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 close.

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.


Looking East

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.

Looking North.

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.

Looking West

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.

Looking South

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. Read HERE

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 preliminary scores?

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 sydney.lenssen(at)virgin.net