Rules of the Northern
Illinois Soaring

Last Updated: June 11 2012

Short Guide to Flying the Contest

Recent Rules Changes

The Rules

Short guide to flying the Northern Illinois Soaring Contest

You need a flight recorder. It does not have to be blessed by the ICG (secure). PDA traces made by GNII or other software are fine. Your logger and software have to produce a file that winscore can read. IGC format is preferred.

The start is a cylinder with 2 statute mile radius and 4,500’ MSL top. Start out the side or out the top. If clouds are below 5,000’ MSL, you must start out the side and stay 500’ below clouds at all times while flying in class E airspace. (Wherever you start, you will be credited with the distance from the start point to the next turnpoint, but not more than the distance from the starting airport to the next turnpoint.)  

The default task is a MAT with a 2 hour minimum.

There is a 10% bonus for declaring a task in advance. Guidelines on task declarations:

You must use the current Northern Illinois database from the worldwide turnpoint exhange

Call out by radio your start, turnpoints and finish on 123.3. This is a friendly contest, and talking on the radio is allowed. However, every pilot from Ionia to Indianapolis to Iowa and Wisconsin is likely to hear every word you say, so try to reduce chatter.

The finish is a one mile circle with a 1,500’ MSL minimum.  If you are less than this altitude you will be subject to a finish penalty.  The penalty for being more than 200’ below is that you are treated as having landed out at the point of the low finish.

 Water ballast is allowed.  No reduction in handicap is applied as a result of carrying water.

After your flight, send your trace to promptly. State what glider you are flying and your declared task.

Basic safety issues:

Don’t count on RLAs to be landable, especially for gliders! RLAs are often narrow. They can be misplaced on the map and databases. Some have reverted to crops or become housing developments. Others are not often mowed or maintained, and may present a hazard due to high grass or potholes. RLA conditions can change over the course of the season. RLAs are private property.

The Northern Illinois database carefully distinguishes beteween "airport" and "private". "Airports" are public use airports, and their location and landabilty is much more reliable. Fields with the "private" or "landable" attribute (depending on software) are RLAs, and subject to the above unreliability. This warning includes such fields used as turnpoints.

Chicago airspace is very congested.  Power planes are not looking for gliders, especially away from airports, and gliders are very hard to see. We strongly suggest that you purchase and install a transponder and/or a passive traffic avoidance device (zaon mrx) or power flarm. In any case, keep a sharp lookout. It is a good practice to occasionally take some turns on long glides so you can see behind you.

When possible, plan your flights to take you away from common approach routes, class B and C airspace, and the 30 nm veil.  Be aware of airways (the blue lines on sectionals) and VORs, and anticipate power traffic on airways and in the vicinity of VORs.

All pilots are required to comply with FARs, including cloud clearance and visibility requirements.  You must wear a parachute on NISC flights.

Be careful around parachute operations, especially Skydive Chicago, Rochelle, and Beloit. Monitor their frequency when nearby. Parachute operations communicate with Chicago Center before jumps, so they know you're there but they don't know your intetions. Talking to the parachute operator is a good idea.

The most common source of problems in cross country flying is putting off the decision to land in a field until too late, and as a result not doing a proper field inspection and pattern. Commit in advance of every flight that you will not make this mistake. Expect a scolding from the scorer if your trace shows a straight-in landing to a field at low speed, and points penalties for repeated violations.

Unlike SSA contests, there is no contest management to check weather and airspace (NOTAMs, TFRs, etc.). Each pilot must take responsibility to obtain this necessary informaton. Don't assume that because you hear others on the radio that they have done so.

Ask for help. Any of the NISC pilots at your airport will be delighted to guide you through the rules and procedures.

Recent rules changes

There are big rules changes this year! We’re going to run the contest under SSA regional rules for mixed FAI classes, with a few changes that are specifically described.

