Thursday, September 27, 2007


Dateline: September 2007
European F3J medley

August was busy for European F3J enthusiasts. First a return to Deelen air base just outside Arnhem for Hollandglide, the 15th year of this event. Hollandglide is nowadays billed as the largest annual Euroleague competition, but others are coming close. It is almost too big for it takes a long time to walk to Spot 15 or 16. This year Deelen enjoyed its best weather for several years, reserving a soaking vicious storm for 30 minutes after the prize-giving.

But highlight for me was the fond farewell given to Harry “The Knife” Saunders and his wife who have been contest director/supremo since the start. Hollandglide also started a new trophy for the top placing pilot “over-50”. I complained to Jos Kleuskens who awarded the trophy to Colin Paddon (GB), that next year it should be “over-70” to give me a chance!

Harry “The Knife” Saunders and his wife plus grandchild collect their presentation after 15 years of serving as contest director/supremo at Hollandglide, truly a servant of F3J Europe. Red hat is Albert Kort, organiser-in-chief, another hero.

Then many pilots and helpers drove on across Germany, Austria or the Czech Republic into Slovakia, aiming this time for Trnava for the fifth European championships. The Trnava Cup held on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning before the champs and attracted 136 pilots. They enjoyed a wonderful treat with a foretaste of the tricky thermals, peppered with plenty of teasing flat calms and gusty speeding winds which was to come.

It’s hard to choose between the highlights. UK achieved its best FAI F3J success ever, in contrast to the miserable F3B results from Switzerland. Models, gazebos and even caravans were lost or shifted bodily by the swirling storm which hit Trnava halfway through one afternoon slot. Also the emergence of Russia, Lithuania and the continuing rise in fortunes of the Italian pilots is most welcome.

The Feigl family legend grows bigger with Peter Feigl managing the German team to first place in the Eurochamps after taking a flyoff place in the Trnava Cup. His elder son Sebastian triumphed as European champion, dropping 1.50 points in the four round flyoff. Second son, Benedikt Feigl won second place at Hollandglide and has secured a German team place in next year’s world champs in Turkey. Sebastian has not got a team place for next year, such is the scramble for the three team places.

German team manager Peter Feigl gets the now traditional hair shaving prior to being dunked in the pool as new European team champions.

Sebastian Feigl, new European F3J champion, has his head shaved in celebration, a somewhat dubious tradition going back at least two years.

2007 Eurochamps - Trnava, Slovakia

Allow me to sing the praises of the UK team - not often I get the chance.

Ten years ago at the very first F3J FAI champs in Poprad, Slovakia, the UK team did well, amongst the leaders and rightly so as originators of this new form of RC sailplane competition. Two pilots, Peter Cubitt and Simon Thornton, reached the flyoff, coming sixth and seventh respectively, and the team, which also included John Stevens of Eliminator fame, came fourth.

To set some perspective, let me quote Jack Sile’s 1997 report of the event: Pete Cubitt having scored 1,000 in the first round - “had his worst flight in the second round, but then followed with seven consecutive 900 plus scores.” How standards have changed. Today if you don’t score 55 seconds plus and 100, you are unlikely to be near the flyoff places. Pilots returning from the flightlines don’t talk about the minutes - times are assumed to be 9 minutes - only the seconds to two decimal places.

2007 allows UK heads to be held high, despite the team changes only a fortnight beforehand when Simon Jackson pulled out and was replaced by Colin Paddon. Adrian Lee and Austin Guerrier arrived with caravans in Trnava with two days of practice before the Open, Colin Paddon, team manager Graham Wicks and helper Kevin Beale flying in on Saturday with only one day to spare.

Each of the UK team pilots had one poor flight in the early rounds, but for once their spirits did not dampen and everyone pulled together. By the sixth round, the team was in 8th place, 500 points behind the leaders, but in the gusty winds, not irretrievable. Seventh round the team were up to fifth place and with consistent flying in ever more tricky conditions, so it stayed, Great Britain in fifth team place behind Slovakia, Italy, the Czech Republic and winners Germany.

