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StraightEdge

The Next Level... Launch Technique?

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StraightEdge

I'm mid-50s, and have been a casual DLG flier for the last 3-4 years.  First an easy but low-launching Elf (about 30m, best times 7+mins).  Then a Blaster 3 - but before I could really progress, a bad lower back put all DLG activity on hold for 18 months!  I also have a weak left ankle (old running break), and the two issues together make me very cautious.   Now, with my back a bit better (stabilised if not perfect, and I wear a back-brace and an ankle-support), I recently bought a 1m GO Mini to get going again.

The GO Mini has a wide chord so lots of wing-area for a 1m (Pierre Meunier reckons it equivalent to at least a Blaster 3... in the right hands!).  It was quick and easy to assemble, and is robust and very easy to launch and fly.  The only slight downside of any 1m DLG is that it is slightly harder to read pitch and roll changes when higher up. 

The Blaster 3 itself is perfectly adequate for my current level, and there's no point in even thinking about anything more up-to-date until I've convincingly improved my launch heights and spent at least a whole season or two building experience.  I'm keen to try competition tasks as well as casual duration flying - and hope to get to at least some of the events this year. 

Spent the last week tuning pre-sets and trimming both models in dead air, and practicing launching with a HK recording altimeter in calm and moderate  winds - but no thermal action so far.  The Blaster weighs 260g (plus 30g and 60g ballast), and the GO Mini 140g (20g and 40g ballast).  My best launch-heights are 41m for the Blaster (both un-ballasted in light airs and the same with 60g in up to 15mph) and curiously exactly the same 41m again for the GO Mini un-ballasted in about 12mph.

The next step is to improve my launch technique so I can start aiming for 45/50m plus.  I do warm-ups and stretches before flying, and can launch level without (normally) hooking or releasing too early, and rotation into vertical zoom-mode is reasonably fast.   But my real problem is that, with the reduced flexibility of a porky, un-toned and increasingly cautious 14stone middle-ager, I simply can't do the twist-up and un-wind dance at lightening speed like a slim young French guy!  So, the question is can I find a technique based more on a 'rhino-run', with less twist and a  slower unwind, whilst putting enough arm/shoulder punch into the last half of the swing (upper back strength better than lower)?

This is what my launches currently look like (now launching faster and higher than these maiden flights but body action much the same):  https://photos.app.goo.gl/BeUx4vUhfHQh4d76A

Jon

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Paul Gleeson

You’re in a similar place I was last year. 

The basic launch technique looks good. Just keep you arm up a little.

I didn’t, and when I tried adding power I had a tip strike on a 1.5m. Luckily it lived to fly again 🙂

Fly as much as you can, doing lots of launches  eventually you will feel muscles aching a little in your core. The strength will build slowly.

I have a countdown timer set for 1:30, so after I launch I practice on-time on target (catch or land at your feet) landing and launch again quickly. If the weather is good I make this a longer countdown. Fly in wind as well to practice approaches in the wind.

I can get normally 45+m with my best at 52m. Aiming to improve more this year plus more competitions.

Look at this clip at 40secs not much running but a very good launch

 

Paul

 

 

 

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Jef Ott

Hi Jon,

Can you post some launch traces?

Admittedly, I haven't flown for a couple of years, but 40m launches used to be enough to win f3k competitions. 

If I recall correctly, I never managed to get the Blaster 3 to launch much higher than 44m even in good air.

Not wishing to cause any offence, but it sounds like you should work on the flying and not worry too much about the launch.

Jef

Just seen Paul Gleeson's post - both typing at once there. Sorry to offer conflicting advice. Go with what Paul says.

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StraightEdge

Thanks Paul and Jef - good advices, and not conflicting at all but complementary.

Very instructive to see that heavy-duty guy just amble forward before giving the Snipe a serious punch - quite a contrast to the usual run-up/pirouette.

Jef, not sure what you mean by 'traces' - if you mean altimeter data, I tend to wipe the files from the HK recording altimeter as soon as I've looked at them on the app... else I get confused with too many files.

You're both right:  regular practice will eventually translate not just into improved back strength and muscle-memory but also into better flying - setting oneself repeat tasks is an excellent idea!  Keen as I am,  I'm equally anxious to not hurt myself, so must remember to always start with relatively gentle launches to get warmed up and in the zone, and let the technique and power build gradually.

