2022 Jun.

Sebastian Huhmann wins the International Hahnweide Championship

After his win with the 18 m version of the AS 33 in Poland in 2021, Sebastian won the Hahnweide competition this year in the 15 m version of the AS 33.

We took the chance to interview him about his experience with the AS 33.

But before we get into the details of the competition, a few general questions. How are you feeling after the competition on the Alb?

“Unfortunately, we had very few competition days due to the weak weather, which actually doesn’t suit my tactics and flying style very well. In competitions, I actually try to score points through consistent performances over the competition days. Here, however, this plan just about worked out for the 4 competition days. The AS 33 handled the bad weather very well. There were a few days when we had to dig ourselves out of 200 m with a weak climb. That went very well and pleasantly, although I flew a 47 wing loading with 15 m span without water. So I was able to keep up very well with the other planes.”

Did you celebrate the victory nicely?

“Of course, finally such a big competition again, you look forward to a nice evening with 1, 2 beers. I’ve been at the Hahnweide since 1998, so I’ve made a few friends and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again.”

You were very successful last year at the International Polish Gliding Championship with the 18 m version of the AS 33. This year, unfortunately, it didn't start quite as successfully in Nitra, how did that happen?

“There is a lot of difficult terrain in Nitra, so you have to know your way around. I myself have only been here once. But that was 15 years ago, so I didn’t know the terrain well enough. Flying into the high terrain with the difficult weather was unpleasant. Here we decided to take it easy. But with this tactic you can’t beat the brave Eastern Europeans. There were a lot of very good pilots here who were much braver than us at the end of the day.”

Afterwards you went to the Hahnweide with the AS 33. Here, however, you flew the 15 m version, how did the decision happen?

“Correct, the plan of the season was to warm up on the 15 m version of the AS 33. I have also only been flying in 15 m so far this season from the Boberg. The reason for this was the German Championship in Zwickau, for which I qualified in the 15 m class. To start well prepared in this competition, I wanted to gain enough experience. Unfortunately, my job does not allow me to participate in Zwickau now. Since I also fly professionally, I’m about to retrain for the A350, so I’ll be spending a lot of time in the simulator for the time being.”

How is the handling of the 15 m AS 33? How does it behave with high wing loading from your experience?

“The 15 m version is extremely fun! I think the setup of the 15 m version is just perfect. In circling flight it behaves very well and coordinated despite the higher wing loading.”

How does it climb compared to the other aircraft?

“My teammate Jan competed with the ASG 29. It weighs 4 kg/m² less than my AS 33 and is therefore much lighter. However, in the climb it did not seem at all as if I was heavier or that I was struggling. I was able to climb very well with lighter planes in the field, that was actually no problem at all.

In a straight line, however, you could see how uniquely the AS 33 performed. The difference to the ASG 29 was clearly visible there due to the higher wing loading. The AS 33 is simply a new generation and a very good development. As a pilot, you simply have enormous potential here, but it also wants and needs to be exploited.”

How did the competition go for you overall, aside from the placement?

“As I mentioned at the beginning, I need a bit to get into the competition. We fly tactically rather defensively and try to achieve good daily placements by avoiding mistakes and thus steadily move up. As I said, 4 days were almost too few. But every day we got better and better.

Sadly, our team fell apart on the last scoring day. Jan unfortunately didn’t get the first two thermals so well, so the difference in altitude was quickly over 400 meters. When you have such a big altitude difference in the team on the supposedly last day, there’s no point in keeping the team together or waiting for each other. We decided that I would fly ahead and we would hope that I could talk him back into it with tactical tips.

Shortly after, I caught the convergence and completely locked into the flow in the good line. All in all, we were low 2-3 times, so it helps enormously when you have a glider in a weak climb and low, whose handling supports you and which shows you exactly where the thermal core is.

In the end, of course, my years of experience from the Hahnweide competition also helped me. For example, while many others were still climbing to final glide altitude, we could simply race home on the ridge of the Alb. You had to be brave for that, too, but it helped a lot.”

After all the experiences with 18 as well as 15 m, how would you rate the AS 33 and the handling?

“You have to say that the performance of the 18 m AS 33 with 600 kg is absolutely crazy. You have an insane radius of action with this performance, which makes you very relaxed. The 15 m version has other advantages, of course. You can simply start in normal operation with no need to fill up with water. The 47 kg/m² are already a very good wing load for everyday use without water.

In the evening you have of course 3 m less to clean in summer and easier handling on the ground. This is not to be neglected for frequent pilots. All in all, the year so far with 15 m has been extremely fun for me.

Next year I will focus on the 18 m EM and DM, but I will definitely do one or the other start in the 15 m version, because I like it very much!

It is generally not so bad for every pilot to break out of his range and to broaden his horizon in other classes and to compete against other pilots. And with the AS 33 you simply have a plane with which you are more than competitive in 2 competition classes.”

You flew a lot of ASG 29 before the AS 33, how do you compare the two aircraft?

“The AS 33 is definitely more thermally sensitive than the 29. You can tell that it indicates the thermals and centers much better. The overall feedback of the 33 is terrific and a step up from the already very good 29. The development goal of the 33 to combine high forward speeds and good climb performance in the airfoil has definitely worked out.

You notice in the important situations that you simply climb better than your competitors, which is extremely important in such a high-performance airplane and with the high performance density of pilots. For the same result, you had to work much harder in the 29, so now you save important energy in the cockpit and have the wing loading advantage when flying straight.

And flying straight at 600 kg at 18 m is a completely different world anyway, it just runs.”

So what is your conclusion about the AS 33 with 15/18 m on the competitions and in everyday life?

“In a nutshell:
– Handling is much better than with the 29
– The new water system is much better and easier
– Finally a large luggage compartment again, which is a big bonus
– The new cockpit is unbeatable and in my opinion the best on the market right now. Everything is where it should be and you feel extremely comfortable. Very good work!
All in all, I’m very happy with the glider, no matter the wingspan. The performance is insane and the handling on the ground and in the air is just incredible!”

Thanks Sebastian for the interview and good luck next year in your competitions!