These were the words of the Contest CD, Serdar Süalp & were acknowledged by the chief judge, Tomas Bartovsky, president of the jury during the managers meeting. In other words, out of the 77 pilots representing 25 countries, only 11 would be eligible to contest their individual ranking in the fly-offs.
F3J is interesting in this respect: that 12 preliminary rounds are flown which constitute the “team” or country, event, then only those top pilots who qualify get to fly again in 6 rounds against each other – man-on-man to contest the best individual of the event & ultimate world champion for two years! No carry-over of scores, no matrixing, 15 minute slots, everyone launches, flys & lands together. High stakes, big stress, all-or-nothing stuff. This is what F3J World Championships are all about, where not only do you have to be a world class pilot with a superb team, but you also require nerves of steel & bags of tactical experience. If you don’t have these qualities, then perhaps F3J World Championships are not the place for you?
But I am getting a little ahead of myself. The first slot approached & Craig was just so incredibly relaxed! Michelle afterwards said that “he has done this all before”, but I am constantly stunned by the professional approach he adopts. He is a fantastic example of “big match temperament”, and is capable of lifting his game as required. I was a bundle of nerves when we walked out onto the field – proud of being part of the team representing Craig, and stressed out of my mind with the responsibility of throwing his model(s) during launch. I knew from Slovakia in 2006 that we could not afford a call-back (any model deemed by the judges to have left the hand of the helper, before the launch tone, is penalised by immediately landing & relaunch – which is effectively “game-over” in the high stakes of WC finals). I simply could not look back to the crowds who had all gathered to watch – even they were noticeably quieter than usual. Was the wind quite too?
Craig indicated he required his Pike SL (“super lite”) & we pre-tensioned the line with Michelle signalling to our towmen. With 30 seconds to go, I started moving back to the launch corridor – probably adrenaline pushed me right to the back of the line & Craig cautioned against overstepping the line. 10 seconds to go, the towmen were at full tension & I was fully focused on the clock. Craig was standing somewhere behind with Michelle to his left as always. The countdown was called – 5 seconds to go, and an eternity to 4 seconds. 3 seconds & I was aware of the breeze pulling towards the right of the field. Another eternity passed. 2 seconds, FULL TENSION, everything alert, body & model are tensed for explosive release. 1 second, time is flowing, & no longer a constant measure with discrete units. 0 seconds, the buzzer hesitates, but at the first sound I throw with everything that I have & push upwards. Craig’s Pike is now in ballistic launch mode – under full line tension, the acceleration from ground zero to flying speed is achieved almost instantaneously. Barely 3 seconds pass & he dips the model slightly to accelerate with the stretched line, zooming away from the line at around 4 seconds. The model climbs & climbs for ever, then just as you think it has to start sliding back down again, the nose eases over & he starts for the last known thermal area.
Round / Group : 1 / 1
1;GER;Feigl ;Benedikt ;14.57.80;95;996.6;
2;GER;Lammlein ;Tobias ;11.54.20;100;817.3;
3;GER;Kolb ;Philip ;14.27.00;100;970.7;
4;TUR;Esibatır ;Murat ;13.59.80;100;943.4;
5;RSA;Goodrum ;Craig ;14.55.20;100;999.0;
6;SLO;Rizner ;Primoz ;14.56.10;95;994.9;
7;USA;Perkins ;Daryl ;14.55.00;100;998.8;
8;AUS;Hobby ;David ;14.53.70;100;997.5;
9;CZE;Vostrel ;Jaroslav ;14.54.60;100;998.4;
10;CZE;Duchan ;Jiri ;14.55.70;100;999.5;
11;NZE;Zaalberg ;Sven ;14.56.20;100;1000.0;
The pre-recorded announcer booms, 30 seconds to go! Launch flap set by Craig. Michelle is to his left. I walk the Pike SL back to the launch corridor, & Michelle signals for more tension on the line. An eternity passes as the towmen do there best to slowly pull the model from my hands. Even the tow hook groans under this level of tension. I use both hands top ensure that the model is lined up with 10 seconds to go. Again adrenaline starts to flow, and the last 8 seconds slow down to the speed of cold syrup oozing from a spout. The breeze is more pronounced on my face – the left side is drawing – indicating a possible thermal. I saw 2 birds earlier over the right side, but they have disappeared. The wind is a little stronger than the first slot. 7 seconds pass by in the syrup river, a small bubble perhaps? I step towards the back of the launch corridor to increase tension even more – even my left arm is feeling the strain now. A 6 second bubble dents the rivers surface as it slowly draws past. Time starts to accelerates towards the buzzer, as the stream thins. The buzzer sounds again just after the “0” on the clock & I throw with everything that I have got – the wings of the model are forgotten & the javelin arches upwards.
