Argentina - Villa Gesell
Radio Controlled Precision Aerobatics - World Championships 3 – 11 November 2017
The SA team of Andre Stockwell, Roston Dugmore, Clinton Carter-Brown and team manager Grant Brook left for Argentina on 30th October, travelling via Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires. We got a nasty surprise when we arrived in Buenos Aires and went to collect our planes in Buenos Aires, they were not there! They had been left in Johannesburg, what a nightmare. We had been on the go for 24 hours and were exhausted. Fortunately, the South African Model Aircraft Association was able to pull some strings at OR Tambo and the planes got to Buenos Aires the next day, 24 hours late (one precious practice day lost).
Conditions at this competition were very difficult, with winds close to the maximum allowed (43.2kph) and often gusting to 60kmph, low cloud, rain and cold. The wind actually caused me an unexpected problem, because my model's contra-rotating propeller system in this strong wind at sea level used more battery power than I had anticipated, and the 4500mAh batteries I had were too small. Fortunately one of the American team members was able to lend me a 5000mAh battery, which was sufficient (barely, because I still had to be very careful with power management so as to not run out of power in the last manoeuvre or on finals, and many pilots were using 6000mAh batteries).
The problem arose because LiPo batteries pose an unacceptable fire risk to airliners and competitors couldn't bring their own, so the organisers had to import batteries for us which we would collect on arrival. Unfortunately, I had ordered the same size as I have always used, which turned out to be too small for the conditions. Fortunately, what I borrowed got me through.
Back to the weather… low cloud, rain and cold. On the 4th day the cloud was really low and a couple of pilots flew into it and lost sight of their planes. Obviously what they couldn't see they couldn't control, but they did however have the presence of mind to immediately throttle back while they still knew more or less the attitude of the plane and where it was, and blindly apply elevator, hoping to see the plane emerge from the cloud in time to regain control. One unlucky pilot didn't get this right and his wrecked plane was later found a few kilometres away. These difficult flying conditions were the same for everyone, but they were a new experience for us and we were very pleased that Clinton and I had qualified for the semi-finals due to be held the next day with Andre narrowly missing out - largely due to him getting the worst conditions and losing sight of his plane for parts of three manoeuvres but he was only granted a re-flight for one.
The semi-finals are a different and more complex set of manoeuvres, and for us to reach them was ‘mission accomplished". Team SA had achieved what they had set out to do.
The next day Clinton and myself flew solid flights for the two semi finals rounds in very difficult conditions, with well over twenty knots of cross-wind. Many pilots battled to maintain line in the wind and the energy demands were heavy on battery packs but both Clinton and myself improved our positions ending with Clinton in 23rd place and myself 25th with Andre’ 33rd . South Africa finished 6th out of 27 countries and 64 competitors, beating Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Russia, Switzerland, Brazil, Canada and many others.
I really love this sport and consider myself very fortunate to have had the privilege of flying at this world championship, competing against, and learning from, the best pilots in the world. It was a stressful but ultimately most successful trip and on behalf of the team I thank all our supporters for their financial and moral support.