How to download waypoints from the AirScore site.
scroll to bottom of page for links
If a competition is to be scored on AirScore (xc.highcloud.net) then that is where you should source your waypoints.
By doing this you can ensure that you are using the same waypoints that the scorer is using.
The link to the CorryongHG2015 waypoints is at the bottom of the page.
The link will take you to a map page showing the waypoints.
Click the arrow on the far left.
A download panel will open showing the name of the waypoint set.
Choose the appropriate format for your navigation instrument.
OziExplorer; CompeGPS; SeeYou (.cup); or UTM
Click the download button.
Import into your navigation software from your downloads folder.
This is the link to the CorryongHG2015 waypoints
To select waypoints for a different competition go to
and use the search box to find and open your competition.
On the next page look in the masthead banner for a 'Waypoints" button and click it.
Now follow the instruction from the top of this page.
You must ensure that you are downloading the correct waypoints set for your competition.
XC Tactics for pilots new to competition
Hang gliding competitions are a great environment to learn and improve your flying skills. If you are a new pilot coming to your first competition it can be daunting. All of a sudden you are in the mix with a lot more pilots than you have ever seen in one place before. You may worry that you don't have the skills to compete or will be getting in the way of others when in the air. Don't be concerned. Hang glider pilots are generally very accepting and helpful toward new pilots.
We are all very different people with different levels of comfort with risk. while I am not suggesting that risk taking is synonymous with hang gliding, it would seem that some top level pilots are doing things in the air that I would consider too risky for me. It is very probable that this is due to their greater flying competancy & currency and not risk taking behavior. The point that I am trying to make is that if it feels like a risk to you, don't do it. If you are scared while you are flying then you are not enjoying yourself, this will not help with your skills progression. Don't ever be trying to fly beyond your current abilities. Learning new skills takes time & practice. If you are flying a competition task and it feels 'risky', then you can alway backtrack to the 'fun zone' and either continue flying, or land. There will always be another flying opportunity tomorrow.
This article contains some tips & have learnt or read myself over my 25+ years of flying and 'competing'. It is not intended to be a complete guide to cross country flying. Just an entry level primer to give newer pilots some things to focus on to extend their abilities. For those newer pilots at a competition you should not be trying to 'compete' or be trying to fly fast. Initially you should focus on learning how to navigate a task, read the sky and the ground, be safe and try to stay in the air long enough to get to goal. If you can do this every day then you are well on your way to the podium at the end of the competition. You may pick & choose what you want from this article, different things work for different people. The main thing to remember is that you don't have to work it all out for yourself. There is an abundance of pilots out there who will share their knowledge and experience if you ask them.
If this is your first competition, one of the first problems you may need to overcome is leaving the comfort & security of the hill. To be able to compete at an XC competition you must be prepared to 'land-out'. This means you have to have a handle on things such as:
- Indicators of the ground wind speed & direction: wind lines on dams, trees bending in the breeze, smoke & raised dust, glider drift when circling.
- Terrain slope direction. Mountains are easy, valleys usually slope down toward rivers, creeks & dams. Solid white dividing lines on straight roads can indicate a crest.
- Location of power lines. These can be invisible until it's too late. Look for lines of power poles leading to any house, shed, pump shed, tank or dam. Poles can be hidden in trees, in cultivated paddocks you can usually see the poles surrounded by small islands of ground cover/weeds. Also expect every road to have power lines running parallel.
- Location of fences. These also can be invisible until you are on final. Suspect that any abrupt change in paddock colour is a fence.
- Which paddocks have crop in them. Please don't land in crops. If the paddock is uniformly green or golden with no harvester wheel tracks in it. Then it is in crop.
- Which paddocks have stock in them. Avoid landing anywhere near horses. Be wary landing in a paddock with only a few 'cows', it's probably the bull paddock. If landing with cows or sheep, maintain plenty of seperation to avoid startling them. We don't want them injured or running through fences. If possible pick another paddock.
- Whenever flying XC, every few minutes scan the ground ahead on course to always have more than one landing option. Also be looking for thermal sources so you wont need to land.
If you are comfortable in leaving the familiarity of the launch hill and the bombout then now you can focus on some tactics to extend your flight.
A successful flying task starts way before you launch off the hill. Remember the 5P's - Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. There are many things that can be done to prepare you for the days flying. Some are obvious, some are not obvious.
- Know your flight instruments. Learn (on the ground) how to operate your vario/gps so that it is easy to use in the air. Distractions lead to poor decision making and poor flying. Don't be that pilot flying blindly in the gaggle because you are focused on your navigation display.
- The night before make sure instruments and radio are charged and working correctly. Make sure your team has access to backup gear or batteries on launch.
- Look after your nutrition & hydration. Both are required for good brain function & the physical exertion that will be required. Keep drinking water throughout the morning and have an easy to use in-flight drinking system. If drinking makes you pee, learn how to do this while flying. This is a game changer for longer flights.
