A beginner's introduction to competitions
Congratulations! You have just chosen to challenge and expand your flying experiences in one of the most supportive and welcoming environments you will find. However, you're not exactly sure what this involves and what happens next. This brief article looks to cover what to expect at the first few days at your very first competition.
Read the site guides for the clubs surrounding the area where you are going. Information on the base "HQ" should be published on this website but as this is usually already assumed by regular pilots it may be lacking the detail you require. It is therefore recommended to register with, and ask questions on, the hgcomps mailing list.
Also in advance, if you do not have one then please find an Android phone with some credit to send text messages. Installing and using the "Tracker" application will relieve the stress from your club class retrieve (Mark Woodhams) and get you back to base quicker.
Occasionally you may also need to enter coordinates into your GPS. If you do so, then this will be in "decimal minutes" format, so set your instrument accordingly and try from the comfort of your sofa.
Mobile phone coverage for the different operators varies greatly between the venues. A cheap pre-pay phone with a different operator is useful as a backup / alternative. The information on the different venues will be updated with notes on mobile coverage as we have it.
Finally, register in advance, There is also a discount (usually "3 for the price of 2") when you pay for all three rounds a good time before the first BOS.
Look to arrive in good time the afternoon before, this will give you an opportunity to set up camp, meet people, and gently settle into an intially alien world at ease. Competitions are all about being organised and minimising the stress of last minute panics.
In the evening you will need to head with your GPS to wherever registration is happening.
This is usually in the corner of the closest pub where the following will happen:
You will be marked as present
BHPA membership checked if necessary (e.g. expiry was due after online registration was checked)
Any moneys not yet paid to be paid
Pilot number stickers will be issues (to be placed on your uprights)
A card with important telephone numbers will be issued
Meal preferences may be taken
BOS gift will be passed on if signed up to all three rounds
Waypoints will be downloaded to your instrument if have yet to do so yourself online
It is important to check that you do in fact have ALL the waypoints required. On some instruments you will need to delete all the existing ones first to make space and if you have neglected to do so may have less than you think.
On the first day
Meet up early with the rest of your group you will have met the previous evening to work out who's car will be going up the hill, and then load it up with (say) three gliders. This needs to be done before briefing as everything happens very quickly afterwards. Mark will be around to help and coordinate.
Briefing is usually 9.30am for 15 - 30 minutes (depending on the weather) on the campsite or other nominated location and announced by the meethead's horn. You will hear a weather briefing, NOTAM briefing, which site we are heading to, and anything else organisational. In the case of bad weather, talks will also be arranged and alternative tourist suggestions made.
At the end of briefing, everybody will then disappear quite quickly into their transport and drive to the hill - so it is helpful to know where this is and where you are going from somebody in advance.
The first day is usually more shambolic than described, you will fall into routine quite easily
On the hill
You will probably find pilots already there ahead of you who will be assessing conditions. Rig once other people start rigging and get yourself a premium spot as close to the front of the hill as you are able. Go back for your harness once your glider is approximately rigged - it's all a little bit of a Monte Carlo style start to rigging and you could otherwise find your place on the hill no longer is. Think about whether it is flyable after.
Once everybody is rigged there will then be a site and task briefing, followed by another brief lull while the clock ticks down until launch open - as indicated once again by the horn. You can, and should, then launch to get established early in the air. If you are using Tracker, press start in advance (with activation distance of say 200m) and then stow and forget in your harness.
The gliders will stay above the hill until the time of the "start gate", only then are you permitted to fly away from the hill. Leave early and you will get zero points. Gliders will try and form into gaggles before then, somewhat ironically competitions are much more about cooperation and collaboration. The task itself is kept straightforward for the club class and you will have been briefed separately on the hill
If you are using Tracker, remember to press stop.
Text the meethead and your retrieve (e.g. Mark for club class) to say that you have landed safely.
Turn off your GPS. You do not want to hand into the scorer a nice track of your retrieve - potentially overwriting your flight.
Derig and text your position to your retrieve who will coordinate your retrieve. If you have an Android phone then "Here I Am 2" is a very useful application which will text your coordinates for you. These must be for a location where you are ready to be picked up on a tarmac road, not the middle of a field. Use decimal minutes as the format.
After being picked up
Go directly back to the comp HQ and the scoring room, you must score first and eat / drink second. The reason for this is that your flight will affect all scores and not just your own. Take your GPS to the scorer who will then download and check with you where you went.
Go for beer, chat, chill out, charge instruments, and get ready to do it all again tomorrow.
Tracker - http://www.mycloudbase.com/tracker
Here I Am 2 - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.codesector.hereiam&hl=en
HG Comps mailing list - http://www.bhpa.co.uk/cgi-bin/dada/bhpa_list.cgi/list/hg_comps