The towplane pulls them up ($5.50 for the first 1,000 feet plus 200 per additional hundred) and then, blessedly, it goes away somewhere and they are alone, soaring in every sense of the word, wings flexing and spirits rising with the joy of getting around minus engine. The sailplanes here and on the next pages were gathered in Nevada to fly competition, but the special rewards of wafting along, win or lose, are described on page 55.

Slicing across the horizon and releasing its water ballast, the homecoming sailplane at left creates a jet-contrail effect for earthbound spectators. In the staging area, meanwhile, pilots and crews work over such aptly named craft as the Nimbus II (right) or stand by for pickup of a Cirrus (below)—in all cases in flying's most relaxed setting.

Clipped to the towplane—and balanced by a fleet crewman—John D. Ryan rolls to takeoff, the moment at which his craft seems most fragile. Once airborne, as is the one below, sailplanes are in their element.