I am too shocked to know what to do – so I turn to the time keeper & immediately call “reflight”. He appears equally shocked & raises his hand for the line judge – I see Alex Wunscheim running towards us long before I see Craig. His shoulders are slumped, his Tx is in his left hand – reflecting its uselessness. Michelle is also standing still, her stop watches still in her hands. The entire field is stunned in silence. Craig walks forward & motions - get the #2 model ready for the reflight. He calls for Chris to bring out his #3 X-Pro as a backup model to the flight line. I am just too devastated to talk. I am worried that I threw the model skew or did not compensate enough for the breeze. But Johan Snr assures me that the model went straight up – the Slovenia model (Xplorer) had moved to the right after launch. I still do not feel any better – Craig has a serious disadvantage in the refly – as everyone else will be going-for-broke with nothing to loose.
1;CZE;Duchan ;Jiri ;14.56.60;100;999.5;
2;NZE;Zaalberg ;Sven ;14.55.30;100;998.2;
3;GER;Feigl ;Benedikt ;14.57.00;100;999.9;(Low Score)
4;GER;Lammlein ;Tobias ;14.55.30;100;998.2;
5;GER;Kolb ;Philip ;14.57.10;100;1000.0;
6;TUR;Esibatır ;Murat ;14.55.50;100;998.4;
7;RSA;Goodrum ;Craig ;00.00.00;0;0.0;Refly (4/1/7)
8;SLO;Rizner ;Primoz ;14.55.20;100;998.1;
9;USA;Perkins ;Daryl ;14.55.40;95;993.3;
10;AUS;Hobby ;David ;14.56.90;85;984.8;
11;CZE;Vostrel ;Jaroslav ;14.55.40;100;998.3;
At 0 seconds, the buzzer sounds almost immediately! I am ready, & push with my feet, my legs, & my back as my arm throws the model. Time reverts to a primordial sense and we become hunters. Instead of a model, a deadly club shoots forward towards some unseen prey & the launch is near perfect, albeit a little bit longer than 4 seconds for risk management purposes. I remember nothing of the flight, I focus on the stop watches, twice confirming this with the time keeper. Craig remains so focussed – I am not even sure he hears Michelle telling him what the others are doing. The 15 minutes pass by as the primordial gives way to present. My sense of sound returns too, first hearing the gliders whistling back to the field, and then the rustling of leaves caused by the wind. The announcer is counting down – with Michelle’s voice also calling Craig down on time. It’s been a long flight, with extremely tough conditions – Tobias, one of the top Germans lands short at only 8 minutes. Only the best pilots are involved with nothing to loose & everything to gain by beating the finest RC glider pilot I have ever known. Craig has to make this one count – he lands a touch early but it is on the spot – a good score, but will it be good enough? We pack up the models to make way for the junior fly-offs. As we walk past the TV screens, the scores flash up, it’s a 996. Will it be good enough? 4 rounds remain.
1;CZE;Duchan ;Jiri ;14.57.20;100;999.4;(Low Score)
2;NZE;Zaalberg ;Sven ;14.55.40;100;997.6;(Low Score)
3;GER;Feigl ;Benedikt ;14.57.80;100;1000.0;
4;GER;Lammlein ;Tobias ;08.26.10;95;602.4;(Low Score)
5;GER;Kolb ;Philip ;14.56.80;100;999.0;(Low Score)
6;TUR;Esibatır ;Murat ;09.56.20;100;697.7;(Low Score)
7;RSA;Goodrum ;Craig ;14.54.20;100;996.4;Reflied (2/1/7)
8;SLO;Rizner ;Primoz ;14.56.80;95;994.0;(Low Score)
9;USA;Perkins ;Daryl ;14.56.10;85;983.3;(Low Score)
10;AUS;Hobby ;David ;14.56.40;85;983.6;(Low Score)
11;CZE;Vostrel ;Jaroslav ;14.55.70;100;997.9;(Low Score)
Finally, seniors round 3 arrives. We walk out to the field & perform a text book setup. Line tension is huge again, & the launch is straight. Benedikt from Germany & Primoz from Slovakia (again) are not so fortunate. This time the Slovakian Xplorer does not get off so lightly in the collision & a reflight is called for both pilots. A spot landing, but a slower launch & earlier landing cost 1 or 2 seconds from the score. Craig has 998.5 and is now 6th or 7th overall. We stay on the field for the reflight.
