Sunny Sunday Dragon

I woke at the time I usually wake up – because that’s just what an adult routine does to you. But also because, no matter how much a lay in would have been nice, or how warm I was in my nice big poofy down sleeping bag, my bladder said I needed to move in the direction of a loo…. Like, right now. Maybe this really is what being an adult is like, is this the start of being old??!?!

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Easy Dragon Rally

After 4 years, it’s time to tackle the Dragon Rally again. It’s taken me this long to get over the trauma of the last event… the gale force winds… the rain… the oil on the roads…. the cow juice… maybe I’m not over it… 

But I was off early this morning and the first stop is Tescos cafe for breakfast. I’d packed up the bike over the last few days. Packed and rebuilt actually…

Continue reading Easy Dragon Rally

BIRD 2024 – Finals Day

Link to YouTube Live Stream – Finals Day

During Qualifying Day we had neatly split all 48 pilots into 3 classes of 16 pilot finals; Hobbyist, Advanced, Elite. I arrived early and while the computers were turning on and no one was here I had about 15 mins where I could fly the track. But I didn’t. I hadn’t thought there would be time so I hadn’t charged any batteries! For the second year in a row, I wasn’t going to get to fly my own track, but hey ho, that’s the deal with running the event. Next year for definite I’m at least flying the track in the break.

One person who also nearly ended up not flying was VikingFPV. He was staying at the whoophaus and no doubt had spent the evening getting drunk and trashing his whoop around. This meant this morning he didn’t have a whoop with which to fly so while I may not have flown the track, my whoop did as I leant him my gear to fly with. When his name came up on the screen it said VikingFPV, but in the corner it also said “Dad’s Drone” haha!

Starting with the Hobbyists, we set off racing and immediately it was exciting. Watching everyone absolutely fly their hardest produced some fantastic racing and surprise results as the pressure helped some and hindered others. Some of the most exciting racing was actually flown in the Hobbyist class where crashes and dead batteries meant the field swapped around throughout the race. By the end of just the hobbyist tier, the whole place was jumping up and down and yelling support for all pilots no matter where they were coming which was really great to experience. This level of camaraderie exemplifies the FPV community of helping each other and having fun, it was so gratifying.

There were some fantastic moments that stuck out to me like the battle between Thornberry and Yggdrasil for the 5-8 final. A bobble out in space by Yggdrasil gave Thornberry time to catch him up. They came down the stairs and around the starting block absolutely neck and neck, but then both made mistakes and bounced off the crash gate! They both crashed just at the end so it was then a desperate scramble for the net, as the crowd was going nuts! Both recovered quickly and got up flying again, aiming for that net, they punched it home at full throttle but it was an absolute dead heat. In the end there was nothing in it so both were awarded joint 5th for such a close run race!

Later that day I also managed to get 3 of the 4 finalists of BIRD 2023 on camera for a chat; Kwadastrophy, Dan Carpy and Admovie. We found out that while a lot of the top pilots fly in Acro (acrobatic mode) because there is more you can do with it, Dan Carpy uses Angle (self levelling mode). He is an incredible pilot and can fly Acro very comfortably during freestyle, but chooses to race in Angle, which is great news for me. I, like many tiny whoop pilots, get started in Angle mode and stick with it because it’s just easier. So hearing that one of the top pilots in the UK and Europe is racing with Angle gives me hope that maybe (not a chance) I might get to that level (in my dreams)

We also had a chat with the Drone Soccer guys who were putting on a demonstration and Give It A Go session down in the atrium. It was fun to get my hands on a drone ball and see just whats going on inside there. Turn out, its a completely normal racing drone, but with a cage around it so you can bash into each other. As drone Pilots, we usually spend our time avoiding crashes at all costs, so to be able to deliberately cash into other drones sounds great fun!

