Entering your First Competition

You may have seen experienced pilots at competitions and had thoughts of “how do I do that?” or “that all looks very intense, I don’t know where to start”, but actually all competition pilots started somewhere and there are many pathways for starting down the road to competitions.  Many clubs offer regattas or mini comps designed for all levels.

Matthew Dunstan, from Darling Downs Soaring Club (DDSC) recently competed in his first regatta at Easter and was keen to share his experience.

How long have you been gliding for?
“I started learning about 18months ago but only went solo 7 months ago.”

Where do you fly from?
“DDSC (Darling Downs Soaring Club)”

What was the recent regatta / competition that you entered into? 
“The DDSC Easter Regatta”

Were you Nervous?
“A little but also very excited to learn from everyone.”

If you were to give advice to someone considering going into a regatta or competition for the first time, what would you say to them? 
I wasn’t thinking of it as a competition. Instead, I kept telling myself:

  • This is more like a training camp than a competition
  • I’m going to be flying with my friends
  • There are other new people there
  • My coaches and mentors will be there – how great to be able to learn from them all week
  • How spoilt am I to be able to fly for 8 days in a row!

What help and support did you have?
“Everyone was fantastic, including everyone from the other clubs.  You could ask anyone anything and they were super supportive and generous with their help and advice”

What was the highlight?
“At the end of every day we did a short debrief with a couple of coaches or instructors, looking at the traces. From this I went away with one or two things to try different on the next day.  It was great. My flying improved so much over the course of the week.

My confidence also really bloomed during the week. I went from a mind set of “I hope I can get back” to “I wonder how fast I’ll be able to get back”.  It gave me a lot of confidence in my flying.”

Did you have any goals going into the competition?
“My main goal was to finish my GPC during the competition which I did.  Second to that, my goal was just to enjoy the experience and learn as much as I could. The regatta was perfect for this.”

Did you have any surprises in the comp?
“Every day had its surprises!  On day 1, my vario died on the grid – that was a surprise!  On day 2, getting back early only to find that I’d completely missed a turnpoint. That was a surprise! On day 3 I had trouble getting into a good height band and ended up flying the whole task at an average height of 2700 AGL.  Being able to complete the task without the comfort of a lot of height – that was a surprise!  Coming back to the airfield first on the last two days. That was definitely a surprise!”

What was your biggest learning?
“Honestly: not to be afraid of outlandings.  I didn’t land out myself but I went on a retrieve and helped rig gliders a number of times.  This really helped to normalise outlandings for me.”

If you’re interested in learning more about competition flying, talk to your club, coaches, or instructors for further information.

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