Uncle Sydney's Gossip Column

2009 F3J European Championships - Poland

Primoz Rizner becomes FAI Eurochamp at last!

East Europeans dominate in Wloclavek

The seventh Eurochamps in Poland 2009 saw the eastern European countries come to the fore, showing the western countries how to cope with windy and tricky conditions in which even the best pilots sometimes had to walk a kilometre and more to retrieve their models.

Everyone was pleased to see Primoz Rizner become the seventh Eurochampion, a well deserved win after coming close so many times. Primoz was regarded widely as the one top pilot never to have won an FAI championship: 2009 is his year!

Wloclavek's results promise far wider competition for next year's world champs in France, which should please all F3J fans. Be warned all you front-runners struggling to be chosen for your country's team for France - it will be tougher!

Slovakia will have returned home happiest with Juro Adamek taking third place in the seniors, Jan Ivancik and Juraj Bartek helping to take second place in senior teams. Jan Littva took first place among the juniors with a higher score than the senior champion. His flyoff dropped score from six was 982.5! He was joined by Daniel Demecko and Peter Capko to take third place in junior teams. Team manager Patrik Michnac could not believe his team's success and spent the banquet eating one-handed and cuddling the big silver/gold team trophy.

Equally happy, if not more so, was Pavel Prhavc, team manager for Slovenia, who led Primoz Rizner, Bojan Gegric and his son Primoz Prhavc to win senior teams. The Slovenian junior team of Marc Jure, Robert Ratiac and Metod Meolic came seventh in junior team results, showing the promise that the next Eurochamps to be held in Bovec 2011 of being much better.

New Eurochamp Primoz Rizner with his NAN Models Explorer and flanked by
second placed Pavel Kristof from the Czech Republic and Juro Adamek from Slovakia.

Allow me to praise Primoz Rizner again as the new European champion. I have never seen a champion so popular. A shy man, absolutely dedicated to F3J, he has been a champion in the making seemingly forever, each year collecting prize and trophy in the Eurotour events, but not the big one. I predicted he would take FAI crowns in 2005 and 2006, and then gave up naming him as favourite because he felt it made him nervous to be tipped as favourite for the event.

The Czech Republic did well too, but that was no surprise. Their pilots have always thrived in previous championships, and the country is still home for more moulded model manufacturers than anywhere. Without top pilots to show how models perform and can be improved, sales suffer.

Pavel Kristof came second in the senior flyoffs and Jiri Duchan, second in Turkey's world champs, had to be content with fifth place in Poland. Third member of the Czech team was Jaroslav Vostrel and they took third place in senior teams. Seventh place in the junior flyoffs went to Jakub Lzicar from Czechia and their juniors came second in the team contest.

Top teams on the podium, all from eastern Europe, first Slovenia,
second Slovakia and third Czechia. Fourth team was Croatia,
fifth Lithuania and sixth Ukraine, again all eastern European countries.

Other eastern European countries to do well and exceed expectations were Croatia who only just missed third place in senior teams. Lithuania had Ricardas Siumbrys in sixth place of the senior flyoff and came fifth in the teams. Ukraine''s Alexender Petrenko was in the senior flyoffs, the first time ever they have gained a flyoff place. Russia had its junior Alexander Dibrov in the flyoffs and managed eighth place in the senior teams and ninth place in the juniors.

So what happened to the established originators of F3J from western Europe who have dominated the European if not the World Championships over the past 12 years? Sole consolation perhaps were the junior team winners from Germany, Sebastian Manhardt, Johannes Weber and Timo Ganser.

Sebastian almost became the junior champion, but an early launch in the fifth flyoff round spoiled his chance. A brickbat for him sadly: he is a newcomer to F3J and a gifted pilot, the winning junior in Bulgaria and fourth place among seniors and juniors at Hollandglide the weekend after Poland. He will surely become a champion, so more is the pity that he showed his unsporting side when the protest against the early launch was rejected.

