After a good 6 months of hard preparation the British combat team was finally ready. The pilots Dave Riley, Mervin Jones and Pete Grange had spent a lot of time and money getting their gear up to scratch. Graham Ives and myself were the pitcrew that would ensure everything worked smoothly and would be the scapegoats if it didn't.
We flew out to Madrid on the Saturday and we stayed there for a night out. And a very good night it was too. Made even better by the fact that Madrid was unsuspecting of us coming. We took them completely by surprise, but I am sure they will be watching out for us next time.
The next day we promised ourselves never to drink again and then set off in our hire cars to the city of Valladolid which was only a couple of hours away. It's a really nice city and our hotel was slap in the centre of all the action. The main square was next to our hotel, with restaurants and bars all around. Temptation everywhere you looked. The flying site is 15 minutes out of town and is excellent for this class of competition with good amenities, etc. As usual, the combat was singled out to be flown on a different site away from the main action... Outcasts again. (I'm starting to get a complex).
This place is hot, very hot, ...trust me, it's HOT, and it stayed hot all day and night for the remainder of the week.
Mervin, Dave and Graham had a quick trip out to the site on the Sunday afternoon and that was when we got the first signs that things were going to go "pear shaped". They returned within the hour, Mervin limping very badly. It seems that Mervin's brain is in a bit of a time warp. It still thinks that he is 20 years old. It thought that a 4-foot fence could still be easily vaulted over. Anyway, Mervin's brain came quickly back to reality when he badly sprained his ankle. Mervin's brain and body then spent the next 2 days laid up in bed and it was touch and go if he would be fit enough to fly in the competition.
The next day we went out to test the gear and found that the motors were generally slower by about 1 K and this made the models fly lousy. Oddly enough the AKM's were unaffected. Most of the speed was recovered by removing shims.... As much as you dared really. I tested Merv's gear. We spent the next day fine tuning engines, props and models and a little combat practice. Merv put in the odd appearance, doing his wounded soldier act, limping about on crutches. Looking for sympathy as he sat in the shade, drinking water and watching us sweat our nuts off. He didn't get a great deal of sympathy from us.
In the second round he had to fly the excellent flyer Igor Dementiev. Dave was confident again as he had flown and beaten Igor last year at our Nats. Dave suspected that his pit crew had less confidence when he spotted that they had issued themselves with spades. There was a re-fly after a mess up with tangled lines and Dave lost. (The spades did come in handy). Dave is a very good pilot but unfortunately and frustratingly for him he did not get the chance to show it at his first major competition.
In the second round he got what appeared to be a much easier opponent in the Spaniard Roura. This bout was very messy. It ended up with all the models down, lines all tangled, etc. We managed to swap the streamer with 3 seconds to go in the match and then yours truly made a bad mistake. I thought Pete had won easily so did not launch him for the 3 seconds. It turned out that the times were exactly tied and the 3 seconds would have given Pete the win. Pete was not happy with his ace pitman, as he now had to re-fly. This should not have been too much of a problem, but it was even messier than the first time.
Pete lost and went out of the comp; he also got one of his beloved AKM's smashed in half. Life can be a bitch. From this we have learnt that it's best to launch no matter what the time. A tankful of fuel is relatively cheap.
Pete is a good flyer but he had problems seeing the models. He had bought a new set of very smart but smallish glasses that proved to be poor for flying combat. He could easily see out of the sides into a very blurred world and they also let in a lot of direct sunlight and reflected sunlight. The end result was he could only fly a very "tunnel vision" type of combat with a lot of flashing sunlight in his eyes. Well we now know that that doesn't work.
Perhaps a fully fit Merv may have done better. It's hard to say. To win consistently in this company you have to be at the very top of your game.
The British combat team did not do too good. Garbage is probably a good word. The worst result since the dawn of time. Graham was the only one not to mess up and that was probably only because all the pilots got knocked out before he had too many chances.
The best engines seemed to be the Zorro, AKM and of course the Ukrainian motor but there was nothing to choose between them. Any difference in performance was probably down to head clearance and prop. selection.
As the Wakkermans were not here I thought the Russians would pose the greatest threat to the Ukrainians but they also messed up.
The Ukrainians were First, Second and Fourth. Chornyy is now European and World Champ. There is a pattern starting to emerge here. The Ukrainians are best. It is not their models and it is not their engines. It simply is their flying skill. So the rest of us had better get out there and do a lot more practising.
I'm not cut out to be a pitman. I was constantly fighting these terrible urges to run into the centre, push the pilot away, grab his handle, attack like mad, get loads of cuts and then his elevator.
It's definitely better being a pilot . Please God....."Let me be a pilot again".
I'm already looking forward to next year.
Roll on Sebnitz.