What is a Soaring Competition?
Soaring Competitions, also known as "contests", are one of the most interesting and exciting aspects of soaring. Soaring competitions pit pilots against eachother in a race for distance, where the fastest overall pilot at the end of the competition is the winner.
From local intraclub contests to the world championships, gliding contests exist in many forms. Gliding contests are typically held over several days and can be as long as three weeks for larger national and international contests. During the contest, pilots fly around courses designated by turnpoints set at the beginning of each contest day, which can vary from as little as 100 kilometers to as long as 500 kilometers or more. Pilots fly around the designated course for the day, with the fastest pilot around the course being declared the winner and receiving the highest points for that day. The other pilots are ranked for the day and receive points in accordance with their percentage of the winner's speed. At the conclusion of the contest, the pilot with the highest number of points is declared the winner.
Skill = Efficiency = Speed
In a sport where one's ability to remain aloft is determined by naturally-occuring updrafts and the pilot's own skills, going fast isn't as simple as just pushing the stick forward and speeding up. The best pilots will maximize their speed by flying as efficiently as possible, finding the best path through the sky to the turnpoints, stopping only to climb in the strongest updrafts. Average speeds for a competition day can vary greatly and depend largely on the weather; however, if it not uncommon to see the winner's average speed in excess of 100 km/h over courses that can range from 300 to 500 kilometers.
Soaring Contests in Canada
There are a number of soaring competitions that occur annually across Canada. The pinnacle of Canadian soaring contests is the Canadian Nationals, held annually at a soaring club in Canada. Pilots from all across Canada unite for ten days of racing, where the winner is crowned the National Champion. Several provinces also hold Provincial and regional contests, which are fun contests to participate in regardless of your experience level. A full schedule of gliding contests in Canada can be found in the Contest Calendar.
Get Involved in a Soaring Contest
While there may be specific experience requirements for a contest such as a Nationals, those interested in flying in a Provincial or regional contest should typically have some experience flying cross-country. A good milestone to consider if you are interested in flying in a Provincial or regional contest is the completion of your Silver Badge along with the ability to comfortably fly OLC flights of 100 to 200 kilometers. If you are unsure whether your experience is adequate for a given contests, the best thing to do is to inquire with the organizer of the contest. Even if you don't yet have the experience required to fly in a contest, you can still get involved. A soaring contest requires a significant number of volunteers to be successful and there's no better way to experience a soaring contest than to volunteer. Whether you participate by flying in a contest or by volunteering, you'll come away from the contest with a new perspective on soaring, a ton of new experiences and you'll be officially indoctrinated into the contest family.