We are so fortunate to be blessed with a beautiful country & the most awesome thermal weather – little wonder that RC “Soaring” (as per John Lightfoot, SouthEaster October 2008) has such a passionate following, but it is strange that many more people are not attracted to it?
Whilst 2008 has seen a decline in pilot numbers, the 8th and final HTL event for 2008 was the exception, with a record 34 entries making up 9 teams of around 4 pilots each. The weather was generally stunning, we had a great flying field, a very friendly crowd, and with the challenge of the dreaded Sawtooth scoring, the basis for the final 2008 HTL event on Sunday 7 December was set to be special. From my perspective it was one of, if not, the most enjoyable competitions we flew this year & the thanks to everyone who made this possible is heartfelt.
This is only the second year that the final competition was hosted on Ché’s farm, just outside of Heidelberg. The farm is a haven for orphan children (and animals) and the entire orphanage came to watch us fly during the day. A collective agreement was made amongst the pilots to support this orphanage in future. A special account has been established for donations and will be presented to the orphanage before Christmas. I believe that we all would like to thank Ché and the children for the use of the field for our competition.
The day started early for most – Heidelberg is over an hours travel from my house, and we even had people travelling in from as far away as Durban over & above the usual participants attracted from all over Gauteng. It is perhaps the “year-end” nature that makes this so attractive, or that a 2M can score as much on handicap as an open class model, or simply the need for RC glider pilots to soar that attracted the larger than normal numbers? Special mention must be made of Alan Smith who convinced 5 novice pilots to attend. I was particularly pleased to see the pilots from KZN travel all the way to attend our humble league.
The field is a large pasture, with grass just under knee height that was super soft from the good rains we have experienced over the past few months. We started the day with light prevailing winds (westerly), rolling over from the nearby hills, but during round 3, this swung 180 degrees requiring us to change the winch direction before lunch. The safety corridor was establish down the flight line with gazebos providing respite from the African sun – which raised temperatures in the shade up to 37 degrees Celsius, with a ridiculous humidity factor creating stifling heat, but awesome thermal conditions. The trees that lined the one edge of the field were far enough away as to not cause concern. Martie’s diner created a special atmosphere too, with the now traditional year-end barbeque and salads. Given the heat of the day, I am convinced she had record sales of cool drinks & water too! She kept us fed & watered from breakfast all the way through to sundowners, & I am delighted to announce that she will be back on the circuit next year.
It was also truly wonderful to see all the families being brought along as spectators (and as helpers), perhaps glimpsing the reasons that their family members disappear for a few hours each weekend? The call to soar is obviously strong & I am sure we will be supported more if our families see just how much we enjoy ourselves with this elegant sport.
Big launches were the order of the day, but as thermals passed & the wing swung, the downwind side required good technique & minimized energy waste to optimize flight times. The last 2 slots of round 3 & probably the last round of the day were particularly tricky, with overcast conditions masking any obvious thermal indicators, and making use of thermal small bubbles to maintain height was the only “get-out-of-jail” approach amongst sink that otherwise saw most models tumbling downwards. This was only a minor inconvenience on what was otherwise a perfect day, with thermals generally in abundance, sucking our models up to ridiculous eye stretching heights before we zoomed downwards to target the landing spots. I paid special attention to the general landings of the pilots, as there has been considerable discussion amongst pilots in SA about the value /over rating of the FAI landing. I hate relating RC to full-size metaphors & landing, so all I will say is that trying to smack your model into the ground at high speed tends to be self regulating (even using the finest composite materials available) and that the best pilots manage the models energy to the last moment & touchdown softly. Scores of 10 cm’s or less distance from the spots were plentiful from the likes of Paul Carnall, Chris Adrian & Conrad Klintworth, with most of the top pilots recording sub 1 metre landings due to their skill in this aspect. As a complete hack, I know when a landing is going to be good – you can feel as you enter the landing approach, and especially those last few seconds when only drastic gusts can put you off. Of course, this from someone who still believes the landing in the same field as I launched from is an achievement!
The open class flew 10 minutes duration task in the almost standard HTL 12 minute working time window, whilst 2M’s flew 6 minutes (sadly no RES100 models entered). This provided even the “under staffed” teams the opportunity to fly & collect winch lines, etc. I must be honest that the 4 person team was far more relaxing than the 3 person approach we have adopted for most of the year to minimize time. I am know asking myself the question as to why it is necessary to rush the day – we all enjoy flying & putting pressure on individuals is far more damaging in the longer term. However, if we want to attract more people to flying then the net must be cast further & travel times become the issue.
The Sawtooth itself is also a fascinating beast, and requires very careful tactical decisions during the event. It was designed by John Nevin many years back, and has traditionally been used at the Vaal Triathlon event to close off the HTL season. However, the gradual decline in RC Glider pilots at the Vaal club necessitated the relocation of the event, but following the repeated success of this event, Heidelberg will clearly become a calendar fixture for the next season having firmly established itself as one of the top attractions to the RC Soaring circuit.
The event is also rather unique in that it is only based on team scores – the top 3 scores per team are counted for each round, with round by round running updates provided to create a competitive atmosphere & for tweaking of the teams’ strategies & flights. A special thanks to Michelle for capturing the scores – this taking pressure of myself & allowing me to concentrate on flying. I maintain that the HTL is virtually a self running event as the MGA competition box providing the necessary materials that can be used by the minimum number of people to manage upwards of 30 competitive pilots. However, the more people involved in running the actual event, the far less is the load on the individuals concerned – “many hands make light work” being an apt description for any competition or event organization.
