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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.


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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 3 July 29, 2008     

AirVenture Cup race takes a new direction this year
By Randy Dufault
A finisher in this year's AirVenture Cup Race gets guidance to his tiedown spot Sunday evening after the racers made a later-than-usual arrival due to a weather delays earlier in the day. Photo by Dave Higdon
Detroit pilots Brian Smith and Charles Bracken trouble shoot a problematic system on the Lancair Legacy they flew in the 2008 AirVenture Cup Race Sunday after their arrival at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008.  Photo by Dave Higdon

AirVenture Cup Results

After a 10-year history of races against the prevailing winds, AirVenture Cup race organizers chose 2008 for the first of likely many more west to east routings for the speedy competition.

"There were actually many reasons [the route was changed]," said race chairman Eric Whyte. "We have wanted to do a downwind race, from west to east for several years. This has several advantages, the prevailing winds are generally going to provide favorable tailwinds, and after 10 years of being an East Coast event, we wanted to expand our participants to include more West Coast racers."

After deciding on the west to east routing, the next challenge was finding an appropriate starting airport. The planning team ended up with Mitchell Municipal Airport in Mitchell, South Dakota.

"We sat down with charts, and starting with Fond du Lac we worked west looking for an airport in the 400-450nm range west of the finish line," Whyte said. "Then we looked at airspace obstacles along the way. That narrowed the list down considerably with airspace in Des Moines, Minneapolis, Madison [Wisconsin] as well as several military restricted areas we wanted to avoid.

"Next we wanted an airport that could accommodate the race participants. We needed paved runways, preferably more than one to help in crosswind situations. That narrowed the list further."

Once Mitchell Municipal-a former Air Force base-was selected, Whyte contacted the airport management and the local fixed-base operators (FBOs). According to Whyte, and as might be expected for an event that may involve 100 airplanes or more, support from the airport is extremely important.

Forty-five racers and a number of support aircraft gathered in Mitchell this past Saturday. Wright Brothers Aviation, the host FBO, held an open house that day and invited the community to come see the airplanes and visit with the race pilots and crews. The open house was a great success with Whyte estimating the crowd at 2,500 people. EAA Chapter 39 from Rapid City and EAA Chapter 289 from Sioux Falls helped out with the activities.

The public came out again Sunday to watch the race start, but unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. A line of thunderstorms traveling along nearly the same course as the race caused a launch delay of nearly seven hours. Though according to Whyte, a large number of the spectators waited out the entire delay.

This year's west to east routing called for new and different race strategies. In the east to west races staying low often netted the fastest ground speeds. One pilot reported this year that up high was the place to find substantial tailwinds this year. The weather also affected race strategy with some pilots choosing a northern route and others choosing to go south.

"If this was not the most successful race we've ever had, it certainly is in the top three," Whyte said. "The support from Mitchell was phenomenal and the race course went well. Overall it was a very enjoyable race."

Racers competed in seven different classes this year, with additional sub-classes based on landing gear configuration and engine size. The class divisions were the same as for the 2007 race and are limited to aircraft in the experimental category.

Whyte and the rest of the race organizing team plan now for races on the even years to fly from west to east and races on the odd years go east to west.

The AirVenture Cup race is open to any licensed, current pilot that is an EAA Member and either owns, or has access to, an experimental airplane that fits within one of the race classes. More information is available on the race web site, www.AirVentureCup.com.

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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