1;AUS;Hobby ;David ;14.55.60;95;995.3;(Low Score)
2;CZE;Vostrel ;Jaroslav ;13.17.00;90;891.2;(Low Score)
3;CZE;Duchan ;Jiri ;14.55.30;100;1000.0;
4;NZE;Zaalberg ;Sven ;13.44.30;100;928.7;(Low Score)
5;GER;Feigl ;Benedikt ;0;0;0.0;Refly (3/2/5)
6;GER;Lammlein ;Tobias ;14.56.70;95;996.4;
7;GER;Kolb ;Philip ;14.55.30;100;1000.0;
8;TUR;Esibatır ;Murat ;14.55.20;100;999.9;
9;RSA;Goodrum ;Craig ;14.53.80;100;998.5;(Low Score)
10;SLO;Rizner ;Primoz ;00.00.00;0;0.0;Refly (3/2/10)
11;USA;Perkins ;Daryl ;14.55.90;95;995.6;
I learnt so much about the tactics of this critical aspect of F3J. With nothing to loose, it is critical to go for fast launches & as late a landing as possible to maximise the score diferentials. The winning time is 14:56.4 – a launch of 3.5 seconds for a 15 minute max! Spot landings are essential. In terms of the results table, competitors can only carry one of the rounds score – across the event – so Jiri Duchan scores a low score in the refly, as his initial Round 3 was also a full 1,000 pointer! Craig scores a 999.4 – which is only 0.6 seconds behind the Czech! He is lying between 5th & 7th places. But we cannot leave the field to verify this as we must fly round 4.
1;AUS;Hobby ;David ;14.54.50;100;998.3;
2;CZE;Vostrel ;Jaroslav ;14.54.40;100;998.2;
3;CZE;Duchan ;Jiri ;14.56.20;100;1000.0;(Low Score)
4;NZE;Zaalberg ;Sven ;14.55.30;100;999.1;
5;GER;Feigl ;Benedikt ;14.55.10;100;998.9;Reflied (3/1/5)
6;GER;Lammlein ;Tobias ;14.56.50;95;995.3;(Low Score)
7;GER;Kolb ;Philip ;14.55.80;95;994.6;(Low Score)
8;TUR;Esibatır ;Murat ;14.55.90;95;994.7;(Low Score)
9;RSA;Goodrum ;Craig ;14.55.60;100;999.4;
10;SLO;Rizner ;Primoz ;14.55.40;100;999.2;Reflied (3/1/10)
11;USA;Perkins ;Daryl ;06.09.30;0;370.7;(Low Score)
The extra breeze bends the wings even more than before & Craig slams the model off the line as he slingshots it into the stratosphere. We synchronise our watches with the time keeper – Michelle is focussed on calling air for Craig – I try & look elsewhere to feed her with the info that she cannot see. Two groups have formed – one over the left of the fields’s tree-line & the second is closer to the line of turn-arounds, and is clustering around the middle/right of the field. Neither group appears to be going up. Michelle is trying measure the rate of decent for both groups to give Craig a comparison. Not easy when half of the models are overhead. The rearward group begins to split – some nudging left, the others pushing forward. Craig stays with the nudgers, choosing the lower risk. He is dangerously low – and we are only a few minutes into the flight. Then the worst happens. The breakaway group begins to pick-up lift & the furthest left hit big sink – they all scramble for the right side, but Craig is still very low & has to try to work what he has to get sufficient attitude to move forward. He moves towards the left of the field, sensing bubbles being shot past by the wind. He seems to be increasing in height, but suddenly massive sink again. He calls for a relaunch.
