HTL #3 - SGC

The superb Silverton Glider Club field, just east of Pretoria, South Africa, was the scene for the 3rd 2008 HTL event. This gorgeous grass (sod) farm is surrounded by trees & a small farm dam, but these challenges are easily overlooked for those of us used to rather harder African landing surfaces: it has the greenest of grass that is so soft, it almost polishes the aircraft on each landing. Together with the amazing thermal weather of the Highveld and the great people involved, this has all the necessary ingredients for an amazing event.

The competition was run to F3J rules (but permitting winch launches off 150m turnarounds) the competitors experienced a somewhat breezy day, with warm to hot temperatures. Thermals were plentiful & huge, but the trouble was that the sink was once again the rather nasty type - simply swatting our little models from the sky!

I arrived early to see the SGC members eagerly laying out the field. At first I thought to myself that they had the wind direction all wrong, but within half an hour & a 180 degree swing later, we were facing directly into the soft early morning breeze. The competitors all arrived through the muddy entrance path, and we started the pilots briefing as per standard. John (who last flew at "a" Nationals) Monk was our honorable CD up until lunch time (after which Volney took over), & kept us on the straight & narrow without missing a beat. Martie provided great food and drinks again (excellent as always - thanks).

Volney gave up flying for the day & together with Johan Jnr were dedicated towman for the F3J world championship teams. Craig & Michelle brought brand new models that everyone crowded around - a cute little four legged carbon canopy destroyer called "Buzz" the bull terrier (the newest edition to their family), and then their impressive & supa lite Pikes! Everyone did the appropriate ooh's & aah's, fondling the gorgeous fuselages/wings & especially weighing those delicate stabs. Craig chose an interesting "Oranje/Blanje/Blou" colour scheme - but assures me that the orange added to the Pike standard white/blue was purely for visibility & had nothing to do with any memories of the old regime. Michelle's choice of pink was, ja,well, no fine!

The models on the day were dominated by euro imports - Pike Perfect's, Mibo X-pro & Shadows appearing to be the dominant choice. I actually believe I only saw an Eish! for the first time during the 2nd round - remarkable for an HTL. One model of particularly interest was Derek's little built-up Sagitta - I had to verify that this did not have a small electric motor or flatulant fieldmouse inside, as this was really floating around everywhere whilst everyone else was literally falling down. A typical comment from a pilot struggling in nasty sink was "help, please find lift, anywhere..". The caller would frantically look around - see the Sagitta gracefully soaring upwards & simply turn around & state - "sorry - nothing looks good enough" :-)

With the wind direction and a tight field layout, landings were challenging; pilots having to cut through a gap between two large trees - Rodney being the first to test the strength of his composite Eagle against wood (the same tree that Joe tried to battle with unsuccesfully during the 2007 season). As the wind increased gradually in strength all day until it reached near hurricane force, a number of people were forced to land out when the sink caught them downwind with insufficient altitude - at one point, Ian flying a moulded Supra, commented that it took him almost 5 minutes to return to the field - & then he still had to dawdle around for a further 2-3 minutes to land!

Did I mention that the sink was horrible? I was very excited to find the only decent patch of air in one round flying against Craig G. - not that it made any difference as he seriously destroyed me during all the other rounds that we flew together. Comments about "tubs of KY" were used to describe some of his sole destroying ability to find lift when all others had failed. Paul was also deploying his usual style of speared landings, much to the chargin of the Belgium's representatives to CIAM, with serious space between his model's rudder & the ground after landing into the soft ground.

Whilst plenty of people had model/line contact during the launches, the only reflight was during round 4 when Rudi's Eish! was flat spun after brief contact in a very tight thermal & he had to land immediately. Unfortunately the biggest incident of the day was Chris loosing sight of his Pike Perfect behind the tree line - it started with sufficient altitude, but another nasty batch of sink reached out & sucked his model outtasite somewhere away from the field - if you do happen to find a canary yellow Pike Perfect, with red stencilling which was rather prone to aileron flutter; Chris is offering a serious reward.

The results (could someone explain how to use tables in a blog, please?):

Pilot; score; %
Craig Goodrum; 5,000; 100.0%
Conrad Klintworth; 4,996; 99.9%
Paul Carnall; 4,984; 99.7%
Simon Thladi; 4,900; 98.0%
Derek Marusich; 4,820; 96.4%
Michelle Goodrum; 4,638; 92.8%
Ian Lessem; 4,625; 92.5%
Craig Baker; 4,585; 91.7%
Gert Nieuwoudt; 4,447; 88.9%
Lionel Brink; 4,345; 86.9%
Herman Weber; 4,343; 86.9%
Johan Bruwer; 4,320; 86.4%
Joe Coetzer; 4,307; 86.1%
Rudi King; 4,105; 82.1%
Jason Weber; 3,924; 78.5%
Rodney Goodrum; 3,915; 78.3%
Chris Adrian; 2,874; 57.5%

Just look at the results of those Juniors (Conrad & Simon)! Also, remember that Derek was flying a built up Sagitta against all those molded models - proof of his awesome skill. I still havn't found his little field mouse though.

Interestingly, the top 3 individual positions were all from different clubs (club scores for the top 3 pilots per club):

MMS; 1,000
ETB; 911
SGC; 956
BERG; 332

I didn't include Gert's return to HTL in the club scores above, as I am not too sure what his club is at the moment (SRF?), but he definately deserved mention as having traveled the furthest distance to attend the event with his Supra.

The next event is scheduled for BERG - will confirm details closer to the time.

Safe flying