by Uncle Sydney

Dateline: August 2004

Rank outsider David Hobby is the new world F3J champion. This was only his second F3J competition ever. In his first, the Canada Cup before the champs, he nearly came bottom, well 77th out of 86. But the big win which counted for the big man was no fluke!!

What else did Red Deer bring? A tornado for a start. What many thought was the most competitive of F3J WCs so far, with a few tricky slots where even the best found 10 minutes eluded them. A day lost to heavy rain followed by several hours of glorious sunshine - we’d all gone home. Only two newish models and little fresh in F3J model development. Ever more flyers reckon that 9.55 or 14.55 plus the spot is no longer enough. Knotty problems for the jury to resolve and a competition run on knife-edge and prayer basis. Fortunately it all held together and gave a memorable championship.

Other eagerly awaited news is that Australia and Brazil will compete to host the 2008 F3J WC. Next year’s F3J Eurochamps will take place in Croatia, followed by 2006 F3J WC at Martin in Slovakia, with F3J Eurochamps 2007 probably in Istanbul. Out with the piggy banks!

How did David Hobby do it? In reality, he is not a newcomer or stranger to radio-controlled aeroplanes. For ages he has competed in electric comps internationally, and he’s helped at F3J’s. His job takes him to many parts of the world including the US in the secretive world of remote-controlled unmanned flying machines. Safe to say, he can twiddle the sticks. 

Now take a look at his scores. In the Canada Cup which took place on the Saturday and Sunday before the champs, he clocked 9.53. plus 100 in round one, zero in two and 9.55 plus 100 in round three. No dropped score, so he came 77 out of 86, and I don’t know how he got the zero.

Then in the preliminary nine rounds of F3J WC 2004, his points went 994.2; 883; 984.1; 1000; 999.6; 997.1; 992.5; 999.7 and 952.5. With 883 dropped, that gave him a total of 7919.7 and eighth place in the preliminaries. Then in the fly-off, David scored 14 mins 52 plus in all four rounds, the only pilot to do it, and dropped five landing points. No beginner’s luck, this victory.

Contest director Keith Morrison hoped to make Red Deer more difficult than previous world champs. The Rocky Mountains, 90 minutes drive west, and Red Deer’s altitude of 910 metres above sea level produce the rapid changes in temperature, wind and sunshine levels. It was noticeable how you needed to take your jacket on and off with rapid changes in temperature. Even with all the rain, the air was drier than home, and the reduced oxygen content means the air cannot retain its heat so well. I did not notice that the skies improved or hindered flight times, and few slots over the week failed to fly out.

Because of the long range forecast rains, the team managers’ meeting before the event started decided to try for two rounds of the four round fly-offs late on Saturday, with early Sunday for the last two rounds. The hope was to fly 12 rounds before Saturday noon. As it turned out, only nine rounds were achieved, and that was enough to yield a fair result.

Hardest fly-off slot for the seniors was the second slot on Saturday when even Philip Kolb only managed a 6 minutes 35.1, and only three of the ten flew out the slot. In all other rounds, only three flights scored less than 14 minutes 50 seconds plus. Philip, my tip for the top - WRONG - finished third, three points behind. I am forgiving, he did well. 

Points are not everything, and this year’s finals were really exciting. During the overnight gap between Saturday’s rounds and Sunday’s third and fourth, only two of the ten flyers were out of it, Arend Borst and Karl Hinsch each having two scores which would need to be dropped. All remaining eight were still in with a chance.

High praise for Toby Lammlein, flying as senior for the first time and topping the qualifying rounds with 7993.7. To get into the fly-off, you could not drop more than 126 points over 9 rounds. Philip Kolb was second with 7985.1, with Joe Wurts third on 7984.4. Karl Hinsch, the third German pilot came fourth with 7973.5. So the Germans won the senior team prize easily - RIGHT - a margin of nearly 600 points over the Turks. 

High though this scoring is, it was not as close as in Lappeenranta in 2002 or Corfu in 2000. Also many qualifiers with their Red Deer scores would not have made the fly-off in Hollandglide the following weekend week later when “Hotfoot” Philip took top spot.

Allow me my humble first round story from the Canada Cup, where I scored my highest ever international F3J flight, 9.53.3 and 95 landing points. That gave me 986 points for that slot, still encouraging. Those 986 points gave me 46th position in the first round, not halfway up the list. No disappointment - only masochistic pleasure - I’ve long given up hopes of ever coming close!

