Thermal Flying Tips

Here are a few  tips to help improve your thermal flying.

 1. Listen to your variometer. As you hear its pitch increase, indicating stronger lift, straighten up your flight path a bit so that you fly deeper into the strongest part of the thermal. When your vairos pitch decreases, indicating weaker lift, tighten up your turn to get back to where you just came from. If your variometer indicates a constant rate of climb, circle as flat as possible.

Climb rate increases -> Widen your turn
Climb rate decreases -> Tighten your turn
Climb stays the same -> Turn as flat as possible

Fly with your GPS zoomed in to about 200m. At this setting you can easily see the circular track log left while coring a thermal. If you inadvertently drift too far in one direction and fall out the side of the thermal simply look at your GPS track log to guide you back into the thermal.

If you’re flying downwind and you enter a thermal start your turn immediately.The strongest lift is usually found on the upwind side of a thermal. By doing this you will avoid flying out the back side of the thermal and into strong sink.

If you are flying upwind and you enter a thermal continue to fly straight until you either fly into a strong core or fly out the front edge of the thermal. While flying upwind it’s no big deal to flying out the front edge of a thermal as you can simply make a 180 degree turn and with the aid of a tail wind fly back in the thermal. 

If you need to reverse your direction in a thermal, wait until you are on the upwind side, then make your direction change by turning into the wind. If you end up flying out of the thermal it will be on the upwind side. As you complete your turn you will have a tailwind to help push you back into the thermal. See the illustration below.


5. Be aware of your chest strap setting while thermaling. In order to feel the thermals better, loosen you chest strap so that your carabineers sit farther apart. If the conditions start to get too turbulent you can tighten your chest strap up a bit which will dampen out the bumps.

There are a few other things to keep in mind in regards to chest strap settings.

Wide setting:

  • Less likely to getting riser twists.
  • You will be able to feel the thermals better in your seat.
  • If you take a asymmetric collapse it is even more important that you lean away from the collapse. If you don’t the wide chest strap setting will cause you to weight shift in the direction of the collapse, which will result in a significant change in heading and in most cases a more violent recovery.

Tight setting:

  • Dampens out the bumps.
  • Turns less when recovering from a deflation (safer setting for beginners).
  • More likely to get riser twists. Counter this by sitting up in your harness and being ready to turn with your glider if you feel a deflation is likely do to excessively turbulent air.  
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