The Gordon Report Saturday. – He who rows the boat is too busy to rock it!
Florida Soaring Society contest number 3 seemed to arrive very fast as the 2010 soaring season has roared into gear in Florida. It felt like we had only just completed FSS 2, yet here we were preparing to hold our third major soaring contest for the season already. I guess this feeling is part of just growing older as time simply flys by.
I personally view each of these FSS contests as a prime opportunity to achieve an LSF 5 win. Yes – your humble reporter is an LSF 4 pilot in the process of completing the League of Silent Flight program. LSF 5 requires 3 wins with 20 participating pilots or more and the far-sighted pioneers who thought up this brilliant program, realized 35 years ago that by requiring these wins, a certain type of motivated soaring pilot would work hard forever into the future to encourage participation of others in RC soaring events around the world.
I get that ! I get how the fathers of our sport sought to create a system that would be self perpetuating. It means that if I promote events hard, I can promote the Buzzards Club, entice visitors to attend events, encourage attendance at our contests and if I am successful and 20 pilots or more turn up, we can then call the event an LSF 5 eligible contest. The hard part after that of course is to win the contest. LSF mentors pointed out that in order to have a chance at this – first the effort must be put in to attract the attendance of enough pilots. So during last year I became active with that goal in mind. The result is – nearly every time we gather to compete in Florida these days we have 20 or more pilots. In spite of my efforts in this regard we have many in Florida who simply don’t get the big picture and believe that I as a contest pilot am simply serving my own interests in encouraging contest participation and some other fliers have actually been openly vocal in their disapproval of the effort I have put in to have 20 pilots on the score sheet. The rules require that 20 pilots sign up and all 20 pilots fly in the contest. On a few occasions some fliers have only completed one flight in the first round.
At the start of the FSS 3 Saturday I was faced with the situation where we only had 19 pilots signed up. I had worked hard to attract competitors to the contest including the attendance of 3 out of state pilots, Gordy Stahl who drove 250 miles just to fly here, David Beach from NH who was down on vacation but is also a Level 4 needing Level 5 wins and Brian Smith who kindly drove hundreds of miles from TN to deliver a model I purchased from him and to also fly in the contest and help make the numbers. I knew that Blaine Miller was at the field to help his son Jody fly but wasn’t registered as a pilot himself. I knew Blaine had flown his other son Nathan’s Ava a few weeks ago so I asked him if he would be kind enough to fly in the contest to make the 20th pilot. He said he would but he didn’t have an aircraft along. When Brian Smith heard about our dilemma he promptly offered up his brand new Ava Pro to fly. Brian has achieved LSF 5 and has been there encouraging others working their LSF tasks many times. He understands the benefits of helping other pilots achieve LSF goals. With Brian’s wonderful gesture we now had 20 pilots registered and a valid LSF 5 contest.
Contest CD Raed Elazzawi held the pilots meeting at 9:30 am and the contest was underway on time at 10:00am in sunny conditions with a brisk 7 mph wind from the south east. Lift was abundant and most pilots made their 8 minute max in Round 1 with Gordy Stahl and Buzzards president Rick Eckel the only 100 point landers to lead the scoreboard. With Rick’s ingenious “Honors callup” system in place, the top 5 pilots from Round 1 were called up to begin Round 2. The “Honors Call-up” system means that each new round is force started by the CD which keeps the contest moving along and allows far more rounds per day than the usual Open Winch system. Top scoring pilots of the previous round have no choice about when they will launch. They earn the “penalty” of having to show others the air…. so are not able to “protect” their chances by waiting for others to find air. In an open winch system, waiting for others to find good air is good strategy. Some refer to it as “sand-bagging” but it is in fact the exact strategy that teaches pilots to become winning pilots. Winning pilots must watch the signs and fly accordingly. Those signs of when and where to fly are often the pilots who launch ahead and of course the birds, wind shifts etc. Waiting for others to launch sometimes is smart and pilots are more likely to benefit. With the Honors Call Up system, less skilled pilots get to watch the prvious round winners flights for pointers to where the lift may be. Often the Honors group pilots are forced to launch in less than ideal conditions and find themselves having to work extremely hard to get their max. This makes Rick’s system a great leveler.
So round 2 was ceremoniously started by Raed announcing the 5 best pilots from the Round 1. Gordy and Rick were joined by Jody Miller, Jamie Mercado and David Beach. The fickle air won out though, with 4 of these 5 on the deck in 3 or 4 minutes, Rick lucked out with a line break followed by the winch line snagging his tail causing a very delayed launch and he was able to find sufficient up air to limp in to the LZ with 7:18 on the clock.
Some pilots who followed the Honors group also discovered that the air was not being kind and a few very accomplished pilots struggled to even get half the required 8 minutes. A real standout competitor in this round was young Andy Porter. Once again Andy showed us all what a great pilot he is destined to be, with the best score for the round to bump Rick Eckel for the top Honor’s position in Rd 3. 3rd for the round was Dan Johns flying a Shadow really well all day and his clubmate Paul Mittendorf at 4th campaigning a Perfect, with Jim MacLean 5th – flying his newly acquired Supra. The wind had gradually picked up as the morning wore on and by the start of Round 3 we had a decent 10 to 12 mph breeze blowing in our faces as we launched toward the East.
