2014 US F3J Championship Series results
1. Daryl Perkins
2. Skip Miller
3. Mike Verzuh
4. Chris Lee
5. Jim McCarthy
6. Neal Huffman
7. Kelly Johnson
8. Jim Monaco
9. Dennis Clingan
10. Rick Johnston
2015 US F3J Championship Series events
F3J in the Desert 2015 (Queen Creek AZ)
February 19-20, 2015
F3J in the Deep South 2015 (Crosby TX)
March 28-29, 2015
F3J in the Rockies 2015 (Denver)
May 22-23, 2015
F3J in Chicago 2015
June 20-21, 2015
F3J at the 2015 Nats (Muncie IN)
July 31-August 1, 2015
F3J in New Mexico 2015 (Albuquerque NM)
August 15-16, 2015
F3J ESL 2015 (Warrenton VA)
October 24-25, 2015
F3J in SoCal 2015 (Perris CA)
November 7-8, 2015
Last year, a new Soaring competition series debuted: the US F3J Championship Series or simply The J-Tour. The inaugural year met all of the expectations for a National Soaring Tour and Championship. There were 180 entrants with 106 individual participants in six events spread across the country.
Other club events in Arizona and California were successfully launched with an additional 41 participants. More than 30 pilots flew the F3J format for the first time! The feedback from the new participants was great. This is more than twice as many F3J entries from the previous year. J-Tour events were held in Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Indiana, New Mexico and Virginia.
The National Champion scoring was based on the top three events out of the six possible contests in 2014. F3J is one of the most exciting and largest FAI categories in which US pilots participate. The tasks are relatively straightforward: launch, 10-minute duration (15 minutes for flyoffs), and a spot landing with points.
The sailplanes typically have a wingspan ranging from 3.6 to 4.0 meters and a weigh no more than 4 to 5 pounds. These airplanes are amazingly efficient and can stay aloft for 6 to 8 minutes with a good launch.
However, the task time is 10 to 15 minutes and to achieve this, the pilot must find rising air. This is where the fun and challenge comes in. A good analogy is that it is like a giant chess game spread across 2 square miles. Pilots who chose the correct portion of the field are rewarded with thermal activity, and those who don’t must either reach the rising air or risk losing the round by landing early or worse, off the field.
Mastering the piloting skills is only the first step. Pilots must master an understanding of thermal activity and “air reading.” Thus the J-Tour motto is “Own the Air.”
The J-Tour follows the FAI F3J rule set, except that launching is accomplished with winches rather than a two-man tow. This has allowed much broader participation because many Thermal Duration pilots are used to winch launching.
Winches are spaced 17 to 18 meters apart, which provides sufficient separation. Pilots launch on the start of the 10-minute window at the horn and then must touch down before the closing horn. If they are late, they lose the possible 100 points from the landing and suffer an additional 30-point penalty.
Despite the simultaneous launches and landings, the pilots do a great job of keeping blue sky between the airplanes, staying in their launch corridor, and landing into the wind in sync with their neighbors. Here is a telling commentary from an F3J newcomer on the 2014 tour:
“I went into this event with two preconceived notions about F3J … that it would be an intense pressure-cooker-type situation, and that there would be mass carnage involving planes. Neither of those things turned out to be true. Once the first round was underway, a rhythm developed with the team that actually made it kind of relaxing.
“Because you are on a team there is always something to do—launching, timing, entering scores, shagging lines, calling air, or talking smack about other teams. It actually makes it very fun and never boring. And yes, there is always the possibility of breaking an airplane, but no more than at any other competition I have been to—at least that’s how I felt.”
The US F3J Championship is supervised by a board of five active sailplane competition pilots, and works closely with the AMA Soaring Team Selection committee. The main goals are to enhance overall US F3J Soaring participation and pilot preparation to ensure stronger US F3J World Championship teams, and provide resources to help encourage club-level F3J events.
Some of the strongest competition at the world level comes from the European nations. The Euro-Tour was created, which sponsors highly competitive F3J events across Europe. Competition is essential to develop pilots capable of keeping the US in top contention.
Because the format is close to typical Thermal Duration, it is attracting many new pilots. It is also attracting current and former junior pilots who represent the future.
The 2014 J-Tour had six strong industry partner sponsors: MKS Servos, Kennedy Composites, Soaring USA, Horizon Hobby, Jeti, and Skip Miller Models. These industry experts are key providers of competition sailplanes, and support equipment such as radios and servos. Competitions would not take place without their support, so be sure to visit these companies’ websites to see the exciting offerings.
The 2014 J-Tour Champion is Daryl Perkins. Daryl is a five-time Soaring World Champion. Skip Miller, also a former Soaring World Champion, took second place only .61 points behind Daryl.
The top five was rounded out with Mike Verzuh in third, Chris Lee in fourth, and Jim McCarthy in fifth. Chris, Jody, and Daryl represented the United States at the 2014 F3J World Championships held last summer in Martin, Slovakia.
The 2015 J-Tour has expanded to eight events, including two new events, one in Chicago and one in California. The J-Tour board has been much involved with developing its growth. Its goal is to hold competitive events from February to November, at locations that most people can drive to. This lowers the burden to fly in that all-important third event to be in the running for the National Championship.
Next, the plan for a prize pool is being launched. It will start with $2,000. A prize pool is an important part of all top series and competitive events, but the board also took a look at club support and general event support to encourage everyone to participate. With that in mind, the club portion of the entry fee has been increased, and a greatly lowered “New to F3J” event fee was established.
There will be more how-to videos and pre-event clinics so F3J Masters across the country can provide one-on-one assistance to help competitors reach top airplane setups and provide competition pointers. Here are a few other J-Tour value points:
• Competitive events across the country for all skill levels to attend and grow.
• Challenging, prestigious competition to test and improve skills.
• Puts the US in position to compete with our European friends and the Euro-Tour.
• Gives the US the strongest possibility for competitive US F3J teams.
• Facilitates funding for the US team.
• Individual pilots expand their RC network and compete at exciting new venues.
• National ranking system such as Top F3J Master (Top 10), F3J Master (Top 30), F3J Achiever, and Successful J Starter.
• The F3X Events website already offers real-time scoring results, but the J-Tour website will get upgrades for more pictures, information, event highlights and how-to information
Look for events in Phoenix, Texas, Denver, Chicago, Indiana, New Mexico, Virginia, and California. You can get more information from the J-Tour website located in the “Sources” section.
It’s time to get your airplanes ready and plan a great soaring summer with your friends and F3J teammates.