South East Wales Competition Report, 23 to 26 June 2006

Task 1 (pdf)
Task 2 (pdf)

South East Wales Open Championships Overall (pdf)
Teams (pdf)

All 3 opens results:
British Open Championships Overall (pdf)
British Championships Overall (pdf)

Presentation Night

The South East Wales club hosted the British Open and first round of the British Championships over 23-26 June 2006.

t1TaskFriday: forecast, weatherjack 1, light SW winds, increasing topcover later.

Merthyr, early. It seems like decades since the Nationals flew at Merthyr – not much changes – slightly more potholes, slightly more rubbish, and you can now see the burnt-out cars on Google Earth – but the quality of the site is still fabulous with large well-formed thermals coming through. At least until the briefing. With the topcover rapidly arriving the task committee (Nick Roberts, Adrian Thomas and pilot representative Dave Snowdon) set a short elapsed-time race to the Castle Meadows turnpoint at Abergavenny and then back to a 1km goal cylinder around the campsite. The route was selected to allow pilots to exploit route-1 out of the valleys – the convergence that sets up along the heads of the valleys roads. The safety committee (Mark Hayman, Roger Brainey and pilot representative Chris Harland) had no problems with the task, so the window was opened at 1300. Immediately the wind shifted to the south – along the hill – and all thermal activity ceased. Mark Watts, Mark Leavesly and a few others demonstrated convincingly that a) the hill wasn’t working, and b) they are obscenely fit. Then Merthyr switched on, as it so often does, at 2.30 and the Marks led a gaggle out, on a smooth 400fpm to base, shortly followed by a second and then a third gaggle. At cloudbase, Steve Ham was off down track immediately, aiming strategically to maximise ‘Early Bird’ points. Jamie Messenger and Mark Hayman were off early too, racing off because that is what they do. Back at Base, above Merthyr, Bruce Goldsmith, Mark Watts, Adrian Thomas and Jim Mallinson were playing with what seemed to be SeaBreeze convergence cloud, playing the elapsed time strategy of waiting for pilots to head out to provide thermal markers along the course.

Down track, inspite of the uninspiring looking conditions, topcover and poor forecast, pilots were getting 700fpm average in the thermals along route 1, and Morgan Nicholas’s tracklog later showed he had had a 9.8m/s (1900fpm) climb. Although conditions were generally smooth, Gary Jackson found a snotty lee-sider at less than 100m which turned his Mac Intox (DHV2) inside out, he made the sensible decision to throw his reserve and landed on his feet, completely uninjured. His tracklog showed he was at less than 50m AGL when he threw, with a descent rate over 15m/s he had only 3 seconds. The major downside for Gary was how many times he had to tell the There-I-Was story, at one point he had it written on a post-it note stuck to his chest. Good things reserves, but only if, like Gary, you have the sense to use them when you need to.
Meanwhile, the usual suspects were racing through the field, jumping from gaggle to gaggle up to Ebbw vale, and the leaders were pushing on West of track along the Heads of the Valleys road. Innes Powell leading out as always (just like the old days). Back in the pack, the gaggle jumpers suddenly got stuck after Ebbw vale – the next climb was missing. Jim Mallinson found a weak climb, and the gaggle joined him in it while Kai Coleman headed west and Mark Watts pushed on along track towards an obvious sunlit spur. Kai suddenly started accelerating as a massive thermal began to pull him in, so the entire gaggle booted it to him arriving to find a large convergence-climb of 700fpm. Mark was not so lucky, landing after only 9km.

After that elevator ride the chasing crew had the leaders in sight, and the peleton enveloped the breakaway somewhere between Blaenavon and the Blorenge. Innes Powell and Burkitt Rudd pushed on towards the Castle Meadows turnpoint low, Bruce, Jamie and Adrian took a beamer to cloudbase on the west side of the Blorenge and headed for the turnpoint with 9:1 needed to get to goal. In the bag – surely? The sea-breeze convergence was set up slightly right of track to the turnpoint, and after getting the turnpoint on heading back towards goal, it was clear that the sea-air had penetrated the valley already, giving a weak, but increasing tailwind towards goal. Unfortunately, the sea air also killed off all thermic activity. The entire lead gaggle went down desperately close to the finish line. As the sea air moved in the tailwind increased, and the later gaggles were able to cruise down the middle of the valley into goal. First in was Craig Morgan, but neither of his GPS units had recorded a valid tracklog. The task was won by Alex Coltman (Ozone Mantra) with an elapsed time of 57 minutes 11 seconds for the 33km task, not a bad speed for the UK. Mark Hayman (Advance Omega 6) was second in 59:20, and John Ellison was 3rd, in 59:39. Joe Jordan placed 13th on his Advance Sigma 6 (DHV2) highest placed Sports class pilot making goal for the first time, on his first competition task, and also getting his personal best XC distance. Miha Razinger (Slovenia) was top open-class pilot in 4th on his XiX Sens C4.

taskT2Task 2. Another light SW Weatherjack 1.

