Uncle Sydney’s gossip column
Bovec is an F3J’s pilot’s dream
Do you ever dream of the perfect
thermal soaring field in Paradise? Dream no longer. Go to Bovec in
Slovenia. Next chance is for the Eurotour next September. If you have
never flown in their mountain bowl, and certainly if you hope to fly in
the 2011 European championships, you must go beforehand and fly your
model against the trees and clouds!
Larry Jolly calls it “Sound of Music” land and expects Julie Andrews
to come to him singing over the meadows. Marin Kordic reckons stringing
Kevlar cables across the mountain tops, cover with a Mylar roof and
you’d be flying F3J indoors!
When I got to Bovec for the first time with my wife two weeks ago, my
immediate reaction was that you couldn’t fly an F3J competition there,
never mind the Eurochamps in two years’ time. The mountains are too
How wrong I was! You are hemmed in, with mountains all round in every
direction, but to fly from Bovec’s airstrip to the trees on the steep
slopes means travelling two or more kilometres away. If you do hit the
trees, then forget your model. “I never really liked that one anyway”.
When you turn up early morning with the cloud base low and gently
wafting down the valley, you don’t see the mountain tops. You might not
see blue sky either. But the clouds are high enough to allow you to fly
and explore the weakest of light airs. It is testing. It is simply
lovely. It can also be cruel at times when even the highest launch won’t
give you six minutes.
VIEWS FROM BOVEC FLIGHT LINE
Top five in the Alpine Cup, Slovenia. From the left, Arijan Hucaljuk
from Croatia, Tobias Lammlein, Germany, Philip Kolb, Germany, Marco
Salvigni, Italy amd Martin Rajsner from the Czech Republic. To get to
the 700 metre level in the mountains behind - the flying field is at
about 500 metres - you need to fly about 2 kilometres, but at 3
kilometres the mountains are up to 1700 metres and the peaks behind are
up to 2,350 metres.
You can see Bovec from the airstrip, nestling in the foothills about one
kilometre away from the flying field. When you are two kilometres away
you reach 1200 metres above the field and the peaks reach up to 2,400
metres, 1,800 metres above the field. Early pilots explored the housing
for lift but it was not working most of the time.
The gap between the mountains is about three kilometres away from the
field, where the valley turns abruptly left through 110 degrees, which
effectively blocks out any prevailing winds from travelling along the
valley. During the competition winds rarely reached eight kph, (five mph).
The peaks in the background reach 1,600 metres.
You need to travel out two kilometres to reach the trees at 200 metres
above the field in this direction, but at three kilometres the mountains
are up to 1,800 metres high, 1,300 metres above the field. This
direction gave me the hardest problem spotting even a white model
against the hazy trees, but many pilots spent the whole ten minutes
trawling along the hillside.
Bovec itself is an attractive tourist village, a sporting centre
with walkers, canoeists and white water rafters indulging in the fast
flowing River Soca in summer and snow sports enthusiasts in winter. It
has a few smart hotels and lots of apartments which can be rented. There
are camp sites all round, but unfortnuately no camping on the airfield.
If you come to fly, then plan on adding a few days for a holiday too.
Travelling from UK is easy with low cost airlines flying into Klagenfurt
in Austria, Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital and Trieste in Italy, all
within easy driving distance of Bovec if you like hairpin bends by the
score. And your hosts are among the most hospitable in the world with
fiendish local brews!
links by F3X.no : Jojo was there.
New rules for old!
Lots of discussion over the past month about changing the F3J rules,
not as I expected about penalties for flying into the safety (launching)
corridor, but about how to organise reflights, whether to always allow
four helpers for the pilot so that the second spotter does not need to
be the team manager, and should pilots in the flyoff carry forward their
Tomas Bartovsky is also suggesting that there is no need these days to
limit the number of flight attempts allowed to two. If you need more
than two. then you’re a loser anyway. He wants to see a 30 point penalty
if a pilot launches early, but in return the pilot will not be required
to relaunch. That rule if introduced will need clever wording to prevent
pilots launching 44 seconds early, if I’ve got my maths correct!
