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 It was withdrawn, and as some joker pointed out, “we don’t want pilots turning up with tailless models do we!”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


sydney.lenssen(at)ntlworld.com


 

27.02.2008
UNCLE SYDNEY’S GOSSIP COLUMN
Uncle Sydney previews CIAM 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 the 2008 CIAM plenary meeting is set to decide on 29 March in Lausanne.

Another decision due that day is whether the last metre 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 95 before the old tape scores of 5 points lost for every metre resumes. What the FAI wants to see are bigger differences between top scores, particularly in the flyoffs.

F3J models and pilots have become too good in recent years. All top pilots reckon to score 9 minutes 54 seconds plus and hit the 100 spot in all but horrible weather. Quite a number also 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 5.6.8.7 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.”

The committee, headed by Tomas Bartovsky, 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 that!

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. There is much talk of “launch and landing contests”. 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 nature of F3J.

F3J as a class started as the simplest way in which 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 - involved in competing 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 competitions, and 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.

Inevitably when rivalry and competition 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, aerofoils which allowed 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 win.

Now let’s look forward. What will be the result of shorter lines?

Shortening competition lines started I believe in 2002 in Lappeenranta, Finland, where the same problem of tight scores existed, but also a few pilots sought to gain advantage with the quicker launch. Jo Grini was the early promoter, he used 75 metre lines (red.mrk. 150m lines with stake at launch and 75m to runners) one or more rounds, and he got CIAM to agree to examine the merits of shorter lines. But 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 late last year, CIAM’s F3-RC Soaring committee was circulated on the line change now up for decision, and nobody I know is sure whether the committee really wants to see the change or whether they are offering the proposal for debate to get Jojo off their backs. If they pass the proposal next month, will the shorter lines be used in Turkey this coming July?

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 (red.mrk winch so 200m line), 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 differneces 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 up to 15 pilots can put some pilots at a disadvantage when the air is kinder on one side of the field, and that often happens.

The Dutch have gained some 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 for some of the pilots they could not apply full tension without risking the model breaking, and because it was a fun event, many were using old lines and suffered line breaks. The starts were explosive in all senses, the zoom after launch was very high, a feature which might have been increased by the fact that 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 most countries apart from Germany and Czechia do the same for national events. In varied conditions, we found in UK 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 tha 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 memories!)

Could be that many other teams have tried shorter lines. We all use short bungies for trimming out new models, and ther’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 me, Tomas Bartovsky (tomas.bartovsky@vscht.cz), your national committee or FAI.

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. Keep F3J flying for fun!

Sydney Lenssen (sydney.lenssen@ntlworld.com)
February 2008

UNCLE SYDNEY’S GOSSIP COLUMN
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.

Apologies

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.lenssen (@) ntlworld.com

 


 

UNCLE SYDNEY'S GOSSIP COLUMN
Dateline: August 2007 Euro

Prospects In two weeks time, Hollandglide will be over. Let us hope that the Dutch at Deelen know how to work the weather miracle and avoid all rain and high winds. Then many of the competitors will be making their way to Trnava for the European Championships and the Trnava Cup. Time to do some forecasting, hopefully with more success than last time.

The sixth European F3J championships in Trnava, Slovakia has attracted 60 senior pilots and 37 juniors to compete for the second most prestigious prizes, second only to the world champs. The Trnava Cup which will be held 17, 18 and 19 August before the main event and is open to all F3J pilots has attracted 156 entrants so far. That will be a stern challenge too. The most remarkable feature in advance for the championships is that 40 out of the 60 senior pilots from 20 countries were at the World Champs last year in Martin, and 24 from the 37 juniors - 16 countries - were pilots last year. As much as anything, these FAI contests are an opportunity for the F3J enthusiasts to renew friendships and compare latest ideas, models and techniques. F3J contests are mostly tight to the finish with split seconds and five landing points making all the difference between top places. It is unlikely to be different this year.

Over recent years this Gossip column has run through most of the team members and managers, with odd bits of commentary. This year events have conspired to leave me with little guidance on form. Models seem unlikely to have moved on much, according to my information, but we shall soon see. So instead of having to plough through lots of names, I shall pick out one or two highlights, with predictions to guide the betting. The number of fly-off places will be officially announced by contest director Milan Blazek at the start and could be 12. These are likely to come from David Claeys, Belgium; Adrian Lee from UK; Damir Kmoch from Croatia; Primoz Prhavc from Slovenia. (I omit Primoz Rizner from Croatia this year because for the last two years I have seen him as the top place winner and he has let me down. I know it makes him even more nervous to be favourite!) Sebastian Feigl and Tobias Lammlein from Germany seem set to make the last rounds and they will likely be joined by Philip Kolb, flying this time as reigning European champion and not part of the German team. In the last Gossip, I reckoned he had already won the F3J Eurotour after five events. He is certain winner having scored 103 again in Sofia last month. Jan Kohout, another ex-champion, will join Jaroslav Tupec from the Czech Republic in the fly-off. Jaroslav told me last year that he was too old for international championships - I can give him more than ten years, but I'll never fly like he can - and I'm pleased to see he changed his mind. The Italians were magnificent last year in Martin and enjoyed noisy support. This time Massimo Verardi will make the fly-off again. Frank van Melick from Holland, one of the few to fly his own-design models is a good fly-off bet. Incidentally, if you want the best restaurant in Trnava, then follow the Dutch team led by manager Jos Kleuskens because he will have booked the best table there. Host country Slovakia will win two fly-off places I bet, Juraj Adamek and Jan Ivancik. To complete the fly-off list I've dithered between the three Turkish team members. Many neutral supporters in Trnava will want this team to do well since they will be hosts for the 2008 world championships in Istanbul. My bet is Murat Esibatir. Fourteen names for twelve places are my best guesses, and I wish everyone, named or not, the best of luck, no unfortunate mid-airs and enjoyable protest-free flying.

