GPS and Competition Information
Aircotec Top Navigator, the original
Top Navigator,
the original.
Updated Jan 2010

A GPS (Global Positioning System) is a requirement for the competition. I will try to explain the various types used in the paragliding world with the major interest for competition use, though they are also extremely useful for cross country flying. On this page I'll try to briefly explain how the competition works, what gps units are available and some of the principles of using them.
A typical Competition Registration On the day before the competition you'll register; you check the details that we have for you, we check your details, experience, insurance etc. Next you get plugged in to the computer and are given the waypoints for the competition. Even if the waypoints are on the web and you have a copy loaded into your instrument, its still best you get a new set, in case you have the wrong set or there are new ones. Also you get your pilot number uploaded to your instrument to aid the scoring later on. Be ready with your instrument on and all of your instrument cleared of waypoints.
Morning briefing
Aircotec XC Trainer. Lightweight. Great
Aircotec XC Trainer.
Lightweight. Great.
Every day you are advised to check your scores from the previous day some time before the morning briefing. If you have any queries then see the scorer as early as possible. Soon after the briefing, if it looks flyable, the whole shebang moves to the launch site. Please try to get there as quickly as possible; moving 120 people around without losing someone is challenging enough.
Arriving at launch As soon as people arrive on the hill they get their kit ready. This seems strange to newcomers but its a good plan. If the conditions look flyable then get yourself a space, get your glider and instruments prepared. Bundle the glider up and check the instruments work. Delete the previous days track log and check the gps is recording. Check your radio before the window opens, Please. The meet director will transmit every so often before the start window opens so you should hear it, if you don't then maybe you have not changed your radio from the retrieve frequency?
The task When everyone is on the hill a briefing is called to discuss the day's task. Often it is provisionally written-up on the task board before the briefing... our idea is to reduce all of the stress that can build up. The task board will show the waypoints and goal for the day. Normally the Launch opening and start gate opening times are decided at the end of the briefing. Everyone starts entering the task and the air fills with the sound of beeping instruments. The task will probably be a race to goal or an elapsed time to goal. In a race everyone has time to get to the start cylinder and the start opens at a specific time; everyone then gets to goal as quickly as possible. In the elapsed time there is still a start cylinder but you can cross that point and start when you like, then get to goal as fast as possible. The start point is likely to be an entry cylinder or exit cylinder around a waypoint. The radius of the cylinder does not have to be 400m and is often more than 2km, to spread people out and make it as safe and uncongested as possible. The task will be fully explained and we'll even tell you the best route, though its up to you if you listen or not! For safety reasons, a turn direction in thermals is specified until the first turnpoint or the start cylinder. Usually it is left on odd numbered days of the month and right on even days.
The flight
MLR GPS. Now discontinued
The launch window opens, you cross the start cylinder making sure it is after the opening time. Everyone flies the course, we hope everyone gets to goal and no one misses a turn point. Fly cautiously and courteously. If you fly with a group of people it is likely to be easier. The gaggle is your friend.
Landing When you land in a safe place, not in crops, you bunch up your glider as soon as you can. If you leave the glider for too long it could be read as a sign that you are injured and people will start to worry pretty quickly. Radio your location to the retrieve on the retrieve frequency and follow the instructions to get picked up. Now turn off your GPS. XC Trainer users, make sure you know that the track log is being stored before you turn it off.
Check in When you get back to HQ, be sure you are checked in and get your GPS downloaded as early as possible. We usually have everyone processed by 7:00pm and results out by 8:00pm.
Go Celebrate
Garmin 12. Reliable but old
Garmin 12. Reliable, old,
No height data recorded,
Not useable in comps
Your competition day has nearly finished. You just have another few hours of post goal analysis, recounting how fantastic the day was, celebrating your personal best and how you got to goal first.
Know your instrument Whether its your first competition or you're an experienced competition hound, not knowing your instrument will be detrimental. So if your instrument is new to you then take it out and play with it.
Make sure you can do the following Instrument Settings Types of instrument All in 1, Integrated Vario and GPS: These are the top end of the market. Designed specifically for gliding competitions and gliding cross country. If you are serious about flying and have the budget available then one of these is for you. Each has its merits and you need to compare their attributes before investing. I cannot give too much information for these instruments as I don't have one.
GPS only units: If you already have a vario then a gps only unit will suffice, though you will need a way to fix them both to a flight deck or maybe one on each leg, arm, riser etc. There are many to choose from:
Number of trackpoints and trackpoint interval The instrument must store your flight; it does this by storing your position at a certain tick rate. A 5 second tick rate is fine for competitions;
for 10000 track points (a normal number for modern machines) at 5 seconds per point you can store 13.89 hours of track, plenty.
for 1024 track points at 15 seconds per point you can store 4.25 hours, or at 20 seconds per tick 5.7 hours. If you are using older units with a limited number of track points you must set the time interval accordingly. You must also wait inside any turnpoint cylinder for enough time that you can guarantee that a point has been captured.
Note: Some gps only units have an option to set the interval to automatic. Do not use the automatic option for track interval. Points will be taken every time you change direction and the memory will fill very quickly whilst you thermal.
Wrap or Fill (Garmins only)
Garmin Etrex, compact
Garmin Etrex.
Often there is an option for the track to wrap when full (wrap) or stop recording when full (fill). Generally I recommend the wrap option. When the track memory is full it starts at the beginning of the memory, over-writing the oldest data. In this case, if you forget to clear your track log then the data will wrap and still be stored. The danger occurs with instruments with few track points: In this case make sure that the track interval is sufficient to not fill the instrument in one flight, otherwise the wrap will over-write the start of the flight destroying the proof of start time.
A saved track is no good for downloading for competition scoring because time data is removed. Do not save the track, just let the scorer download it. All of the tracks are available on the website after the competition.
Automatic or manual route (Garmins only) Modern Garmins All of the modern Garmins are fine using an automatic route. This means that they change to the next route waypoint once you are within a settable (400m) distance of the target waypoint. The only problem is when the same waypoint appears more than once in a route, in which case it can select the wrong next waypoint... this is bad. My advice: Know if it is likely to cause problems; know the route for the day and be suspicious if your gps tells you to go in the wrong direction. Be ready to manually go into the route and set the next route waypoint. Garmin MAP76, MAP76S
Garmin 60CS. Great gps, with fast usb connection
Garmin 60CS.
Great gps,
with fast
usb connection
The best of the bunch in my opinion. Route navigation should be set to manual. Whilst navigating the route go to less than 400m of the turnpoint then turn towards the next waypoint. Manually advance the route by hitting the NAV key, then enter. Garmin MAP72, 12 These units are not user friendly for routes. You must not activate the route or you will miss waypoints at some point in time. Route waypoint switching must be done manually. You need to practice it so that you know how to do it in the air in a competition. Batteries I am a great believer in rechargeable batteries. I use NiMH AA batteries in all of my gizzmology. Using a fast charger I charge everything the night before I fly, even if they are nearly full already. Recharging half charged NiMH cells is no problem. Only once have I had problems with this system... when the charger went on the blink!
GPS information on the web There's loads of it. Remember to relate the information out there to paragliding though.. we work in 3 dimensions!
There's a good page here:
Any new informationI hope this guide is useful. If you wish me to add anything to it then please let me know. Thanks, Mark Graham (scorer for the Ozone Chabre Open until they sack me).