2008 F3B Team Trails at GGGC

It rained. And then it rained some more. The month preceding the F3B Team Trial was probably the wettest all year & I was getting very nervous that the trials would be postponed again. Let me put this in context – we have an average rainfall of around 600 mm for the year, and in one month we had almost recorded more than half of that! Evan Shaw, the national F3B Representative, had the foresight to schedule two days for the trials, but this weather was being caused by intense low-pressure cells drawing in moisture from the warm Indian Ocean and running across 5 – 6 days per cycle. Fortunately, the rain held off long enough, and we were treated to a fantastic day; with some of the best soaring weather that Africa musters. We were also fortunate to witness the elite F3B pilots in SA competing against each other for one of the most coveted prizes – that of holding one of only three positions in the National F3B team.

Craig's Ceres flicks around Base A - speed task
We arrived early at the GGGC field, finding that Evan & his team of helpers had already laid-out the launch corridor, sights & buzzers. Everyone was matrixed & the organization was as smooth as velvet for the rest of the day too. Fortunately the early start was made far more pleasant by breakfast at the field hosted again by Martie’s travelling diner (a wonderful fixture at RC gliding events). I seriously doubt that we would have made the day without her, as the temperatures shot up to 34 degrees Celsius in the shade with an oppressively high humidity factor. The glorious field we flew at also made it very special – the grass farm on which GGGC is based must be rated as one of the finest fields to fly thermal RC gliders in South Africa!

Evan’s organisation was equally impressive in its efficiency; we managed 6 full rounds of F3B, which equates to a total of 144 flights (excluding re-launches) from the 8 qualifying pilots. If you do the math & using the standard FAI required turnaround distance of 200 metres from the winch, we probably ran, jogged, & walked over 57 km to collect individual parachutes! Anyone who thinks that F3B is not a physical activity clearly does not have the ability to understand this sport.

No report on F3B is complete without detailing the flights. Round 1 saw Michelle Goodrum clinch the duration task with a convincing 9:58 & spot landing, electing to launch a minute into working time with her unballasted Ceres, drifting left & slowly around the field with the available lift which was very light so early in the morning. Dion Liebenberg flew a 18.8 seconds for his first speed run with his Crossfire, after numerous re-launches into the moderately still air. Craig Goodrum hammered the distance task home with a winning 26 lap first round score, or roughly 3.9 km in the allowed 4 minutes, flying a Ceres with some ballast.

Round 2 saw Michelle clinch duration again, improving her time to 9:59 and a spot landing. This time around Craig Goodrum flew 21 seconds in speed in windy conditions, and also a 20 lap distance to clinch the round. Both flew their Ceres models with ballast. Round 3 and Michelle shared the top line honours in duration with Paul Carnall (flying his F3B Trinity), both recording perfect 10 minutes, but slipping into the 95 point landing (1 – 2 metres). Dion clinched speed with a 20.2 second run and Herman Weber the distance task with 16 laps in a brief period of sink using a Ceres model.

Caller madness at Base A - distance taskThe highlight of F3B is always the speed run, but the humid conditions seemed to hold everyone back a bit. In a slight change of roles from the SA National Championships this year, Michelle Goodrum was crowned speedster for the day, clocking the only sub 16 second run at 15.7 seconds with her ballasted Ceres, running at roughly 137.6 kph (and which includes three 180 degree turns) during round 4. It may appear tough to be “beaten by a girl”, but when you are flying against someone of the calibre of Michelle, it is a privilege to simply be on the same field as her! Round 4 was in fact all Michelle: 9:58 for duration with a 2 metre landing, 15.7 seconds speed run and 23 lap distance saw her recording a perfect 3,000 point round. Craig flew a 25 lap distance in his matrixed group to record a 1,000 pointer too after his #1 Ceres write off from the previous round. Round 5 and Craig flew a perfect 10 minute duration with a spot landing, and 18.2 second speed run and another 26 lap distance task to clinch the round. Craig used the circle tow technique to maximise stretch in the monofilament nylon (81.5kg speed line) – zipping alone just a few feet above the ground & then when he sensed building lift flooring the winch & zooming into the stratosphere with his very, very heavily ballasted Ceres.

The final round 6, again saw Craig carrying line honours across all three tasks with another perfect 10 minute duration and spot landing, 17.6 second speed run & 21 lap distance. Derek Marusich also flew a perfect 10 minute duration with a spot landing to share the “partial” or task honours with 1,000 points.

Although speed and distance are exciting in F3B, the overall quality of the results from the duration task were not to be scoffed at either (and is probably a result of the focus over the past 12 months on F3J & thermal duration events), with most pilots maxing each round using their purpose built F3B models.

Dion launching Herman's Ceres
Casualties were unfortunately aplenty too. At the start of round 3, and in a moment of madness, Craig took his eyes off his #1 Ceres just after the launch & then flew someone else’s model until the now-pilotless Ceres smote the earth with the most gruesome force some considerable distance away. The damage was catastrophic – even the v-tails disintegrated, but the worst was that this was his first task for the round, so he had to sit the round out & use up all his throwaways. When I asked him where the forward portion of the nose was – he replied that it was to deep to retrieve & had left it behind! As we have come to expect from this amazing competitor, he came back fighting in the very next round with his second model (although it did require some “preparation” to get it flyable during his thrown away round).