Re holding the arm up:   interestingly, before he begins moving his feet at all, Pierre starts with a full back-swing (not unlike tennis), virtually flying the glider tail-first up into a vertical position!

Cheers

Jon

Screen Shot 2019-01-01 at 23.56.46.png

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Paul Gleeson

His arm is a little high at this point, but it soon gets to the correct level.

I have only seen Pierre do this back swing. As you say he is very quick to spin, so I guess this helps that.

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Richard Swindells

Your issue at the moment will mostly be the model. The blaster is lovely to fly in calm conditions, but a launches like a pig and really struggles in wind. 

No need to invest in a snipe. An auri will give you the snipe performance for a much better price. Expect instant 5m to 10m increase in launch height. 

 

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Jef Ott

Jon,

The key to speed in the launch (speed = height), in my opinion, is winding up the shoulders relative to the hips. Martial artists / boxers etc also wind up the upper torso (generally to a lesser extent) before releasing their "roundhouse" punch techniques. If your upper body is stiff then your shoulders rotational speed is equal to your hips rotational speed.

So the hips rotate first and then the shoulders, then the shoulders catch up / overtake the hips. So the shoulders rotational speed is much faster than the hips.

The picture in your post (of the backswing) excellently demonstrates another way of achieving the end of the initial stage (pre-loading the upper body).

No matter which way you get there your shoulders need to be loaded in this fashion before the arm starts to rotate faster than the shoulders.    

Don't think about it like this though, you'll end up in a knot on the floor 😁

Far easier to think of it as an overgrown pebble throwing exercise. If you have ever tried to skim a flat stone on water, you will have probably stumbled on the hips/shoulders/arm technique without even thinking about it.

Happy New Year,

Jef

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StraightEdge
13 hours ago, Jef Ott said:

The key to speed in the launch (speed = height), in my opinion, is winding up the shoulders relative to the hips... 

[snip]

...will have probably stumbled on the hips/shoulders/arm technique without even thinking about it.

Happy New Year to you too Jef!  I completely get what you say.  Played a lot of competitive tennis in my teens before my ankle got smashed, and skimmed my fair share of stones.  The problem is partly three decades of rust, which is reasonably soluble through stretching and exercises, but also finding a way back  into that 'zone' where the mind takes a back seat while the body does all the thinking.  This will come through repeat practice I'm sure,  but in the absence of an expert coach beside me I've had to video-research the usual moves and experiment a bit on my own.

Today's late afternoon session involved reasonably gentle launches (30-35m) with the Blaster while focussing  on my (arm-up) backswing and footwork.  In fact discovered that three steps before the hop works better than the two I was doing before - this coincidentally helped me relax from worrying about the dicky ankle and the dodgy back while doing the dance.   Also managed a whole series of my first tip-catches before it got so dark that I couldn't see the bloody tip up close -  wearing distance glasses didn't help!

Onwards and... err... upwards!

 

15 hours ago, Richard Swindells said:

Your issue at the moment will mostly be the model. The blaster is lovely to fly in calm conditions, but a launches like a pig and really struggles in wind. 

No need to invest in a snipe. An auri will give you the snipe performance for a much better price. Expect instant 5m to 10m increase in launch height. 

Cheers for the heads-up Richard.  Whereas I'd previously reckoned on sticking with the Blaster for now, your suggestion prompted me to speak to Neil Harrison, and he agreed that I'd make much better and faster progress with the Auri - so I've decided to go down this route.  Also, as I want to progress to the complete flexibility of Taranis (compared to Spektrum), I'm looking at a complete package from him, including pre-programming (a sort of 'reverse-engineering' method of learning the system).

 

 

Screenshot_20190102-175809.png

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Neil Harrison

Hi Jon

Following our conversation yesterday I have analysed your launch,  and had a little time to put some words together.  What I can see  is very much the same as most people starting out and not too dissimilar to what we see at the F3K come try it days, so I hope that you are not the only one to take advantage from this advice.

I agree 100% with Richard, it seems that you have now gained such technique that you might be at the top end of the models capabilities, the Blaster is a big DLG which has both a very high drag coefficient and soft composite structure.  A change to a more modern airframe will see a noticeable improvement before any change to technique.

