After being blown away upon our arrival by the field we soon moved into our section of the “TENT”. This three storey high structure of almost 200 metres length was just one of the many aspects demonstrating an extremely well organised World Championship. During this time we experienced our first “issue”; 6 pilots, 2 team managers & 3 helpers do not fit easily into a space designed for a team of 4 people. Some organisation amongst the group soon had all these issues sorted out & we set about getting “acclimatisation” practices in.
We unfortunately “lost” two of the juniors models during this practice session – we believe that interference was the culprit for both of these incidents. The juniors however, displayed maturity beyond their years & soon had their second models flying. We had our first teams meeting around this time & it was clear that the crashes had upset the organisers to the extent that they were willing to take drastic steps to curtail any future occurrences – whereas they only intended to collect Tx antenna’s, all Tx’s were immediately placed under pound control. I think it is fair to point out that the collection of 170 antenna's was a reasonable measure - the individuals who switched on causing the interference were the exception & had nothing to do with the organisers.
At this time we also had our formal “managers” meeting & a number of points were raised. Interestingly the questions centred around interpretations of FAI/CIAM rules, but it was made very clear that the proposed 20cm landing would only come into affect in 2009 – however, we did get permission to have both a team manager & caller to support the pilots during the event – in the case of the pilot being the team manager a suitable proxy “manager” would be designated & accepted. The officials indicated that they would not tolerate any deviations from the rules & I am confident that this adherence was strictly observed for all calls, line judging & consideration of all formal objections. This may appear a little harsh, but in my opinion, they were always fair & unbiased in their application of the rules, making for a far more enjoyable championship by eliminating inane “tactical” measures which may have detracted from the superb event our hosts had clearly planned.
The pre-event was our first taste of competition, but the Spor Yapi Cup was only four rounds! I was up in the first round, first slot whereupon a disastrous launch & re-launch in the early morning soggy conditions saw a terrible result. Fortunately this appeared to spur the rest of team into top gear & the next few rounds saw everyone flying comfortably & settling down to the rhythm of competitive RC Glider flying. By setting up a list of caller, pilot & towmen for each round, we were able to physically prepare lines, models, & all the necessary equipment up to 4 rounds in advance.
I am especially pleased that we did not miss a single slot – this for all 9 pilots participating, calling, & towing! It is a tribute to everyone working together as a team that made this possible. It was also during this time that it became obvious that the tree line & tents provided subtle ridge lift – with some gifted pilots able to ride out the lift for some time & maxing flights in otherwise still air. The Spor Yapi Cup ended rather quickly in 2 days, with 170 pilots competing in four rounds. It is a tribute to the organisers that they were able to host this & discussing with a number of team managers & towmen, this is often their highlight of the world championship event. I am sure that this “helpers” cup tradition will be continued in future F3J events, where everyone has the opportunity of flying with the best in the world!
The prize giving for the Spor Yapi cup was held on the afternoon of 29 June 2008. It was a somewhat interesting affair, as the outright winner was the German "junior", Christian Reinecke, yet the organisers elected to award junior & senior’s separately. I was impressed when the Senior winner (who was “unofficially” 2nd overall) Daryl Perkins, requested that this “junior” stand alongside him on the podium – I understand that the organisers eventually rescinded under pressure & named Christian the outright Cup winner later that day. Strange indeed. Of course this late afternoon silliness was soon forgotten upon the opening of the Jack Daniels’ road show truck, with rather pretty waitrons providing free vodka & Jack’s to all & sundry.
One of the sponsoring companies was Jack Daniels – clearly a rather civilised & strategic move on the part of the Turk’s to lure the visiting countries into a false sense of sobriety. We naturally did not yield to the temptations of liquor, and instead left the field to enjoy one of many traditional Turkish suppers at a local restaurant very close to our hotel. The interesting aspect of these suppers was the usual pre-meal snack – a pita-like bread that is blown up like huge balloon during baking. Due to the high work loads of the competition, we generally always ate everything placed in front of us by our hosts, and also because the food was typically of very high quality & reasonably priced. After the Cup our team settled down for the night, some dreaming of flying, some wondering if the Jack Daniel’s truck would return....
