Our CD Mark Hafer published this report. Many pictures and extremely complementary feedback from participants can be found in this thread on RCGroups.
I awoke Saturday morning to completely overcast sky, but took comfort in the promises of the Friday evening weathercaster that it would improve around noon. This was to be the Silent Knight’s first ESL hand launch contest, and with all the planning that had occurred, I didn’t want to see it wasted by Mother Nature. We had 15 or so competitors pre-registered and were hoping for more.
Not being a hand launch flier myself, I scoured the internet for contest formats and read many a thread on RC groups to get an idea of what would make a good contest. The AMA rules for soaring didn’t seem to fit, and with the level of chatter about F3K decided that was the route to go. Walt Leipold had spent a great deal of time playing with scoring programs and had settled on a Java based program that was written for man on man F3K. This program would automatically drop rounds, randomize groups, and allowed assessment of penalty points. Since scoring is the heart and soul of the contest, this allowed us to follow the official F3K format as closely as possible with the limited number of volunteers we had. Eric Teder took on the task of setting us up with a sound system, and Walt downloaded and burned timing files that could be played for each round.
Only two experts had registered, so in the interest of convenience everyone was scored together, including our resident novice. The first couple rounds were uneventful – with the exception of Phil Abatelli launching several times in a looping lawn dart trajectory. We later found out his receiver switch was turning off from the force of the throw. The ceiling continued to drop and by round three we were dealing with an intermittent and annoying mist and a 200-300 foot ceiling. Despite the deteriorating conditions, there was lift and the competitors were turning in respectable times. We continued to fly, occasionally taking a few extra minutes between groups to allow the rain pass. We took lunch following round four in hopes the weather would clear and allow a better ending.
After having lunch and watching the buzzards soaring IFR in and out of the low ceiling we pushed on into round 5. First two groups in round 5 put up with varying degrees of precip, but the third group had it the worst. In hind site, I don’t think I would have flown my plane in that weather but everyone in the group marched on to the field as if defending their honor. After hearing some grumbling of “water in my transmitter” and seeing that the rain had no intentions of slowing down any time soon, I called the contest at 2:45 p.m. before starting round six. Shane Spickler took first, with Todd Demarco and several other sportsman falling in behind. Following the awards ceremony the rain let up and several stayed a while longer to fly for fun.
Sunday was much better. Started with a high overcast, but was bright and sunny by round 2. As the day progressed the sun came out in full force and the winds slowly picked up out of the north. This led to some low level tree line surfing, and some spectacular low saves as the thermals broke loose. Remarkably I only recall one plane going into the trees on Sunday, but there were several close calls. A few even made contact and flew on. The winds continued to increase after lunch, and though challenging for the competitors, it never reached a level in which we couldn’t comfortably fly. Shane Spickler once again won the day after 6 rounds, with Rob Sabatini and other sportsmen following in the top four.
I think everyone had a great time despite Saturday’s weather, and the Silent Knights look forward to hosting a hand launch contest next year.