Fifth-placed Team UK gathered around fifth-placed pilot Austin Guerrier, highest placed British pilot ever in an FAI F3J championships.

Austin Guerrier’s progress to gaining the last flyoff place was more dramatic. After six rounds he was in 23rd place, moving up round by round to 19th, 18th, 14th and then 12th at the end of 10 rounds. I’d shared some of his disappointment in the early rounds - “I am annoyed with myself, I came here to win!” Being proprietor of Acemodel and UK supplier of NAN Models gives him an incentive. Just before launching in high winds of later rounds, he quipped: “There’s only one way to deal with this - fly high and go far!” How true that was to prove in the flyoffs.

Saturday, sixth day of the championships, was flyoff day and dawned calm and sunny, seemingly set for eight 15-minute rounds of split second launches and spot landings. I had urged the contest director to squeeze in the first two rounds of senior and junior flyoffs into the tricky air of late afternoon on Friday, leaving everyone to relish the prospect and excitement of the final two rounds for Saturday. A similar schedule had produced a grandstand finish in Red Deer, Canada, three years earlier.

But contest director Milan Blazek and flight line king Miroslav Minarik, who had presided well over the whole week after a shaky start and a dodgy matrix, chose Saturday.

My fears that the flyoffs would be too easy proved wrong. First round of seniors saw several pilots risking two-second launches, and all bar one got away with it. Four pilots scored 14.55 seconds plus, Primoz Rizner getting 14.56.50 but only 90 landing points, three scored 14.54 plus, and only Juraj Adamek landed 45 seconds early.

Second round also looked easy, Jan Kohout netting 14.57.20 plus 100, Tobi Lammlein 14.56.90 and Philip Kolb and Sebastian Feigl both on 14.56.20. Austin Guerrier had his worst round scoring a good 14.53.50 but dropping 30 landing points.

Round three decided the championships. The wind had become stormy, gusty and far from predictable. Tempted into rash optimism by previous flights, all the pilots were prepared to rush downwind chasing what had become ephemeral patches of kinder air. The fields of corn and sunflowers downwind became littered with models. Gangs of helpers dashed to recover models among the high crops. Everyone bar one relaunched, few with the same model. Only one pilot, Marko Salvigni, triumphed with 10.36.90 and 100 to make his 1,000 points.

But salvation was at hand. Thomas Fischer and Primoz Rizner had touched each other minimally on launch and a reflight was called. Perhaps that explains why the pilots who heard the call flew so recklessly. Ten of the pilots claimed their refly scores in Round three, Sebastian Feigl scoring 14.53.30 and 100 to claim his 1,000 points. He was down to treetop height at around nine minutes, but then did some horizontal DS-ing which sent him 500 metres downwind to pick up 10 metres height, then slowed and flew out the slot - true champion style.

Round four was tame, only three pilots not managing to fly the slot out. New European champion was Sebastian Feigl, boldest and riskiest of all F3J flyers. Second place went to Tobi Lammlein who this year has specialised in coming second in all his contests. Following in third was Marko Salvigni, a worthy triumph which brought a huge smile to his face. Had the third round refly not been granted, I suspect that Marko would be the new champion.

Consistency also counts a lot, and Austin Guerrier proved that in coming fifth, just behind Philip Kolb. Although he dropped 50 landing points and 14.53.50 was his highest time, he became the highest placed British pilot in an FAI championship ever. Congratulations!

Heartiest congratulations of the whole week should go to Lesley van der Laan who is the new European Junior champion. He flew well enough to show that he will soon be a force to be reckoned with at senior level too. This young Dutchman always sports a laughing face and has competed at European and World level for the last four years. His success is most pleasing and well deserved.

Johannes Weber of Germany and Arijan Hucaljuk of Croatia claimed second and third places, narrowly squeezing Giovanni and Filippo Gallizia brothers from Italy into fourth and fifth places. Junior team results saw Czech republic in first place, followed by Italy and then Slovenia.

How about predictions?