I love the science and detail in our sport, I am currently studying Physiology and Sports Phycology and I am in the process of writing a white paper about their attribution and effect in F3K.   In a very short summary the ideal launch is generated by a combination of speed and strength, speed is the main ingredient and is generated by 'LAG' which is the angular differential between the key component body parts; mainly the relationship between the feet placement, shoulders and hips and the throwing arm and shoulders.

Think about when you throw a ball!  It is not a rigid movement, what I mean is that it is fluid, the throwing arm moves independent of the feet, hips and shoulders.  The foot is planted followed by the hips rotating towards the target line, followed then by the shoulders and again by the throwing arm, this is one fluid smooth movement.  

Notice the 'LAG' between them or the delay in which they move, the foot or 'power step' is planted, the hips then rotate towards the target line followed by the shoulders and then the arm before releasing the ball, this is the same movement as you would use to skim a stone across the water...….!

Sounds simple right?  Okay then put a DLG model in the throwing hand instead of a ball or stone, the body then reacts differently as brain now comes into play and you know that the object you are holding is now something of value.  All kinds of negative thoughts now race through your mind, you think about striking the wingtip on the ground, is the throwing blade going to come loose, am I happy with the structural integrity of the airframe, are the launch settings correct, are the servos and linkages sound, does the battery have enough voltage etc.  Now what happens is the muscles tense and you are not living in the present moment, not thinking about the position of the throwing arm before starting the rotation, not thinking about the lag or coil, not thinking about the feet position etc, etc.

Now try throwing a ball feeling tense and uptight, the muscles are restricted in movement and the throw will be one rigid movement with little to no lag or differential between moving body parts, 100% guaranteed you will not throw the ball anywhere near as far as before.

Golf is a great example, the harder you try and hit a golf ball the more tense your body and the worse the outcome.  The golf swing is all about clubhead speed which is generated by ‘LAG’, the hips are turned towards the target almost 90 degrees before the arms come through and the impact of the ball takes place.  Think of winding up a spring and then letting it go.

We are all different shapes and sizes with differing athletic ability and age, the biggest key to a good launch is to be relaxed, focused and committed.

I have attached a brief document which should try and help explain, picture paints a thousand words and all that!

Good luck.

 

Jon Launch.pdf

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StraightEdge

Neil, that is really fantastic - thank you so much.

Your explanation is very clear and the attached visual analysis excellent.  This all gives me a super basis on which to start working on the component parts - slow movements until the body begins to feel it, then a bit faster, then repeat with an actual DLG in my hand.  It might even be interesting to do another video/analysis later on (after a lot more practice!) with a 1.5m DLG...?

Also, re what you've said about the stiffening that comes with worrying about the model, the settings, etc, the one factor that distracts me most is being on edge about my lower back and (to a slightly lesser degree) my ankle.  Once I can get clear of this, things seem to get easier - so warming-up with a light jog around the field and some static stretching exercises beforehand seems to help.

Jon

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mikef

Interesting analysis.  I tried approaching the Sports Science people at Loughborough a few years ago, hoping for some interest/input to further improve our F3K launches, but they didn't respond to a couple of emails and I gave up.  Maybe we can get a case together and approach them again.

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Richard Swindells

It is also important to think around the inertia of rotation around the y axis of the model. Ideally acceleration should increase throughout the "spin" to peak as close to the point of release as possible. 

If the rate of acceleration of the model is decreasing, before release then the outermost wingtip will begin to "catch-up" giving more rotational inertia and making the rudder loose more energy correcting. 

If you actually stop accelerating altogether before release the issue is amplified.

This is the reason why many pilots can actually launch higher when they are concentrating on a smooth launch rather than a powerful one.

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Simon B
1 hour ago, Richard Swindells said:

This is the reason why many pilots can actually launch higher when they are concentrating on a smooth launch rather than a powerful one.

FWIW, I can launch to around 80% of my "best ever"  with seemingly very little effort or strain on my ageing frame or airframe, to get that extra 10 meters or so, though, takes time to get limbered, trimmed perfectly and "in the zone", trying to throw harder doesn't work, it's more about smoothly building speed all the way to the release, and getting the last moments to counter the yaw just right, or wrong, is a subtle thing, but  makes a big difference,  comes with practice, I try not to over think  these things  while actually launching,  just use The force!

Happy new year all.

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StraightEdge

Both very illuminating comments -  I understand the theory - the feel, the force, the acceleration will  come with more practice.

