Upon completing the 3D Downunder competition, we had a couple of days to kill
before heading back into Melbourne for the Victorian Champs. We checked into
another overpriced motel which had the smallest hot water cylinder known to
man. Very short showers were the name of the game here!
With the touristy stuff done we started to make our way to the caravan park
everyone was staying at for the event. True to form we ended up going the wrong
way three or four times, but eventually arrived.
It wasn't long before the other guys started turning up also, Gary and Jim
Watson, Brendan Tucker and Mick Warren to name a few. Mick participated in the
2003 Worlds and came 36th overall, an impressive achievement.
Friday morning heralded the arrival of the guys from Hong Kong, Stephen Fan of Cyberheli, Micheal Leung (Xcell) and Chris Chan (Caliber) had just got off the plane from Hong Kong and were assembling their machines as the rest of us were having breakfast.
The Australians said the field was 'just up the road a way', to us it felt
like an eternity going down all manner of country roads until finally we saw
the Victorian State Field which is quite an impressive affair.
Lew Woods, the other pilot from New Zealand was already out practicing in what was turning out to be a very hot day (it would later hit 37 degrees).
A shade tent was soon erected and it quickly became the most popular spot with Xcell's packed tightly with Vigors and Calibers.
Micheal and Chris from Hong Kong were soon out on the flight line putting in some aerobatics that were very fast, very high and very big. This was quite in contrast to what I and obviously some of the Aussies were used to. It was however, highly impressive. Stephen Fan was going to be one of the F3C judges and he commented that the big, fast style of flying was predominant in Asia
I spent a lot of time talking with Micheal who was flying an Xcell Pro2K with a Tempest FAI head and a Webra 91. Micheal is the current Singaporean and Chinese national champ and had come to Australia to gain more international experience in preparation for going to the World Champs in Spain in 2005.
It was becoming very apparent during the day that either everyone in the F3C class was quite close in terms of skill and ability, or no one was showing their cards. Looked like it was going to be a tough competition!
Friday night and the Aussies were keen on another round of go-karts before dinner. Honestly, they seemed more keen on the go-karts than flying! This time we had some more guys join us which made it even more enjoyable.
Saturday - first day of competition
The plan was to run three rounds of F3C, Advanced and Basic today with a further round of F3C on Sunday and also have a go at the B schedule after that.
Things were a bit late getting started after discussion on where the flight line should be based upon where the sun and wind came from during the day, but once running things ran very smoothly thanks to the organization of the Melbourne Radio Controlled Helicopter Club (MRCHC). However, with each F3C round taking two hours to run, it was apparent that we weren't going to get three rounds in on Saturday seeing as we still hadn't run any advanced or basic schedules yet.
The judges for F3C were Fred Proos, Mike Farnan, Nick Csabafy, Glenn Asquith and Stephen Fan, a very credible panel indeed with both Nick and Stephen having done judging courses in the past and Mike having a lot of experience flying at a World Class level.
As I expected, the level of flying in F3C was very close. I literally could
not pick the placings.
Straight after lunch we got into Advanced and Basic with two flight lines running simultaneously. I was judging Advanced and with only three fliers we were able to do two rounds in quick succession. Fred Proos emerged as the early leader with some very nice hovering. The only small drama was when a Quick 50's engine flamed out during the hovering and damaged itself on landing.
People turned their heads towards the Basic flightline when what sounded like a turbine started spooling up. It turned out to be a Raptor 50 with a home made electric conversion. It sounded and flew great! I got to fly this machine afterwards and it flew very nicely, although it only really had the grunt of a good 30 size machine.
Lunch was once again prepared by the MRCHC as people took a short break out of the sun before the second round of F3C.
The second round looked to be even closer than the first, now that Mick's machine
was fully operational again, it was going to be all on! I felt he put in a nice
flight that was going to take a lot to beat, given that this time I was last
in the line, I had plenty of time to see how everyone else was flying. Once
again, it was looking very tough and difficult to pick placings.
With everyone pretty beat from the long day it was time to retire back to the motel and get ready for dinner. There was talk of more go-karting, but by the time everyone had got themselves ready the go-karts were closed so it was straight to dinner then back to the motel for more drinking. Topics of discussion varied from the usual helicopter talk, to rugby through to the features of a particular kangaroo we'd seen at Melbourne zoo. For all the talk the Aussies had of roos being at near plague proportions in some areas, we didn't see one in the wild at all on our whole trip!
Sunday - second day of competition
The first pilot went forward and started his hovering maneuvers. It was obvious that the wind was having quite an impact but it looked like we could manage. However during the aerobatics the pilot pulled up into the pushover too close to the judges line and the wind pushed the heli to a point nearly over the pilot's head. It was about now the pilot began to lose orientation and down the heli came. I thought it was going to just smash into the ground, but at the last second it flew straight at the start box where Mick was leaning over his Caliber about to start it. Had Mick not executed a commando roll over his heli that Rambo would have been proud of he may have had an intimate encounter with a screaming heli. Luckily the pilot recovered the heli and landed, no harm done to human or heli. It was at this point the competition was called off. Not long after the wind started blowing over the competition limit anyway.
The organizers had prepared some certificates for those of us non-Australians who had come over for the competition which was appreciated.
Slowly people started to disperse and head home, some had 14 hour drives ahead of them while Sharon, Darryll and I followed Stephen, Micheal and Chris back to the motel. On the journey back to the motel we saw Stephen's car was parked in front of a car with large flashing red and blue lights with 'Police' emblazoned on it's flanks. It seems our mate from Hong Kong had been a little too accelerator happy!
However it was Stephen's turn to laugh at us as 5 kilometers down the road our station wagon ground to a halt with what looked to be ¼ tank of gas left. I got on the phone to Avis to tell them about the problem who said they'd send someone out right away. Shortly though we were joined by five other cars full of helicopter guys who had seen us and pulled over to help. The diagnosis seemed to be that the car had run out of gas which I flatly refused to believe given that the gauge still said ¼ full. I was soon proved wrong when Don produced a can of gas which he poured into the tank at which point the car burst into life like nothing had happened!
A quick trip back to the gas station for more petrol and a terse phone call to Avis to tell them all about their damn fuel gauge and we were heading back to the motel where the New Zealanders had an afternoon nap while Andrew Donaldson and Don showed the guys from Hong Kong around a bit of Melbourne.
Sharon, Darryll and I then spent the afternoon disassembling the helicopters and cleaning them ready for transport home. After hearing all the issues the Aussies were having going through airports we decided to pull the engines out and ship them home when we visited Model Engines, one of the largest model distributors in Australia on Monday.
With everything packed up and ready to go we relaxed some more before the guys
from Hong Kong got back and we went out for dinner again with Don and Andrew
finishing up at the Hong Kong guy's cabin to try and finish off the left over
beer and supplies that were still around. In the end though we made up 'take
home bags' for both Don and Andrew full of the stuff we weren't going to eat
or drink and said good night. With everything already packed up and ready to
go we were set for Monday morning when we'd pay a visit to Model Engines, one
of Australia's largest distributors, before flying back to New Zealand.