News from the 13.5m Class

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Several years ago the IGC – the international body governing the sport of soaring – decided that the World Class (based on the PW-5) was not viable because it just did not appeal to the soaring community.  Thus ended the first, and so far only, attempt by the IGC to revive soaring competition with a “cheap” one design class that would also provide a reasonable tool for beginning XC pilots.

Instead the IGC defined a new open design class – the 13.5m class, defined with almost no constraints (similar to the 15m and the 18m classes).  And this year saw the first world championship in this new class, in Pociunai (Lithuania).  The contest was won by Stefano Ghorza (Italy) flying the VERSUS, a Diana 2 modification with shortened wings followed by Vladas Mostuza (Lithuania) flying a miniLAK, basically a LAK-17 with shortened wings.  Morgan Sandercock (Australia) with a Sparrowhawk R (basically a Duckhawk with shortened wings) ended up in 5th place.  So far modification of existing gliders – especially 15m designs – seems to be the winning strategy.  Sebastian Kawa was supposed to fly the Polish GP-14, so far the only attempt to produce a new optimized design but the glider was not ready (it has flown in the mean time).  The quoted performance of a best glide ratio of 45 is better than what the best 15m racers could offer not too long ago.  Another potential entry is rumored to be a JS-3 with shortened wings.  In the next few weeks we will see the Jonkers brothers in their 15m JS-3s do battle in Benalla (Australia) with the Diana 2 pilots; let’s see how that will develop.


Most of the other gliders in Pociunai were Alisport Silent 2 electro, all of them with the FES (Front Engine Sustainer with an electrical motor) which is definitely proving its worth despite a small penalty in glide performance.  Incidentally, the Silent 2 is a distant derivative of the Apis WR which originally was designed for the Ultralight class and set several world records in that weight defined class (if you are confused about the IGC’s class definitions, you are not alone).  Since then Jim Payne and Morgan Sandercock have been setting quite a few distance and speed records with the original Sparrowhawk in the Owens Valley wave also in the Ultralight class.but nobody else seems to be taking this class too seriously.  Meanwhile the 13.5m class has seen some more interest with Stefano Ghiorzo having been busy setting records in the Silent 2.


At the other end of the performance spectrum is the venerable Schweizer 1-26 which happens to fit in the 13.5m class (but with approximately only half the (L/D)max).  On May 8, 2016 David Sazhin managed a sensational 1002.6 km record around 3 turn points along the Appalachians in an 1-26, which is so far the longest distance record in the 13.5m class.


Closer to home the WashingtonState soaring records table had the World class listing replaced by a 13.5m class listing.  And the World class records set in 2004 to 2008 by JC Hauchecome have reappeared in the 13.5m class – congratulations to JC!