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Nov 02, 2014, 05:20 PM
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nodlehs's Avatar

2014 USA F3B Team Select Contest Report

Back in September, Dave Olson, who is the organizer for the 3-day Team Select event, sent out a plea for volunteers. Dave and I have spoken about F3B in the past, and he knows I consider it to be the "Formula-1" of sailplane competition…So I replied that while I love F3B and will try to come, I couldn’t commit until mid-October. Well, he said he could live with that however he’d REALLY appreciate it if I could make it . On Oct 17th, Dave contacted me directly and asked me if I could/would do Scoring because he "had to fly” (Seriously Dave???). In reality, he DID have to fly, in order to fill out a 4th 4-man Team which would enable 3 other pilots to compete. After some negotiation with my wife, as well as my fellow SVSS ALES committee members, I was “all in”...about 7 days before the event, I said I would definitely be down, before the event to help out, as well as score all 3 days as asked. I already knew that Phil Renaud (Az) was the CD, which was great since Phil and I have worked F3B together many times in the past, at the NATs! This was a good opportunity to be involved with an event that I personally find fascinating (and as I said earlier consider it to be the F-1 of R/C Sailplanes), renew old friendships, as well as make some new ones, and I'm very glad I did ! Held in Perris, CA, just outside Riverside, at the site of the Riverside R/C Club, who "gave up" part of their field, closed the field to all flying, and let us have that portion "scraped" free of weeds, stickers, etc for the event (thanks RRCC). I arrived at the field on Thursday for setup/practice, shagged 'chutes for the teams, made sure we were setup for Scoring, and helped out whenever I could. Friday began with the Pilots Meeting at 8am, and the contest was on! On Friday the 15 pilots (3 teams of 4 and 1 team of 3), started what would be 3 days of F3B tasks, for a total of 6 rounds, which allowed for 1 throw-out round.

So what is F3B and why do I feel it’s the F-1 of our sport???
An F3B round consists of 3 separate tasks (which are flown in any order called by the CD): A) 10 minute Duration Task (with a precision landing), B) a Distance Task, and C) a Speed Task; each of which is awarded “Partial Score” points based upon finish, and the scores are normalized to 1000. The “Partial Scores” for each competitor are totaled and result in a Total Score. If more than 5 Rounds are flown, the lowest Partial Score of EACH task is omitted from the sum of all Partial Scores, which makes up the “throw-out” round. In the event of a tie, a full round must be flown to determine the placings. It takes some excellent flying skills, as well as excellent strategy and decision-making, to come out on top at an F3B event, as each of the tasks dictates that the pilot/team are constantly aware of, as well as able to adapt to, changing conditions and tactics.

The Course:
The Distance and Speed tasks are flown over a very precise course and every pilot while using different tactics, is required to fly the same course. A typical course layout (left-hand) is included in the pictures at the end, however at the 2014 Team Select, we were able to setup the winches in 2 lines so the pilots could launch North or South depending upon wind direction. We had launching, scoring, and judging taking place from the “center position” between the winches and the safety line. The image below shows a typical left-hand course, with North being the lower-left corner of the image. Imagine that setup flipped over to extend down and to the left (north), and another line of winches parallel to that shown and separated from it by about 10M and you'll get an idea of our layout. This course setup proved to be extremely efficient for us, and it should be noted that we did set up a right-hand speed course aligned with the north facing winches for the Speed Task. While you could launch in either direction, Speed was always run on the same course in the same direction.

The Tasks:
Here’s a summary of the 3 tasks (refer to for complete rules, as well as penalties within each task):
A) The Duration Task consists of a 12-minute total “working time”, during which the pilot must complete a 10 minute TD task with a precision landing. The working time begins at the sound of the launch buzzer, and the working time includes the time on-tow. 1 point is awarded for each full second from the time the model aircraft is free flying (off-hook), until the model aircraft comes to rest, up to a maximum of 600 points, and 1 point is deducted for each second over 10 minutes. The precision landing is measured from the nail to the nose of the aircraft, with a max of 100 points and you lose 5 points per meter from the nail, down to 30 points at 15 meters. More than 15 meters from the nail will get you a Zero landing score. Flight times exceeding 630 seconds, are not awarded landing bonus points .

B) The Distance Task consists of a 7-minute total “working time” (including time on-tow), which commences when given permission to launch by the CD. A pilot may not launch without permission, and if they do, they will be recalled and required to re-launch. The plane must first be flown off-course, then return and enter the course thru the Base A [imaginary] vertical plane (as determined by the Base A sighting device), in the direction of the Base B [imaginary] vertical plane. The task time starts as soon as the nose of the aircraft breaks the Base A vertical plane. As soon as the nose breaks the Base B plane the pilot will execute a 180-turn to return to Base A. The vertical planes are defined by very simple, yet effective sighting devices (see pic of a sighting device). The pilot must fly their aircraft between Base A to Base B and Base B to Base A. During the task, the pilot must stay within 10M either side of Base A. Only the number of full legs A-B or B-A are counted, and they must be completed within the 4-minute task time, partial legs are not counted, nor are legs that are not completed prior to the end of either working or task time. If a base is “cut”, the pilot will return to cross the Base plane properly, however, they will lose both speed an altitude when doing so, which is a severe penalty in itself. The model must be landed in the area designated by the CD or the pilot is penalized 100 points from their round score. Re-launch is allowed within the working time if the pilot declares his intention before Base A is crossed.

