Saturday, April 05, 2008

Lausanne’s Damp Squib

Uncle Sydney’s CIAM gossip - April 2008

After all the arguments about chopping 50 metres off the F3J towline length, FAI’s 2008 CIAM meeting in Lausanne rejected any change. Talk about a damp squib - more like a lead balloon - the RC -Soaring Committee spent barely two minutes on the radical proposal. No talk about the pros and cons, no discussion about “what-ifs”, the technical committee found no reasons to apply any new towline ideas to the international rules because the change had not been tried out at any proper “big” competitions and therefore was not proven. One in favour, 12 against and one abstention, that was that!

Belgium’s proposal to penalise any pilot who lands his model leaving the tail stuck in the air was given equal short shrift, three in favour, nine against and two abstentions. It was withdrawn, and as some joker pointed out, “we don’t want pilots turning up with tailless models do we!”

Best CIAM news for me is that France will host the next F3J world championships in 2010, and the likely venue is Arbois where the French have held their recent Eurotour events, a lovely location with super food and abundant fine wines! That will be a treat and super incentive for pilots to fight hard for their national team places.

F3B is to get a new name - “radio controlled multi-task gliders.” The launch line for F3B and F3J can only be moved between rounds should the wind direction change. F3K handlaunch gliders get official FAI status at last, both for seniors and juniors competing separately, with the first Eurochamps to be held in 2010, and the first world championships will follow in 2011 either in Sweden or Croatia.

Back to F3J: all of the sensible proposals for splitting the last two metres of the landing circle into 20 cm divisions worth one point each; a refly for crossed lines blocking launches and 100 point penalty for not removing lines after launch - (more headaches for timekeepers and CDs); reducing the frequency spacing between transmitters to 10 kHz below 50 MHz and 20 kHz above 50 MHz; and the new matrix rules; all were passed and are applicable from January next year.

Some gossipers might blame Uncle’s column for helping to create the furore on 100 metre lines, and to those who feel annoyed, my apologies. Discerning readers might also recall the words: “Nobody I know is sure whether the committee really wants to see the change or whether they are offering the proposal to get Jojo off their backs.”

The facts are that the proposal for shorter lines was put on the agenda by the RC-Soaring subcommittee itself, not by a national committee. An e-mail was circulated last summer asking committee members if they wanted it on, and they did, and then they chose six months later to reject it. The danger with this sequence is that it will discourage serious advance debate on agenda items proposed by the subcommittee in the future.

I am reliably informed that no CIAM meeting for many a long year has sparked such advance speculation, and if interest in the machinations of FAI in Switzerland results, then that cannot be bad. Whatever, shorter lines are certainly dead for a long time ahead! Sooner or later, the question of F3J winch launching will be back.

Short line feedback

Much of the short line feedback coming my way has been interesting. David Hobby, Arend Borst and several other high-flyers reckoned that everybody has to follow the same rules, so what does it matter. Not surprisingly, they are confident and content to leave the rules to CIAM. Several pilots became excited about the model design changes which would be sparked by the need and ability to launch faster. One was convinced that the change had been promoted by manufacturers wanting to promote the next generation of models. Of course nobody would seriously follow that line. Many pilots were far more were concerned about collision dangers and discouraging newcomers to F3J.

Peter Zweers was keen to test pilots’ skills and suggested that the number of helpers should be limited to two. If a pilot chooses to use two towmen, then he forfeits his spotter and needs to launch himself. The official timing system would need to give more information to the pilots, for example there could be a five minute signal, and beeps or 10 second announcements over the last minute of the slot.

Another novel idea I liked came from Arend Borst, not that he thinks that it would get much support. Make a 0.5 metre circle on the landing spot and the pilot stands there. To gain a 100 point landing the pilot must catch the glider by the nose - only the nose! If he loses his balance or stretches too far and steps outside the circle, then he loses 10 points for one foot out, and all his points if two feet step outside. If the glider hits the pilot other than the nose catch, then he scores zero. If he opts not to stand in the circle, then the maximum points he can earn is say 98 and down for every metre away from the circle. Should the pilot need to come in at speed, “coming in hot” as Arend puts it, and feels it is not safe to catch the nose, then he walks away and spears the glider in the circle for 98.
Who says F3J could not be a spectator sport!

Guy Mertens from Belgium wrote a chatty letter covering many aspects of the sport from his earlier days flying and organising thermal contests to today. Ideal F3J rules should promote the competition as suitable for everybody, rich and poor, young and old, the home builder and buyer of ready-to-fly. He wants to see the end of “speared” or “dorked” landings - a glider should glide into a landing. He would do away with reflights with only two exceptions, when someone flies on the wrong frequency or the contest organiser is at fault.

