If you know about this kind of race already, you can skip this first paragraph and jump down to make out the results. If not, here’s a quick explanation of the League idea: OLC’s League was invented as an opportunity for clubs to score speed-points during the Northern summer months and enjoy some soaring together as a team. Starting in April the competition runs during 19 Saturdays and Sundays until the last weekend in August. To participate in the League you simply get out your glider on a weekend-day and go fly, then upload your flight as usual to OLC, and there you go. The League-scoring is based on a sprint task taken from your flight during its fastest 2.5 hours, so you don’t have to spend your whole day soaring.
Many clubs in America and in Germany do have high ambitions, especially those 18 societies which score speed points in the US-Gold League or the 30 clubs competing in the German Bundesliga. Members of those high ranked clubs know exactly what they are competing for. Just two weeks ago when the forecast for thermals in Germany was bad, but the winds had the right strength and direction, several German-Bundesliga clubs travelled to the famous ridge soaring areas. On such days it is not uncommon to have up to 100 gliders on a ridge which is “nothing” compared to the American Appalachians… The pilots and co-pilots take turns during the day to get everybody up and scoring. They learn from each other while scoring speed points. In the USA most of the Gold League clubs fly in the West, where thermals rise up “into space”, where in the late spring or late summer you are sometimes flying in wave and where you can achieve some of the best ground speeds on Earth.
Usually Albuquerque Soaring wins the Gold League. The adjacent mountain ranges and southern end of the Rockies provide wonderfully lined up cloud streets and convergences - just fly straight… Only in 2013 two Californian clubs were able to outscore Moriarty’s pilots: Hole in the Wall with only seven pilots won last year, and the neighborhood club Southern Sierra earned a second place leaving the third for Moriarty’s ambitious crowd. That was quite a sensation. But in 2014 everything seems to be back to normal: Billy Hill, Jim Cumiford and Mark Mocho flew some amazing speeds on the last June-weekend - with 177.52 km/h Billy flew his Ventus 2 even faster than he can speak… The club’s performance throughout the season is amazing. Worldwide Albuquerque Soaring is also back on top of the list! You can read more about Moriarty’s 2014 season if you check out Mark’s very good League Report in OLC's online Magazine.
18 American clubs are listed in the Gold League, the 80 other soaring associations are scoring points in the Silver League. At the end of the League season, the first four clubs move up to compete in the Gold division during the next summer. In 2014, Perlan Project (with only four pilots competing maybe the smallest club in the USA?) won Gold in the Silver League. Next year they will have to compete against Moriarty! One of the four Perlan pilots is Dennis Tito, who averaged at 199.18 km/h, with Jim Payne as “carbon ballast” in a DG 1001M on his best day early in May: “After four hundred hours as your copilot I finally had a chance to fly one on my own.” Not sure, but the flight looks like they caught a wave above the Sierras. Jim and Dennis are by the way the world’s fastest pilots according to OLC’s 2014 speed champion list. Morgan Sandercock and Eric Greenwell helped the mini-club to reach the top.
Now, if you think you can only fly fast at high altitude in the mountains, have a look at the German scores: 80 or maybe 90 % of Germany’s glider pilots do not even have a single mountain ridge to fly along… In earlier years the clubs located north of the Alps, or in the Swabian Jura used to win the prestigious cup. Now, for the past three Bundesliga seasons it was Burgdorf’s aeroclub, near Hannover, whose pilots are mostly flying in the flat Lower Saxony. True, the average speeds in the flatlands cannot match the ones in the mountains. German pilots are not allowed to fly higher than 10,000 feet which is almost impossible, as the thermals don’t reach such a high altitudes… The highest Bundesliga speed in 2014 was achieved in April by Frerk Frommholz and Martin Wolff with 144.46 km/h in a Duo Discus WL. Their club is ranked third worldwide, behind Minden, NV and Albuquerque (of course).
30 clubs fly in the Bundesliga, followed by 30 clubs in the second Bundesliga, then we have a qualification league where I count 497 clubs plus statewide league competitions. For the first time OLC has in 2014 set up a Youth League for pilots under the age of 25. In Germany the young pilots of another flatland club near Hanover won in this category, in the US Tucson’s soaring club made the race. Eric Redweik, Tucson’s only pilot under 25, flew almost every weekend of the season and therefore earned the medal.
Even my north-northern German club, that has no chance to score points in any of the more prestigious German leagues, offers a club-speed-competition based on OLC-League rules. Actually a great idea to chase members around some short tasks, even on minor days! A good reason to come out and fly in some more difficult conditions and a good training for competitions! This is exactly what the League idea is about: Pilots usually try to fly big in May, June and July; before and after these months they often think: “Well, it’s not really worth the day…” No, it was well worth to enjoy the whole summer 2014 up there! My club will even add one more month to the challenge. It’s not yet over!