The photos below are from the 2007 Albert Lea Soaring Contest. Click
on the images to see medium resolution versions. They were taken by
Paul Remde. Full resolution versions of these photos, plus hundreds
more, are available on 3 CDs for $30.
You can order the CDs here:
The photos below are from the 2005 Region 7 Contest at Albert Lea.
Click on the images to see medium resolution versions. They were taken
by Paul Remde, Mike Newman, Eric Strandjord and Scott Elhardt.
Below are some photos from previous contests at Albert Lea. More great
photos are available in the photo pages from the
1997 15m Nationals
and the 1995
Sports Class Nationals. Click on the images to view larger
Cumulus Soaring, Inc. (Paul Remde) and many soaring pilot volunteers from
Minnesota and Iowa will be hosting the 2007 Albert Lea Soaring Contest in
Albert Lea, Minnesota. The event runs from May 28th through June 7th, 2007
and includes the following 3 contests:
U.S. Open Class Nationals (gliders of
unlimited wing span)
U.S. 18 m Class Nationals (gliders with
up to 18 m (59 foot) wing span)
U.S. Region 7 Sport Class Contest (all
glider types, handicaps are used)
This promises to be a very exciting contest!
It is the largest soaring contest ever held in Minnesota with 65 gliders
competing. Many of the world's best glider pilots will be competing for
national titles in the Open and 18 m classes. Pilots are coming to Albert
Lea from all across the US and Canada and one participant is from the United
What is a Soaring Contest?
Sailplane racing is a very challenging and rewarding sport - very much like
sailboat racing. Each day we will launch sometime between 11 AM and 2 PM
using 5 towplanes. That is the busiest time of the day and all the gliders
all launched in about 1 hour. The best time to see all the gliders on the
runway is immediately before the launch begins. Each competitor is towed to
2000 feet above the airport where the glider pilot releases the towrope.
Gliders use rising columns of air called thermals to climb just as hawks and
eagle do. On a good soaring day each thermal is topped with a puffy cumulus
cloud. Cross-country progress is made by gliding between thermals. The
gliders will stay near Albert Lea for a short time before exiting a 5 mile
radius start cylinder and heading off on course. Tasks are usually
pre-determined and range from 50 to 300 miles in length depending on the
weather conditions. Some contest tasks are flexible and allow the pilot to
vary the length of the course to match the strength of the soaring
conditions. We use GPS flight recorders to verify that each sailplane flies
to the required series of turnpoints. The pilot that achieves the fastest
speed around the course wins. A pre-determined list of turnpoints is used
which consists of airports and cities located in Southern Minnesota and
Northern Iowa. Toward the end of the day gliders will be returning to Albert
Lea Airport sometime between around 4 PM and 6 PM. They must enter a finish
cylinder with a 1 mile radius around the airport at a pre-defined minimum
altitude of 1000 feet and land at the airport. Points are awarded based on
speed achieved and the pilot with the most points at the end of the contest
takes home the award for 1st place. Sailplanes that don't complete the
assigned course and land away from Albert Lea get distance points for the
portion of the course they completed. Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa
are ideal for soaring contests this time of year because the crops are low
and gliders that get low while on course can land safely in just about any
Visitors are welcome at the airport but safety dictates that visitors stay
near the airport hangar buildings - well clear of the runways. You will have
a good view of the beauty of the sailplane race from that vantage point.
Sailplane racing is a very beautiful and intellectual sport. If you have
never seen a soaring contest you should stop by and watch sometime.
I (Paul Remde) will be the Contest
Manager and Charlie Minner will be the Competition Director. This will
be a contest to remember! It will be the largest contest ever held at
Albert Lea Airport and competitors will include some of the world's best
Volunteers Needed! We are actively looking for many volunteers to help us run this big
contest. Please talk-it-up with soaring pilots in your area to
encourage more glider pilots to come and help out. It is always fun
being involved with a contest - especially a large one like this one with
many of the worlds best glider pilots competing. It is fun to rub elbows and
learn from the experienced pilots and to see all the beautiful gliders.
If you are lucky, you may even get signed-off to ride the beacon (You have
to be there to appreciate how much fun it is to climb the beacon tower at
night with a group of glider pilots and enjoy the view and camaraderie).
Many great meals and bonfires are planned. You can see details on the
volunteer positions on the
Contestants Needed! We have had some wonderful contests at Albert
Lea in recent years and look forward to a fun contest. We would love to
have you fly with us. If
you have any questions or are planning to join us, please send me an
e-mail. Please consider
flying with us!
