Looking back to the future: The OLC has revolutionized gliding

Does anyone remember what the decentralized competitive scene looked like before the turn of the millennium? Does anyone know the time from the years before 1999, when the OLC was launched? What is taken for granted today was - just 20 years back - behind the horizon of the vast majority of us.

In the pre-OLC era there was in Germany only the German championship in distance gliding (DMSt) with the evaluation of three declared flights. Months after the flighst you found out who had achieved what in this competition. The DMSt was conducted in secret.

The OLC has awakened gliding from this deep sleep. It was Reiner Rose's idea and merit in 1999 to bring together the then still young World Wide Web - it was not publicly available until 1993 - and the GPS documentation of flights. GPS documentation was born at the 1995 World Gliding Championships in New Zealand in competitive gliding. Previously, time cameras or timekeeping at the start and finish line were used to document the flights, decentralized flights were documented by photos of the departure point and turning points. The speed rating belonged to utopia.

In this competition the OLC brought the worldwide daily rating and at the same time the speed rating as an absolute innovation. Flight paths and altitudes were got public. Suddenly everyone was able to analyse the reported cross-country flights down to the smallest detail.

So the OLC has revolutionized the documentation process and helped cross-country and competition gliding to a performance boost, as it can only be compared with the distribution of cross-country flight theory by world champion Heinz Huth in the 1960s in Germany and the introduction of fiber composite construction for gliders. Tracks, lee wave locations and the hot spots in the Alps were soon no longer a secret. The command was: analyze, follow up and improve. Today every newcomer or competition pilot interested in a particular region has a huge archive available in the OLC that goes back to 2006 for their preparations.

The waiver of declaration of the cross-country flights was possible for the first time with GPS documentation and made a major contribution to this explosion in performance. Without the obligation to declare the turn points the route selection could be modified during the flight so that the greatest possible distance was achieved at the end of the day. It was no longer the quality of the weather forecast, i.e. the accessibility of turning points near weather limits, that determined the success of the competition but the trained meteorological eye of the pilot and his choice of flight path. With the free choice of turning points the OLC also introduced the scoring over several (six) legs and thus once again made it easier to fly the greatest possible daily distances.

This revolution was possible due to the OLC’s the independence of the OLC organization team from other institutions. This gave the team a freedom of thought and action previously unknown in organized sport. No traditional functionary could speak in. New things were decided on a short route to introduction without extensive coordination work in committees and sub-committees.

And then gliding was a competitive sport for the entire gliding season! The idea of the glider league with its Formula 1 rating created an exciting comparison over the entire season and not only for individual pilots, but also for club teams! Chasing success, experiencing the excitement in sport, with league flying all pilots with a time handicap who cannot take part in the hunt for the biggest distances can now do that. League flying is not about epic long flights that take advantage of the whole day, it is about 2.5 hours of speed. Even pilots with limited time budgets can get involved.

There is no standstill with the OLC. New ideas keep coming in. But behind everything is the philosophy: only few rules and as easy to use as possible, no class rating, but everything that increases motivation for gliding and promotes popular sport in the clubs!

Behind all of this is a highly motivated organization team who work voluntarily in their free time and who work within the framework of the non-profit GmbH Segelflugszene without any intention of making a profit (in contrast to a usual GmbH, which must have an intention to make a profit). But not everything can be done without money. Anyone who wants to support the OLC can do so with an annual small donation of € 12. You can find out how to do this on the OLC website under OLC Support. The OLC then thanks for this small donation with a friendly grinning OLC sympathy smiley next to the participant's name in the ratings.

Gerhard Marzinzik

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