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Old Aug 03, 2006, 01:57 PM
SZD16's Avatar
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Is Soaring all about competition?

I found this post on RCSE.........I read it on the web page because the noise to useful info ratio is way to high for me to have it come to my email box............

The one thing that caught my eye was statement #3....

3. Soaring is and will remain a hobby where competition is part and parcel of the experience.

Do most people who fly sailplanes feel this way? I know I don't....I did the contest thing for awhile but it got to the point where how many times can you fly a 10 min. task to a spot landing??

When I go out to fly I like to fly....and I like to sit and talk....and fly....on my time table..... I still fly my TD ships but for fun.

How many times in a contest can you speck out and then call out, "Speed run!" and come screaming across the field and roll back up and try to find another thermal..... not if you want to win....are we that insecure that we always need to "beat" someone when we go out to fly????

One of the reasons that I got into scale is because there isn't that mindset that you need to "beat" someone....for some guys there is but for most it's just for the pure joy of flying....that and IMHO nothing looks better in the air then a scale ship!


[RCSE] Further 2-Meters thoughts

Ben Wilson
Tue, 01 Aug 2006 06:24:33 -0700
I don't think that 2-meter is in jeopardy, though I would like to make a few points to reinforce it's importance in the overall soaring world:

1. This hobby needs more youth(s) to continue to grow.

2. Youths (and many new soarers) don't have the experience or the money to fly big ships.

3. Soaring is and will remain a hobby where competition is part and parcel of the experience.

4. 2-meter at the NATS allows those new fliers to compete at a national level in an event that they alone (and not their plane) are the determining factor.

Ed Wilson achieved something special this year: he mentored a young dude with a small ship (but big dreams) with the intention of taking him to the NATS. It's a great goal, and one that we think will keep Lee and others like him in this hobby. 2-meter at the NATS is the perfect event to show new fliers what soaring is all about.

Since we already have, and will hopefully continue to have, a 2-meter competition -- all we need is more Lee's, right?
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Old Aug 03, 2006, 02:26 PM
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Williamsburg, VA
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I for one don't have the experience/skill to be able to max every CD-mandated flight time, so for me I find that competition forces me to really focus on what is going on, and concentrate on working the air. Being able to recognize light lift, center in the core, and thermal out is what is enjoyable for me, and while I could attempt to do that on any given day, the impetus isn't there unless I'm contesting (not enough self-discipline I guess).

In an attempt to improve my piloting skills (not necessarily my contest performance, Josh et. al. do still show up for club contests), each time I go out to the field on non-contest days, I set a Talking Timer for a 10 minute duration and put out an FAI tape. I may be flying against the clock and to a designated landing spot, but it's still fun (especially if I perceive an improvement in my flying).

That said, I need to abide by Doug's repeated invites, and drag myself up to the Hargrove Thermal Farm for some "fun flying" one day...

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Old Aug 03, 2006, 02:41 PM
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Palmdale, CA
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I found years ago that concentrating on competition actually ruined the day's experiences.
Getting very upset over not doing well was becoming upsetting all by itself.
Deciding to fly to please me, and not some clock or judge took all that unpleasantness away.
Now, when I compete, it's to have fun. Winning is nice, but not winning is just as nice.
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Old Aug 03, 2006, 02:48 PM
I'm all about that bass
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United States, IN, Indianapolis
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For whatever reason competition seems to be at the core of gliding. Not for everyone, mind you. But the simple fact is that there is such an objective nature to the hobby "AKA how long did you stay in the air" that it just seems to really lend itself well to our area of the aeromodelling.

It doesn’t have to be about “I beat you” although a little friendly competition can be enjoyable. I posted my “musings” on the RES nats earlier this week and one of my highlights of the week was seeing a guy from my club win a trophy. He was really practicing hard and it showed and he deserved it.

Not everyone likes contests and that is OK. And not everyone feels the same way about contests and that is OK too. I really think just about everyone would benefit from some club contesting though. It is usually laid back and since there is rarely any kind of “wood” awarded often times the really skilled guys will help out the newer pilots. I also found that some glider folks that did not fly contests never got into the habit of setting up a landing approach and then got into the habit of just “flying the plane around until it lands”. Then every so often that would get them into a tree or an object on the field or far away and low and having to kind of “hope for the best” because they loose sight of the plane behind a hill.

BTW, the guy that posted this was having a great time and his club's young pilot really was having a blast.

And I agree with you on the signal to noise ratio and not wanting all the stuff in my inbox... :-) I read RCSE via a mirror also. :-)

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Old Aug 03, 2006, 02:50 PM
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Do most people who fly sailplanes feel this way?
Indeed a very interesting question.

In my club, there are certain individuals that feel the same way. They do not want anything to do with competitions and prefer to do there own thing. That is fine. I have no problem with that at all.