As an Oldie, I am sympathetic to the wish to attract all pilots who enjoy thermal soaring. In the UK, up to 40 or so regular F3J pilots who travel to most league events wherever they are held, but that is usually within 200 miles of London. But in Kent, to take one county for example, Barcs thermal contests attract 50 or more competitors regularly, many of whom have the ability to win team places.

Larry Jolly and Arend Borst repeated a serious complaint which should have been addressed by a new rule this year. Launch positions for pilots in the flyoffs should be moved along three places after each flight. Far too often air conditions make it easier to latch onto kind air on one side rather than the other, and the 150 metre plus distance from one end of the flight line to the other can easily mean missing the bump. This same problem applies in the preliminaries where some matrices tend to place some pilots at the far end too often and vice versa.

Grateful thanks to all who got in touch.

Turkey’s Big Event

Turkey’s budding junior pilot Esra Koc and super host Semin Kiziltoprak who can’t wait for the Big Event this summer.

As I write there are 86 days to go before the 2008 F3J World Championships. News of who will be going, and more sadly who will miss out this year, will wait for nearer the time, plus the predictions of course. If you have WC team news and gossip, please let me know.

Before then, next week, I shall be flying to Turkey and Adapazari for the first of this year’s Eurotour contests, hoping this time that this beautiful and perfect flying field will not suffer the stormy rains which beset last October’s champions’ championship causing the event to be abandoned after three rounds. 2008 will be a world championship to remember - don’t miss it!

Long live the King!

Sandy Pimenoff, stepping down after 40 years, in typical positive mode

Lausanne saw the retirement of CIAM President Sandy Pimenoff, or as I prefer to think of him, FAI’s King of Aeromodelling. He has dominated that job for the last 40 years, and CIAM is unlikely to be the same again, although he will still make his presence felt as president of honour.

I cannot claim to know Sandy as a close personal friend, although I have known of him and his contributions to our sport for nearly 40 years. I met first at Upton for the first F3J WCs, and again in Corfu. In Lappeenranta 2002, his home country, we and the team managers chatted and skinny-dipped after a proper woodburning sauna which left everyone smelling like kippers for three days after.

My first encounter was through the writing of Ron Moulton in RCM&E in 1971 when a party of Europeans flew over to Doylestown in the US to fly in an AMA organised international F3B championship consisting of pylon racing and thermal soaring.

Sandy took with him a Graupner kit of the then new, and later to become the legendary, Cumulus, a 2.8 metre two channel soarer, with balsa covered white foam wings and a plastic fuselage, one of the first ARTF. Snag was that the model was not yet ready to fly, and although everyone was drooling over the various parts on the plane flying across the Atlantic, he still had to iron film on the wings and fit the radio, which he did in the motel.

First he had to persuade AMA to drop their home-baked rules which did not conform to FAI, then he entered the glider contest, one of 12 competitors. And he won. After the first round in which he had enjoyed a remarkable flight longer than any of the others, a big rainstorm swept across the field and that was the end of that. A legend was created.

(For those with long memories, Brits Geoff Dallimer and Dave Dyer were in the contest, Fred Militky from Graupner demonstrated and flew for 30 minutes with a twin electric motor pusher glider, and Dieter Schluter working with Kavan rocked the US hosts with a RC model Cobra helicopter.)

Sandy was born in 1937 and has flown models since 1952. Four times he was Finnish national champion in free flight power. His first encounter with FAI was as an observer in 1961, climbing rapidly to CIAM vice-president in 1965 and president in 1967. He has been jury member for more than 30 FAI championships, and has been awarded FAI diplomas and medals in 1977, 1986, 1991 and the Gold Air Medal 1996.

Anyone who has served on a model flying club committee will know what a thankless frustrating and impossible job it is. What can it be like to meet a couple of times a year with 30 to 60 delegates from all over the world, with vested interests and often absolute ignorance of most the many specialist forms of model flying, with all the different languages and an agenda so long that doesn’t allow any item more than a couple of minutes? What does it take to keep tight control and the admiration of almost all for so long?

Well Sandy has done it. I do not know how. I have heard him speak in many languages. I have seen him being tough in a rowdy meeting of arguing team managers. I have listened in 2002 when he feared passionately that the US and UK would initiate military action in Iraq. He is a remarkable man and our sport owes him respect.

So, the king is dead. Long live the king - the new man is Bob Skinner from South Africa. Long live the king -- but not for 40 years again please.

CIAM get-together in 1964 with then future President second row central, with 44 years yet to go and already smiling! Spot UK legend “308” Henry J Nicholls, front third from the left. Prizes for naming the others.

Sydney Lenssen, 4 April 2008

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