Paragliding Competition Committee Update
I am flat up against the deadline tonight to get this written for Airborne… so my apologies if I don’t explain all the things I wanted to about the up and coming paragliding competitions. I just got back yesterday from California where I snuck in a little pre-season SIV action. I’ve always been shy of big clouds, so I’ve been working on my spiral dive so that I have more confidence to go closer to them this season – that’s something Mark Hardman taught me at the PG Open in Wanaka last year – confidence in spirals can help me climb.
I’ve simply got to stay ahead of Kyla. She’s made no secret that she is gunning for me this season, and she’s only a few points behind me on the ladder now. So, short of “fiddling” the Excel sheet, if I want to stay ahead I will have to fly as many comps as possible this season.
There are a couple of regional competitions on the calendar already, though I have a feeling that they may have happened by the time you read this. Details of these can be found here. Your best four regional comp task scores are used to affect your ladder rating. If you don’t fly four comps you get a DNF (“Did Not Fly”) which will reduce your score. The formulae used to calculate your ladder position (and thus how much you lose for a DNF) are very complex, and if you are really interested please check out the rules or ask for more info… but basically the higher in the ladder you are, the more you will lose. This keeps the top of the ladder interesting.
Of course, the big national PG Open rounds are lined up, as well, for the New Year and this is where the points really come in. If you want to survive on the national ladder you HAVE to fly the PG Open – the tasks there are often worth massively more on the ladder than Regional comp tasks. This season we are lucky enough to have two PG Open rounds, and while it’s best that you attend both you don’t have to, as only a certain number of tasks will count (usually your best five from both comps combined).
The national ladder can be found here. Basically, if you want to do well:
· Fly well in as many comps as you can
· Fly the PG Open
For some it will be their first comp, and the PG Open organisers have promised that these will be among the most beginner friendly comps yet. There will be workshops for low airtime pilots and the potential to join a mentoring scheme. I’ve even heard tell of a “How to put a task in your GPS” workshop planned for the Rotorua comp, with waypoints set around the campsite so low airtime pilots can practise the task settings that they never normally use on their GPS Varios. The “Goal” is allegedly the chilly bin at my cabin!
Competition tasks in NZ are almost exclusively of the “Race to Goal” type. This means that before you go to the comp you MUST have preloaded a set of waypoints into your GPS Vario (and if you don’t have a GPS Vario you need to contact your local dealer and get that fixed!). After a weather assessment a task committee will present the “Task” and then everyone sits around going beep-beep-beep and selecting those waypoints on their GPS Varios to define a “Route”.
It’s really worth practising this, and getting familiar with it (RTFM!) well in advance as it can be quite fiddly. If you have any questions – please contact your local paragliding school, or us at the PCC.
A race to goal task works basically like this: A launch window is defined, say 1130 until 1400. You must launch within that window. You then fly to the first waypoint – the start cylinder. The race might begin at say 1200 (your vario will make a cool noise) and then you must generally leave the start cylinder. You will be trying to climb but generally pegging it towards the next way point, which your GPS Vario will be pointing towards (naturally you will have studied the task map in advance also). In reality the race is likely to start before you have taken off which is not a problem.
There are usually about 4 or 5 waypoints and then the goal waypoint. You get scored for how far you get along the path between the waypoints. If you “make goal” then you also get points for the time you took since leaving the start cylinder. Not that that has ever happened to me, but often about 20% of pilots “make goal”.
Note that you are earning distance points from the moment you take off - even if you don’t make it to the start cylinder.
Nowadays it’s common for the ‘speed section’ to end somewhat before the actual goal waypoint. This is a safety feature which is designed to prevent overly competitive pilots from flying flat out while low, or doing face planting downwind landings like the one that cracked my vario screen.
We score everything using an online system called “HighCloud” which was developed by an Australian pilot, Geoff Wong. The winner of the task (first to goal) generally gets 1000 points, although sometimes the maximum score for the task is downgraded, if the task is not deemed good enough (for example, not long enough, or too few pilots made goal).
For an example, have a look at the last PG Open tasks in Wanaka… at this URL:
Click a task number, then someone’s name - and you will see the task map appear.
Mostly though, NZ paragliding comps are genuinely about having fun, catching up with mates and enjoying some very rewarding and safe flying together - rather than the scoring. I guess.
And it’s even okay to be beaten by your girlfriend.
Johnny Hopper at the Paragliding Comp Committee
firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions.