IHLGF - 2004, Poway, CA
IHLGF 2004
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  • Jan Kansky
  • Phil Barnes
  • Joe Wurts

  • IHLGF Report
    Reporting: Jan Kansky
    Two picture perfect days were in store for the pilots converging
    on Poway, California for the 2004 International Hand Launch
    Glider Festival.  The field included top pilots from all across
    the US and one international entry from Austria.
      Both Saturday and Sunday were mirror images of one another.
    Both days started with a low layer of fog and haze that burned
    through 30 minutes before the scheduled 9am start to the
    contest, leading to a pleasant 80 degree day with generally light
    winds at 5-10 mph, with occasional periods of 10-15 mph.
      Lift conditions were strong during periods of light wind.
    Down-air cycles were short, generally lasting less than 10
    minutes.  Saturday included a stretch in the afternoon with
    stronger wind that necessitated aggressive downwind flying in
    tight lift to salvage any hope of making time and returning to
    the field to register the required on-field landing.
      Rules prohibited slope soaring on an inviting hill downwind of
    the field, however the definition of slope soaring was
    intriguing.  Back and forth passes along the hill were deemed
    illegal, while circling was not considered to be slope soaring.
    This led to general heckling and merriment whenever someone was
    "thermalling" over the hill.  This heckling, along with a change
    to the field boundaries to make the legal landing zone further
    from the hill than in years past minimized the utility of the
      The contest format was 10 rounds from the standard Torrey Pines
    HLG CD.  The whole field of competitors flew six rounds on
    Saturday, and 4 rounds on Sunday with one throw-out.  The top ten
    finishers were then entered into a three round fly-off to
    determine the 2004 champion.  Scores from the best 9 of the first
    10 rounds carried over into the fly-off so the final result
    included the total of two days of competition for the winning
    pilot.  Consistency marked the road to victory.
      At its heart, flying HLG is very similar to F3J or man-on-man
    thermal duration contest minus the hassles with winch
    malfunctions and the dubious soaring task known as the spot
    landing.  In each flight group, the winning pilot needed to
    employ the same air reading and flying skills as with open class
    aircraft in potentially more challenging turbulent air near the
    ground making this contest the truest measure of a pilot's
    soaring ability.  As always, the cream of the crop found its way
    to the top of the leader-board.
      Phil Barnes opened his 2004 campaign with seven straight 1000s
    and led the first day of qualifying from start to finish.  He
    registered a perfect first day!  The running joke on the
    field was to wait for Phil to return from a round of flying and
    instead of asking him if he got his max ask him if he got his
    throw-out yet. Phil's booming launches left others wondering what
    was missing in their throw technique.
      Sunday was less forgiving for Phil.  With a strong overall
    performance, Kentucky native Bruce Davidson managed to surpass
    Phil by an incredibly tiny 9 point out of 9000 margin leaving
    Phil in the second spot entering the flyoffs.
      On Saturday, 2003 champion Oleg Golovidov was running a close
    second with one throw-out round, and a pair of scores in the
    900s.  He looked to be on track for a chance at a repeat
    performance of his 2003 victory.  The combination of a few bad
    rounds on Sunday, and a mid-air left him in the 11th spot after
    qualifying, just missing the fly-offs. Nevertheless, everyone
    acknowledged that Oleg is right there with Phil as having one of
    the best launch in DLG and clearly some bad luck prevented a
    repeat performance.  After his mid-air Oleg jokingly contemplated
    installing carbon reinforcements into his leading edges to slice
    through any intervening aircraft.
      Tom Kiesling managed an impressive showing this year with 7 of
    the 10 qualifying rounds showing a perfect 1000 on the scorecard.
    He put it all on the line several times with his "hero or zero"
    mentality and generally returned to the field with altitude to
    spare, with one notable exception that involved a good-natured PA
    announcement to focus the attention of the spectators on his
    "walk of shame".  Tom entered the fly-offs in third position.
      Mark Drela topped off the list of ESL pilots making the
    fly-off. He asserted himself by registering two Sunday morning
    1000s and two rounds in the high 900s to complete the push into
    the Sunday afternoon fly-offs.
      The fly-offs had the top ten pilots in the field flying head to
    head for three fast paced back-to-back rounds of flying.  The
    scores were tight, with Bruce Davidson in the lead, Phil Barnes 9
    points back, Tom Kiesling 47 points back, Paul Anderson 60 points
    back, and Joe Wurts 64 points back, all in serious contention.
      In the first fly-off round, the task was five two-minute
    flights in a 10 minute window.  This stressed fast turn around
    time and the ability to find a glimmer of turbulent lift while
    drifting downwind at an alarming rate, all the while avoiding the
    worst of the sink in a down-air cycle.  No easy task.
      Relative to the performance of Joe Wurts, scores averaged in
    the mid 800s in this round.  Joe Wurts, and Michael Smith
    significantly helped their bids for the championship with Wurts
    moving into the lead taking the place of Davidson who dropped due
    to an off-field landing.  Barnes managed to hold the rest at bay
    with a respectable 931.  After this round, the top five were
    Wurts, Barnes, Kiesling, Davidson, and Smith, with Anderson in
    seventh and looking to be in trouble by dropping points due to an
    off-field landing.
     The air started looking up for the second fly-off round.
    Achieving three three-minute flights was still a challenge with
    most pilots getting two maxes along with a 1:30 flight.  The
    exception being Bruce Davidson, and local California 3D and DLG
    young gun Paul Anderson, both battling back from their prior
    round mistakes.  Joe Wurts was sitting in first after his
    impressive first fly-off round, but he let the title slip from
    reach with a shorter than average first flight in the remnants of
    the previous round's down-air cycle. Phil managed a "good enough"
    score of 899 to keep a charging Bruce Davidson at bay.  The
    order after this round stood as, Barnes, Davidson, Kiesling,
    Anderson, and Wurts.
      The final round of the fly-off involved a 4-throw 1 min, 2 min,
    3 min, 4 min flight task, with the flights in any order.  The
    beginning of the 10 minute working window proved challenging with
    several critical decisions regarding whether to start with the 1
    minute flight, or press on for two or more minutes.  Wurts,
    Anderson, Drela, Markiewicz, and most notably Barnes all
    succeeded in this endeavor and maintained or improved their
    respective positions.  Kiesling and Davidson dropped a single
    minute of air-time out of a ten minute window, but this was
    enough to send them down below Anderson and Wurts.  In the end,
    Phil Barnes maintained his spot at the top due to his strong
    final flight and became the official 2004 IHLGF champion.