Whilst the world’s eyes have been fixated on London – another world class event has just started in Texas – the World Gliding Championships. So far the South African popular media has given this event zero coverage which is just sad considering the impact a South African designed product is having on these Championships.
At this point a rough description of what the sport of gliding (or soaring) is all about is required. The gliders (or sailplanes) are constructed from high-tech materials like Kevlar, carbon-fibre and glass fibre and have long thin wings designed for the ultimate efficiency. These wings vary in length from 15m to 29m depending on the class (there are three classes at the current Texan championships). To put that in perspective – 29m is almost the third of the length of a rugby field. Most of the aircraft are single seaters but there are a couple of two seaters being used in the Open Class. Each day a task is set – which is different for each of the 3 classes – and these tasks vary in distance but are typically in the order of 500km for the 15m gliders, and up to 700km for the Open Class gliders. The most popular class is the 15m Class (37 competitors), followed by the 18m (35 competitors) and Open Class (26 competitors). South Africa is represented by Mark Holliday (15m), Uys and Attie Jonker (18m) and Oscar and Laurens Goudriaan (Open Class).
Now to get to the main point of the article – the JS-1 Revelation (Jonker Sailplanes). This glider has been designed and built in Potchefstroom by the Jonker brothers. There was extensive design work done by North West University on the aerofoils used and it was created to be the best 18m class glider in the world. It is currently racing against mainly the ASG-29s and Ventuss’ in this class. Both of these aircraft are designed and built in Germany – the traditional powerhouse of gliding in the world. In the 18m Class, there are 9 of these JS-1 Revelations competing – flown by South African, British, French, Danish, American and Argentinian pilots. Uys Jonker finished second in the 18m Class at the previous World Championships held in Hungary in 2010 (flying his JS-1 Revelation). At the World Championship level, pilots choose the best equipment available and thus the JS-1 Revelation has been chosen by the foreign pilots for its performance and the fact they feel that they can win using it. Jonker Sailplanes is still a new manufacturer on the market (36 completed) and are taking on the more established, specialist manufacturers. Alexander Schleicher GmbH & Co, who manufacture the ASG-29, was established in 1926 just as gliding was been established as a sport in Germany after the First Word War.
In March, Jonker Sailplanes unveiled a modified JS-1 Revelation, the JS-1C which has the ability to have an extended wing-tip fitted taking the wing span to 21m. This aircraft thus flies in the Open Class – traditionally the class where gliders have 26m or longer wings. It is felt that in the strong soaring conditions of Texas (similar to our own fantastic summer soaring conditions), the shorter wings will be an advantage (related to less drag and higher wing-loading). Both the South African and Australian teams have entered these new JS-1 Revelations and are taking on the world’s most expensive and bespoke gliders. Some of these super gliders are literally one-off prototypes with price-tags that match. With the competition mid-way, the Australian Bruce Taylor is lying second in the JS-1C with Oscar and Laurens Goudriaan just slightly further back. Oscar was the World Champion in 2000 and Laurens has also finished on the podium in previous world championships.
Follow all the flying action on http://wgc2012uvalde.com as well as on the Face Book pages of Jonker Sailplanes (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jonker-Sailplanes/188010050668) and the South African Team (http://www.facebook.com/SouthAfricanGlidingTeamUvalde2012). There are lots of stunning photos of these incredibly beautiful machines on these links as well as all the news and results. There are really no other sport that comes to mind where South Africans are taking on the world’s best using home-grown technology and expertise.