DVD Review: Sailplane Grand Prix in the Andes

Sailplane Grand Prix in the Andes Planetaire AB, 2010. Written, Directed, and Produced by Peter Newport

www.SailplaneGrandPrix.com (DVD is available for purchase on the website)

In January, 2010, 16 of the world's best sailplane pilots gathered in Santiago, Chile for eight days of racing over some of the most spectacular and starkly beautiful terrain on the planet. The lucky pilots were invited to compete in the Third FAI Sailplane Grand Prix, a race unlike any other in soaring. The sailplanes all start at the same time and race around a pre-designated course, and the first pilot to cross the finish line wins. To make the race exciting for the uninitiated and the results easy to understand for spectators, the scoring is simple, or perhaps brutal, from the competitors' point of view. The winner is the first sailplane to cross the finish line. Simple. The second pilot over the line gets nine points (i.e, 10% less), whether he or she is one second behind or 30 minutes. The runners up get 8, 7, 6, . . . points, and pilots who finish in 11th through 16th places get a big ZERO. The first place pilot might have flown three hours, and the 16th place pilot three hours and 1 minute, but the former gets 10 points and the latter nada...zip! All this means that you know who won and who placed where as soon as the gliders cross the finish line. No waiting  around for the scorer to finish processing flight logs and posting the results. It's great for spectators and the ultimate racing challenge for the pilots. One slight misstep in a multi-hour flight over hostile terrain and in challenging weather can mean the difference between winning and placing last.

Sailplane Grand Prix DVD Opening Screen

All this is wonderful for the pilots and spectators who can attend a Grand Prix, but what about the rest of us? Well, Planetaire AB, a video production company specializing in aviation videography, has made it possible for the rest of us to participate vicariously in this glorious event. The Grand Prix was webcast during the competition, but if you missed the webcast, this is the next best thing. Of course, the video quality of the DVD is vastly superior to that of the webcast...and then there's the soundtrack, so maybe the DVD is the best way to experience it.

Before I proceed with this totally objective and completely unbiased review, I'll save you the suspense and deliver the bottom line: If you haven't already and you're a soaring enthusiast (and since you're reading this, you may just be one), go online right now and BUY THIS VIDEO!! That's right. Do it now. Don't worry, I'll be here when you get back. Just do it. I'll wait. . .

OK, now that you've placed your order, let me tell you a bit about what you just bought. Oh! I should've mentioned that the DVD is available in Blu-Ray and HD formats (NTSC and PAL). If you have a Blu-Ray player, I highly recommend that format. If you don't have a Blu-Ray player, go out and buy one! (This could be an expensive review for our readers--I should have warned you). The cinematography is simply stunning and the videos are best viewed on a large flat screen TV. OK, so what's on the DVD? There are several videos, as you can see on this photo of the main menu.

Sailplane Grand Prix DVD Menu

The main feature is represented by the icon in the upper left of the menu screen. The featured video, Sailplane Grand Prix in the Andes, introduces the competition and presents an overview of the race, the competitors, the competition site, and, of course, contains lots of spectacular air-to-air shots taken from the gliders and from a helicopter. This 24 minute video is the one to watch first. Subtitles are selectable from a menu that includes English, Spanish, French, German, and Polish. For you video buffs out there: Ken Robinson, Production Coordinator, worked with Peter Thompson of Aeroptics, who used a Cineflex on an S350 B3 recording onto HDcamSR tape at both 25p and 50p. The superb videography, an original soundtrack, and Patrick Kilpatrick's deep sonorous narration combine with the rugged beauty of the Andes to draw the viewer in. I don't see how anyone, soaring enthusiast or not, could fail to be drawn in by this remarkable production.

The SGP in the Andes Little Brother is, as the title suggests, an abridged version of the main feature. It's a 12-minute pared down version of the main feature, with plenty of action shots and the same HD quality cinematography as featured in its big brother. Throughout the video, the narrator stresses the 'green' nature of soaring and promotes it as an eco-friendly sport. This is an aspect of soaring that this reviewer thinks should become more widely known and touted whenever we endeavor to promote soaring among the general public.

Unlike Gladiators of the Sky, a video documentary of the 2006 Sailplane Grand Prix in New Zealand, SGP in the Andes doesn't closely follow the competition over several days, nor does it include blow-by-blow (or thermal-by-thermal) narration from ground-based commentators. Instead, a separate video, Dinamica, chronicles day 6 of the race and focuses on the 'hometown' pilot, Carlos Rocca, who paired local knowledge with his extraordinary piloting skills to win the day. If you're like me, you'll be rooting for Carlos throughout the race. SeeYou-like traces, an exciting sound track, and the  superb aerial videography are coupled to produce a riveting experience for the viewer. The Day 6 Animation was created by Silent Wings and consists entirely of 20x animation with no sound. I recommend viewing this animation after watching Dinamica. It's a great way to focus on exactly what moves each pilot made during the race and which tactics made the difference between the winner and the runners up.

Another interesting offering is In the Cockpit with Kawa, which consists mainly of videos shot by Grand Prix Champion Sebastian Kawa with an in-cockpit camera and an exterior camera attached to his sailplane. This video highlights views of Kawa himself as he deftly flies his Diana 2 to ultimate victory as well as his view outside the canopy of the terrain and other sailplanes. If you've wondered how a contest looks from the cockpit of a world champion, this is your chance to find out.

The Aquarium is a 35-minute compilation of footage taken during the Grand Prix. Just turn on and watch...and listen to the beautiful soundtrack, which was composed for this DVD. As the blurb on the DVD jacket says, it would be a fascinating video to leave running on the TV during parties. To my knowledge, this is the first and only package of high definition soaring video compiled specifically for this purpose. I know what we'll be watching at our next soaring club party!

A number of beautiful and engaging soaring videos have been produced over the past decade or so. Every time a new one appears, I think, "Well, it can't get any better than this." But then it does! In the opinion of this reviewer, Sailplane Grand Prix in the Andes has set a new standard among soaring videos in cinematography, sound track, and video quality. I think any soaring enthusiast would thoroughly enjoy this video.

Words simply can't do justice to a medium as inherently dynamic and fluid as video. The following promo from Sailplane Grand Prix in the Andes should be worth at least a million words. Enjoy!

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Rand Baldwin

Rand is a Soaring Cafe Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief.Fascinated by soaring since early childhood, Rand learned to fly sailplanes while in graduate school (at Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics), and earned his private glider rating at Yankee Soaring in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He joined the M.I.T. Soaring Association in 1974, where he completed his Silver Badge and became a flight instructor. After moving to Huntsville in 1977, Rand flew and instructed on weekends at Eagleville Sailplanes south of Nashville, Tennessee. In 1985, he and a handful of other soaring enthusiasts organized the Huntsville Soaring Club at Moontown Airport. Rand chaired the 1996 SSA National Convention and has served as an SSA Director-at-Large, SSA Governor and State Record Keeper for Alabama. He has set two U.S. national soaring records and many AL and TN state records.
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  5 comments for “DVD Review: Sailplane Grand Prix in the Andes

  1. March 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Excellent review Rand! Well done.

    • Profile photo of Rand Baldwin
      March 10, 2011 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks Paul. It was a pleasure to review such a beautifully produced video.

  2. Frauke Elber
    March 11, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Now, after you made me drool, tell me where I can buy the DVD and how much it costs

    Frauke

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