My prediction for the junior team trophy was for a German win - RIGHT - and Robert Braune,Thomas Fischer and Benedict Feigl ran off with it by more than 1350 points over the US junior team. The four round fly-off for juniors was flown in some of the worst weather, and Thomas clinched it as the only pilot to score 14.50 plus in four rounds, again only dropping five landing points. 

The juniors continue to prove that they lack nothing compared to the seniors. We should keep both junior and senior fly-off contests, but the whole competition might be improved if all juniors and seniors flew together in the preliminary rounds. It would not be the juniors who are out of place!

I forecast that Michelle Goodrum would win a fly-off place - WRONG - but instead husband Craig did get in and placed fourth. My lame excuse is that I didn’t then know Michelle was pregnant - due early next year. You don’t ask: boy or girl? - but will he/she fly F3J or F3B!

For Croatia, Sasa Pecinar and Damir Kmoch won two fly-off places, which is good news since they will host the 2005 Eurochamps. I didn’t even have them entered two weeks beforehand because of a muddle over entry fees. Finally Primoz Prhavc of Slovenia and ex-champion Arend Borst filled in the ten fly-off places.

Greatest championship achievement without question goes to Team Turkey, who won second team place. Ilgaz Kalaycioglu, Murat Esibatir and Mustafa Koc, ably managed by “Gentle Giant” Serdar Cumbus, have become a “tour de force”. How well this team has progressed in recent years, strong, well sponsored, consistent and determined. They have brought an extra zest and good spirit to both F3J and F3B communities, shown us how to organise and they all deserve this success. Roll on the 2007 Eurochamps, if CIAM, as expected, approves Istanbul.

Third team place went to Australia, led by the new champion with Carl Strautins in 16th place - not as I forecast in the fly-offs - WRONG - and Gerry Carter in 31st place. Carl was perhaps next to unluckiest pilot this year, writing off his Sharon on launch with no radio, and then spiralling his second model in when the nicad/receiver connection failed in the violence of his two-second launch pattern. On second thoughts, that sounds more sloppy than bad luck! Carl does win the award for hectic post midnight jollification - in the ice-cream parlour.

Mum and Dad Strautins were in Red Deer, as I’d guessed they might be, and the Pettigrews were there too adding to the down-under support. One increasing feature of the F3J international comp scene are the growing number of family supporters who turn up. They boost the festival atmosphere. This year, I think for the first time, we had three generations supporting Joseph Newcomb, one of the US juniors, and he came fifth in the fly-off. Two of the volunteer timekeepers had sons in the comp.

Unluckiest competitor was Japan’s Syuhei Okamoto. His company Craftroom produces the tiny hlg’s, astonishing in thermals and stunting, and since Corfu, Syuhei’s precision flying has become ever better. By round seven, he was on the brink of making the fly-off, only to have a distant mid-air in round eight which took a chunk out of his wing. In the re-fly at the end of Friday he flew out to score 999.9 which put him in ninth place. 

All that was needed was to score a safe score in Saturday morning’s ninth and last round. But in his excitement, Shuhei tried to win, landing on the button, smack on the spot. He and his spotter danced with delight, then turned to find the timekeeper/judges conferring and eventually deciding that he had overflown. He could easily have come in five seconds earlier and made the fly-off. As it was, he lost 180 points and dropped eight places to 17th. This year Shuhei has been elected assemblyman of Ichikawa in Japan, he’s determined and a super pilot, be sure he’ll be back next time to do better.

Brickbats and Bouquets

Biggest Red Deer brickbat goes to the weather and the tornado which tore one of the two 30 by 20 metre marquees straight out of the ground together with its 36 2.5 metre scaffold tube ground anchors. 

Having lost a day to rain on Wednesday, Keith was keen to fly on until 8.30 pm on Thursday, still eager to get 11 or 12 rounds in. Half the afternoon you could see the storm brewing in the Rockies. I checked at 6.45 pm, but Keith still wanted to press on, his only reservation being that if anyone saw lightning, then he would call a halt. Another 15 minutes and luckily one of the US claimed a flash and sounded the alarm. “Pack up - and hurry” came the instruction.

The tornado hit 25 minutes later, just enough time for 100 plus models to be packed away. Nobody could have guessed at the ferocity. Had we all been mid-round, then most of the models and equipment would have been destroyed. 

I’ve never seen a tornado before. We were not in the eye of it, but the low level cloud which swept through seemingly hardly 100 metres above the ground, with vividly sculpted black and blue hills and troughs appearing to be carved out of its underside. The five minute crescendo of faster and faster winds was frightening and awesome, yet beautiful. How lucky we all were that the only loss was a marquee, that noone was injured, especially those futilely holding on to guy ropes. 

