2008 F3J World Championship - the report (part 1)

Towards the end of June 2008, the South African National F3J Teams departed to Turkey, destination of the much anticipated 6th F3J World Championships.

Swamping the airport’s check-in desk with 9 pilots, a mountain of luggage & model boxes, with reams of documentation supporting the excess baggage definitely worked – we got through check-in without a hitch, the poor clerk was completely flustered by our en-masse efficiency!

We left a rather chilly SA behind with lots of excitement & anticipation for Turkey, but everyone was a little nervous & generally more subdued than normal. After a looooong 6 hour lay-over in Dubai, we arrived in Istanbul for the first look at this interesting country. Unfortunately the rental agency required some rather strong convincing that 9 people & luggage would not fit into a Ford Mondeo even though we had already paid for a 10 seater bus (and naturally had our proof on payment available with us). During this “convincing” process, the bus arrived which the WC organisers had made available for pilots, so 2 pilots, the boxes & some luggage were squeezed into our rental & we followed the other bus out of the massive Istanbul - 15 million inhabitants & most of these have vehicles. The bus driver had an interesting interpretation of traffic signs, and whilst the left hand drive & frightening traffic took only a few seconds to get used to, his 110 kph through peak hour & then 90 kph on the open highway was incredibly frustrating after the almost 24 hrs already in transit. Craig, who had arrived in Turkey 3 days prior, began contacting us long before we reached Adapazzari – where at approx 10 pm that evening we transferred the other bus’s passengers & their luggage (less Johan Jnr’s of course) over to Craig’s rental car & we shot off towards Hendek, our base for the next 2 weeks. Our hotel was the cheapest we could find in Turkey – but the staff were friendly, & the small rooms were clean. Without even contemplating supper we collapsed into our beds, blessing our luck for the rooms with air-conditioning in the oppressive upper 20’s/lower 30’s and with nearly 100% humidity.

Our first morning was interesting – seems that watermelon, boiled eggs, olives & bread are the staple breakfast diet in Turkey. Not a drop of milk in sight! Still we tucked in & were soon whizzing down the motorway again towards the flying field. On the way the architecture was commented upon – all houses were typically square 2 – 3 stories, with seemingly very little attempt at gardening. I estimated that 1 out of three buildings were in the process of being built – often one floor already being occupied even without walls on the remaining floor(s). Chris mentioned that this might have something to do with migrant labour, but we also suspected that a construction boom may have come & gone. Most buildings are plain concrete/plaster finish, but a few were painted (typically yellow or some form of mosaic pattern). One or two buildings appeared a little worse for wear.

The trip from our hotel to the field took approx 15 minutes, with the final stretch a 2 km dirt road along a small & very straight river. The farmlands on either side appeared to be sod-farm & nut trees, but I was never sure of this. We also encountered a few bumps in the dirt road, much to the delight of the forward seated bus passengers – the rear suspension, wasn’t as nearly effective & the rear most seat was quickly distrusted with all racing for the most forward seats during the remainder of the event. By 07h00, the temp’s were already in the mid 20’s (celcius) and humidity was well above 50%! We finally arrived at the gap in the hedge & turned right into the field. I admit that I paused when I saw the spectacle that faced us – a massive expanse of mowed lawn, surrounded by trees on two sides & a huge white tent running down one side of the trees. The parking area was clearly marked off & we had to convince the parking guards that we wished to drop off equipment, instead of having to carry it over 300 metres from cars to tent. Our spot in the tent was already marked – a section measuring approx 5 x 10 metres was made available to each team, ‘cept the USA, Germany, & Slovakia who were given bigger areas due to the tent construction, & naturally Turkey who boasted an air-conditioned tent too. We always knew that the organisation would be good, but this was impressive.

We unpacked models – nothing was broken notwithstanding the baggage handlers obvious attempts to scramble or crush the contents of every box. We soon had the bungies & tow-lines out & practice sessions commenced until around 17h00 when Tx control was called by the organisers. The Tx control initially raised a number of eyebrows – simply because the organisers requested antennas only (admittedly, storing 170 Rx’s may have been viewed as a bit of a logistical problem - even for the supremely organised Turkish). Unfortunately after loosing a second junior’s model during the pre-cup to obvious interference & complaining that this was “simply unacceptable”, our organisers agreed to delay the flying by approx. 30 minutes whilst the Tx's were collected. To my knowledge, no more interference issues occured.

Part #2/..... follows