By Matt Neumann
While Thursday we had cool temps, strong winds and rain, Friday started out with cool temps, no rain, lots of fog, and hardly any wind.
The fog was so dense, I would guess we had about ¼ mile visibility when we arrived at the field. We had a hint of a breeze that would stay with us throughout the day. The temperatures would increase a lot throughout the morning along with the flying.
Friday’s format was the top 20 in Open and the sweet 16 in the Advanced. The top 20 was split into two groups of 10, while the Advanced was two groups of 8. Each group flew in front of two sets of judges on two different circles. You flew one flight in front of each set of judges and your scores were added together to get your placing—no throw away flights like on previous days. You had to perform well, and perform well twice, to either win in Advanced or move on to the top 5 in Open on Saturday. A goof, even a small one, could make all the difference.
There was some separation between contestants in Advanced; around 5 to 10 points each. Still the competition was quite strong. When all the dust settled, Traian Morosanu came in to win the Advanced class. He flew an all carbon-fiber molded plane that he himself designed and built. It is a fascinating piece of engineering. Not only does he get a normal first place trophy, he also gets a traveling trophy to keep for the following year and his name will be added to the bottom of it.
In the Open class things were much much tighter. We again flew two flights, in front of the individual sets of judges, and the two scores were combined.
During my first flight, I had pretty much dead air; no wind at all. Now to some this would seem like a good thing—it is not. It can be as dangerous as high winds. The reason is because we fly in such a small area, we can hit our own turbulence causing the airplane to go places where we don't want it to go … like the ground.
To resolve this, we wind up backing up while flying to, in effect, pull the plane out of the turbulence. Not as easy as it sounds; think of patting your head, rubbing your stomach in circles, and then walking backwards … not easy is it.
I wound up backing up a lot. I would purposely move to the far side of center, away from the judges, and then back up through the center to the other side winding up closer to the judges. This was to give me more room to move and make it easier to get back to the center. Good thing. because one time I still wound up closer to the judges than what I thought and, when I finished the maneuver, I was at rulebook height of five-foot altitude.
I decided it was best to change altitude and fly high to make sure I did not give the judges a haircut they did not want to have. Now, I know I was not super close, but I was not taking any chances. Several of my fellow fliers ribbed me a bit about getting my workout in having to move around so much. On my second flight, the wind was started to pick up and, while not strong, was shifting directions. This was also a bit of a challenge.
Overall, everyone was pleased with Friday’s weather. It did start to get hot, but not as hot as the flying.
When all was said and done, the scores in the Open group were pretty close. There was one section between twelfth and eighth place where the difference between scores was 7 points. Many of those positions were determined between a half of a point. That is getting things really close! One point by one judge could move you up or down. Wow! Towards the top and bottom, things spread out a little bit more, but were still quite close.
Now remember when I said one little slip up could make a big difference? Well, one flier was doing very well. However, he did a big boo-boo and did four inside loops instead of three. This cost him the 25 points rewarded if you do everything in order and the correct number. The loss of these points probably cost him a place in the top five. Since there are no throw away flights he, unfortunately, just lost out.
At the end of the day, Orestes Hernandez, Paul Walker, Derek Barry, Kenny Stevens, and Todd Lee all made it into the finals Saturday morning. These are the cream of the cream of the crop for 2020. Saturday will be a shootout, knockdown, drag out street brawl so to speak. Who will win the Open championship for 2020? We will just have to wait and see. However, I have a hard time waiting