Who will be the new champion? Favourite for me is Jan Kohout, for he will be trying seriously hard this year. Team prize? My hope is Slovakia as hosts, but equally likely are the Czechs or the Germans, who will have the youngest senior team on the airfield.

Muddy tales UK's awful summer continues, and so far we haven't had an F3J competition which has not been hampered by showers, storms and winds. We live in hope that one day this year we shall enjoy a thermal competition. We came close at Twywell last weekend with most of the slots flown out, even the flyoff in the early evening. It did manage to spatter a few drops of rain during two of the slots, just to be perverse. But we flyers cannot moan: in England thousands of houses have been flooded, 120,000 families have been without running water for more than a week, 20,000 homes are without electricity. Guesses on the causes include a southerly shift in the Atlantic jet-stream, global warming of course, but in fairness most continental Europeans expect the English summer to be wet. The UK leg of the Eurotour, Interglide took place June 23/24, and Tobias Lammlein from Markdorf in Germany flew over to take part. Allow me to share some of the trials and tips. For those who don't know Tobi, he was World Junior F3J champion in Lappenranta in 2002 and he will fly in the senior German team this summer in the European championships at Trnava in August. He's a top pilot. He is in his second year of a mechanical engineering degree in Switzerland, and the weekend break to get to Interglide was at the end of term. Tobi lives 15 minutes away from Friedrichshafen, from where you can fly with Ryanair to Stansted in 90 minutes. Big snag was that his model box did not arrive, and by 9.00 pm all hope of flying his three models was gone. We phoned my friend Andre Borowski at the hospital in Enfield and borrowed his Sharon Pro for the weekend. Tobi started programming the model into his Graupner MC24 at 11.00pm, added an extra 30 grams in the nose, went to bed for a few hours before leaving at 6.30 am next morning for Marsh Gibbon. Prospects were gloomy, plenty of rain forecast for the next few days, but on reaching the field, the rain had stopped leaving lots of mud. Walk within a metre of the ground sheet on which models were assembled and the wings were splattered with mud, which dried like cement within minutes. Tobi did a handlaunch to test his settings, added another lump of weight in the nose, flew in the second slot and scored a thousand with his first towed flight, then went on to take second place in the fly-off. If ever proof was needed that it's the pilot that counts, not the model, this was it. Interglide contest director Graham Wicks (left), organiser Tony Vale and second place winner Tobi Lammlein collecting his spoils courtesy of Ace Models and Graupner. '

Couple of highlights from his flying: in the second slot Tobi was circling tight with three other models and came close to a mid-air. I'd forgotten it isn't my model, as he broke away to look for some lift in isolation. Then in the flyoff, flying really high, far beyond my vision as spotter. I must be careful, he said, I'm close to cloud. A minute later, It's in cloud. It seemed an age to emerge, and I would never have found it with my eyes. The real treat for me was having Tobi as my spotter. I gained tenth place, far higher than normal, and that was 100% due to his bullying and guidance. Several times my Supra flew far beyond my normal boundaries, not only for visibility but also risking safe return. Each time Tobi was confident that lift would be there - and it was. How can he know that lift is most probably there? It's a hunch, is his explanation. How does he know which way to fly after the zoom? He spends plenty of time following models flying each slot, but in the 30 seconds before his own launch, he claims that he remains unsure of which way to fly: Usually that decision is when I'm in the air. For many seasons, Tobi's spotter - Germans call it coach - has been Philip Kolb, especially in FAI championships, and experience of each flight presumably rubs off. Is that how you learn to read air? As a young boy his father Stephan Lammlein coached, but for competitions the father/son relationship became too close for comfort and Stephan stepped aside. I remember last year at Martin's World Championships, Joe Wurts launched all three US juniors and did the spotting. The pilots were excellent flyers, and Joe's guidance was terse: I don't like that sky - better left. (Or similar) All the time Joe was looking round, 360 degrees. When a move was needed, his direction was ready. My problems with spotting are first vision, then spending too much time watching my pilot's model, then advising too late that someone has got reachable lift, and then persuading my pilot that he might try for it. Most spotters I know spend most of the 10 minutes acting as co-pilot, which is usually a waste * Spotter should rarely be co-pilot!