Fun for Pilots, Crews, and Volunteers
A great team of volunteers (soaring spouses with hearts of gold) is busy
planning social events for evenings and non-flying days. There
will definitely be beer available in the main hangar after each day's
flying is done. I for one love listening to stories of the days
adventures over a cold beer and some chips and salsa.
If we have a day
of poor weather or a rest day there are a lot of fun things to do in the area.
Below are some thoughts on local entertainment from Jim Hanson (airport FBO
and awesome host):
The massive and impressive Cabela's sporting good store is just 30 minutes away
on Highway 35 on the north side of the town of Owatonna. Details
a number of good and inexpensive restaurants in the Albert Lea area.
Cruises on the "Pelican Breeze"--a big
pontoon boat available through the Chamber of Commerce. It accommodates
about 35 people on a two-hour narrated cruise on Albert Lea Lake.
Spouses & kids can go during the day--perhaps booking sunset cruises for
glider pilots. I know they do "pizza cruises"--don't know what their
alcohol policy is. Check with the CVB.
Bring bikes, rollerblades, etc. The
area around the city lakes is lit at night now. The paved Blazing Star
Trail is extended all the way to Big Island State Park.
Ideas for Making
This a Fun and Memorable Contest
I'm looking for suggestions for ways to make this a fun and memorable contest.
Jim Hanson (airport FBO and our awesome host) and all of the contest
organizers really wants to have people talking about how great this contest
was for many years to come.
Wine tasting get together at
Jim Hanson's house
Evening boat cruises on Albert Lea Lake
Lobster dinner at the airport
Lakeside dinner at Edgewater Park
Bonfires at the airport
Banquet at the Elks Lodge
Planned dinner meetings at specific
restaurants in Albert Lea - great for socializing and letting the
community know we are putting money into their economy
gazing event (please bring a telescope if you have one)
Certificate awards to the top 3 pilots in each class
every day in addition to the awards for the overall contest winners.
CDs available after the contest with all
flight logs and digital photos taken at the contest (this was a big hit
with competitors at the 2005 Region 7 Contest) (extra-cost option)
DVD available after the contest with
video taken at the contest and pulled together on a computer. - Maybe
Fun for Pilots of all Skill Levels
You don't have to be a seasoned soaring contest pilot to come join the
fun of the regional contest. In fact, we welcome those who have never flown in a contest.
We will be pairing new contest pilots with experienced "mentors".
The mentors will answer any questions you have and most likely give you
tips on how to fly faster. Even if you are not the competitive
type, it's fun to set aside a week for cross-country soaring.
Also, you will be more likely to attempt (and probably complete) flights
that you wouldn't have attempted if you were flying from your local
gliderport. Seeing everyone else prepare, line up on the grid, and
head off is a great motivator! It's also fun to see how your
speeds improve over the course of the week. I really like the
quote below from Doug Jacobs from an article in the September 2004 issue of
Soaring entitled "Sugarbush XC/Racing Experience Camp".
"Many a new cross-country pilot
developing his or her skills will also want to sample the racing
environment. Why? Different reasons for all but with one
common thread - the experience of flying the same course with more
practiced competitors represents a tremendous learning curve toward
improving pilot capabilities. Most come back from their first
competition raving about how much they learned, and immediately set
about to put it into practice in their own flying."
We can't make any promises about the weather, but our track record has
been very good. Of the 5 contests held at Albert Lea, 4 out of 5
of them were able to get enough flying days for a valid contest.
We've also had some excellent soaring weather. At the 1997 15m
Nationals Charlie Spratt sent the competitors off on a 270 mile task and
everyone completed it! Pilots reported peak altitudes of 10,000
feet MSL (9,000 feet AGL) and the winner had an average speed of 87 mph!
But wait... there's more! On day 3 they were tasked with a 307
mile task. All but 3 pilots made it around! I'm sure Charlie
won't be setting such long tasks for this regional contest, but you can
almost bank on a racking up some fun cross-country miles at this event.
Below are some reports on the soaring conditions.
Introduction by Bill Sproull
Albert Lea is situated in southern Minnesota at the
intersection of Interstate 90 and Interstate 35. The airport is user-friendly and the
locals really like soaring and soaring contests. Lakes, parks, golf courses, and other
recreations are available locally. Less than one hundred miles to the north, the
Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area offers professional sports, museums, theatre,
shopping at the Mall of America, and many other opportunities for you and your crew to
relax and enjoy.