We rush to get positions, the towmen are already at full tension position & I drag the line back to Craig in the launch corridor. Bad mistake! It costs us a second or so to connect the line. Craig steps backwards to give me space to throw – I am off balance, my arm is not straight. But no time – Michelle signals the towmen to go. They hurl themselves forward & I barely feel the line stretching as I try to throw straight. I do not get my head out of the way – the left wing cracks the back of my head & Craig has to correct for a now down-wind launch. The model flies terribly, the launch was not good. A control arm has broken during the impact. The tape holding the flap servo cover splits has split apart & this is creating additional drag affect too. Craig heads for the tree line, but the lift is marginal & a 3 minute flight is all he can get. We hope for a reflight – but after a few close shaves, nothing emerges. Damb. Double damb!
1;SLO;Rizner ;Primoz ;14.55.60;100;998.2;
2;USA;Perkins ;Daryl ;14.54.90;100;997.5;
3;AUS;Hobby ;David ;14.55.10;100;997.7;
4;CZE;Vostrel ;Jaroslav ;14.52.90;100;995.5;
5;CZE;Duchan ;Jiri ;14.52.70;100;995.3;
6;NZE;Zaalberg ;Sven ;14.54.10;100;996.7;
7;GER;Feigl ;Benedikt ;14.57.10;100;999.7;
8;GER;Lammlein ;Tobias ;14.57.40;100;1000.0;
9;GER;Kolb ;Philip ;14.55.90;90;988.5;
10;TUR;Esibatır ;Murat ;14.08.80;100;951.3;
11;RSA;Goodrum ;Craig ;03.18.10;95;293.9;
We break for the juniors. Craig checks the models making small repairs. We walk out for the final rounds. The wind is swirling again. More than half of the launches have been downwind so far. That’s mostly 4 second, hand-towed launches in downwind conditions! I think back to people who claim that towmen don’t make a difference! I feel pity for them. How can I ever get them to understand that this makes F3J so incredible, that this is one of the finest expressions of team work in aeromodelling? I recall that the evening before our towmen were crowned the best in the world! Does that make a difference to the armchair observer? I feel bitter, that we do not have better recognition for this, and resolve to address this amongst the Manager’s, already having lobbied with a number of teams.
We focus on Craig. He is so bloody calm. I simply do not know how he does it. I am sure Michelle can sense his nervousness, but he does not show it to anyone. He is machine, dedicated to one task. He is a human, completely passionate about flying. He is a man, an awesome RC pilot. I am humbled, in fact, we are all humbled by his presence. Finally, he is Craig, our team mate & friend.
Round 5 launch is fast – approx 3 seconds before snapping off the line, albeit downwind. Craig locks into lift & soon the others drift over to his position. A number of pilots follow a small bubble downwind which eventually becomes a massive thermal. Those 3.6 metre span wings are soon only mm’s in size. The wind is so strong. The pilots have to land from the turn-around side. Craig asks me to signal when the model is vertically over the launch corridor. His landing is text-book perfect again! He moves up to 5th position. We stay on the field.
Round / Group : 5 / 1
1;TUR;Esibatır ;Murat ;14.55.40;95;993.6;
2;RSA;Goodrum ;Craig ;14.55.50;100;998.7;
3;SLO;Rizner ;Primoz ;14.56.60;90;989.8;
4;USA;Perkins ;Daryl ;14.55.20;100;998.4;
5;AUS;Hobby ;David ;14.56.20;95;994.4;
6;CZE;Vostrel ;Jaroslav ;14.53.90;100;997.1;
7;CZE;Duchan ;Jiri ;14.56.20;100;999.4;
8;NZE;Zaalberg ;Sven ;14.56.30;100;999.5;
9;GER;Feigl ;Benedikt ;14.55.70;100;998.9;
10;GER;Lammlein ;Tobias ;14.56.60;100;999.8;
11;GER;Kolb ;Philip ;14.56.80;100;1000.0;
Final round. We are exhausted. I see some of the strain on Craig’s face. We are aware that the people in SA have been following the event – and ever message, every email, every sms is shared amongst the team. The group in the tent support the pilots vociferously, even the line judges & time-keepers are egging the pilots on. The feeling on the field is amazing.