- Get up to launch with plenty of time to spare so you can be completely set-up & relaxed by the time the task briefing is called. If you are late and rushed you may forget/skip parts of your normal setup procedure. This can lead to apprehension, agitation, or distraction that may see you land-out early.
- Pay attention at the morning weather briefing and task breifing. Make sure your navigation instruments have the task correctly programmed. Get help if you need it but even better learn and practice before you get to the competition. Have a look at the task on a map and come up with a plan of how you can use the terrain to your advantage while flying - discuss this with more experienced pilots if you like. Another idea is to write the task with a diagram on some tape stuck to your basebar. This can be useful if your navigation instrument is less than helpful at turnpoints. Or if you are flying without navigation instruments (you will still need to record a tracklog somehow for scoring).
- Watch the sky during and after setting up your glider. If it is looking soarable (birds are soaring or wind dummies are staying up), then launch early if the competition rules allow it. Launching early gives you the opportunity to fly with the better pilots. They will all catch-up and pass you at some point. If you watch them you will see where the lift ahead may be. Launching early also gives you the opportunity at a second try if you bomb-out. Also acknowledge that it will probably take you longer to fly the task than others so you will need more time in the air. Going later in your ordered launch position (based on pilot ranking) means more time waiting in the launch queue (and the heat).
So now you are well prepared mentally & physically. You have total confidence in all of your equipment and you have a plan as to how you will fly the task. You have made it to the front of the launch queue. You have been watching the launches ahead of you and are full of confidence because you have seen several gliders out in front circling-up.
- Stay relaxed on launch, integrate any advice from the launch marshal. The launch marshal is not there as an instructor, but you can certainly expect help holding you glider down in rowdy conditions and guidance on when a good launch cycle is approaching. Try to not lift your glider off the ground until you and the conditions are ready for launch. It's too stressful standing & holding your glider up in the wind. When you think you are ready pick up your glider and try to level the wings. If you can't get it settled and ready to launch in 5 seconds set it down again and wait.
- When launching remember how your instructor taught you. Smooth acceleration building to an excess of speed. Maintain proper pitch control and get the glider flying fast enough before it has to carry your weight off the launch.
- Once you have launched, get as high as you can before leaving the start circle. You want to start your race with a full tank of fuel. Don't be concerned with start gate times unless you are able to make goal consistently. Speed on course means nothing if you don't get to goal.
- Being fast is not aways about flying fast. This is particulary true with lower perfomance gliders. Gliders become increasingly less efficient as you accelerate past 'best glide' speed. All non-lifting surfaces (top rigging, bottom rigging, control frame and pilot) create parasitic drag which increases at a rate preportional to the square of your velocity.
- Being fast means flying efficiently:
- While you are thermalling be constantly scanning the sky and ground.
- In the sky keep a lookout for other gliders that are a collision hazard; other gliders or birds that are climbing better than you; what is happening to the clouds ahead on course, are they building or decaying?
- On the ground be looking for landing options ahead on course, always have several; look for ground/terrain based thermal sources; look ahead to identify the turnpoint you are flying toward.
- My first rule for flying fast is don't do anything that is outside your comfort zone. You flying for fun, and to learn. It's OK to land if you're not 'in the zone'. Also If implementing any of the ideas below might put you on the ground then choose a different alternative.
- Leave your thermal when the lift drops off below what you expect to be the initial climb rate of your next thermal. Keep a 'mental model' of the average thermals you have encountered that day. Be aware that if lift drops-off at a lower than expected altitude then you may need to search for it again.
- Leave your thermal when you get to the top. Some thermals are continuous for most of the day, some go in cycles/bubbles. It is possible to climb in a thermal up to the rising bubble at the top. Once you hit the top generally the lift will slow down and the air gets lumpy. The thermal may try to push you out horizontally. Time to leave if you are racing, or stay until you get to 'base if you want to play it slow.
- Leave your thermal before you get to cloudbase. Once you are at cloudbase you risk getting 'sucked-in' and 'whiting out'. This can be extremely dangerous! Don't do this! Also once near cloudbase you can loose definition of individual clouds ahead on course (from your angle it looks like the entire sky is one cloud). This makes selection of the next cloud you want to fly to harder.
- When gliding between thermals fly at best glide speed. In a floater glider don't pull on too much speed as the drag/sink penalty is not worth it. The only time for excessive speed is when there are thermalling birds/gliders (that are climbing better than you) ahead within your gliders range and you have the height to get there quickly. Other uses for fast flying are when gliding for goal and you find youself embarassingly high, or if you need to traverse/escape a venturi wind effect in mountains.
