National Sport Flight Conferene Launched

National Sport Flight Conference (NSFC) Launched

Last year the Competition Committee, in an effort to address the interests of the larger

membership, proposed a new venue of recreational pilot competition called the National Sport

Flight Conference (NSFC). As it was born in the eleventh hour with respect to the two big April

Florida meets, a write-up in HG Magazine would not have been printed in time, and so we tried

to announce it via the Hang Gliding Email Forum. For several reasons (many of which boiled

down to ineffective project management on my part), we got a false start in 2001, and nothing in

the end was launched. That is to say, we potatoed.

However, we did get vocal feedback from quite a few individuals, who felt the description at the

time was too complicated and did not address their particular competition interests. So we took

what commentary we’d received to heart, realized that there is no percentage in deliberately

aggravating the “math challenged” among us, and over the year slowly and subtly simplified and

revamped the system.

We are launching the new and improved NSFC this spring (2002). It will provide an Americawide

sport ranking for all NSFC competitors, using a relatively straightforward and uniformly

applied points system (not to be confused with the National Team Selection System’s “NTSS”

point system, which is a long-established and completely separate system).

There are three ways the NSFC system can be applied in a meet:

i. A meet can be run using the NSFC scoring system as the only scoring system of

the meet; or

ii. A meet can be run using its own local scoring system, but running the NSFC

calculations on the side, so that the competitors will get NSFC point credit for the

meet; or

iii. A meet can be run using the established GAPS scoring (such as the big Class A

sanctioned meets run), and can run the NSFC calculations on the side, so that the

competitors will get NSFC credit for the meet.

This year, in the big Florida meets, NSFC points will be calculated on the side while the of ficial

GAPS point system is used per normal to score the meets. Other meets—maybe all meets--will

offer NSFC points as well. ALL pilots who accumulate NSFC points in any meets will be

ranked nationwide within this new system. Here’s your chance to compare your ranking with

Jim Lee, Mike Barber, Kari Castle, Chris Arai, Brian Porter, Davis Straub and the other gods, in

a system designed to give you a fighting chance. More importantly, here’s a chance to smoke

your flying buddies and then get national recognition for having done so.

What the System Seeks To Do

The NSFC intends to accomplish several fundamental things:

1. Because the single biggest motivation pilots have for attending events is the convenient

proximity of the event to their home town, the NSFC intends to encourage competitions of nearly

any size, and nearly any complexity or simplicity, right there in the various local airspaces. It


will make it straightforward to put together and score easy-to-run meets which are comparable in

point value to other such meets across the country. It will try to incentivize burgeoning meet

directors to step to the fore.

2. Because participation is the key to improvement, the NSFC will encourage participation by

summing every competitor’s total NSFC points, rather than their average, for the year. If a pilot

wants to improve either skill or standing, racking up another comp or two will move him or her

further up that range.

3. Because many (most?) pilots are relative novices regarding comp strategy, and because most

pilots do not have the benefit of the latest factory equipment, and because most pilots’

employment and family commitments keep them more ground-bound than the semi-professional

competitors, the handicap-weighted NSFC scoring system compresses points for lower and

intermediate levels of achievement toward the top, forcing top guns to keep looking over their

shoulders, while giving Jo(e) Amateur a fighting chance in meets.

4. Because everyone would like to know where they stand for their efforts, the ranking will be

nationwide and will include a final yearly score for every participant who entered even one day

of NSFC competition. Want to beat your buddies or take on the big names head -to-head? This

is the venue in which to do it.

The Heart Of It

At its heart, the NSFC amounts to a self-handicapping system. After all, on a given day, with a

given set of conditions, nobody knows better than the pilot what his or her combined gear and

skills and knowledge and luck are likely to do. So with NSFC, a pilot essentially declares what

kind of performance is his or her Personal Target for the day. The meet director and task

committee still set a task, but the pilot chews off what portion of it he or she wants to shoot for.

More on the math details below; just remember that it is a handicap scheme wherein the entire

pilot/wing/harness/brain system is evaluated and handicapped, by the pilot him(her)self.

Nothing could be more fair. Yet selecting your Personal Target each day will take some serious


Simplicity is Elegance

To participate in the NSFC, a pilot really need only concern him(her)self with a couple of things

besides flying:

a. You have to declare before launch how far you intend to go that day (with respect to

the day’s full task).

b. You have to provide an accurate location of where you eventually landed.

c. You have to provide an accurate time duration of your flight, afterward.

