The Eastern Soaring League - A way to improve your flying - RC Groups
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Oct 01, 2005, 10:14 AM
Proud member of LISF and ESL

The Eastern Soaring League - A way to improve your flying

This is for all realtively new Eastern US glider pilots, though others are welcome to join the discussion.

I have a suggestion on how you can improve your flying skills AND add a big boost to the fun factor when flying your thermal sailplane - Competition.

Wait, don't bail out on me yet. Hear me out. Competition can be tons of fun and the Eastern Soaring League is a great group to join just for the fun of it. I did and I have been having a great time. I have met a pile of wonderful people and have gotten more good flying advice than you can imagine.

You don't need a hot plane. During recent events we have had 2M Sagitta 600s, Spirits and other wood beginner planes flown. In June a pilot of 4 months entered with a foam Easy Glider. By the end of the contest and with the help of some of the other pilots, he was launching off the winch himself, making his task times and scoring landing points.

It costs nothing to join but you do have to be an AMA member. You don't have to be a member of a club and there are no annual ESL dues. is their web site.
Last edited by aeajr; Oct 01, 2005 at 11:09 AM.
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Oct 01, 2005, 10:18 AM
Proud member of LISF and ESL
What does the ESL format look like and what do you need to qualify to fly.

Simple Safe flying! You must be able to handle your plane safely in the air. There are no tests and no preflight examinations. You are expected to know your own skill level.

While you are not required to fly close to other planes, you must be aware of any
other planes that might be near you to avoid mid air collisions. Having 2 or
more planes working the same thermal can occur so you need to be aware of what
is around your plane, but you will have help. Every pilot is assigned a timer/spotter
to help you.

Launching - ESL flies unpowered sailplanes. They use electric winches to
launch the sailplanes. Hi-starts are not permitted.

If you are not yet the master of the winch, no problem. You may bring someone else with you to launch your plane, but the pilot must be in control of the radio during the
launch. Or, you can ask any one of the other pilots to launch for you. While
this is a competition, it is also a very friendly atmosphere where people help each other. Yes we are competing but we are here to have fun. So you don't need to be embarrassed or afraid to ask for help launching your plane. During my first ESL contest no less than 6 people helped me launch my plane during the contest. At some point in our development we all needed help, so don't let this keep you away from the fun.

Landing - You must be able to land your plane safely in the landing area, and
the landing area is usually pretty big. The more precisely you can land the
plane the more likely you are to gain landing points. However if you can't
put it down on the spot every time, you can
still compete. Many pilots miss their landing points. Over time you will
build up your precision landing skills. If you get really good you can
advance to a higher class where the difference between winning and not may be
the precision of your landing. Even if you never become a serious competitor,
working on landing skills is something we all need to do.

Grouping of pilots and planes

Classes - ESL groups pilots into to skill levels so that pilots can fly
against other pilots of similar skills.

Sportsman are the newer pilots who are developing their skills. They may be
flying for only a few months or they may be flying for years. If you are new
to sailplanes, enter as a sportsman. Other than what is listed above under
safety, there are no other pilot qualifications. If you can fly, you can join
in the fun of competition with other pilots who share your love of soaring.

Experts are very experienced pilots. If you are accustomed to competition and
have a good command of the task you will find plenty of challenge here. Many
of ESL expert pilots hold regional, national and international titles. If you
are up
to some serious competition and have the skills, the expert class is for you.
While you can enter an ESL event for the first time as an expert, most start
as sportsman and earn their way up to the expert level.

Planes - ESL does not currently group planes by class. Pilots may fly planes
of any wing span and any construction. Pilots fly planes made of wood, foam,
fiberglass and other materials. If you are just starting out on a Gentle Lady
or a Spirit or a foamy glider, feel welcome in the sportsman class. You may
move up to the more expensive planes over time, but remember that it is the
skill of the pilot just as much as the features of the plane that determines
who wins. With good skills, you can win with any plane. So fly what you
have. You will
be welcome.

