Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Dateline: Early June 2007

Weather rules: not OK!

Don’t talk about the English weather, far too boring and specifically
designed to frustrate soaring. End of May and we Brits haven’t had one
round yet. Meanwhile Contest Eurotour has had five competitions -
Istanbul in Turkey, Forli in Italy, Holic in Slovakia, Ludwigsfelde in
Germany and Osijek in Croatia. And it is already won for 2007 by -
guess who - Philip Kolb!

Still mathematically possible, just about, that someone could beat
Philip because the European league consists of 13 contests and each
pilot’s three best scores count. But Philip has already notched up
308.75 points after dropping his 102 scored in Istanbul. Sebastian
Feigl is in second place 3.58 points behind, with his brother Benedikt
a further three points behind in third place.

For those unfamiliar, how can any pilot score more than 100% in any
contest? If you win top place in a fly-off, then you score three extra
points to add to your total in the preliminary rounds, second place add
two extra points, etc etc. This system will be used here in the UK F3J
league for the first time this year, if and when we actually fly a
contest and fit in a fly-off! The idea is to reward top flyers who do
well in 15 minute slots, competing directly with the best of the bunch.

Returning to Philip, he left it until the last competition in September
to win last year’s Eurotour in Bled, Slovenia. Quite unreasonably, he
has ruined this year’s league with less than half complete. For the
record, Philip has topped the Eurotour six times so far: 1999, 2001,
2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. “That’s enough,” I hear you say. “Give
somebody else a chance!”

This gossip column is not only about winners. My favourite competitor
in this year’s Eurotour is Esra Koc, daughter of Turkey’s F3J maestro
Mustafa Koc. Father is currently placed fifth in the Eurotour, while
Esra, competing seriously for the first time this year, she has flown
in four contests. Best score so far was 76.16 at Forli, and she is
currently 58th place in the league. Esra is 10 years old!

I first met Esra and her sister, who is four years younger, in Istanbul
when introduced by her mother four years ago. She wasn’t flying then,
but she was already dad’s keenest supporter. Now she tells me she’s
flying the Eva and a Space Pro - “I don’t build my own models, but when
my models break, if it’s not so bad, then I fix them myself. I want to
learn how to build models.”

Esra has already qualified for the Turkey’s junior team and will fly in
the European championships in Trnava this August. She also hopes to
compete next year in the World Championships - in Turkey, of course! I
shall follow her progress closely and I’m taking bets on how long it is
before she starts beating dad.


Kiwis attract globe trotters

Moving across the F3J world to both the United States of America and
New Zealand, RC Soaring Digest has carried reports of Joe Wurts winning
February’s Kiwi SoarFest in Matamata, two hours drive from Auckland.
Another F3J star, Carl Strautins from Australia, was also there to hot
up the competition, along with old friend Sven Zaalberg, who flew for
UK in Red Deer 2004 and has since returned home as a captain with Air
New Zealand.

It’s been an ill-kept secret for some years that Joe and his wife Jan
were keen to emigrate to New Zealand, a country they’ve learned to love
since their first visit in 1994. That was the year Joe had a
demonstration tour of the country, invited by keen F3B flyers who
wanted first hand experience of how the experts do it. Joe and Jan
returned several times and in 2004 applied for residents’ visas, a
contorted and testing process which was only completed this year. Joe
retired early from Lockheed and has set up his own engineering
consultancy business They’ve sold their house, and as soon as their new
labrador puppy Lonnie has all his permits and jabs, they’ll move in the

What I have yet to discover is how long it will take before Joe is
eligible to fly for New Zealand, rumoured to be three years. My spies
tell me he will be invited to manage the Kiwi team in 2008. Confirmed
is that six senior pilots are competing for next year’s national team,
one of whom is Sven, to be decided in October.

Joe Wurts is the only thermal pilot I know with a record of success
which surpasses that of Philip Kolb. (I’m sure that Philip would be
first to go along with that!) America’s loss with Joe’s departure will
be more than compensated for by New Zealand’s gain.

Picture to go in about here

Joe Wurts with his Supra and Australian Carl Strautins with fingers
twitching returning to the pits at New Zealand’s 2007 SoarFest held
just outside Auckland.


What makes a good F3J model.

Everyone has their favourite model, often the latest “pride and joy”.
We also have our most nostalgic model, that sailplane which would still
win slots if only it still existed. Or the one which you took out late
summers’ evenings and it just refused to come down as the sun set.

The pace of development of F3J models seems to have slowed somewhat,
although none of today’s top frequent winners were around five years
ago. I’m thinking of the Pike Perfect, Xperience Pro or Shadow, Aspire,
Vision, Espada or Supra. The characteristics of top models have changed
too. All of them seem to zoom off the top of the line with more energy
to convert into height. Spans have increased typically by 0.5 metre.