This year I’ve tried to create and put on a lot more stuff for the general public and pilots to do while they are not flying. We had a whole area set up in the atrium where stands and organisations could set up and showcase their stuff. The aim is to create a whole weekend festival of FPV and drone action. So many people in the country seem to be scared to death of drones and there is just no need. This event – with any luck – will go some way to offering a safe, fun way into the hobby and answer people’s unasked fears and questions about drones. 

One attraction this year was Drone Soccer, who came along with a whole inflatable pitch set up and a fleet of drones for people to have a go with. Newly brought over to the UK all the way from South Korea they are just getting started recruiting pilots to come and play drone soccer. The drones are 3 inch racing drones, enclosed in a lightweight plastic ball frame. There are 4 pilots per team and the game is basically like Quidditch, where you have to put a drone ball through a hoop at the other end while defending your hoop.

This whole setup was great because the drone balls are all piloted Line-Of-Sight, meaning they would be able to be flown all day without interfering with our racing drones video signals! Loads of the passing public and the pilots, between races, went down and had a go flying them. Hopefully some will be trying out for the UK Drone Soccer team heading out to Korea next year for the world championships!

We also had the BMFA (British Model Flyers Association) attend and host a stand where people could see racing drones up close and ask the experts about drone safety and laws. This is critical so that when people engage with the sport, they have the knowledge and resources to be able to do it safely and legally. Especially around christmas, when well meaning parents buy their kids a drone and they go out to the park and accidentally do something illegal. But for us – this is not a problem! All our drones are so small flying them outside in any sort of wind is just impossible, so we race indoors!

The BMFA also brought along simulators so not only could people see drones racing, see them up close in their hand, and have a go line-of-sight, but they could actually fly them in a  virtual environment. They had 2 simulators available for people to jump on and have their first experience of flying immediately. Simulated drone flying is a whole e-sport in itself with huge prizes from the likes of DCL (Drone Champions League). They were a bit late to the party this year, but maybe next year we can have DCL attend with some simulators… watch this space.

Millennium Point, houses the Birmingham Science Museum called ThinkTank and working with them we also organised a workshop activity. Kids (and adults I guess) could come along and learn from NASA’s JPL how to build a glider and a helicopter from paper. Talking about lift and propulsion and aerodynamics of flight, these are the first stepping stones into a whole industry of passionate and creative people. With any luck, playing around with model drones could lead you there!

And as demonstration, Rory RC Tooley came along with his fixed wing lightweight planes to show just what could be done. He was there at the very first BIRD event in 2020 so it was great to have him back and show him how much the event has grown. He’s focussed on plane flying and has achieved some incredible things flying in acrobatic competitions all over the world. We were lucky to see such an incredible display of skill swooping around the atrium.

Accompanying him were some of my more trustworthy-ish friends with cine-whoops. These are slightly larger drones than our racing whoops that can hold a decent camera and record some high quality video. You can get some incredible video with a cine-whoop that just cannot be achieved any other way. They tooled around the atrium doing a few flips and rolls to show everyone that larger quads do not automatically mean DJI. These are specialist, or custom made, but can do so much more than an off the shelf product.

But today was all about the racing and as we progressed up the list we had some amazing races. Because every single race counted to the final position they could achieve, they all pushed so hard on every race. One of my personal favourites was the Advanced Class Lower Semi 1 where it was Tranki (Italy), Infinity (UK), Makenins (Latvia) and Kremoos (Poland). Almost all the nationalities were flying together and really trying their best for themselves and the glory of their nation’s Tiny Whoop community. All of them were neck and neck for most of the race which meant we got some fantastic video of them chasing each other thru the Tiny Whoop tower and taking the dive gate together. Unfortunately at the start of his 2nd lap Makenins hit the timing gate hard and went down never to move again. Infinity and Tranki were literally prop to prop as they came back down from space and lined up for the crash gate finish. You could see each others LED’s in the pilots view but they both crashed into the timing gate and missed the finish net. A bit of luck meant Infinity landed the right way up just infront of the finish so popped up and in took first. But while this was going on Kremoos who had been blasting around the track was just coming down from space and around the starting block. Tranki’s recovery from the crash took just a little too long and allowed Kremoos to sneak past him at the last moment to clinch second. It was so exciting and fast paced everyone was cheering and gasping as the action unfolded. When the pilots came over to collect their whoops at the end Infinity held his hands up trembling with adrenalin! It was just one of so many great races that day.

