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    Can winch approval save F3J?


    Sydney Lenssen

    Rule changes to halt terminal decline
    Uncle Sydney’ Gossip column returns

    FAI’s Aeromodelling Commission meets next month, 27/28 April 2018 in Lausanne, Switzerland. For F3J pilots the main topic on the agenda is how to halt the decline in silent flight contests. What does CIAM want to change?  What chance for these changes to save terminal decline?

    Winches to be allowed.

    If this proposal goes through the “launch of the model aircraft will be by hand held towline or winch.” Ever since 1998 when the first F3J world championships were held at Upton on Severn, pressure has been on CIAM to bring in winch launching. At numerous team managers’ meetings held by Jury President Bartovsky during World and European championships, arguments for and against have raged. Many countries do not have enough people to give one or two man tows, so they run their qualifying comps to local rules using electric winches. I guess more than half of countries do this. When they turn up at FAI championships, their pulleys and hand winches are brought out. In the UK perhaps we had one or two practice sessions at home before leaving.

    Certainly there is a difference between a regulation F3B winch and a two man tows. The best pilots still gain the most height either way. The big difference is what you need to carry on your travels, especially by airline. Winches and batteries are bulky and heavy. So far all votes have been to stick with hand towing.

    In CIAM agendas, any rule amendment is followed by its reasoning. 

    The winch proposal stems from Slovakia and they say: “The majority of pilots are older persons who are no longer physically capable of towing models. ( Uncle’s note: I have not seen anyone on crutches yet!) 
    “Also smaller teams lack helpers capable of towing. There is also the problem that some pilots are unwilling to assist other pilots because of their physical condition. The winches are widely used in other categories and also at many F3J home competitions.”

    Allow me to remind overseas Gossip readers that the UK has used winch launching for many years. Two years ago BARCS surveyed F3J pilots asking whether or not they intended to continue competing for the next year. About 50 established pilots replied and only eight replied positively. With great regret the BARCS committee decided that contests could not be run with that number: running the qualifying league to select GBR national teams was impossible, and for the time being F3J contests would not be organised. Since then two invitations to resume and run an F3J comp have fallen on deaf ears.

    Returning to the supporting data prepared by Slovakia in the agenda document. “The number of pilots in F3J category is decreasing rapidly. In the last 2-3 years the number of pilots at World Cup or Eurotour competitions has decreased by circa 60%. People are switching to other categories, hence the rules should be designed in the way that motivates them to carry on flying.

    “In case the use of winches would be considered, we propose to apply same rules as the rules regulating the use of winches in F3B category, maximum starting current to be 510 Ah and cable length to be 150 m.”

    In my personal experience and I have attended several FAI championships in Slovakia over the last 15 years, and their organisation of contests is amongst the very best in the world. They are aware that the changes proposed are radical, and they have consulted widely with pilots and trainers from different countries. People agree that the change in F3J rules is inevitable to keep the category alive.

    Rarely have the arguments for change in FAI rules been put so strongly.

    I shall be surprised if the new rule is not adopted, but it is not a foregone conclusion. My query at this stage is that the proposal appears to allow winch towing alongside hand towing which could prove difficult if not dangerous and unsafe. The proposal is also not clear on the location of the winch’s turnaround pulley with respect to the launch line/safety corridor, line length or how long winches and batteries would be allowed to stay on the launch line.

    There are one or two other rule proposals. Australia thinks that the winners of fly-offs should be determined by the sum of all scores with no discards.

    Present rule states that if six or more fly-off rounds are flown, then each pilot’s lowest score can be discarded. 
    This proposal is so sensible and surely it must be approved. The reasoning? If no discards had been allowed, then the senior winners in the 2012, 2014 and 2016 F3J World Championships would have gone to different pilots; Joe Wurts in 2016, Joe Wurts in 2014 and in 2012 in South Africa, Jan Littva would have been champion.

    One other significant change, also submitted by Slovakia, deals with the characteristics of F3J gliders. The new suggested rule is that the minimum flying mass should 1.7 kg, with the added phrase, weight of models may be checked randomly immediately after landing during the contest. I don’t follow this change. The reasoning given does not help either. 

    “The price of models is very high and pilots, especially juniors, can no longer afford new models. As a result the number of pilots is decreasing rapidly. Instead of motivating juniors, the number of juniors is decreasing.” That statement is true, but how relevant is minimum weight?

    Will the rule changes save F3J?