Biggest laugh I had timekeeping a couple of years ago in the Hollandglide fly-off, was when an ex-world F3J champion flew with a new spotter; his usual mate also being in the fly-off. Half way through the first 15 minutes, I overheard: Look, I don't mind if you don't say anything. I don't really mind if you keep on talking. But whatever you do, don't talk stupid! So drink a toast to all spotters, as vital to success as any pilot. The same goes for the towmen! Wouldn't it be a good idea of some of our best spotters spent a little time trying to coach us mere mortals how to do the job better!

Interglide was the first time in my UK experience that the contest director insisted that we flew some rounds in the rain - admittedly light but continuous - to ensure that the event would be valid. Anyway Tobi was due to fly in the next slot and asked if I'd got any XYZ which I could not translate, for his wings. Turning to Adrian Lee, he borrowed some washing-up liquid from his caravan, and wiped top and bottom of the wing and tailplane surfaces, just the gentlest of smears but leaving the wings sticky and slightly slippery. Tobi wanted the liquid to disperse any wat er bubbles collecting on the surface as the model flew, to minimise aerofoil degradation, presumably the green stuff breaking surface tension. When the model landed at the end of the slot, there were no bubbles, and the slot was won. To end the saga, Tobi's three models in the box returned to Friedrichshafen one and a half weeks later, apparently via Palma de Mallorca. He has still to see his 50 Euro sporting luggage fare refunded. Ryanair told him several times that they were a low-cost airline with no electronic label facilities and they could only find the box when it turned up. Two days after the box returned home, Ryanair phoned up asking if he had found the box yet! At Stansted airport I discovered that if you inquire about lost luggage, you cannot talk face to face with anyone, you can only speak on one single phone at the far end of arrivals, and that phone is usually engaged. But if it weren't for low cost air travel, many of us wouldn't get to many Eurotour contests. So take it or leave it!

Radio revolution is here Only in the last two weeks have I flown a model with synthesized transmitter and receiver, with complete success thankfully. I remain suspicious. With a box of crystals in my transmitter case worth far more than the transmitter itself, I feel slightly done by. Also after three decades of relying upon crystals to make my models work and avoid interfering with others flying at the same time, crystals take on a spiritual importance, like candles on an altar, and I'm loathe to abandon them. But I am told that synthesized transmitters are now accepted by top pilots as 100% reliable and convenient in use. I have heard some doubts about synthesized receivers, vulnerable to mobile phones etc., by nobody I know has blamed them for a crash or interference. Again the habit of changing and checking crystals dies hard.

The world of serious model radio-controlling is about the change again with 2.4 GHz transmission, not the sets which have been selling for the last year or so with limited range and only recommended for indoor and park-fly models, but Graupner's new Intelligent-Frequency-Select (iFS) system, due to become available in August - any day now. Both the new transmitter modules - you can continue to use your existing set - and receivers have a host of features too long to list here. Extra special to my mind is that Graupner says that up to 120 models can fly at the same time. The receiver and transmitter talk to each other all the time, and your model and trannie will change frequency as soon as interference is detected. As pilot, you will not be aware of any change. Airborne sensors in the model will send real-time information back to the transmitter on a four line LCD screen, and you will be able to track battery voltage, height, air speed, temperatures etc., and the feedback can be converted into audio signals into your headphone. This part of the system is still under development, say Graupner, and they reckon up to 256 sensors in the model can be monitored. What can that number be useful for? Most impo rtantly, the transmitter's output power can be adjusted between 10mW up to 100mW, because different countries have their own regulations on what is permissible. The 8 and ten channel receivers which will be on sale will have a range of 800 metres on the ground and 2 kilometres in the air, if you can see that far. The transmitter aerial is about 12 cm long, and the receiver has a tiny stub aerial too. For the technically inclined, all this sounds pretty impressive. But for me, I wonder what the reactions will be among the powers that be in FAI, what changes might be triggered eventually in all the F3 class competitions. For the moment it is quite simple. IFS will not be allowed in any F3J competition because: 'Any device for the transmission of information from the model aircraft to the competitor is prohibited. But that can't last for long. The whole approach to running competitions to date has been the limit on the number of pilots who can fly at the same time. Hence we have man-on-man rules, that is a number of rounds with several groups (slots) in each round. The limiting factor in future could be how many gliders can be flown and landed on targets reasonably safely at the same time? - 20, 30 or even more. I suspect that we will not see 120 models up at one time, although that would make the model manufacturers rub their hands in glee. With slightly modified rules and staggered launches, you could certainly have two or three times as many flying in each group on most contest sites. That could be fairer and more exciting. The many and various options which IFS opens up, if it proves as successful and reliable as promised, will certainly lead to some healthy debates in the not so distant future. Tomas Bartovsky and the folks in Lausanne are going to be busy! End of gossip for now!

Sydney Lensson


 

UNCLE SYDNEY’S GOSSIP COLUMN

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 summer.

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.

__________________________

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!


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 web-site.

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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!