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Following on from our recent foray into the French and Dutch International Control Line held in Piennes last month (See Go Fast and Turn Left). Chris and I, along with our respective better halves departed for the delights of Bulgaria as part of the BMFA team representing GB at the European Control Line Championships which were being held in Pazardzik just over an hours drive from the capital Sofia. We flew early morning from Gatwick which entailed leaving Chris’s at 02:00hrs.

After checking-in and enduring the ritual humiliation at the security, we settled down to a relaxed breakfast. For some members of the party this also involved a pint of beer, apparently this is traditional. Shortly afterwards we were called forward and taken by Easy-Jet to Bulgaria. Once baggage and hire car had been collected a short drive saw us cruising the streets of Pazardzik looking for our hotel, the Jar- Danielle. As we found out that is the English spelling not the Bulgarian. Eventually after a few laps of the central district I was taken on foot by a charming lady who walked me to the hotel whereupon I returned to where everyone was (hopefully) waiting in the car. Hotel located onward and upwards.


A quick unpack saw us regroup in the bar opposite the hotel, (joy of joys beer was only 70p a pint), prior to finding the flying site. This is a spacious affair over several acres and has facilities for all forms of control line and a tethered hyro-plane pool. Also included is a very well equipped club house and manned café/bar. The main intention for the remainder of the day was to check for the arrival of the French team whom we had last seen at Piennes. The reason for this was due to International Regulations you cannot transport model diesel fuel (ether) by air and the French team had kindly agreed to bring our fuel with them overland. With no sign of the French team we withdrew to the hotel and checked over and fitted the F2C models with their engines. Pizza and beer out on the town.

Thursday 20 Aug 15. Temp. 25°c – 28°c rain later.


This was a spare day for us, however with no fuel we played the tourist and eventually placed our registration for the World cup event which was being held prior to the Euro’s During the latter part of the afternoon our fuel arrived roughly about the same time as the thunderstorms. Now apparently control line pilots are somewhat averse to flying with a risk of lightning therefore we held over testing the gear until the next day. That evening was quite spectacular with a free natural light show and torrential rain which caused some flooding throughout the town. Many teams were camping on the flying site and were nearly washed away.

Friday 21 Aug 15. Very hot and humid.


This was the start of the World Cup with us having to fly two of our allotted three heats. Before your heat each team is allowed a five minute practise slot in which to obtain what will hopefully be a reasonable engine setting for your heat. These practise sessions are timed and managed by the race officials and are allocated according to your heat times so as to ensure that all teams have about the same time period between the practise and the actual heat. On both our heats we obtained reasonable times, 3.44 & 3.43 with a hope to improve in the third heat. Later that afternoon the thunder and lightening started up again which combined with very heavy rain continued well into the night.

Saturday 22 Aug 15. Weather overcast and much cooler.


Our third heat was slower than the previous two which by our calculations effectively made us tourists for the rest of the World Cup event. We then walked across to the café by the Club house for a welcome sit down and suitable refreshments. Big mistake. Having just placed our order we received a text message from our excellent team managers (John and Val James) to the effect that were to “ get your a***s back here as you’re in the semi-finals”. So after donating our drinks order to a passing British stunt flyer along with the money to pay for them we hastened back complete with our a***s.


The first Semi-final was too slow due to an unplanned extra pit stop which I hadn’t asked for and certainly didn’t expect. After the heat Chris explained that one of the other pilots in the centre had stood up when he shouldn’t have and had caught the down line with his head shutting off the engine. The Second Semi-final was ended by an equipment failure which was luckily spotted right at the end of the ninety seconds warm up immediately before the start of the race.

Sunday 23 Aug 15. Clear skies and warm temperatures.

This was the first official day of the Euro-Champs and each country is allocated ten minutes of official practise time for each team they have entered. We had two teams in F2C therefore we were allowed twenty minutes.

Being such good friends we shared the circle with the second British team, Mike Fitzgerald and Mark Thomason and had a full twenty minutes of practise.

Immediately after the practise we had to hot foot it to the town indoor sports arena where the model processing was being carried out. We being British arrived well before our allotted slot forgetting that nothing in processing runs to time. The purpose of this procedure is the fully check each model and engine to ensure that they are within the rule regulations regarding size, tank capacity etc.

The equipment for checking the tank capacities was somewhat “hit or miss” giving us and a number of other teams some heart stopping moments. Apart from these periods of excitement the rest of the process was along those well known lines of “hurry up and wait” Once this part of the preparations was over we enjoyed a couple of beers, some ice cream and met up with all the other competing teams for the opening ceremony in the town square. This was accomplished with a small amount of procession and a great deal of flag waving and fortunately a brief award presentation for the World Cup event with speeches from the FAI officials. Beer and meals finished off the night.


Monday 24 Aug 15. Sunny and hot.


