Handicap Systems

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Since the advent of modern composite sailplanes with ever increasing sophistication and performance pilots with yesteryear’s types have tried to equalize the achieved performances in competition or record flying with the help of handicapping systems.  And ever since such handicapping systems were devised pilots have argued about the fairness of such systems.  The goal is of course to emphasize pilot performance and not sailplane performance in competition.  As long as such systems are based on a nominal standard weather situation (basically thermal strength) and are thus independent of actual weather conditions, lower performance types will be at an advantage in strong conditions and high performance types will benefit in weaker conditions; in extreme cases high performance types can achieve a difficult task when lower performance types cannot and no handicap system can make up for that.  Despite such limitations handicapping is now widely accepted for the OLC and for the international Club class competitions based on IGC approved handicap indices.  However, the SSA is still holding on to its Sports class competitions and records based on a slightly different handicapping system.  The SSA handicap factors were once even adjusted for East or West locations assuming more favorable weather conditions in the West (clearly not considering Washington state).

In general the IGC index of a particular type can be converted into an equivalent SSA handicap factor (HC) as follows

                                    100/index = HC


This can also be used to derive an IGC index for US sailplane types that appear to be unknown to the IGC.

Distances and speeds are adjusted according to the above.  The handicaps are based on either published or measured performance with some adjustment for achieved performance in a competition environment and serve as good references for the performance potential of particular types.  So here is a summary of the IGC indices for a variety of sailplane types encountered around Arlington, plus the EB-29:


            Type                                        IGC index       HC (SSA)

            1-26                                         63                    1.6/1.65

L-23                                        78                    1.38

PW-5, -6U                              85                    1.18/ 1.14

L-33                                        86                    1.18

G102, G103                             94                    1.051/ 1.08

Std. Libelle, Chinook               98                    1.02

Std. Cirrus, ASW-19               99                    .1.,  97             ?

Cirrus 17.7                               100                  .98

Pik-20B                                   104                  .95                  

LS-7, DG-303                         106                  .94/

LS-3, ASW-24                        107                  .937/ .94

Tetra-15                                   109                  ?

LS-8/18                                   114                  .88

ASH-26E                                 117                  .865

EB-29                                      125                  -                       (highest evaluation)