Racing Sailplanes

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Racing sailplanes are the most efficient flying machines ever designed, converting 1′ of altitude into 50′ of forward progress. Racing season starts in early Spring & finishes in late Fall. Contests range in size from local inter-club meets to regional and national competitions. Regionals have a 3-day minimum, while Nationals are 4 days up to 10. Races can be a 100 or even over 450-mile-long tasks with up to 60 sailplanes participating. Sailplane racing is a competitive sport and without a power source, pilots must find the best lift sources and optimize cruise speeds for lift conditions. Many races are won or lost during the last 30-mile sprint to the finish line, where pilots use experience, glide-slope computers, and a bit of luck to convert altitude into an optimal ‘final-glide’ velocity. Racing sailplanes carry GPS loggers that record the entire flight, calculating speeds and verifying that contestants rounded turnpoints properly. The fastest pilot around the course wins that day and gets 1000 points – and the others receive prorated points based on a ratio to the winning speed. Daily points are added to get an accumulated score and the pilot who has the most points at the end of the contest is the winner.









US Teams are selected yearly by the SSA and go on to represent the United States at World Gliding Championships (WGC), the Olympics of Soaring, and is the highest accolade for any soaring racing pilot.

Th Fai Junior World Gliding Championships us teams

Ostrow, Poland
July 13 – 27, 2024


Regional Contests (which can be 3, 5 or 7 days) occur in the 12 SSA Regions across the country. The soaring and racing season starts on the east coast in March and slowly moves west late in the spring through the summer and back to the east coast in the fall following the best soaring for each region. Anyone can race in this class with a Private Glider license and minimal x-country experience.
National Contests (which can be 8, 9 or 10 days) rotate through the country. Usually, we will pair 2 classes together to enable the contest organizers to make it financially viable. We rotate the location of the national contests to enable different sites to host the contest and change the driving distance for the pilots. It’s about a 40 hour drive from central California to the east coast. Anyone can race in this class with a Private Glider license having flown at least one 300 km (186 miles) x-country flight.

World Gliding Championships (WGC) which are 14 days long and rotate slowly around the world. They are the olympics of soaring with opening and closing ceremonies with 20+ countries attending. They tend to stay in Europe because there are more European pilots racing and they do not like to travel across the ponds. There is an WGC contest every year with a different grouping of classes. You need to be selected by the US Team selection process which basically means you need to have finished in the Top 5 in 2 US National contests in the past 3 years and selected by your peers.


Sailplanes with 13.5-meter wingspans and no flaps.

Sailplanes with 15-meter wingspans and no flaps.

Sailplanes with 15-meter wingspans and flaps.

Sailplanes with 18-meter wingspans and flaps.

Sailplanes with 20-meter wingspans, flaps, and 2 people.

Sailplanes with any wingspans and flaps.

Bring any sailplane you have and everyone has a different handicap applied to level out the difference sailplane performance.

Similar to the Sports Class, but a smaller handicap range which is defined by the International Gliding Committee (IGC) which is raced at the world level. The idea being with a smaller handicap range, you can call assigned tasks.
Juniors consist of anyone 25 years or younger and are additionally defined by either the standard or club classes.
As part of the International Gliding Commission’s (IGC) strategy to build participation in the sport new classes have been recently sanctioned to participate in World Soaring Championships. The feminine class was created in 2001. The first World Women’s Gliding Championship took place in the same year. The 2001 1st Feminine World Soaring Championships was held in Pociunai, Lithuania. Twelve countries were represented fielding 41 participating pilots. There were three classes in this event, 15-Meter, Standard, and Club. Gillian Spreckley (GBR) won the World Champion title in the 15m Class, while Sarah Steinbeck (GBR) finished first in the Standard class and Tamara Sviridova (RUS) in the Club class. In the USA the Woman’s Soaring Pilots Association (WSPA) was founded in 1986. The charter meeting was the result of a year’s effort and input by the pilots who attended the 1985 Women’s Soaring Seminar at Airsailing near Reno, NV. Current membership exceeds 170 pilots including several International pilots.