That’s about it. Not too tough.

Meet Directors will record the daily prediction for each competitor in the morning, and the

resulting distances and times at day’s end. They’ll plug those into a spreadsheet (or in special

cases email them to the NSFC National Laboratories where the calculations are performed).

They’ll post the results for the pilots that night or next morning.


An Interpolated Quarter-Hectare of Math

The following description applies to the most common meet format--the XC Race To Goal.

On a given day, a competitor can earn up to 100 NSFC points. To get that number you have to

choose aggressively, fly great, and turn in a fast time.

There are four kinds of points:

BASE POINTS for achieving Personal Target

Stretch-for-EXTRA-DISTANCE POINTS (if Personal Target achieved)

SPEED POINTS (if Personal Target achieved)

CONSOLATION POINTS for not achieving Personal Target


When the day’s task is declared, of course it has a length in kilometers or miles. With NSFC,

every competitor must inspect that task and route, look at the sky, and decide what percentage of

that task they want to declare as their Personal Target. Declarations are in 10% increments

(10%, 20%, ...60%...90%, 100%). They tell it to the Meet Director who chisels it in stone.

Now, if we were running a straight-line 1:1 scoring system, declaring 50% and making it would

give a pilot only 50 of the 100 max points for the day. Many pilots feel such a non-skewed

system is superior because it lets novices flounder at the bottom where they belong. They like a

scheme that hugely rewards the mighty with well-deserved honors far above the rank and file.

We have good news for these sentiments: That system exists, and has for years. It’s sole

purpose is to select a National Team, and nothing is going to make it go away.

But with NSFC, declaring as low as 30% of the day’s task will give you 54 NSFC Base Points,

as long as you make that target. Declaring 60% (and making it) will earn you about 70 Base

Points. Declaring 100% will earn you max (i.e., 90) Base Points. Everyone who makes his or

her Personal Target gets accelerated somewhat toward the top of the scoring range.

Figure 1 on page 4 shows a diagram of Base Points as a function of Personal Target declared.

You can see that the point awards are crowded toward the top, naturally amplifying the efforts of

those who need it (as long as they earn it), while keeping competition keen.

Notice, however, that the pilot who declares more and makes it will get more Base Points than

someone who plays it safe. So the trick is to Know Thyself and Stretch Thyself at the same time.

(A word about distances: Declaring and making 40% of the goal actually means getting

closer to the goal than 60% of the overall task distance. That is, the measurement that matters is

not the twisted path you flew but what is left in course distance between you and the meet goal.

So you might have gone a helluva long way, but if you’re off course you could still come up

short. It’s what’s left ahead of you that determines what percentage of the overall task you flew.)


"Personal Target" Base Points












0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

"Personal Target Achieved" Base Points

(What a 1-to-1 point

schedule from 0 to 90

would look like)

Personal Target = 20%

Personal Target = 80%

Personal Target = 100%

Personal Target = 0%

Figure 1. Base Points Schedule


Once you have achieved your Personal Target, keep going! Try to stretch for more. See what

you can do. Because for every course-mile more you get extra credit, added to the Base Points

you earned by making your Personal Target.

There is a catch though: Extra Distance Points are awarded at a much lower payoff than Base

Points were. You can’t declare at 60%, fly an extra 10%, and expect to earn what your buddy

earned by declaring and making 70%. That’s called sandbagging, and we know what you’re

thinking, so think twice.

For example, if Joe declares 70% and makes it, he will earn about 74 out of 90 possible Base

Points. If Monique declares at 50% and flies 70% with Joe, she will earn 54 Base Points and

about 6 Extra Distance Points, for a total of 60. Speed bonuses excluded, Joe would beat her by

What a 1:1 point

schedule to 90

would look like

Percent of Task Declared


a whopping 14 points for the day, even though they flew the same distance. This is the fallout

for being able to select your own “handicap” level, and is necessary to discourage excessive

sandbagging. (A little of the conservativism is probably warranted, however, as you’ll see later.)

Extra Distance (XD) points, like Base Points, are calculated based on what’s left in front of you

rather than on how far you fly. Figure 2 shows how your maximum XD points (i.e., making

your Personal Target and then stretching all the way to goal) can add to your Base Points.