Perhaps the question most frequently asked of a Contest
Manager is "What's the flying like there?" Bob Wander is well known Minnesota
glider pilot who owns a glider book store and has flown out of Albert Lea many times
during the last ten years. Bob has this to say about the contest and the contest site:
Albert Lea is a nice town with a good attitude and a
fine airport. The airport hospitality is second to none. Albert Lea airport is situated in
farm country which is either flat or gently rolling. Selection of suitable landout fields
is not a problem in late May and early June as crops are low and large fields are available in all
directions. Roads are uniformly good and are well-marked. Navigation is quite
straightforward with prominent roads, section lines, and well-selected turnpoints (many
turnpoints are airports). Airspace is not a problem; no turnpoint is situated in or near
Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace.
The June (and late May) climate in Minnesota is generally pleasant
and varied and should present good soaring conditions. Daylight hours in
late May and June are long at
this northern latitude, with sunset occurring at about 9 p.m. or a little later, and
twilight for an hour after that. First thermals appear at around 10:30 a.m. or so, with
lots of heating going on by mid afternoon. Cool, dry, and unstable Canadian airmasses from
the northwest generally bring dewpoints in the low fifties and daytime highs in the upper
seventies to mid eighties, with bases of cumulous clouds often around 5000 to 8000 AGL and
sometimes higher, and with visibility in the 20 to 30 mile range. Nights are generally
comfortably cool in June. Occasionally Gulf of Mexico airmasses will intrude and bring
higher dewpoints and lower visibility, but these incursions are generally infrequent and
short-lived in June.
Write-up of the 1995
Sports Class Nationals in Albert Lea by Paul Remde The entire write-up is available
All of the pilots seemed to like flying at Albert Lea. Here
are a few quotes that Charlie Spratt heard during the contest (as found in his wonderful
magazine "Sailplane Racing News"):
"Some of the best soaring fun I've had in a long
time" : Gene Hammond.
"I took one thermal to 8,800 AGL at eight knots to the
top. Best I've seen in ten years": Rudy Mozer.
"This place is good": Alfonso Jurado.
"This is a wonderful site with great soaring",
said our friend from Down Under, Tom Gilbert.
Charlie went on to write, "Albert Lea has everything we
need in a race site, from free camping to plenty of water and a very friendly airport
manager. The troops are working on a bid for an FAI bid in the near future; if it happens,
don't pass it up. This is a wonderful place for the pilots and the crews."
Alberta Soaring Counsel's ASCent magazine Tony Burton wrote in the Alberta Soaring Counsel's magazine
("ASCent") that "Albert Lea turned out to be a fine area for a contest.
It's surrounded by gently rolling farmland with good thermalling - and landout - prospects.
Navigation is easy with some major Interstates, several large lakes, and a north/south
road grid to orient the pilot. The airport featured two long runways, lots of ramp area,
lots of grass for tiedown and camping, and a friendly and supportive airport
manager." He also liked the warm Albert Lea hospitality, "A lovely taste was
also the perpetual afternoon keg of draft beer in the hangar - a great inducement at the
end of a flight to get your card and films in soon and to hang around and gather 'round to
Please register early for the contest. There will be a $50 late
fee assessed if you register after March 30, 2007. To avoid the late fee you
must both register on the SSA website and send in your $100 deposit.
This contest is going to be a large one and the number of applicants may
exceed the number of competitors we can accommodate. The rules state
that we must limit the total number of gliders in all 3 contests to 65.
The Preferential Entry Deadline is March 30th. Registrations received
before that will be accepted in order of pilot ranking (as described in the
rules). Applications received after that will be taken in the order
they are received. Registration is available now on the SSA website on the following page:
http://www.ssa.org/members/contestreports/Registeronline.asp. Please register early for the
contest so that the team of volunteers will know how many people to
expect. You will still need to sign the registration form when you
arrive at the contest. Please send you $100 deposit
ASAP (feel free to pay the full amount in
advance) made out to Cumulus Soaring, Inc. to the address on the bottom of
this web page. The deadline for canceling an entry with a
full refund is May 15th, 2007 (14 days before the 1st contest day).
After that date, money will be refunded at the discretion of the Contest
Pre-Contest Flying Near Albert Lea
I will do my best to arrange for a towplane to be at the Albert Lea
Airport on Saturday, May 26th, but I can't make any guarantees at this
time. That will be our setup day for the contest staff and I
imagine many pilots will arrive on that day. If you would like to fly in the area before the contest, you are
welcome to fly from Cross Country Soaring,
located about 30 miles North of Albert Lea.
Pre-contest tows may also be available from
Stanton Sport Aviation at
It is about 40 miles North of Albert Lea. Be sure to make
arrangements with these operations before you arrive.
