My Soaring Goals for 2023

After another successful soaring season in 2022, here are my goals for 2023.

If you’re interested in setting your own soaring goals, you can find some tips towards the end of this article from last year.

1. Stay Safe by always heeding my own advice.

This goal remains unchanged.  Flying safely is essential and the pre-requisite for anything else.  Pilots often let their safety margins erode as they gain experience.  I now have more than 1000 hours in gliders and I know that I must not let that happen.  Here are the metrics I will  continue to use:

    • Zero accidents (no damage)
    • Zero near misses or other incidents (i.e., almost accidents)
    • Zero violations of personal minima and zero “99% safe” maneuvers (e.g. low safe attempt below personal minimum)
    • Zero flights where a safe outcome depends entirely on Plan A working as hoped (i.e. I must have a viable and safe Plan B/C at all times; the alternative plan must include a known safe place to land at all times)
    • Zero takeoffs without a clear pre-defined emergency plan specific to the airport and conditions of the day

2. Continue to Improve My Soaring Skills

I will continue to focus on the metrics that matter most to performance soaring: cruise and climb performance.   My objective is to make further improvements against my own performance in comparable conditions rather than to achieve specific absolute performance numbers or rankings.

    • Continue to improve my glide performance in cruise flight (performance goal)
      • The key to improving glide performance is to become even better at flying in rising air during cruise portions of the flight.  I believe I can continue to do so by building my habit of using S-turn explorations along energy lines to find and follow the best rising air, basing decision primarily on evidence of the day and less on perceived prior experience.
      • The best way to track progress is through the “netto” value.  Unfortunately this metric is usually not easily available.
      • I will use the following metric as a close proxy:  In 2022 my average glide ratio on legs 2, 3, 4, and 5 (excluding 1 and 6) was 81:1 while cruising at 178 kph.  An improvement would be either an improved glide ratio at the same speed, or a greater cruise speed while maintaining the same glide ratio.  Either one would mean that I am getting better at flying in lift.  I.e., I will measure my progress by tracking the product of these two numbers.  The 2022 benchmark is 81×178 = 14,418.  I would like the 2023 value to be 14,750 or greater.  E.g., this would mean increasing the cruise speed to 182 kph while maintaining the same glide ratio of 81:1 (or increasing the glide ratio to 83:1 at the same cruise speed.)
      • My flight analysis suggests that my inter-thermal cruise speed is well below that of other pilots flying similar gliders.  I will therefore try to primarily increase the cruise speed, without overly sacrificing glide ratio.
      • I will only use flights in Colorado to calculate this benchmark to avoid distortions.
    • Continue to improve climb performance (performance goal)
      • I will try to improve my thermalling performance by further tightening my turns with the goal to reach 39-41 degrees on average (the 2022 average was 37 degrees).  I will also try to improve my thermal exit: omit the unnecessary last circle near the top of the thermal (or airspace); and complete the last circle with steep bank, then accelerate (do not become sloppy in the last turn and begin to accelerate within the surrounding sink during the turn.)
      • I will measure overall progress by tracking my average achieved climb rate.  In 2022 it was 2.15 m/s during legs 2, 3, 4, and 5 (excluding legs 1 and 6) of all my flights.  I will seek to improve on this benchmark in 2023.
      • I will only use flights in Colorado to calculate this benchmark to avoid distortions.
    • Reduce thermaling attempts (performance goal)
      • Thermalling attempts during legs 2, 3, 4, and 5 (excluding legs 1 and 6) of all my flights accounted for 2.32% of my flight time.  The average climb rate during these attempts was 0.37 m/s.  I would like to reduce the time spent on thermalling attempts to less than 2% of the total flight time by being more selective when to turn.

3. Flight Achievement Goals

I will apply these skills towards attaining a set of specific flight achievement goals. I continue to be more interested in completing interesting and challenging flights than in competing in set competition tasks. However, I am considering to fly in one or two contests; this would also provide more comparative metrics on my performance.

