RETURN OF GOSSIP
by Uncle Sydney
Dateline: February 2007
Six years ago Uncle Sydney’s gossip column stopped appearing in BMFA’s F3J News. Hopefully not too many yawns will resound when the column resumes in SOARER, the inimitable Barcs newsletter. Some gossip has appeared in the meantime, usually a week or two before any world or european F3J championship with a follow-up afterwards. The aim is to find matters of interest and note to F3J flyers and soaring in general. Please direct complaints or gossip leads to sydney.lenssen (at) ntlworld (dot)com.
This year’s European Champs returns to Slovakia, at Trnava, which is about 50 km north of Bratislava on the E75. Known as a region for wine, thermal springs and learning, Trnava boasts an old-established university and was known as “little Rome.” The flying site, a sport airport, will have as a backdrop the Small Carpathian Mountains.
One day, FAI will explain why model glider championships convene so often in Slovakia. In 2001 we competed in Holic, last year in Martin and now Trnava. I suspect that the Slovaks are keen enough to volunteer, they do it extremely well, get sponsorship and help from local firms, and everyone enjoys good food, plenty of beer or wine, and cheap hotels if you choose to sleep in a bed rather than a tent or caravan. So no complaints. But it would be more mind-broadening to be elsewhere in Europe.
Keen spotters will have noted that Bulletin 1 for the 6th Eurochamps has been issued, inviting national teams to register and giving more details. Teams will start assembling on Thursday August 17. For the first time at a Eurochamps, everyone is invited to fly in the Trnava Cup contest, starting at midday on Friday with flyoffs around midday on the Sunday. Champs proper will run from Monday through to Friday with prizegiving on Saturday 25 August.
News from the various teams will emerge nearer the time, but the UK team has altered slightly. Tony Vale has dropped out to let Austin Guerrier in. Last year’s league flyers will recall that Tony pipped Austin in the last round by a fraction of a point, particularly galling for Austin because he’d been almost certain of a place since round one. Now domestic pressures have let Austin in again, and as highest placing UK pilot in Martin’s world champs, he deserves another go.
No official appointment yet for UK team manager, but it looks likely that Graham Wicks who flies in the Fairlop club, same as Austin, will step into Tony Guerrier’s shoes. As organiser of the UK F3J league, Graham deserves this honour.
What will Adrian Lee be flying? He has a squad of Graphite 2’s, two carbon, (2.07 and 2.13 kg) plus a glass version at 1.88 kg for early morning or evening when lift is slim or non-existent. Last year’s squad still survives, so any damaged model can be replaced immediately. What a lucky man! I remember in the 2001 flyoffs at Holic when Adrian when almost quit the final round because several mid-airs had reduced him down to the last High Five and he needed to fly back at home in the F3J league the following weekend.
Simon Jackson has had a clear-out over Christmas leaving him with one model - his lightweight Shadow which he and Phil assembled overnight at the World champs - from last year. He hopes to be restocked soon with both F3J and F3B models.
Most FAI F3J championships are held in July, and Trnava’s late August dates have upset the Eurotour applecart. Hollandglide has been brought forward to second weekend, 11/12 in August, and UK pilots driving to Slovakia might take the opportunity to go straight from Holland, across Germany and Austria or Czechia to Trnava. UK team pilots will miss the British Nationals which is why an extra two-day rounds has been scheduled for the 2007 BMFA/Barcs league.
Most of today’s ready moulded F3J models have three piece wings - a centre section and two outer wing panels - connected by carbon fibre joiners. This helps packing for travel, it means that if you suffer the occasional mid-air or a tree leaps out at your model, you can replace a section cheaper than the half wing if you fly two piece wings like Crossfire and Europhia, or one of Jaro Muller’s more recent models such as Espada or Escape. Today’s question is: do you tape the panels together?
Some use insulation tape, sellotape or diamond tape, even masking tape to seal the gap and keep the parts together. Some ensure that the whole joint is sealed top and bottom, some cover the top surface and tuck just a few centimetres onto the underside. Whatever you do, it’s a pain when you’re late and the pilots’ briefing has been called.
I was doing David Hobby a favour last year in Martin when I found him marching out to the flight line with his Pike Perfect, ready to fly, and his wings were not taped. “Thanks, but no thanks,” was his response. “I never tape the panels together. What’s the point, they’re a good fit, couldn’t be better, and they won’t move in flight.”
He’s right, of course. Wing panels and joiners require some force to fit them together, and when the wing is flying, the lift and drag create even more friction between joiners and their boxes. But last time I launched my Pike without tape, I noticed the omission after landing and thanked my lucky stars that nothing had come apart.
Those with a good memory will remember that in the last round of last year’s World Champs fly-off, David had a mid-air with the Italian Massimo Verardi, some 300 metres away from the spot at a height of about 100 metres. His model went into a spin, gained a 20cm gash in the leading edge of the left hand outer panel, and the panel was skewed back from the centre panel where the joiner box had split leaving a 10 gap between panels.
With aplomb, David coaxed the model down safely, slowly enough to gain another 50 seconds or so of flight time even knowing he was entitled to a reflight, and speared the spot for 100 landing points. Nobody was quite certain for a minute or two, but he had done enough to ensure that for the second time in succession, Hobby was World Champion!
What would have resulted if the panels had been taped? My guess is that the damage would have been worse. But I still tape my wing panels!