But I guess that is really what these events are all about – sharing the fun of RC soaring with friends & family.
The pilots are scored according to the Sawtooth profile – it peaks every 2 minutes, with a 50 point differential over the last 5 seconds to the peak! Getting it right is rewarded, getting it wrong & the score penalty is huge. Landings are also awarded 200 points for the spot – so accuracy with this aspect is also crucial, and makes for a rather challenging event. It is important to note that the 2M models can score the same points for maxing their 6 minute task as the Open class can achieve with their 10 minute goal. This provides an inherent handicap mechanism, with landings being scored the same.
The teams have been sorted according to their final (round 5) rankings. It is interesting to note that 5 teams changed positions in the final round – the sudden change in weather clearly conditions playing havoc with the pilots’ scores.
Rank, TEAMS (pilots), Team score
- 3G ‘n T (Craig Goodrum, Michelle Goodrum, Rodney Goodrum, Lionel Brink ), 14,208
- Silverton Eagles (Chris Adrian, Johan Bruwer, Conrad Klintworth) 13,875
- Every Thermal Busted (Paul Carnall, Dion Liebenberg, Herman Weber, Jason Weber), 13,242
- Blast from the past (Anton Coetzee, Wolfgang Steffny, Trevor Austin, Simon Tladi), 13,025
- Zulu Warriors (Dave Greer, Allan Sneedon, Dennis Bird, Peter Moore), 12,499
- Bold Evan’s Regular Group(Derek Marusich, Piet Rheeders, Evan Shaw, Peter Joffe), 12,139
- Far & Wide(Tony Roberts, Gert Niewoudt, Jochen Schmidt, Rudolf Engelman), 8,952
- Jailbirds(Alan Smith, Johan Geldenhuys, Piet Janse van Vuuren), 8,445
- Flying Fish(Derrick Fish, Juanita Smith, Reino Jacobs), 4,702
Most of the teams read as a “who’s who” of SA RC soaring, with the strongest representation obviously from Gauteng but KZN’s top flyers also stirring sticks in the mix. Perhaps the most interesting score is Peter Joffe’s round 4 max with a 5 min 58 second flight and a sub 1 metre landing clinching the slot 3 top score with a 2 metre RES Tsotsi model. From the individual scores it is clear to see just how close the competition was with the top 6 teams regularly achieving upwards of 80% of the slot winning scores.
Just as a reminder, the matrix was determine with the F3J Score program, and scoring was performed using a spreadsheet & the Sawtooth profile.
Whilst the individual results are not part of the Triathlon, they do count towards the league & are included for completeness. The top 5 pilots are all within a 90% of the individual leader with almost a third of the field achieving 80% of the winning score providing an indication of the level of competition in this HTL which has not been unusual for the year.
The Junior pilots also showed the seniors a thing or two – Conrad in particular whipping the majority of the field, with Jason & Simon all placing in the top half. I am especially proud of the novice pilots – they were all flying 2m metre or Fling models, and given the conditions & the strong competition, I believe they performed exceptionally well under the guidance of Alan. Congratulations for this achievement & trust we will see more form these pilots in the future.
Rank, Pilot, Club, Class, Score
- Chris Adrian, SGC, Open, 4,966
- Craig Goodrum, MMS, Open, 4,904
- Conrad Klintworth (Jnr), SGC, Open, 4,867
- Lionel Brink, MMS, Open, 4,783
- Paul Carnall, ETB, Open, 4,616
- Derek Marusich, BERG, Open, 4,428
- Anton Coetzee, MMS, Open, 4,403
- Johan Bruwer, SGC, Open, 4,254
- Dion Liebenberg, ETB, Open, 4,227
- Michelle Goodrum, MMS, Open, 4,168
- Allan Sneedon, DMAC, Open, 4,043
- Peter Moore, BERG, Open, 3,960
- Jason Weber (Jnr), ETB, Open, 3,955
- Simon Tladi (Jnr), MMS, Open, 3,951
- Trevor Austin, MMS, Open, 3,935, 15
- Rodney Goodrum, MMS, Open, 3,815
- Evan Shaw, BERG, Open, 3,777
- Wolfgang Steffny, MMS, Open, 3,689
- Dennis Bird, DMAC, 2M, 3,625
- Peter Joffe, BERG, 2M, 3,527
- Herman Weber, ETB, Open, 3,481
- Gert Niewoudt, TRMC, Open, 3,451
- Alan Smith, New, 2M, 3,434
- Reino Jacobs (Novice), New, 2M, 2,873
- Dave Greer, DMAC, Open, 2,822
- Johan Geldenhuys (Novice), New, 2M, 2,649
- Piet Janse van Vuuren (Novice) , New, 2M, 2,407
- Tony Roberts, BERG, 2M, 2,260
- Piet Rheeders, BERG, Open, 2,220
- Jochen Schmidt, BERG, Open, 1,997
- Rudolf Engelman, BERG, 2M, 1,976
- Derrick Fish (Novice), New, 2M, 1,485
- Juanita Smith (Novice), New, 2M, 457
Thank you to everyone for a wonderful event.