Sport Paragliding is now a proud distributor of Charly Paragliding helmets. Charly has a complete line of some of the best quality paragliding helmets on the market today. The Charly Insider full face helmet is one of the most popular model, is reasonably priced and comes in a wide selection of colors. For competition pilots the Charly No Limit helmet has a streamlined design and a wind visor to protect you from the cold and to help reduce parasitic drag. The Charly No Limit also comes in a wide selection of colors. Currently we are only carrying the full face models but check back soon for other great helmets like the Charly Breeze and Air Control.
So you’ve found your climb – now what’s the best way to use it?
by Jay Rebbeck, Published: 27-Aug-01 X-C Magazine
Centering thermals efficiently, and climbing quickly, are probably the most fundamental skills you need to soar successfully. Even a small improvement in your technique could easily mean an extra few hundred feet in every thermal – or thousands of feet in a typical XC flight of, say, 10 thermals. Come the end of the day, this might even make the difference between getting home and landing out. In a competition, what you gain in improved climb rate could well equate to the points separating the winner and mid-table obscurity.
Before you even reach a thermal, you can start building a mental picture that will help you center and climb quickly when you get there. Typically, you will be approaching a cumulus hoping to climb. You can improve your chances of finding a thermal by assimilating all the experience gained on that day to guess where the thermal might be in relation to the cloud. While on some days, thermals appear to form randomly, there are others when you can find them quite reliably. For example, if a strong wind and bright sunshine were feeding a cloud from one direction, you would expect to find the thermal on that same side.
As you approach the area where you expect the thermal to be, hold your brakes very lightly. Other than maintaining a good lookout, you should be totally focused on feeling which side the thermal is. If the thermal feels strong enough, turn towards the wing that’s lifted.
After you have rolled and turned into the thermal, one of two things might happen: If the lift steadily improves, great. But what should you do if the lift drops into sink?
The answer depends on how good the surge felt and how desperate you are to climb. If you weren’t confident of the lift when you started to turn and the clouds ahead look good, then simply roll out and get going – if you’ve got the height. However, if the surge felt smooth and solid, but you turn into sink, then you’ve probably turned the wrong way. At this point FORGET any distractions about what techniques to use, and resort to a mental picture. Logically, the quickest way back into the center is to do a tight 270° turn, and then re-center. This maneuver brings you back to where you would have been if you’d turned the right way in the first place! You’re now in a position to maximize your climb.
Despite the enormous importance of climbing quickly in thermals, this is one of most controversial topics in free flying. Most people want to be taught a prescriptive technique for thermalling, and this is where the confusion begins. There are two widely-taught techniques, but they appear to be completely contradictory. The tighten on the surge theory says that when the vario indicates the greatest climb rate, you should increase the angle of bank. In apparent contrast, the second theory says you should widen out when encountering the strongest lift. So how do we resolve this contradiction? The answer is that both theories are right, but they are appropriate in different situations.
TIGHTEN ON THE SURGE
So, having positioned your glider in the thermal, how do you establish yourself in the center and optimize your climb rate? The answer is to use the tighten on the surge technique: when you feel the thermal pushing solidly, or the vario indicates the strongest lift, you should tighten the turn and dig the wing into the thermal. Most pilots don’t turn tightly enough, but of course, if you only tighten up in lift you’ll end up in a spiral dive! To prevent this, when the vario indicates weaker lift or sink, you should widen the turn out to anticipate banking and pulling into the next surge.
The importance of tightening on good surges was brought home to me during the 1997 World Air Games in Turkey, where I was competing in the gliding section. Climbing in hot, blue thermals with massive gaggles in identical-performance gliders, often the only way to achieve an advantage on anyone else was simply to get stuck right in to the core of the thermal. The pair of flying French pilots who went on to win always managed to center on the strongest cores.
WIDEN OUT IN THE STRONGEST LIFT
Tightening on the surge is the technique for staying centered in one core of a thermal. So what is the role of the opposing technique of widening out in the lift? Quite simply, this should be used when you think there is a developing core nearby. But how can you recognize this emerging fresh bubble?