  1. Declared tasks get a 10% bonus. Declared MAT tasks must assign turnpoints that are not less than half the achieved distance or 100 miles, including return to the home airport.
  2. Minimum task time is 2 hours, minimum distance is 50 miles, not handicapped.
  3. Water ballast is allowed without extra handicap.
  4. You must use the Northern Illinois turnpoints.
  5. Airspace around the Joliet Racetrack is also prohibited when the TFR is active, including airspace above the TFR. This is also marked on the SUA file. You may not overfly the Joliet Racetrack TFR when it is an active. Such overflight is legal by FAR rules but not for contest scoring.
  6. The long task bonus is back as follows: You will be scored on speed = distance / ( time + 20 minutes). This adds 20 minutes to every contestant’s time and has the effect of cancelling out the final glide, so you need not fear going on a long task.  (You can also view this as eliminating the incentive to fly the shortest possible task so as to maximize speed by applying the altitude gained at the start to the least amount of task distance.) 
  7. As per SSA rules, the finish penalty is now greater. If you finish more than 200' low (1300' 'MSL or lower) you are scored as landing out. If you are on a flat glide to a finish at 1200' MSL, this is a strong message from the scorer that you are in a very dangerous situation. You should stop to thermal, land in a good field, or keep going, but thinking only about safety as you will get no contest points for the low finish.
  8. You can use a 5 mile “safety finish” if it is unsafe to enter the 1 mile circle or land at the airport. Explain the safety situation to the scorer, but feel free to use this option if there is any reason to fear or delay entering the finish cylinder -- strong crosswind, rain, traffic, parachutes, etc.
  9. After much discussion we decided not to enforce a SUA around Skydive Chicago, as well as Rochelle, Beloit, or other parachute areas. However, please be extra careful around these areas. For Skydive especially, you should contact the skydiving operation on the appropriate frequency (see the sectional) any time you are within 5 miles, let them know you're there and listening to their jump announcements.

