29 Mar 2023

Virtual Gliding gathers pace with FAI approved events in 2023

Touted as a ‘laboratory for the sport’, virtual gliding appeals to both confirmed and less experienced pilots, allowing them not only to improve their skills but also compete in online simulator races which follow real championship tasks. The e-sport’s growing popularity, realistic flying conditions and support from major gliding organisations has recently led to the development of structures for Virtual Gliding championships and to FAI sanctioned competitions. There are currently two ways for pilots to compete: the World Series and the Virtual Sailplane Grand Prix.

The Virtual Gliding movement gathered momentum during the Covid pandemic, with frustrated pilots using the second version of the Condor flight simulator to escape the confines of their living rooms. Buoyed by the support of the FAI Gliding Commission (IGC) and organisers including the French French Gliding Federation FFVP, the 10th FAI Sailplane Grand Prix in Saint-Auban in September 2021 hosted an impressive 410 virtual pilots who competed in the 1st Virtual Sailplane Grand Prix, held alongside the physical event.

Organisational support

Following the success of the St Auban competition, and with support from IOC and the French Ministry of Sport, the FFVP launched an e-gliding licence and has gained approval to hold a French Championships, the “eCDF”. The 1st French ‘ePlaneur’ Championships took place in January 2023.

Always keen to embrace new technology, the FAI Gliding Commission (IGC) gathered a total of 140 pilots in March 2022 to demonstrate an e-gliding race to show delegates from IGC and the other air sports commissions. The demonstration was declared a sweeping success: this form of live streaming and virtual participation is an effective opportunity to promote gliding (and other air sports) to a wider public. The delegates voted in favour of creating an official FAI Virtual Gliding World Championships, and now there is now a website dedicated to FAI Virtual Gliding.

At the end of 2022, FAI announced that e-sports would be included in the Sporting Code, and gave Commissions the option to waive sporting licence requirements for participants with the aim of opening e-sports to a wider air sports audience.

Antoine Havet, writing in the French ‘Vol à Voile’ magazine, stated that:

“By adopting electronic sports, the organisation (FAI) is demonstrating its commitment to remaining at the forefront of modern sporting trends.”

Virtual Gliding screenshot

First Virtual Gliding World Series

The first Virtual Gliding FAI World Series is taking place during 2023, with free entry for this first year in order to initiate as many new participants as possible to the e-sport. Sixteen dates throughout the course of 2023 will see licensed pilots compete alongside less experienced contestants in virtual skies. Racing will take place in different classes and different formats: Racing Task (RT), Assigned Area Task (AAT), Virtual Sailplane Grand Prix (VSGP). All races are scored with 1000 points and will be cumulative throughout the year, with the championships table showing latest rankings.

Some of the listed events will take part during physical FAI Category 1 World Championships with event organisers hoping that this ‘piggy back’ opportunity will encourage wider participation as well as adding to the visitor experience. The dual events are as follows:

  • 15 June – part of the 4th FAI Pan American Gliding Championship, USA
  • 6 July – part of the 12th FAI Women’s World Gliding Championship, Spain
  • 7 August – part of the 6th FAI Junior European Gliding Championship, Denmark
  • 16 December – part of the 37th FAI World Gliding Championship, Australia

As this is the inaugural series, rules are subject to adaptation, but it is the IGC’s aim that the learnings from this first year will help to provide an approved structure for the 2024 edition.

Virtual Gliding FAI World Series

2nd Virtual Sailplane Grand Prix

The 1st Virtual Sailplane Grand Prix was designed to showcase the courses and locations of the physical events to online viewers: there were nine in total: Sweden (Boras), Polond ((Zar), Lithuania (Vilnius), Italy (Varese), Germany (Eisenhuttenstadt), Bosnia-Herzegovina (Livno), France (Vinon), Australia (Gawler) and South Africa (Worcester). Between 40-100 virtual pilots participated in each of these events.

Following this success, the 2023 Virtual SGP is running in parallel with the 11th SGP. Similar rules and selection processes to the physical competitions will apply, although rules are slightly adapted to allow a maximum number of virtual pilots to compete.

There are 10 Virtual SGP qualifying events between 2022 and 2023, with the 2nd Virtual Sailplane Grand Prix World Final being held in August 2023, in Pavullo, Italy, at the same time as the 11th FAI SGP World Final.

Organise a Virtual Gliding Event

Peter Eriksen FAI Gliding Commission President called for FAI Member Organisations to join in with the momentum in virtual gliding:

“NACs can use these events, or a selected sub-set of these events, to organise their own National Virtual Gliding Championship. To find out more, write to the organiser, Antoine Havet, and we can make a separate scoring for the pilots of a given nationality.”

Contact Antoine Havet: havet.antoine@gmail.com

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Virtual Gliding screenshot2