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477 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2007 :  08:28:38 AM  Show Profile
The Eastern Soaring League helps organize hand launched/discus launched events and winch launched soaring events. Flyers compete at two levels, Expert and Sportsman. We also have an introductory program called Novice, for first time contest flyers of all skill levels.

If you have never flown in a soaring competition, this article will explain a lot. The focus is on fun, making new friends and, of course, learning to be a better glider pilot.

Edited by - aeajr on 01/23/2007 09:10:21 AM


477 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2007 :  08:31:05 AM  Show Profile
The ESL Competition Classes
by Ed Anderson
Website Content Director
Eastern Soaring League.

The Eastern Soaring League helps organize two types of soaring competitions,
hand launched/discus launched events and winch launched events. During
these events, the Eastern Soaring League has two levels of competition
called Expert and Sportsman. The ESL also has a introductory program called
Novice which is not a competition class.

This article discussed the classes and the Novice program. If you have
never flown in a soaring competition, this will explain a lot. If you are
an experienced flyer looking for some fun competition, read on.

Below I will discuss the nature of
expert, sportsman and novice to help you understand their meaning. They
apply equally to hand/discus and winch launched glider events.


Expert is where the very best pilots compete. Anyone can enter the expert
level and compete with the best of the best, the decision is yours. The
tone of the competition is friendly but serious. There is laughter and
congratulations in abundance but these guys are watching the air and the
points to see how everyone else is doing.

Expert class flyers typically don't worry about making their time, they
worry about making it EXACTLY. Missing by a second or two can be the
difference between first and last place in expert class in hand launched or
winch launched soaring competitions. Likewise during the winch launched
events, experts
class flyers consistently score high landing points. An expert who scores
95% of perfect for the day may very well be in last place.

Many ESL expert pilots compete on the national and international level.
They are typically using the latest in aircraft and radio technology. Some
of them are designers or manufacturers themselves, supplying planes or
components to the other flyers or retail merchants such as Northeast
Sailplanes or Polecat Aero.

If you want to test yourself against the best in hand launched or winch
launched soaring, fly expert class in the ESL.


Sportsman is the entry level competition class within the ESL. Many
sportsman flyers are excellent pilots, but may not be quite up to the level
of the experts. Most of the sportsman class flyers are very much in
the developmental stages of competition flying. This is where casual
flying skills are developed into more precise skills. The opportunity to
learn from the experts as well as more accomplished sportsman is one of the
main benefits of flying in ESL competitions. The atmosphere is friendly
and supportive. Many sportsman pilots are not really focused on winning
the competition as much as they are focused on improving their skills and
achieving personal bests during the events. This is the fun way to develop
your piloting skills while you make new friends.

The skill levels in sportsman can vary quite a bit. Some are new pilots
with less than a year of experience. Others may have decades of flying
time. There are no qualification criteria. The sportsman pilot should be
able to handle their plane confidently in the air and land under safe
control. Many sportsman are not able to perform spot landings during the
winch events. This is a skill that is developed over time.

For the winch launched events, a sportsman flyer who is not experienced on
the winch can have someone else launch the plane and operate the winch for
them. They can bring a friend to operate the winch or we will do it for
them, no problem! This is nothing to be embarrassed about as many sportsman
flyers do not have access to winches at their home field. With limited
opportunity to practice this skill it can take time to get the hang of the
winch. However assistance and coaching are in abundance so sportsman who
want to learn how to do it themselves will get plenty of help. The lack of
winch skills should not be a barrier to flying in the ESL sportsman class.
Note that the sportsman pilot will retain control of the radio so they are
the pilot during the entire flight.

Planes flown in sportsman, whether hand launched or winch launched run the
full range of price and capability. Hand launched gliders may be two
channel balsa models or composite winged with full house controls.
Likewise for the
winch launched competitions, the range might be from 1.8 meter foam Easy
Gliders to 3+ meter bagged or molded wing planes. There are no restrictions
on equipment. The only requirement is that it must have a hook so it can be
launched with the winch. Even the lightest Gentle Ladies can be winch
launched safely. We can show you how.

Remember that this is the developmental class. Many pilots start on entry
level planes and develop skill levels with these planes that are sufficient
to put them into contention for top slots. Over time, many will upgrade
their planes as their skill levels develop, but there is no pressure to do

Sportsman are flying to learn, to develop and to become better pilots. That
beginner glider will do fine off the winch and, with the right skills, can
score quite well. The difference is you.

A sportsman flyer can move up to expert at any time. However, based on a
points system that the ESL uses to rank sportsman, when you hit a
particular point level, which is a recognition of your accomplishments, you
are automatically moved up to expert. If you reach this level,
congratulations, you are now ranked among the best of the best.


Novice is not a competition class in the ESL. Nor is it a statement about a
pilot's skills. Novice is an introductory program designed to give a pilot,
with no ESL competition experience, an opportunity to try it out without
actually being in serious competition. You could be a new flyer or you may
have years of experience but have little or no competition experience. If
that is the case, you are welcome to register as a novice. The goal is to
help you become accustomed to the tone and the flow of ESL competition
glider flying and how the events work.

As a ESL Novice you will learn about:

The Pilot's Meeting
Launch Groups
Launching procedures
Flight Tasks
Being in the air with other planes
Landing Tasks
How to time for other pilots
How times are reported
How scores are calculated
How final positions are determined

While not technically part of the program, you will most certainly have the
opportunity to receive coaching and tips on how to trim your plane, and how
to improve your skills. In the ESL, everyone is a student and everyone is a

If you are an accomplished pilot, but have been hesitant to try competition,
you will probably be comfortable after one day of flying Novice. It may all
seem complicated on paper or to have someone explain it to you, but once
you see a contest in operation, it all starts to make sense.

If you are a new pilot, with limited skills, you may feel that you would
prefer to fly several contest days in novice class as you develop your
flying skills and your contest understanding. That is fine too. We want
you to be comfortable and confident. You don't have to get great scores to
have fun, but we understand you want to be comfortable with the situation.

A pilot may fly Novice for up to six contest days. After that they will
register as sportsman and join in the fun of the sportsman class of
competition. You can step up to sportsman at any time, but novice is
limited to six contest days. Your goal should be to step up to sportsman as
soon as you feel comfortable.


The ESL is a league made up of clubs up and down the eastern coast of the
United States. The member clubs host the competitions. If you want to
enter the full schedule of contests you will have the opportunity to travel
to different fields and meet lots of great people. However travel is not
required. Many pilots only fly the events that are held at their home
field, or at a field that is near to them.

You do not have to be a member of one of the ESL clubs to enter the
competition. You do have to be an AMA member.

Either due to time, or the expense of travel, you may not wish to enter the
"away" competitions. That's fine! Please feel free to enter the contests
that work for you. You will be welcome and you will get to meet flyers from
other areas who do choose to travel.


The Eastern Soaring League has flyers with a broad range of flying skills
and equipment. All are welcome and a good time awaits you. We want to help
you develop your flying skills in the friendly supportive atmosphere of
thermal duration soaring competition.

Give it a try! After you have spent a day with us, you'll be looking forward
to the next event and seeing the friends you made at the last competition.

If you have questions or comments, you can visit the forums and post your
questions. If you are not registered on the forums ( separate
registration from the ESL home page) then register here:
Forum Registration

Once registered for the forums, visit this link to post your comments on this topic or others.

Best regards,
Ed Anderson
ESL Content Editor
aeajr on the forums

Edited by - aeajr on 01/23/2007 5:34:01 PM
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