The format of the competition

The Task - ESL contests are based on thermal duration tasks. The pilot is
asked to demonstrate their skills through the completion of a timed flight
followed by a precision landing. A typical task might involve a 7 minute
flight. Pilots launch, typically in groups of four and go hunting for lift.
At precisely 7 minutes you should have touched down in the landing area. You
lose points for seconds over or under the designated task.

The timer - The timer has two jobs. Even if you are not flying, you can
participate in an ESL event by being a timer. The timer's job is to time the
flight and to help the pilot be aware of how much time they have left to
complete their task an land. The timer will report the pilot's scores.

You can bring your own timer, however it is common for the timer to be another
pilot at the event or someone who has agreed to be a designated timer for that
contest. Most pilots don't bring a timer. The ESL contest director can help
match up pilots with timers.

In addition to helping you time your flight and reporting your scores, the
timer can actually help you by telling you where other pilots are, where you
might find some lift, who has found lift, and other useful information. This
allows you to focus on your flying. If you have a coach, feel free to bring
them to be your timer.

It is not uncommon for one of the experts pilots to time for a sportsman.
While the flight is going on, if the sportsman would like some advice, the
expert is permitted to provide tips, suggestions and advice. This is like
flying in competition with a coach at your side. You don't have to accept
coaching or advice, but it is permitted and is a common practice. This is a
great way for new pilots to develop their skills and for experienced pilots to
get even better. Even if you don't win, you will likely come away a better
pilot based on the working relationship
with the timer.

Sportsman class pilots can time for experts too. Many experts welcome
sportsman as timers. You can learn a lot timing for an expert both in how to
fly and how to be a good timer. So don't hesitate to offer to time for
another pilot. You will meet some great people and learn a lot watching and
learning from others.

Spot Landing - Landing points are awarded based on how closely the pilot can
place the nose of their plane to a designated spot. Typically there are
landing tapes that have graduated scores which can be from 1 to 100 points
based on how close the pilot is to the landing spot. While the experts expect
to make landing points on every flight pilots of all classes will miss the
mark. This is a test of skill, so over time you can expect to make your
landing points more consistently. Watching how pilots set up for their
landings, approach the landing zone an how they set the plane on the spot is
both exciting and an education in itself.

Never considered competition?

Many people shy away from competition, but I have learned that this is fun!
If you ever played baseball with your buddies, or ever played some pick up
basket ball, you know that it is just a pile of fun. Well this is the same
idea. People with a common love of soaring coming together to enjoy the
sport, share experience, help each other and just have a great time. Give it some thought. I know you will enjoy it, and perhaps you will time for me at one of the events. I would like that!
Oct 01, 2005, 10:41 AM
Proud member of LISF and ESL
This is a note from the contest director for the next ESL event. The location is just 2 hours from NYC, 3 hours from CT, Long Island. Philly flyers should find this one very conveneient. For many others this is a 2-3 hour drive and lots of flyers come in from VA, MD, MA, NY, OH, DC and further away. They make a weekend of it.

Here are some photos from this past weekend's event at the Long Island Silent Flyers field on Long Island, my home club.

You will see many people flying Mantis and Supras and other hot planes. However wood planes like the Halcyon, Legend and Spirit were also brought to the winch and not all pilots launched their own planes. Help was available for those who asked.

A good time was had by all.



This is just a reminder that the ESL Open is just a few weeks away.
Pre-registration is required and you must register by October 5th:

The entry fee for this contest has been lowered to $5 per day.

We will be trying something new and exciting for this years Open.
We will be flying man on man with retrievers. There will be four people in each group. At the moment I plan on flying the experts and sportflyers separately.

We will also allow people to pair up for timing. We are going to encourage
a mentor approach to the timer pairings. This is not necessarily experts timing for sportflyers, just more experienced pilots timing for the less experienced. This will not be required, but it will be encouraged.