The Rules


    1. The purposes of the Northern Illinois Soaring Championships are:
      1. to provide an entry level for pilots new to competitive sailplane racing to learn the skills and procedures used in cross-country and competition soaring.
      2. to provide a vehicle for experienced competition pilots to hone their skills,
      3. to determine the Council Champion for the overall season. 
    1. These rules are the agreement between contest officials and the contestants, by which fair and consistent competition is maintained.
    2. Each pilot is responsible to ensure that he is adequately prepared for cross-country flying, and shall comply with all FARs and other applicable laws and regulations.
    3. By participating in the contest, each contestant agrees to be bound by these rules. Each contest participant recognizes that glider flying and glider races can be an inherently dangerous activity involving risk of loss of life or serious injury.  In consideration of the contestant being afforded an opportunity to participate in flight or ground activities as part of the Northern Illinois Soaring Contest, each contestant agrees, for him or herself, his or her heirs, executors, administrator and assigns, to release and forever discharge the Chicago Glider Council, the contest organizers and personnel, its and their members, directors, instructors, tow pilots, agents, employees, participating volunteers and representatives from any and all claims, demands, losses or injuries, incurred or sustained as a result of ground or flight activities or engaging in any activity as part of the Northern Illinois Glider Contest.  This release is intended to be a general release and to have the maximum effect permitted by law
    4. Please address any comments on these rules to  Neal Ridenour,, Mike Shakman, or John Cochrane
    1. Competition Director: Mike Shakman, or someone he appoints in his absence.Unlike SSA contests, the contest director will not oversee daily contest flights or otherwise act as CD unless an issue is presented to him that requires action.
    2. Scorer: John Cochrane
    3. AN IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE:  Neither the CD, the scorer nor any other contest organizer or official assumes responsibility for the safety of NISC contest operations or any liability in the event of damage to property,  personal injury or death of a participant or other person.  All contestants assume responsibility for the decisions to be made in flying NISC contests.  All participants recognize that soaring, like much of aviation, can be dangerous and life-threatening.  All contestants agree that by participating in the Northern Illinois Contest they have agreed to comply with these rules, and to waive and release (for themselves, their heirs, successors and assigns) any claims against the CD, scorer or other contest organizers for injury, loss or death arising while participating in the NISC.  Submission of a trace to the scorer or other action to participate in the NISC constitutes each contestant’s acceptance of and agreement to the foregoing terms.
    4. The competition director reserves the right to change rules as necessary. An email will be sent to all pilots on the NISC mailing list when there are rules changes, and this document will be updated and posted on the NISC website.
    5. The competition director may change rules as needed to accommodate special circumstances, including the CGC boomarang contest and the Sky Soaring memorial day contest.  The competition director may also adjust rules to integrate badge and record flights, or to fix bugs as they occur.
    1. The contest runs from April 1 until Thanksgiving (not including Thanksgiving itself). Any day that 3 Contestants earn a score greater than zero will be scored as a completed task.  
    1. Any Sailplane may be used and scoring will be based on the most recently published SSA handicap list. If your sailplane is not listed, contact the Competition Director for a handicap. Handicaps are not adjusted for weight or modifications.
    2. Ballast - Water ballast that can be discharged in flight is permitted and encouraged. No handicap is assessed for water.  
    3. Multi-place sailplanes may be used, but only one pilot may receive a score for each task. A multiplace glider may fly two tasks without landing, with pilot A receiving the score for the first task, and pilot B receiving the score for the second task.
    4. Motorized sailplanes are permitted. Use of the motor except for use to launch the glider is scored as a landout at the position of motor use. Motorized sailplanes should follow the launch, motor test, start, and other procedures described in SSA regional rules.
    5. Each occupant of the sailplane must wear a parachute.
    6. As we fly in high traffic airspace, competitors are strongly encouraged to install and use transponders and collision warning devices (zaon mrx, ADS-B, power flarm, etc).
    7. Traces from any flight recorder are allowed. Handheld and non-FAI certified recorders are allowed, so long as the pilot can produce an IGC file or other file readable by the Wiscore program. The trace must capture time and position for the start, each turnpoint claimed and the finish. Altitude recording capacity is not required.
    1. A Traveling Trophy will be awarded to the overall season winner, and he or she will be recognized at the Chicagoland Glider Council meetings.
