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Thursday, December 11, 2008

HTL Final Heidelberg

Down the flight line from the BERG camp with scenic Heidelberg mountains in the backgroundSaturday evening sundowner view from the farm stoepThe final contest of the Highveld Thermal League was flown at Che’s Farm in Heidelberg on Sunday – and what a grand event it was. Martie and I travelled down on the Saturday afternoon and met up with the Durban guys Dave, Dennis and Allan at the farm.

Ricky Mitchell, first time CD for us, did a stirling job of keeping the contest running smoothlyWe had a great relaxing sundowner and braai on the farm before seeing the guys over to my dad’s house for the night and then hitting the hay early. Night sounds on the farm are so different to our suburban environment and between the wind noises in the high trees, peacock and guineafowl calls and other creepy animal activity noises, sleep did not come easy. Anyway, we were up at five on Sunday morning and began preparing for the big day.

Every Thermal Busted team in action in their blue uniformsFirst, a walk down to the field to check wind direction and find a good spot for the flight line. Perfect wind strength and direction so headed back to get the braai equipment and help Martie pack the catering stuff. I managed to get the new gazebo up just before Lionel and Evan arrived. Lionel marked out the flight line and shortly afterwards the contestants started streaming in. Between greetings everyone started setting up their own camps. F3J winch spacing was used so the teams were well spread out. Notable were the “Every Thermal Busted” team sporting their smurf blue outfits and a lot of new and very welcome faces in the Jailbirds and Flying Fish teams way down at the end of the flight line. The BERG camp was set up right next to the catering tent and our Bold Evans Regular Group team consisted of Evan, Piet, Peter and me. We were short of two men to make up a second team so Tony and Jochen were slotted in with Gert and Rudolph of the Far ‘n Wide team.

Blast from the Past Team: Anton launching his Supra and Trevor timingBERG Team: Evan launching Peter's Tsotsie
Prepatation Piet (also known as Sparky) getting ready for his flightSilverton Eagles: Chris launching for Conrad, Johan timing

Pilot’s briefing was called, the traditional saw-tooth scoring system explained, frequencies checked and flying started at around ten - a little later than scheduled but we were there to enjoy ourselves and we had all day. Contest Director for the day was Ricky Mitchell.

Group photo: All the pilots, their helpers and some family members. Oops - no modelsBy mid morning it looked like we would probably get rain some time through the day but the rain gods were indeed kind to us. Thermal activity was perfect for gliding with well defined cumulus clouds building quickly and cycling through regularly. Temperature and humidity was high and the lift was strong. Very often after locating your thermal you could easily encounter two or three more during the ten minute flight.

There’s something very special about our summer cloud formations here on the Highveld – even more special with a graceful glider silhouette against them. And we even had a flock of storks pass through, stopping to thermal with us for a short while before moving on their way again.

Chris flying, Conrad timingWolfgang checking out the air during preparation timeZulu Warriors Allan flying, Dave timingPaul timing and helping JasonFlock of storks passing overhead

During the round before lunch the wind swung 180 degrees but lift was still good and the lower launches didn’t seem to affect the scores. Winches were moved just before the lunch break.

Team Far 'n Wide in discussion: Jochen about to fly, Rudolph and Tony standing byMartie provided braai packs and salads for lunch and the “braai yourself” concept made for a great social lunch. When flying did get going again, some of the smaller cumulus clouds had dispersed into a thin cloud layer and the larger ones were quickly developing into storms. The storm clouds eventually surrounded us but fortunately none passed directly overhead. This did make for some challenging flying, with some contestants not making the full ten minutes in the last rounds (hopefully at least landing on their even minutes) and some getting so high against the black undersides of the clouds that they were difficult to see.

Allan and Peter from the Zulu Warriors preparing for the roundThe Zulu Warriors: Dennis launching for Allen, Dave looking on
Easy precision landing by Allan of the Jailbirds team ...... and a little more action packed approach from Rodney of the 3G+T team
Michelle on landing approach with more great Heidelberg scenery in the background
Craig and Lionel very relaxed - Lionel obviously comfortable in his thermalIt was great to have team positions announced after almost every round through the contest and also great to have a bit of social time after the contest before the final results were announced. The only model seriously damaged was Rudolph’s 2-meter model that folded it’s wings on launch. Alan Sneedon’s model had to be retired early due to a jammed servo and he and Dave shared a model for the rest of the contest. Both Jochen and Peter also had servo problems but I think both
Another beautiful sunset after packing up (and hey, if Izak can do flowers on the ETB blog, then I can do sunsets here!)managed to sort them out.
Craig managed to keep his eyes on his own model for the entire event and even though there were more than enough trees about, Rodney managed to avoid them all - although he really got people moving around quickly in the landing circle.

Our Bold Evan’s team managed a 6th place with the Far ‘n Wide team 7th. Check out the MGA Blog for Lionel's report and full team and individual result listings.

Well, it looks like that’s all for the 2008 HTL series, hoping everyone enjoyed the events and here’s looking forward to an even better 2009 HTL series. Next BERG event is the year end fly in - keep an eye on the the blog for details.

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