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 It was withdrawn, and as some joker pointed out, “we don’t want pilots turning up with tailless models do we!”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

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Uncle Sydney previews CIAM meeting in Lausanne

Do you want to launch with 100 metre lines?
This month’s biggest F3J question is when and if we are going to get
our launch lines shortened to 100 metres. That’s the explosive issue
that 2008 CIAM plenary meeting will decide on 29 March in Lausanne.

Another decision due that day is whether the first two metres of the
landing tape will be divided into 20 cm lengths so that the landing
score can be anything from 100, 99,98 etc. down to 91 before the old
tape scores of 5 points lost for every metre resumes. That proposal is
not likely to be controversial, and the first metre of it has been used
in Holland and Germany for a couple of years under local rules. The
object of the changes is that FAI wants to see are bigger differences
between top scores, particularly in the flyoffs.

The Belgians - and others - also want to see penalties for spear
landings, and their way is to give zero landing points if the tail of
the model is not touching the ground. While sympathetic to the aim, I
don’t see this solution getting a positive vote, simply because pilots
could lose their score even if they land gently and hit an odd lump of
mud or tuft of grass.

What lies behind shorter line thinking?
F3J models and pilots have become too good in recent years. Top pilots
reckon to score 9 minutes 54 seconds plus and hit the 100 spot in all
but horrible weather. Quite a number rarely fail to achieve 14 minutes
54 seconds plus in the flyoffs, although doing it four times running in
calm or tricky air is not so easy.

So the F3-RC soaring subcommittee has proposed an amendment to Rule Towlines, where b) is set to read “The length of the towline
shall not exceed 100 metres when tested under a tension of 20 N.”

Chaired by Tomas Bartovsky, the committee reckons that flight times
will be become shorter and fewer pilots will fly out the working time.
That in turn will put greater emphasis on the skill of pilots finding
thermal lift. Instead of the all-too-common “launch and landing”
competition, the event will turn into more of a thermal hunting - or
“aerodynamic quality” - competition.

The likely result of shortening towlines for F3J is more complex than

Tomas Bartovsky, chair of CIAM’s RC Soaring Committee, at Martin’s WC’s.

The committee also notes that shorter lines would allow a smaller field
to be used, and that cannot be disputed. But I am not sure that F3J
competitions are seriously restricted because the organisers cannot
find a big enough field to cope with 150 metre lines.

There is a problem. At the start of every FAI world or european
championship, the early discussion among pilots is how close the scores
will be. Top pilots do spend plenty of effort into deciding whether to
make a two or three second launch to gain an extra point or two. It is
not unusual for all the flyoff places to be within 20 points of the
maximum possible after ten rounds - allowing for one dropped round. But
in all fairness, that is the very nature of F3J.

F3J as a class started as the simplest way to run a thermal soaring
event. In F3B, still the most difficult and demanding contest for RC
sailplanes of this model size, more and more pilots became fed up with
the increasing physical and mental effort - and money - to compete at
top level. F3B still thrives in many countries, it remains the pinnacle
of our sport in my view, but the numbers of pilots enjoying the class
are diminishing even amongst the leading nations.

The answer was F3J, a derivative of the British Association of Radio
Control Soarers Open thermal contests, and official FAI championships
started in 1997. Keep it simple, try to fly out your slots and land
reasonably accurately to gain maximum points, flying “man-on-man” to
reduce the advantages gained between slots when thermal conditions
changed. Pilots often delayed their launches, waiting for someone else
to find a thermal. When does that happen today? In fact by the first
world championships at Upton in 1998, everyone launched on the buzzer,
or even before!

Inevitably when rivalry is involved, the sport moved on quickly. Pilots
wanted to launch quickly and as high as possible. Tow using two men,
speed up the line and zoom to gain extra height, new aerofoils to allow
pilots to cross the skies at speed with minimum height loss, greater
manoeuvrability for precision landings, more reliable towlines and
pulleys. Many of today’s pilots have seen the whole period of
development for it is less than 20 years in total.

Development still continues, albeit at a slower pace. Even five years
ago when the Sharon and Pike Plus and a few others reigned supreme, few
pilots guessed that another generation of aerofoils and better use of
high tech materials would be significantly better and more likely to

What will shorter lines lead to?

First I heard of shortening competition lines was in 2002, the world
championships in Lappeenranta, Finland. The problem of tight scoring
was already apparent, but also a few pilots saw shorter lines as a way
to launch more quickly. Jo Grini was the pioneer promoter, and used 75
metre lines in one or more rounds. He persuaded CIAM to agree to
examine the merits of shorter lines, but they slept on it and nothing
happened at Red Deer in Canada, nor at Martin in 2006 except that the
matter as briefly talked over at the managers’ meeting.

Then out of the blue in June last year, CIAM’s F3-RC Soaring committee
was circulated on the line change now up for decision. 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.

If they pass the proposal next month, will the shorter lines be used in
Turkey this coming July? Unlikely according to Tomas; if the proposal
passes, then normally it would be published in the Sporting Code next
January and then apply. Since it is not an urgent change, likely start
is 2009. But there’s nothing to prevent the jury and the Turkish
organisers choosing the shorter line as a local rule earlier.