However, that said, these individuals make little progress in improving their flying skill. They stagnate somewhat and do not attempt anything that may push their ability. Over and above this, they remain happy people if left alone to do what they enjoy.

On the other side of the coin, you get the contest crowd. We believe competition is about honing your skills. It puts you in situations that you would not normally be subjected to in general flying. It’s about your own personal ambitions and what you want to achieve. And we want to measure this ‘achievement’ against something, that something being our fellow competitors. Launching, finding a thermal and staying up for an hour or two is boring once you have done it a couple of times. Competition is about creating excitement to what would normally be only a fun actively. It’s all about what make you tick.

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Old Aug 03, 2006, 02:52 PM
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No - sailplaneflying is not entirely contestflying -- BUT : it is also contestflying.

The development of those fine 3,5 - 4 meter planes we see around come from contestflying : F3J & F3B.

Which is good - these planes of today are what we dreamt for ( and the radioequipement as well ) in the -60th and -70th a.s.o. and now they exist.

Your training against your " talking timer " is really tough training - and the ability to find ( and stay in it ) thermals is in any case an advantage.

Those of us ( yourself and yours truly included ) who are not as eager or as young as previously ( yours truly has ronuded 67 ) as we go perhaps to the scalsailplaneflying - which is good too.

As for myself i have joined bigger scaleplaneflying - mostly aerotowing where all the abovementioned abilities are to an advantage !

We do not fly much of competitios - but you know it : How long was your airtime ? Ah - my last time was 10 minutes longer ! You know how it is.

You might find an interest in the following websites: - -

There you might get some inspiration.


hld - OY-9901
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Old Aug 03, 2006, 02:57 PM
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I take the reference to "part and parcel" to mean competition is an essential element. It's just an element (which is significant to me) of soaring. Flying down thru rising air is still very gratifying for me. Competition adds another dimension to the hobby.

In contrast, I find TD to be much more interesting than say Class I AMA Heli flying (which is essentially hovering).

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Old Aug 03, 2006, 03:02 PM
Mike R. I find sink.
West Covina, California
Joined Aug 2004
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Pretty much every hobby has a competitive aspect to it. It's up to the individual whether or not they want to compete. Personally, if it weren't for the competition, I wouldn't fly nearly as much as I do right now. I enjoy the contest environment and competing. Some people don't. It's that simple.
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Old Aug 03, 2006, 03:03 PM
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Redlands, Ca
Joined Dec 2004
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Competition is certainly not the part and parcel of sailplane flying. Although there are a fair number of people who do partcipate in competition, there are certainly a lot more people who fly sailplane for the pure enjoyment of silent flight. This is similar to sport flying and pattern. There are the pattern pilots who specialize in performing the perfect manuevers, and then there are the hundreds of sport pilots who perform the same manuevers, but not so perfect and only because they want to perform them. It's a test of skill to show the other guys. "Hey, I can do a 4-point!" and if he does it well, the other guys may pat him on the back and say he's a great pilot. A pattern pilot may not the get the pat on the back, but he will probably be granted the title of great pilot as well. In his case, he now attempts to see how good he is against others. In sailplanes, we try to master the art of staying airborne without any means of power save for the air around us. I look at that as being a personal challenge against Mother Nature, and the personal rewards are much different.

I love flying for the purpose of enjoying the wonder of flight in itself. I fly a lot competition, but only because it's a part of my nature...I'm a competitive person. I strive to be the best. But I do love the simple art of flying for the sake of flying. If I remember right, only about 10% or less of the entire population of the AMA membership participates in competition. Like you, I love to see a scale ship float on by and marvel at the entire thing. That's hard to beat.

Mike Lee
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Old Aug 03, 2006, 03:19 PM
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When I started out some 30 years ago I was a lone sailplane pilot. No club or individual to fly with. I taught myself to fly and bored holes in the sky. After awhile I was very bored waiting for the special moment where I stumbled into lift and stayed up longer than 3 minutes. for 2 minutes and land. Launch on and so on.

Imagine teaching yourself to golf alone and just walking around wacking the ball. That was me in the early years. No internet to play on. Just waiting for Model Builder to arrive every month so I could read Dave Thornburg. That was my monthly club meeting. Me and Dave. He spoke directly to ME...As I am sure he did to many others through that fine magazine.

I stopped flying after a year or so. 20 years later I found a club when I moved to Minnesota and got back into it. I did a contest or two and found that it gave me purpose and a cause to learn more. I learned to look for conditions at a particular field that could help me. I started to enjoy what I was learning.

Am I a good pilot? Not really but I have learned a lot more than I would have if I stayed boring holes in the air. Completeing a 10 minute task is not always possible. At contests you usually have to do it and do it now. You need to adapt, be flexable and have a plan. You need to try and do the best you can.

