This article was first published in the Weekly Advertiser newspaper on the 23rd of October 2019.
Some of the best glider pilots in the world will pencil in Horsham for elite competition next year when the Wimmera again moves into the national sporting spotlight.
Horsham Flying Club has won a bid to host national titles, following its success in staging 2017 and 2018 world gliding championship grand prix races.
Delighted club president Arnold Niewand confirmed that Horsham would present Gliding Federation of Australia’s Two Seat National Championships from February 15 to 22.
He said the club would run the championships in conjunction with its traditional Horsham Week program, guaranteeing several weeks of intense gliding competition in the Wimmera.
“From January 25 to 31 we will have Victorian Soaring Association’s annual cross country coaching, February 1 to 8 will be annual Horsham Week and then we’ll move to the national two-seat competition,” he said.
“It will be the first time we’ve had the opportunity to run these championships.”
The two-seat championships have been the responsibility of Narromine Gliding Club for several years.
“The Horsham club applied to the GFA competitions committee, put forward a proposal and based on past performances in running the two world grand prix events, were given the chance to run it,” Mr Niewand said.
“We will probably have it again next year if we do a half reasonable job.”
Mr. Niewand said winning the opportunity was prestigious and added to Horsham’s reputation of being able to present national and international-standard events.
“It is exciting and also reassuring to have the backing of the competition committee to run another elite event. It’s a credit to club members,” he said.
“We’re probably looking at up to about 20 extra gilders coming to Horsham in February, which would obviously involve 40 glider pilots as well as their support crews.”
Horsham Week has been running for 53 consecutive years and has averaged between 37 to 40 gliders during the past five years.
The national two-seat championships feature a similar time-trial format to traditional Horsham Week racing. Pilots fly to predetermined turn points across the region, log in their positions with global positioning satellite systems, before returning.
The time taken to complete the course determines championship success or failure.
“Two-seat gliders are large aircraft and can cover large distances quite easily. Competitors can expect tasks of covering between 450 to 500 kilometers,” Mr Niewand said.
“The usual challenges remain and pilots need to skilfully monitor and work with environmental conditions.
“It’s a different challenge to single-seat flying. The aircraft are bigger and heavier and a little bit slower at turning into thermals.
“They are like big graceful swans. There are two pilots, which means they share the flying, which can help with awareness surrounding conditions and opportunities.”
Confirmation of Horsham Flying Club hosting the championships came on the back of the club winning Victorian Soaring Association’s Maurice Little Memorial Trophy for club development.