Merthyr, again. Before the briefing the sky looked pretty average. As the task-setting committee got to work, the topcover filled in and there was essentially no sun on the ground anywhere. The traditional straight race to Raglan Castle was set allowing pilots to chose to risk the direct route across the valleys, or to try to exploit any convergence along the heads of the valleys. Again the safety committee had no concerns given the weak-looking conditions and light winds, so the window was opened at 13:00. The wind then immediately switched to south, blowing along the hill, and all thermic activity ceased. Again. Mark Watts pushed off along the hill towards the quarry, where the hill turns round to the left a little (so more into wind), but radioed back to say it wasn’t worth it because the wind was scouring along the hill there aswell, and the launch was horrible. After an hour or so pilots began to get bored. The non-locals got out of their harnesses to wander about and have a chat. Skywatchers noticed something changing after 2, with signs of convergence across the valley (tendrils below cloud, birds climbing). At 14.30 Mark Leavesly launched on a do-or-die dive out into the valley, Mark Watts went with him, and they started to climb. Soon a gaggle was working its way slowly to cloudbase, but when we got there, the situation seemed hopeless, with absolutely no sun on the ground, and flat featureless cloud above us in all directions. My feeling was this was probably the only climb of the day, so the trick was to maximise the ride in the climb then glide to the deck. Alex Coltman had other ideas – heading well to the West of track as we glided off, he connected with yet another round of convergence climbs reaching 400fpm under an utterly unconvincing sky. The lead gaggle got in under the climb, with Joe Jordan constantly searching upwind back into the convergence, and Steve Ham and Kai Coleman seeking out the cores near the top, while Alex Coltman continued to work his own patch of lift off to the West. Two convergence climbs saw us head off towards the plateau between Blaenavon and the Blorenge, where a steady climb by the aerials got us to base, then on to the Blorenge itself. Here Steve Ham found a great climb that took us steadily to base, with the gaggle calling final glide numbers as we climbed – 10:1, then 9.5, then 9:1, at which point Burkitt Rudd could stand it no longer, and off he went on a 13km final glide. Adrian Thomas demonstrated the speed of the Airwave FR2, taking an extra turn then overtaking the lead gaggle to make goal first, but Jim Mallinson, finishing 30 seconds later, had taken a 15minute later start time. So the day was won by Jim Mallinson (Gradient Avax RSE) in 1:19 for the 34km, with Adrian Thomas second, 1:27, and Tim Bridle (Skywalk Poison) 3rd, and top serial. Joe Jordan (Advance Sigma 6) was again top Sports class pilot in 17th place.

On the third day

we went up the Blorenge, but even Bruce Goldsmith thought it was unsafe to set a task early – with CuNimbs over Pandy. The CuNimbs duly spread out, and shut themselves off, so an out-and-return to Raglan was set, but there was absolutely no residual thermal activity so the day was canned, and folks flew down to Castle Meadows. Leaving Jim Mallinson the winner of the British Open at South East Wales, 2006.

The competition was hosted at the Park Farm Campsite run by Kevin Miles, who put in huge efforts to accommodate us. The facilities at the campsite are excellent. Mark Leavesley sponsored a band, The News, who had the whole place jumping. Mark Leavesley put on an airshow with his radio controlled models, but was slightly trumped by Bruce Goldsmith landing Gary Jackson’s RC biplane 20m up in an oak tree, then spending half an hour in the telescopic bucket of a digger trying to reach it. The rain freed it that night.

Overall Results British Open South East Wales
1st Jim Mallinson, Gradient Avax RSE
2nd Steve Ham, Airwave Magic 4.
3rd Bernard Kelly Nova Tycoon

Serial Class
1st Steve Ham, Airwave Magic 4
2nd Bernard Kelly, Nova Tycoon
3rd Tim Bridle, Skywalk Poison (4th overall)

Sports Class
1st Joe Jordan, Advance Sigma 6 (10th overall)

1st Fiona Macaskill (39th overall)

68 pilots from 6 different countries.

report by Adrian Thomas