UK’s tentative reaction is not to support the change at this stage.
They would like to see “extensive trials”, they warn of dangerously
increased pre-launch line tensions and greater chances of models
veering off course on launch. They note that some UK flyers would
support the move but a majority would not, and suggest a more modest
reduction to say 135 metre lines.

There have been trials.

In Norway they have flown several F3J cup events last year with 100
metres to the stake, and according to Jo Grini 19 of the 20 pilots
loved it. Those flying F3B models managed to launch slightly higher
than the F3J models, but the differences between launch heights were
smaller overall, which might be seen as fairer for all.

One serious snag with lower launch heights, and this was also noted in
the Martin discussion, is that a long safety corridor with 15 or more
pilots can put some pilots at a disadvantage when the air is kinder on
one side of the field, and that happens more often than not.

The Dutch have gained valuable experience with shorter lines, and I
respect the lessons they drew as one of Europe’s leading F3J countries.
In 2006 they held a contest with 75 metre lines, not so much as a trial
of possible CIAM changes, but the club organising it was having its
75th birthday!

There was a mix of models, and some of the pilots felt they could not
apply full tension without risking the model breaking. Because it was a
fun event, many were using old lines and suffered line breaks. Line
breaks happened with new lines too. The starts were explosive in all
senses, the zoom after launch was very high, a feature which might have
been exaggerated with the model is much closer to the pilot. Pilots
typically reckoned that launches were 40-50 metres lower than normal,
and the apt description was “catapult start.”

In 2007, the Dutch had a contest using F3B winches with the return
pulley set at 150 metres. The day happened to be pretty calm and most
pilots gained slightly higher launch heights. That trial is irrelevant
I think to the current proposal.

(The Brits have allowed winch launching for three years now, and I
suspect that many if not most countries apart from Germany and Czechia
do the same for national events. In varied conditions, UK experience
found little difference in height between winch and towmen, but after
one season everyone was winch launching because at the end of the day,
we were less knackered! It also showed that some winches were much
better than others.)

Back to Holland: in 2004 several F3J enthusiasts tried putting the
turnaround stake 50 metres from the launch corridor, still using the
150 metre line. So the towmen start running 100 metres from the
corridor. The shorter towline was balanced against very high speeds on
the line and the elasticity of the full 150 metre line. Launch height
was judged to be almost the same as usual, perhaps 10 metres lower.
Launch times were at least one second faster. (Grateful thanks to Rob
Sanders, Frank van Melick, Peter Zweers and Cor de Jong for their

Could be that many other teams have tried shorter lines. We all use
short bungies for trimming out new models, and there’s nothing more
satisfying than catching a low level thermal from a hand or short
bungee launch.

If you have views or experience of 100 metre lines or shorter, then
send your information and opinion to Tomas Bartovsky
(tomas.bartovsky[at], your national committee or FAI
(ciam-rcsoaring[at] I’d like a copy too.

My reservation about shorter lines? They will encourage further
sophistication in model design and materials, they will not hinder many
pilots for long in flying out the working time, and they will
discourage newcomers to the sport from even trying to fly with the
experts. KISS - Keep It Simple S-----!

Sydney Lenssen (sydney.lenssen[at]
February 2008

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Went to Turkey ....

We went to Turkey, na, na, na, na, na.
by C.Goodrum

About a month ago Michelle called me and said "guess what?"

"Don't be silly, Michelle! I'm busy." I replied. You have to understand that things were really busy at work and chat time was limited. The excitement in her voice was quite obvious however so I was curious now and wanted to know what I must guess. F3J team trials were around the corner and we were struggling to find helpers so it must be something to do with that.

"I've been invited to the Soarist competition in Turkey by Mustafa."

"Really, you're not serious?"

And so the story began. Sorry for the childish intro but it really is an honor to be invited to this competition. The Soarist competition is an F3J invitational in Turkey where people from around the world are invited to fly, all expenses paid, in near to Istanbul. Mustafa Kok is one of the leading businessmen in Turkey and he and the Istanbul Soaring Club arrange this competition. This was the 4th time the competition was being held and we had therefore heard about it before. Unfortunately we had never cracked a nod until now. Well to tell the truth I still had not cracked a nod to get one of the starting places, Michelle had. It was NOT the kind of invitation you wanted to turn down but Mich didn't want to travel alone so she replied asking if it was possible for me to join her. The reply came back positive.

I was in Paris on business so Michelle arranged to fly to Frankfurt and meet with me there. She didn't realize that this meant a 12 hour wait. At 2:30 am we landed in Istanbul and were greeted by one of the organizers, put on a bus and driven to our hotel, arriving there at 5:30am, by then we were really tired so we set the alarm for 4 hours and went to bed. At 11:00 we had breakfast and then asked reception how we could get to the field, he asked us to relax (not easy for me when I want to go flying) and we would get a bus in about 30 minutes to 1 hour. An hour later there was the bus and off to the field we went. We just had enough time to assemble models before a round zero which meant no time to check models and get a feel for the air, but I guess that's what round zero is for.

