Gliding in South Africa, Are You Excited?

In February, we announced the start of the JSChallenge. Two juniors get the opportunity to experience an adventure in South Africa. Now the winners are nominated, let's get to know them.
Gliding in South Africa, Are You Excited?

Let's go to the South African Club Class Nationals. Flying in the Southern Hemisphere. Breathtaking landscapes paired with first-class thermal conditions, a real high for the emotions! The Challenge ended on August 31, 2022 and it was time to evaluate the two lucky juniors. Two ratings are important:

The European Sprint Competition

The sprint ranking for the rest of the world (excluding flights in Namibia)

It should be emphasized that the JSChallenge is an international competition. Every junior worldwide has the opportunity to assert themselves and get the support they deserve. However, we all were pleased to nominate internationally in the first year!

Let's start with Zach Yamauchi. The US junior held his own in the rest of the world sprint rankings.

Hey Zach, what a successful year! Have you had your eye on the JSChallenge during the season?

Thank you so much! I first started submitting flights to WeGlide at the beginning of the 2022 soaring season. While exploring the website, I noticed the competitions page and looked through them to see if there were any that I would be qualified for and have a chance at winning. When I first read the rules on the JS challenge, it sounded like an achievable goal for the season to attempt to reach the top of the scoreboard, not to mention the epic opportunity awaiting me should I end up in first place.

How did you achieve your goal? You do not always fly from your home airfield in California, didn't you?

Indeed, Throughout the season, I made an effort to fly in the strongest conditions I could reasonably access, with my trip to Ely, Nevada in early July providing the conditions that would secure my position on top of the leaderboard. Ely is one of the Hotspots in the States.

It looks like your plan worked out, congratulations! What are your expectations regarding South Africa?

Having never flown gliders outside of Nevada and California, I see the opportunity to compete in another country with some top-notch pilots as an excellent opportunity to broaden my horizons, fly some world-famous conditions, make new connections, and become a better pilot.

How do you prepare for this adventure?

In preparation for this contest, I have been studying past flight traces out of Potchefstroom as well as weather patterns on SkySight as the season begins to start.  I am incredibly excited to attend the South African Club Class Nationals and am grateful for this opportunity that Jonkers Sailplanes and WeGlide have afforded me.

Zach, thank you for your words. We'll talk about Ely and your flights again separately. Have fun and success in South Africa!

Now to Niklas Hahn. The junior from Germany was at the peak of the sprint classification in Europe and ultimately won the JSChallenge.

Hey Niklas, you and your club have performed well this season. Did you have the JSChallenge in mind at all?

No, I didn't. In the Lower Saxony Country Squad, we discuss goals for the coming season during winter. I had planned to fly around the airspace of Berlin to break the 800 km mark. Until shortly before the end of the evaluation, I had only flown a slightly larger, faster flight with the Discus 2c FES in April. The hopes of still achieving the goals faded. However, the motivation in the club is very high to move up further in the German National League. Accordingly, the focus was on getting fast two hours together as often as possible in order to get one or two points for the league. But fortunately, the month of August brought unbelievably good weather!

Indeed, and you submitted two of the three ratings in August.

Exactly, on the first weekend in August, I was able to fly around Berlin with a club colleague in the Duo Discus XLT, and the following day we even covered almost 900 km. The next two weekends were incredibly motivating. The forecasts were a bit more pessimistic, but it was to be expected that the cold air would conjure up good conditions for thermals. The evening before, I studied the airspace west of Bremen because I haven't often planned this far. "I won't need Dutch airspace," I thought to myself. That was to prove wrong the next day, making the choice to turn just before Dutch airspace. In both weather conditions, there were proper cloud streets, which enabled me to make these fast flights and ultimately pushed me forward in the JSChallenge.

Congratulations, Niklas! How do you prepare for the South African adventure?

I don't even know where to start: Foremost, my medical expired the day before the competition started, so I had to rush to get an extension. The current medical is also required, to validate the license to fly in South Africa. The organization of flights, rental cars, vaccinations, travel adapters, and mobile internet in South Africa were also pending.

And the flying preparation is probably not neglected either?

Yes, I check the weather in Potchefstroom regularly. I also analyze flights submitted to WeGlide. With a 5000 m cloud base it is clear: Oxygen is necessary. I borrowed equipment from friends from my club. A big question is of course the outlanding situation. I was able to talk to a pilot who has already flown in Potch. The possibilities have been described as quite good as there is a lot of agricultural lands. I will also take a closer look at the surrounding airfields. Airspace data is already uploaded to SoaringSpot and installed on the navigation device and logger. FAI sports license from the DAeC is still pending.

Niklas, have fun in South Africa!

The competition is starting in less than two weeks. A big thank you to Jonkers Sailplanes for making this adventure possible. We will report about them afterward, stay tuned!

Photos: Emil Dalboe