Round & Round

The Control-Line Modeler at Large

By John Thompson

March 2018

Modeling thought for the month:

"Play: Work that you enjoy doing for nothing."
  -- Evan Esar

Competition adds excitement to control-line flying -- but it also comes at the cost of work by all of us to support the hobby. Flying Lines photo.

The success of contests depends on all of us

Excitement is building here at FL headquarters over the approach of the contest season. It seems like a long time since the last gathering of Northwest fliers to test our skills against one another. We've all spent the winter building new planes, repairing the damage from last year, and just generally getting everything ready to start anew with the coming of the season.

And with the nice weather we've been having in the Northwest, there's been lots of airplane testing and practice flying, too.

As the season approaches, I've been thinking about a few matters related to the competition activity in the region. A few random thoughts about how all of us can make the control-line experience better for ourselves and for everyone else.


Northwest clubs and individuals organize contests throughout the season, coordinating their dates to make sure everyone who wants to can participate in any contest the want. Local volunteers spend time and money to reserve and maintain fields, get site owner permits, acquire AMA sanctions, gather trophies and prizes, arrange for officials, provide food, and do rain dances to assure good weather.

It takes the same amount of cost and effort to put on a contest that everyone attends as it does to put on a contest with only a few entries. To use the Jim Walker Memorial Spring Tune-Up as an example, the Northwest Fireballs have to pay a large fee to the city of Portland to assure availability of the Delta Park site for the contest -- no matter how many or few people come.

But the reward for the organizers ranges from joy (a well-attended, fun contest) to despair (we did all this work and only a few people came). As the control-line flying population ages, there are fewer volunteers to do all this work. If they are disappointed by the turnout, the chances that they keep doing it diminish, and maybe one of these years, the contests we enjoy will disappear -- we'll have done all that winter preparation and have nowhere to show off our flying skills.

So, what can you do to make sure that doesn't happen? Go to the contests! Forget the weather forecast -- it's the Northwest, so nobody really knows whether it will rain tomorrow. You can fix the drip in your sink on another weekend. Reward the people who have offered you this opportunity by taking advantage of it.

A great person (I've forgotten who), said it best: "It's OK not to mow the lawn if the fish are biting."

Pitch in

As mentioned, the pool of volunteers for any contest is diminishing. Jump into the pool!

Before the contest, or when you arrive, ask the contest management how you can help. There'll be plenty of ways you can pitch in: Field setup, judging, timing, making streamers, scoresheet running, weighing planes, pull-testing, tabulating scores, field teardown.

You don't fly every event at any contest, so consider helping out in an event you are not flying, maybe even outside your specialty. The more people helping out, the easier everything goes.

You may not be a contestant at all -- maybe you just like to go to contests to watch. Hey, there's no better way to watch a contest than alongside the circle with a stopwatch in your hand!

Hidden costs, hidden benefits

There are sometime very small things you can do that are a big help in making a contest a success, things that don't really require any work on your part.

I'm thinking here primarly of the granddaddy contests, the Northwest Regionals. There's an odd thing about the Regionals best expressed by Mike Hazel, who has been there from the very beginning: "The Regionals is twice the size of any other local contest -- and 10 times the work." Mike should know -- he does most of it!

With a big contest like that, the workforce is spread thin, but it usually all comes together well. But there are a couple of hidden cost/effort matters that deserve special mention: Food and lodging.

Food: The Regionals goes on for three days, with multiple events occurring on several circles simultaneously. Stopping for a sitewide lunch break is just not practical. But we also don't want contestants to have to drive away from the flying site in search of meals. So we provide an onsite food concession. For the past couple of years, the owners and staff of a Roseburg area river lodge have closed down their restaurant for the weekend and provided food at the Regionals site.

But, while the Regionals is a big deal to us, it is a small event for a food truck. As a result, the Regionals organization has to guarantee the food concession a certain amount of gross sales. If they don't sell enough food, the Regionals pays the difference. This can be a significant cost.

Bottom line: Please, when you get hungry, buy your food from the concession truck! The truck offers tasty breakfast, lunch and snack food and drinks at reasonable prices. Eat there and help keep Regionals entry fees from rising.

Lodging: There are several motels around the Regionals flying site, and the prices can range from cheap (you get what you pay for) to hefty. Traditionally, the Regionals organization has arranged for a host hotel -- you get a very nice room in a very nice hotel for below the going rate. This year, it is the brand-new Hampton Inn, which replaces the Windmill Inn, the host hotel we've used in the past. I mean, literally replaces -- the Hampton will open this spring and the Windmill be torn down. You have the additional benefit that the Hampton is very near the flying site.

Once again, this is an arrangement that comes as the result of negotiations by the Regionals management team -- and its success depends on contest participants taking advantage of it. So, please, book your room at the Hampton! It may cost a little more than some of the other motels, but you'll enjoy your stay and your participation will help keep this option available. (Details on how to contact the hotel can be seen at Where the Action Is.)

Who to contact

If you would like to contact any contest organizers to ask questions, offer feedback or suggestions, offer to help out or donate prizes, see Where the Action Is. Every contest has an email link that you can use to get in touch.

Let’s go flyin’!

Questions or comments always welcomed. E-mail John Thompson

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This page was updated March 12, 2018