The real problem with early launches is spotting them. I do not believe
that anybody launches early deliberately, but the launcher can lose his
grip and/or foothold with today’s massive line tensions and then needs
to let go.
After the US team trials, many pilots seem to be upset that pilots get a
second chance to improve their scores if they are randomly drawn to make
up the minumum of four pilots for a reflight. They suggest waiting for a
period at the contest director’s discretion until enough pilots with the
right to refly can be fitted into a slot, not necessarily in that
particular round. If there is a need to draw lots to make up numbers,
then these lucky extra pilots should not be allowed to take their
highest score but should fly only to spoil the scores of the reflyers.
For the past three years in the UK we have followed the FAI rules and
allowed the randomly picked pilots to score either their orginal or
their reflight score. (It was at Red Deer in 2004 that Tomas Bartovsky
spelled out what was intended by the rules, even if they did not
actually say it!) For a couple of years before the UK practiced what is
now being advocated: if you are picked to fly again, you try to reduce
the scores for the reflyers. Snag is that this method does not give the
lucky second chancers much of an incentive, and in many cases we found
that pilots chose not to fly when drawn out of the hat.
Incidently, here’s my recommendation for the random draw, new this year.
Many contest organisers scramble to cut up pieces of paper or whatever
to pick numbers out of a hat to select extra pilots, a time-consuming
fraught job which is nearly alway forgotten until needed. The best way I
have found to pick random numbers is to start and stop a stopwatch with
hundreths of a second. Then take the fraction of a second as your lucky
number. If you have only 50 competitors and your watch shows .57, then
you start and stop the clock again. It’s quick and easy.
On the question of number of helpers for each pilot, I believe that the
easiest way to solve the team manager’s acting as helper and “second
pair of eyes” is to return to the three helper rule and restrict team
managers to remaining in the preparation area during the ten or fifteen
minute working time. The pilot’s spotter - or coach - is often the key
to success, sometimes more important than two strong towmen. Having an
extra pair of eyes is an added benefit, but it is not the intention of
F3J’s orginal rules.
Should the scores from preliminary rounds be carried over into the
flyoff? In the complicated words of Joe Wurts: “The inherent issue with
the F3J format is that scores have a high standard deviation, so to get
the best measure of a pilot, one should look at the largest set of
scores as is practical. This would suggest that the preliminary scores
should be carried over so as to better determine the best pilot of the
competition, at least at WC level.”
In F3J contests at present, we have in effect two competitions. I
believe it makes good sense to bridge the two. They are both part of the
contest, and as often as not the second contest - the flyoff - is held
in the best weather of the whole event, when 15 minute slots are no more
difficult or testing that the 10 minute preliminaries.
Consider the last competition, Bovec, what would have happened? The top
five places for the last Eurotour of 2009 went to Arijan Hucaljuk with
2,000 for the two rounds; then Tobias Lammlein with 1997.9, Philip Kolb
with 1997.8, Marco Salvigni with 1996.7 and Martin Rajsner with 1996.3,
not very wide differences. If the preliminary scores had been counted
then the winner would have been Sebastian Feigl, European champion in
2007, with 6994.6, followed by his brother and current world champion
Benedikt with 6993.5, then Marco Salvigni would have placed third rather
than fourth with 6992.4, then Philip Kolb would have moved from third to
fourth place with 6992.3, and finally Arijan Hucaljuk, who actually won,
would sink to fifth place with 6991.7. The margins are again small.
Not every competition is blessed with such good weather and closely run
scores, but if I had a vote at CIAM in Lausanne next March, then I would
go for combining preliminary and flyoff scores.
Another potential rule change which has been touched in discussion is
whether reflights should be allowed at all. One suggestion is that after
the first 30 seconds, no reflights should be granted for mid-air
collisions because pilots should have the skill and good sense not to
fly too closely together, and if they do, then they risk their scores.
