EXTRA Blog on … Sisteron—Host of the 2014 FINAL of the Sailplane Grand Prix

Thanks to Ritz for volunteering to submit daily reports on the Grand Prix races in Sisteron! Live webcasts and 3D race graphics are provided by GeoRacing  — Editor.

During the final of the Grand Prix in Sisteron, I try, on request, to shine my Ritz-light daily over what happened. Here is the news from the practice days and day ONE!

I must tell you in all honesty that, in the beginning, I was not such a fan of Grand Prix racing. But I can’t say anything else now that it glues me to my laptop to I won’t miss anything of the videos, the tracking, the words of the speaker, the info from pilots as Brian [Spreckley] and Eric [Napoleon] and the tweets. Long live the social media; long live the GRAND PRIX!

venue for the
Live Coverage on sgp.aero

Z all gliders in hangar

All gliders friendly and waiting for day 1
Courtesy Aussie team

Last Thursday, the 15m pilots started with a warm-up race, a bit delayed due to “tricky” weather (blue and cirrus), but it was still exciting to follow the launches live at the site! Who would have thought this 50 years ago!

The lift, indeed, did not look too good and I noticed one of the pilots returning to the field after having been launched.

Via GeoRacing you can follow the pilots virtually and tweets give up-to-date news as well. [ Check out the GeoRacing app for your iPhone, iPad, or Android device. — Ed. ]

It’s a very modern multi-social-media event. I guess this is what Brian and Roland hoped for when they got involved in the GP development concept years ago.

Z Sisteron begin  Z Brian and Roland

Ready on the start-up day! Also Brian and Roland.
Courtesy Aeroclub Int’l de Sisteron and from the Grand Prix

First of all, however, the serious stuff: a briefing by the very experienced CD Brian Spreckley, who always is “calm, firm and very professional.” All pilots attended and the Aussies mentioned that it was “a good briefing on safety, managing the GP rules and balancing the event organisation.”

Z Brian at S.

Brian got everybody’s attention.
Courtesy Aussie team.

Unfortunately Aussie pilot Bruce Taylor got a nasty bug, so he had to stay in bed to quickly get better again for the real race.

The gliders, not all of them, started at 3.10 PM on this practice day, with a regatta start. The start height was 1800m and the max. speed 170 km/h to go over the 5 km wide start line.
Mike Young (UK) had a good start; he knows the area well as he practically is a “local,” being a member of the club at Grenoble.

It was a pretty exciting day, as some were low over the mountains, hoping to find lift. If not, they had to turn to the valley and climb up again, which would have cost time.

This practice day was good for the organizers as well. They got their problems with the tracking system under control. Mike was second and Didier won.

Didier was one of the pilots flying the WGC in Benalla in1987 in a two-seater in open class. Those gliders were allowed for the first time in soaring history. George (Schui – my ex) and our son Dennis participated in a NIMBUS 4DM, a once-in-your-lifetime thrill; father and son in a new type of glider, for the first time together at a WGC in ONE glider. That’s why I remember Didier so well. He even invited Dennis to come and fly with him in St. Auban. But as you know, one year later Dennis wasn’t among us anymore.

By the way, in 1987 we met Mike Young for the first time as well.

Back to the NOW: Fantastic to just be part of it in your own house with a nice cup of tea, even with a few hiccups in the tracker presentation, but the live stories from both Brian and Eric Napoleon were good. Surely a lot of people, world-wide, will follow the 20 pilots live. My “poor” Aussie friends at home have to stay up when they want to follow their mates.

In the evening, at 5 PM was the opening ceremony of the 2014 final of the SAILPLANE GRAND PRIX with a DEMO of the French Aerobatic team of “the ARMY OF THE AIR.”

You can find 64 wonderful pictures of the start up day, the opening and the DEMOs at

Z Opening Sisteron

Courtesy Aussie team

As the press release says, “This championship is the culmination of the world Sailplane Grand Prix series in which 20 of the World’s top pilots qualified to engage in 8 days of competition for the title of World Champion.” 

The organizers gave out two wild cards, one for UK pilot Mike Young and one for Tilo Holighaus, owner of Schempp-Hirth.

I know Tilo is a very busy man, but also that he LOVES the GRAND PRIX. He told me when he and his brother Ralf (whom I met already in Tocumwal in the late Nineties and later totally unexpectedly in Uvalde 2012) drove me to the Italian party in Uvalde. Tilo’s great enthusiasm, talking about the GP said it ALL. I was so very pleased to see that he got a wild card. This is his third Grand Prix Final; he also participated in Chile (Santiago) in 2010, and in Germany (Wasserkuppe) in 2011, and he calls these Grand Prix races the highlights of his soaring life.

Already by last Tuesday, most of the “heroes”  had arrived and were ready for a 141.1 km task to get in the GP groove. My Aussie mates had practiced together even earlier, to acclimatize and to explore the area.

Z pleasure before work

Acclimatizing and fun first, then “work” with the Aussie team.
Courtesy Kerry Claffey

Z Bruce in S.1  Z Tom sees Bruce.

Courtesy Bruce and Tom

The participating gliders in this 15m class are 8x ASG 29, 7x Ventus (including 1ax and 1axs) , 2x Diana 2 and 2x ASW 27 and 1x LS 8

Day 1: The first REAL race “for points,” followed TODAY, with a task of 249.3 km with a regatta start at 14.40.

When I had time to follow the race, the first thing I heard was that pilots were pretty low; some had to dig themselves “out of the weeds.” Looking at the skies, I was amazed! Nice clouds, blue skies, sunny – what more did they want?

Then … at 4.30 … the loud-speaker come alive … where comes Sebastian from? He is in the lead! Good climbs and … Mike is 300 m higher than Sebastian!

Brian mentioned what a “great game of thinking and strategy” soaring is and that this is what makes it so interesting. He was right. I stayed behind my laptop!

I saw on the video live, the Sebastian’s finish and a bit later Mike’s; also the finish over the green virtual flags for both. SO good to see!

Good speed as well—126 km/h.
The weather forecasting was superb.

Then in the evening, a HUGE disappointment for Mike. According to the scorers he missed the start line. He thought it was a 10 km line (5 km radius), instead of a 5 km line (2.5 km radius). So zero points instead of eight points.

A few other pilots had problems, but NOT Sebastian. He did it again! He won day 1, got the 10 points and surely had a quiet evening and an early morning for day 2 of this GP.

Tom posted a blog for his Aussie friends and I asked him if I could share. There are three Aussies in this GP, and it is interesting to hear about their experiences during this GP.

Here is Tom’s view on day one.

Well, what a great first day, almost!

The three of us all did well, but not quite well enough. Bruce is still not 100% after a bad bug, Graham made one decision which cost him a bit of time and I got a bit slow when I was out in front as I was not sure just how high I needed to be at that stage to go to the next ridge. After being dropped off the bottom at the bottom turn I stayed low when I really needed a good climb to get up. I also went to the wrong turnpoint! The task sheet said “Serre de Montednier Low” and my Altair had “Serre Montden,” which I went to instead of “Serre de Mon!”

Less than 2 km apart, we will see how the protest goes as I would get 2 points! 
Mike Young missed the start line (thought 5 km instead of 2.5 radius) and John Coutts descended before the finish line, so I am in good company!

Will fix tomorrow!
– Tom

Z Tom


I will be back tomorrow reporting on day 2 in Sisteron.

CU tomorrow.

Cheers Ritz