Final round. We are sad. This is the last round of the most amazing world championships ever. We recognise that soon we will be moving away from our friends, old & new, that we have shared the past 2 weeks with. Cultures, languages, etc., do not make a difference. We have all had one goal – to compete in the 6th F3J World Championships.
We pre-tension with 2 minutes to go. The breeze is fickle, but is drawing towards the turn-around again. It will be yet another down-wind launch. 30 second & Michelle signals the all ready. I drag the model back towards the launch box. 20 seconds & the breeze increases on my neck, down-wind launch assured. Craig tests the servos. Michelle is to his left. The announcer booms the countdown. The gladiators are ready for the final battle. Time oozes. I visualise the milliseconds between the countdown seconds, tensing for the buzzer. It sounds almost as the clock turned to zero. The model is hurled upwards, the towmen give everything they have & have given throughout the entire event. Craig guides this missile upwards and very, very quickly he snaps it upwards away from the line. A pop-off? Horrifyingly as his model shoots upwards, he clips the line of Primoz (again!) & the model spins around uncontrollably. He fights the spin, regaining lift over the wings in an inverted position & at approx 30 metres height he flips it over again, he levels out & shoots off towards the thermal he sensed during the launch. A reflight is pointless – he has a very fast launch, but no altitude! I see a line judge moving towards Philip’s team – is something wrong? Darryl has shot backwards after some lift. David has gone left, Sven moves forward & to the right. Difficult air, everyone has their own ideas. Craig hooks lift & soon a few of the other pilots join him again.
The flight is over quicker than the 15 minutes suggest. The landings are unbelievably aggressive – absolute last milli-second stuff. We learn that at least 2 pilots performed 2 second launches! Tobias nails the spot & gets the 1,000 for the round. Craig’s time is almost 2 seconds behind & he scores 998. The scores do not appear on the TV screens. The officials huddle & do not tell us anything. We move back to our tent to wait. Nails are bitten. Tension drains the last from us. We huddle together as a team. Craig hugs Matthew.
1;GER;Lammlein ;Tobias ;14.57.50;100;1000.0;
2;GER;Kolb ;Philip ;14.57.60;0;869.8;60 sec penalty
3;TUR;Esibatır ;Murat ;14.55.50;100;998.0;
4;RSA;Goodrum ;Craig ;14.55.50;100;998.0;
5;SLO;Rizner ;Primoz ;14.55.70;100;998.2;
6;USA;Perkins ;Daryl ;14.55.90;100;998.4;
7;AUS;Hobby ;David ;14.56.60;95;994.1;
8;CZE;Vostrel ;Jaroslav ;14.54.00;100;996.5;
9;CZE;Duchan ;Jiri ;14.56.40;100;998.9;
10;NZE;Zaalberg ;Sven ;14.56.90;95;994.4;
11;GER;Feigl ;Benedikt ;14.57.30;100;999.8;
Many minutes pass as the scores are checked & double checked. 2 reflight rounds make the going tough for the officials. The system is validated by hand. There can be no error! Our hosts are meticulous in their audit.
1;Benedıkt Feıgl;GER;4997.30 (100.00 %)
2;Jırı Duchan;CZE;4997.30 (100.00 %)
3;Tobıas Lammleın;GER;4994.40 (99.94 %)
4;Sven Zaalberg;NZE;4993.50 (99.92 %)
5;Craıg Goodrum;RSA;4991.50 (99.88 %)
6;Daryl Perkıns;USA;4988.70 (99.83 %)
7;Prımoz Rızner;SLO;4988.60 (99.83 %)
8;Jaroslav Vostrel;CZE;4988.50 (99.82 %)
9;Davıd Hobby;AUS;4982.00 (99.69 %)
10;Phılıp Kolb;GER;4959.20 (99.24 %)
11;Murat Esıbatır;TUR;4941.20 (98.88 %)
On behalf of the members of the teams, I would like to thank our generous sponsors, supporters & organisers for enabling Team South Africa to participate in the 2008 F3J World Championships ever hosted. We are proud to have represented South Africa in such a distinguished event.