Now the reckoning. For flyoff places David Claeys of Belgium let me down and only managed 33rd place. Adrian Lee from UK did slightly better with 20th place and I should have stuck with Austin in my predictions. Damir Kmoch from Croatia managed 21st place and I was surprised that noone from that keen country made the flyoff. Primoz Rizner rather than Primoz Prhavc came fifth in the preliminaries, missed the third round of the flyoff and came last.

My bets got better with the Germans because Sebastian Feigl, Tobias Lammlein and Philip Kolb all made it. What I did not expect was that Thomas Fischer would also win a place to make it four out of four.

Jan Kohout, who I saw as the repeat champion, came close to predictions; he led the preliminaries up to Round seven only to be beaten into second place by Philip Kolb by less than three points. In the flyoff he suffered in the notorious third round dropping 325 points and down to seventh place. Another Czech, Jaroslav Tupec, who pretends to be my father, made the flyoff and repeated his promise to stop competing in championships because he’s too old.

Massimo Verardi missed the flyoff by one place, but Marko Salvigni and Marco Generali did make it. Frank van Melick shot his bolt early, but Cor de Jong made it. Juraj Adamek from Slovakia made it, but team-mate Jan Ivancik didn’t.

Finally Murat Esibatir, the quiet Turk, let me down. Among the leaders up to Round four, he suffered the indignity of sloping the trees as others had done before to spin out the slot. But then the lift stopped leaving him too low to get back and he hit a tent - bang, off go 100 points to add to his zero. Ouch! He promises me it’ll be different next year.

So I named six of the 12 places in 14 guesses, about the same as last year. I wonder how many gossipers try for themselves? I named the team champions but hedged my bet with three options. One matter was a good bet, and that is that every pilot and helper taking part enjoyed a good contest.

Trnava Cup

This gossip column is not meant to dwell too much on results, but the Trnava Cup was a testing contest with a super prize, a special edition of his Supra presented by Vladimir Gavrylko. Philip Kolb won the flyoff, and knowing that he only flies his own-design Samba Pike Perfects these days in F3J competitions, I offered to buy his prize. That was refused without hesitation. “Now I have the ideal opportunity to test Mark Drela’s design for myself, and I am looking forward to it.” Philip sees Supra in many respects as the father or mother of his Pike Perfect.

What surprised me was that the Trnava Cup flyoff had two pilots from Ukraine and three from Russia and a Pole, which shows that competition from former Eastern bloc countries is hotting up. Only the year before in Martin, the Russians had found themselves floundering and confused: they were new and had language difficulties. They have caught up fast and deserve full credit. Watch out next year!

Ricardas Siumbrys from Lithuania, lying fourth after eight rounds, sadly scored 443 points and dropped out of sight in 29th place. F3J can be unforgiving!

Overfly panic stations

This year for the first time digital camcorders are being used to record landings and check overflying. Apparently this practice has become commonplace in Germany to prevent disputes about when models land, before or after the start of the long blast. Apparently one or two other countries are considering adopting the same practice.

I think that Philip Kolb’s second flight in the Trnava Cup flyoff was an overflight. It was certainly very close, but it was not penalised by the timekeeper. Afterwards I was shown two movies of the landing and on both you can hear the hooter before the nose hit the ground. Of course, there is a problem because the sound could come from a loudspeaker closer to the camera than the timekeeper. Problems caused by the differing velocities of sound and light not simple to solve. When I tackled Philip, he claimed that his landing was in time and on previous occasions, movie evidence he’d seen was vulnerable to sound errors.

In the Eurochamps, Tomas Bartovsky set up a camera to check landings and in one of the early rounds, a timekeeper - not the pilot - had appealed to the jury to decide because he was unsure. That evening the jury spent several hours viewing the evidence, calculating theoretical delays for sound and sight effects, and generally chewing over the problems. The flight was ruled as an overflight.

But before CIAM and F3J organisers get carried away on the trail of erratic forensic evidence, let’s remember that we fly for fun. F3J is supposed to be simple. The prospect of filming landings, then later launches, and perhaps tow-line releases, is crazy.

