Meanwhile, on the Southern Hemisphere...

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The New Year 2017 celebrations are barely over but for the OLC year 2017 (which began in September) the most spectacular soaring may be already over. This is not to ignore the upcoming World Championships in Benalla or the upcoming soaring season in the northern hemisphere but is based on some outstanding long distance soaring in the southern hemisphere that captures the imagination and the admiration of soaring and non-soaring pilots alike.

Southern Africa - meaning mostly Namibia - proved again to offer the best thermal conditions worldwide. These meteorological and geographical conditions attract increasing hordes of European pilots during the November to January time span who want to escape the northern winter and hopefully gain a coveted 1000 km diploma. That does not mean that such flights are easy but pilots come prepared and motivated and competition is high. This year's season of barely 3 months yielded over 360 flights with over 1000 km, with the longest covering 1435 km (close to 900 miles). The sailplanes used were usually the latest and hottest designs, such as EB-28 and 29, the Arcus and ASG-32, JS-1 etc. but include even some 15 m ships.

And then there was some extreme wave flying in the lee (i. e. to the east) of the Andes. This kind of flying is reserved for a few hardcore wave riders but offers outstanding if not unique long distance soaring. Some 20 years ago Klaus Ohlmann discovered and first explored these wave systems and set numerous world records, including the longest soaring flight ever - 3009 km (about 1870 miles) - on Jan. 21, 2003. He won the OLC championship numerous times since, with his main competitor being Jim Payne (who won it the last 4 years). Jim appears to be pre-occupied with the Perlan project right now while Klaus Ohlmann just had a very successful 6 week season in Argentina. He posted 11 extra long flights from Zappala Neuquen in Argentina, his favorite base, with some of these long duration flights on consecutive days. All his flights were flown in his trusty old Stemme S-10. His 6 best flights all exceed 2000 km per flight and put him into a near unbeatable position for the 2017 OLC championship. To put his achievements (and his stamina) into perspective - his shortest flight took 14:08 hours and his longest (over 2407 km) took 15:19 hours!!!

Chances are slim that we will ever see such flights in Region 8 but it is inspirational to know the possibilities offered by flying "just by the favor of the wind" (as Leonardo da Vinci put it).