The day after the Spor Yapi Cup was a formal practice day & we soon had the bungies out to perfect landings & a couple of setup tweaks noted during the Cup. During this time those people that had lost aircraft also completed rebuilding or acquiring new models – noticeably all three of the juniors had lost one model before the start of the World Championship! Johan Bruwer & Chris Adrian also started on there mission to acquire as many models that they could carry. I was rather attracted to the new Explorer from Nan models, but the quoted “around 1,000 Euro’s” was so far out of my already blown-to-pieces-budget that I could only afford to gaze at the airframe longingly. Approximating a Pike Perfect in wing loading, I reckon it is one of the sexiest models around - & note that we were literally swamped by Pike’s, Xplorer’s, Supra’s, Shadows, etc. One fortunate individual from Canada (I think) won an Explorer from the German team in a raffle (cost him 40 Euros). For the record, the Explorer achieved rather good results in both the Spor Yapi & World Championships. Expect to see more of this model in the future when production & world orders start in around 6 months time.
Competition day. We arrived at the field somewhat earlier than usual. Water canisters were all fully charged & batteries were all filled, or was that that the other way around? I did not imagine the sense of nervousness, as most people were far more quite than the previous days & went about their preparations in a far more subdued fashion. It was interesting to see everyone’s “defence” mechanisms. Michelle became extremely chatty with the other teams & looooong time friends, Craig became super efficient in organising the tent area, whilst Chris finished rebuilding Conrad’s #1 Pike fuselage & managed to connect to the internet (yes, wireless internet connectivity on the field – virtually broadband when compared to our local drivel). The juniors were also affected – Conrad was clearly worried about his model & was especially concerned about what his dad would say. Simon Tladi (or “lightning” as he became known) simply slowed things down, and began his focusing for the event ahead.
Only young Ryan was an enigma, not having flown as much with the rest of the pilots often, he stuck with his dad, Simon Nelson, during this time, hiding behind his dark glasses & scaring even a number of top pilots in the process – I understand from his mom that “Chuckie” was a changed lad after this event (I have no idea why?), & I am proud that gliding could have such an positive affect on anyone. The towmen were always exceptionally professional & busied themselves with checking equipment & getting everything (& occasionally everyone) ready. The managers were the only individuals left to worry – which I can report that I managed to achieve with some considerable success.
We began flying the WC rounds, Michelle was up first amongst the seniors & had to land short following a trip through a seemingly never-ending patch of sink – requiring a relaunch of her #2 Pike. I think this was a pop-off as she did not achieve a good score for her first round. Chris was up next & provided a solid score which pulled us back again. Craig was up third & was very close to a max with a good time, but if I cannot remember getting the 1 metre landing. We flew 2 rounds of seniors, then 2 rounds of juniors – the idea being to alternate this pattern through the remainder of the 12 rounds. The light breeze & warm conditions soon had the South African’s moving up the ranks, & Craig was soon placed very strongly in the top 10. Michelle was also fighting back with amazing determination & Chris too was consistently placing well in each round & they were both placed in the mid 20’s / 30's ranking.
During one of the rounds, the weather decided that we were all having too much fun & arrived with vengeance & some pay-back when a strong breeze & vicious sink set in. If I recall the juniors were flying during this time & the carnage was devastating. Out-landings became the order of the day with numerous destroyed models as a result. In fact it began to resemble a demolition derby very quickly as the carnage spread to more than 50% of the field per round. Similarly the seniors experienced a torrid time & Chris also succeeded in out-landing his model some considerable distance (approx 800 metres) from the field – this after spending what seemed like ages just trying to get back!