Having centered on one core, there are a few tell-tale signs: first, the average rate of climb drops off and, second, the thermal seems much stronger on one side than the other. Another core has formed, is bumping up the side of the one you are in, and the outflow from that bubble is interfering with yours. Sometimes this is marked by birds or other gliders circling, or tendrils being sucked into cloudbase nearby. In any case, the solution is simple: widen out in the strongest lift, wait a few moments, and then tighten up in the emerging bubble. Then continue to stay centered in the new pulse of lift using the tighten on the surge technique.
The ability to re-center quickly can sometimes be the key to competition success. On a critical day in the Junior Gliding World Championships in Holland, I was able to gain enough height on the gaggle in just one thermal to make it home as the sole finisher. What made the difference that day was simply that I re-centered efficiently and caught a short-lived bubble which the rest of the gaggle missed. That turned out to be the last thermal of the day, giving me enough height to glide home over the unlandable forest, while everyone else hit the deck the wrong side of it.
There is a strong correlation between the width of a cumulus and the number of bubbles feeding that cloud. For example, when arriving under a vast cloud street you should expect loads of bubbles and will probably need to widen out into wind frequently when you feel a fresh surge. On the other hand, climbing under the last isolated cloud of the day, you are likely to have to rely on simply tightening on the surge to get you home.
Whichever style you adopt, if you want to climb fast, you have to keep working it all the way to the top! You’ll also need to be planning where you’ll go when you leave the lift.
An air mass is any large volume of air having a relatively uniform temperature and water vapor content. A front is simply the boundary between two air masses. When a cold air mass pushes into a warm airmass, we call the boundary a Cold Front. When the warm air pushes forward, we call the boundary a Warm Front.
Cold fronts typically come from the north and move in a southerly direction. They tend to pass quickly, usually within a few hours. As a cold front passes, it plows under the existing warmer air rapidly lifting it and often times generating thunderstorms.All pilots should be very cautious when flying in pre cold frontal conditions. Beginning pilots should wait for the front to pass.
Post cold frontal conditions are generally unstable and great for soaring.
Warm fronts typically come from the south and move northwest. They move more slowly sometime staking several days to pass. The less dense and therefore lighter air tends to ride up and over the already present cooler air mass.
Because of the slow movement of a warm front, it is often possible to predict its approach a day or two in advance by noting a gradual increase and lowering of the clouds as illustrated below.
The passage of a warm front is not typically a good time to fly.
Structure of the Atmosphere / Density Altitude
To understand the weather it helps to know a little about the air. Air is simply a gas comprised primarily
of nitrogen and oxygen and a variable amount of water vapor. Air has mass and weight. At sea level
where the air is most dense it exerts a pressure of 14.7 pounds per square inch.
Air density is affected by altitude, temperature, humidity and pressure. Air density alters wing
performance. The higher the altitude, temperature or humidity the less dense the air will be and the faster
you will have to move to generate lift.
For every 1000ft of altitude you gain, the air density drops approximately 4%.
For every 5ºF increase in temperature, the air density will drop 1%.
The amount of water vapor a mass of air can hold depends on its temperature. As air heats up it is able to
hold more water. Low relative humidity means that the air at its current temperature could hold a lot more
water. When the temperature of an air mass drops, its relative humidity increases and when relative
humidity reaches 100%, water condenses and a cloud is formed.
Humid air is lighter then dry air and therefore has a tendency to rise just as when air is heated.
Solar Heating and Circulation
Solar heating and the resulting high and low pressure systems causes all atmospheric circulation. The sun
heats the ground, which heats the air above it. Different surfaces heat up at different rates. Some examples
of terrain that heat up slowly are water, snow, green grass, and forests. Examples of terrain that heat up
more quickly are asphalt, dry fields, dark soil and dark rocks.
As air warms up it expands, becomes less dense, and tends to rise. When warm air rises, cooler air moves
in from the surrounding areas to replace it.
