LEAD GAGGLE - Australian endangered species
LEAD GAGGLE - Australian endangered species
My glider is still in transit, so I got some time to share my thoughts on subject of that elusive creature – Lead Gaggle.
For everyday pilot it is (and should be!) something mysterious, briefly seen for very short time few times a year during big comps. Like: here they are! And now they gone…
I had a privilege to be part of it few times, mostly by accidents J, so, here is my take on it.
But first: let’s define what is not a Lead Gaggle.
Lead Gaggle is not just gaggle which is in front on the course line. Sometimes it might be caught and even overtaken by second gaggle.
Every one heard few times something like: “I could/could not keep up with Lead Gaggle”. If you are the one who said that, you are not part of it… Sorry. Trying to keep up would never make you part of the Lead Gaggle. Only if you are trying to lead, then you might have a chance to become part of Lead Gaggle. Or if you are stupid enough and trying to overtake Lead Gaggle, and accidentally succeeded, then you are done! You just form new Lead Gaggle, even if it made up just out of you only for now. It would be more pilots with you soon enough if you will keep doing that!
Lead Gaggle with not just the best gliders in it is a very concerning sign… No disrespect to pilots who choose to fly these gliders, they are doing great job to keep up and sometimes lead Lead Gaggle. But with constantly increasing gap in performance between current CCC gliders and the rest of the pack, it is not expected to see many D gliders in Lead Gaggle in big comps… That is reality of our flying world, good or bad is another question...
Pilots in Lead Gaggle would not wait another turn before shifting to the better lift. They would not wait and see what happens to someone who went ahead. Most of the times Lead Gaggle would not let single pilot to lead, they would lead all together. Not just for lead out points, but just because it is right. If someone is in front of you – you are not in lead gaggle anymore. They are!
Don’t get it wrong, there is always exception to the rule, and there are always some outlaw pilots who don’t care much about rules and just keep pushing. When there are enough pilots like that, that is when new Lead Gaggle is formed.
Lead Gaggle is very different to any other gaggle. It consists of very good pilots on very best gliders. Each pilot in Lead Gaggle is flying his very best in order to be the first and win day/comp and everything else in between. Each one of them is very hungry for Big Win. To be the second is not an option, it is disappointment. They form gaggle not just because it is easier to find thermals (which it is, off course!), but because they made chain of decisions that landed (not literally here, most of the time anyway) them at the same place and at the same time. These pilots are mostly very driven independent flyers, who are prepared to take sometime excessive (for “normal” pilot) risk in some form, or some just don’t give a flying f#rk about risk, or sometimes some of them don’t realise what the risk is. It is mostly very personal choice… They pushing very hard not just a speed bar, but every possible bar on their way to increase their performance just by notch and get this little extra bit over everyone else, which give them that edge, chance to be the first.
Lead Gaggle consists only from winners. If you are flying with Lead Gaggle, but don’t expect to win, not looking for that chance – you are not really part of Lead Gaggle, you just flying with it, trying to “keep up”.
It is not easy task to fly that way every day. It is not always enjoyable. But it feels bloody great, exhilarating and it is very addictive!
Green wind stoppers are great as well! Love them! Unfortunately they are not enough to make up for the lack of skills, hunger to win or substandard equipment. May be that is why in Australia we just don’t have enough of these pilots to form proper Lead Gaggle. We got handful of pilots prepared and equipped to do what it takes every task and now I think it is one of the important factors that slowing us down. We regularly see Lead Gaggle formed by three, two or one pilot. It is pretty sad looking lead gaggle, really. In big OS comps you will see Lead Gaggle of 30-50 pilots. We have to have that experience here, in Australia; we need practice in Lead Gaggle flying. And that what we all need to aim for the next few seasons. A bit unrealistic, I know, but we can aim for it, help each other with advice on equipment, tactics and goal setting, whatever can make us fly better and form that Lead Gaggle.
In the old days typical Australian Lead Gaggle would sit back and wait to see what happens to the guy in front. A lot of times that guy would land. But, with introduction of new generation of the comp gliders, that front guy got lucky much more often, then another guy decided to follow suit and suddenly they formed kind of new generation of stupid Lead Gaggle without care. And, funny enough, that is how the whole world flying now.
After introduction of lead out points couple of seasons ago we made amazing progress. We fly faster. We are getting much more competitive against OS pilots. But we are still not in the lead on most of the days. We are still holding back and “see what happens to that guy in front” a lot of times. We are not there yet. By margin! We destroyed old style Lead Gaggle, but we didn’t really form new Lead Gaggle yet… And none of us can really do it by himself. One pilot Lead Gaggle is a joke. It is just one pilot…We need more pilots for the Fast Lead Gaggle. Slowing down faster pilots in order to get more pilots into the gaggle would have detrimental effect on our overall flying.
Each one of us can look around and think: what would I need to do/have/stop doing to be in Lead Gaggle all the time? And what John/Kevin/Tony/Marcy needs in order to be there as well? Tell ‘em! Don’t hold back! They might return the favour. They might even listen! Even you might listen instead of being pissed off!
So, lets stop patting ourselves in the back, put some smart heads together and see how we can get this “new generation” Lead Gaggle formed again!