPaq memory card using the Mobile Wizard in SeeYou PC. 

  1. Exit SeeYou Mobile and remove the SD Card.  Put it in your PC’s card reader.
  2. In SeeYou PC select File/Mobile Wizard or type Ctrl-F9.
  3. I select all Items except for Airspace since it doesn’t figure in Team SA races.  Other races do honor airspace restrictions, so select accordingly.  “Automatically open wizard when
    connected to device” should be unchecked.
  4. Type the race name in the “Files basename” field—in this case “Lienz 141”.
  5. Fill in the drive letter of your card reader plus Databases in the Copy to My Computer field: j:\Databases.  Click Next.  A message will pop up saying settings will not be written to the mobile device.  They’ll be written to the devices memory card instead.
  6. Now you’ll see a map where you will select an area which will include the task area.  The easiest way to handle this job is to drag from the corners to enlarge the map to the size of your screen.  If you are nowhere near the task site, zoom way out on the map to get a big picture and move quickly from one continent to another if necessary.  You can do this with the scroll wheel on your mouse or use the imagezoom icon in the upper right of the screen.  I actually find it easier to use the icon instead of the scroll wheel if I need to zoom out a lot.  Once you are zoomed out sufficiently, click at the edge of the map in the direction that you want to move to.  You’ll see a big arrow pointing in that direction and you’ll move in that direction each time you right click.  If you need to move a long way you can hold down the left mouse button and it will repeat the motion so that you can scroll quickly.  Center the area of interest and then zoom in, adjusting your position as you do if necessary.  Once you have identified all the points of your task, select the desired area by left clicking with the mouse in one corner and dragging to the opposite corner.  Be sure that you include all the waypoints with enough extra in case it’s necessary to fly beyond any of the turn points.  At the same time, don’t select any more area than necessary.  This will increase performance in SeeYou Mobile.  Now click Next, then Finished.
  7. Be sure to eject the card or card reader by clicking on the device icon in the system tray.  If you don’t do this, it’s possible to cause data corruption on the card.  SNAGHTML266dbf9
  8. Insert the card back into the memory slot in the iPaq and start SeeYou Mobile.
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Practice session in Sion area

To prepare for another attempt at the Sion 194 task I decided to fly around in the area.  So I wouldn’t be cheating I only created a start point.  Here are some photos from that flight:

Headed toward TP1
I turned TP2 at 7200 feet. I'm flying for the gap ahead. 6200 feet should be enough to clear.
Skimming over the gap with not much to spare!
Headed for home - speed is up to 115 knots
I've rounded the corner and the airport is barely visible in the center of the valley to the right of my yaw string. Speed is now close to 125.