Sunday, September 19, 2010

EIFELPOKAL 2010 - Allard van Wallene

An active low over northern Europe colliding with warm air in the south caused massive rainfall over Holland and parts of Germany. Showers were of a clustered nature with sometimes thunder and lightning under massive towering cumulonimbus clouds. To avoid the heavy Friday afternoon traffic, I left early. In the car I played an audio book on the stereo, but my mind was with model flying, so I changed to the local radio station. They were playing a series of ‘rain’ songs: ‘Its Raining Men, Its Raining Again’ and more. Come to think of it, there are plenty of rain songs! At the German border, the station got too weak for proper reception, but the weather continued the sentiment, with massive downpour.  Visibility dropped to dangerous levels and luckily some cars used their fog lights for me to keep track. Upon arrival at the field, the F1B and C contest was well on its way. There were grey skies all around and a slight drizzle.

Line up of shelters on F1B day
A heavy shower had just moved out and it had struck lighting right in the middle of the field. The cars were shaking on their wheels! The organizers were very flexible all through the event by halting a round whenever deemed necessary. Nevertheless, some flyers were caught downwind by the rain. Later that day, the wind shifted from NW to N, straight over a downhill slope. Only a good climb and good air could secure a safe passage and a max which was set at 150 seconds. The fly off was scheduled for 6.30 the next morning. Bernd Silz once again managed the best time and Seydel topped F1C.

Aringer with flapper

That night we enjoyed dinner at an Argentinean restaurant, which I visited some years ago with Anselmo Zeri. A good choice of quality beef and discussions about F1A technology made us forget the weather outside.
Next morning dawned with moderate wind and partly overcast skies, which lasted for two rounds. Like the previous years, right at the start of round one, small patches of lift were available. The big question was if they would carry the model high enough to clear the dropping slope at the south end of the field. The wind was still well within comfortable limits and I decided to take my Ex Span for a safe max. The model climbed away gently and although the slope pulled the model lower, it maxed at some 70 meters altitude. Also in round two, the wind kept a low profile, and some sunny spells made us even forget the wet of the day before. After a few minutes a large thermal passed through. I prepared for launch while others were already launching their ships. After my launch I looked up and saw something dangling from my stabilizer. Darned, towline over the stab I thought. But the towline was on the ground still in one piece. I looked up again and saw the entire top cover had stripped off the stabilizer! The model tried to stay in the thermal, but the drag proved to be too much and it slowly descended. I watched the flight in awe, before winding up my towline. I slowly strolled downwind to collect the model. Tough break, I thought. In round three Siggi Limberger walked up to me. “What a great flight that was”, he said. I was puzzled. I explained what had happened to my model, and he replied he and the timekeeper had seen my towline over the stab, which then dropped away for the model to max at great altitude. I had no clue what had happened or which model they followed, but 180 was on the scoreboard! Undeserved for sure, but I never argue with timekeepers!

Seydel programs his winning model using Sidus electronics.

The weather forecast was all over the place but the promised improvement of the previous day was over optimistic. Soon massive towering cumulonimbus clouds were approaching from the horizon in round three, the kind jetliners would take a detour for. One of such clouds managed to hit us during lunch break and part of the 4th round. The organizers managed quite well in halting the round and continuing after the rain had passed, in particular with the previous day’s lightning strike still fresh in memory. Although the average wind speed was around 6 m/s and less than last year’s, the turbulence levels were particularly high. Picking your own air proved to be the best way for a secure max as thermals were often small and passed at high speed. The harsh conditions made towing a real challenge. Putting up a fight for 20 minutes and maxing at great altitude made the experience the more rewarding. In round 5 the thin spectra towline was wrapped around one of my left hand fingers. The fierce turbulence required full control over the towline all the time, so my finger obviously didn’t cooperate! My model towed-in and after the adrenalin faded away, the cut in my finger made me realize I should use a left hand glove as well. After the 7 rounds only 3 managed a clean score, Uwe Rusch, Ivo Kreetz and yours truly. The fly off was delayed to make sure the threatening clouds stayed clear from the field. After another shower passed through, weather conditions were perfect: about 4 m/s wind and sunny. But with wind from the north, such conditions can be very tricky. While towing, all three of us felt a nice thermal. I launched first, but the towline slipped from my hand and the model pulled out of the bunt not in the position I wanted it to. Then Ivo launched, the model pitching up too much. The bunt redirected the model back to a near horizontal position and a stall followed. None of our models climbed away and again the Zulpich air had fooled us. Uwe Rusch launched shortly after, and although he managed to beat our times, also his flight was not supported by any clear thermal activity. I ended third only 2 seconds behind Ivo. Our models could be retrieved from a close distance with all flights being between 3 and 4 minutes.
It seems like a chain of warm weather has been replaced by the type of weather we were used to in the eighties and nineties. Thanks to today’s carbon composite structures, many coped pretty well with the weather. We all feared we would need our rain gear for the years to come, the seven fat years now being followed by seven lean years.  Future will tell if this holds true.

First two rounds were blessed with decent weather

Starting line close to camp site, and wind of course.....

F1A winners