Rules for 2011
Contest Corner
John H. Cochrane

There are  a lot of rules action and  issues this year.  This article highlights the main points that pilots and organizers need to be aware of.

Mixed regionals.  Regionals can now run multiple handicapped classes. The handicap ranges can and probably should overlap.  Water ballast can be used.

This is a very flexible structure, which can accommodate a lot of the groups of pilots and gliders that show up to a regional. Some examples:  

You can also define classes by pilots. You can have a  “pro” class with longer hard tasks, and a “beginner” class with shorter and easier tasks.   A “beginner pilot” class is different from a “low performance glider” class – a 4 hour task set for a PW5 is very different from a 2.5 hour easy task set for a Discus.

We strongly encourage flexibility rather than a lot of rules on how to divide classes. Any handicap ranges should overlap substantially. An experienced pilot flying a Discus might want to join the “FAI” class and fly with water; a new pilot might want to join a lower class despite a fancy glider. There is little reason to force them to fly in a different class. 

Task targets might work better than any handicap ranges at all. State that Class A will have tasks set for a PW5, Class B will have tasks set for an LS4, and Class C will have tasks set for an ASG29. Let the pilot decide where he wants to fly. Similarly, let pilots choose “pro” vs. “beginner” rather than putting a lot of rules on this allocation.

This option needs a waiver this year, which can be arranged by calling the RC chair to OK a plan. It’s a good idea for pilots to understand these rules, as the class split will usually emerge at the pilot’s meeting, and deciding which class to fly will be easier if you understand how the process works.

Radios and other waivers.  Also by waiver this year, regionals can allow radios for pilot-to-pilot communication. They can do it in some classes and not others. People like to talk to each other on the radio, so why not at contests? Also, talking on the radio will make mentoring new pilots in a contest situation much easier.

Of course the frequency could get jammed with chat, or it might give unfair advantages to teams that work together.  If this experiment is to be successful, pilots will have to display a lot of good sportsmanship.  We’d like a few reigionals to try it, and let us know if pilots overall like the experience, or would prefer to keep the current (not well enforced) ban on sharing information.

There are other waiver options that people generally are not aware of. For example, the “drop a day” rule is very attractive to those of us who have thought about it, but no regional has ever thought to try it.
Regionals are good places for for experimentation, so if there is something you want to try, ask for a waiver!

Safety Checklist.  Like flying a glider, contest safety depends on following established procedures every single time.  The rules appendix will contain a short list of critical safety procedures. Like the “critical assembly check” this is not exhaustive, but it helps us all to make sure the basics are covered. A typical example is “all spectators and cars must be behind or well to the side of glider takeoffs.” (Until the rules appendix makes it to the SSA webpage, you can find the checklist at

We hope this checklist will serve as a reminder for organizers, and give pilots a basis to help nudge things in the right direction.  This is a “living document” that we will revise frequently. Let us know what you think – but keep in mind it shouldn’t get too long. 

Flarm.  Flarm will be allowed and encouraged at contests. At last report, over 600 pilots in the US have ordered Flarm, so it will be in widespread use as soon as units are available.

Please keep in mind that Flarm is only a warning device. You still have to look, see, and avoid other gliders, without doing radical maneuvers that may put you in the path of a third glider.

Any device that lets you see a glider you might collide with also lets you see a glider whose thermal you might want to join.  Flarm has the ability to disguise some information – “stealth” mode -- in order to reduce that possibility.  The rules committee decided not to impose an unknown mode on an unknown instrument in its first year. Whether we do so in the future is going to be The Big Issue for a few years. We will want pilot feedback based on experience with the units when they arrive. (We have lots of feedback based on theory, thanks!)

Here are the big questions: Does Flarm indeed let you see and follow gliders that you could not otherwise see and follow visually? If so, is this good or bad?  Do races become more tactical; more start roulette, leeching and gaggling, or less so? Most importantly of all, do you like or dislike the contest experience with whatever extra situational  awareness that Flarm provides? How much would stealth mode reduce the safety awareness you get from Flarm?  Fly, watch, and tell the Rules Committee.

Short TAT/MAT Scoring. In the past, if you finished a TAT or MAT, you got the better of your speed points and the winner’s distance points. Thus, you could ensure yourself a lot of points – as much as 80% of the winner’s points on a devalued day – by flying a minimum task and finishing very early.  This is changed: you get the better of your speed points and your distance points.

This means an important change in strategy. It will be a good deal less tempting to stop very early or cut all the cylinders to the minimum on a weak day. If you do 100 miles in 1 hour, but someone else does 400 miles in 4 hours and lands out, you still win. But if he makes it back, it will cost a lot more points! In general, it will be worth keeping going if the weather is not disastrously weak.

Second task attempt. You can now go around the task a second time without landing. If you land out, your first task  is still valid.  

Limited ballast.  Instead of saying “no ballast at all” the CD now can allow limited ballast. If he/she does so, the limit is a common gross weight for everybody, not  a wingloading limit. This makes your calculations easier, but you still have to be able to ballast your glider to a given gross weight.

10 mile safety finish option. The CD may call a 10 mile safety finish if a really big storm lies over the airport. You need to know this and listen for the diameter of the safety finish. Let’s hope that the first one of these is not followed by 25 radio calls from pilots who don’t know that a 10 mile finish is possible!

Crash scrub and midair. If there is a crash or other emergency, and pilots are forced to abandon the task, the day can be canceled. If you see a situation where your help is needed don’t let points tempt you from the right action.  Similarly, pilots in a midair are scored to where they hit. There will not be any point temptation to keep going.

The rules committee is working hard to make contests safer, and more fun, hoping always to attract more pilots to contest soaring. Let us know how we’re doing.  If you haven’t flown a contest yet, make this the year to give it a try!