Next casualty was Dion Liebenberg in Round 4; during his speed run he turned early around Base A & in re-rounding with his heavily ballasted Crossfire appeared to tip stall, cart wheeling it into the ground and shedding bits of very expensive carbon across the field. Again, as this was his first task of the round he paid dearly with the entire round.

Wolfgang Steffny appears to have suffered from a radio “lock-out” when his X-21 spiralled into the ground during the Round 4 duration task & which rather comprehensively destroyed itself within a very small patch of the field. Unfortunately not much remained to identify the cause of the crash.

Lionel about to launch Craig's Ceres - duration task
Not to be outdone, Michelle lost elevator control of her model on launch in the duration task of Round 5 – possibly due to a bad battery or broken linkage. In her attempt to recover using only flaps for control, the nose snapped clean off in front of the LE also destroying the v-tail pushrods. Bits of carbon tube joined the pushrods again, copious quantities of CA & kicker, carbon, old saw blades, bits from Craig’s previously destroyed Ceres, and lots of tape, soon had her up in the following rounds again, & loosing only her duration score for the round.

Piet Rheeders, one of the veterans of F3B in SA, lost elevator authority on his Makhulu (a local designed & built F3B/J composite model) during the 6th round, but managed to land safely without incurring more damage – he unfortunately had to sit out for the remainder of the round due to a lack of a back-up model. Interestingly, in 1975 Piet qualified in 16th place for the SA trials of the first F3B World Championships hosted in SA in 1976. He made the top 15 for the Trials when someone withdrew, and placed 9th. At the time Piet was flying an Aquila and his fastest time was around 30 seconds for two laps. In those days they flew only 6 minutes duration slots and 2 lap speed runs. So in 34 years he has improved two places from 9th to 7th in the team trial!

We had more fun too – Herman’s comment about pulling out our calendars to time his “speed” run resulted in a lot of good natured silliness. Michelle’s “touch, slide & go” during a speed run had the resident aerobatics judges awarding her a 7/10 for artistic interpretation (for the record, she also cut a base during this run & even with her double turn-around base “B” she still made a respectable 25 second run).. Herman, who achieved a smarter re-entry from a similar touch & go, was scored 8/10 for his efforts (also during a speed run). A round of applause from the spectators & pilots was provided to Wolfgang when he saved his model from crashing at the end of his speed run. To thank Evan & the helpers the MGA bought them all a round of beer at the end of the day – when Martie asked how many beers they required the unanimous response was “all of them”!

In keeping with the National Team Selection Process, the final results were scored using the current 207/2008 F3B rules from the FAI/CIAM where only the lowest scoring of each task (partial) is considered a throw away after 6 rounds have been flown.

Pilot, Total, Ranking
Craig Goodrum, 14,690, 1
Michelle Goodrum, 13,547, 2
Dion Liebenberg, 13,344, 3
Paul Carnall, 13,248, 4
Herman Weber, 13,066, 5
Derek Marusich, 12,712, 6
Piet Rheeders, 11,121, 7
Wolfgang Steffny, 10,590, 8

Combining the Team Trials with the individuals’ best qualification round as per the MGA qualification process for 2008, the team selection results (note that the results are based on the average score per round flown to normalise differences between events, and the best qualification event is added to the Team Trial event for final ranking).

Pilot, Q1 (Avg), Q2 (Avg), Best Qualifier, TT (Avg), Total, Ranking
Craig Goodrum, 2,910, 2,849, 2,910, 2,938, 5,848, 1
Michelle Goodrum, 2,704, 2,859, 2,859, 2,709, 5,568, 2
Dion Liebenberg, 2,595, 2,505, 2,595, 2,669, 5,264, 3
Paul Carnall, 2,538, 2,532, 2,538, 2,650, 5,187, 4
Herman Weber, 2,227, 2,340, 2,340, 2,613, 4,954, 5
Derek Marusich, 1,857, 2,036, 2,036, 2,542, 4,578, 6
Wolfgang Steffny, 1,935, 1,968, 1,968, 2,118, 4,086, 7
Piet Rheeders, 1,802, -, 1,802, 2,224, 4,026, 8

Craig Goodrum, Michelle Goodrum, and Dion Liebenberg all qualify for the 2009 SA National F3B Team. Paul Carnal is first (non-travelling) reserve, Herman Weber is second (non-travelling) reserve, etc…

On behalf of the MGA, I would like to congratulate all these pilots for an outstanding competitive spirit during the selection process & wish the team the best of luck with their preparations for the 2009 F3B World Championship.

As is typical of any well run event, we would like to thank the organisers & particularly the helpers who dedicated their entire day to assisting a handful of RC pilots. I have often felt that there is only one thing worse than not flying – watching everyone else fly! We are deeply ingratiated to these dedicated individuals who make these events possible.

Fly safely