Base Points + Extra Distance












0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

Personal Target = 20%

Personal Target = 80%

Max Possible Extra Distance Points Added to Base

"Personal Target Achieved" Base Points

Personal Target = 100%

Figure 2. Max Extra Points added to Base Points

So lest you think you can sandbag for safety and then make it up by going all the way to goal,

think again, because this system promotes the setting of realistic BUT AGGRESSIVE personal

targets, and then achieving them. Chronic sandbaggers will find themselves down somewhere

lower on the list.

Percent of Task Declared



Notice that Base Points and Extra Distance Points give you an effective ceiling at 90 NSFC

points for the day. This is because the top 10 points are reserved for distinguishing the good

from the good-and-fast.

A simple equation allows speed points to be awarded on the basis of average speed during the

flight. (Speed for goal-finishers can be measured however the Meet Director wants. Launch to

Goal-Crossing? Tarp to Goal? Time yourself? Whatever the boss says goes.) The miles flown

divided by the elapsed time produces an average miles-per-hour which the spreadsheet uses to

award speed points. So for pilots landing out, in addition to pinning in their location at day’s

end, they will need to give an elapsed time, to the minute. It’s on the Honor System (that is,

don’t cheat or there will be hell to pay), and it ain’t difficult; pretty much everybody these days

has a watch.

An average speed of 30mph or more will yield the max 10 speed points; an average speed of less

than 12mph will yield none. Point increments occur every two mph within that range. Table 1

gives the Speed Point values.




0-10 12+ 14+ 16+ 18+ 20+ 22+ 24+ 26+ 28+ 30+




0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Table 1. Speed Points

You can see that the only way to get 100 points for the day is to declare 100% of the task and

then execute at 30mph average or better. If several pilots accomplish it, the meet placement will

be decided by the faster times.

The addition of maximum possible speed points is illustrated in Figure 3 on page 7.



Base Points + Extra Distance + Speed












0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

Personal Target = 20%

Personal Target = 80%

"Personal Target Achieved" Base Points




Extra Distance

Personal Target = 100%

Figure 3. Speed Points Added to Distance Points


In the discussion of Extra Distance points, we showed that sandbaggers would be exorcised by

this system. Still, sandbagging is not the worst thing you can do. The worst thing you can do is

to declare a Personal Target too aggressive for your abilities and then fail to achieve it. If this

happens, you will find yourself denied the Base Points you expected. Instead you will get the

lesser base points associated with the distance you did fly, and no Extra Distance or Speed

points, and a large penalty subtracted as well. The penalty is small for pilots who declared low

Personal Targets, and quite large for pilots who declared high. The penalties for each class are

presented in Table 2 on page 8.

Percent of Task Declared





0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%


if you





0 4 8 12 15 19 23 27 31 35 39

* Penalty is subtracted from the points you do make that day.

Table 2. Penalty Points

For example, a pilot who declares at the 90% level expects to earn 85 Base Points. (From Table

2, that pilot has a penalty risk of 35.) So if he fails to get within 10% of goal, and instead goes

only between 40% and 50% of the way, he is awarded 59 Base Points (which are the Base Points

of the 40% level), and his 35 penalty points are subtracted from that. His total is only 24 points.

This penalty system is just a bit easier on a pilot who misses his or her Personal Target by only a

small margin. A pilot who declares at 90% and expects to get her 85 points plus extras, but who

only flies 2% short of her mark, will earn 80 Base Points (for flying 88%) minus 35 penalty

points, for a total of 45 points. Could be worse—it sure beats the 24 points of the example

above, at any rate—but the real answer is to let others make these mistakes while your own

consistency skies you to the top of the chart.

Note that a weak pilot declaring 0% of the day’s task will still get 39 Base Points for launching

and sinking out immediately, but a pilot declaring at 100% and making 0 miles will zero the day.

Fly at the level you declare, or pay a price commensurate with that level. (And saying you

thought it was a Speed Gliding meet won’t be accepted as an excuse for sinking out.)