Biggest bouquet for Red Deer 2004 was for the flying field. Not many of us could have known what an Albertan sod farm looked and felt like. The Bluegrass Sod farm, about 15 minutes drive west from town and home of the Red Deer Prop Busters, must be the most perfect flying surface ever, going on as far as you could see in all directions except for a couple of ploughed patches being made ready for the next lot of sods. The thick lush grass, without a weed or stone, gave a perfect 50 mm thick carpet, which dried quickly after rain.

Most deserved bouquet goes to contest scorer Amy Pool who came up from the States with her laptop and programs, produced score sheets promptly, knew the rules inside out, and kept the whole show on the road. During the tornado, when all was flapping around her, she and Keith saw that all was safe and ready to roll next morning.

A big bouquet for Jo Grini from Norway, ready to joke in any language, in with a fly-off chance until round eight, always cheeky and cheerful. He together with Amy kept the outside world aware of what was happening in Red Deer, posting photographs and results on the web promptly each day.

Each and all of the volunteer timekeepers and transmitter controllers, and the caterers deserve bouquets. They kept going through heat and cold, wind and rain with ever friendly smiles and jokes. The volunteers were not numerous, so they only had short breaks from duties with no snacks provided. After first day, US team manager James Macarthy saw the other team managers and collected enough to ensure that everyone was fed and watered. 

The vital volunteers came from north and south of the border, with the bulk travelling from Winnipeg - two days’ drive away - and Calgary. Up to the start of the event, contest director Keith was nervously unsure of how many would turn up. Over the weeks beforehand, volunteer numbers dropped away despairingly. Those who did come were terrific and worked their socks off. 

Bouquet and brickbats for contest director Keith Morrison. Nobody worked harder over the ten days to make everything work smoothly and fairly. By the skin of his teeth, he pulled off a good competition, keeping almost everybody happy almost all the time.

But it was wrong that so much reliance was placed on one person, and it has to be said that that was probably his own fault. He turned up at the Red Deer Lodge on Friday evening, only hours before the Canada Cup was due to start. Most competitors were there days beforehand. 

So with regret, a big brickbat for Keith. The 2004 Championships was not the event it deserved to be. The organiser did not provide any means of frequency monitoring for the three bands in use. Team managers themselves brought various devices which allowed one frequency check in the control tent for the first round. This meant that for safety, preparation time could never be started before all transmitters were returned. Three slots an hour was the best tempo possible, which even for a world championship, was agonisingly slow. Had any pilot lost his model due to frequency clashes, it would have been unforgivable. Thankfully that didn’t happen.

If you’ve travelled halfway around the world for a world championship, then you expect a bit of razzmatazz. The opening ceremony was so mooted that if you blinked, you missed it. At the end, rain dampened the excitement of waiting for confirmation of fly-off results. Saturday’s Canada Cup was set to start at 11.00 am, but dragged long into the afternoon with only one round flown all day, which was a sad waste of time. No attempt was made to locate the 22 teams on the flying field, and everyone just staked out their own territories inside and outside the two marquees. How much more sociable and enjoyable if we’d had the team square we saw in Corfu. 

Prime team location, closest to the safety corridor, went to Canada with their two big motorvans plus awnings. I don’t object to that. But when the weather got rough, the Canadians shut themselves in and ignored the rest of the competitors. I had forecast that the Canadian team might not do so well this year because they’d be busy hosting the event. They did not do well. They did not spend much time acting as host country either. 

So biggest brickbat goes to Team Canada. OK, it takes concentration to do well and win. But cutting yourselves off, in your own country, hardly lifting a hand to help with the event’s organisation, is not my idea of the spirit of F3J.

Reluctantly I turn to Team UK and its miserable performance, third from last, beating only Denmark and Italy. I write with care because I was drafted in as part of the team at the last moment. 

Red Deer saw a return to strife as crippling as in Corfu four years ago. How can it happen, after all the hard preparations and sacrifices, after winning team places in the most gruelling of qualifying leagues, that team members feud? Nerves don’t help, but they don’t excuse either. 

One lessons is clear to me. The team manager should not be a flyer, because inevitably it puts him on a different footing from others. Everyone in the team, three flyers, preferably at least four towers and one manager must feel comfortable that they can get on as a team without reservation. 