    2. Additional recognition may be provided as well, for best new pilot, most improved pilot, etc.
    1. A contestant is expected to follow the rules and the rulings of the Competition Director who will apply these rules in cases in which rules issues are brought to his attention. In the event that the Competition Director was a contestant on the day of a flight or otherwise personally involved in circumstances giving rise to a protest, he shall appoint an experienced contest pilot who was not a contestant on that day to serve as Competition Director with respect to the protest, and that individual shall fill the role of Competition Director with respect to that protest.  Protest against a ruling of the Competition Director will ordinarily not be allowed unless there is clear evidence of a gross inequity.
    2. If a pilot feels that an incident or interpretation of these rules has caused an inequity, a formal protest, in writing, must be delivered by mail to the Competition Director within one week of the incident or act. In arriving at a decision, the Competition Director may ask for statements from witnesses, etc. The Competition Director will make a prompt response by email or telephone, giving the reason for the decision.
    3. There is no competition committee. However, if a contestant wishes to appeal the decision of the Competition Director a local experienced competition pilot, agreeable to the contestant and the Competition Director (who did not compete on that day), will be asked to resolve Rules Interpretation, Assessment of penalties, and Resolution of protests.
    1. It is imperative that this contest be run with the greatest emphasis on safety. No phase of the operation of the contest or interest in competition can be allowed to infringe on or lessen safety. Each contestant and crew member is expected to recognize and apply this principle.
    2. Aerobatics, flying within clouds or in conditions below minimums for visual flight rules are prohibited. Contestants must be aware that there will be sailplanes near start and finish sites and near turnpoints that are not part of the contest and may not be observing these rules.
    3. Contestants are required to be familiar with all local air space restrictions and hazards, including parachutes at Rochelle, Skydive Chicago, and other airports, typical air carrier flight paths to the Joliet VOR, flight in the vicinity of nuclear power plants, Aurora class D airspace, O'Hare Class B, Midway Class C, 30 nm Mode C veil, Rockford TRSA and so forth.
    4. Contestants must check for and abide by NOTAMs and TFRs. Many airports and some airspace in our area are occasionally closed due to airshows, and Presidential TFRs are not uncommon.
    5. Several airports in our task area host skydiving operations. Currently, Skydive Chicago, Rochelle and Beloit are known to be active, but this changes. Pilots are strongly encouraged to communicate by radio with the skydiving operations (see current sectionals for frequencies) when nearby. This holds especially for Skydive Chicago, which has it's own frequency (122.72 per latest sectional). They see VFR traffic especially those of us with transponders, and they are understandably nervous about unknown VFR traffic in their area. By letting them know you are on their frequency, monitoring jump announcements, and your intentions, you will not only increase safety but help us all to maintain good relations and a friendly welcome should you land at their airport.
    1. Pilots meetings:
      1. There are no required pilots’ meetings. Pilots are encouraged to meet before the day’s flight to discuss weather, tasking, safety issues, and to offer advice and encouragement to less experienced pilots.
      2. Pilots are responsible to discuss with the site manager the start/finish procedures, airport operations and any local rules or procedures in effect.
      3. Pilots are responsible to obtain weather information.
    2. Tasks
      1. Tasking and scoring adhere to the guidelines for SSA mixed FAI class regionals.
      2.  All tasks, including assigned tasks, must have a minimum time no less than 2.0 hours.
      3. We strongly encourage tasks to be declared in advance, as in regional contests. Declared tasks receive a 10% scoring bonus. Pilot should discuss tasks with other pilots at their airport. Ideally, many pilots will fly the same declared task. Tasks may be declared by posting a note in the clubhouse listing the task of the day. Tasks may also be agreed on and declared by radio before the start. Each pilot must announce the task in his start radio call, e.g. "Bravo Bravo start 13:42 Chicago Glider Club task alpha." Including a declaration in the IGC file, if your software permits it, will be appreciated by the scorer.  
      4. To qualify as a declared task, a MAT must contain assigned turnponts not less than half the total distance, or 100 miles. These values include return to the home airport. I.e. if you call "MAT to airports A, B, C, 3 hour minimum" then the distance from home to A,B,C, and return home must be half the total distance of the eventual flight, or 100 miles.