My son filmed me today trying to put at least some of Neil's analysis into practice, this time with the Blaster (trussed up against the cold with multiple constricting layers).  This was the final launch of several dozen, by now well warmed up; it was no higher than the previous 41m and I wasn't worrying about anything beyond the pushover, but to me the session felt like a good start (and also beginning to feel less anxious about my back):

https://photos.app.goo.gl/2UU8quwHuM4ggD1G6

I've now got a buyer for the Blaster, so will be ordering an Auri (most probably).

Jon

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PaulR

So, I'm going to jump in and try to take advantage of the interest in this thread too!

I got my son and his friend to come out to the field behind the house and shoot some video of my launches.

I've got three launches here, two from a couple of angles. All three reached around 42m (I'm flying a BAMF) in almost windless conditions. My highest of the day was 47m but 42m seemed to be the typical height. I can feel when I've done better or worse, but consistency is not there. It seems grassy, but that field is a lot muddier than it looks. If you observe closely you'll notice I have about 1kg of extra weight in sitcky mud on the bottom of each shoe!

Two launches and slow motion: https://photos.app.goo.gl/adHhBnisXL5mSy1C8

Alternative angle of another a little later in the day: https://photos.app.goo.gl/XvhhmWXQr55nhoAE9

I can see the point about lagging the hip/shoulders/arm behind each other and I guess I should also be following through with my shoulders more than I do. I'm the least flexible person you could imagine - the angle you see my arm  back at is pretty much the most I can physically manage.

Does anyone have any other useful comments other than doing it all a bit faster? I realise as well that the wingtip is arcing down a little - if I'm not worried about the tip strike (I think its high enough to not worry too much) then is there any other downside to that?

You may be interested to know that you can step through YouTube and Google Photos videos frame by frame by pausing and then pressing . or , (forwards and back).

 

image.png

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PaulR
14 minutes ago, PaulR said:

I can see the point about lagging the hip/shoulders/arm behind each other and I guess I should also be following through with my shoulders more than I do. I'm the least flexible person you could imagine - the angle you see my arm  back at is pretty much the most I can physically manage.

I'm looking at it again now and I really need to get my hips round when I'm planting my front (left) foot. My hips are nowhere near 90 degrees to launch direction!

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Paul Gleeson

Another thing I would add, is to hold the TX with your left arm extended back. I think Pierre talks about this in his launch videos. He rotates 90 deg past the launch angle with the follow through!

If you remember Mike C's launches he has his TX stretched to the right, so his left arm is across him, and starts the rotation with the TX leading him round. It's about building rotational momentum, then "deploying" it at release, even pulling the TX in to increase the rotational speed a bit.

Mike C you might want to chip in here, in case I have something wrong.

Easy right! Err, not yet for me.

Just like you I can feel when I get is right, just can't do it all the time. Next time I'm out I'll try to get some video taken as well.

Cheers, Paul

 

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Paul Gleeson

Also I got a copy of the Radio Carbon Art hand launch master class videos. The quite good, if a little dated.

HLG MASTER CLASS 1 is the one covering launch and practice techniques. It's £16 but I think worth it. http://www.radiocarbonart.com/hlgmc1/

The second one is about tasks and strategies. IMHO not worth it, as we can pick this up over time in competitions.

Respecting the copyright, I won't post it here...

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StraightEdge

Interesting to see your videos PaulR.  Its as instructive - in a positive learning sense - to watch other less experienced launchers in slow-motion as watching Pierre's awesome feats in double-slow-motion!

Having a spare hour after lunch I was out again today, a bit breezier so loaded the Blaster with 60g ballast.  My aim was to relax as much as possible and go with what felt right for my body, while working on twist and rotational speed rather than grunt.  The first 20 minutes seemed the best, with half the launches over 40m (and a good one just over 44m), but after a short break I seemed to tire for the rest of the hour.

Tomorrow the Blaster goes to a new home and on Monday I go back to work.  It'll be a while before my new Auri is ready, but it'll be really interesting how much easier/higher this will launch when I start again.  In the meantime will see what progress I might make with the 1m GoMini (with its repaired wing!).

Jon

PS - I'll dig out my download of that Paul Naton video - to keep me out the pub on dark winter evenings! 😄

Screenshot_20190105-154233.png

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StraightEdge

[sorry, double-post, don't know how to remove]
 

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