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Piloting in Modern F2C Events

Rob Fitzgerald. AUS 10791.

There has been discussion on the future of F2C leading up to, during and after the Landres 2000 Control Line World Championships. I would like to put forward some of my views on the most critical issue determining the future direction of modern F2C competition, Piloting.

Current piloting standards have led to the many calls to decrease the rotational speed of F2C. However, I have not heard the suggestion from any pilot that 'F2C is developing and getting faster, How can I change my flying style to cope with this increase in speed and keep within the current piloting rules?'. In addition, I don't believe that the current style used by most pilots is within the rules and is the cause of most of the accidents that occur.

Listed are some issues facing F2C and the measures that can be taken by both Pilots and Juries to allow it to be flown more efficiently and safely at the current speed.

* Rotation Speed

There are a number of ways in which rotational speed can be reduced in F2C and it is not my aim to list these options in my writing. With the current piloting style speeds would have to be reduced greatly in order to decrease the number of accidents that occur. This is why it is my intention to target the real cause of these problems rather than offering suggestions that will have little effect on pilots getting themselves into difficult situations. I would like to reinforce that F2C is the highest level of competition where control line modelers can race against each other. It should be fast, exciting for competitors and spectators while remaining safe, and require a high skill level to achieve world standard performances.

* Piloting Style

The current style of walking on the back of the circle is the cause of most of the accidents that occur while racing. With the current rotational speed of F2C we need to determine how 3 pilots can keep at a tangent to the circle they are walking and not fall behind to the back of the circle.

There are a few basic objectives that have been used by pilots in Australia since 1997 that improve the quality of piloting and racing.

* Footwork

It is impossible to keep at a tangent to the circle at current speeds while taking large steps. By the time the foot is placed after a long step the model has already progressed past the point where the foot is placed and the pilot will always be 'behind the center' or 'walking on the back of the circle'.

A pilots steps should be kept as short as possible, to the point where each foot is placed in front of the other. These steps need to be quite fast, the measure being that they are taken as fast as necessary to keep at a tangent to the circle. When doing this, the diameter of the circle walked by 3 pilots is reduced to less than 1 meter. This is where a huge benefit is gained against the existing styles of most pilots. Existing styles consist of long steps resulting in the diameter of the circle walked being more than 1.5 meters. The reduction in distance traveled by a pilot in a race is nearly halved. In the situation where pilots complain that it is difficult to keep up with the model, why do they attempt to travel nearly twice the distance required in a race by taking long steps?

It is important that the pilot never stops walking. If a pilot is in a difficult situation then the only way to correct it is to continue walking small steps and increasing the pace of the steps until the correct position in the circle is regained.

* Upright Position

The reduction in diameter walked allows the pilot to stand up straight and with the other pilots create a tight group where their left sides are close together. This position is very important in being able to overtake correctly.

* Overtaking

The overtaking pilot must get as close to the pilot being overtaken. When using this style it is possible for there to be no space between the overtaking pilot and the pilot being overtaken. When there is no space overtaking can be achieved without crossing lines, as is intended by the rules.

Once overtaking has been completed the overtaking pilot must try to increase the speed of their feet to get forward of the overtaken pilot. Once overtaken the overtaken pilot must also try to increase their foot speed to try and keep up with the overtaking pilot. This has the effect of keeping the circle moving and not allowing any of the pilots to fall to the back of the circle.

* Awareness

In the racing that I witnessed in Europe this year, I saw a number of pilots not being aware of what was happening around them. On several occasions, pilots under-flew models and had avoidable collisions while they were landing with other models that had already run in to the circle. In general, not being aware of where the other models were. It is critical in avoiding "racing accidents" to know exactly where the other models are and what they are doing. Examples are: watching a landing model to see if a catch has been missed, knowing when a model is released after a pitstop to allow for high takeoffs, or simply to know when the pilot taking off is going to bump into you. This requires the "handle skills" to be able to fly your model while concentrating on something else. If a pilot can't fly the model with the distractions that occur in racing then they need to practice more at all forms of control line flying until they can.

* Video

Video recording is an important part of improving flying styles. Every race a pilot flies should be studied, highlighting the areas where improvements can be made. It can be very surprising, sometimes embarrassing, for a pilot to see what their style looks like from outside the circle. It may be a pilot's best intention to fly correctly but sometimes they are not actually doing what they think they are. How often do we hear 'I wasn't doing that!' or similar expressions, from a competitor who has received warnings or disqualification from the jury.

* Jury

It is known that incidents in F2C happen quickly. There is talk that the jury cannot complete its decision making process in time to stop an incident occurring. There is one area where a jury can increase the amount of time they have to make their decision. This is to force pilots to stop walking on the back of the circle. Another priority for the jury is to eliminate the holding between pilots.

* Back of the Circle

As most accidents occur when pilots are caught behind their models, why allow a flying style that is closer to this situation? By flying at a tangent to the circle the amount of time to get into this situation is 3 to 4 times longer, giving the jury the time to decide on warnings and hopefully preventing a pilot from getting into a dangerous position. It is also more obvious to the jury which pilot is causing the problem preventing a warning being given to the wrong pilot. I have seen on many occasions where a pilot has been given a warning for being on the back of the circle when there is no space between this pilot and the pilot in front. Where can the pilot go? Shouldn't it be the pilot in front who must get the warning for being behind?

We see on almost every occasion a newcomer, and sometimes experienced pilots being placed in a position where crashing is very likely, because a faster pilot being allowed to fly on the back of the circle. Once the faster pilot has overtaken they step on the back of the circle in front of the slower pilot, causing the slower pilot to be immediately placed half a lap behind their model, their lines bending around the back of the faster pilot and losing sight of their model.

When a slower pilot walks on the back of the circle it places the faster pilots in a blocked situation when their models are as far as two circle segments behind. When it is time for the faster pilots to overtake we see each pilot getting further and further behind their models, leading to the desperate maneuvers of crossing lines and the 'big whip' over the top to complete the overtaking.

If one pilot is allowed to fly on the back of the circle then it is impossible for the other pilots to fly correctly. They have no choice but to also be positioned on the back of the circle.

* Holding

There is a current practice of pilots holding on to each other. When walking on the back of the circle and taking large steps, pilots find it easier to keep balance using the other pilots to steady themselves. However pilots also use it as a tactic to prevent other pilots from getting close behind them and into a position where overtaking can be completed easily.

When walking at a tangent to the circle, taking fast small steps, the pilots legs are not being thrown out in a wide circle and allows the pilots to stand up straight. This gives the pilot the balance required to walk a circle without having to hold on to each other. This style also requires an overtaking pilot to be touching the back of the pilot in front to enable overtaking without crossing lines. Any attempt by a pilot being overtaken to put his arm in between themselves and the overtaking pilot should be seen as an attempt to push the overtaking pilot back.

* Summary

In summary, F2C is getting faster and pilots must change with the times. When airspeeds were slower it was possible for pilots to walk on the back of the circle without getting into situations where accidents could occur. Since the developments that have produced greater airspeeds, the need for pilots to keep moving forward has been recognized. However it has been my observation since Sweden 1996 that there has been an increasing level of leniency given to pilots in this area. Because of the competitive nature of most pilots, they have taken every bit of the leniency allowed. This has produced the untidy and accident-prone style of piloting that is currently accepted.

The points that I have listed are very simple and with a small amount of thought, practice, video and self-assessment can be of benefit to all pilots. The most difficult change to introduce is psychological, getting pilots to acknowledge that they have room to improve and to look for ways in which they can keep improving and developing the skills that are required to compete in a progressive world level event.