    In July 2014 after the F3J World Championships in Martin, Slovakia, that I wrote a Gossip column entitled “F3J is in terminal decline”. It reported on the team managers’ technical meeting led by Tomas Bartovsky and several topics were discussed: models had become very expensive, fewer junior pilots, accurate timekeeping at glider release and landing, and the steady reduction in pilot numbers. 

    Several experienced pilots suggested way to make F3J more attractive, such as having a maximum wingspan and a minimum wing loading, because the available models produced by skilled manufacturers were now too good. In reasonable weather, in the summer months of the championship season, many pilots find flying 10 minutes is easy.

    The simplest and best summary of today’s falling number problems is that F3J is not the sort of competition which appeals to an ever larger number of aeromodellers. In the early 1990s, F3J set out to be the simple thermal glider competition, easy for anyone to join, contrasting with F3B which demands far greater expertise.

    This Gossip column produced a world-wide response, not only on the BARCS website  but also through RCSD and RC Groups in USA and around the world. More than 100 modellers wrote in, more than a few very critical of my words “terminal decline.” But it was encouraging that many well known pilots - Kolb, Wurts, Paddon and many others - responded with constructive ideas for future action to boost F3J popularity.

    Bob Owston, famous for designing and building his own models, wrote:
    “I am generally against limiting performance via design constraints such as wing loading and areas, there is a case for limiting the international class to a 2.4 metre (100 inch) span. This would reduce costs, particularly for youngsters, be more manageable and render the class competitive for homebuilders. Ailerons and flaps would be permitted.”

    In my view Philip Kolb came with the best solution: Limit the span, (a maximum span limit), and wing loading, (a minimum wing loading), both at the same time.

    Several contributors suggested more efforts to show friends and youngsters the magic of thermal soaring, use non-stretch tow line with one towman and no spotters. Keep everything simple! Whatever change you make, remember that climbing in a thermal is the main reason and attraction of  the sport, not launching or landing. 

    Uncle Sydney’s verdict

    I welcome that CIAM has recognised that unless changes are made, F3J is likely to disappear. I admire the efforts of the US pilots, for example, where over recent years Daryl Perkins and several other stalwarts have cajoled and encouraged enough pilots to travel thousands of miles over a fair spread of the continent in sufficient numbers to run a competitive league. 

    In other parts of the world - Canada, Australia, Japan, Argentina - fighting for a place in the country’s national team is far more difficult in terms of logistics than Europe with its Eurotour events. Survival of F3J depends massively on the efforts of pilots who were engaged from the start of the class and were often in the past amongst the more successful winners. Sadly we are all growing older and less able to cope with the rigours involved. They should now try to identify those who will follow. 

    Allowing winches is perhaps a start in the rehabilitation process, but by itself is not sufficient.  After next month’s meeting it will be two years before new rule changes are allowed. Let us hope that does not turn out to be too late. 
     

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    wixy

    Posted

    Winch will not save F3J  but electric motors will save thermal competitions .G 

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    satinet

    Posted

    F5j has and will take over from f3j.

    Wiches don't do anything to solve the scoring system in f3j. 

     

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    thermaldoctor

    Posted

    Sadly I don't think anything will stop the general  decline of RC soaring over the coming years. The majority of younger people are simply not interested in flying RC gliders. Or any sort of RC flying for that matter except for drones. All winches might do in F3j, and what electric motors are doing in F5j is inject a boost of enthusiasm and the possibility to carry on RC soaring for a little while longer. So I think we need to do as much as we can to keep the current people in it.

    For that reason I would agree with winches for FAI F3j. It would balance out the launch performance variable we have seen in recent years and also be more cost effective for long haul teams such as USA, CAN, SA and AUS to send winches ahead rather than fork out for lots of towmens flights, accomodation and food.

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    isoaritfirst

    Posted

    I have never flown a F3j comp but done a few F3B and the odd thermal comp.

    I am the target audience, I like thermal flying and like comp flying.

    But at the few events I attended I came away a little disappointed.  

    Mostly because the flying lacked finesse and thrill,  it seemed to be launch and hang around on each others tails just trying to hang on a little longer. The comp element seemed to kill the desire to go off searching for a nice thermal. I know I went to very few and this may well not be a true but that was my experiences.

    Now, throw in the latest models that have very light wing loading and efficient sections and perhaps the need to search out lift has reduced even more since I last went along.  Possibly resulting in a money talks comp. 

