While there ARE differences in some of the details, the biggest difference between ALES and F5J is that in F5J the competitor gets to choose his launch altitude to make the task time (10 minutes in preliminary rounds). And competitors essentially get time bonus points depending on how low the launch is at a rate of 1/2 point per meter. (Raw flight time equals seconds flown minus 1/2 second per meter for every meter up to 200 and 3 seconds per meter for every meter over 200 meters).
Last year was the first year that the rule was flown and it appears that in a lot of conditions, top tier competitors are CHOOSING to launch for 10 minute tasks to altitudes in the range of 100 to 125 meters. By the time a max flight is normalized to 1000 points, this means that the bonus for launching at 100 instead of 200 meters can be in the range of 75 or 80 points.
While there is nothing in particular wrong with the 200 meter ALES altitude, it is clear that top tier planes are leaving a lot of their performance potential "on the table". The inevitable result of this will be more and more of the top scorers maxing more and more of their flights. And as Marc suggested we will likely evolve to longer tasks and lower launch altitudes.
If our launch altitude was 300 meters, for example, the boxes that most of our planes come in would hang in for 10 minutes MOST of the time. And while I can still rack up 6 minute flights with my Maxa from 200 meters, when I fly it on test flights from 200 meters at dawn, I consistently get 9 1/2 to 10 1/2 minute flights where the Radian is closer to 7 minutes. On any given day when we are not flying "dawn" conditions, the Radian pilot might beat me (yes Paul
). But the new bigger and lighter molded planes will ultimately provide some advantage.