This year the Natal Championships where held at the Noodsburg Country Club on the 24th and 25th of March. The format for the Open Class event was F3J being flown of 200m (400m line) electric winch. In addition to this 2M (6 minute max in 8 minute working time) and RES/100 (8 minute max in 10 minute working time) where also flown. Being that this event was held 3 weeks before the first leg of South African F3J team selections, I expected a lot more Gauteng based pilots to make the 600km pilgrimage to what I consider to be the best gliding field in South Africa. It turned out that only two teams made the trip.
Practice Day - Friday the 23rd
This served as the travel day, however Kurt and I left at around 05h30 so that we could also practice on the field for the greater part of the afternoon. We arrived at Noodsburg at around 13h00 after checking into the B&B where we were staying. We where very surprised to find no one at the field. Also the fairly moderate wind was blowing from a very unusual easterly direction. I laid out the winches while Kurt assembled the models, only to find a broken servo lead on his number one Eish!. Given the wind, I initially only took out my Carbon Eish! and proceeded to have a lot of fun circle towning this very stiff F3B like model. Kurt took over my number 3 model (Jaro Muller Escape) and settled in after a couple of flights.
I later assembled my Supra determined to finally find out how this model flew with ballast. This turned out to be a real race against the rain that was fast approaching the field. I managed to get the model up just before the rain and was completely amazed at how well it penetrated with only 1/3 ballast in the huge tube. However my joy was cut short by the rumbling of thunder from the fast approaching storm.
Just as we got every thing packed away when Tim Potter, Rose and Fred Wittstock arrived to layout the field. We left to preform some surgery on the winch I had borrowed at the last minute as well as the wing tip I knocked off my Carbon Eish! while hastily loading it into the car.
Day 1 - Saturday the 24th
We awoke to find that while the wind had dropped to a very calm occasional breeze, however the cloud and rain had stayed. Also the occasional breeze was from a very un-cooperative Northerly direction while the 2 wind directions that had been laid out where easterly and westerly. However as the wind was fairly gentle it was decided to stick with launching cross wind.
The conditions proved to be a real challenge with rounds often being won the person who flew the smoothest in the extremely light lift available. Maxes where hard to find. Young Conrad Klintworth proved to be a master of this difficult conditions, racking up round win after round win. Eventually he would end the day on 3,999 out of a possible 4,000.
The flight of the day has to go to Denis Bird flying his aging Esprit. He managed to eek out a max while the rest of his group where down at around 5 minutes. The most amazing part of this flight is that he was also at approach height from about 5 minutes to go. He masterfully worked little bubble after little bubble to decimate the opposition in grand style.
The incident of the weekend also occurred on the first day when John Coulson was flying his Experience Pro high and far down wind. I was flying in close proximity at the time when I noticed the yellow glider diving at the ground. Initially I thought the pilot had lost sight of the model. According to my caller the model pulled out at the last second, rocketing up to almost the same height I was at before plummeting back towards the ground at great speed. Eventually the model disappeared into the 10foot tall sugar cane field. Various search parties undertook the very unpleasant task of hunting for the model in the cane field with out much luck. Listening to all the accounts of how the model went down, I as convinced that there would be little left. However at the end of the day, once everyone had packed up Dennis Bird joined the search and found the model sitting on top of the cane and completely unscratched.
Flying was stopped just after the completion of round 4 due to low cloud. In fact the cloud was so low, I was zooming directly into it with my back up model that I decided to fly at the end of the day.
Most of the competitors gathered at the Wartburg Hof for dinner that night and enjoyed an excellent German meal while swapping "war stories". The happiest person there was definitely John Coulson.
Day 2 - Sunday the 25th
We arrived at the field to find that the low cloud, mist and drizzle was still present although this didn't stop me getting some flying done with my Tabooish DLG. To further aggrevate matters the wind was coming from the North again and was a little to strong to ignore. It was decided to delay the start and switch the field lay out so that we could launch into wind.
Again Fred, Rose and the rest of the DMAC crew did an excellent job getting the field layed out in the new wind direction.
By the time flying started, the mist and low cloud had lifted and there was a fair amount of blue sky between the clouds. The conditions where a lot better than the previous day but still tough. Definilty not silly air. You had to be so carefull not to loose any lift that you had as it would be a long way to the next bubble.
It was during one of the RES 100 slots that I saw Dennis Bird (again) record the flight of the event with his Eliminator. He was litterally on final approach and being comprehensively beaten by Fred Wittstock when he felt a small bubble on the last leg of his approach. He worked this little bubble really, really hard not only to eek out a max, but to also clear the tall trees at the back of the landing area. Really entertaining flying.
Young Ryan Nelson and Conrad Klintworth's 2M models fell victim to into wind launches and blew up spectacularly during launch. Day 2 also saw John Coulson flying his Experience Pro again, this time with a new RX and no further incidents.
The only dissapointment for the day is that the F3J fly off never happened. I'm not entirely sure why as Conrad, Allan Sneedon and myself stayed for some time set-up at the flight line for the event that just didn't seem to happen.
Thanks must go to Mike Summers for the excellent job he did of CDing the event as well as Dave Greer (organising and matrixing), Rose and Fred Wittstock as well as Dennis Bird and the rest of the DMAC team. I can't wait to return for the Nationals in June.