- Be aware that 'lift lines' can sometimes exist parallell to the prevailing wind. Know what your gliders sink rate is and set you sink alarm accordingly. If you are gliding in sinking air then try turning across the prevailing wind until sink decreases to normal before resuming your turnpoint heading. You may even encounter lifting air that you can glide through strait into your next thermal. If your task heading is less than 30deg off the prevailing wind direction, it may be more efficient to fly lift lines and zig-zag your way toward the turnpoint. Always gliding to stay upwind of the turnpoint. You don't want to find yourself past the turnpoint (but not yet in the 400m radius) and having to fly headwind back to it.
- While you are thermalling be constantly scanning the sky and ground.
- While you are gliding toward a turnpoint aquaint yourself with the direction of the following turnpoint and which way you need to turn. Before you get to the turnpoint have some landing paddocks picked out for the next task leg. Then get a plan of action so you don't waste height after tagging the turnpoint. Look for any gliders thermalling nearby, Are there any promising looking clouds growing nearby or reliable ground thermal triggers? Do you have the height to tag the turnpoint first and the join the thermal or do you need to top-up first? Know beforehand where you are going as soon as you have tagged the turnpoint.
How many turnpoints you have to navigate will depend on the class of glider you are flying and the conditions on the day. Floater class will usually have it's own shorter task. Sport class will probably be flying the same task as the Open class. The number of turnpoints doesn't matter. Just fly one leg at a time, always be looking ahead for gliders, birds, dust, smoke, ground thermal souces. Use all of the data available to you to plan your route, but don't be in a rush. At 'beginner' level it's more important that you have an enjoyable, safe flight and maximise your time spent flying. Flying conservatively and staying in the air is going to teach you more than flying fast and landing 2km outside the start circle.
The trick is to have a plan, don't just bumble along making it up as you go. Have a plan and make decisions based on what you see and learn on each task. Some of those decisions, may turn out to be wrong, this is OK. In flight you are subconsciously making several decisions per minute. It usually takes several wrong decisions to put you on the ground. The more you can plan ahead and have options, the better decisions you will be able to make. Learning what works and integrating this data into future decisions is the goal.
After your flight each day rehydrate & refuel you body to be ready for tomorrow. Charge-up your radio & instruments if needed. You can also review the days flying using flight evaluation software. You can see what other pilots did in their flights that may have worked better than what you did.
HG team cars & drivers
Flying your hang glider is often a solitary endeavour. Many pilots, in particular those who fly on the coast may be able to launch and land within a short carry from their car and don't rely on others for a lift.
Once you start flying XC your intention is to land a significant distance from where you launched. This usually requires additional logistical planning to get you and your glider back home after the flight. There have been several solutions to this problem employed over the years, usually involving either hitch-hiking or leaving an alternate car at the proposed landing site. Sometimes when a bunch of pilots go weekend flying together they may leave logistical planning to whomever lands closest to the car.
All of these solutions may be OK for a weekend fly but when you go to a competition and may have to repeat this process 7 days in a row it can become tiresome especially if you are the one who ends up doing all the driving.
Hang Gliding competitions are great learning environments. The best way to learn a new skill is to hang out with, those who do it better than you. This is very true in hang gliding. If you haven't done any competitions before try to get on a team with more experienced pilots. Then you can spend all the time in the team car integrating great flying tips & cool vibes..
When competing in a hang gliding competition a good driver will be an integral part of your team, in particular at a car towing competition. Driving at a hang gliding competition is a job. You will have to pay you driver. Your team should negotiate the fee with the driver before engaging them. If you are wondering how much to pay your driver then consider what you would like to be paid per day then divide that by the number of pilots on your team. $30-$50 per pilot per day is a reasonable amount. If it is a car-tow competition the drivers workload and stress is increased, expect to pay more. Experienced car-tow drivers are priceless. Pro-tip: Drivers perform better when well fed. Take turns with your team mates buying them a meal each night.
You will also have to pay to owner of the vehicle a share for fuel, depreciation and cleaning. Most teams will split fuel bills, this may be fair if the vehicle owner doesn't pay a share.
Another system is to have the entire team pay a rate per km. This involves running a vehicle log to record distance travelled. All pilots contribute equally to pay the vehicle owner eg: $1/km and the vehicle owner covers the cost of fuel, maintenance, depreciation & cleaning.
It is up to your team to decide how these costs are covered but again I suggest you decide this in advance so that everyone knows their expected costs and agrees. If a member of your team thinks that the proposed costs are too high, then simply suggest the teams uses their car with the same fee schedule.
Be prepared before you go to a competition. Ensure all of your gear is ready.
- Glider and harness in airworthy condition.
- parachute freshly repacked
- zips & slides all lubricated & operational
- radio, headset & switchbox all functional
- team car in reliable working condition
- Tow gear (gauge, rope, rope winder, tow bridle, weak links) all serviceable
Everything you need to fly should fit into 2 bags. Your glider bag and your harness bag. If your basebar wont fit in your glider bag because of your wheels then get removable wheels. Your team car should have a tool box but there isn't room in the retrieve car for everyone to bring their own, that would be encroaching on Eski space.
