04 February 2010

Two Oceans Slope Soaring in one weekend - the story!

[This story must start with thanks to Malcolm Riley for rushing three DVD's of photographs to us, just as we were about to board the shuttle to airport back to Durban - 99% of the pictures on this 2010 report are from those DVD's and are just a fraction of the photographs taken by Malcolm and his lass over the weekend.]
A personal perspective of the 2010 Two Oceans Slope Soaring experience.

Slope soaring, especially with a competitive element, remains the first love of the three Durban Springfield Chickens that headed down for year two of this classic event. Unpredictable Durban weather and a thing called "Natal fever" have meant rare nibbles of single afternoon social contests, stretching right back to 1980, along with hiving off in to the other model aircraft disciplines of thermal soaring and powered flight in all forms. Michel more recently making a name for himself in large scale aerobatics and jets - but the slope instinct remains and it is a treat to get to spend a weekend eating, sleeping and drinking pure and unadulterated slope soaring, along with this rare club of wholly slope and fun focused Toss'ers.
There was must be hordes of similarly slope contest frustrated folk all over the country and world who would revel in these slope aerobatics focused weekends in this Eden of slope flying, that is the Cape peninsula, bounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans....? Have look at the success of the Two Oceans marathon, the Argus cycle tour and the Cape as one of the world top ten tourist destinations and you get the idea.
Ground zero
Your scribe arrived Wednesday prior and took in a good hour or so of practice late Thursday, to have a practice run on the Lance Cranmer Durban Model Centre "Macro" at the Simonstown Red Hill venue used in 2009. The strong buffeting wind meant keeping landings to a minimum and it was quite a relief to grease the Macro in, in the normal Red Hill "pick a bush" fashion, after the long but enjoyable first run.
These Toss folk look after their visitors and as per 2009, most of the hard core took off Friday to meet with me at Dixies for breakfast and discussion, mainly related to the allocation of the overflowing richness of prizes, wow...... Kev and Jeff had even gone one better and arranged George to meet Russ and Michel at the airport Friday afternoon, so that I could unwind with a bit more practice instead.
Kev was aghast that the previous afternoon had been flown in the blow, which he described as "too strong" for that hill. Amidst gentle insults about softy Capies, we headed back up and the more lead laden Macro launched for another hour long practice flight. Cheek turned to dismay as Kev's Aldij smoke the earth terminally on landing and the Macro radio was passed to from hand to hand to delay the Macro's inevitable landing. The face was brave but the Macro gently ushered in, only to veer hard left at the last instant and render your scribe real humble again. Pure joy when it was discovered that the only damage was a sheered nylon wing bolt, whew (thanks for the spare bolt, Jeff)......
Some test flying was now achieved at the Smitswinkle slope down south and it was interesting to talk Theunis through the schedule of ten aerobatic manoeuvres selected by Steve for himself. I was quietly chuffed to have the same schedule barring one manoeuvre as Steve. Both of us had gone for medium complexity with reasonable K factor, rather than out and out complex high k factor manoeuvres, something that ultimately translated in to his well deserved win and a much improved fifth for myself. Those interested in the detailed list of four prescribed and six option manoeuvres can pop over to the Toss web site for a gander:
The Friday evening was the normal rowdy but harmless session at Dixies tavern and Russ was in fine form, keeping us entertained at a specially allocated space near kitchen, a way from the less lunatic revellers. We tried hard to steer Steve Muesel back on the track of double whiskies but he had learned from the 2009 all weekend hangover and was wise to all our attempts - something that paid off in bumping him up from the top three 2009 result to top dog in 2010, but I digress again..... The Springfield Chicken's bedded down at the magic cottage rented to us by the owner of Dixies himself - the R200 per night each cost a gift for this popular holiday destination.
We have lift off
Saturday morning coffee was enjoyed at one of the many quaint cafes in the historic Simonstown, a place choc a bloc with history. Cell calls from Steve and Kev suggested a change from the Red Hill venue, especially after a quick test with Kev's Zagi and we joined in the run to the "Smitswinkle" slope, pretty much as far south of Simonstown as one can drive on open road, but still overlooking the Indian Ocean. A scroll down to the Saturday photographs shows the stunning view over the sea and out right towards the Cape point itself.
The ADT security caravan and various sponsor banners arrived. The caravan was our source of luscious grub and drinks for the weekend and Anneline and her team did a magnificent job in not easy conditions (pic below).
The 15 pilots signed in and each received a large shopping bag of "pilot goodies" comprising bright green Toss T shirt, beautifully embroidered cap, logo labeled water bottle, Fragram Screwdriver set and welcoming letter. The pilots pretty much had their nominal entry fee of R150 (US$20) back before they even started!