Lee Bradshaw's Aviat Husky, Schweizer
towhook, - Yes
Chicago Glider Club's Christen Husky,
Schweizer towhook, Towpilots: Ron Ridenour and Bob Macys, Yes
Dan Nelson, Cessna 172 (180 hp), Peru,
IL - Yes - from May 26th through June 3rd
Harry Thompson, (friend of Gray Tappan), Cessna 180
with 230 HP, - Yes - Only available for the first 5 days, maybe more.
Stanton Sport Aviation, Super Cub (160
hp) - Hank Geisler and/or Kent Johnson, Yes - Monday, June 4th
through Thursday, June 7th.
Joe Oye, SD, Citabria (150 hp) - Offered
to tow June 2nd through June 7th, but at this point he is not needed.
Silent Knights Soaring Club, Ames, IA,
Supercub (150 hp), Terry Lankford - offered to tow Monday, June 4th through
Thursday, June 7th but at this point their help is not needed.
Safety will be an overriding consideration in every aspect of contest
operations, for participants, guests, spectators, operators of
non-contest aircraft, and for everyone on or off the airport whose
safety may be affected by the contest.
Safety rules and recommendations
published by SSA for contests will be
followed and enforced at this contest. Briefings for pilots, crews, and
other personnel involved in operations will include discussion of safety
issues and all those personnel will be asked to report any unsafe
practices or recommendations to improve safety.
This a "GPS Only" contest. Turnpoint
photos will not be allowed for flight verification. The scoring
team will be verifying flights by examining electronic flight logs.
There are several types of flight loggers which will provide the data
required. For more information, refer to rule 6.7.4.
At previous some Albert Lea soaring contests, hangar space had been available
for storing gliders each night. Unfortunately, Jim Hanson's space is
full, and the main contest hangar will be filled with the towplanes.
Therefore, contest pilots will have two options: store their gliders in
their trailers, or tie them down outside.
The contest fees shown below are the proposed ones for the 2007 contest season as
set by the SSA contest committee. They are preliminary and
pending approval at the board meeting at the SSA Convention. I have received permission from
the contest committee to charge the extra $25 per/pilot fees (as
mentioned in the rules) and an additional $5/tow to help cover towplane
ferry costs and hotel room costs. Those extra fees are included in the
Regionals (2007 rates): $225 + 7 x
$53/tow = $596, You will pay for 7 contest tows in advance and get a
refund for unused tows after the contest. Practice day tows must
be paid at the end of the practice day.
Nationals (2007 rates): $325 + 10 x
53/tow = $855, You will pay for 10 contest tows in advance and get
a refund for unused tows after the contest. Practice day tows must
be paid at the end of the practice day.
A deposit of $100 must be received along with
the registration form by
March 30, 2007 to avoid a $50 late fee. The remaining amount is
due upon arrival at the contest, but early payment is kindly requested to help
us cover pre-contest costs. The contest fee includes the SSA
sanction fee of $45
(Regional Contest) or $60 (National Contest). Optional
social events and dinners will be available at extra cost.
Misc. Contacts Albert Lea Airport: (507) 373-0608
Western Rentals (tables and chairs): 507-377-7917, Tables 8' $9/each (for
short events), Brown Chairs: $0.70 each (increments of 5), $40 delivered and
picked-up, Can pick-up in Albert Lea to save delivery charge
EZ Rentals (outhouses & other items): 507-373-8026, 6 outhouses, 2 at
beacon (1 handicapped access), 1 at each end of the main runway, 1 at the
end of the taxiway past the contest HQ, 1 by the jet hangar, Tables $7/table
8x30" (41 available) + $35 delivery (or pickup to avoid that charge),
$0.75/chair (small metal)
Albert Lea, Parks & Recreation, 221 East Clark Street, Albert Lea, MN 56007, (for planning dinner at Edgewater Park on Fountain
Lake): 507-377-4370, Pickup key for cottage at city arena at 701 Lake
Albert Lea Convention & Visitors Bureau, Susie Petersen, Executive Director,
800-345-8414, spark plugs, local coupons, city maps, list of activities for
kids and spouses, list of restaurants
Scott Woitas, Albert Lea City Engineer?, Provided excellent, large digital photos of airport,
providing hose connections for 3 fire hydrants,
borrow folding tables and chairs from city arena (asked for 30 tables and
200 chairs), picnic tables, barricades
to keep visitors back, and cones
Pelican Breeze Boat Cruises, Verliss Wittmer, 507-874-3297 (h), 507-383-2630
HyVee Catering, Sonya Olson, 507-377-2257
Golf Course south of airport, Rent golf cart?, 507-373-1061
Please Join Us
We hope you will come join us for the fun at the 2007 Albert Lea Soaring