The Rainbow’s End

The NSFC system will produce annual NSFC Champions, and an NSFC Pilot of the Year. That

pilot will star in a feature article in HG a nd/or PG Magazine, and will of course get some hot

gear. Other placers will enjoy notoriety and will win big too. We also hope to give something

good to Meet Directors, and maybe to have a MeetHead of the Year article as well. Thus far,

Wills Wing, Moyes America, Arai Designs, U.S. Aeros, Flytek, Wallaby Ranch, Quest Air, and

Lookout Mountain Flight Park have pledged support in the way of prizes for competitors of one

kind or another, while others are not on the list yet through no fault of their own but mostly

because we have yet to approach them. We will publish a full list of sponsors and their

generosity as soon as we can compile it, but rest assured that the haul will be good.

Paragliding meets are an equal part of this! We are working on a list of sponsors, and

suggestions and volunteerism are most welcome.

Speed Gliding Meets also qualify as NSFC-sanctioned events, and can earn points as well; ask us

for details. Foreign meets of most formats, as long as they have at least eight competitors and

their Meet Director administers the NSFC concept meet-wide (primary or secondary scoring),

will earn points for the USHGA members entering in them too. Inside-USA meets that prefer to


score themselves in their own way can still earn their entrants NSFC points if they run NSFC

scoring (with Personal Target declaration) in parallel. XC meets tailored around the Open

Distance model, or season-long meets, or meets using other non-race-to-goal formats, should

contact us ASAP and we will do our best to design special scoring to allow these meets to offer

NSFC points to their competitors. You want it and we’ll do it, if we can figure a way in time.

Again, Simplicity

The NSFC is built around simplicity—for meet directors, and for pilots. If you can’t fly an

entire meet, just fly the day or days you can; you’ll still get NSFC points for those flights. There

are no provisions for protests or the like; the intent is to fly, and life is too short for the rest. A

meet organizer can get nearly everything he/she needs from us, or as much as we can provide

with sufficient notice. And anything you elect to put together that we could use, we’ll make

available to the next Meet Head, and so on. That includes score sheets, a menu of formats,

promotional and sponsor-finding tips, and hype. (Don’t underestimate it!)

If the scoring charts and equations boggle you, forget them. They’re only presented so everyone

knows how it works, and to provide assurance that a meet in Scranton is equal, more or less, to a

meet in Spokane. Instead, hang onto the fact that a competitor need only remember two things at

the day’s start:

1. Declare a Personal Target, and

2. Note your start time on your watch,

and two things at day’s end:

3. Pin in your location (if you land out), and

4. Turn in your elapsed time (if you land out).

Nothing to it. It ain’t exactly glider science.

The Conference Is Born

NSFC is fun. Different. A challenge. Clubs should challenge other clubs. Areas with several

clubs should create a regional comp “circuit,” with events hosted by each club, and get on board.

Individuals should seek to run meets small or large. As long as there are 8 or more competitors,

the event qualifies for NSFC points. So far there is no sanctioning fee, but if that price tag has to

change, it won’t be by much. (Maybe we’ll just double it.) Most importantly, we want calls and

emails. Ask for the kit; we’ll deliver. Then fly, and send in the results.

The NSFC system promotes task evaluation, critical flight plan development, and incremental

improvement, for every competitor. It provides an empirical measure of performance looking

back and going forward. It delineates between pilots of differing skills while keeping the

pressure on the more accomplished, and still awards handicap-type advantages to those who need

that extra mathematical tailwind.

This system is not perfect. Neither is it identical to each and every pilot’s dream scheme,

coincidentally weighted toward individual strengths as those schemes invariably are. But for

every objection we will have a solution (or at least an excuse). NSFC can flex as needed. We

will launch it this year. Participate. Grow it with us. Go to Wallaby and Quest in April and

declare your Personal Target (if you don’t declare, you are auto-declared at 90%, so speak up).

Attend the Speed Gliding Nationals at Lookout Mountain, or the Class-A sanctioned meets at


Elsinore or Chelan. Hold other meets at your favorite sites. Make this YOUR competition

conference, and let’s all see what happens.

For more information, call Mike at (510) 770-0544, or send an email to [email protected]. And

stay tuned via the USHGA website and the HG and PG Magazines for further improvements or

extensions to the NSFC system.

- Mike Vorhis

Competition Enhancement Sub -committee

USHGA Competition Committee

PS. Have you got a name for your meet yet? What’s keepin’ ya?!