Are they easier to fly? My answer to that is mixed. I’ve had about a
dozen flights with my new Supra in the past week and it really is the
easiest F3J model to fly that I remember. It nestles into thermal turns
and barely needs any correction - as close to flying itself as one
would wish. Whether that translates into better scores, we shall see.

My previous ‘new’ model, now well into its second year, an Espada, is
always full of surprises. I’ve flown it sometimes and been amazed by
its duration abilities. Yet other days, I could have happily given it
away as it came down in kind air twice as fast as anyone else. And I
thought I could trim!

(Picture of me plus Supra about here)

Recent questions from a friend who shall be nameless raised fresh
thoughts in my mind. He’s been flying an Esprit for many years, often
with success, and he’s wondering what to buy and fly next. “Nothing too
slippery,” he says. For instance, he finds a Starlight 3000 he’s tried
tricky. He wants to go back to the SD 7037 aerofoil and is willing to
trade competitiveness for handling comfort.

Time was when you could get a reasonable guide from model magazine
reviews. Nowadays, you get a few pics and words on what’s been fitted
and how long it took to assemble: little more.What really irks me is
when the reviewer has an F3J duration machine and he details his
experiences flying it on a slope. Or you see pics on how he’s linked
his servos and you know you stopped that years ago because they were
too sloppy.

My friend wants help and he’s right that there is little available
guidance. So drop a line to the Soarer or post your comments and
opinions of your latest winner, good and bad, on the new Barcs


In praise of Elapor

With the scarcity of gossip so far this year, let me sing the praises
of Multiplex and what they are doing with Elapor, their fancy name for
EPP. Many pilots will remember the fun they had with Twinstar a few
years ago. This chunky electric airliner with a 400 motor on each wing
could fly almost anywhere, control-line races without lines, combat
with or without streamers, and fitted with lights you could fly it
after midnight around campsites.

Nearly three years ago Multiplex launched the EasyGlider, 1.8 metre
span, pure glider or 400 electric, advertised as a recruiting tool to
persuade power modellers to take up thermal soaring. I bought one early
on, carried everywhere, and flew it whenever the opportunity cropped
up. It was almost uncrashable and I didn’t hesitate to let anyone
around have a go. No model has given more fun per Euro than that. And
another clubmate is flying it today.

Two months ago, Multiplex went one step better and launched Cularis,
again pure glider or electric, this time with a span of 2.61 metres.
Again it is quite chunky due to the nature of the Elapor, but it looks
semi-scale and it has a four servo wing with crow-braking. It flies
well if a little fast and again is easy fun.

But what sold me and fascinates me is how the Multiplex designers have
coped with the structural problems of achieving a high aspect ratio
wing out of what is simply uncovered plastic foam.

The kit costs £110 from West London Models and is full of innovative
and intricate white nylon components, plus foam jig to assemble the
wing panels. The two-piece wing, each with two mini servos for flap and
aileron, plugs straight into the fuselage and a moulded fitting holds
the wing joiners and the servo leads, plus a catch to lock each wing in
place. The all-moving tailplane has a special fitting which also locks
the two halves in place on each side of the fin. Assembly and
dismantling takes seconds.

If Multiplex continue to develop this material and approach to gliding,
it will not be long before they have high performance gliders at low
cost which will surely help to entice tyro pilots to fly competitively.

Elapor leaves a few queries. For example, I wonder whether or not to
spend a couple of hours using wet and dry paper to sand off the little
bobbles on the moulded surfaces, part of the production process. The
trailing edges of the flying surfaces are 3-4 mm thick rather than the
knife-edge which we’re used to with glass-fibre models. Typically I
spend £30-40 each for wing servos, but Cularis has the cheaper £6-8
mini servos. How much difference does that make? Not a lot apparently.

I’ve no way of accurately measuring glide angles and sinking speeds,
but I do know that the previous EasyGlider had a rate of descent about
twice that of my F3J machines. That simply meant that you had to find
stronger thermals to go up, and it was all the more obvious when you
found one in marginal conditions. Cularis has not flown much so far,
but I guess that its still-air sinking speed is about two-thirds that
of a normal F3J model, 0.5-0.6 metres/second.

The EasyGlider fitted with a 2000 mAh two-cell Lipo had a power run of
30 minutes and it was easy enough to fly for 90 minutes if you chose,
more likely several flights over a long afternoon. With a 1500 mAh
three-cell Lipo in the Cularis, you get about six power runs up to 200
metre height. It thermals fast and well, but watch for tip stalls if
you set the CG back.

Multiplex plus Elapor are more than likely to boost the popularity of
thermal flying and deserve high praise.

End of gossip for now!

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