The racing was so fast several times during commentary I got tongue tied. Cerb, the master, didn’t have a problem, but I’ve only commentated a few races before now. As we progressed into the Elite class of races, the speed picked up another level and more often I stepped back and let Cerb do his thing.

I could give an excitable play by play of all the races because every single one was spectacular. But as this competition went on it became more apparent that you had to be careful with your tactics. Obviously flying as fast as possible is a way to win a race, but coming first was not the goal of the first 2 races in the finals league tree. There is a great example in Heat 2 race of Elite Class where OscarNova was in second and challenging Carb for 1st in some sections, but several crashes dropped him down to be competing with Ree for that all important 2nd position. Then right at the end he crashed twice giving Ree time to catch up. On his second hit he must have broken something because he completely lost video. This allowed Ree to take 2nd and the Upper Semi slot. But then Mike, who had been having a mostly smooth flight around came home and took 3rd, leaving OscarNova in 4th by default. Its a great example where a seriously fast pilot that was pushing himself, maybe a little to hard, made mistakes that cost him the Upper Semi slot.

The surprise results were Admovie and Kwadastrophy who were 2nd and 3rd at BIRD 2023  both having a terrible time both in their Race Heats and then again in the Lower Semi’s. Multiple crashes, Admovie getting lost in space losing time and Kwadastrophy having some sort of problem with his quad losing him a whole race. This is the power of the Single Elimination format, where the top pilots last year may not be the top pilots this year, they may not be able to handle the pressure, or have some bad luck with their whoops that costs them a shot at the podium this year. 

But with them out of the way, we had progressed thru all the Heats and Semi’s and reached the climax of the day. The Elite Class final race between Carb (UK), AdiQ (Poland), GoProMaster (Italy) and AleFPV (Italy). The tension mounted as the VAR timer needed resetting. We have to admit some hope for a UK win in 2024. In 2023 we had a 4th position with Poland and Germany above us, so now Carb was here and looking quick we had to stop ourselves from putting too much pressure on him for the UK win. Once the timer had reset, and the whoops were plugged in, it was time to find out. 

The top pilots took off and streaked through the first few gates in a high speed chase. It was impossible to call who was in first for the opening seconds of this race, the LED’s were just too close to call. First out into space was Carb stretching out a small lead in front of AdiQ, who unfortunately got caught on the drop gate. He turtled off and fell all the way to the basement allowing GoProMaster to just nip into 2nd. From then on it was a fight for the whole race between AdiQ and GoProMaster for 2nd. Carb continued to stretch out his lead with just some beautiful flying and controlled swoops through the dive gate. But AleFPV was not giving up and flying really consistently keeping the pressure on. Just one mistake and he would be there to capitalise on it, but unluckily for him, the flying by GoProMaster and AdiQ was just too smooth, with no crashes. But none of them could quite match the mastery and precision of Carb who led the whole race with zero crashes and a blistering pace to take 1st. As hard as AdiQ tried after that long fall to the basement he just couldn’t catch GoProMaster who took 2nd, leaving 3rd for AdiQ and coming home immediately after was AleFPV in 4th.

It was a spectacular race finishing with a huge cheer for Carb bringing home the win for the UK.

After all that fun, it was back down to work to set up the prize giving. I ran around with my hair on fire and roped in some volunteers to help set things up while Kai and Cerb had a chat about 3D printing on the live stream. But pretty soon I was set up, thanking all our sponsors and ready to announce the awards. 