Only Andy Porter was to fly in the good air in Round 3, as once again the honors pilots ying’d when the should have yang’d finding themselves scrambling for landing spots just a few minutes into their tasks. In fact only 6 pilots out of the 18 still flying, actually made within 30 seconds of the 8 minutes. The conditions were really brutal if you turned the wrong way off the top of launch. I personally was having a miserable day when I really wanted to shine to gain one of those elusive LSF 5 wins. Everywhere I flew my Sharon she dragged her tail. It seemed I was always struggling to make it from the launch area to the landing area before my aircraft!!!. It just wasn’t going to be my day.
It certainly was Andy’s day though as he kept getting his time every round and placing his aircraft on the line for landing points. He deserves a very honorable mention because this is only his 3rd contest yet he was now at the top of the leaderboard for two consecutive rounds. He was joined at the launching line for round four by Jody Miller, David Beach and Gordy Stahl with their Perfects and Vic Manget with a Sharon. It was great to see Vic flying so well and I am sure we will see him out much more often with his beautiful Sharon Pro. Raed started the grille a grill’n after three rounds and we all enjoyed hamburgers and hot dogs as round 4 got underway. This round 4 saw the Honors fliers all clearing the field in monster lift taking them downwind to the south west. Unfortunately Vic’s Sharon got hung up on a very tall pine tree on his way home which ended his day prematurely. We were sorry to see this happen as Vic was really flying well and he had my old Sharon really “honking”. His plane was to stay in the tree all night until it was recovered in good condition by a pro tree climber on Sunday.
Brian Smith posted a perfect score of 8:00 and 100. His wife Iva was providing great support with timing duties and as always he showed us some brilliant thermal soaring. I personally couldn’t buy a max and my landings were simply dreadful. My trusty and beloved Sharon Pro just didn’t seem to want to move and turn like she usually did. Round 5 was started with Brian launching 1st followed by Gordy, Rick, Andy (again) and Mike Naylor. Great to see Mike flying so well also with his Shadow serving him well. He has been improving tremendously since he got the Shadow dialed in and will be a real threat in the future. It was Ray Alonzo flying a brand new Ava Pro who showed us how it was done in Round 5 with a 7:52 – 75. He’d gotten all his times all morning but this was the 1st time he had scored high enough to take the top Honors position. Jamie Mercado continued to put in a stellar performance with a great max in trying conditions and David Beach, Dan Johns and Jim MacLean completed the top five. At this point the contest was anybodys to win and Jody Miller flying his new Xplorer with consistency was leading the field. Jody is a brilliant pilot and is well overdue for some great success. With the help of his dad Blaine, his reading of the air and dedication to practice will soon translate into contest wins. Ray Alonzo was close behind with our visitor from NH David Beach in 3rd place.
My Sharon Pro suffered a very ungraceful landing zone coming together with terra firma. I tried once too often to make another turn – too low and too slow and touched a tip to finish the golden run she had given me since acquiring her 12 months ago. The damage was contained to the fuselage – a burned out aileron servo may also have explained why she’d been so sluggish to turn today. It was time for me to bring out the old Franken-Icon my son Jamie had been flying last year…. a plane literally ‘created’ out of bits and pieces collected from around the country. You’ve gotta love the RCGroups.
Mike Naylor got the deal done in Round 6 with a fabulous 7:56 – 100. As had been the case all day, Ray Alonzo was close behind and Andy Porter was 3rd best once again with another scoring landing. Andy’s maturity as a pilot is amazing. He scored the 2nd highest amount of landing points in the contest beaten only by a very very experienced Rick Eckel. My new found friend, Franken-Icon proved to be the tonic I needed as I soared into the Honors list for the first time for the day. Squeezing into the 5th position for Rd 6 was Fly’n Brian Smith.
Raed announced that round 7 would be the final round. The contest which had been led briefly by Jody Miller was now firmly clasped by Ray Alonzo with nearly 200 points advantage over Rick Eckel. Jody Miller had suffered at the hands of the sink goddess and dropped down the standings. In 3rd place for the contest going into the final round was David Beach.
Round 7 was a real shakedown except for Ray Alonzo. He maintained his insurmountable position with a masterful 7:52 while all those around him fell out of the sky….. literally. David Beach found himself on the deck with a scratching 5:00 minute flight while Rick Eckel posted a 4:47 and Jody Miller got an uncustomary shocker with a 2:26 flight time. Such was the air though with many experienced pilots simply flying into such severe sink from the top of launch that no save was possible. I was able to salvage some respectability from this carnage with a final round 8:01 – 100 but it wasn’t going to be enough with Ray Alonzo grasping the first place position gleefully. Gordy Stahl posted a great final round score of 8:00 – 25 to move up into 2nd place Expert and David Beach grabbed the 3rd place position. Sportsman Class showed a preview of some great coming talent with Andy Porter taking top honors from Mike Naylor and a fighting Rick Horlander in 3rd. These three have conducted their FSS campaign so well that each of them are probably good enough to win against most of the experts on their best day.
After the presentations were completed, Ray had a secret to tell us. Ray had brought his Level 5 LSF form with him to the contest. As a Level 4 flier he had filed it away in 1992 uncompleted and after reading about my 8 hour slope flight 2 weeks ago was motivated to find the form again, committed to finally complete his LSF journey. What an incredible ending to a couple of great days of soaring. I was honored to be asked by Ray to sign his Level 5 card for his LSF 5 win and although I was torn up inside for blowing another chance at a personal Level 5 win, the opportunity had not been wasted. This FSS contest had contributed it’s bounty to the coffers of the LSF history after all! What a great day. We are so proud of you Ray and may you get the remainder of your LSF 5 wins in as much style as you showed taking this one.
Well done indeed!