GPS Triangle race Ozzano - a beginners report
GPS triangle race
Finding out what it’s all about.
Since I’ve heard about this new GPS based competition format flown with large (1:3) scale gliders I was curious about this way of flying glider competitions. After flying lots of competitions mostly in F3J and F3B I really thought it’ll be very exciting trying out something new once. Luckily we got in contact with Ueli Nyffenegger from Switzerland who helped us along getting the gadgets needed (GPS devices and PDAs for visualizing the flight path) and providing very useful information on how to get started. At first we just wanted to visit a competition to get some insight into the GPS scene and the competition format but Ueli insisted on us entering and flying a competition.
In the end we managed to enter the last competition of this years GPS-Eurocup held in Ozzano (Italy) with a team of six pilots.
GPS triangle race is a team event. Although the pilots fly individually everybody is in the need of a good caller (navigator) to get around the course.
So we packed one Baudis ‘Antares’ and one LET-Model ‘ASH-25’ out of Mustafas Quiver and entered. It’s a less ‘Material-intensive’ class as F3J for two Pilots need to team up and thereby can fly one and the same plane. Nevertheless we ran short of planes having six pilots entered and only two planes at hand. Peter Nemec from Switzerland offered us his backup Antares so that everyone would be able to join the competition. What a great offer! Thank you again Peter! I’m sure Tobias and me gave it a hard time – Sorry that you needed to see your baby in pain.
The format is pretty easy and requires very little work input and helpers once the contest is started. I was amazed about how smoothly this competition runs, all you need is the calculation software, two helpers for the launching and landing zone, the working time schedule open to see for everyone and two or three excellent tow-pilots.
Walter from Switzerland and Matej from Slovenia came over to get us all airborne – more than 150 tows up to 500m in one day – and delivered brilliant, flawless work. Great work guys and thank you so much for helping us along as we were absolute beginners in aerotowing!
The plan was to fly five complete rounds on Saturday, so we started early at 9 ‘o clock sharp. This first morning round was flown in what you might call ‘floating-conditions’ in F3J. No recognizable thermal buildup and thereby no planes seen circling once they entered the course. ‘Flat’ flying at best L/D was the way to solve the task and for us a very welcome start because we were still learning how to use all the navigation gadgets and how to maintain the cruisespeed while not missing the turnpoints or loosing too much ground while flying too far ‘off-course’. One needed to be very precise to manage and fly out 4 triangles and hit the landing zone out of the maximum altitude of 500m. That’s what the top-pilots managed. Tobias, Mustafa, Reinhard and me managed to complete 3 triangles while I don’t know what happened to Murat and Larry who were still fighting with their equipment.
Nevertheless round number 2 saw us all up there trying to find the best lift on and asides the course for it was obvious that with the more lively air one could gain altitude and go further than 4 triangles this time. Several piles of white big gliders marked thermals across the sky, circling up in them then rushing on to cover ground before the clock stops the working time. That’s the real deal! Information overload! Where’s the line? How far to the next turnpoint? Climbrate? Did we core the thermal? When to fly on? Which flapsetting? Is the thermal big enough to use it for a ‘straight-line-run’? How much time left? Any other planes marking thermals on the course? Can we go for another triangle out of that altitude? How much time left? Current altitude and speed? Oh ‘shxt’ – Am I really that far off the course? So many variables and so many decisions to take over a 30 minute lasting contest flight! Amazing, thrilling and exhausting. This time it was Mustafa who got around the course 6 times just to find out that Peter Nemec completed 7 triangles for a 1000points. Nevertheless, we were hooked. I need to give greatest respect to the pilots who handle this 5 times a day on a competition!
Round 3 and round 4 were flown in similar conditions and we started to look around a little more to try and find out more about the other planes on the course and got better bit by bit. Reinhard, Tobias and me managed to fly 7 triangles this time. It was just Marco Mani who taught us a lesson when he soared up to 800m after entering the course and completed 10 triangles with just 6 seconds of working time left as he crossed the finish line. Brilliant flight!
The last round of the day was the speed task – getting around the triangle course 1 time as fast as possible! Pure fun! Hearing these big planes howling and screaming at up to 100mph of speed.
These ships are that much different from the old scale gliders I remembered. They are purpose built meanwhile and real race-sailplanes. The top-dogs at the moment are the ‘Arcus’ from Radim Horky (H-Model), the ‘Antares’ from Jiri Baudis (Baudis Model) and the ‘H304 Shark’ from Karel Vagenknecht. All of these are able to win a GPS-triangle race and all of them are molded in full carbon buildup. Nevertheless I would say one wouldn’t have less chances with a sophisticated ‘scratch-build’ based on an available fuselage using up to date materials and design methods! I just would like to encourage everybody to give it a chance and try this format out– It really rocks!
You’ll find lots of useful information about GPS-triangle racing on the GPS-website:
And very sweet photographs from the event in Ozzano taken by Thessi:
In the end it was Marco Mani from Switzerland who took a clear win with Martin Holub from the Czech Republic coming 2nd and Beat Steffen from Switzerland 3rd. Marco definitely was the man of the day not only nailing this '10 triangle flight' but being the most consistent competitor. We were of course satisfied with placing three of our Pilots in the 'top-ten'! Nevertheless we want to perform better the next time!
Our resolutions for the future:
- flying more of these competitions
- getting an own glider (Sorry again Peter!)
- using a thermal sniffer the next time
- trying to setup some practice sessions
With our experiences made I just can try and encourage more scaleplane-enthusiasts to come along and join the GPS-triangle racing. It really requires and forms soaring skills and is so far better than just flying these beautiful ships crisscross along the sky!