One of the awards was “Furthest Travelled Onesie” for which I had to shout out to the kangaroo courts to get their opinion. This is because while it was meant to be for a onesie, Makenins and the whole team was wearing matching racing tshirts with LED light up plexiglass visors. It was so cool and so as he was the furthest away, and everyone cheered, he won!

The Italians definitely had a co-ordinated approach to the “Best Onesie” award with 24 out of the 72 votes going to OscarNova. This was swiftly followed by the whole Italian team winning the “Best Group Onesie” award. They had all some in a mix of onesies dressed up like Birds, Dragons, Cows, Skeletons and cartoon characters. They are all a great fun loving bunch of people and very deservedly won this award!

Finally I got to announce the racing results as listed below. It was so nice that everyone stuck around to cheer and congratulate their mates for their achievements. With 48 pilots in the competition and only 4 in each class being crowned, it is a big deal to stand up there in front of the crowd getting your trophy. I was honoured to be giving out the awards to what can only be called the best pilots in Europe.

With a round of applause and a group photo, everyone headed off and me, FPVRS and the volunteers started the bulk of the pack up. We didn’t have to get it all down tonight, but as much as we could would make tomorrow easier. In the end we got down about 80% of the track and gubbins and piled it all up in the centre of the room. 

Then we head to the pub to meet some of the international pilots who were staying in Birmingham centre. The Italians, the Polish and the Latvians all came out and celebrated the end of the event with a beer and a steak (where I accidentally mixed and upgraded Lullaby’s food).  We got some great feedback and had fun reliving the exciting moments of BIRD 2024.

BIRD 2024 – Final Results
BTW Birmingham International Race Days 27 & 28 Jan 2024
Elite Class
1Carb_FPVDanielCarbisUK
2GoProMasterAlexisBonazziItaly
3adiQ – TFSAdrianStanekPoland
4AleFPVAlessioDe iesoItaly
5ReeFPVReinisKarklinsLatvia
6NicoNicolaGorghettoItaly
7lightsailBilaalSaladUK
8King JoshyJoshyStevensUK
9admv! – TFSAntoniDaczkaPoland
10DanCarpyDanielCarpenterUK
11OSCANOVAOscarPonsettiItaly
12jMJurijsMasalskisLatvia
13KwadastropheDominikSeyserGermany
14MikeFPVMichaelAgarUK
15Glitch_FPVMaxGropperGermany
16MrELeighElwellUK
Advanced Class
1antihypeTomMundyUK
2Dirty McStinkyKrisSmithUK
3Minus_OneTobyHughesUK
4LullabySamueleFelottiItaly
5MikeWasTakenMichaelBellinghamUK
6HyperDanDanielWestonUK
7DevilEmilsLeimanisLatvia
8JaggersPaulJaggersUK
9InfinityFpvChristopherPearsonUK
10BeratBeratYilmazGermany
11KremooSDawidKapusciakPoland
12InfernoFPVMikeBrooksUK
13RichRichardMorsheadUK
14TrankifpvFedericoTranchidaItaly
15Archie FPVArchieGaleUK
16MaKeninsMartinsKeninsLatvia
Hobbyist Class
1RCManiac98JamesHullUK
2MDV_FPVMaris DavisVaivadsLatvia
3VikingMattFrostUK
4BlueprintKaiLongshawUK
J – 5yggdrasil_fpvMichaelRüberGermany
J – 5ThorneberryJoshThorneUK
7222FPVLukeSleemanUK
8Major DroneBonaOliverSmaleUK
9JamesTXJamesBeadleUK
10DavNavDavidBosmansUK
11Derpy HoovesSoleySayceUK
12The Hann FPVCraigHannanUK
13KizkieranbartlettUK
14Les CargoNickHughesUK
15GarcMichaelGarciaJamaica
16XO XODanStevensUK

BIRD 2024 – Qualifying Day

Link to YouTube Live Stream – Qualifying Day

Barely enough sleep later I found myself back at Millennium Point and arranging the last few things before people started arriving.

