10 Dec 2015

Exciting finish to Glider Match Racing

Long-standing rivals Sebastian Kawa from Poland and Austrian Werner Amann battled for gold over the desert sand dunes today (December 9) in the final of the Gliding Match Racing at the FAI World Air Games.

Both their Schempp-Hirth Discus 2C gliders were towed up over the Desert Dropzone and released from 1,200m side by side.

The pair then had to complete a course making best use of their altitude, and flying as efficiently and quickly as possible to be the first across the line. The winner was decided over the best of three flights.

Kawa and Amann beat off competition from four other pilots to end up in the final together.

The conservative strategy to this type of race would be to hold back at the start, maintaining altitude until later in the race. But both men are famous for their competitive streak and were racing hard from the start, at times with their wings just metres from one another, all while flying at speeds of 250km per hour.

Kawa found a course with lift, giving him more height to covert to speed on the final straight and beat Amann across the line by seconds in the first heat.

There was no defensive flying in the second race either, with the pilots scrapping to get the higher line.

They jockeyed for position just metres apart. And despite Kawa dropping as low as he could to try to catch up, he followed Amman over the line after a race that seemed to be decided on the final turn.

There was a final twist, though. Neither competitor was sure he'd crossed the final turn point. But when the loggers on both planes were checked, it showed that Amman had turned too early, meaning only Kawa had made a valid flight.

Even though the Polish pilot picked up a time penalty for flying too low on the final straight, he claimed the overall victory as a result.

"It was the pressure of racing," said silver medallist Amann, when asked why he'd turned early.

Kawa, famous for his strategic flying, added: "The biggest advantages was getting the right line."

By Andy Pag

Photos: Marcus King / FAI Media Team

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