Soaring over the Andes as Chile hosts global gliding Grand Prix

The international competition brings pilots from six countries around the world to compete in daily flights across the Andes. The two top competitors will proceed to the July’s Grand Finale race to be held in Germany.

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From Jan. 22 to 29, the International Aeronatic Federation’s Sailplane Grand Prix will land at the Club de Planeadores, or Gliders Club, in the district of Vitacura in Santiago de Chile.

The nine racing days in Chile comprise the third qualifying round for the international competition, following Poland, Switzerland, Slovakia and Australia, and preceding events in France, Romania, Spain, Finland and Italy. The top two performers in each location will then qualify for a Grand Finale competition to be held in Germany in July.

Chile has hosted three previous qualifying rounds, and in 2009 hosted the Grand Finale race. “We have ideal meteorological and geographical conditions,” says Competition Director Arturo Diaz. “The Andes particularly provide challenges for the competitors.”

A long history with gliders also contributes to Chile’s regular position in the Grand Prix. The first such plane was flown out of Santiago in 1923, form the Air Base in El Bosque. The current Club de Planeadores was founded sixty years ago.

A total of 12 pilots from six countries will compete in Chile’s nine days of competitions. Of the 12 competitors in Chile’s qualifying round, five are Chilean, including team leader Carlos Rocca who finished in second place in last year’s Grand Finale. After two days of competition, Rocca shares first place with German Sebastian Nägel and Italian Thomas Gostner.

Each day the pilots will compete along a different course, ranging from about 180-300 miles (300-500 km), to be determined each morning according to prevailing weather conditions. Competitors will receive points each day according to their finishing position. When the nine different courses have all been flown, the points will be totaled and the two top scorers officially sent on to the Grand Finale race in Germany.

During each day’s race, the progress of the pilots will be tracked online, with position updates each minute recording their progress along the course. These and daily news updates will be posted on the Grand Prix Chile website.

For information on learning to fly an glider and joining Santiago’s Club de Planeadores, visit the Club’s website: www.planeadores.cl.