Tips & Techniques

(Updated 4/7/2017)

I thought it might be useful to offer up some common tips used in Task Day and contest flying that might make your transition to cross country flying easier.  They might also help you avoid some of the more common mistakes in competition.  This is also an open invitation for members to offer up suggestions from which the group could benefit. I’ll start with the answer to the first question I received.

Turnpoint Radius – All dimensions of turnpoint cylinders are expressed as a radius whether it’s a MAT or TAT with large radii.  If you have a readout in the cockpit of the distance to the next turnpoint, you can make a quick comparison to the published radius to track your progress toward that turnpoint.  Same idea for start and finish cylinders.  Remember, statute miles (SM).

Visual Landmarks – Some members have GPS loggers that have no in-flight readout and will have to visually identify turnpoints.  One example is the FlyWithCE logger. Many TPs are easily identified while some are tougher, e.g. Waltz airport, Eisenhower Farm.  If you have Google Earth on your computer and would like to identify the turnpoints in Google Earth, the file fairfieldl.kmz has all the turnpoints and the outlying airfields in the Learning Class database.  Download the file at by clicking on the Google Earth logo under “Map”, the fourth line down the listing.

Starts – A start is made when you exit the 2-mile start cylinder centered on W73Start, turnpoint number 99.  You can exit and re-enter as many times as you’d like.  Many pilots like to explore the lift band along the first leg to decide when to start, where to start, what McCready setting to use, etc.  You may also restart as many times as you’d like.  See below.

Restarts – There may come a time when you make a start and regret the decision.   It’s not uncommon.  It may be that sinking feeling that you’re in the early stage of a sled ride; that perfect thermal just beyond the start circle turns out to be a dud; or you’d rather have a few “markers” out ahead on a blue day.  You can restart by flying back inside the start cylinder, waiting for conditions to improve and start again. The scoring program, Winscore, will recognize your latest start and use that for speed and distance computations.

Average Speed – Since average speed around a task is a big part of your score, (60% speed, 40% distance), the many tactical decisions made during a task should be made in the interest of maximizing your average speed.  Example: It’s a strong soaring day and you’re approaching the first turn area on a long TAT.  It would benefit both your speed AND distance to go deep into the turn area.  Conditions may weaken late in the day and  you may decide to only nick each subsequent turn area to ensure you make it home.

Achieving a Turnpoint – It’s simple, right?  To claim a turnpoint simply get one GPS fix inside the turnpoint cylinder.  GPS fixes are not perfect, may differ slightly when plotted in Winscore; and are only saved at the selected recording interval.  For these reasons it’s common practice to count to three, 1-2-3, before you make your turn toward the next turnpoint.  This will ensure you have captured the turnpoint by a wide enough margin to avoid a “near miss”.  A miss of a distant turnpoint could have a drastic effect on your speed and distance.

Mandatory Turnpoints – Modified Assigned Tasks (MATs) usually have one or more mandatory turnpoints, afterwhich the pilot may go to additional turnpoints.  These are normally immediately after the start and must be achieved in the order listed in the task description.  So that all competitors finish the task from the same direction, the CD may add a final “steering” turnpoint if safety or operations dictate.