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Dec 26, 2010, 12:56 PM
Ricky Windsock
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6. 2009 in review (1st year back)

It was ironic that my first contest back after 23 years would be at a discipline I had never flown before. Hand launch or DLG were not a contest format in the 80's in Australia and I had never hand launched an RC sailplane into lift in my life before. It waa either a bungee or a winch. Ed White (a long term Orlando Buzzard) befriended me and taught me how to throw the Blaster I had purchased. He also did some mock contest flying with me so I could learn what the tasks would be etc. The Blaster was certainly easy to fly and seemed to be able to go up on a sparrow fart - but I was still unable to keep her aloft at will every flight - no doubt partly because my launch technique was erratic and the height achieved fairly pathetic compared to Ed, and also my lift reading was virtually non existent. During the week leading up to this first DLG contest at Gainesville I contacted Dave Forbes about buying a Vixen from him at the contest. Scraping together just enough funds to pay for the new plane and gas to Gainesville for the weekend - I set off on my first RC Soaring contest adventure in USA. The missus was in Australia so it was going to be a weekend away for play.
The first thing I noticed about the DLG crowd there on the Friday was how friendly and helpful they all were. I was fortunate to have Dave showing me the ropes with my new bagged Vixen and Gerald Taylor saw me struggling and kindly offered much advice to get her trimmed better and my new 9303 radio set to the correct modes etc. It was a full-on day of throwing and flying that was so enjoyable that I forgot to even charge the battery. The inevitable occurred after lunch with the Rx dead and the Vixen taking a dive from launch height to terra firma which broke the boom and creased both wings. Luckily Dave offered to repair it overnight and I ruefully returned to the hotel on the Friday night with my old Blaster to meet Gordy. I offered him my Blaster to fly at the contest and he agreed to help me as my timer on Saturday.
Without any exception that Saturday was for me the most exciting day I had enjoyed in soaring. I flew well at times and made pretty decent scores all day to be inside the top 15 when we finished for the day. Gordy provided great support on my first outing but I quickly learned that I was handicapped by my eyesight as I found myself walking quickly toward my craft on many occasions just to keep her in my vision. Gordy left overnight and I was very lucky to be assisted by Gerald Taylor, Dave Barnes and Oleg on the Sunday to complete the prelims of my first contest in 14th place and a spot in the fly-offs. One of the biggest moments I enjoyed on the weekend was timing twice for Oleg who was the eventual winner. Just watching his flying inspired me to want to come back for more. I broke the Vixen again in practice before the fly-offs began with a fried aileron servo and had to use the old Blaster to finish what was for me a most incredible weekend. This first contest after such a long time away had me hankering for more, so I collected enough funds together to purchase an Onyx JW and a Super Ava from RC Groups and was out practicing every weekend. I had an eyesight test done and obtained a distance vision prescription. Armed with that I ordered a set of tinted sunnies from Hong Kong and when they arrived I simply could not believe the difference they made to my confidence and my flying. As soon as I began flying in February I also took up the LSF Tasks where I had left off in 1986. I contacted LSF Australia and they confirmed that I had completed LSF 2 in 1983 so I set about doing the contests and tasks for Level 3.
The Florida Soaring Series began two weeks after the Gainesville event and with Gordys help again I managed 4th outright in my first UNL contest at the Buzzards on the Saturday whereupon I was quickly promoted from Sportsman to Expert.
And so the entire year was spent in Florida - learning the FSS TD sailplane contests and competing in the 4 round Buzzards RES series and Gentle Lady series as well. I had flown the OnyxJW in the first FSS but during a landing practice session in March off a bungee with a new found soaring friend, my Onyx met a spectacular end when I turned crosswind on landing through some high voltage power lines beside a road. The Onyx disappeared instantly in a cloud of sparks, smoke and fire and in a couple of seconds all I had left was the tail boom and tail feathers.
Gordy suggested that a Sharon Pro 3.7 would best serve my interests as a reliable and sturdy TD performer, so I purchased one from Capn Jack Strother on RCG and set to work learning to fly my new bird. The Sharon's maiden winch launch saw good air so I kept her up for the required 30 minute to log my LSF3 TD flight. In March I also needed to go to Maui for work , so I purchased a Carbon Mach Dart from Matt Galland on RCG and packed her in a Sportube for the trip. With Level 3 of LSF needing a 2 hour slope flight this was the perfect opportunity with so few slopes in Florida. Tom Nakagawa from the Maui Slope flyers brought a friend along on the Saturday and the maiden flight of my Mach Dart yielded the necessary LSF3 2 hour. That was fun!
First Unlimited contest outing with the Sharon was at the Punta Gorda FSS contest and I managed my first win in UNL since returning to soaring on a windy Sunday. It felt good to be on top again so quick and I began a solid practice regimen to improve my landings. At this point my son Jamie had also taken an interest and had learned very quickly to fly a 60" electric and a very kind local Buzzard (Don Grisham) gifted him an old Tellipsoar which he began to fly on the winch in April. I also purchased for Jamie an old beater Icon so he had a full house aircraft to graduate into. At the FSS 4 in Kennyworld Jamie indeed graduated to the Icon and was immediately flying so well and scoring so good that it was scary.