Figure 1 The first view of the field

The main themes:
-Most of the models being used were Pike Perfects, Shadows and Experience Pros (pretty much in that order).
-It is obvious that one of the trends is to take a higher risk in launch by opting for a lower, faster launch with less time on the line but the conditions on the first day did not allow for this with the first prep time starting around 8:30 after rain the previous night and a late sunrise. There was pretty much no activity and the group spreads were high. The second round had thermals and the top pilots started to push the limits. This is what makes F3J interesting. In order to get into a fly-off you now have to differentiate yourself but it is no easy to be the first to do it and the conditions were not booming thermals. A good launch time is 3 or 4 seconds with 6 seconds being OK but not great.
- Landings must be 100 points within the last second! (unless you are lucky)

Figure 2 Stefan Eder's model (what's it called?)

Figure 3 Is there any space left for us to stick our models?

Figure 4 Mustafa doing karoke

Figure 5 Jojo trying to get into Michelle's pants

Round 1
I didn't make the time and Michelle could have pushed the time more (she could also improve a little on the landings.

Round 2
Ok but landing timing could be better

Round 3
Timing difficult due to down wind-ish on landing

Figure 6 Isn't child labour illegal in Europe?

At the end of day 1 we had completed 3.5 rounds with Michelle in 29th after 3 rounds and me in 32nd.

Day 2 was unfortunately rained out, much to most of the competitors' disappointment.

Figure 7 What F3J pilot's look like when it rains.

Many thanks to the Soarist Competition organizers for their hospitality, it is an event Michelle and I will never forget.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Update from Turkey

Here is an update I received from Craig and Michelle this morning:

"Good morning from Turkey. It is raining here today so no idea if we will fly more. After 3 rounds Michelle 29 and Craig 32. The field is very good, there are lots of trees on the edge. This event is amazing and the organistation great. Conditions have varied from really easy on the practice day to really difficult yesterday. We are looking forward to next year. Craig & Mich."

Monday, October 08, 2007

F3J @ WHRF, 7 October 2007

Thank you to everyone that attended HTL #6 at WHRF on Sunday, 7 October 2007. I was very impressed with the day, which included elements of a highly competitive group, relatively challenging conditions, but most of all - that wonderful sense of camaraderie we experience at these events.

The pilots briefing started a smidgen after 08h15, with the caution that strict F3J rules would be applied, electronic timing provided by Mark & the MGA's PA system, scoring by F3Jscore. The first slot started after 08h30 and we had no breaks throughout the day allowing for the finishing of the first 5 rounds around 12h30. The preliminary scores were tallied & checked, with 7 pilots (top 30%) identified for the 15 minute, winner takes-all fly-off at 13h00. In between the Martie's diner provided sustenance and the amazing weather conditions provided a suitable challenge to everyone. The heavy rains from the previous week & particularly the storms the night before created crystal clear air, with a very high humidity level. During the second round, a large bank of cloud began building an approaching from the East due to this humidity, but we were fortunate that we could enjoy sunshine for the entire event. Small thermals aplenty flew past the field in a stiff breeze, but the long trips downwind had many people scratching up front & particularly the RES100 and 2m class suffered being unable to penetrate as well as the larger models. The extremely soft ground seemed to encourage the pilots, and we likely recorded the highest number of spots in an event of this nature, ever!

The preliminary rounds & fly-off contained only Open class models as would be expected in conditions. The class leaders after the first 5 rounds were overtaken by Mark in a nail biting finish, flying his Xperience-Pro x-tail, and followed by Paul into 2nd place with an X-pro v-tail. Third place in the finals, and first Junior, Kurt, was a flying his dependable Eish!. Chris was flying his Pike Superior with aplomb, but a quick relaunch at the start saw his hopes of a win dashed.

Alan & his twin personality flew the only RES100 entry & Bas predcited see him moving to the top of the table.

Derek once again stamped his authority on 2M & also moves to the head of this class in the league.

It was nice to see 3 juniors (2 new) flying and wow!, these youngsters can definately mix it with the moldie oldies as they nailed the spot & maxed their flights regularly.

Lionel Brink

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

F3J Team Trial Results

The F3J Team trial results where ratified last night by the MGA and are available for download below:

Thus the results from the qualifying legs with the above are as follows:

PilotQualifier #1Qualifier #2TrialsResult% of top
Craig Goodrum5,0004,7244,9864,993 100.00%
Conrad Klintworth (Jnr)4,9534,9904,9804,985 99.84%
Chris Adrian4,9504,9954,9464,97199.55%
Michelle Goodrum4,9344,9494,9674,95899.30%
Mark Stockton4,8344,7914,9114,87397.59%
Paul Carnall4,9744,9814,6214,80196.15%
Dion Liebenberg4,4104,7874,3324,55991.31%
Ian Lessem3,9234,6404,1314,38687.84%

Thus the Senior Team is:

Craig Goodrum
Chris Adrian
Michelle Goodrum

with Mark Stockton as the reserve.

The Junior Team is:

Conrad Klintworth
Simon Tladi
Kurt Stockton

with Ryan Nelson as the reserve.

Look out for a complete report in the next issue of The New Journal of R.C. Glider Gumph.