What a wonderful soaring weekend the IRKS put on for us in Florida. They ordered up the most fantastic weather with low 70’s – almost no wind – zero humidity and a bunch of really nice RC soaring guys together for a 2 day contest on the field of dreams.
There is no doubt that the IRKS field is probably one of the best fields this county has available for thermal duration contests. It has constant activity somewhere on the site and lift markers that are unbelievable. At one point on Sunday there were so many spiders taking to the sky above us as we flew that I followed their webby flying contraptions taking photos of their airborne antics. If it wasn’t the spiders it was the thousands of fluffy seed pods taking a ride. Then all weekend we had huge joyful flocks of small birds feeding on bugs that didn’t have a good enough grip on terra firma to overcome the skyward suction.
We even lost our two scoring tents on Saturday as the heavens tugged upward and the anchors let go as the tents tried a hasty lift off. It was soaring goodness for two days and all we had to do was steer sophisticated RC gliders around in the floaty bits for 10 minutes at a time when we were called to do so.
One particular contestant demonstrated clearly how that was done best as he took top honors both days with a virtual faultless display of piloting. Not only did he kick our Florida butts for 2 days but he did it in a jovial fashion while he helped just about everybody else to get there times and landings as well.
This guy was from Colorado and he was a visitor to Florida. He would have to be the friendliest and most generous person with his time that you can imagine. His name is Mike Verzuh and those who don’t already know him are missing out on knowing someone who really makes a difference in soaring in USA. Mike was not only manager of the recent victorious USA Team to France for the F3J Worlds but he is also a most accomplished stick himself with a 2nd place to Joe Wurts at the recent World Soaring Masters. Everybody who had time to spend with Mike or listened to him over the weekend learned something new and that is one of the real joys of this hobby as we get to meet so many people who are willing to share their knowledge with a genuine desire to see us improve our game. Thanks Mike for a truly wonderful 2 days of soaring lessons.
CD Kris Van Nostran ran the contest very smoothly both days and made it a really laid–back weekend of flying for all participants. He started the flying on Saturday with a quick Pilot meeting to explain the local rules etc and we were quickly launching our ships on the two IRKS club winches and testing the air for an 8 minute task.
Two classes were contested with 4 pilots entering the RES class and 16 in Unlimited. Two of us also flew both RES and UNL class which kept us busy to complete both flights in the allotted period for each round. Using the Rick Eckel “Honors Call-up” system the five top scoring pilots from the previous round would start off first in subsequent rounds. This system keeps the rounds moving along quickly and the stronger pilots get to show the others where the good air is ……… most of the time.
First 2 rounds on Saturday were 8 minutes and the air was so bouyant that only two pilots failed to make the max in Rd 1 and the contest was already shaping up like a landing contest. This would be the only time someone other than Mike V would lead the pack as Jody Miller shot a great 99 landing in Rd 1 on the 3 inch per point graduated tape landing zones.
As is often the case though as the day develops the air can be fickle with plenty of areas of lift though sometimes weak and sometimes pretty serious down air in between. At times the sink was also quite severe at low altitude as more than one pilot failed to reach the tape after maxing their time and then squandering the height too early only to find horrid sink in the LZ.
The Florida Soaring Society contests are a real occasion of camaraderie and the best opportunity for each of us to get with other soaring friends from around the state and enjoy their company. We were blessed with the presence of our North Fl and Jacksonville friends Fred Cotton, Chuck McCann and Jeff McComb. We also had a great contingent from the Pompano club with Paul Mittendorf, Dan johns, Mike Naylor and the irrepressible Larry Squire returning from illness. Welcome back Larry. Don Grisham from Winter Haven is always there too with his ever smiling face and positive attitude. We haven’t seen a lot of Mike Popescu from the West coast but he was there also to enjoy the fun and it was fun to catch up with him again too. It’s always great to enjoy the banter between rounds and for many that attend this great series – that is what it is all about.
Kris moved things up a notch for Rounds 3, 4 and 5 with a task time of 10 minutes. Even with the extra time required the air was simply amazing and very few pilots struggled and even when they did a number of great saves were pulled off from a low height much to the enjoyment of everyone watching. Dan Johns and Miami Mike both were seen working lift at tree top height to get their times on a soaring day “to die for.”
When CD Kris wrapped it up with 5 rounds flown the undisputed leader was our visitor Mike V on a score of 3196 with every max accomplished and only one slight landing blemish on his card coming up a bit short for a 66 in Round 4. (That after posting the perfect 100 the previous round.)
Rick Eckel flying his rather worn Pike Imperfect wasn’t far behind Mike with a score of 3151 and Jody Miller completed the top trio on 3121. Jody flew an immaculate contest but for one zero landing where the sink forward of the LZ gobbled up most of is height and he fell short of the tape. After the contest he ruefully looked at what might have been with another simple 90 landing he puts in routinely.
