SUGGESTED LEAD: Five of the world's best glider pilots competing in the sixth annual Smirnoff Sailplane Derby will race from Los Angeles to Washington, D.
SUGGESTED LEAD: Five of the world's best glider pilots competing in the sixth annual Smirnoff Sailplane Derby will race from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., May 3, in their powerless aircraft. It is the world's longest glider competition and America's only annual coast-to-coast air race.
SYNOPSIS: World standard class soaring champion Ingo Renner of Australia and world open class champ George Lee of Great Britain head the field of five pilots. They are expected to be strongly challenged by two-time Smirnoff winner Wally Scott of Odessa, Texas, seen here practising in stormy California skies.
The gliders will be towed aloft daily to 2,000 feet before releasing for the start of each 250 mile long leg. Gliders use solar energy--thermal updrafts--to remain aloft. Thermals are columns of rising air, heated by contact with the sun-warmed ground. Competition is based on speed and distance covered daily. The sailplanes will fly at altitudes to 14,000 feet and speeds to 120 miles an hour. The $18,000 fibreglass and aluminum ships have wingspans of about 50 feet. A route of 2,900 air miles has been charted with major stopovers in Phoenix, Dallas, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, Chicago, and Pittsburgh.
Also racing will be U.S. soaring champ Al Leffler of Santa Paula, California, and former two-time world champ and 1975 Smirnoff winner George Moffat of Elizabeth, New Jersey.
A solid gold medal will be awarded to the winner and silver medals to the runners-up by Smirnoff. And, six thousand dollars has been donated to send the U.S. team to the world soaring championships in France next year.