If one looks carefully at the pic of Russ landing at Smitties, one can see houses right down the valley and the only way in and out being by a single well worn path! Jeff Steffen's briefing and the contest start were delayed by a troop of paramedics carrying up the body of a passed on grand dad, who must have spent his final days enjoying this idyllic location.....
Saturday round one
Initial landing fears on our part changed to oohs and aahs as one got in to the smooth as babies bum lift at Smitswinkle, a far cry from the pomping conditions at Red Hill. [note: pilots flew in pairs, alternating between their specific trick and gaining height]. Given that we were effectively launching from a slash in the slide of the mountain, there was little or no wind on the pilots themselves.
The first round got in to gear in perfect conditions, so perfect that Michel and the VPR Kilburtin were a real threat and not buffeted away, as had been the original concern. Russ had built two beaut Toksix (Toko molded wing and retro Phase six fuselage) for himself and I, and it was a nervy first launch (yes, test flight) for my Toksix that greased away like a slipper. Initial nerves changed to increasing enjoyment as Russ called and positioned me in and out of the manoeuvres and Michel calmed me through the finer points in the other ear, wot fine Springfield Chickens team work!
Steve put on a polished performance to set the standard for the weekend, he and Kev's calling team work really impressing the judges, who afterward re-emphasised this vital component of aerobatic flying. The crowd went quiet for Michel's first run on the Kilburtin until he started the slope Immelman top and bottom roll manoeuvre, only to default to the jet style two top roll Immelman, despite the after drinks explanation of the night before, Instant zero and now an interesting two hundred point deficit to catch up on Steve! (The new manoeuvre was christened Minellman and Mishellman by the wags.... ;-)
Both Steve and Kev kept themselves busy helping the other pilots as well, no prima donnas in this club!
Russ had discovered a new hanger-rash twist in his Toko wing and Michel and I are convinced that the trim change took the edge off his 2009 dazzling Toko performance, whilst still posting a reasonable score.
There were only two major dramas with Jeff losing his pretty useful OD plane, right down on the right, Son Nick and the team eventually returning with a completely unscathed plane. Mark Beckenstrauter's plane also went down on the left and we thought "by by" plane, with Mark also returning a short while later with only the nose of the craft smashed - it had landed barely ten or fifteen metres from the water's edge!
Nick and Jeff retired for while to computerise the scores and then a start was made on the next round, whereupon it was immediately obvious that the wind direction had tweaked off slightly and the judging area appeared fraught with "glitches" (the best way to describe the turbulence, which kind of snuck up on one).
I must confess to panicking and completely loosing the plot, rushing off to fetch the spare Le Coq midst scoring flight. Judge Andy quietly and correctly pointed out the error of my ways and it was with some relief that Jeff and the organising team decided to abandon round two and call a halt for the day. Whilst this was on the go, Piet Grove's plane lost height and he ran up the road and hopped on to a bollard to get a better view, his too tight shorts meant that he continued right over the top of the bollard and over the edge of the mountain in to the bush. A frightening moment but he emerged unscathed and cheerful as ever. Another cheerful soul, Tim Watkins-Baker, seemed content just soaking up the atmosphere over the weekend.
Marc Wolfe had managed to fold the one tailplane on his retro sloper during the aborted round and he used the opportunity to do some cliff top practice with my Toksix, having been promised that he could share the Toksix from then on. The four point rolls etc were watched by us with open mouths, this 2009 winner and F3A pattern boytie can really fly!
The Toss 2010 green shirted pilots gathered at the parking area for a debriefing by the four judges, Andrew, Johnny, Claude and Kurt, as well as some promo photographs with some of the sponsor banners. Yours truly was so enamoured with the new Toksix that he clutched same through all the pics, sorry folks.......
Andy and Johnny were from the 2009 event and Claude and son F3A flyer Kurt were new to the slope scene but fitted in with the Toss mob, right from the word go, they had a ball. The debriefing centered around centering the manoeuvres and effective calling - some of us hung our heads in shame as we had forgotten those same lessons from the previous year.....
It is worth noting that the ten manoeuvre schedule, coupled with two pilot up at once and alternating runs and gain height, made for helluva useful amount of pleasantly tiring flight time. Toss had succeeding with the new schedule!
After chat and meeting with ex Durbanite Dion Thompson, we headed back for another thorough enjoyable dinner with the mob at Dixies, man the grub is out of this world and plenty of it...... I was impressed to see young Michel finish the huge chicken burger and even more impressed at Jeff and his ritual of a tot of Jack Daniels on just about everything, even the ice cream. Russ and Steve were the normal Russ and Steve ringleaders with the banter and jokes and we retired, pleasantly tired and super relaxed, which might explain the complete lack of hang over or such side effects over the weekend..... Michel was now starting to really warm to the occasion and there was much discussion on slope aircraft of the future.
