2007 Highveld Thermal League - Review

The 2007 League is arguably one of the most successful RC thermal gliding leagues in South Africa. A total of 9 clubs from the Gauteng & surrounding provinces were represented with 64 pilots competing in three classes (FAI/Open, RES100, and 2M). Our congratulations go to the winners, and also to everyone who participated & enjoyed themselves in this developmental competition run by the MGA.

The post 2006 F3J World Championships review suggested that more regular competitions were required to establish a stronger thermal competition basis within South African RC pilots. To achieve this, the MGA agreed that the Highveld Thermal League (HTL) could be comprised of 12 individually scored events, each one held on the first weekend of each month. The MGA decided to continue promoting the National Postals & National Championships, so that the HTL would not supersede these, and rather incorporated these competitions as individual events as per their traditional calendar months. This resulted in 7 individual HTL competitions organized & flown, 4 individual National Postal events & the National Championships (only the thermal portion counted towards the HTL). Typically 5 – 6 rounds were flown per pilot, with normalized scores accumulated to each event’s overall score. The format of these events comprised a duration task (10 minutes for the Open class models) and then a spot landing as per the FAI "onion ring" approach (max points for a spot landing with points deducted for each metre away from this). Each events results were accumulated per pilot within the league table. For 2007, only 2 throwaways were permitted – which naturally were comprised of the 2 lowest scoring rounds flown. Most of the top pilots flew each event within the twelve months, with 86% of their approx. 70 flights flown counting towards the league results. Whilst consistent attendence & performance, the standard established also required excellence to achieve a top ranking.

With the format of the 2007 League flown, a close battle emerged throughout the year between the top 4 Open competitors. In the end, Paul Carnell consistently performed superbly well , winning 5 of the twelve individual events with his Experience Pro V-tail & became the deserved 2007 HTL champion! Within 98% of the winners score, fellow ETB club member Izak Theron showed his mettle flying his Eish! cross-tail for the greater part of the year & then last few events with a Experience-Pro cross-tail. A slim margin behind them also within 98% and a very close third position, MMS/BERG member Mark Stockton flew a combination of Eish!, Supra and Experience Pro’s during the year. Conrad Klintworth was 4th overall and first Junior, with Kurt Stockton second junior and 6th ranked pilot overall. In total 38 pilots competed in the Open class during the 2007 HTL season.

The RES100 competition started strongly with Gordon Prahm creating a virtually unassailable lead flying his Ava, but work pressure reduced his availability in the second half of the year & Alan Smith, who only began flying RES100 in the second half of the year, provided an excellent performance and achieved the class win with a relatively comfortable margin. In total, 9 pilots competed in RES100 during the 2007 HTL.

The 2M class saw 18 pilots competing, but his outright dominance flying a Sagitta, provided Derek Marusich the class win after a long sabbatical from the sport. Second place went to Heinrich Nothnagel even though he was unable to fly during the latter half of 2007.

Throughout the year, the club event was highly competitive. With the superb Goodrum / Stockton pilots providing the mainstay of MMS, the loss of their field due to massive radio interference and work pressures, resulted in a distinct drop in their club performance. ETB and SGC were consistent, with ETB showing gradual improvement of their individual pilots over the course of the year and eventually clinching the HTL club trophy with the narrowest of margins. BERG (also a dominant RC glider club) took the opportunity to take the coveted third place just ahead of SGC. In terms of individual entry clubs, WHRF took top honours in 5th position overall amongst the nine clubs represented.

Well done to the pilots & clubs – as always we trust that you enjoyed yourselves, and had fun flying in this wonderful league. The final 2007 HTL results can be found in the Yahoo Groups section: mgasa\Files\Highveld Thermal League.

Our thanks also to the various clubs that hosted the individual events. A mainstay of the HTL is the fact that each month, the competition is held at a different location, so local knowledge/advantage is nullified to some extent across the league. It is my opinion that the level of organisation at the events during 2007 was a significant step up from previous years, but still remained at the “informal” level were one or two individuals could comfortably manage proceedings. For 2008, the digital timing & “MP3” countdown was proven during 2007 and will likely be used exclusively, as this significantly reduces organisation overheads. The MGA upgraded the competition box which is rented to these events, and at present count, the costs for this upgrade have been paid for & then some.

For the first time in 2007, we started “branding” the league. A logo was produced by Charles Flee for the league & this has been applied consistently with the various club’s logo's to create a sense of League identity. Although I tried to get medals & badges produced, poor supplier commitment has resulted in two cancelled orders for 2007 & this initiative will likely stand over to 2008.

Another vital aspect that emerged during 2007 was Martie’s travelling diner. Providing boiling hot coffee in the mornings, ice cold drinks throughout the day, and freshly cooked lunches for the hungry teams created a new level of organisation & most pilots will agree that the overall quality & prices were always excellent!

To me the most important part of this league has to be the people, pilots, helpers, officials, spectators & families that endure our passion. So many times during 2007 we witnessed acts of unselfishness, and of assistance provided across competitive lines even to the detriment of those individuals providing the help. We joked, we laughed, we even occasionally shed for tear for departed models, but the support we received & provided to each other creates the essence of this league & what makes it worthwhile. From raw beginner to seasoned veteran, from wooden spoon recipients to the champions, everyone plays an equally important part in making the Highveld Thermal League so successful.

The changes that will be applied for 2008 represent only the "accumulation" format. The task rules shall remain the same: a developmental competition that is hosted by multiple clubs during the course of the year, flown as a RC thermal duration event with a duration & landing task counted towards the overall score. The only changes will be to add another event (making this a total of 8 competitions), and removing the National Postals & Championships from the table, changing this to become an exclusive league. In addition, the work commitments of individuals are recognised & three throwaways will be permitted. The only impact this has is to permit those individuals with other commitments to remain more competitive throughout the season, no-one is specifically advantaged or disadvantaged as the same rules are applied equally to all. To compare, I have setup a “what if” table where the impact of throwaways are seen against the 2007 season and then compared against the 2008 format using this year’s results. In general the greater the number of throwaways, the more emphasis is placed on individual excellence, whilst the reverse is rather towards consistent good performance. The numbers for this discussion are also available in the Yahoo! Groups section: mgasa\Files\Highveld Thermal League.

In all, I reckon we had a good time this year. We did not nedd to cancel a single event due to poor weather conditions (in fact the SA Weather Bureau even got their predictions spot on a few times), we flew lots of really great flights (we will ignore those flights that were less than wonderful), we had no noticeable safety incidents, and we encouraged new people to fly in the league. Hopefully we increased the standard of flying amongst everyone, giving the top guns the opportunity to improve their skills thorugh regular practise & providing us lesser mortals with a new standard to aspire to.
To one & all, a huge thank you.

Fly safely