The Last Chance Saloon
As a heavy band of rain passed from West to East over the UK F5B pilots made their way to the excellent Hawling Field. Hawling is close to Chipping Norton and sits on top of the Cotswold’s Plateau. Due to the fields elevation low cloud can be an issue. So we all wondered if the site would be covered in low cloud.
A brisk breeze meant that low cloud was not an issue and after a pilots briefing at 9.45am we were ready to go. First up was Dick Whitehead using his newly built Base A sighting device. Dick flew well despite a fresh breeze. We could all see a blustery and turbulent day lay ahead of us. Dick scored 41 legs and good duration plus being well under on the Wmins.
Next up was Alan Flockhart who had the advantage of a good practice session at Haddenham a few weeks before. Conditions on the practice day had been superb with warm temperatures and virtually no wind. Alan was straight into the groove with some low and aggressive flying. A motor on mid way through the flight was well handled and a score of 45 laps was on the board. Without the motor on an easy 46 would have been the result.
One of the pilots making good progress since starting F5B is Steve Wilkie. Plus having had a very good practice session at Haddenham Steve was keen to fly. Steve flew very smoothly and his plane has top line speed. Taking a slightly large course than in practice during the motor on phase Steve spent more time outside the course than usual adding a cut in as well Steve managed 38 legs. Duration was good with only 2 seconds of motor on. Unfortunately for Steve his plane hit the timekeeper’s legs damaging both leading edges on landing.
After a sub-standard performance in the World Championship Greg Lewis was hoping to put all the lessons learnt from Lugo into place and give Alan a real run for his money in the last league event. Reverting back to 10s and a Leomotion Motor plus having just tested new Graphene packs that morning there could be no excuses. Greg also used a remote Base A Sighting Pole having suffered from motor on’s during the season. All went well with Base A with no cuts but a cut a Base B toward the end of the flight cost Greg a 47. Duration was okay and the Wmins were well within at 1,607. So with 45 laps and a okay duration the battle lines with Alan were drawn.
Taking on the role as Team Manager for Lugo left little time for Mark Haigh to get any flying in. In fact Round 1 was his first twiddle of the sticks since the Eurocup at Bickley. Mark had a few moments in the first two motor on phases of his flight but soon settled down and produced some good fours towards the end of his flight. Heavy Wmin usage and low levels of lift meant Mark decided to land early having got to the 1,750wmin barrier.
Again someone short of F5B practice having given up his place at the Bickley event to buzz a very difficult Base A position due the sun was Steve Burns. Not being a great lover of Remote Base A sighting poles Steve decided to give one a go. It was not to Steve’s liking and a few Base A cuts and motor on’s resulted. Despite these issues Steve still hit 42 legs in probably the windiest slot of the round. As usual great duration skills and landing accuracy meant Steve scored well for the round.
Last up in FAI was George Shering with his Surprise 17. Straight into the groove George flew well and with an abundance of power managed a 38 leg score in very rough conditions. Having flown the duration out George was keen to hit the spot and came to rest in the 20 point circle. Sadly something shorted inside the plane on landing and smoke started to come from the plane. Quick thinking by Alan and Steve saved the plane but the ESC and flight pack were a write off. Having flown down from Scotland George had only one plane with him so that meant he was out of the event.
First and last up in the Inters event was Tony Wilson. A superb flight from Tony with his Rocketwurm aided by great calling from Alan netted a 37 leg score which must be close to a season PB.
Round 1 over it looked Alan had a slim lead over Greg followed by Steve B.
As the first round drew to an end the heavens looked a little dark and full of rain. So we waited a few minutes to see what the weather would throw at us.
Luckily the cloud passed by the field slightly to the Northern. We would later see the power of this convective cell as it passed down wind the huge anvil head could be seen.
Such localised weather meant Round 2 was flown in much lighter winds than all the other rounds in the event. Most pilots were able to max their planes out in duration to bounds of visibility under the edge of the cloud. Mark managed to hit the giddy heights of 618m before deciding it was safer to fly at half that altitude.
Alan scored well again with a 47. Hot on his heels was Greg with 47 as well. Mark really clicked and flew a 44 which included a cut. This was later pipped by Steve Burns with a 45 lapper and return to his normal form.
Dick had a few issues with track so dropped to 39. Tony also reduced his leg count by having to fly a slower plane due to a problem with his A Spec model.
All pilots managed their energy well so it would be down to landing and flying precision to determine the round scores. Alan dropping a few points on landing as did Mark and Tony.
Things now look very tight at the top between Alan and Greg with Steve B build a firm grip on 3rd. Tony Wilson as the only Inters pilot was now guaranteed 1st place.
Looking downwind we could see the huge rain cloud. Still being close to the field the cloud started to accelerate the wind across the field. One benefit was the wind veered more to the West and came straight down the course.
Dick was first off again. Mastering the blustery conditions well and hitting the magical 40 mark. Alan flew low and tight and took many risks on Base B to amass 45 laps in unlikely conditions. It was going to be hard to match. Mark tried hard and hit 40 and Steve B plane looking like a rag doll as the rotor from the trees really took effect managed 39 laps. Greg encountered better air and matched Alan with a 45.
Again all fliers did well on energy and maxed out on the duration. So it would down to landing points and seconds over and under.
We really did have no clue without inputting the scores who was in 1st or 2nd place in FAI. Tony however, with a 31 in this round was still plugging away in the Inters.
We decided to fly a last round. It turned out to be a real grit your teeth and keep your model in one piece affair. Gusts of over 35mph were now causing significant rotor from the trees upwind of the landing area.
Again against the odds Alan flew an excellent 45. Greg dropped the ball this round with 43 including a cut. Steve B did really well with a 42 and Dick on 37. Mark decided to not fly Round 4 and manned Base B.
Despite the wind there was good instability in the atmosphere and all pilots did the duration within the Wmin limit.
Points were added up and on first glance it looked like Alan and Greg had tied for 1st place. However, on close examination of the scores we could see Greg had pipped Alan by 0.1 of a point. Steve Burns flew to a well-deserved 3rd.
Tony Wilson winning the Inters plus the Inters League.
As Steve Burns finalised the FAI League scores a final twist in the story occurred with Greg sneaking ahead of Jos into 2nd place. Jos had to miss the last comp due family commitments. He would have held on to second for sure if had flown to his normal standard in the last event.
Well that is it for 2016. We hope to see you in 2017 with a bigger schedule of events and remember it is team qualification year so all is to play for.
Tony Wilson used a fixed video camera to shot some footage of the day. Having done some editing Tony has produced an excellent result.