    There is perhaps a need to redevelop the class with model that need to be flown well to achieve 7 minutes and flown very well to find the 10. 

    Flying 10 should be an achievement, today it seems (from the outside) that the events have become more about landing and diving into the deck to score the win rather than flying to the win. (from what I read)

    So while comps should lead to development, the current models don't appear to lead to good comps, so either the models or the comp needs to change, if its going to excite.

    I would be looking for the thrill of a nice thermal, or the fun of hanging onto a small one!

    I'm less interested in sticking my nose in the dirt.

    Flying gliders is an attractive graceful and competitive game. Perhaps F3j has concentrated too much on the comp at the expense of the grace. After all it was grace that attracted most of us into flying gliders in the first place.

    What if line lengths were adjusted to suit the day/field, perhaps reducing them during the day? or adjusted to some handicap system. - something to make the flying more and the landing less.

    Bear in mind I currently don't fly F3j so those that do will possibly see these ideas as terrible, and I don't wish to tell you how to run your comps, they are simply offered as a view from the outside.

     

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    satinet

    Posted

    i think f3b is more nuisanced contest than. F3f to be honest, but really it's irrelevant as very few people want to fly off a line.

    Moving turn arounds just makes for more work.  You can't have different flyers with different lengths really (practical and safety reasons).

    As i say no one is going to save line Launched contest whatever they do to the rules,  so it's a waste of effort.

    It's not down to cost. F5j is probably the most expensive class ever in glider soaring with the exception of gps racing.

    Even f3f is in the decline and it's probably the most accessible class.

    Sad days.

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    Maria Freeman

    Posted

    53 minutes ago, isoaritfirst said:

     

    I would be looking for the thrill of a nice thermal, or the fun of hanging onto a small one!

     

    +1 for that.

     

    If it is about "thermalling" , then reduce launch heights or increase slot times. ?

     

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    wixy

    Posted

    It never ceases to amaze me  the times I have heard F3J is  a launch and land competition .

    Always from those who think they know the intricacies of the competition but know knowt .

     Despite the modern machines it’s still as difficult to fly 10 minutes as it was twenty or thirty years ago .

    its one off the reasons the  relaunch rule was introduced .

    probably the main reason F3J started to decline in the UK was costs .

    And lifestyle changes .

    About 4 years ago I started to dabble with electric ,making mistakes with wrong models and equipment .But soon learnt what to use through  taking the time to talk to guys like Pete Mitchel ,Brian Austin etc 

    I quickly realised this was the Future  and slowly either sold my F3J models or converted those that I thought would be competitive.

    Provided Easa doesn’t  stop Thermal Competitions Barcs ELG and F5J will replace F3J  ,Open ,multi launch, e soaring etc 

    FaI F5J will replace F3J at international level 

    Change happens move on .

    G

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    satinet

    Posted

    3 hours ago, wixy said:

    It never ceases to amaze me  the times I have heard F3J is  a launch and land competition .

    Always from those who think they know the intricacies of the competition but know knowt .

     Despite the modern machines it’s still as difficult to fly 10 minutes as it was twenty or thirty years ago .

    its one off the reasons the  relaunch rule was introduced .

    probably the main reason F3J started to decline in the UK was costs .

    And lifestyle changes .

    About 4 years ago I started to dabble with electric ,making mistakes with wrong models and equipment .But soon learnt what to use through  taking the time to talk to guys like Pete Mitchel ,Brian Austin etc 

    I quickly realised this was the Future  and slowly either sold my F3J models or converted those that I thought would be competitive.

    Provided Easa doesn’t  stop Thermal Competitions Barcs ELG and F5J will replace F3J  ,Open ,multi launch, e soaring etc 

    FaI F5J will replace F3J at international level 

    Change happens move on .

    G

    But f5j models are the same price as f3j models plus motor/prop/batteries/esc. 

     

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    wixy

    Posted

    Tell that to The likes off Colin Paddon ,Kevin Beale , Brian Austin’s ,RIck Lloyd  all have produced successfull models at a fraction off the cost off commercial offerings .

    All have contributed articles in these Forums how it’s done and all are approachable  .

    F5J can be done on a limited budget .succsess comes from practice not what model you fly .

    G

    ( RIck produces the Claymore F5J moulded model so costs will be more )

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    satinet

    Posted

    Oh right most people in f5j fly their own design models.   Ok.

