Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Meet Recap

2012 World SpaceModeling Championships

From Salt Lake City to Slovakia and back

The 18th Model Rocket World Championships, held in Liptovsky Mickulas, Slovakia August 31-Septmber 9, 2012, brings the best rocketeers in the world to compete for championship medals.  Cassidy Steele represented the US Junior Team in Altitude and Scale Altitude and Matt Steele flew the same events for the Senior Team. Over 20 countries attend, including, Russia, China, Japan, Germany, and Canada.  Katie Steele accompanied them as Assistant Junior Team Manager; and Matt’s wife Robyn came along to be the "adult supervision."

There were a lot of long days and nights, and lots of lost sleep in getting ready for the meet. Each of the Scale Altitude models had about 300 hours to get them into final form. Even the WSMC flying schedule was a grind – first, there was scale turn in on the day we arrived, and then either Cassidy or Matt flew each of the first four days of the meet.

The flight to Paris didn’t start out well. Our flight was delayed on takeoff, eventually diverted to Atlanta after we did take off, and was eight hours late by the time we arrived. When we finally arrived in Vienna on our connecting flight, none of our 8 bags made it with us. And, no bags showed up the next day. It took four days for everything to show up, with the last one arriving just before we were to leave for Slovakia.

The Tatralandia Holiday Village we stayed at for the meet was nice. It appears that the area started out as a hot springs resort, and over time, migrated into a full-fledged water park and tourist destination over time (think of a poor man’s Wet ‘n Wild) . I am sure it is the nicest place many of the Eastern European competitors have ever stayed for a World Championships.

S1A (A Altitude) was a hard event for the Junior Team. It was the opening event, and nerves were evident. Cassidy’s first model flew great….and disappeared in the sky. No one saw it eject, even with orange tracking powder. It wasn’t found until the next day, so she got no score for that flight. She took her time for the next flight, and ended up not getting it off until the third round opened. A great boost, and then, it didn’t ignite the second stage – DQ! We had no problems with the Estes booster motors igniting the upper stage motors, but it was different with the Serbian Ultra 1/2A3-0 boosters. The rest of the girls on the team also had problems with the Ultra motors – Jenna Butler had one upper stage hang up on the booster, and two upper stage ignition failures, while Emma Kristal had so many misfires that the RSO (a female school teacher from Poland, who was superb) was even sympathetic. When Emma finally did get an ignition, the altimeter failed twice, and on the third flight only read 193 meters – way off the competitive mark. For all our high hopes, the US team finished last in the event.

Matt’s S1B (B altitude) attempts the next day were just as miserable. After a great first stage boost off of the tower/floating head piston launcher, the motor hung up in the booster tube on second stage ignition. It burned away the tube before flying away unstable for a DQ. The booster was totally destroyed. Matt switched to his second model for the second round flight. He got a good flight, a little spin on the second stage, and…..lost! No one saw it eject, even though with orange tracking pigment in the model. The team looked and looked, but we never saw the model. Using the booster from the second flight, and the sustainer from the first flight, Matt prepped for Round 3. The Adrel altimeter was so sensitive; it tripped in the wind 3 times (even with tape over the vent holes!). After the altimeter tripped for the third time in the round, there was not enough time to reset it with the time allotted. Matt decided to fly it anyways. It was no surprise when the second stage failed to ignite. For all the effort and frustration, Matt ended up with a track lost and tied for 35th place. His sustainer was never found.

The US Team finished 9th overall, as Dr. Bob Kreutz had a flight to 631m (10th) and Trip Barber flew to 580m (12th overall). The top three flights were all over 700m!

The next day, the Juniors flew Scale Altitude. Again, we were blessed with good weather, and les haze than the two previous days. All three US flyers flew 1/26.5 Bumper Wac two stage models. Daniel Kelton, was the best of the US models in static points with 488, followed by Rachel Clark (483) and Cassidy Steele (473).

Cassidy got a great first flight off, flying to 432 meters. This was higher than any of the flights at the 2010 World Championships. She was in the lead as the first round ended, but we knew that would not hold. Her second flight failed to ignite the upper stage. The model landed hard, and she was quite upset. Members of the team gathered around, said “Never give up” and set about helping Cassidy repair the model for reflight. We then realized the model was not damaged as badly as first thought. A lot of clear tape and CA later, she was ready for the third round. This time, the booster didn’t ignite, sending the Wac high into the air by itself. A bad connection to the booster piston was the problem.

Rachel did not get her flight off until the second round, but her model flew well for a score of 346 meters. She flew again in the third round and got a better score of 357 meters.

Daniel had problems on his first and second round flights – on his first flight, the sustainer did not ignite. On his second flight, the booster did not ignite, but the sustainer did! The igniter was later found to have moved out of the nozzle. His sustainer zipped off to over 300 meters. . The pressure was on to get a good flight off in the third round. Just as the round was ending, Daniel pushed the button on his model – and got a great flight of 363 meters.

It was not enough to put the US Team on the medal stand, but it was good for fourth overall in teams. Individually, the Cassidy finished 8th, Daniel 11th, and Rachel 12th – a great showing for the US! Cassidy did end up with the third highest altitude recorded in the event.

The next day, Senior Scale Altitude was flown. Of course, the nice weather we had during the week went away. A storm came through the night before and walloped the whole area with lighting and heavy rain.

The wind was up near (or over the limits) and the sky was gray as we got ready to fly. Jim Filler went first and had a good flight. Matt went second, scrambling to avoid having the wind re-set the altimeter. The model took off in high winds, weathercocked a bit, and then the second stage ignited. The model had a bit of a corkscrew and headed off towards a cloud, never to be seen again. We never knew if it ejected or not.

A recovery team was organized, and we scoured the potato field next to the range where we thought it might have landed. We looked over the entire 5 acre field without seeing it. Jim Filler had a great flight to end up 4th individually, and James Duffy’s ended up 5th.
Had Matt had any altitude greater than 78 meters (Matt’s booster alone went that high), the US would’ve had the team gold. Even with the lost model, the US was in bronze medal position up to about 15 minutes before the event ended, when the Slovenians posted a good flight and moved into second place. Needless to say, it a good team effort that just fell a little short.

The banquet was a lot of fun, with an open bar and lots of food. There was dancing afterwards – even Bob Always got into it. The Chinese team eagerly traded for US teddy bears (made in China!) and Matt traded a Bumper WAC t-shirt to the Pole who won the bronze medal in the scale altitude event.

We had a great time! Slovakia and Austria were beautiful and we had a great time with old friends, and made a number of new friends.

To help defray our expenses, if you would like, you can make a tax-deductable donation to: www.TeamSteele.org - Thank you!

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