(Photo: Steph Raddi)
Mankind has always dreamt of flying like a bird especially those soaring birds you see lazily circling on a summer’s day. Modern sailplanes now make soaring flight possible for man and in them he can fly higher, faster, and farther than the greatest of birds, using only the energy in the sky.
Soaring pilots can stay airborne for hours by flying through air that is ascending as fast or faster than the glider itself is descending, thus gaining energy, they can convert this energy into speed to cover great distances at remarkable speeds.
The rising currents are created by the suns energy warming the ground and the air adjacent to the ground. The warmed air rises in columns with enough volume and energy to carry a sailplane up with it. To stay in the column of rising air the sailplane pilot will circle constantly adjusting his circle seeking the best part of the thermal.
Once the pilot has gained all the available altitude he flies on his course looking constantly for more energy to help him make efficient progress. In favourable conditions long lines of energy may form enabling the glider to fly for prolonged periods without having to circle.
The essence of racing soaring flight is to find the most energy and use it as efficiently as possible.
Soaring offers a sense of freedom unique in the modern world a soaring pilot is no longer earthbound, they will constantly look for lift clues in the air, such as birds and cumulus clouds; that can help you to meet the continuing challenge of staying aloft.
The intellectual challenge of soaring is its main appeal to many glider pilots. Gravity tells you that you and your machine, which together may weigh 500 to 2000 pounds, have no business staying aloft and that your place is on the ground since you have no engine to stay airborne. You know that the sun and the wind are providing an invisible force frequently far stronger than the force of gravity, but it's up to you to make the most of that force through your interpretation of it and of your own pilot skills. The best combination brings the longest flight, the highest altitude gain, or the fastest speed in a contest.
For sheer beauty, the sport of soaring is unsurpassed. Sailplanes may vary widely in design but they are all graceful - especially when moving through the sky.