Adrian has tried at top level more than any other Brit: will he ever be amongst the winners? Sven has never flown at this level, is keener than ever after Red Deer to do so again. He has the youth and eye to read air and make it next time. Colin was drafted in as reserve, flew beyond himself for a several rounds and then didn’t do himself justice. Adrian and Colin both lost a model apiece. 

Richard Hobson towed like a trojan and loved every moment on the field all week, especially when he flew out the last round of the Canada Cup, when several famous names in the slot had to relight. He made sure that UK launches were among the best - no broken lines, all tows within five seconds, and only marred by one early launch. 

We all had a good time, angry at times with ourselves, sorry and sad, but happy that we’d been part of a great event.

FAI Jury for Red Deer was Tomas Bartovsky from Prague, Terry Edmunds from the US and Jack Humphreys enjoying his home ground in Canada, always ready with a witty tale and cheerful anecdote. The jury didn’t have a tough week, but they had to resolve one or two knotty problems and gave their protest fees back.

The one and only formal team managers’ meeting took place on the evening of model registration. Longest debate was trying to sort out the written rules and what was “meant to be written” when a refly is needed in the last slot of a round. Crux of the dilemma: are the random competitors drawn by lot to accompany the re-flyer entitled to take the highest of their flight scores. The rules almost certainly state that they should stick with their previous scores; they are simply providing competition for the genuine re-flyer(s). “That might be what is says,” says Tomas, “but it is not what the rule drafters intended.” Since he is in charge of the rules, he should know. Next morning, the jury overruled the contest director and said all re-flyers could take their highest score. 

Amazing that so much time and effort could go into arguing the point of a provision that is most unlikely to happen. 

Of course, it did happen, next day, at the end of round two! Peter Mikkelsen of Denmark dived his first plane into the ground on launch with no radio response. Snatching his second model he asked the contest director, who happened to be close by, to check back that there was no interference on his channel. That check took some time, with the flyer hanging on eagerly to launch. In the flurry, the contest director reassured the pilot that he would get a re-fly. 

Back in the control tent they organised a refly by drawing names from the pack of entry cards. Lo and behold, one of the three names was Joe Wurts. Even more astonishing, Joe had not had his usual top scores in round one or two, so here was was what looked like a valuable “get out of jail” card. The refly was flown , and Joe got his 1,000!

The odds of such a sequence of events are certainly millions to one. 

But then several team managers got together and protested to the jury: why was a reflight called, how were the random names chosen, allowing random reflights to better the score give unfair advantage, etc. 

Well that problem took that evening and most of the next day - which was rained off anyway - to resolve. Only on Thursday morning did we learn that the reflight should not have been given because the pilot could have chosen to fly even though he had asked for a channel check. The whole reflight slot was cancelled. Joe was back where he’d started.with a score of 767.7, (which he later dropped as his lowest score.) Such controversies add to the grit and grind of world competitions.

The gathering of international F3J champions gives Tomas Bartovky the chance to test opinion on possible rule changes, and he took advantage again this year, asking pilots and team managers to cast their votes, and 51 obliged.

Who favours what launch method? 35 wanted to keep the present rules, only three voted for the winch, nine would prefer choice of winch or hand towing, and four went for hand towing or winch, the organiser deciding which.

Line length was then questioned, with 28 voting to stick with the present 150m rule, 21 opting for a 100m line and three choosing 75 metres.

Should dropped scores be allowed? 44 went for sticking with the present rule, dropping one score after five rounds; one person wanted to allow a drop after four rounds; six chose not to have any dropped score at all.

How many launch attempts should be allowed during the working time? Two votes went for only one single launch attempt, 42 votes went for retaining the present rule allowing two attempts, and seven voted for unlimited attempts, only the last flight to count, of course.

Tomas then went back to the random fly-off flyer question and whether they should be allowed to choose their highest score, and that was supported by 39 people with only 12 opting for keeping the original score.

Finally, how should the winner be decided? By the fly-off result, as at present, was supported by 27 votes; combining the scores from qualifying rounds plus the fly-off gained 20 votes; those preferring no fly-off numbered four.

These poll results are in some cases not what I would have expected. They certainly show a consensus that the present rules are just about right, with little clear preference for how they might be improved.

Thanks to all at Red Deer who said they enjoy Uncle Sydney’s ramblings. I enjoy writing when time and opportunity allows, and if there is response to this column, I shall follow-up with your reactions. In parts of the Red Deer report I have either hinted at or made critical comments. The intent is to be helpful for the future, not in any way to hurt anyone. We are all volunteers and want to enjoy the fun.

e-mail: sydney.lenssen@virgin.net

Sydney Lenssen. August 2004

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