An exciting new era in RC Soaring has begun with the advent of the US F3J Championship Series, called the J-Tour. With the nationwide increase in participation and interest in FAI Soaring, this series of F3J contests has been organized to enhance participation and pilot preparation to ensure stronger US World Championship teams in the future.
AMA F3J team selection vice chairman Mike Verzuh, from Colorado, has spearheaded this effort and formed a five-member board to oversee the J-Tour series. That board consists of chairman Stefano Costantini, Jim Monaco, Daryl Perkins, Mike Smith, and Mike Verzuh.
The series began in February in Phoenix with the F3J in the Desert event. After six more contests spanning the country, the J-Tour will conclude in Warrenton, Virginia, October 18-19, with the J-Tour Finale at the Eastern Soaring League’s site in Warrenton, Virginia.
F3J has grown in popularity with increasing numbers of contestants and great showings by US pilots at world championship levels. The attraction of F3J is the risk vs. reward factor that a pilot can exploit for a higher score.
If a flier is confident that he or she knows where the lift is, the pilot can make a short (low) launch to increase flight time and chase down the lift to make the max and possibly score highest in the group. Of course, the pilot must also push the clock on landing and hit the 100 to be sure of the 1,000 points for the round. This choice during the launching phase allows competitors to trust their instincts and go for it, setting F3J apart from other forms of Thermal Duration competition.
The mass launch and landing also contribute to a pilot’s adrenalin rush and offer a spectacle for those watching the event. The goal is to achieve the longest flight time in a 10-minute window. That is the time from when the model comes off the line to when it touches the ground again.
The 10-minute window begins with an audible horn and the model cannot leave the thrower’s hand before the horn is sounded. The window ends with a countdown and the sound of a horn and the model must have touched the ground by the horn to score landing points and avoid a 30-point penalty.
World-class pilots such as Joe Wurts regularly make 9:58-plus scores along with 100 landings. Such scores are achieved by tensioning the towline before the beginning of the 10-minute window and getting off the towline in less than a second for a 250- to 350-foot launch.
At the conclusion of the annual J-Tour, the top five US pilots will be recognized with prestigious awards and the annual J-Tour champion’s name will be engraved on a perpetual US F3J trophy.
The tour will also serve as a means to enhance competitive US Soaring in many other ways, such as being a resource for encouraging club-level F3J events, providing documentation on logistics of running events, being a knowledge base of tips and strategies for participants, and eventually to sponsor a US F3J Junior program.
The expected outcome of the nationwide J-Tour contests will be:
• More regional events developed, growing overall program participation, F3J knowledge, and US team support
• Pilot experience and ability will be enhanced, providing more experienced world championship competitors.
Much of the foundation for the tour has been put in place through the efforts of Jim Monaco and Mike Verzuh, with documentation on how to fly and run F3J events. This information is available on the US F3J Championship Series and F3X Events websites listed in “Sources.”
US Soaring is fortunate to have sponsors and commercial support from companies such as Skip Miller Models that sponsored F3J in the Desert, Tour Partners, Soaring USA, Horizon Hobby, Kennedy Composites, Jeti, and MKS Servos.
The Phoenix event kicked off the J-Tour with 69 registered entrants, making it easily the best-attended US F3J event. More than $3,000 was raised to help the USA F3J Team get to the World Championship in Slovakia in July 2014. (If you would like to help the US team, please visit the team store on the USA F3J Team website.)
After two days of great Soaring in balmy conditions, the preliminary rounds were complete and four finals rounds of the 15-minute task were flown. The winner was Mike Verzuh, with Mike Smith second, Peter Goldsmith third, US Junior Dillon Graves fourth, and Skip Miller fifth.
The tour’s second event was held under windy conditions in Houston during the last weekend in March. Jim McCarthy flew consistently and was in the lead after the preliminaries. He was the only pilot to complete his max on all four finals flights to stay on top for the win. Skip Miller took second, with Mike Verzuh third, Reto Fiolka fourth, and Stefano Costantini fifth.
One of the unique features of F3J contests in the US is how the scores are entered online. Jim Monaco has pioneered this technology. Each team enters its pilots’ scores in real time using their smartphones and anyone with Internet access worldwide can see the results online as they are posted. The events are easy to follow in real time for Soaring aficionados worldwide. Jim must be congratulated for this amazing software system that makes the CDs’ and organizers’ jobs easier.
F3J, in its pure form as specified by the FAI rules, requires two towers to run hard at the other end of a 200-meter towline. This takes considerable manpower to achieve with up to 13 aircraft being simultaneously launched.
The J-Tour has adopted modified rules, allowing F3B winches to be used on 150-meter lines with a mandatory braided ground line. This simulates the power achieved by towers and allows more pilots to fly with fewer helpers. There is no doubt that F3J is here to stay and, with the added support of this nationwide series of events, there is going to be a contest within driving distance of nearly every Soaring pilot in the country.
Check out the schedule on the F3X Events website and register for an event—even if you have never flown an F3J contest. Plenty of people will help you learn the basics and you will get to experience the rush that is “J.”
Go downwind and soar.