Having gear that is reliable will inspire confidence and reduce your mental workload while setting-up and while flying.
It will also be far more endearing to your team mates if they are not wasting their set-up & chill-out time chasing up the basebar (or whatever) that you left at camp.
Flight Log Recording
When a new pilots attends their first hang gliding competition there is lots of new information to learn and integrate into their flying routine. On of these processes that may be new is flight track log recording.
In the early days of competitive flying flight verification was done by taking 'turn point photos'. A pilot would use a camera that imprints date & time and take a photo of each turnpoint in a task. Scorers would then stay-up all night developing rolls of film, checking and validating all photos before scoring the task. Thankfully this all changed with the advent of GPS technology and affordable handheld receivers in the late 90's.
These days track validation is done by computer. To be scored a pilot must record and submit a GPS track of their flight. Most competition pilots have a combination GPS/vario that can be programmed with the days task before launching. These units will then guide the pilot around the course while also recording a track log of the actual path taken. This track log can later be downloaded in .igc (International Gliding Commission) format and submitted for scoring.
Pilots new to the sport usually will have entry-level equipment. It is common that new pilots have a basic vario that does not have an integrated GPS. It is fortunate then that smart phones all have integrated GPS. You may already be using a phone app as your primary flight instrument.
There are several free apps available for Android. Go to the app store and search .igc flight recorder. Some popular ones include XCSoar, XCTrack, Airtribune, SeeYou Navigator.
There are also options for iPhone users. ie:flyskyhy, Thermgeek, Sensebox, SeeYou Navigator.
Many of these apps also have integrated vario & navigation features. I would recommend SeeYou navigator for several reasons:
- It is available for both Android & iPhone so it will be easier to find someone to help you with programming on launch.
- The basic free version of the app is quite capable.
- You can choose to purchase a subscription for additional features (recommended if this is your primary instrument).
- You can store and review your flights in your online portal https://seeyou.cloud/
- Wes has made a short video to outline the process of getting your tracklog down from the cloud into your phone and then uploading to xc.highcloud.net
Many pilots who have integrated GPS/varios will also use their phone stored in harness to record a backup track log. It's easier to submit/email a tracklog from your phone than connecting your vario to a PC. Just be sure to store your phone where it gets good satellite signal. ie not under your backplate.
Once you have selected and downloaded an app, spend a lot of time to become familiar with it's operation. This is extremely important if you plan on mounting your phone for in flight navigation. Learning to operate a fight instrument while flying is a bad idea. Practice while walking, or riding a bike off-road, not in the air.
You will need to be able to recover your track log from the app in .igc format and then email it to the scorer or upload to the scoring website. This also is worth practicing before your first competition. Most apps store the tracklog on the app's server, not on your phone. So you will need to download to your phone and then upload the the scoring site.
Once you have a .igc file there are several software options that allow you to review your flight in 3D such as https://seeyou.cloud or www.sportstracklive.com, or Google earth (will require .igc to .kml conversion). Just search 'igc flight analysis'.
Flight analysis software can help develop your in flight decision making by showing other options to your in-flight choices and how other pilots handled similal situations.
Flatlands Tow Tips
By Terry & the `Locals'
Rewritten June '96
Edited '99 & '00
This article was written with the following system in mind:
Skyting tow bridle
Fixed length rope
Motor vehicle for towing.
However many of the points discussed apply to other types of hang glider towing
systems. I have seen various systems come and go in the Flatlands over the
years and the `KISS' car tow has remained clearly dominant - more than
90%. It wins on all accounts - cost effectiveness, simplicity, ease of training an
operator, initial financial outlay and able to acquire equipment to assemble a
system at short notice.
Those who have been flying the Flatlands for a few years or regularly tow in a
group on weekends will be familiar or identify with many of the points raised in
Collectively our team has well over 4000 tows and has developed these
guidelines over 11 years of towing together recreationally and in the
Flatlands. The main thrust is efficiency and convenience, through preparedness
and anticipation of problems ..... to fine tune team work.
It is not a guide on how to learn to tow and assumes you are already familiar
with basic procedures and safety obtained from a tow endorsement course.
So don't just stand about! Why aren't you hooked onto that tow rope!!
For the Pilot:
1 Equipment Ready
Make sure all your equipment is functional and preflight checks are
done before lining up to hook onto the tow rope:
Radio can Tx & Rx, ie battery not flat.
Mike or headset plugged in.
Able to lock on mike.
Bridle attached to correct points, waist and keel.
Release is functioning.
Release line for Skyting bridle not too short which will cause a
premature release as the glider rises off your shoulders.
Bridle untangled and stowed tidily, ready to hook on.
Weak link ready.