Jo Grini and Karl Hinsch were the only senior pilots from the west to make the flyoff, with Jojo in fourth place. Highest western senior team was the Netherlands in seventh place just beating Russia and also Germany in ninth place - yes repeat, 9th place!!

Great Britain crept into 11th position, deeply disappointing for the identical team which gelled so well in Trnava two years before and travelled to Wloclavek in high hopes, only to see team spirits degenerate. No country, certainly not the UK, should underestimate how important it is for all pilots and helpers to be united and compatible. They must share their determination and all activities during preparation and until the end of contest.

Top junior Jan Littva from Slovakia delighted to find himself junior European champion
after six flyoff rounds where the top three juniors all scored higher than the seniors managed in their flyoffs.

Italy flew the western flag in juniors with Carlo and Marco Gallizia taking fourth and fifth flyoffs places. Lesley van der Laan from Holland, who I fancied to become junior champion for the second time, only managed ninth place. Italy and France also did well in the junior teams in fourth and sixth places.

Bouquets for this year's Eurochamps

First bouquet goes to Lionel Fournier from France who was leading the preliminary rounds after eight of the 10 rounds flown. It would have been happily appropriate for France to win a podium place with the next world champs set for Dole-Tavaux in the Jura region in 2010. But the ninth round winds bit him, scoring less than 500 points, and dropping 18 places. F3J can be unforgiving.

Second bouquet goes to Croatia's Damir Kmoch who has been on the brink of flyoffs so often in the past and this time topped the preliminary rounds. He was so pleased, but warned me: I've been here before and only the flyoffs count, so I must calm down. Sadly he ended up next to last in ninth position.

No flyoff pilot worked harder this year than Jo Grini who was Norway's team manager and also had his hands full spotting for his son Fredrik. This junior, championship flying for the first time, did well to come in 30th and also scored one 1,000 round. A talent for the future if he retains his enthusiasm.

The biggest bouquet is deserved by the Polish organisers who made the most of the fantastic facilities of Kruszyn Airfield just outside Wloclavek, a venue perfect for F3J competitions and scene of many previous aeromodelling contests. Permanent hangars gave shelter for models and contestants, an indoor and outdoor cafe kept up a supply of pizzas and cold beers, and the grass stretched long distances in every direction with few trees to soar.

The Poles were slightly anxious about running their first big F3J event and brought in CD Serdar Sualp from Turkey and Martin Kordic, line manager from Croatia to manage the contest. In the event, the organisation ran smoothly thanks to a team of keen Polish modellers and Aleksandra Hans, the interpreter, who mastered everyone's names with a smile. Congratulations to everyone involved.

How many preliminary rounds make a championship?

Before the champs started in the weeks of preparation, it was planned to have 15 preliminary rounds plus two flyoffs in the five days allotted. This was quickly revised to two practice rounds for all systems to be tested, followed by 12 official preliminary rounds for both seniors and juniors. Then the contest would be decided with six flyoff rounds for seniors and juniors, allowing one dropped score.

In the week before the contest, weather forecasts promised that time would be lost to rain, and indeed the second day, Tuesday, saw only the second round of seniors flown before flying was halted for the day. Rain also interrupted a couple of times for an hour or so in the following days.

Far more influential were the strong winds that tended to blow from late morning until early evening most days. Some unkind contestants reckoned that we were enjoying typical English weather. I can assure them that it wasn't.

Strong winds are common in the UK and most places too. But I have not experienced such a prolonged period of rapid gusts which could spring up within seconds without warning, fierce enough to take you a full kilometre downwind if you took two turns, and developing fast enough to leave you no time to adjust ballast. I didn't count how many models landed out over the five days, but there were dozens, more than any other top level contest I have witnessed. Some pilots - no names - landed out with their second models after relaunching.

Maybe it was this factor which allowed the more neighbouring countries to thrive. But that's the only excuse for the poor results of so many pilots who were expected to do well.

Line up of senior pilots, helpers and towers and models just before the first of six flyoff rounds,
late afternoon and early morning next day. Contest organisers also muscled in!