The day was clearly a good one also for the Sportsman with Jim MacLean taking top honors, Larry Squire second place and Kris Van Nostran 3rd.
The RES contest was taken out by our own Buzzard and RES expert Rich Kiburis. 2nd in RES was Ray “The Lense” Alonzo with a brand new Ava Pro and I managed to sneak into 3rd.
It was certainly a memorable day of soaring with plenty of sunburn and many a jovial moment as a bunch of pilots soared the Cocoa air with many feathered friends. My most memorable moment came mid afternoon as I was flying my Ava in Round 4 and our field was over flown by the weirdest flying machine man has invented yet – a B2 Bomber. I managed to maneuver my Ava into position for Jody to take a photo of both in the same shot. For many of us (including myself) this was the first time we had ever seen one of these amazing aircraft in the flesh – and so close too! To share the same air with us as we flew a contest was rather special indeed.
Sunday’s forecast was for more of the same dry air, no wind to speak of and temps in the mid 70’s. There could not be better conditions to enjoy flatland soaring than what was predicted for another feast of thermals at The Space Coast.
And so it was.
CD Kris Van Nostran asked for 6 minutes to start. And 6 minutes we got with relative ease in Rounds 1 and 2. In fact only 2 pilots out of the 17 starters failed to get near the max in Round one and Round 2. He upped to 8 minutes for round 3 and once again everybody but 3 pilots managed to get the time so we started Round 4 with a 10 minute max. That didn’t ake a difference either as all but one pilot made the time and this contest was definitely a landing exercise.
The landing zone was one of the most difficult ever faced by an RC sailplane pilot with a safety line provided at around 30 feet from the hunski. Being unable to stand anywhere close to the target means that a lot of luck comes into play as each pilot tries to guess when they are somewhere near the spot to nose her in. This was even more difficult when the gentle breeze often created a full 90 cross or downwind to contend with.
As they say though – it was the same for everybody and the final top 4 positions fell in the same order as the total of their landing scores, (so it really was a landing contest.) There is no doubt in my mind that this day of soaring was by far the easiest thermal day I have ever experienced.
I have never seen so many of the fluffy seed pods opening and releasing their seeds skyward and the myriads of tiny spiders taking their ride to a new home on the ends of shining webs. We had thousands of birds as always at Cocoa but this day they were simply put there to answer every soaring pilot’s prayer and guide us to pleasant air because there really wasn’t a round flown where any pilot (skilled or not) could say – “I don’t know where to go.”
After one launch I noted a not so common phenomenom of sufficient dust particles in very small clouds (invisible to most) which briefly changed the dark blue color of the underside of my wing as I flew through them. No better thermal indicator than that as swung my X into an upward corkscrew overhead. There were many special moments – Rich Kiburis and Alan Parsons were also a hoot as we listened to their raucous and sometimes irreverent banter in the LZ as we thermaled.
An especially memorable moment was experienced by all as we watched newly crowned expert Mike Naylor work downwind 300 yards away at 20 to 30 feet in some light lift and we all willed his ship to rise up so he could save the flight. He tried hard and nearly got it done. Hey Mike – You just needed to go further downwind every turn. We know it goes against every grain of common sense in your body – but that’s all you needed to do as the lift was there – but the natural instinct was for you to move upwind (because you were low and far away) and that always takes you out of the lift. You will get it next time. It was indeed a great moment for us to watch.
It was a pity the day had to end but around 4:00pm we were all tired and ready for a shower and a beer.
The final positions were called as follows. Only one Sportsman contested the day with Kris Van Nostran so he was our top dog Sportsman.
Mike V was a hard man to beat and although I flew a very consistent day and tried valiantly to defeat him, he was too good on 4255 points. I finished 31 points back on 4224. Rich Kiburis was 3rd a further 30 points back on 4194. If you look at just the landing points on this day, I was 28 points behind Mike and Rich was the same 30 points behind me. A very interesting day indeed.
Thankyou to the IRKS for providing such a wonderful venue and hosting the contest. Thankyou to Kris for doing the organizing, setup, tear-down and CDing, Great job mate. Thankyou Jim and also John Vennerholm who wasn’t feeling well on Sunday and had to go home. Hope you are feeling better mate. Thanks also to Rick for handling the thankless task of scoring and helping so much with other stuff behind the scenes.
See you all in 2 weeks for the next edition of this FSS saga.
Saturday Scoresheet with Round by Round scores. 2011FSS2Sat-MAR
Sunday Scoresheet with Round by Round scores. 2011FSS2Sun-MAR
Saturday Photo Gallery
Sunday Photo Gallery