Your competition is with yourself...Not the other pilots. The other pilots enrich the experience because you can interact with your fellow man who just happens to enjoy an activity that you do. This is where the real reward is in this so called competition. Those who are in it to only beat the other guy are loosing out.

If you want to try something different than the task based contests try Cross Country. I flew it at the NATS this year. It was awsome.

Mark Miller
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Old Aug 03, 2006, 03:36 PM
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I have to agree with Mark, you dont have to compete, but if you do, make it a competition with yourself. Try it once, see how you do, and the next time, try to apply things you learn along the way to do better than you did the time before. If you get too worked up about competition, and where you rank in the pack, the hobby will soon become a chore, and that's no fun! Take golf for instance.... the money notwithstanding, if I had to work as hard as Tiger Woods, and stress about the next major tournament, golf would no longer be a pleasant pastime. That having been said, if your skills improve to the point where you can be very competitive, and you have the desire to do so, by all means, pursue it! Just keep it fun in the end!

My 2 pieces of 8

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Old Aug 03, 2006, 03:45 PM
Be an organ donor
Little Rock, AR. U.S.A via U.K
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To me, the hobby of flying sailplanes is as close to golf as one can get. In golf and flying sailplanes, you are in competition (even if not actually in a tournament or competition). The skill test is with yourself, trying to do better than you did the last time. If you cheat, you are only cheating yourself. The ultimate likeness is at the end of the fairway is a green with a hole in it that you try to get a ball into. At the end of a sailplane flight you have a target that you try to get your sailplane into. These goals are to be obtained in a given number of strokes/minutes.
However, to me a bad day of golf IS still a bad day of golf. A bad day of flying is a great day anyway. I do want to add that, I have never flown in competition and would enjoy the challenge, but here in Arkansas we don't have that opportunity.
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Old Aug 03, 2006, 03:47 PM
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Everyone has their own call, but do remember that everything from FF to UC to RC soaring has benefitted from competition and the advances it brings. Like Mike, I am a competitive person (made my living in the horse training business at one time, try that world for competitiveness) and I enjoy theline it draws in the sand.

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Old Aug 03, 2006, 03:52 PM
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If you don't want to do the contest thing I urge you to try the LSF program. It gives you goals to work towards and adds in the need to work with other like minded folks as witnesses. Later you need them as kind of a team to help you as you should help others attain their goals. There is a contest component to it also but you can stop when you like or hopefully you will see how contests can fit into your experience in a beneficial way. LSF is a good program.

Mark Miller
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Old Aug 03, 2006, 04:05 PM
I'm all about that bass
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United States, IN, Indianapolis
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I love contests

This is becoming great philosophy. Mike and Mark, I enjoyed your viewpoints.

I love contests. I love waking up way earlier than I would ever get up to go to work. I love driving to the contest starting out before the sun is up and trying to psych myself for the task at hand. I love wondering “did I plan the drive right, will I get there early enough to setup and get registered before the pilots meeting?”. I love pulling into the field and wondering who is already there or what old friends will I be flying against this day.

I love hearing from the pilots meeting what the tasks will be. Trying to take note of the field boundaries. I love that first round where “you never know, this could be your day”. I love it when after you do poorly that first round the rest of the rounds become just kind of a fun day or a day to work on improving things. I love getting out in the sun and getting some exercise, shagging chutes, and timing for your fellow competitors. I love it when things are going well where before you step up to the winch line or hand launch your glider you just *know* you are going to find that thermal to make the time. I love being in the zone and knowing how conditions are going to work out and what is going to be working or not. I love going and checking out where I am on the score sheet, always looking from the top because I hope I am there. I love how when you really nail the task you have such a great feeling of accomplishment.

I love after the contest wondering how I am going to place. I love wondering if Joe or whoever made enough points back in the last round to climb into first. I love it when they call out the names of the pilots starting with lowest scoring to highest. I love the excited look on guys faces when they receive their well deserved trophies. I love how the guys working LSF tasks seek out the CD to sign their achievement forms. I love thanking the CDs and the score guys for running such a well organized contest.

I love the drive home. I love it when you had at least one winning round; that is truly uplifting, because then you always think “if I just could have had two, or three, or ten, or whatever rounds like that one, it would have been me taking the first place trophy”. I love beating myself up over the mistakes I made. I love planning my next move, my next plane I am going to build to show these guys how good I could be or how I am going to really practice landings. I love trying to work out in my head where I went wrong or more importantly where Joe or whoever went absolutely right. It has only happened once or twice, but I love it when I drive back and don’t have to beat myself up, don’t have to wonder “what if”, because that little wooden trophy is sitting on my passenger seat beside me.

I love contests.

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