A wonderful Soaring tradition unlike any other exists in Florida.
The Orlando Buzzards RC Soaring Society was founded in August 1974 and has conducted the Tangerine Soaring Championship every year since. In its early years, more than 80 pilots congregated annually in Orlando to duke it out at a Soaring contest as big as any. Many famous pilots came and conquered and many Soaring legends were created with the drama of the Tangerine Shootout, where the top pilots compete in a fly-off at the end to determine a winner.
The Tangerine is a three-day event with Altitude Limited Electric Soaring (ALES) and Rudder-Elevator-Spoiler (RES) being flown on Friday and Open Duration on Saturday and Sunday. For many years, Friday included a Hand-Launch event, but with participation waning, the organizers dropped Discus-Launch Glider (DLG) in favor of ALES.
In the last couple of years, the Tangerine has been held at Kenny Goodwin’s beautiful flying site known as Kennyworld, near Ocala, Florida. Kenny, a longtime Soaring stalwart, graciously allows the Buzzards access and provides a farm atmosphere complete with a workshop, barn, and full recreational vehicle hookups.
The 40th Tangerine kicked off on Friday, November 22, 2013, with the ALES event. CD Don Grisham assembled the 29 pilots for a 9 a.m. meeting. Three flight groups were allocated a 7-minute task with altimeter cutoffs set at 150 meters. Overcast skies and a strengthening breeze guaranteed the air was not going to be easy.
The skilled pilots found a way to get their times in despite the tough conditions. After five rounds, Jeff Carr, skillfully flying an E Tragi, had shown his class, getting all five maxes and good landing points in every round to take first blood at the Tangerine. None of Jeff’s flights were “gimmes,” either. On multiple occasions, he was scratching low and working light air downwind to obtain some unlikely maxes.
Not far behind in second place was local Soaring talent Ray Alonzo, flying an Xplorer and getting five solid maxes. He was followed by Paul Perret and his Super Supra 150 slotting into third place. The 40th Tangerine became the largest ALES event ever flown in Florida.
The RES contest began shortly after 1 p.m. CD Raed Elazzawi read the rules to the 24 assembled pilots and we began flying under gray skies with 10 mph wind, making downwind treks slightly risky unless the pilot’s RES aircraft was loaded.
After round one, a shower delayed proceedings, so pilots congregated in the barn until the rain passed. Round two was flown in improving conditions and occasionally sun poked through to get the air percolating. As the overcast broke, flying was awesome.
We managed to get two more 8-minute rounds in before the setting sun caused Raed to end the contest. In contention for a win, I found myself scratching low with my SuperAva in the final round. I finally succumbed a minute short to hand the contest win to Jeff Duval, who was flawless through three rounds. Jeff is another local talent who practices incessantly and performs to a high standard.
In third place was Joey Melchoirre, slightly edging out John Kennedy. The Tangerine has uniquely crafted, personalized awards made by US Soaring Team pilot Jody Miller.
Three of us camped in the barn for the weekend and when we awoke at dawn on Saturday, we were greeted by clear skies and crisp, cool air. Saturday’s Unlimited contest began in mild conditions with a 7-10 mph breeze forecast to build from the northeast.
New arrivals overnight brought 41 starters to attend Raed Elazzawi’s 9 a.m. pilots’ meeting. David Beach introduced his scoring software used by the Eastern Soaring League.
The first three rounds were flown in five groups with random man-on-man (MOM) assignments, which were posted on the board for pilots to arrange for their timers. The fourth and remaining rounds were seeded MOM groups, and David’s software made the scoring and contest directing an easy task.
The first three rounds were relatively uneventful. Most pilots found the conditions favorable and used the air to make the 8-minute max. After lunch, the cycling conditions and strengthening breeze during round five caused some groups to struggle to make time. In Group C, Buddy Bradley took 1,000 with a hard-fought 6:16-71. The following group also suffered, but Derek Khaw, after a decade away from Soaring, took the top points with a 5:49-92.
The final round seven was a deal breaker for the final group, as the fickle air saw sink on one side and half of the top group came in early, causing a huge upset in the standings. Dillon Graves, the local Team USA F3J Junior pilot, prevailed with a clean sheet to take his first top honors at a major contest. Jeff Duval flew with great skill and determination to take second place, while Jeff Carr, who was consistent all day, was awarded third place in Expert.
The first-place Grey Cup pilot was Lance Ropke, with Kerry Cochrell placing second. Sportsman class finished with Jim Carroll on top and Jim Hartley in second.
Sunday’s contest shaped up as a Soaring challenge. A cold front brought in winds up to 20 mph. The field was somewhat depleted when we kicked off at 8:30 a.m., with only 26 starters staying for the fun. The wind was 10-12 mph for the early rounds. For some groups, simply surfing forward was enough to make times. Later, in the gusty conditions, it became quite uncomfortable and tricky working small bubbles downwind to make a max.
Some notable pilots didn’t make it back on field as the day wore on and many amazing saves were accomplished, including a beauty by Brad Baxter from below treetop height behind the barn.
By the final round six, the wind was gusting 18-20 mph and not one pilot out of the four flight groups was able to make a max in the tough conditions. It was a topsy-turvy contest where every second of air time counted. The victor was David Beach, who had an excellent final round of 6:31-93 to seal the win.
I held on to second place with consistent scores and Jeff Carr clinched the Grand Champion trophy for the weekend with a fine third place. Top in Grey Cup was Tom Broeski (sixth outright), with Peter Schlitzkus in second. Top Sportsman for the day was Robert Johnson.
The traditional Tangerine Shootout was the final act, where the CD chooses the top pilots from the weekend and they have a one-off flight for the shootout trophy. The pilots chosen included Jeff Carr, Dillon Graves, Jeff Duval, Jody Miller, Tom Broeski, David Beach, Robert Johnson, and me.
The task was set at 10 minutes with a precision landing and we all launched into the strongest wind we’d had all day. Four of us peeled off to the left and hunted down a thermal draw to find astonishingly strong lift and specked out deep downwind in the first 3 minutes.
The other three pilots (Robert didn’t fly) went right and suffered in horrid sink to arrive back home early. It finally came down to the precision landing, where I nailed a 92 along with a max for the win.
The 40th Tangerine Soaring Championship was the best attended in the last decade and bodes well for the future of this famous contest. Check your calendar for the weekend before Thanksgiving next year and make the journey to Florida for a great tradition in US Soaring.
Go downwind and soar!