Region 5 South Soaring Competition prepares for 50th anniversary

We’re here at the Region 5 South Soaring Competition located right here in our backyard, at Cordele’s Crisp County Airport. This is their 50th anniversary, which is a pretty big deal. So let’s learn more about it, shall we?

Crisp County has been hosting this competition annually since 1971, and it’s been a big hit ever since. Glider planes are fascinating, as most don’t have engines. They rely on energy management to stay in the air. I’ll let someone more qualified than me explain.

“It’s all about energy. It’s energy management. You’re trading potential energy as altitude to kinetic energy which is forward speed. Basically, that it is. All of these clouds that we see around us were produced by rising air. And it’s the rising air that we use to gain altitude and we trade that off and glide to another one. And we find another cloud, climb back up and do that whole thing all over again. In a two and a half hour task you’ll do that about 20 times.”

The pilots that travel the furthest distance in the quickest amount of time, win the competition. There’s a large learning curve, and one of the main points is understanding how to read lift. Easier said than done.

“Warm rising air that goes up until it cools enough and forms a cloud. And we ride those currents up. But where it comes up in the cloud is not always the same place. So learning and being able to see as you’re approaching the cloud for instance, where the greatest lift source is going to be, the whole cloud may be lifting a little bit, let’s say two or three knots. And then you pull into the core of the lift, you could be going six or seven knots up. I mean that’s a very fast climb rate, 6-700 feet a minute.”

Although the sport is very technical and requires a great deal of precision, this sport is popular because of the simple joy it brings people.

“I always draw the connection between power boats and sail boats. If you want to go someplace in a hurry get a power boat, if you want to enjoy the trip, get a sailboat.”

The rest of this week is filled with practice days, but the official contest will begin next Monday. In Cordele, I’m Nate Smith, reporting.