I started traveling abroad to attend modeling contests in 1982 and became infected with a travel bug that I have not been able to get rid of. The bug arrived again this winter via an email invitation to a late winter contest in Valdemorillo, Spain, and promptly bit me. It took little persuasion to convince my wife, Joanne, to say yes to a trip to Spain via Portugal.
Valdemorillo is a small town just outside of Madrid where some of my distant relatives with the same last name live and fly Combat. Jose Luis Lopez and his father, Pepe, are members of the Club de Aeromodelismo Petirrojo, which organized the Sixth Annual Open International F2D World Cup the weekend of March 15 and 16.
We decided to spend a week in Lisbon, Portugal, to take in some sights and recover from the jetlag before taking a short, one-hour flight to Madrid. I had arranged with Vasyl Yuvenko in Ukraine to send six models to Jose Luis for the competition. Jose is an accomplished F2D pilot who placed third in the 2010 World Championship.
Most of the competitors were staying at a local hostel in the middle of town during the weekend of the competition. The hostel provided a basic, clean room with towels, but I had to supply my own soap. We arrived a day early so I could set up my untested models and test-fly them on Friday before the contest.
Pepe collected us early Friday morning and had my box of models with him. He gave us a quick tour of the town and took us to the flying field. The club rents the land and has to maintain the flying area. I was able to assemble the models and get them ready to test-fly by the afternoon.
We found Manuel Mateo and his son, Raul, at the field testing equipment, and they offered to help me prepare my aircraft for the air. The Yuvenko models were all straight and needed no de-warping. I had to tape a coin to the outboard wing for tip weight.
When you travel abroad for a contest, you must take care to bring all of the items that you need, yet stay underweight for checked baggage. My suitcase was at the maximum of 50 pounds. I also had a backpack with a couple of emergency changes of clothes in case the checked bag missed its flight.
I took four engines, tools, lines, handles, and all of the other things needed to fly Combat, except for fuel and a battery. I have traveled with a battery before, but chose to borrow one for the competition.
Because Spain can be cold in late winter, I packed some heavier clothing. The mornings were cool and crisp, but the days warmed to T-shirt weather. There was no rain, but I could see snow on the distant mountains.
All but four of the 17 competitors were from Spain. Of the three pilots from Portugal, one was originally from Russia, and another from Ukraine. I was the only US pilot. All of the 2012 World Championship F2D Spanish team—Manuel and Raul Mateo, Francisco Mons, and Mario Rioja—were entered.
A group of pilots from the Canary Islands made the trip to the mainland—Alberto Parra and Kevin Lopez were among them. Alberto Parra sells model supplies to many pilots around the world. He also has a connection with an engine manufacturer in Ukraine who produces engines specifically for him.
Because this competition is considered a World Cup event, an officially recognized FAI jury member had to be present. Vernon Hunt of the United Kingdom filled that role and was paid in Spanish sun rays, which resulted in a nice sunburn.
The organizers had plenty of help to keep the contest efficiently running for the competitors. They even had a cook who grilled a variety of meats for lunchtime sandwiches. The flying began at approximately 11 a.m. and moved quickly.
Only three rounds were flown on Saturday to give the competitors time to freshen up for a 9:30 p.m. dinner outing. Many of the restaurants in Spain do not open until after 9 p.m. This took some getting used to. The dinner was a feast that included several courses and wine. I recommend the experience, but not on the night before you fly Combat. We did not make it back to the hostel until after midnight.
I drew all four of the 2012 Spanish team members, plus Alberto Parra, for my five matches and managed to finish with three wins and two losses. Jose Luis Lopez finished on the top rung of the podium, with Francisco Mons in second, and Kevin Lopez in third. The competition finished with everyone enjoying a chicken paella and grilled meats banquet at the field before the prizes were handed out.
It is quite an effort to travel and compete overseas, but it is an experience that will be remembered for many years and likely result in friendships. Modeling truly is a universal language.
March Madness in Phoenix
I am not referring to the NCAA basketball tournament. The March Madness Combat Challenge is considered the first contest of the year for F2D pilots. The event was held March 21-23. Twenty-four pilots came out of hibernation to participate, including two of the 2014 USA F2D team members (Josh Ellison and Richard Stubblefield) and one F2C team member (Dave Fisher). Leonardo Silva and Arnulfo Delgado, two perennial contestants from Mexico who regularly attend the event, also were present.
Several former members of the US team were also lurking—trying to win again. Former world champion, Mike Wilcox, proved that marriage and fatherhood can slow you down, but not for long.
Past European champion Igor Dementiev has been working in Florida and showed that he is still skilled enough to win matches.
The US F2D pilots are a force not to be taken lightly on any stage or venue. Their skill levels and dedication are some of the best in the world. Everyone has good equipment and for the most part, the deciding factor at contests is flying skill—with good or bad luck playing a spoiling role.
Mike Alurac, of southern California, entered his first F2D contest and had a great time. Another regular attendee from California, Chris Collins, experienced what it is like to run around the circle fetching streamers.
There is nothing new to report in terms of equipment, because most pilots were using prebuilt models from the Ukraine and FORA engines. Mike Wilcox won the contest, with Andy Mears in second, and his brother, Bobby, in third. Dave Fisher put together a good run to finish fourth.
Friday’s F2D/Fast event drew 19 entries, and Howard Williams took top honors. He was followed by Leonardo Silva in second and Arnie Delgado in third.
In my March column I incorrectly stated that MBS model supply was run by Chuck Schuette. It is actually owned and run by Melvin Schuette. Chuck was a well-known speed flier who represented the US in world championships.