So what is a thermal anyway? Well it’s pretty simple, a thermal is created when the sun heats the earth which in turn heats the layer of air directly above it. As this layer of air warms up the molecules spread out causing it to become less dense and therefore lighter than the air surrounding it. When the temperature difference becomes great enough the air breaks away from the surface and begins to rise, much like a hot air balloon.
However as a thermal begins to rise the surrounding air pressure decreases which allows it to spread out and now it’s temperature begins to drop. This drop in temperature do to a decrease in air pressure is known as Adiabatic cooling.
As long as the air temperature inside the thermal remains higher than the temperature of the surrounding air the thermal will continue to rise.
To read more information about thermals and paragliding weather in general see Understanding the Sky by Dennis Pagen.
When flying in a thermal it is very helpful to have a reliable vario like the Flytec 6005.
We just added the new Flytec 6030 Variometer with integrated GPS. The Flytec 6030 is a top of the line vario loaded with features. It has a 16 channel GPS, 3 built in altimeters, compass and comes with a full FlyCharts Professional license. At first look the 6030 may seem a bit pricey but when you consider the fact that by having the GPS built in you will no longer need to own an external one the price is actually pretty reasonable.
Here are a few more features of the Flytec 6030.
We now offer the flytec sonic variometer for sale in our online store. The sonic is an excellent choice for minimalist pilots looking to keep thing simple. The Flytec sonic vario can be attached to a helmet either, on the side or in back, or can be worn around the neck. It has two auditory modes. In one mode the vario will beep to indicate lift but remain silent in sink. In the other mode the vario will beep to indicate lift and emit a solid tone to indicate sink. This Vario has a fantastic battery life only requiring replacement after 200hrs or so of use.
Jay, Joe, Anthony and I got up early Saturday morning and made the 4 hour drive down to Dunlap. We meet up with Phil and Jason at the Dunlap gas station/mini store and after picking up some last minute snacks, we all head up to launch.
With pretty strong thermals already cycling the conditions look promising. And within a couple hours the comp had started and we were all circling above launch.
I was in the air for less than 20 minutes when one of the power bars on my gps vanished indicating that my batteries were dying! Usually when the first bar disappears I have half an hour or so before the thing shuts off. Now maybe Bruce or Jay flying the Viper, with a PPG, loaded down with an extra 100 pounds or so of ballast could make task in that time, but for me on my Rush it wasn’t going to happen. I briefly consider forgetting about the competition, but then decided to stick with it and see how far I could go on 3 bars.
Two and a half hours later, amazingly my gps is still going and I find myself circling above the second to last waypoint which happens to be Bald Mountain. I have made it here three times in the past couple of years but never made it any further. In order to get past Bald Mountain you have to jump a pretty large canyon and a LOT of sinking air. This combined with the fact that I never find much lift over Bald have taught me to dread this place. This time however I am at least 1000ft over the top, so have a little leeway and decide to line up with the last waypoint and just go for it. Much to my elation (and surprise) I clear the canyon only loosing 800 or so feet in the process. WAHOO out of the fish bowl!!! Jay is not far behind and clears the canyon with similar results, followed shortly by Jason and Joe who also make it across.
The final leg was uncharted territory for all of us but we made a pretty good go at it. Jay made it a couple more miles before sinking out. I nearly sink out a half mile or so further along but manages to pull off a really low save and pushed further south until my battery finally died at which point I made a u-turn and headed for the nearest road. Jason and Joe landed not far behind.
You can see our combined track logs here.
The second day was every bit as fun as the first. It started out with Joe and I taking Tim and Anthony’s Acro gliders up for a demo flight. Here is video of us launching:
I was on the smaller one at 16 meters and Joe flew the “big” one a whopping 18 meters. Pretty amazing wing, it felt like it wanted to do wing over every time I applied any pressure to either break toggle.
Great time had by all as usual. Nice work on the video Joe.
Here are a few pictures.
And track logs for everyone who posted them.