The 2014 Italian 13.5m Class Championship, also known as the Leonardo Brigliadori International Cup, is currently in progress along with the Italian Club Class contest at the Alzate airfield in northern Italy. The event is aptly named after "Leo" Brigliadori, the much liked and respected competition pilot (16-time Italian National Champion, 1982 EGC Champion, 1985 WGC Champion) and co-author of the highly-rated book Competing in Gliders. In his senior years Brigliadori had dedicated time to recreational soaring activities along with soaring ambassador, national team captain/coach, and contest management/director roles. He had also become an enthusiastic supporter of the 13.5m Class and electric self-launching.
The two-class contest is hosted by the Aeroclub Volovelistico Lariano (Lariano Soaring Aeroclub), or simply AVL, from their field north of Milano and just south of Lake Como at the foothills of the Italian Alps. The area soaring is considered to be quite technical with tasks typically constrained to the lower Alps on weaker days and expanded into the high Alps on stronger days. Surprisingly, after two days of racing, the 13.5m gliders are posting average speeds slightly faster than their 15m counterparts in the Club Class. See the Soaring Spot website for Scores and News Feed.
The 13.5m contestant field includes four top Italian pilots flying in the familiar mountainous terrain and dueling for the two available positions on their national team: Luciano Avanzini (four-time Italian National Champion), Ricky Brigliadori (three-time Italian National Champion and co-author with his father of Competing in Gliders), Stefano Ghiorzo (2010 World Champion, Szeged Hungary and multi-time Italian National Champion), and Alberto Sironi (multi-time Italian National & Mediterranean Cup Champion and holder of over 20 speed & distance records). The event has also drawn three international pilots: Andre Louistisserand from France, Ayala Truelove from the UK, and Soaring Café contributor François Pin from the USA.
François Pin had the following to say after the practice day, “… a great day with up to 3000m cloud base on the high Alps, and we explored the high mountains on a practice task. Still lots of snow on some of the mountains in the "second" (higher) range. Great flight. Incredible scenery.”
For the first contest day, he shared his thoughts on the challenging weather and terrain, “… lower cloud base, so we had to stay on the first range, and climb from below the peaks doing ridge soaring along sheer rock cliffs and sneak into valleys through high passes. Reminded me of my youth soaring, but have to re-learn how to fly big mountains again. Did not fly fast but had a great time. Got stuck in a couple of places. The locals know all the tricks and meander through those passes and peaks like their pocket. This is going to be great (re)learning.”
François enjoyed the second contest day immensely (we suspect he enjoyed the rain day cuisine too) sending the following comments, “… Another flying day in paradise. Tough start, but then things improved and we got to the high mountains again. Cloudbase kept improving after we crossed the lakes and sneaked between the two airspaces of Lugano and Locarno on our way to the first turnpoint to the northwest in Switzerland. Lots of snow in the high valleys with some ski resorts in full swing. Then things went a bit too strong toward the middle of the task, with a huge thunderstorm spreading over the second turn area to the east. I managed to get into the area but then chickened out and turned back when getting surrounded by rain and the cloudbase got down way below mountain tops. 10 minutes under time, but another great day of discovery and amazing scenery. Tomorrow has been called off as a rest day with 100% chance of rain forecasted. So, Sunday lunch at the agriturismo restaurant with Ricky for the whole five courses of antipasto, primi, secondi, formaggio, and dolce. Probably will need a siesta after that, even with lots of espresso to close the meal...”.
Pin, who won the 13.5m contest in Moriarty, New Mexico in 2013 will be competing in Hobbs, New Mexico in June this year with a Silent 2 Electro. Soaring Café will ask François to put pen to paper once again (later in the season) and share his thoughts about the Alzate and Hobbs events along with his continued insights about electric propulsion in gliders.
The Leonardo Brigliadori International Cup marks the first time in history that a meaningful number of electric self-launch gliders compete together. Contest director Giorgio Ballarati (readers may remember him as CD at the Rieti WGC in ’07) has been impressed with the launch rapidity of the electric portion of the fleet - understandably no tugs and ropes, but also no glider engine warm-up time required. He duly notes (for an eventual all-electric competition) the very real possibilities of being able to have two shorter race tasks in a single day, calling a task even when a very brief weather-window occurs, and having substantially reduced contest overhead costs. If he’s right, one can imagine some new contest organizing and task setting variations just over the horizon. On a humorous note, the pilots of the electric gliders (several of them new to electric launching) have apparently also been comparing how many charged battery cell icons remain displayed on their motor control screens after completing the task – creating an unofficial inner competition to see who uses the least amount of energy for the launch. Perhaps that’ll come into the total-energy equation of the future. Interesting times indeed.
In-flight photos courtesy of François Pin and ground photos courtesy of Alisport’s Facebook page.