So if you are new and need a timer or if you just have reached a plateau in your flying skill level, PLEASE let us know and we will arrange a timer for you that will be able to help you fly better. The idea is to make the contest scene less intimidating and provide a free flow of information. The experts have no secrets. Some of us may be socially challenged and have little time to answer questions - the mentor approach is intended to provide an opportunity to watch, ask questions, and get pointers from some of the more experienced flyers. This will only work if you are willing to let us know and you are willing to listen.

This will be a soaring contest so we will be flying long tasks. In some cases the task may not be achievable for the conditions. Not to worry though, since you will not be punished for not making your time, you just have to stay up longer than the people in your group ;-)

LISF is bringing their master coordinator, Rich, to orchestrate the calling of flight groups to make sure you are ready and don't miss you're flight. If you have never been to an LISF ( Long Island Silent Flyers ) contest and watch Rich work, it is worth going just for this!

So if you're getting bored with the same old open winch contest or would like to work with an expert timer and improve your flying skills, make it a point
to attend the ESL Open. Just remember to bring an open mind and patients, since this will be the first time we try this and there may be some bugs
that need to be worked out. I promise though that if you set realistic goals, a positive attitude, and are willing to do a little work, you will have a great time.

Feel free to pass this along to anyone that may be interested. Thanks!

Tom Kiesling
Last edited by aeajr; Oct 01, 2005 at 11:12 AM.
Mar 28, 2009, 10:01 PM
Proud member of LISF and ESL
When I first posted this I was a new glider pilot who was just getting started in competition soaring. What a great time I have had since that time.

This year I will fly 16 ESL contest days in both discus launched gliders and unlimited sailplane events. Ten of those, spread over 5 weekends, will involve travel to other clubs along the east coast. These are like mini vacations where I get to see soaring friends.

If you ever get a chance to come fly with us I am confident you will have a great time.

Ed Anderson
President, Eastern Soaring League
Apr 09, 2009, 03:06 PM
Proud member of LISF and ESL
ESL contest calendar - 2009

If you have any kind of pure glider, from an Easy Glider to a high end moldie, you should plan fly with us. They are so much fun and a great learning experience.

A description of the ESL Classes
Remember, you don't have to know how to use the winch to fly!


05/02 - 05/03 BASS (HLG) - Baltimore, MD
06/13 - 06/14 Polecat Challenge (HLG) - Bloserville, PA
07/11 - 07/12 CRRC Hand Launch Classic (HLG) - Sudbury, MA
08/01 - 08/02 Long Island Hand Launch Classic - LISF (HLG) - Syosset, NY
08/15 - 08/16 CASA (HLG) - Rockville, MD
09/12 - 09/13 SKSS Hand Launch (HLG) - Newark, DE
09/25 - 09/27 East Coast HLG Festival (HLG) - Wilson, NC
10/17 - 10/18 SJSF: ESL HLG EOS (HLG) - Marlton, NJ


05/16 - 05/17 TMSS - Isle of Wight, VA
06/06 - 06/07 SKSS 1 - Newark, DE
06/27 - 06/28 LISF 1 - Syosset, Long Island, NY
07/11 - 07/12 DBSF - Reading, PA
08/08 - 08/09 CRRC Soar-In - Sudbury, MA
08/22 - 08/23 ESL Mid-season @ DBSF - Reading, PA
09/12 - 09/13 CASA Open - Warrenton, VA
09/19 - 09/20 LISF 2 - Syosset, Long Island, NY
10/03 - 10/04 Reading ESL TD EOS - Reading, PA
May 13, 2010, 01:20 PM
Proud member of LISF and ESL
If you would like to give competition soaring a try in 2010, then why not come to an ESL soaring contest. Our updated contest schedule can be found at our home page:

come fly with us!
Jun 17, 2010, 06:05 PM
Proud member of LISF and ESL
My home field will be hosting an ESL event next weekend. I promise that if you are new to contest flying that you will have a great time.

Ping me if you have any questions.

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