A First 50K

This is a guide put together by Chris Sterritt for those want to do their Silver distance of 50 kilometres. Note that if you use Denzel (the K8 DNZ) and land out we do not have a trailer but Mike Jenkins (K8 glider 153) has one, but he must be asked first. Also note that you will need to take either Dave, Malcolm or Mike since it is not a straightforward trailer load.

Contact numbers are:

Dave: 07770 523 643
Malcolm: 07989 893 987
Mike: 01256 762 216

So over to Chris Sterritt who has agreed to be the official observer for lasham cadets. You can contact him and he will advise on all aspects of badge claims:

Email: chris@sterritt.co.uk
Phone: 07710 416 687

A First 50k
This guide is intended to help you avoid the pitfalls surrounding the rules for a Silver Badge 50k claim. I confess, I have written it out of self-interest: I do not want to be that miserable OO who tells you your claim fails to meet the rules, I want to be the helpful OO who tells you, “Congratulations!” and helps you to complete the paperwork and then celebrates with you in the bar at your expense!

The rules are fairly complicated and there are many ways to meet them; this guide offers my suggestions which you could follow to be certain of getting past the OO. If you want to learn about all of the rules, please read the Sporting Code which can be found here:


One thing to remember is that the Silver Distance must be flown as a straight line distance of 50k or more between 2 defined points. You cannot fly 25k out and then 25k return. If you decide to try a 100k triangle, then one of the legs must be 50k or more. You can fly without a declaration and simply take a launch and fly somewhere, but in this case, you must land out more than 50k from your release point and the 1% rule applies to your landing altitude. This is bound to be a harder rule to meet than if you had declared a task.

Before you attempt that 50k cross-country flight, there are a few things which you should do to reduce the chances of a failed claim:

Make sure that your Flight Recorder is an approved one. You can find a list of the approved ones here: http://www.fai.org/component/phocadownload/category/?download=6781:igc-approval-tables-2013-5-5
It is also possible to use a couple of Position Recorders QSTARZ BT-Q1000X and flyWithCE. Please note that you cannot use a smart phone or any PDA which is not on the approved list.
The ClearNav fitted to club aircraft is an approved type.
If your FR is not powered from the main glider batteries, make sure that you have adequate power available and that the batteries are fully charged.
Make sure that you know how to use your FR. If you’re using a borrowed one, or one in a club aircraft, please make sure that you know how to enter pilot and task details into the FR. If you fly with someone else’s details or the wrong task left in the FR, your claim is likely to fail even though you fly the 50k perfectly. Your claim can still succeed even if you clear these details from the FR and make a paper declaration, but it’s simpler to use the FR.
Make sure that the FR has the correct date and time.
In order to make a claim, you must have a valid calibration certificate for your FR. This can be up to 2 years before the flight, or within a month afterwards. Check to see if you need to get a new one, or be ready to send your FR off for immediately afterwards. Check at the office if you will be using a club ClearNav.
The Flight
Declaration – you need to know if your FR declares a task when you switch it on. Many do. If yours does, then you need to know how to put the task into the FR because this will override a paper declaration.

Claim Form – you will need proof of landing position and if you land out, this is achieved by getting 2 witnesses to sign for you. Take a claim form with you or a blank piece of paper and a pen. If you get back to land at Lasham, any OO can sign a landing certifiate, or any 2 other people.

Turnpoints – an important thing to know about turnpoints is that it is the lat/long which is crucial. If you declare a task using the BGA turnpoints, you must know which issue you will use as some of the turnpoints move every year. Enter this into the task description if you can.

The 1% rule – you’ve heard that there’s a limit on how high that you can aerowtow and that you have to land out…the worry begins. A lot of the confusion surrounding badge claims stems from the fact that the rules have changed significantly over the last few years since GPS technology has become widely available.

There is no limit to the height to which you can tow for any badge, just as long as the difference in height between the Start and the Finish does not exceed 1% of the distance flown. The problem is that there are several ways to start and finish. If you declare Lasham-Bicester-Lasham and only make 40k of the return leg, then you have flown 120k and are allowed a height difference of 1000m (3281 feet), which is the maximum height differential allowed. If the distance achieved was 90k, then you are allowed 900m (2953 feet). However, you are allowed to choose a point before you land out as a finish in order to pass the 1% rule; you may well be 300m higher at that place.

Please note that without a declaration, the only possible finish point is your landing.

The Launch – you will need a launch certificate to be signed on the claim form. If you use the winch, please make sure that you check you were on the club log when you get back as the OO will check that the club log matches the times in your FR.

Starting – as soon as you release from tow, or even from the winch, make a sharp turn to log your point of release. This point can always be used as a start for any distance claim. If you have a declared task, then any point in the start sector can be used as a start, as could crossing a 1km line centred upon the start point which is orthogonal to the first leg. You can choose the best start point when you review the flight.

One small thing that catches people out – if you choose a remote start, eg Alton, then you must have a declaration to use that as a start. Without a declaration, your only possible start point is your release point.

Finishing – assuming that you declared, any logged point that is more than 50k down track can be used as a finish; you don’t have to land and the 1% rule does not apply to your landing altitude. You can even get to your destination and then thermal up until you’re high enough to pass the 1% rule. For example, you decide to go to Bicester, but when you reach the Oxford area, you see rain showers ahead and decide tu return to Lasham. Provided that you have a logged point that is at least 50k from your start and the 1% rule was Ok there, then you have a Silver Distance in the bag.

50k is in a single leg – in order to qualify for the Silver Distance, you must achieve 50k or more in a straight line between 2 points. The first point can be either your start point (which may be chosen post-flight – see above) or any declared turn point which you reach. So you could declare Popham-Bicester (a bit daft, but possible!) and use Popham as your start. However, if you don’t get into the start sector at Popham and you don’t cross the 1km start line, then you can’t claim a start from Popham.

Always make a declaration – if you decided on a task with a 50k leg that started at Alton, but didn’t declare the task, then your only possible start point was the release, so releasing north of Lasham, flying to Alton and then making 55k further north would not be a valid Silver Distance. Had you declared the task, then the chances are excellent that it would have succeeded.

At the launch – if you are taking an aerotow, please make sure to tell the tug pilot that you are attempting a Silver Distance. The tug pilot has to certify a release point and if you mention this in advance, then he/she can make a note on the tug log as to where and how high you released. Make sure that you have a radio – borrow a hand-held if your glider doesn’t have one. You may have asked for a release south of Lasham for a task to Bicester, but the tug heads north. With a radio, you can ask to be towed to the correct area for your task.

The easiest way…
So, my recommendation is: declare a task and put it into your FR; declare the turn points with lat/long or state which BGA turn point list version you are using in the task description; take a claim form in case you need a landing certificate to be signed away from Lasham; choose a release area which is in the start sector; let the tug pilot know you’re attempting a badge before you launch; take a radio and talk to the tug if necessary to get to your chosen release area; getting to a good release area is more important than releasing at a specific altitude; release near a thermal and mark your release with a sharp turn. Finally, take that first climb, head off on task and enjoy your day.

If you are still confused, or have any further questions, then I’m happy to try and answer them. If you need an OO to validate your claim, then I’m always happy to help.

Chris Sterritt

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