From Rick Roelke of GBSC:
Warning long story...
I was privileged to attend the Mifflin Learn to Race Race in 2002, and it was hands down, the most successful, educational, enjoyable advanced flying "school" I have ever had the chance to attend. To put this in perspective, I had been flying my 304 for two years before this contest. I was not interested in contest flying, but a fellow member (Bill Hall) talked me into going. He was flying his Ls-8 for about a year and saw that the Region 2 contest was reverse seaded (preferential entries for rank beginners) and set up as a learning experience. Not only would there be training and tasks set to accommodate beginners, but also classes on the rain days from many soaring notables.
Well, Bill twisted my arm, and actually 3 of us complete newbies headed down for the contest. I had flown my silver and gold distance in NE and as luck would have it, had a crackin good day out of Sterling and flew my diamond distance just before I left for the contest, but there were many contestants there with only silver official distance.
The contest staff, the "advisors" were all very patient, friendly, and incredibly helpful to get us tuned up on contest procedures. The support of haveing a retrieve office in case of a land out was very comforting. We (the three musketeers) were crewing for each other, but really the entire group was crewing for each other. Every day there is a pilot meeting where you are briefed on the weather, the task and after the first day, a talk by the previous day's winner. The structure of this meeting, and the relevance of the day winners talk (after all, you were flying the same task, and can learn how they did it better) provided daily encouragement that you could really do this thing.
In that this was my first ever contest, there was no chance I was going to win, there was far too much I still had to learn. But I think that is what keeps me in this sport, there is always more to learn. This first contest setting was rich in learning opportunity. No pressure to win, yet a great opportunity to compare your skills, and techniques against your peers as well as your mentors.
I think 70% of contest pilots fly contests not to get on the podium, but to enjoy the comradery, the support, and organization that the contest structure provides. In the end, I flew more than the 1100k total over five days, far more than I would have done at home. Not only learned about contests, the amazingly efficient contest launch procedures, but much more about cross country flying in general.
At the end of the contest, I was looking at the score sheet, and commented to Bill that I wondered how I placed compared to other pilots with zero contest experience, and he replied that he wondered how he compared to pilots with under 100hrs of experience!
The coming Region One contest is modeled after this learn to race race, with a few notable exceptions (that we hope are improvements). One, the contest is split over two weekends, to make it easier to find the time. Second it will have a strong two place showing. This will allow new contest pilots to fly with experienced pilots. We hope that new contest pilots will come and fly their own gliders, and still have the option to fly a day in a two place if there are interested. There will also be a bus class (if we can field enough "buses" where ask 21 / pw6 / pooch / perhaps we might dust off the long tips for an L-23) and fly these gliders in a class by themselves, again with experienced pilots mentoring new pilots, both Jrs as well as older fledglings.
Lastly for those that have the time, tows will be available during the week for free flying / olc tasks. But the real opportunity for advanced learning will be by entering the contest. The organizers have really worked to keep the fees very reasonable, but because of this the breakeven for the fixed costs require a minimum number of pilots, if we can't achieve this number, then we will need to cancel. So if you are up for a fantastic XC experience, please sign up soon. Details to follow.