Do a radio check before the driver leaves for the other end (start point). The
driver could be sitting at the other end of the tow strip, oblivious to your radio
You should be hooked on and completely ready by the time the driver is
attached at the other end otherwise you will be a hindrance to the team. If
there are a few disorganised ditherers in your team have a second pilot also
ready to go.
Make sure all equipment you need is out of the tow car before towing begins. In
a competition, once the towing starts, do not engaged the driver in a discussion
about your last tow or stop the car to get some equipment out. The driver
should be focused on one thing – to get back down to the end of the rope ASAP
and declare “ready to take up tension”. This also applies when there are more
than 2 pilots towing recreationally. A lot of accumulated time can be wasted.
2 Vehicle Through-way
Leave the launch spot clear until the driver has dropped the rope at launch. This
allows the driver to come right up and drop the rope in the correct spot,
continue through the launch area and do a U turn behind launch. The pilot will
still have time to carry the glider to the end of the rope and be hooked on before
the driver is ready at the other end. This avoids such things as:
the rope being dropped short of launch;
the vehicle having to manoeuvre and driving over the rope to turn around;
the need for another person to pull the rope up to the hang glider or;
the pilot moving forward to hook on and obscuring their view of the windsock or
3 Standard Radio Procedure
Follow a standard routine radio procedure:
Acknowledge each other's primary transmissions. It can be worrying to a
nervous pilot when they hear no response to a request. ("Is my radio
Give your driver warning before you say "go, go, go", for example "picking up
glider" and wind conditions.
It is a common mistake for nervous pilots, when hearing the driver has hooked
on and waiting, to simply pick up the glider and say "go, go, go".
The pilot should decide how much tension or lack of (s)he wants to start with but
should always take up tension to approx 15 kg first. Do not launch without
having pulled out the bridle firmly away from the pilot. I have seen some
experienced pilots (not tow) take off with one arm over the top bridle line to the
keel. This usually ends in a ground loop and a broken upright. I've also seen
the top rope caught under the side of the helmet and pull a helmet or headset
off. Also if the release line is too short, or is wrapped around the base bar or a
grass tussock, taking up line tension will reveal this. This is preferable to an
accidental release after you say "go, go, go" and having to get the rope back for
another attempt. If the driver is not ready to take up tension, walk backwards
with your glider to pretension the bridle and lay out your release line.
5 Launch Conditions
The wind does not have to be 5kts straight up the strip for a successful
launch. True, this will allow an easy, effortless launch but on light wind days the
thermal is probably behind you and you will be back on the ground in 5 mins
wondering why everyone else is away 1st tow.
I mention this because after a great day I get back to the pub to hear how a
team only achieved a launch every hour because "the wind wasn't coming up the
strip much of the time". Half the team didn't get away and the others launched
so late that they only flew 10km just before dark!!
I am not advocating launching tail wind. It is just possible to foot launch with up
to a 2 kts of smooth constant tail breeze and the ability to sprint very fast, but it
is very risky in thermic conditions. Also if you get a low weak link break or an
early tow vehicle problem, you'll be landing tail wind as well. A dolly is
preferable in these conditions and reduces wasted launch time in variable
conditions. However with any significant tail wind ie > 5 kph the pilot must
consider landing in these conditions if there is a low weak link break?
These are my personal limits: - from 900 cross - 1-2 kts (kicked dust drifts
about ½ m/s).
- " 600 " - 5 kts.
- " 450 " - 10 kts, etc.
Also consider point #1 in advice ‘For The Driver’.
Turn the glider slightly into the wind ( 10-200 ) but not fully and keep the
upwind wing slightly down.
Be prepared to do a weight shift jab to the side to keep that wing level just as
you launch. As you ground skim you may slide sideways across the ground. It
is not necessary to fly the glider back over the strip but keep the wings level. I
have experienced cross wind launches where I was sliding sideways across the
ground at 10+ kts.
(If you are towing on a road with a fence either side you would need to maintain
your crab angle to prevent drifting onto the fence.)
If you are not very tow experienced, when trying something new like this,
gradually increase your limits of acceptable launch conditions along with your
Place a windsock 50 to 100 metres infront of launch to the upwind side to gauge
what type of air you will encounter early on the tow
6 PTT Locked On
Unclip your radio once at a safe height to reduce annoyance to other radio users
(eg 300'). Ensure you have heard the driver or other transmissions to confirm
you have unclipped your mike. The newer radios have a “Time Out Transmit”
which automatically switches off Tx with a warning beep – normal tows do not
take longer than 2 minutes. Because most of the UHF frequencies will be in use
during a competition your team will be unable to change to another
channel. The other unlaunched pilots will be effectively grounded until you
remember or your battery goes flat. In the latter case you will be unable to give
a position report for retrieve; not that anyone will be inclined to go looking for
Local rule - Leave your mike clipped on and you buy a carton of beer for the
7 Hang vs Prone
With a Skyting bridle, if you are comfortable in semi-hang while on the tow, stay
in semi-hang until you release. Feet in your harness (to stop pendulum swing),
knees bent and hands on the uprights to give more lateral control, making it
easier to dampen out oscillations leading to a lock out when a thermal pops a
wing up. Also your helmet stays clear of the top bridle line when higher on the
8 Release under Tension
When in lift, release immediately even with full tow line tension. Many pilots call
out "stop stop stop" and wait for the tension to drop before releasing. Too
late!! The thermal is behind you and on marginal days, chances of finding it are
slim. Releasing under tension usually ensures your release operates cleanly
anyway. Releasing with no line tension is a habit from winch tow training to
prevent wire tangles. If you have a stretchy bridle and a heavy release
mechanism on the end of your bridle, you're more likely to get a nasty surprise
with a low altitude weak link break, not at hight.
