The 7th Federation Aeronautique International (FAI) Sailplane Grand Prix Final was held at the Potchefstroom Airfield, North West, from the 5th to the 12th of November 2016. Eighteen of the world's best sailplane pilots competed for the coveted title of World Champion and the event was shown live on the Internet. As technology is always pushing the boundaries, this Grand Prix was the first allowing the organisation to change the task "on the fly" literally speaking. It's a huge step, especially here in South Africa where little thunderstorms can be tricky to predict in the morning.
FAI World Sailplane Grand Prix Championships are gliding competitions promoted by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and is a concept of racing in sailplanes that is both more spectacular and more easily understood by the public than conventional soaring competitions.
In a Sailplane Grand Prix, the gliders race close together around a pre-set task. A smaller number of competitors reduce the risks of the simultaneous start. A place-scoring system provides rewards for excellence in a simple and easily understood format:
· A race is typically 2-3 hour in duration and between 200 and 400 km in length.
· All sailplanes start at the same time (similar to a yacht race or Motor Grand Prix).
· The sailplanes must cross the short start line not above a set height and not faster than a set maximum speed.
· The start / finish line are close to the airfield so that spectators can observe it.
· Sailplanes race around the course. No team-flying is permitted. The first one home wins as they all started at the same time and there is no handicapping.
· A place scoring system is used, with 1 point for every finisher you beat and the option of a bonus point for coming home first (similar to the F1 Grand Prix).
· The Competitions is held over several days and pilots accumulate points over the contest days. On each of the race days the top ten pilots are awarded points according to their position, the pilot amassing the most points by the end of the contest is the winner.
The purpose of a Sailplane Grand Prix is to make the sport of gliding more spectacular for the general public. This event is a great way for the South African Public to get to know the sport of soaring. This is especially important because one of the World's top Sailplanes, the JS1 Revelation that is manufactured in Potchefstroom was used by 16 of the 18 sailplane pilots. Some of the world's top sailplane racing pilots competed in this race along with South African current National Gliding Champion and previous World Champion, Oscar Goudriaan, who was flying in a JS1 with a 34 kg thrust jet turbine, if needed. This event was only two months before the World Gliding Champions (WGC), scheduled for January 2017 and to be hold in Australia and thus a great way for the top Sailplane Pilots to compete before the WGC.
Potchefstroom Gliding Club House
The competition was held over a seven day period with all the competitors being given the same task to complete for the day, depending on the weather, tasks were either named A, B and even C.
Day 1 of the competition: 6 November
Task: Race 1A - Distance 209.61 km. Potchefstroom 03 - Ventersdorp - Witpan - Klipdrift Dam / N12 Traffic - Potchefstroom Club.
Day 2 of the competition: 7 November
Task: Race 2A - Distance 225.78 km. Potchefstroom 21 - Lacemyn Dam - Orkney - Klipdrift Dam / N12 Traffic - Potchefstroom Club.
Day 3 of the competition: 8 November
Task: Race 3A - Distance 365.31 km. Potchefstroom 21 - Wolmaranstad - Wesselsbron - Klipdrift Dam / N12 Traffic - Potchefstroom Club.
Day 4 of the competition: 9 November
Cancelled due to the bad weather.
Day 5 of the competition: 10 November
Task: Race 4A - Distance 275.53 km. Potchefstroom 21 - Vetpan - Gerdau - Boskop - Klipdrift Dam / N12 Traffic - Potchefstroom Club.
Day 6 of the competition: 11 November
Task: Race 5A - Distance 169.03 km. Potchefstroom 03 - Mahemsvlei - Bodenstein - Klipdrift Dam / N12 Traffic- Potchefstroom Club.
Day 7 of the competition: 12 November
Task: Race 6A - Distance 205.89 km. Potchefstroom 03 - Dominionville - Buckingham - Klipdrift Dam / N12 Traffic - Potchefstroom Club
Tug Plane Launch
All competitors had maximum altitude limits for the start and finish which was 2438m (8000ft above sea level) and 1463m (4800ft) respectively. Time was added if the height restriction or maximum ground speed of 170km/h was exceeded.
Andy Davis (Britain) was the 1st to be launched on the Sunday
Sebastian Kawa (Poland)
Vladas Motuza (Lithuania)
Mike Young (Britain)
Christophe Abadie (France)
Jan Omsels (Germany)
Holger Karow (Germany)
Matthias Sturm (Germany)
Oscar Goudriaan (South Africa)
Christophe Abadie (France) crossing the finish line
After many hours of flying in less than favourable weather conditions this week for South Africa, the competition was concluded with Day 4 being cancelled due to bad weather. According to FAI rules even if there is only four days of results, the competition is valid, and for a day's task to be valid only one aircraft has to complete the task.
Holger Karow (Germany) walked away with the honors to be the 7th FAI Sailplane World Champion with 35 points followed very closely by Oscar Goudriaan (South Africa) with 32 points and Christophe Abadie (France) in third place with 31 points. Well done Oscar Goudriaan for competing against the best sailplane pilots in the world. This event was well organised and handled professionally by all involved. Efficiency was of the highest standard.
For more information about the Sailplane Grand Prix, visit the website at www.sgp.aero. Next event is in Vitacura, Chile for the 8th FAI SGP World Final.