RETURN OF GOSSIP
/bigger>/bigger>/bigger>by Uncle Sydney/fontfamily>
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
Our uncle Sydney as Contest Director at North Cyprus Open F3J 2007