Never loose contact with the lift. This golden rule with any competent mountain
pilot also applies to towing. Even a disorganised slow thermal will get better. As
long as you are going up, even very slowly, stay with itunless you are drifting
outside of a glide back to launch. If you op for a relaunch it may be another
hour before your next tow. With the remote start gate there is usually no
disadvantage in a slow initial climb.
For the Driver:
1 Pretension & Launch Technique
In different wind conditions the pilot can benefit from different vehicle start
In light winds are your pilots getting a lethargic take off, moon walking until the
glider is properly airborne or wafting into the air barely above the stall then
pancaking onto the ground? After taking up the tension perhaps you could try
the following techniques in different wind strengths.
> 10 kph head wind component: start with the "take up" tension (approx. 15
5 - 10 kph head wind component: After taking up the tension reverse up until
the tension is nil.
< 5 kph head wind component: After taking up the tension reverse up until the
tension is nil, then
another 3 - 5 metres. Don't do this if the tow gauge is mounted to one side of
the vehicle as a wheel will reverse over the rope and may damage the gauge.
Above all, always use maximum acceleration (without wheel spin) until you have
normal towing tension except in strong wind (ie > 20 kph). You might think this
will abruptly snatch the pilot into the air but there is adequate stretch in 600
metres of 5mm rope for this to become just a quick and smooth increase in
tension at the pilot's end.
What happens in a nil wind launch with the standard 15 kgs of pretension? The
vehicle travels about 3 metres in a couple of seconds reaching maybe 10 kph
before the rope tension is enough for the pilot to take their first step for
launch. The glider will have a ground speed of approx 30 kph from the moment
of launch at the same time. So what happens when the glider which is attached
to the tow vehicle with a fixed piece of rope is travelling 20 kph faster? To make
matters worse there is some stored elastic energy in the rope and the glider is
able to accelerate quickly but the 1-2 tonne vehicle can only accelerate
sluggishly especially on loose dirt.
At the moment of launch the above recommendations will have the vehicle
travelling at a similar speed to the hang glider and avoid that sudden loss of
tension just as the pilot leaves the ground. It is the pilots responsibility to
tell you how much pretension or slack (s)he wants or inform you of wind
conditions at launch. Otherwise the general conditions of the day will give you
an idea what type of launch technique may be use.
Many drivers do not realise that for the first couple of seconds the pilot is
holding back allowing the tension to build up before taking the first
step. Meanwhile the driver who sees the alarming increase in tension hesitates
or even brakes just as the pilot decides to go. Before you can get the vehicle
moving again you may loose most of the tension. This also occurs with dolly
launching, because of the initial high rolling resistance, and since the pilot is
already in prone is more vulnerable if there is a sudden loss of tension as they
rise off the dolly.
In light winds do not hesitate until the tension is at least up to a strong tow
tension. We have found it very helpful if the pilot can say "airborne" when
they are a couple of feet into the air. Only then should the driver begin to adjust
back to normal tension. Before this, accelerate at maximum to achieve a high
tow tension. Consider that up to 20 kg of rope tension is due to the full rope
length being dragged along the ground. At this phase there is less danger of
breaking a weak link than you think.
3 Meter Monitoring & Tow Tension
Always give the pressure gauge 90% of your attention and 10% to steering the
tow vehicle down the strip. Forget the speedometer. Do NOT look in the rear
vision mirror as the tow tension can drop or rise very suddenly and break a weak
link. Be ready to brake the tow vehicle suddenly. The quicker the tension rises
the more urgent a response is required.
The more thermic the conditions, the lower the desired tension. In strong
thermic conditions maintain the tow line tension near 50% of the weak link
rating to give adequate margin to avoid a weak link break. Once the weak link
breaks the tow is finished and the pilot can only make the best of their present
situation. The pilot can aid the driver by telling them they are encountering a
thermal or "noisy air". This warns the driver before any indication on the tow
gauge and if their attention is wandering, brings it back to the tow gauge.
