Glider pilots from around WA converged on Narrogin to take part in the 2023-24 WA Gliding Association State Championship hosted by Narrogin Gliding Club. About 100 people including 19 competitors spent eight days at the airfield and many stayed onsite in the club’s caravans, immersed in the sport with the tight-knit gliding community. The event ran from November 18-25 and despite days four and five being cancelled due to unfavourable weather, operations controller Dennis Buckley reported the competition had run smoothly. “It’s gone good, really good,” he said. “There’s been no accidents, no incidents and only one glider looked like it might drag a wing but it didn’t, so no problems whatsoever.” Takeoff was a busy time for Mr Buckley as he secured gliders to the Narrogin club’s Piper Pawnee tugs — agricultural aircraft capable of towing gliders at a speed of about 75 knots. “If something changes or goes wrong I decide on how we’re going to fix it and move on,” Mr Buckley said. “If I had three more pairs of eyes I’d be happy.” Two gliders were forced to make paddock landings on day six, referred to as ‘landing out’ — something pilots are trained to do in challenging conditions when thermals are few. “The biggest challenge is the person,” experienced pilot John Kenny said. “It’s like running a marathon, the person side of it is so important — if you go off half-cocked or haven’t had your sleep you can’t do what needs to be done. “What we do is quite elite, you’ve got to have the discipline, the theory and the training.” After morning briefings gliders formed a grid on the runway and were towed into the air about 11am. In the space of an hour a gaggle of gliders would form above the aerodrome circling in thermals and climbing in the sky. Timed daily flying tasks were assigned to the pilots, triangular courses that saw them fly as far north as Watercarrin, east to Kondinin and as low as Wagin. Maximum points were awarded to those who completed tasks closest to the time prescribed. With a chance of storms on day seven WA Soaring development manager Arnold Geerlings and his son Josh Geerling said conditions made for a compelling close to the competition. “It’s very difficult to predict where the actual trough line is going to sit and how much effect it’s going to have,” Arnold said. “It’s the best weather.” Josh said it was an exciting competition. “It makes for a day that can be a big decider, it’s easy to mess up and it’s easy to do very well,” he said. State record holder Sally Crawcour described gliding as “the healthy way of getting high.” “When you hit a thermal it’s a really great feeling because it’s a safety feeling, you know that you’re going to work in that thermal,” she said. “You’re going to get high and it’s going to allow you to be in the air that much longer. “The whole objective is to hit a thermal, that’s what the sport is all about — it’s about managing the thermal, using mother nature to get to where you want to be and doing everything properly and safely.” At the end of the championships Narrogin’s Ashley Boyle was announced as the 2023 State Champion on 5141 points. Beverley Soaring Society’s Norm Bloch came a close second with 5100 points, followed by Narrogin’s Arnold Geerlings with 4953 points. The Best of the Rest award was presented to Narrogin’s Josh Geerlings, who placed fourth with 4820 points.