The next morning the organisers announced that the juniors would fly in the morning for 4 rounds & seniors to follow afterwards, obviously concerned about the high level of destruction – particularly amongst the junior pilots. The weather naturally played along in the morning, but just after lunchtime the wind returned & brought similarly challenging conditions – dissipating available thermals & removing the bubble generators we identified previously during the Spor Yapi Cup. However, in their defence, the carnage did seem to subside & the teams’ rhythm was not affected. Due to the back to back rounds, Johan Bruwer Senior & Chris Adrian were also called upon to tow for the Juniors, providing Johan Junior & myself with a bit of a breather on the Junior side. The seniors towmen saw Ian &Johan Jnr providing the majority of launches, with Johan Snr also assisting in quite a few too. On the flight line, the structure was Michelle called for Craig, Conrad calling for Chris, and Craig calling for Michelle, and myself as second caller/time-keeper, providing the basis for the senior’s “rotation”. Juniors had Ian as second caller/time-keeper/landing coach, with Carig calling for Simon & Ryan, Chris calling for Conrad.
I watched with delight as we all began to solidify positions towards the fly-offs, in particular I have never seen Craig so focussed & his awesome display of flying was equally recognised by other competitors & judges alike (specifically I received statements of support from both Sedar (our CD) & Sydney (Uncle Sydney), with lots of encouragement from various other teams including USA & Australia). Craig needed a position in the top 11 to make the flyoffs, towards the final day of the preliminary rounds it was becoming very, very tense. During this time I was launching for him & was worried that I was costing him an extra second on launch due to waiting for the buzzer – however his words of “wait for the buzzer, as a relaunch is more costly” served as a good guidance to ensure that each launch was “legal”. There were claims made that the line judges did not pick up all the early launches or late landings, but those that I saw were swiftly penalised & the continuous line checking etc., created a presence on the field that prevented any opportunities for anyone taking a chance.
Chris & Michelle had solidified their positions in the middle 20's (out of 74 pilots) following some absolutely stunning flying, but the initial round setback & Chris’s out-landing were not throwaway’s they wanted. The tension became incredible during this time, but the teams (juniors & seniors) took this head on & everyone performed with the utmost professionalism & dedication. I sensed that something special was growing as more & more we began focusing on the fly-offs. By round 9, both Craig & Conrad were amongst the top contenders. Then disaster struck. Conrad was flying in very tough afternoon conditions & elected to stay with the group that meandered through horrid sink. Only one pilot gambled & broke away from the group, hooking the only non-sink in a 50 mile radius and maxed the slot, whilst the rest struggled to a devastating 7 minutes. The result was harsh – with only 3 rounds to go, Conrad, who already had a throwaway due to a relaunch (I think), dropped from 3rd to 17th – just ahead of Simon in 18th. The look on the his face was indescribable as he realised the virtually impossible task of achieving the junior fly-offs. But, what was amazing is that he scored 1,000 during his next slot - just to show everyone what an awesome competitor he is. This to me was one of the defining moments of the competition – as I saw this young man assume full responsibility & came back from intense disappointment. If that is not “big match temperament” then nothing is, & I am incredibly proud of his maturity & actions.
Craig also experienced some challenges towards the end of the prelims & excruciatingly dropped from 7th overall to 10th. However, is a show of sheer determination & excellently timed landings he maintained his position for the last 3 rounds. I realise that the discussion forum back home was going wild – but the pressure of competing was such that few of us had time to respond to emails. I believe that everyone was fully focused on the event, but also know that each & every sms, email or voice message were shared amongst the team as the unbelievable support from SA just mounted & mounted. In fact, we were all rather humbled by this level of support & would like to thank everyone for showing such interest.
Enough blabbering for now, the final report will cover the fly-offs. If you ever thought the prelims could be tense, then you have never experienced a fly-off! It is simply what makes F3J so utterly amazing & challenging. until next time ....