11th Annual San Felasco Hand Launch Festival

11th Annual San Felasco Hand Launch Festival Group Photo

From the 16th through the 18th of February, 2018 DLG pilots from all over the USA converged on a field just to the North and East from the Flying Gators home for the 11th Annual San Felasco Hand Launch Festival. Over 45 pilots showed up, along with former world champion pilots, to make the event a top class competition.

11th Annual San Felasco Hand Launch Festival Group Photo
San Felasco Hand Launch Competitors


Hand Launching?

Most of our members fly their models with some sort of power plant propelling the craft through the air. The name “hand launch” says it all here. DLGs, or discus launched gliders, are sent into the air through a motion that is not all to different from a discus thrower in a track and field meet. Pilots throw their models into the air and then use rising currents of air, thermals, to keep their models flying. Throughout the event a number of different tasks must be performed. Tasks can be duration based, where a model must stay in the air for a maximum time, or repetition based, where the pilot must complete a number of flights within a window of time.

1 meter and 1.5 meter competition DLGs

DLG models are works of engineering art. These models often weigh less than 9oz and most would consider the FAA registration weight, 255 grams, to be on the porky side. DLGs are constructed using sophisticated contruction techniques and employ the latest carbon fiber weaves and composite technology. It’s no wonder why most contest level ships start in the $700 range and still require the pilot to buy servos, a battery, and receiver!

There are two common classes of DLGs. A 1 meter class, often referred to as “mosquito class”, and 1.5 meter class. The internationally recognized F3K classification sets a 1.5m span limit on models. Most contests include the smaller 1m class as a fun event.

Flying Gators Member Mike Gardner's Models
Flying Gators Member Mike Gardner’s Models

Most competitors have more than one model at a contest. Due to their light weight these models are fragile and susceptible to damage. A mid-air collision is also a concern. Each round in this year’s contest had approximately 15 pilots launching nearly at the same time. As it happened one pilot launched into another’s model cutting the boom in half and effectively destroying the model.

11th Annual Contest

This year marked the 11th year of the San Felasco Hand Launch contest. Great weather greeted all the pilots. Some had seen their fair share of a long winter. Many had not been able to fly for the last few months!

1 Meter Competition

Weather is always a special concern when your model relies on good thermal conditions to generate lift to stay in the air. A partly cloudy Friday started the event off with some mild breezes. The smaller 1 meter models face more difficulty with windier conditions. This year we had periods of light breeze interspersed with a few moments of light wind. This made the contest just challenging enough for these models. One of our members, David Forbes, flew to first place in the preliminary rounds! Finally, when the dust settled in the fly-offs Dave came in a very respectable 4th place overall. Congrats!

Main Event

Saturday and Sunday opened up the main contest event. In the morning on Saturday we were greeted with overcast skies which looked ominous at some points.

San Felasco Feb 17th, 2018
Saturday Morning at San Felasco

These conditions put competitors on their “A”-game. There were no free-rides to be given by mother nature. Everyone really had to work hard to meet task times. A lot of flights that took models down wind were tragically given a zero score as the pilot couldn’t make it back to the launching and landing area. There were many stories of pilots heroically working the smallest of lift to get what would have been an easy to achieve time.

The final day of competition saw Florida Spring weather. Big blue skies and puffy white clouds showed that lift was going to be abundant. However, challenging conditions still proved to be the norm. Even though there were periods of epic lift some pilots were still astonished to see their several hundred foot altitude diminished in a matter of seconds with the flight ending in a land out which gave a result of no points for the pilot. Yet, other pilots, one particular junior, made epic flights showing that good lift was there to be had.

When everything concluded the Flying Gators had two  members place well in the standings. David Forbes again showed his soaring skills and took 3rd in the 65+ group. Mike Gardner flew his way to the top spot in the intermediate sportsman class.

Fun For All

The San Felasco Hand Launch Festival marks the start to competitive soaring calendar for Florida. While there are soaring events in Florida prior to San Felasco this event really gets everyone in the mood to get out and catch thermals! The event is also a fundraiser for the Friends of San Felasco. All proceeds from the event go to benefit the park.

If you had a chance to come out and watch the event thank you for stopping by. If you missed this year’s event we hope that next year you’ll stop and spectate or even bring a model and fly! Stop and talk with local soaring guys, Dave, Mike, or Robin, if you have questions or want to hear more about the event. Just beware, they’ll get a model in your hand and have you hunting for lift in no time!