C) The Speed Task consists of a 4-minute working time, including time on-tow, and starts when given permission to launch by the CD. The task begins as soon as the model comes off-tow, and the model must enter the course at Base A within 1-minute of coming off-tow. If the model does NOT enter the course within the 1-minute period, it must land and be re-launched within the original working time. The task is timed to 1/100th of a second, and consists of flying 4 legs: A-B, B-A, A-B, B-A in the shortest possible time, and the aircraft must stay on the course side of the safety ”plane” or a 300 point penalty is assessed. During the task the pilot must stay within 10M either side of Base A. The model must be landed in the area designated by the CD or the pilot is penalized 100 points from their round score. Re-launch is allowed within the working time if the pilot declares his intention before Base A is crossed.

Back to the 2014 Team Select…During the 3 day contest, I observed some of the best, at their best, and was well-rewarded for making the trip...Great pilots, beautiful planes, with some very interesting/challenging conditions, as well as an unintended fireworks display! Each morning the air was calm, building throughout the day to reach 15+ mph and gusting to challenge everyone, including the volunteers! We had many dust-devils to contend with. I witnessed one that stayed in same place, never moving more than 10-15' in any direction for 10+ minutes. Several times, as dust devils came through, we couldn’t clearly see the judges at Base , and fortunately for all, the flying took place beyond the dust devils! Aaron Valdes provided us with a spectacular "fireworks" display when his Freestyler crossed a 200kv power-line...Poof!...A big black ball of smoke as it was instantly and completely incinerated, and went down on both sides of a distant road. Traffic was stopping to see what had happened and within 3 minutes Cal-Fire was on-scene, just-in-case, although we did not have a ground fire. I did find part of a stab, a charred & broken fuselage, as well as lots of black cotton candy "fluff" (the instantaneous aftermath when you apply a LOT of electricity to a carbon-fiber layup) which used to be the wing of his highly advanced F3B Freestyler. Aaron took it in stride and said "I've got one more ship left...Let's fly".

So, the 2014 F3B Team Select is "in the books" now, with the US Team for the 2015 cycle of the F3B World Championship consisting of (1) Kyle Paulson, (2) Mike Lachowski, and (3) Darrell Zaballos; with Tom Kiesling as alternate and junior Dillon Graves (age 16) this year. BTW, Dillon won ALL of his rounds in his flight group and won Round 6 overall. This young man is a serious contender and a heck of a nice kid! Congratulations to the new USA F3B Team as well as to all of the competitors on some truly great flying!

The details…Now that you have an idea “what F3B is”…Interested in seeing who the pilots were, who was flying what, how the scores went, who bested who, when, and by how much??? Let me point you to "F3X Vault" (, which is the scoring program I used all 3 days of the competition. In a word WOW!...On-line, real-time, round-by-round scoring...And in use in many countries/events throughout the world! Scoring went so smoothly that I was able to spend a lot of time with Olson's camera and shot somewhere around 500+ pics of the event (a few posted here). F3X Vault was developed by Tim Traver (one of the pilots), and is able to score ANY F3x contest as well as, TD and ALES (I'm going to talk Tim into giving us a separate ALES competition heading on the site). Due to some of the features available on "F3X Vault", it would be interesting to import our SVSS contests, even after-the-fact, and get a look at them with the graphing that's built-in. The information available at "F3X Vault" is simply amazing…Start by going to the website (, Click on “Competitions”, then Scroll Down to the “USA F3B 2014 Team Selection Contest” and Click on it; you're now "in" the event. Click on a specific "Pilot Name" to see how he did round-by-round, Click on a specific "Round" to see all pilots in the Round and their scores, Click on Back to Event View; then you can Scroll Down and Click “View Position Chart” to see a very interesting chart that shows the pilot’s position round-by-round (definitely a nice visual), or Click on either “Show Rankings” or “Show Statistics” for even more good info! With all of the info that F3X Vault provides, it’s the next best thing to being there in-person IMHO!...Check it out, I'm sure you'll be very pleasantly surprised!

WOW – This is the longest post I’ve ever put up! A few final words...There's a good possibility of the F3B Team doing some practice at Cal-Valley. If they do, and you can make it to help out, I can pretty much guarantee you a GREAT time! And last but not least...Congrat's to Dave Olson, who did a fantastic job, organizing this cycle's F3B Team Select, and to Phil Renaud for CDing a very smooth-running contest…As well as a BIG THANKS to ALL the volunteers who came out to help...They ALL deserve a “Job Well Done”!

~Sheldon Smith - SVSS~
Last edited by nodlehs; Nov 03, 2014 at 01:16 PM. Reason: Add F3B to Title; minor detail edits
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Nov 09, 2014, 03:13 PM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar

I just wanted to jump in and acknowledge all the work you did putting this report together. Super informative. Makes me hope that the future will see some F3B interest in the Sacto/SF Bay areas although there may be a better chance for F3J action up here soon.


P.S. Thanks again for the spool of mono-filament line. We will be putting it to good use soon.
Nov 13, 2014, 06:02 PM
David Olson's Avatar
Great recap Sheldon! Your passion for F3B is contagious!

I really appreciate you stepping up to handle all the scoring for the Team Select. I had total trust in you and you sure delivered!

I was asked to fly, in order to fill in for a missing pilot. I was to be the 4th pilot in order to balance out the teams. I didn't know it at the time, but my team would include Fred Sena and Joe Wurts. I must be dreaming! I had such a great time, experience of a life time for sure! I learned so much from my teammates, Aaron Valdes, Fred Sena, Warren Day and Joe Wurts.

Sheldon, you give so much back to the sailplane is karma that you won one of the Plane Quiver Bags, Rudder Cover and a set of Stab Covers!

Last edited by David Olson; Nov 13, 2014 at 06:11 PM.

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