4 Rope Return - U turn
Clear your rope from adjacent strips ASAP and return it to the launch area
quickly. The time proven method is to simply do a U turn without pausing and
head back to launch. 50 kph is a reasonable speed. Stationary ropes are
quickly sliced by other ropes being pulled over them, so keep yours moving. Do
your U-turn away from the side that the rope has fallen towards, so you don't
drive over it or drag the rope across itself. A U turn means you do not have to
leave your mowed strip to find the other end of the rope nor get out of the
vehicle to pick up the end.
However it does mean a different end of the rope is at launch each time.
5 Rope Return - Ahead
Sometimes it may be better to initially drive forward after the hang glider has
a) After an early glider release the glider end of the rope may fall well before the
vehicle start point.
If you immediately do a U turn and return the rope, you may find it trailing off to
one side or doubled back on itself at the tow vehicle end. Ensure you take the
rope forward by at least its own length from the start point before doing the U
turn. If you do find the rope trailing off to one side, as you proceed back to the
vehicle start point, run it through a carabineer attached to the vehicle (like a
pulley) to feed it back onto the tow strip. Make sure any knots will run through
the carabineer. Someone may have to anchor the rope back at launch.
b) Driving ahead initially keeps the whole rope moving and gets the glider end of
the rope off the adjacent strip quicker. The need for this depends on the activity
on adjacent strips at the time, the cross wind and if the rope was released at a
low angle. If you see a vehicle about to drive over your rope, stop momentarily
until crossed, then keep your rope moving so it does not get cut by the rope
attached to the other vehicle.
Driving over a moving rope quickly will not damage it, but don't be in 2 minds
and pause on top of it - you will shred it. Similarly don't stop near a rope so
that it is pulled up to your vehicle and wedged under the tyres. This will also
shred a rope.
6 Driver Cooperation
Know the radio frequency and the names of drivers on neighbouring strips in
case problems occur requiring co-operation.
7 Beside Fences
If your team is towing near the edge of the paddock your rope may drop over
the fence. Continue up the tow strip until the tow rope is pulled off the fence
and back into the paddock before doing a U turn. To judge this, after the rope
has fallen estimate how much rope is over the fence and use your odometer or
trip meter to indicate when to turn around. It is better to go a bit further than
necessary than to leave the rope partly over the fence as you will need to pull it
off the fence by hand on the way back to launch. Check that the rope has
cleared the fence as you drive back. Alternatively, once you have pulled the
rope off the fence you could drop the vehicle end and pull the rope back by the
glider end. This reduces rope wear (and is the technique used when towing on
roads with a fence either side).
Any hardware such as metal rings on the rope ends are likely to flick around the
top wire of the fence and anchor the rope. Keep your speed near 10 kph and
either watch the gauge closely or constantly look behind at the rope for signs of
sudden tension otherwise you may break the rope, damage your gauge or pull
the fence over. It is much safer to pull the rope off the fence with the rope end
in your hand as you continue driving ahead. However make sure that it is not
wrapped around your hand or fingers in case it is suddenly snatched from your
grip. It would be safer to fix a small snap hook to the right rear corner of the
vehicle with a light weak link. This position allows the driver to observe the rope
in the side mirror. 1 strand of #8 twine is approx. 25 kg. Have several weak
links tied to the vehicle ready.
With only a small spliced loop or a bowline on the end of the tow rope and no
hardware, it rarely gets caught on fences, bushes, etc. You can confidently pull
the rope off fences at faster speeds with it still attached to the tow
gauge. However the pilot’s system to hook onto the rope may leave a snap
hook or ring on the end of the rope.
8 Rope Return after Early Release
If there is an accidental or early release in the first 100 metres of the tow it is
often quicker for an extra person to run forward and drag the rope
back. Remember if the rope was released under tension it may have sprung
forward a considerable distance.
It is usually better for the driver to disconnect the rope, follow it back in reverse,
and then hook on again. This is far better than somebody pulling on the rope
against the vehicle and trying to wave to the pilot to ask the driver to reverse up
over the radio. There is also a danger of reversing back over the tow rope while
still attached to the vehicle and damaging the tow gauge. For this reason it is
preferred to mount the tow gauge centrally on the vehicle rather than to
If there is no extra person available the driver should (a) drive forward until they
are the length of the tow rope from the vehicle start point and then do a U
turn to return, or (b) drive forward until they are reasonably sure the rope is
straight and pulled back onto the tow strip before unhooking, driving back,
finding the glider end and towing it back to launch. (b) is appropriate if the
glider released very early and reduces wear on the rope.
9 Reversible Rope Ends
Have your rope set up so it can be end-for-ended. This may involve each pilot
being responsible for their own weak link system and be able to quickly hook
onto either end of the tow rope that has no hardware attached.
