For a number of years half the team (rounded down) was selected automatically based on the WPRS so long as those pilots were in the top 30 of the WPRS. The remainder of the team was selected manually by the comps panel.
In 2008 that automatic selection was dropped, with the agreement of the pilots affected, and all pilots were selected manually. The reason for this was that it was felt that the automatic selection would not necessarily be selecting the best pilots, and the panel should have the flexibility to pick what they considered to be the best team.
At an open comps panel meeting in 2009 the overwhelming view of the pilots was that there should be and “automatic” selection for some places on the team to give greater transparency to the process. This has now been defined for future selections. In addition to this, the factors considered in the manual selection have been laid out in more detail.
The overall aim of the team selection is to select the team with the best chance of getting the best team place and hopefully a team medal. In addition the process should encourage Britain’s top pilots to compete in British competitions, in particular the Nationals.
5.5.3 Use WPRS?
The main problem with the previous automatic selection that used the WPRS was that competitions devalued too fast. The figure below shows how the points for a competition vary over time. After 1 year 10% of the points are lost and after 2 years 90% of the points are lost. So to maximise your WPRS ranking ideally you need to do 4 high ranking competitions a year and certainly at least 4 every 2 years. Most of the top British pilots are not currently able to do 4 high ranking competitions a year, so a pilot’s WPRS score is dependant not only on how good they are but also how many high ranking competitions they’ve done.
Any alternative automatic selection system based on competition results would need to take into account the varying quality of the different competitions being used, and the WPRS was seen as the only straightforward way to do that. Although not perfect it has been developed over many years and aims to reflect the quality of a competition in terms of the standard of the pilots that have entered the number of pilots and the number of tasks flown.
Using the WPRS also encourages pilots aspiring for selection to attend the highest value competitions, which will generally be the best preparation for Cat 1 competitions.
5.5.4 How far back to look
The selection process should be aiming to assess future potential rather than past performance, so needs to consider relatively recent results. 1 year was considered to short as many pilots are only doing 2-3 competitions a year. 2 years seemed a good compromise.
5.5.5 Number of competitions to count
The panel looked at using the best 3, 4 or 5 competitions results in the last 2 years. The ranking didn’t change much as the number of competitions was changed. The aim was to get enough competitions to show consistently good performance, but choose a small enough number so that most pilots would be entering sufficient competitions to ensure that the selection was reflecting pilot ability rather than just the number of competitions entered. It was felt that 3 competitions were sufficient to show consistency so that was used.
5.5.6 Boosting the score for the nationals
One of the aims of the selection process is to encourage attendance at the British Nationals. This allows transfer of skills from the country’s best pilots to the up and coming pilots. It also provides an opportunity for pilots up for selection to compete against each other, providing useful comparative data for the manual selection. This is why a factor of 1.2 has been applied to the British Nationals scores. The factor of 1.2 means that winning the Nationals equates to coming around 10-20th in a Worlds, Europeans or Pre-comp.
5.5.7 Include Cat 1 comps?
Only the selected team are able to compete in previous Cat 1 competitions, others cannot enter, so there was an argument for not including the Cat 1 comp scores in the selection process. On the other hand a Cat 1 comp typically takes up 2-3 weeks including practice time, so pilots not on the team could have entered 2 Cat 2 competitions in that time. Also having spent 2-3 weeks at the Cat 1 competition most team pilots don’t have sufficient leave to enter many Cat 2 competitions.
Also more WPRS points are generally available in Cat 1 competitions which could give an unfair advantage to previous team members. However, although the winner generally scores more WPRS points in a Cat 1 comp than a pre-comp, further down the field it is actually easier to score more points in the pre-competitions. In the pre-comps there are enough good pilots to keep the validity nearly as high as a Cat 1, but with a lot of the top pilots not there it’s easy to place significantly higher.
The figure below shows a comparison of the 2009 Worlds and Pre-Euros. The solid lines show the points from the Worlds and Pre Euros. The dotted lines show just the pilots that entered both competitions, and show the WPRS points they scored vs. their position in the group of pilots that entered both competitions. Although the winner of the Worlds scored more than the winner of the Pre-Euros, most of the pilots that entered both competitions scored more WPRS points in the Pre-Euros.
The figure below shows a similar analysis for the 2008 Euros and Pre-Worlds. Again the winner of the Euros scored more than the winner of the Pre-Worlds, but most pilots that entered both scored more in the Pre-Worlds.
Taking into account all the above it was clear that excluding the Cat 1 comps from the process would unfairly penalise the current team pilots.
5.5.8 Number of automatic places
How many places should be allocated by the automatic system and how many should be manual? Ideally all places would be allocated by an automatic system, however no system will be perfect and there will always be exceptions. On balance the panel felt that the number used previously of “half the team rounded down” was about right giving sufficient scope to deal with those exceptions.