      5. Note: When declaring a MAT, be careful to note whether a return to the home airport is part of the assigned component or not. "Morris, Rileys, 2 hour MAT" means that you can go anywhere you want after Rileys. "Morris, Rileys, CGC, 2 hour MAT" means you must return to CGC as a turnpoint before doing something else.
      6. Tasks must conform to the SSA regional task criteria for mixed FAI classes. (10.3.1). In particular
        • Standard Minimum Task Distance: 50 miles
        • Standard Minimum Task Time: 2.0 hours
        • Minimum length of first leg: 5 miles
        • Minimum length of subsequent task legs: 2 miles (this means that successive turn areas must have 2 miles of space between them, and certainly can’t overlap)
        • Maximum number of task turnpoints: 11
        • Tasks should make as full use of the available soaring weather as is practical.
      7. As a matter of sportsmanship, experienced pilots in high-performance gliders are expected to attempt longer tasks on good days rather exploit these minimums. 
      8. The scorer has the right to disallow a turn-area task if, in his judgment, the turn areas defined for the flight are inconsistent with normal regional contest turn area task-setting practices and SSA tasking guidance. This means, for example, that very large turn areas on relatively short tasks may be disallowed. A contestant may not, for example, call four 30 mile turn areas with a 2 hour minimum on a booming day and then just go fly wherever he or she wants to go.   
    3. Turnpoints
      1. Turnpoint format is as specified by the SSA for regionals. The standard (MAT) turnpoint is a 1.00 statute mile cylinder centered at the turnpoint coordinates. At least one GPS fix must appear in this zone. Pilots will be credited for distance achieved within the turnpoint zone.
      2. A Northern Illinois Contest turnpoint database has been created on the Worldwide Turnpoint Exchange website. Pilots must use turnpoints from this database only. Please notify the scorer promptly of any problems with the database.
      3. The database contains many RLAs that are not marked with the turnpoint (T) attribute. You may not use these as turnpoints.
      4. There is also no assurance that any point in the database is landable, open, especially RLAs, or that the airports in the database even exist.
    4. Airspace.
      1. Flight in or over class B or C airports is not allowed, and results in zero points for the day.
      2. Flight in or above any temporarily closed airspace by NOTAM or TFR results in zero points for the day. The pilot is responsible for checking applicable NOTAMS and flight restrictions before each flight.
      3. Pilots must remain 500' or more below the floor of prohibited airspace (class A, B, C).
      4. The Rockford TRSA is not class A, B, or C, so you may fly through it; however you should be extremely cautious, and communication with ATC is a good idea.
      5. When the Joliet racetrack TFR is operational, the area in and above that airspace is prohibited. That area appears in the Northern Illinois SUA file.
    5. Launching: Contest flights may start from any airport or soaring site in Northern Illinois. If you wish to start flying from airports other than Chicago Glider, Hinckley, and Sky Soaring, please notify the scorer so that adjustments can be made in the turnpoint file.
    6. Start
      1. The start is a 2 statute mile cylinder with 4,500’ MSL top. As per SSA rules, you must spend 2 minutes below the start top before starting. When clouds are below 5,000’ MSL, pilots must start more than 500’ below cloudbase per FARs.
      2. As part of a task declaration, pilots may increase the start gate up to 5 miles or use an alternate start point.
      3. Each pilot must climb after release from tow and before start. A pilot may not take a high tow and then start directly, nor may he restart after a cross-country retrieve without first climbing. This will be verified by looking at the GPS trace.  
    7. Finish
      1. The finish gate is a one statute mile radius circle centered at the finish airport, with 1,500' MSL floor. Penalties for low finishes follow SSA guidelines. These guidelines now treat you as a landout if you are more than 200' below.
      2. A pilot may use a 5 mile safety finish, as per SSA rules. The safety finish may be used any time the pilot determines that entering the 1 mile finish cylinder or landing at the home airport is unsafe. The pilot must announce the use of the safety finish and reason for its use by radio. Inform the scorer of the safety finish and the reason for its use. Strong cross winds, rain, too much traffic, parachute jumpers, etc. are all good reasons to use a safety finish.
    8. Radio:
      1. Pilots should announce their start, turn points, 4 miles out, and finishing.
      2. Use of radio between competitors during the flight is encouraged, provided it is sportsmanlike. In particular, advice by more experienced pilots to newer pilots is encouraged, and newer pilots are encouraged to request advice. Unsportsmanlike communication includes communicating in codes, communicating on frequencies other than 123.3 and 123.5 to keep information secret, and communicating for the purpose of hurting another pilot’s performance. Please avoid excessive chatter. 
    9. Multiple tasks
      1. A contestant may fly more than one task attempt on any day. He may use a different glider. He does not need to land. If he lands out on the second attempt, the first attempt is still valid. Only one task per day will be credited for cumulative scoring.