10 Streamer at Vehicle Start Point
Stand a small windsock or streamer just in front of the vehicle start point. This
makes it easier for the driver to quickly find the end of the rope as (s)he drives
back to the start point, especially when looking into the sun. The pilot can also
ask the driver what the wind is doing near the vehicle as a gauge of thermal
11 Remote Release
Install a remote release on the vehicle tow gauge which the driver can operate
while driving. The driver will only have to get out of the vehicle once per tow, to
attach the tow rope just before each launch, saving minutes. When returning the
rope to launch, glance behind occasionally to check that you still have the tow
rope attached. It is a bit embarrassing if you turn up at launch empty handed
and also time consuming to find the end again. A remote release also adds
safety if a pilot locks out or gets into other difficulty. Some remote release
ideas: a lanyard routed outside the vehicle to a roof rack above the driver's
window, an arrangement similar to a bicycle brake cable or an electric solenoid
mounted in front of the release.
12 Tow Gauge Weak Link
Install a weak link at the vehicle end about 50% stronger than the pilot weak
link. This will protect the rope from being damaged if it should snag on a fence
or become tangled with another tow rope. It will also protect hydraulic tow
gauges which are often damaged and loose calibration if subjected to pressures
above full scale deflection. A suggestion is 6 strands of #8 nylon bricklayers
twine. Replace this weak link daily. If you have a remote tow car release
consider what will happen if this weak link breaks. Don't do what others have
done in the past - put the weak link between the vehicle and the tension sensing
13 Rope Join & Repair
The driver should be familiar with an appropriate in-line knot for joining the tow
rope in an emergency. This knot should be quick to tie and of minimum
bulk. This is to reduce wear while dragging the rope along the ground and to
assist it to run around objects or over a fence. A suitable knot is a "single
fisherman's knot" (Love Knot is a more appropriate name) with approximately
20mm free ends that are easily included in a protective wrap. The following
knots are not suitable: 2 opposing bowlines, reef knot, over hand knot, figure 8
knot, etc. Keep a sharp knife or scissors in the vehicle, and tape to wrap up the
joining knot. Brown packing tape seems to resist reasonable wear and is
cheap. Electricians tape and ducting tape wear too quickly. Cloth reinforced
tape is the best but is expensive (called ‘Duck’ tape in USA).
14 Rope Knots
After release from the hang glider a loose falling rope can put knots in
itself. This is more likely after a high release in light and variable wind
conditions. Typically, knots form near the glider end of the rope as it falls
through itself. Most are within the first 10 feet but may be up to 50 feet from
The tension of a couple of tows will seat these knots firmly and you will not be
able to undo them.
If ignored the knot will be a wear point leading to a rope break. Glance back
down the rope as you attach it to the vehicle to check for these knots and undo
them then. If you find a knot a bit too late, run some tape around it to prevent
Similarly but less common, loop-through knots can form anywhere along the
Cast an eye along the rope as you hurry back to the vehicle end for the next
15 Rope Storage
Roll your rope up each day before leaving to retrieve the pilots. There is no
guarantee that you will be on the same strip the next day due to wind changes
and strip rotation. The next morning when other teams drag their rope around
the paddock to a different strip over your rope it will be cut in half in less than a
minute. If you are last onto the paddock it could be in several pieces. Similarly
it is not a good idea to leave your rope laid out until you return that evening to
roll it up. There may have been a wind shift after you left the paddock and
every one moved to cross strips. No one is going to roll up your rope in the
hurry and confusion. Also, at the end of the day, Free Fliers may have a tow in
another direction. Even with towing continuing on the same strips it is possible
your rope could have others falling over it and be damaged or get caught up and
16 Rope Maintenance
Before towing commences each day take a knife and tape and walk along the
rope inspecting it for worn joining knots, accidental knots and pulled strands. It
may only be necessary to add more tape to the joining knots. Otherwise cut out
any problem areas and replace with the in-line knot. This 15 minute chore could
save at best a 15 minute delay in the middle of peak towing time. At worst most
of your rope may be unfindable after a pilot drops it from 1000 feet and/or it
gets caught up and dragged away by another rope.
The best way to join a rope is a butt splice. It gives only a slight increase in
rope diameter thus reducing the wear associated with knots. With protective
tape a splice will last a long time before needing attention.
17 Spare Rope
Have a spare tow rope in case yours is severed and half is dragged away by
another team's rope.
Remember Murphies Law manifests itself most potently during towing.
Do as much as you can to neutralise its effect.
If you are not averaging less than 10 minute turn around times your team needs
to polish its procedures, (disregarding voluntary waiting for conditions). I hate
to rub it in but in the 1994 Flatlands our driver put 4 pilots into the same
thermal one above the other in a release time spread of 12min 39sec without
compromising any safety guide lines.
You have probably realised the driver is really the key person of the team. If
there is any lack of harmony and the driver is not attacking the job with
enthusiasm and anticipation, you are disadvantaged from the start. Cajole,
praise, and charm them and don't be stingy rewarding them for a top effort.