Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hello and Welcome to the blog

Good Day Race Fans,

Welcome to my blog about glider racing and the upcoming World Championship in Omarama, Aotearoa / New Zealand. I hope everyone reading this enjoys it.

Just a brief introduction for those out there who don’t know me and my glider racing credentials. My name is Tim McAllister and I have been flying gliders since 1985, and competing in glider racing since 1997. I go by the contest identifier/call sign “Echo Yankee” (EY) here in the U.S. and am a former National Champion (2003 US Sports Class), two time member of the US Soaring Team (Club Class 2004 & 2006), and a US Representative at the 1st World Sailplane Grand Prix (2005).

I got to the upcoming World Championships by blazing new ground by being the first American to ever compete in glider racing in Russia, and by earning 2nd place in the Russian Sailplane Qualifier back in August of 2006. (Read my wife Susan's reports from Russia in Aug 2006 on her blog.) It seems strange that I had to go to Russia to get to New Zealand, being an American, but sometimes soaring and glider racing in particular takes us to places we would have never thought we would ever go. This is just part of the allure of glider flying. Making a glider go fast against other gliders, well that is why I am particularly hooked.

For most American glider pilots, early-November is usually the time of year when the glider is safely tucked away in the box, plans for various “tinkering” (large or small) are made, and dreams of summer 2008 contests float through one’s head day and night. Being a fairly new transplant to Dallas, TX, I have been surprised the soaring has still been pretty good lately here in North Texas (better than most of the last summer in fact) and I’ve been keeping up with some cross-country flying as best I can in preparation for the 2007 FAI World GP Gliding Championships in Omarama, Aotearoa / New Zealand.

This GP (Grand Prix) World Championship will be the 2nd event of its type and the first under the new name. Exactly why this event is not the 2nd World Sailplane Grand Prix, coming after the 1st World Sailplane Grand Prix held in St. Auban, France in the fall of 2005, is a little unclear to me. Maybe someone owns the local/international rights to the name “Grand Prix”? Bernie Ecclestone comes to mind, but I digress… If this form of glider racing really takes off, maybe Bernie Ecclestone will want to buy our series and we will all get rich – or at least a little less poor - from our hobby. Hmmmm…. Hope springs eternal!

With a full field of 20 of the best racing glider pilots in the world selected from the top two racers at each “qualifier” event held around the world, this looks to be one of the best international racing events for our sport in years. Hopefully I will be able to fly the American Flag high up in the standings when all is said and done. Looking at the field of names (Kawa, Sommer, Harvey, Galetto, Flewett, Schwenk, Ruch, Goudriaan, etc. etc.) there is a good chance that even some world or near-world champions will end up at or near the bottom of the score table. As I understand it, all pilots in the field hold the title of at least national champion, and many are European and World Champions. Heady stuff indeed.

The field of gliders is going to be a face-off in the 15-m racing class between the relatively new, but very successful, Diana 2 in the hands of Polish pilot Sebastian Kawa (#1 ranked glider pilot in the world) and ASW27/29’s and V2’s. Many of the hot ships will have been sent by container from Europe back in September. I am sure that any pilots who sent their own ships by ship are praying nothing goes awry in the long float down under.

One of the problems with holding this contest in the 15-meter racing class is that this class is dying or dead in New Zealand in particular, and to some extent even in OZ. This created a real dearth of quality gliders (i.e. –27/29’s and V2’s) to rent “in country”, and left many competitors scrambling to arrange for a competitive, let alone any, glider to race.

EY will be racing a Ventus B with Masak-tips being hired from a syndicate of owners through Southern Soaring. This glider will have the contest I.D. of TM – really quite appropriate as it is my real initials, but it will be a little strange not going by EY in this contest. As the organizers have not published a definitive list of the competing gliders, it can be safely assumed that some of the other pilots will be racing whatever they could get their hands on in the NZ/OZ soaring scene. I can only imagine there might even be an ASW-20 or LS-6 or two spicing up the field. So even at this level, there will be the haves and the have nots. Lucky for me the Ventus still has some “leg” left in it in 15-meter class and I will take my inspiration from the U.S. racer P7 (Gary Ittner) as I go pushing around the skies of NZ.

So, Team EY is marshalling its forces and getting ready to set off for NZ (or En-Zed) in a little over 3 weeks. Receiving no US Soaring Team Funding for this event, Team EY is going to fly the flag on a shoestring budget coming from personal funds, family, and friends. Should there be any fans of Team EY out there who would be willing to help out the cause, we would be greatly appreciative. Banner ads are available on my website, http://www.echoyankee.com/, which will be the portal to this blog during the contest Dec 19-28. If past experience with Susan's blog is any indication, this will be a well-visited site by English speakers from around the world, so if you are in the soaring business, please contact me about sponsorship opportunities.

Check back on this space often as I will have more to come about the close at hand departure and final preparations for this event, my description of what glider racing is like, my own musings on where this concept of glider racing might be taking the sport and, of course, daily practice and racing reports from magical Aotearoa “land of the long white cloud”

See Ya,
Tim McAllister EY