Sunday round two
As predicted by Kev's online wind guru, the wind had swung and lightened and we made our way to Fishoek for petrol and then through Kommetjie up to the "Soutwater" Atlantic ocean facing slope, through the hordes of cyclists involved in a local cycle race.
Most of the cycle "buses" had passed by prior to contest start and we were pleasantly surprised to see AFC secretary stalwart Andrew Basson passing by in one of the buses - I have seen Andrew flying one of my craft like a rat up drain pipe at Hermanus and must lean on him to join us in the future. Some of the cycle tail end charlies even stopped to watch and chat - man, what makes these Cape folk all so friendly....?!!!!!!!
The wind was light but not impossible but yours truly chickened out on the Toksix and went for the 350 gram Airtech Le Coq instead, eventually dispensing with all ballast. Le Coq was fine in the lift (the pilot still a bit shaky), although not as fine as the Aldij's of Steve, Kev and Malcolm, which quickly circled up to good air. Jeff had kindly lent his spare Mini Dragon to Theunis and Piet who were able to tear around with gay abandon, much to the dismay of the folk having to cat foot in the conditions. Theunis came alive with the Dragon and here is my dark horse prediction for future, remember this line. Damion and Gus had pleasant rounds with their respective Voltij craft and whilst Damion seemed disappointed, he achieved another creditable fourth place round score.
Bobby Purnell had treated us to a demo flight on his brand new Vector prior to the days event, probably the first Vector to make the air in South Africa. The 8020 wing coped remarkably well in the light conditions, although the fuselage was just a little too retro for my fellow Springifeld Chickens.
The moment arrived for Michel to take up the Kilburton in perfect conditions for that sort of craft, although he had to sweat to height and resorted to a version of kerb crawling called cliff crawling (see pics), above us all and pretty damn effective. All progressed sweetly and he looked like threatening Steve's lead until he and Russ miscounted and did a two roll instead of three roll manouevre - instant second zero!
Mark Wolfe had been heavily involved in the model jet turbine on a bicycle and other related items for the popular Top Gear car show taking place in Cape Town and arrived just in time to do his schedule with the Toksix, which he cliff crabbed as well, albeit at lower and more patient height, managing to complete his schedule adequately albeit with way less aplomb than the practice run of previous day. Yours truly was stunned when Jeff handed over Mark's prize at Mark's behest at the prize giving, as recompense for the loaned craft. Already told you these Cape folk are nice people....
The wind had now swung round the corner and we migrated down the road for grub and natter whilst the Zagis tested things out. Murphy's law decreed that we made a decision to halt proceedings for the day and head down to Fishermans in Kommetjie for prize giving, then the wind tickled up - but we were not disappointed at all, what a nice way to end the weekend, heading down about 2:30pm.
The L Z
The array of prizes from AMT, Micton Hobbies, Clowns hobbies, Hobby Warehouse [must add to list] and others was staggering. Every one of the fifteen pilots was called up and went away clutching a fist full of bits. The huge AMT packets of kevlar, carbon and assorted composite bottles were worth a fortune to a modeller and the generous gift vouchers from Micton and Clowns well received. I am going to stick my neck out and say Toss 2010 was won by "Mr Nice Guy" but Steve is also just one of the guys and they all to a folk make one just so welcome. I cannot stress enough just how much of an unwind this event is and if you are of anal competitive persuasion then maybe 2011 might not be for you - although we can all change (Michel was moved comment that he had never known me so calm ;-). We headed back to our accomodation well after 6:00pm.
The single most popular prize was alwarded by Rose Steffen to Piet Grove - a mini parachute man for leaping off the mountain on the previous day.
Special mention.
The Steffen family of Chairman Jeff, Rose and Nick selflessly gave of their time, despite son and wife not competing - they also enjoy those Dixies thrashes as much as we do.
Bill Dewey, the TOSS iron man and especially good to me, thanks Bill, you are a trojan.
The remaining Toss backbone of Steve, Kev, Malcolm, Theunis, Gus, Grant and George, the Springfield Chickens salute you all.
I have left out so, so much but trust it brings through just how special an event this is.
1. Steve Meusel 100.000% - Aldij
2. Michel Leusch 95.465% - Kilburton
3. Marc Wolffe 93.700% - Primius and Toksix
4. Damian Hinrichsen 86.280% - Voltij
5. Dave Greer 75.710% - Toksix and Le Coquillaj
6. Kevin Farr 72.875% - Aldij
7. Malcom Riley 72.195% - Aldij
8. Russell Conradt 68.840% - Toksix
9. Theunis van Niekerk 62.905% - OD and Mini Dragon
10. Gus Thomas 60.725% - Voltij
11. Pieter Grove 56.180% - OD and Mini Dragon
12. Bobby Purnell 55.845% - OD
13 Jeff Steffen 12.980% - OD
14. Marc Beckenstrater 11.425% - Phase 6
15. Tim Watkins-Baker 4.725% - Forgotten
Anneline Van Niekerk and the ADT grub wagon.

The Toss embossed water bottles.

(below) Fragram support again for the second year.

(below) The view from the Dixies verandah - you can smell and touch the sea!

(below) Bobby Purnell landing South Africa's first flying Vector? (note effective brakes).

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