I have had a handful of emails in regards to how our team is doing compared to the competition. The short answer is: we just will not know until the awards ceremony on Sunday evening. I will try to simplify that-as I know you are all wondering what that means exactly as they finished so early. (Deadline is Friday, June 26, 2009 at 5pm CST)
Here we go:
As of Thursday evening, the air race classic website posted the following information:
Now-what does that mean for us?
Two classic teams had completed the race Thursday evening, but that does NOT necessarily mean those two teams are #1 and #2 for the overall competition.
This race is based on having the BEST ground speed along the entire course. Every competitor takes off at the same time (sequentially in order, starting with #1, then 2, etc.), flies the same course, and has the same weather (essentially). The thing that changes is the decisions made by each team along the route. If teams decided to take longer at fuel stops-they could be missing out on great tail winds. If teams decided to stay overnight and depart in the morning, they are risking the chance of waiting on the weather, storms, fronts, and even winds.
Each team makes their own decisions along the route. Some teams may decide that they are hitting a head wind and to stay lower (as winds usually increase as you go up in altitude), while other teams may decide to climb to a higher altitude because of an expected tail wind. Each team picks the altitude to be flown along a given course, unless there are specific instructions because of an obstruction or airspace that the racers are flying around. (Like Chicago airspace, for example the Air Race Classic teams may be told they have to fly at a certain altitude on a specific route.)
Additionally, timing plays a huge role in the decisions made along the route as well. In general, the morning winds are usually more calm than winds in the afternoon. Additionally, depending on the race route, thunderstorms and weather can be an issue. So timing what stops to make it to by sunset each day are important factors to play into the decision making process.
Each team wants to be cautious and safe, yet fly the best race they can. In doing this, the teams have to decide what a good goal is to complete each day, based on their specific aircraft capabilities and expected weather for the week (even though these decisions may change over the course of the race). If a team decides to stop after only 1 or 2 legs per day, they risk not finishing the race by the deadline of Friday at 5pm CST. If you do not finish the race, you obviously cannot win (unless the case is that no race team could finish-I believe the rules state there is a special rule that the race could be "called off early" and one of the designated race stop airports along the course would be substituted as the finish line for all racers.)
Since each team ends up at different locations every night, it is a gamble to say that one team is "winning" over another team at this point. The final results are the only way to see what team ultimately flew the best race by having the best ground speed over the entire route. The ground speed is calculated in conjunction with the total number of miles flown and the time it took each team to fly the total course.
After the finish deadline:
The top 10 teams (-maybe top 12 teams-) will have their aircrafts re-inspected. This is to ensure that the top teams did not cheat or modify their engine/plane in any way along the route. After the inspections are completed, the judges will meet to verify results and come up with the scoring for all the "Classic teams" (as the judges call them).**
Even if the team did not place top 10, they are not out of the running for prizes!! (unless things have changed-Kali/Merritt, correct me if I am wrong ; )
The teams which are not top 10 can still compete in what are called "leg prizes." (Top 10 winners are excluded from these prizes.) These prizes are usually given out to the top 3 (I believe) teams for each "leg" of the race course. The top 3 teams of each leg usually get a small medal/medallion.
**LASTLY: My favorite prize for the race (if they still give it out-I think they do!) is the S.O.S prize for the last-place team. This is a small prize, but given away in good-humor. These ladies know how to have a good time, whether you are 1st or last place!
If you have questions, please post them below. I will do my best to answer them : )
(And-the ladies love to read the comments posted by their families and friends !!!)
I anticipate that Kali and Merritt will have a chance to post a blog in the next day or so...
Until then, GO CATS~!