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    robtc3uk

    Posted

    I always found the launch and landing the easy bit it was the 9.50 min in the middle of the slot that was hard . One thing that has drawn be back to competitive flying is the fact that you can be competitive with home built models  and when have time to practice i only need a few lipos and can have a afternoon flying with out having to set up winches .But saying that i will miss the thrill of a nice big ping off the line but things move on and we all get older !. 

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    Bob Dickenson

    Posted

    Now then Tom,  Wixy is simply pointing out that being competetive is not all about cost. He is pointing out that models do not have to be moulded from the established model suppliers, but can also be home grown. 

     Being competetive is when you fly BARCS open in the early 90's & realise that using a power winch is allowed. Go back through the old magazines & see what a furore I started with that.

    My reasons for wanting to use a winch was that I was then the youngest member of my team. As such I was in demand for towing all the time, but could not receive a satisfactory tow myself.  I am now not fit enough to tow, therefore international hand tow F3J is out for me.

      F5j is a better competition because there is less demand on the timekeeper to be accurate to F1 standards, it has reverted to being more of a thermal duration & thermal sensing competition which does not rely on rocket launching or Olympic standard towmen to win. Ironic really that we are using a powered plane to achieve this. Sydney's 'death of F3J' article was depressing at the time but was absolutely right, it perhaps helped speed up the process. F5J is now the way forward, & I don't believe that Hand towing (or winch launching) glider competitions can continue much longer. Unfortunately as we all get older & are unable to compete, then eventually the whole thing will slide away due to the lack of fresh blood.

      I guess that we all ought to just get on with enjoying our flying as much as we can, while we can.

      Bob Dickenson

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    pete beadle

    Posted

    Hi all

    Well said Wixy and Bob

    One thing that we oldies forget though is that we were the product of our time just as much as drone drivers are now

    At least we competed when we had big numbers at our comps, how many of you remember that you/we had to get entries in quickly for First Frogsnest because we knew that the 120 competitors the matrix would accept, were going to fill up the entry if we didn't:):yes:

    Remember lads, as they say in Ireland, "we had the day".........the day's over, keep it in our memories and move on......

    Regards

    Pete

    BARCS1702

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    satinet

    Posted

    8 hours ago, Bob Dickenson said:

    Now then Tom,  Wixy is simply pointing out that being competetive is not all about cost. He is pointing out that models do not have to be moulded from the established model suppliers, but can also be home grown. 

     Being competetive is when you fly BARCS open in the early 90's & realise that using a power winch is allowed. Go back through the old magazines & see what a furore I started with that.

    My reasons for wanting to use a winch was that I was then the youngest member of my team. As such I was in demand for towing all the time, but could not receive a satisfactory tow myself.  I am now not fit enough to tow, therefore international hand tow F3J is out for me.

      F5j is a better competition because there is less demand on the timekeeper to be accurate to F1 standards, it has reverted to being more of a thermal duration & thermal sensing competition which does not rely on rocket launching or Olympic standard towmen to win. Ironic really that we are using a powered plane to achieve this. Sydney's 'death of F3J' article was depressing at the time but was absolutely right, it perhaps helped speed up the process. F5J is now the way forward, & I don't believe that Hand towing (or winch launching) glider competitions can continue much longer. Unfortunately as we all get older & are unable to compete, then eventually the whole thing will slide away due to the lack of fresh blood.

      I guess that we all ought to just get on with enjoying our flying as much as we can, while we can.

      Bob Dickenson

    Why are so many flying moulded jobs then?

    Saying f5j is expanding because its cheaper than f3j isn't true.  A few people might build models but the majority won't. And as i say they are even more costly than f3j models. Not everyone in f3j flew the latest super expensive planes.

     People prefer the ease of electric flying. As there are generally fewer pilots its nicer to fly on your own with electric than winch.

    I think the scoring system in f5j is better than f3j as well. Electric is clearly a better way to achieve it than line launches.

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    isoaritfirst

    Posted

    12 hours ago, wixy said:

     

    It never ceases to amaze me  the times I have heard F3J is  a launch and land competition .

    Always from those who think they know the intricacies of the competition but know knowt .

     

     

    I did say that I know nowt. Just a view from where I stand. 

    There is no need to get defensive. That attitude is hardly the way to attract. Surely describing the intricacies would be more useful  

    I am aware that flying 10 is hard, but flying a second longer than the guy you’re  mirroring is less so. Especially if you have the latest 3.5mtr+ handlaunch. 