11:40hrs practise followed by first heat at 14:58hrs. heat time was 3.53 again slow due to an extra stop caused by a young Russian team undertaking which forced Chris to cut the engine. An approach by the team manager to the FAI Jury with a request to review the video resulted in us being granted a re-flight at the end of the heat. The re-flight returned a time of 3.38, much better so evening beer and medals. For those unacquainted with team race at this level at the side of the circle is a tower containing the CD and the FAI Jury. The Jury consists of three persons who are responsible for watching the three completing teams (Red, Green and Yellow). Each race is filmed and the resulting recording is the means by which disputes can be settled. The team manager can request that the film be reviewed for the FAI Jury attention. If the team manager is still unhappy with the decision then an official protest can be lodged along with a protest fee (35 euros) which will be forfeit is the protest is lost. Thankfully most problems are resolved without recourse to the protest procedure. A point of interest and a lesson for the future was that our recorded time of 3.38 was taken from the public display boards and was amended by the official timing to 3.41. We should have raised this matter via our team manager to the Jury as later on it transpired that there were occasional problems with the standard of timekeeping and in all probability our laps had been incorrectly counted.

Tuesday 24 Aug 15. Sunny and hot.


During official practise suffered a similar control failure as experienced on Saturday. Again the Gods were smiling upon us as it was noticed before the model was committed to flight. As we had been unable to fly the model we, “tongue in cheek”, asked if we could have another practise session. Luckily an extra session had been added to accommodate a team who were away competing in the Speed event (F2A). Our second heat returned a reasonable time of 3.43. Once the racing was over for the day we took advantage of the free practise allowed to try out another model fitted with a Profi engine. Whilst he model was faster the hot engine restarts were unreliable and the tail skid portion on the model suffered some damage. A repair was carried out back in the hotel room with some epoxy and a few scraps of Carbon Fibre cloth ensuring that all traces of the Carbon cloth were gathered up so as not to alarm the Hotel cleaning staff. It was a good job that they didn’t notice that we were storing the model diesel fuel in the min-bar fridge.


Wednesday 25 Aug 15. Sunny and very hot.


During the preceding evening we had played around with the fuel system of the Profi model as we believed that the problem of the inconsistent hot restarts was down to the exhaust priming function. All F2C models are equipped with an all in one fuel system which includes the tank, refuel valve, cut-off reset and exhaust prime. The Profi also runs on tapped pressure from the engine just to complicate things even more. Believing that we had pinned the problem down we used our official practise time using the Profi model but were unable to completely cure the fault. Occasionally fortune does smile upon us as a call was made for a volunteer team to make up an extra heat.


We volunteered and were rewarded with an extra official practise time. During our third heat the rising temperature caught me out somewhat and the engine had to be cooled with water during the first pit stop and then be again cooled with water and a compression adjustment during the second. Despite these measures the engine was still going over the top (overheating) and during a third pit stop a lapse of team understanding caused the model to fail to take off. This then was effectively the end of our participation in the 2015 European Championships.

Thursday 26 Aug 15. Sunny and very hot.


This was a free day with no planned flying. Effectively this day had been programmed in for the purpose of a reserve flying day to cover any problems with weather. We therefore watched some of the teams practising. A good routine on my part as there is a lot to be learned from many of the teams whose pitmen have been at it for much longer that me. A trip was also made to view some of the combat (F2D). During the previous few days there had been a couple of incidents with the F2D which had required those involved to receive hospital treatment. Therefore being a well mannered gentlemen, I insisted that Sue wore my pitting hard helmet whilst we viewed the action. Unfortunately I was unable to obtain a photo of this due to the pressing requirement to keep my various bodily parts attached and pain free.


Later that evening we all attended a seminar upon the future direction of F2C.

There are changes coming, mainly driven I fear, by persons not actively involved in the sport and more for political reasons than for racing improvements. Time will tell.

Friday 27 Aug 15. Sunny very hot.


Today was the day for the semi-finals and final race. As spectators we made most of the spectacle by keeping to the shade and keeping our fluid levels up. The final race was a very exciting affair with all the models capable of a fifty plus range on one tank with victory deservedly going to the young French team. A victory much appreciated by Jill who had spent a great deal of the time studying the French “form”. In the late afternoon once all official flying was completed the local model club gave a demonstration of tethered hyro-plane racing. These were mainly of the airscrew driven variety and were circulating in the region of 260kph. One of the running restrictions being that they must touch the water at least three times in one lap. The club tried to run a water screw model but were unable to keep the engine running. During the evening all competitors and official met up in the town for the end of competition banquet. Good food and wine with excellent company. The infamous Piennes polystyrene balls however were noticeably absent, shame.

Saturday 28 Aug 15.  Weather - immaterial as we are homeward bound.


Early start leaving at 0700hrs to drive back to the airport. I was informed by other members of the party that if I mentioned breakfast one more time I would be left to walk to the airport. A man’s got to keep his strength up after all. The flight back was uneventful however upon arrival at Gatwick we stood as horrified onlookers as we watched the Baggage Handlers hurling the teams’ (F2A & F2A) model boxes from the aircraft onto the baggage transporter. Waste of time placing large fragile stickers on every surface as the average Baggage Handler doesn’t seem to care. Not quite the shining example of customer care one would expect. Lesson to remember for future bookings. Once cleared Customs and Immigration via the longest EU only queue I have ever seen it was speedily back to our respective home addresses as we both had an early morning F2C appointment to keep at the BMFA Nationals at RAF Barkston Heath, but that is as they say, another story.


Neil T

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