Because specific flight objectives are necessarily subject to suitable weather conditions I will not limit myself to a few specific goals but continue to take a portfolio approach.  I.e.,  I will aim to accomplish five of the following objectives:

    • Distance Objectives:

      • Reach some of the San Juan 14ers and/or the Blanca Massif 14ers from Boulder; Stretch goal is to accomplish all 14er flights from Boulder.
      • Complete Border to Border Challenge (from Boulder to NM, WY, and return)
      • Reach another state line from Boulder (UT, SD, KS, OK, TX, AZ, MT)
      • Accomplish a one-way goal flight to a glider port in a neighboring state (e.g., Nephi, UT; Moriarty, NM; Hutchinson, KS, Driggs, ID)
      • One flight greater than 1100 km per OLC+ rules; my stretch goal is to break the Colorado state record of 1273 km
      • Top 20 in the global Barron Hilton Cup and/or top 10 in the US
      • Top 50 in global OLC+ Championship and/or top 25 in the US
      • Set another Colorado Distance Record (e.g., Goal Distance 340mi, 3TP distance 633 mi, declared O&R distance 489 mi, free O&R distance 578 mi)
    • Speed and Contest Objectives:

      • Set another Colorado speed record (e.g., 500 km Triangle Speed 81.45 mph; 300 km Triangle Speed 86.4 mph)
      • If flying in contests, finish among the top 33% in a regional contest; or among top 50% in a national contest.  (I am currently considering the Region 9 contest in El Tiro, AZ and the 18m Nationals in Uvalde, TX.  However, I have not yet decided whether to fly in any of them.)
      • When flying on Speed-League weekends from Boulder, score among the top 3 Boulder pilots 100% of the time.

4. Giving Back

Just like last year, I will continue to put energy towards inspiring others worldwide to join our sport, to develop, excel, and stay safe.  I will do this through:

      • Writing – follow me on and on Facebook
      • Presentations and Podcast Contributions – to local, national, and international audiences
      • Videos – subscribe to my ChessInTheAir YouTubeChannel, and
      • Serving for soaring organizations such as the Soaring Society of Boulder


Want to set your own soaring goals?  Take a look at the tips at the bottom of this article.

11 Replies to “My Soaring Goals for 2023”

  1. “At a bank angle of 37 degrees the load factor is 1.066 (1 divided by cos(37)), i.e. the turning stall speed with neutral flaps is 93 x 1.066 = 99 kph.”

    I don’t think this math is correct. Cosine of 37 is closer to 0.8, so the load factor is about 1.25.

  2. On Condor, where did you go after early Dec, 2022? You probably don’t have the need or time for a mere sailplane simulation, but it would be nice to see callsign CC on Condor again.

  3. Slightly O/T but I just ran across one of your 2020 posts
    I commented on the post;
    “BTW a typical Irving (two hole) 1/4″ diameter TE probe is about 0.4% of total drag on an 18M glider at 600 Kg and 100 KIAS.
    I’m working on that.”
    I did a really dumb experiment and made a half scale probe and test flew it on the wingtip of our BD-4 power plane to measure the pressure coefficient (we want Cp=-1.00). First I had to find the BD-4 static system error, then test the TE probe. Works perfectly. See
    I think the drag is now in the 0.1 to 0.13% range.
    Also you said in that post:
    “A better way to save time would have been for me to just not do that one pointless exploratory turn. This one turn cost me 50 seconds and netted no altitude gain at all. Omitting this turn alone would have reduced my finishing gap from 1:19 to 29 seconds.”
    Likely caused by encountering a horizontal gust. We’ve fixed that too with the Dynamis variometer which gives near perfect TE and doesn’t respond to horizontal gusts. Latest version is ready for release. Should have “how Dynamis works” up today on the website.
    Actual flight tested polars for JS3 and Ventus 3 are available to buy from the Idaflieg guys. Euro 15 each.

  4. Clemens

    ..the summary of Your performance `22 +´23 IS impressive.

    We are all aware of this!
    No need to stress this.
    It is even more impressive without going public here!

    Impressive safety article! (…how dangerous is Gliding..)

    Good luck for ´24

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