Lost time to rain meant that only ten rounds were flown. My experience is that even at the most important competitions, flyoff places are mostly decided after six rounds and a dropped score. Let's check what happened in Wloclavek.

After six rounds, if we had gone into flyoffs, the places would have gone to Ricardas Siumbrys of Lithuania as top, Lionel Fournier, Arijan Hucaljuk of Croatia, Karl Hinsch, Damir Kmoch, Primoz Rizner, Jiri Duchan, Bojan Gegric of Slovenia, Alekender Petrenko of Ukraine and Jo Grini.

When the preliminary rounds were halted after ten rounds - a majority decision by the team managers guided by contest director Serdar Sualp, seven of the ten leading pilots after six rounds were still there, with Lionel Fournier, Arijan Hucaljuk and Bojan Gegric dropping out to be replaced by Primoz Prhavc, Pavel Kristof from Czechia and Juro Adamek from Slovakia.

I see no definitive lesson to be learned or the need for any change in approach. What is certain is that if any future championship has to be curtailed by weather or unforeseen circumstances, then it does not matter too much after six rounds. More importantly, to find the most consistent champion pilot at least six flyoff rounds should be contested. As in Poland, these flyoff rounds are best run over two separate days, early morning and late evening if possible. Do not make the 15 minute contest easy!

How did the flyoff naming competition go?

Not so many entrants this year for the flyoff bets, and with so many hot favourites sliding down the leader board, I am pleased to say that Uncle Sydney was the winner, naming seven of the ten flyoff places. That involves a bit of cheating since I named Primoz Rizner or Primoz Prhavc to win a place and in the event, both did. Even so I genuinely named six.

Second, third and fourth places went to Philip Kolb - who felt free to enter since he was not competing - Jo Grini and Luc Bocquet, all of whom named four flyoff places. Not so easy this year, and promising to be far harder next time!

I should also apologise for two mistakes in my preview gossip. Sebastian Feigl let me down, not coming close to retaining his title as predicted. Also among the Polish team juniors, I should have reported that Patryk Olszewski would fly and I got his name completely mixed up. Sorry and thanks to Marek Malinowski for spotting my error.

Time to change new rules for old!

In December this year the CIAM bureau meeting will decide what should be on the agenda for next April's FAI meeting in Lausanne. This time F3J rule changes are possible, and if you want to see any changes, the best bet is to get your national body to submit draft proposals with the correct wording and the reasoning to justify change. In UK this needs to go to BMFA before the end of September.

Only one change seems likely to be approved at this stage, and that concerns the penalties for flying lower than three metres over the safety corridor and designated safety areas.

Tomas Bartovsky, CIAM's RC-soaring committee chairman, became convinced of the need for rule change last year at the world champs in Turkey. All pilots there will remember the slope-soaring created by the super marquees and a line of trees just behind them, and several pilots saved their scores by cruising up and down, sometimes for half the slot or more, sometimes more than once.

An arbitrary rule was announced before the contest started that pilots flying below treetop level when sighted from the safety corridor by the line managers would be penalised unless they came in straight for a landing. Several 100 point penalties were imposed, and several pilots got away without penalty. The fact is that no contest director or line judge can truly measure how high the model is flying above a tent or anyone's head.

Current thinking is that F3J rules should change so that in future no measurement of height clearance is required. Instead the penalties for landing in the safety area or corridor will be severe enough to deter any pilot from risking it. And the penalty for actually hitting a person or object will be even higher.

Actual wording has yet to be decided, and there is likely to be a debate about the severity of penalty. Landing in the corridor, even with a wing tip, is likely to cost 300 or 500 points deducted from the pilot's final score. Touching or hitting a person could mean a zero for that round, or a zero for the next two rounds, or disqualification. Such rules will certainly make any pilot think twice even in the heat of competition.

CIAM would welcome comments and/or your views on rule changes, and Tomas Bartovsky urges national committees to bring forward their proposals.

Sydney Lenssen, 8 September 2009


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