Gordy talked me into attending the MidSouth in Louisville KY in May so Sheralyn, Jamie and I went cross country on our first RC Sailplane adventure to see how our skills compared with the rest of the country.
The MidSouth was a total revelation with many skilled pilots to compete with and some difficult air to deal with that brought out the best in me. My lift reading was constantly improving and particularly so as a result of timing for many ther pilots and watching their technique. With my prescription glasses I found myself flying much further out and taking much greater risks. The reward was now I was covering more ground and finding lift more often than most others. The Midsouth was completed with a fifth place overall for the weekend and the satisfaction of knowing that I was continuing to improve with the new Sharon Pro. A full report with photos for Saturday and Sunday is here. My son Jamie also flew the Icon at the Midsouth and made a great account of himself with some excellent thermalling down low in one round to bury his group in the man on man format.. This was my first time trying seeded MOM where you launch together with flyers of the same skill level. It was a much more exciting format than “open winch” and really tested you on every flight. Capn Jack Strother was at the MidSouth and he invited me to come to the Nats in July. So I assembled a fleet and it was off to the Nats to compete in Nos, (Maestro Mk3), 2M (Organic), RES (Super Ava), UNL (Sharon) and F3J (Espada R).
The Nats (or Glider Camp) was a real soaring adventure with 8 days straight, flying sailplanes and camping at the flying site in our RV. The Nats was an opportunity to meet many legends of RC Soaring as well as test my skills against the best in the Nation. I was asked on the first day if I would like to write the Nats News Report for the AMA. I accepted this new responsibility gladly as it would give me a greater opportunity to meet more pilots and learn more. I soon discovered that it meant at least 3 to 4 hours of my time was committed everyday to photo write and edit my report. It was sure worth it though and the result can be viewed on the AMA site under the RC Soaring section. In the end the only class I really made a decent account of myself in was RES with a 7th place finish and a nice Nats trophy as reward. Many friends were made and new techniques learned though and I vowed to return next year for more of the same.
The thermal soaring season takes a break mid year at the Buzzards while it is really hot, so it was with great anticipation that we waited for the Round 5 of the FSS in Sept at Kennyworld again.
Meanwhile I had pushed on with my LSF tasks with the 1 and 2km cross country flights at IRKS at Cocoa and completed Level 4 contests while I was at the Nats to finally begin the Holy Grail of Level 5.
Kennyworld FSS 5 yielded my first Level 5 win on the Saturday and nearly my second on the Sunday with a very close 2nd place finish just a handful of points behind a fast improving Jamie Mercado in 1st. Every contest I entered I lobbied for pilots to attend also in an effort to make the required minimum of 20 pilots for the contest to be eligible for a Level 5 win. My efforts paid off with even some of our RES series events having the required minimum of 20 pilots. It was evident on many occasions, the wonderful support a great soaring club like the Buzzards provides, with many putting their hand up to assist me in the LSF 5 quest. Unfortunately 2009 was not to yield any further L5 wins for me though as I couldn’t seem to win with 20 or more and it seemed that when there was less than 20 pilots in attendance the wins came easy. That’s life!
By the time the year was over and the points added up, I was second by just 23 seconds in the 4 event RES series to a very skilled Rich Kiburis. I also came 2nd in the 6 event FSS Saturday Series to Buzzards stalwart Rick Eckel and I won the FSS series for Sunday contests. All round a very pleasing and fulfilling effort for my first full year of soaring contests after such a long lay-off. It did not come without a price though, as many home projects took a back seat while I trained my thumbs.
My real goal had been to complete the LSF level 5 in my comeback year but I fell short by a couple of wins and some of the L5 tasks. My last attempt in 2009 for an LSF 5 win was at the Tangerine (Florida's largest soaring contest) where I finished 2nd by 79 points to a very talented Nathan Miller. But I did manage one L5 win at Kennyworld and to throw the Super AvA up for a 2 hour stint to get one task of L5 completed before years end. It was the two tree top saves in the last 12 minutes that would make that 2 hour a memorable achievement. The many Orlando Buzzards including Rusty Carver and John Kennedy who assisted also reminded me once again of what a great club we have in Central Florida. Many active members participate in organizing and running contests and we have a great equipment guy in Raed Elazzawi who works his butt off to keep everything working year round. Then when a newcomer like myself has a personal goal to achieve many flyers came out to help and share in the achievement. 2009 for me was a year of learning and improving with some clear direction established as to how to tackle 2010. An all out assault on the LSF Level 5 would be my primary objective for the New Year.
Last edited by aussief3b; May 02, 2011 at 06:19 PM.
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