Former World Champion, and race expert, Mike Mangold talks us through three updates to the rulebook that will be in place from this weekend's race in the Polish city of Gdynia.
1. Pylon hits
If you hit a gate you now get a 2 second penalty – before, the pilot was completely out as it was an automatic Did Not Finish (DNF) and that was it. It was a massive penalty for hitting a gate, so it made more sense to not throw them out of the course – but a 2 second penalty is still a massive disadvantage. The pilots can hit 2 pylons (both with the 2 second penalty attached) and then if they hit a third, it becomes a DNF.
The judges have to make a decision about pylon hits, and most of those in Rovinj were pretty small, 30cm from the top and what we call a 'clean' hit. If somebody hits them a little deeper and it has more material left on the wing, then the Race Director will tell them to 'knock it off' and that's a Safety Climb Out (SCO). Of course that is then a DNF too.
2. Speed at the Start Gate
The pilots have the EFIS system in the cockpit, which shows the speed. The numbers are changing so quickly and you're trying to control the aeroplane, so you really have to make a call about when you are going to hit 200kts through the gate as it might take a split second to catch up. It's like it's 199... 199... 201! Boom!
Everyone felt it was necessary to give a bit of a 'pad' where there is a potential grey area around the entry speed. We go from 200 to 200.99 and it's fine, then from 201.00 to 201.99 it's a +1 second penalty, then if you're over 202 it's a DNF.
3. Pulling up in the Gate
This is more about safety of flight and about making the judging consistent. It's difficult to tell exactly when pilots are pulling up in the gate. If there are two pylons, then you have to go through 'wings level' so that we can make sure that all judging is consistent. Hannes and Matt are both very aggressive through the gates while some of the guys will fly through the gate then pull up, so it was decided to establish this rule.
We have what we refer to as the 'reference point' on the plane and previously it was always the pilot's head. For a while, we agreed the nose of the spinner was the reference point and captured that on camera to decide the judging. It's almost two-tenths of a second passing through the gate and some of the guys can get a lot of pitch on in that time. So it's been decided to revert back to the race helmet and judges will be looking at bank angle and pitch.
When you're going that fast – 80-100m per second – and the aeroplane is 3-4m long, the judging really has to be precise.