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Posted - 10/16/2006 :  2:56:59 PM  Show Profile
ESL Expert, Sportsman and Novice - what do they mean?

The Eastern Soaring League helps organize three types of soaring competitions,
hand launch/discus launched (F3K), Thermal Duration winch launched and electric launched (ALES or F5J). 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. 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 few seconds each flight can be the
difference between first and finishing well down in the pack Likewise during the winch and electric launched
events, experts class flyers usually score high landing points.
Many ESL expert pilots compete on the national and international level.
Many fly 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.

If you want to test yourself against the best in electric, 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 yet accomplished at spot landings. 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 electric, 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 a winch launched plane 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 the start of any season. 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

Of coures you can enter the league as an expert or a sportsman, but
you are also welcome to register as a novice to ease into ESL
competition. The goal is to help you become accustomed to the tone
and the flow of ESL competition glider flying and how the events

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 teacher.

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 part 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.

The final scores for the season are based on your top 6 contest day
scores for Unlimited Sailplane/winch launched events and electric. For hand launched, it is the top 5 scores.

So, using Unlimited Sailplane/winch launched contests as the example, you can fly only 6 days, that would typically be three
events, and place very well. If you have top scores for those 6 days
you could win your class for the season. However the more contests
you fly, the more chances you have to replace a lower score with a
higher one. And the more chances you will have to see friends and
enjoy flying with people who share your interest in soaring.

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

Best regards,
Ed Anderson
Long Island Silent Flyers

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Best regards,
Ed Anderson
Long Island Silent Flyers

Edited by - aeajr on 09/10/2008 12:44:20 PM


477 Posts

Posted - 01/17/2015 :  12:02:47 PM  Show Profile
Thesevideos illustrate the kinds of contests flown by ESL host clubs.

This is a DLG/F3K contest hosted at CRRC in Sudbury MA

This ESL contest is the DESS/East Coast Hand Launch Glider Festival

This is an ALES, electric glider event at Marlton NJ

This is not an ESL contest but it does a good job of showing the ALES contest format. An ESL ALES contest would be similar.

This is an ESL TD/Winch contest hosted at LISF. It shows the top scoring flight group landing.

This is from an ESL contest in Virginia, again the top scoring flight group landing
Here we see a winch launch sequence. There are 4 pilots in this flight group

The is a video about the Long Island Silent Flyers, one of the ESL host clubs. However the video was taken at an ESL Unlimited TD contest.

Best regards,
Ed Anderson
Long Island Silent Flyers
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