      2. A pilot may pass over the home airport, try for another turnpoint, and later call the first passage of the home airport a “finish.” However, the scorer will not automatically try all possible “starts” and “finishes” to find the most advantageous one.
    10. After Landing 
      1. Send your GPS trace and flight information to the scorer within one week of the task date. If you forgot to download your trace, at least email the poor scorer with a notice that you did fly and intend to send in a trace. The scorer is usually friendly, but he reserves the right to disallow late traces.
      2. Email to the scorer is the preferred method of communication. Your email must include date, day, pilot name, glider, declared task (MAT or TAT, mandatory turnpoints, minimum time), start point, turnpoints in sequence, landing point, and whether the task is complete or a landout. Send the information in the body of the email; do not send it as an attachment. Don’t just email in a trace and expect the scorer to figure it out! It is particularly important to tell the scorer what your task is when you pass over the home airport many times in a flight. The scorer cannot be expected to try every possible combination of start and finish.  
      3. Official results will be computed by the Scorer’s evaluation of the flight log using the Winscore flight evaluation program. However, it is helpful to the scorer to see your evaluation, and this can help to reduce scoring errors.  If you use an evaluation program, make sure you set it up as per the rules, with a two statute mile radius 4,500' MSL start gate, a one statute mile radius finish with 1,500 foot MSL minimum, 1.00 statute mile turnpoints and “maximize distance” or whatever your software calls the option to give you credit for the actual distance flown rather than the line connecting the turnpoint airports. Make sure the program subtracts two miles for the start and one for the finish gate. Make sure the units are statute miles. (Winscore is available for free on the interment.)
    1. General
      1. The pilot's score will be the larger of speed points or distance points. Speed points = pilot's handicapped speed / best handicapped speed x 1000. Distance points = handicapped distance / best handicapped distance x 600.
      2. In computing scores, speeds will be computed as distance / ( time + 20 minutes). This adjustment gives a bonus for longer tasks.
      3. In computing scores, speeds for pilots who fly declared tasks will then be multiplied by 1.10 before scoring.
      4. Entrants may compete as many times as they wish. If at least 3 entrants competed 8 times, the eight best days for each entrant will be used to determine the overall final standings. Otherwise the number of days used will be the greatest number (less than 8) that 3 entrants competed.
      5. In case of ties, the Entrant’s 9th, 10th etc., highest scores will be used to break the tie. If still tied the contestant with the highest handicapped speed during the contest will be declared the winner
      6. A competition day is a day on which at least three (3) contestants have earned a score greater than zero.
      7. It is unsportsmanlike only to turn in good scores. Let someone else feel good when he beats you.   
      8. If the contestant has flown more than one task on a given day, only the best flight on each competition day shall count towards the pilot's final point score.
    2. Publication of Scores
      1. Score sheets will be published periodically and will be maintained on the NISC internet site. Ranking on sheets will be by cumulative points.
      2. Notations will be made for any score:
        • Having been reduced by a penalty
        • Not official due to pending protest
    3. Penalties
      1. Turnpoint, start and finish penalties will be assessed as per SSA scoring formulas.
      2. Airspace violation = 0 points for the day.
      3. Unsafe Flying (Including Launch, Aero tow, Start, General Flying, Finish/Landing Pattern, Landing, and Off-Field Landing) - Penalty as determined by the Competition Director
      4. Unsportsmanlike Conduct - Penalty as determined by the Competition Director
      5. Other penalties: As per SSA regional contest rules.  
    1. The scorer and contest manager determine which turnpoints appear in the Northern Illinois database.
    2. More turnpoints are not always good. We need to cover the geographic area, but if the turnpoint list gets too long it becomes hard to scroll through it in flight. Too-frequent database updates also cause confusion.
    3. Additional turnpoints should be at least 5 miles from existing turnpoints, should be easy to find from the air, should be landable (wide, long, well-kept) and friendly. RLAs that appear on the current Chicago sectional are better than ones that do not appear. and google maps / google earth are good resources for turnpoint prospecting.
    4. Airports under class B or C airspace do not appear in the database.
    5. The database and sua file are designed only for use with the Northern Illinois contest. Many airports and airspace segments are omitted. Do not rely on the database for navigation or safety! Airports and landpoints may not exist, coordinates and other information may be wrong, airspace may be wrong or excluded etc.