Allowing another attempt in the first 30 seconds would safeguard the
pilot who has the misfortune to have his line cut or his model damaged
by collision during the launch. Incidentally such a 30 second rule would
bring F3J back closer to the original BARCS (British Association of
Radio Control Soarers) rules which still allow a pilot to abort his
flight providing he announces his intention to relaunch with the first
30 seconds. But he doesn’t get a reflight in another slot, he has to fly
in the same 10 minute slot.
Not many F3J pilots know that Tomas Bartovsky is personally in favour of
abolishing reflights altogether, full stop! So he will be following the
discussions carefully. Watching the flyoffs in Bovec brought me closer
to agreeing with Tomas.
Two rounds were flown, one of which was reflown due to a timekeeper’s
error in not recording the time. All 12 pilots were launching in as
short a time as they could manage, between one and three seconds. This
was not too risky because all of them could see pretty precisely where
the current thermal was being generated. The effect was that all of the
gliders flew into one small patch of low level lift and it was a miracle
that no midair occured, perhaps not a miracle since they were all highly
skilled pilots. But the dancing and dodging lasted nearly two minutes
before they’d all gained enough height to separate safely. In such
circumstances, if the whole line has been asked to fly again because of
a midair, it would have been grossly unfair.
Extra news for France 2010
News on more qualifiers for next year’s F3J world championships in
Dole-Tavaux. The French team will be Lionel Fournier who is determined
not to let his flyoff place slip next year, Jean Bernard Verrier who
will pilot rather than be team manager as this year in Poland, and
Bertrand Wilmot who was a pilot in Croatia and Slovakia. Juniors will be
the experienced Robin Galeazzi who flew in Turkey and Poland, plus two
newcomers Remy Cutivet and Jean Baptiste Demay. We all await to see if
the “home ground” gives any advantage.
From New Zealand comes the news that we more than half expected in that
the three seniors will be Joe Wurts in his new home F3J colours for the
first time, Sven Zaalberg who but for a 95 landing came so close to
winning in Turkey, and Scott Chisholme, all qualifying in Timaru on
South Island , September 12/13.
Team New Zealand, all at attention and ready for France 2010, from left
Scott Chisholme, Zven Zaalberg and Joe Wurts. Rumours that they have all
registered for French lessons might not be true.
If Bovec flyoffs are anything to go by, the graduated landing tape is
not making any difference to the aesthetics of landing techniques.
A slight correction to last month’s preview to next year’s world
championships for which I thank Ian Roach from Australia. Their
qualification contest was not part of an F3B event. The contest is flown
to Australian Thermal Rules and is very similar the F3B Task A with a
few changes to suit local conditions. No speed or distance tasks were
flown. I got next year’s team right anyway: Carl Strautins, Jim
Houdalakis and David Hobby.
Speaking of whom, many “gossipers” will be pleased to hear that David
Hobby is not practicing F3J but is busy in Antarctica for six week, in
temperatures of -50C. He did take an electric model, a Vapor, which he
has flown. When he takes it outside, it takes about 20 seconds before
the cold gets to the systems and it all goes wrong!
Arriving at the McMurdo base in Antarctica where David Hobby is avoiding
F3J practice by spending six weeks flying his electric Vapor and the odd
spot of work for Aerosonde.
Spot the Vapor and a well-wrapped David. He tells me that Mount
Discovery in the background is 50 km away but you can see it clearly
most days in the clean air. Some contrast with Bovec, which is where
this gossip column started.
Just two seconds before this photo was taken, spotter and Pike master
Jaroslav Vostrel warned Jo Grini that a pilot had lost control and he
should move slightly to the side, which he did, and then heard a thud.
DON’T HAVE A MATRIX WITH PILOTS REQUIRED TO CHANGE FREQUENCIES!!!
Sydney Lenssen 9.october 2009