24 April 2017

Be comfortable on Speed bar

For XC flying, even on the latest,best EN A gliders, use of the speed bar is a big benefit. In summary:

  • It helps you improve your glide over the ground in sink and in a headwind.
  • It helps you reach obvious climbs quicker.
  • It improves your XC speed and therefore your distance.
  • It might be needed to keep up with other pilots which will allow you to work with a gaggle rather than alone.
  • Many gliders stiffen when you press some speed bar so actually feel nicer on the glide as they cut through minor turbulence better, rather than getting bounced around. 

Of course using the bar has potential downsides such as the glider being more prone to collapse and it being more dramatic when it does go. Flying full speed is generally more stressful, especially in active air.
So... is there a balance to be struck for pilots not pushing at the front of a high level competition task? I think there is.
The most obvious first thing is to allow yourself enough terrain clearance. What comprises "enough" depends on a lot of individual factors but generally would be: enough height to recover a collapse. After that, a good starting point is to use 30% - 50% bar on every glide unless there is a good reason not to.. This setting gives you a healthy gain without the disadvantages stacking up too much. The rewards are less in downwind XC flying and greater if you are following mountain ridges. At the FlyFuther event in Slovenia, the pilots getting more from the days will be gliding significantly faster than trim whenever they feel it is safe to do so.

It takes practice and mental acclimatisation but if it becomes your new default, your flying can only benefit. You can build it into your on local soaring flights, so that you ready when the big day comes.
And remember - never apply brakes whist you are on the bar!

02 April 2017

Choose your climbs

In tough, weak conditions, even experienced XC pilots might choose to climb in every bit of usable lift. To make more of the day, using the better lift definitely helps you progress along your route quicker.
Even on quite average days in the mountains it is possible to cover many km at a time following good lines, without doing a single 360 turn. Flying from the Tolmin area of Slovenia is a great example of this. At the FlyFurther event there should be great opportunities to put this into practice.
You might be above the crests of the ridges following a series of well formed thermals or very often you can fly along in the anabatic flow alongside the ridges.

This picture is actually from near Annecy but illustrates the point well.
Your aim is to reach the crest in the middle distance next to the lake (Verier), ready for the next section of your XC. You can probably identify three or four places that would tempt you to stop and climb along the way.

Below are typical places where good thermals release.

What often can happen if you climb in these places to well above the summits, is that your glide takes you through sink and back down below the tops.
There is another way!

Along large sections of the route there will be a light anabatic flow up the hillsides. Provided you are close enough you can surf along, maybe without stopping at all.
The day of the picture was pretty stable but even so there was enough gentle lift to make it most of the way without stopping. I climbed just once - just before the transition to Verier.
One of the French pilots I was with managed to find such a good line that he made it all the way to Verier before climbing. He was already crossing the lake in orbit as I arrived at Verier and hill top level.
You can imagine how far ahead he would have been if I had stopped two or three more times!