I've now flown a season with the Litespeed RX4 after changing from the Combat and I love flying it, so it was about time to write about the glider. Where to start?
Well, the obvious bit: the RX is quite different from the Combat. Less span, less aspect ratio, less sail tension, less weight. It's all screaming 'great handling' at you. And that's the way it is and that's also why I love flying it so much. Of course, there's always a compromise to be made. And it's definitely trading in handling for a bit of glide ratio and minimum sink. But for me, it for sure is a change for the better.
The light, predictable handling helps in many ways. But the most significant thing is the pure joy of flying it provides. I had such a lot of fun flying it this year that I am seriously considering not sacrificing all my holidays on comps in 2014. I really hope I'm going to be in the Alps for some of the magic days each year has to offer. But that's for 2014, now back to the RX.
Apart from the shear joy, the light handling obviously provides better reaction times in turbulent thermals. And speaking of the trade-off, for me the improved handling is much more important than an optimal minimum sink, because most thermals we encounter are at least somewhat turbulent and fast reactions usually keep you on top of the stack. Turbulent thermals are especially what you find low down, where it is important to be able to use every surge of lift. I can think of quite a few out-landings where I believe the RX would have allowed me to stay aloft (especially the last task of the 2010 Euros).
Handling helps you in so many other ways too. It's better in terms of safety and allows you to chose smaller fields as landing opportunities. It's surprising how short your landing field can be, without any VG (although I usually land with around half VG because that produces cleaner flares). Being able to use smaller fields gives you more freedom to chose flying routes. The improved handling is also safer and more fun when flying pretty close to terrain or in crowded gaggles. The more relaxed, the better you fly, so handling does really help you with that.
The other amazing thing about the RX is the feedback it provides on what's happening in the air while gliding. Maybe this is what took me longest to get out of the RX, because the RX flies so differently compared to the Combat, but it sure helped me during the pre-Euros. I had much greater confidence there, that I was able to find the lift around me. And I really hope to retain that feeling for the next season!
This great feedback might be linked to not having a tail anymore. To be honest: at first it scared me a bit. Before the RX, I'd been flying a Combats for 3 seasons, with tails. So, on glides, I was used to cut through rough air like a knife through butter: the glider didn't really pitch up or down on bumps. The RX has a lot more pitch reactions to whatever is going on around it. So you sense more of the air, initially more than I wanted to feel. But by now, it feels completely natural. Those pitch reactions also help you a lot in turbulent thermals. Whenever you hit a surge of lift, the glider tends to pitch up and turn in, which is exactly what you want.
Pitch stability obviously bring us into the territory of sprog settings. And I didn't change a thing there. At first because I wanted to know how it felt coming out of the factory and I didn't want to change anything while having Combat references in my head. And later because I got to like the behaviour of the glider more and more. So, until now, the glider still has the factory settings and it seems to be very competitive, although it is not an absolute final glide hero. Compared to the Laminar of Alex and Primoz's Combat, it's definitely lacking efficiency, especially in the high speed range.
Hmm, I almost forgot: it flies perfectly straight. Didn't have a single issue with a turn yet. So I absolutely love my RX the way it left the factory. No doubt about that!
It's been a great year, flying the RX! It got me back to the top 20 and it even ended up on a postcard :-)