NB FOR MIKE - It would be nice if possible to fit in the pic I sent you with David Hobby smiling and on one knee looking at his Pike Perfect after landing.
F3J rule changes
We all talk from time to time about the need to modify F3J’s rules. Although it’s lovely to have two days flying with most people flying out the 10 minute slots, as at last year’s Interglide at Marsh Gibbon, flyers then moan about launch and landing competitions. More sensibly, some flyers yearn for greater emphasis on thermal flying as opposed to mega launching and speared landings.
There’s no harm in talking rules. But changes in the rules cannot come easily these days because the FAI, and in particular CIAM which rules the roost, has procedures and only allows rule revisions at four year intervals unless safety is involved. In all fairness to the “Gods on high” in Lausanne, they actively seek pilots’ views on FAI class rules. At all championships, an evening is devoted to a team managers’ forum where opinions on rules can be exchanged, and surveys are often carried out.
What has surprised me over the last three years is that most pilots and countries are by and large in favour of sticking with today’s rules. One or two individuals have been vociferous in their demands for alterations, but they have not been able to formulate proposals which command support.
One possible exception is on launching. Only Germany today adamantly insists on retaining hand towing and excluding electric winches. Their arguments are simple and compelling: two-man towing requires exertion and teamwork and is attractive to juniors and younger pilots, and proof of the pudding for them is that German F3J comps often attract 20-30 junior entries.
The US team wants winch launching and very few thermal competitions over there have human tows. Even if contests attract more athletic types, the weather is often too hot. I believe that many countries would go along with electric winches, especially if pilots have the choice of hand tows or winches.
A majority of countries now allow winches in their team trials, and as in Britain, F3J hand towing has almost disappeared even for 100S. Interglide, which is part of Contest Eurotour, has to stick with hand towing. What prevents winches? Nobody wants to see the hassle of winch regulations and on-the-spot compliance testing, and nobody has identified an acceptable proposal.
The most horrendous landing of 2006 I recall was Jaroslav Tupec in the last round of the WC qualifying flights, which was critical in that several pilots lost or won their flyoff places in it. With two or three seconds to go, a rival pilot flew at high speed across Jaroslav’s flight path forcing him to rear up sharply and gain height to six metres or so. He then had to dive vertically to nail the landing, which he did. What a clatter! If I had tried, the model would have smashed into pieces - and missed. It says something for the construction of the Pike Perfect that it survived with no discernable damage. Both Jaroslav and his spotter “Samba father” Vostrel grinned from ear to ear. He had his flyoff place.
2002’s horrific lamding was in Lappeenranta, Finland: Arend Borst became world champion when his model survived a high speed landing by skidding some 20 metres across gravelly ground with the nose stopping on the spot. He had been caught half a mile away from his spot with just 25 seconds left in the 15 minute slot due to some misunderstanding. He came back along the flight line ballistically leaving no time for crow braking, hoping that the ground would arrest the model.
Very exciting and obviously - for me - memorable, and maybe when you’re on the edge of winning a world champs, any risk is worthwhile. In reality, would it not be better if F3J rules actively discouraged rather than invited such potentially dangerous behaviour?
Most successful pilots now spear their landings to cut out the risk of skidding across the spot. Even the landing spots are made of thin vinyl rather than hardboard so that the noise will pierce rather than bounce. The stress on models is considerable, but amazingly today most models seem to take it. For spectators, such landing techniques must seem stupid, graceless and unrealistic.
Gossip tells me that some senior pilots with influence have had enough. They are trying to formulate something closer to the American thermal landing target where you are required to land along a line, not too long, and you must not plough the nose or fit a skeg to arrest your speed. What wording for the rules? Send me your draft.
NB. Since this gossip was written, FAI documentation for the March CIAM meeting has been published, and it contains advance notice of the German proposal to divide the last metre of the landing tape into 20 cm intervals. This means that to score 100 you need to land within 20 cm of the landing point rather than within 1 metre. If you land with the nose between 20 and 40 cm away, then you score a mere 99 points, and so on.
This method of scoring is tried and tested: I have flown at Hollandglide a couple of times and at other Eurtours where it’s been used. It does help separate the really successful flyers who regularly hit 14 minutes 55 seconds plus in flyoffs and 100 points every time.
Note that rule changes for each FAI class are only allowed every four years these days unless the change is made for safety reasons. So the new tapes will not be official prior to 2008, assuming the new proposals are adopted. Of course any contest director can make “local rules.”
Also to make an FAI rule change, the proposer is required to give the reasoning, and the Germans are saying that pilots will need to fly more slowly if they are to land with greater precision within 20 cm of the spot. I have checked with my contacts in Holland and Germany and they do confirm that most pilots do come in more slowly. But I have my doubts. Flying faster gives greater control of height and direction, especially if the plane is ballasted.
I understand that UK discussion on the topic agrees with the objective of trying to cut down on speared landings. Pilots are all in favour of the 20cm divisions in the last metre. But they also want to see a landing which leaves the nose speared to be rewarded with a zero. They say the model must come to a rest with the nose clean rather than caked in mud and earth, and the back of the fuselage resting on the ground. Oh for more perfect flying sites!
I am waiting to see the rules written for that. What a can of worms!
End of gossip for now!
sydney.lenssen (@) ntlworld.com (attention: new email for Sydney)