My guess is that there are now 20-30 pilots who fly out 10 minutes every time unless the weather is particularly nasty. These same pilots can almost guarantee that they will land within one metre and during the last second of the 10 or 15 minute slot. Next year, CIAM is likely to adopt the rule which divides the last metre into 20 cm lengths and the landing score could be 100, 99, 98 etc down to 95. The temptation to land in the last split second before the signal will become greater.

But please do not go the way of filming.

The problem arises because the penalty for overflying is so severe, and to win in good weather, top pilots become ruthless with themselves. The answer lies in stopping the stopwatches at exactly ten minutes and allowing the landing to count providing the nose is on the ground, not at the start of the hooter but by the time the hooter sound finishes. That allows at least one second margin of error before penalties apply. As at present, the timekeeper’s judgement should count, and his decision should be final.

Future outlook - 2008 and all that

Invitations have gone out for the 4th F3J Soarist Open in the middle of October. The organisers in Istanbul want this contest to be the “championship of champions” and hope that all the world’s top pilots will be there next month. The contest will be held in Adapazari, about 100 km east of Istanbul, and the field is being tested for the first time, and will be home for the World Championships in 2008.

Picture of new field at Adapazari, Turkey

Some of the 2008 team names have emerged in recent weeks.Team GBR will have seniors Simon Jackson (if he can make it this time), Adrian Lee and Brian Johnson. Sadly again there are no juniors in the UK league.

Team USA will be Daryl Perkins, Ben Clerx, Rich Burnoski with Skip Miller as first reserve. Juniors will be A J McGowan, Brendon Beardsley and Jeffrey Walter with Michael Knight and reserve. Cody Remington as last year’s junior world champion will also fly in the 2008 F3J WC.

Gossipers will know that Daryl Perkins has been F3B world champion at least twice - maybe more. He was the one who bought a second-hand Calypso Cobra from Steve Hailey and won the world champs with it. He has been acknowledged by Joe Wurts as the all-time best F3B pilot. As Jose Mourinho, ex-Chelsea manager, would say, he is a “special one,” which left me astonished that he now wants to fly the far simpler sport of F3J.

Ben Clerx enlightened me, for it turns out Daryl enjoys F3J. “Daryl hasn’t been able to make the team until now, although I don’t think he’s participated in all the team selections. He had tried many of them and always a little piece of bad luck has kept him out. His F3B schedule has also prevented some entries. But we are fortunate to gain Daryl as we lose Joe Wurts to the Kiwis.”

Again Ben speaking: “I’ve also competed in all the team selections and haven’t been able to make the team since the first Worlds at Upton 1998. Our team is based on a single three-day competition, so luck does play a part. You have one shot to be well prepared and practiced, which is like going to the world championships.”

For pilots in those countries where to win a team place you have to enter several competitions, travel hundreds of kilometres in all weathers over many months, it is tempting to go for the simple “do-or-die” solution. In UK, I suspect we’d end up with the same pilots either way!

The German league attracted 120 pilots for their five events, and 24 of these flew in all five qualifiers. Two of the comps were in France and Holland to ensure international experience. The three man team is Philip Kolb, Tobias Lammlein and Benedikt Feigl. Junior team will be Johannes Weber with Manuel and Christian Reinecke, after 23 juniors took part in three contests to gain a place. The three will be under intense pressure to regain junior top team place, having missed last two years.

South Africa will send the usual pairing of Craig and Michelle Goodrum (with a two and a half year old budding child pilot) plus Chris Adrian and Mark Stockton in reserve.

As current world champion, David Hobby will be returning again from Australia - can he do it yet again? - and he will have Aussie team of Mike O’Reilly, Theo Arvatakis and Mathew Partlett or Gregg Voak. If any other countries would like to send me details of their teams, they’ll have a mention in the next Gossip Column.


This column should have been posted at least two weeks ago, and there’s more gossip that I should have included. I hope to catch up and report from October’s “championship of champions” at Adapazari, including details which will tempt supporters to attend next summer.

Uncle Sydney - sydney[dot]lenssen[at]ntlworld[dot]com

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