    So back to my point.

    Make the flying more interesting. 

     

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    Austin

    Posted

    No way will winches save it as that only increases the need for powerful and best winches. The only advantage of a winch is a smaller team.

    IMHO F3J demise is down to a few things;

    1. Aging group of Pilots in many countries
    2. The need for a large team and good towers
    3. No restriction on model weights and spans

    If they are serious about saving it and they can't increase slot times then they need to make some drastic changes. A few things come to mind...

    1. Wing Span max 3.1m
    2. Minimum weight 2100g
    3. Maximum weight 2200g
    4. Nose radius should be fat to reduce dart board landings
    5. Single man tow with pulley and 130m line
    6. Line thickness max 1.15mm
    7. Pilot must use timer/launcher from apposing teams where they are not flying.
    8. Pilots must not receive any advice or spotting from their timer/launcher unless its a matter of safety.
    9. Bring back discard after 6 rounds flown.

    Cream will still rise to the top but it will make it more of a thermal contest and hopefully more enjoyable for less skilled pilots. I'm taking models back in time I know but wasn't it great then? Somewhere it lost itself with technology and works teams and was never stopped until too late.

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    Sydney Lenssen

    Posted

    Good thinking - and drastic enough to be a winner!  Sydney

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    wixy

    Posted

    Flying one second longer than the other competitors is an achievement to aspire to at FAI level.

    Its why top competitors practice sub one second launches .

    and can be the difference in reaching a fly off place or being a tenth place also ran.

    Its also one off the reasons I stopped flying F3J  .I do not possess the reaction times to launch that fast .neither do we have young fit athletic tow persons with the strength to achieve fast launches.

    I don’t believe winches will address these issues .

    I don’t believe reversing technology will reduce costs or encourage new competitors 

    We enjoyed nearly 20 years off F3J  in the UK made many friends at home and 

    abroad but it’s time to move on .

    G

     

    (Every second off a 10 minute competitive flight is interesting to the pilot .

    but boring to most spectators )

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    Shedofdread

    Posted

    The idea of a minimum weight is interesting but I believe it needs to be higher. I would suggest 2.5kg [at a minimum]. At that point, materials and construction techniques become much cheaper. Another approach could be a minimum wing loading (36g/dm^2???) 

    It's probably fair to say that electric launch has displaced hand tow and winches and as others have already written, the world must move on. If cost is believed to be an issue, maybe a 'no gearboxes' / 'outrunner only' rule would be a solution? However, if one compares model flying to many other pass times, it's hardly expensive so I don't really think cost is an issue.  

    The real issue here is (IMO and all that ;) ) one of time. I would love to fly competitions again but with work and family commitments, there's no way I can commit to attending events months in advance. Or even getting the required amount of pre-event testing.

    Richard 

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    isoaritfirst

    Posted

    I agree Richard, time is one of the big killers, and recently in the F3f world I have decided not to run the midland winter league. 

    The plus's of local leagues are reduced travelling cost and time

    In reality, 

    More events  seems to lead to more reasons for pilots miss events.

    More difficulty in achieving the increased number of day passes and more reasons why it's hard to remain competitive withing a years long league

    The resultant fewer entries at each event mean weaker events and less draw to attract others.

    Travelling time - if you have a day pass - and can get there and back in a day, it just comes down to travel cost. Few that compete are strapped for cash.They may choose to spend it elsewhere but being able to afford it is perhaps more of a choice than a physical restraint.

     

    My conclusion was to remove the Midland events from the F3f calendar for next winter, hopefully competitors will take the reduced number of available dates as more reason to attend and other events will be better for it.  Some will find the  extra travelling a bind, some will make the effort time will tell if it rekindles enthusiasm.

     

    IMO Competition is best as a highlight to those days spent practising and having fun. When it starts to become the only reason/time you fly its easy to question the cost.

     

    Re Wixy,  at FAI Level winning is everything, but to reach that level of competition it has to be a pastime that you find enjoyable, or you will not put in the hours needed.

    Hanging for a second longer when everyone has similar and latest technology is fair enough, but if your trying to do it in dead air with a 5 year old airframe you may get disillusioned.

    I fully understand your points - but you need to view the options with an eye to attracting more flyers not with a its fine for me mentality.

    minimum weight/reduced span would be a good start.

     

     

     

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