I got mum set up on the ticket desk with the app, pilot packs, merchandise, stickers and schedule for the day. This is something I had meant to do last night, but it just got so late that this was the first time I’d had to dedicate to the task. Dad was sent off to put the schedule sheets of paper around the tables in the pits and on the notice board. David was delegated to getting batteries ready for all the gates LED’s, plugged in and turned on. And Eddy helped me faff with everything else. 

The first few people had started to arrive and as much as I wanted to, there was just no time to be social. This was going to be a long, hard, fast day and we needed to crack on.

We had 48 pilots from 5 different countries coming to take part. They were split into 4 groups of 12 pilots so they had their 8 qualifying fights as close together as possible. This is a technical nightmare for us behind the race directors desk, but makes a big difference to the pilots as it helps them get into the flow and learn the track. Most MultiGP and 5 inch race formats run sequentially through all the pilots in the event. This means with 48 pilots it would take over an hour of hanging around between batteries which would just be boring. So we grouped them.

As it turned out, and partially expected, the first group took longer than scheduled because we had some technical challenges to iron out. No matter how much testing Cerb and James did the night before, The Borrowers must have come in the nights to have fun with the cables. But we were up and racing and fixing stuff as we went along. We are very grateful to the MP AV guys and the IT guys on the phone because they ironed out kinks as quickly as we sent them over. 

It was really exciting to see the pilots tackling the track I’d built. I had spent a night watching Whooptopia and seeing the sort of gates and moves they designed. That track is super technical and very Twirly (technical term), it’s got a distinctive style. Laid out in a flat sports hall, the gates make you do very specific moves and any level change is very much on purpose. My track was completely different, focussed around using the “natural” features of the environment. I set the track to circle the building columns, to jump over and under the stairs and then shoot up the stairs out into space and back again. This meant the racing lines were a bit more freeform and could be explored a little more, a little wider than a super technical track. But, I did take some inspiration from Whooptopia and included some single feature technical Twirly bits and some slalom to showcase the pilots technical skills.

And then of course are the sponsor banners to consider. This I was very happy with because I arranged the Tiny Whoop banner on a big pillar and then the track around it so you’d have to pass it 3 times in quick succession. The weBLEEDfpv banner was also on a pillar as the pilots returned from space and hunted for the starting block. The track made the whoops take a line where they would be banking towards the banner for a good period of time keeping it in shot. The HappyModel banner was in amongst the gates so the whoops “saw” it as they negotiated that section of the track, and it was located at the front of the viewing area next to the “Worm Hole Of Doom” feature gate. All this was very deliberate to give the sponsor logo’s airtime without having to cut to adverts. It’s something that F1 does with banners on the bridges over the track. It looks better than ugly table legs and keeps the sponsors happy which makes all this possible. 

All in all, as we started racing, I think I got the right mix of technical and fast flowy organic track design, if the track was a bit long. After just a couple batteries, pilots were putting in some quick times of about 30-40 seconds. Mid-field-ers were getting around 1 min and the slower pilots about 1 min 30 sec. This is a little longer than I had thought. I was aiming for the mid level pilots to be doing around 45 second laps, but hey, it was a wicked track and we were racing now. 

During the qualifying we managed to get a couple interviews in with some pilots to learn more about them. I convinced GoProMaster and AleFPV to come up on camera for a chat about how they got here. They were competing against teams from across Italy in the IWL and the prize for winning was to come and represent Italy at BIRD 2024. Watching them fly, you could see why they had won their league, they were all really quick and pushing everyone to fly faster. But they did pick up on Carb and KingJoshy of the UK as pilots to watch for the finals. They had been training hard for this and were clearly turning some international heads.

I was juggling being a commentator alongside managing everything else at the event. I had to dive out of the commentary box during the day to organise and deal with things as they sprung up. This gave me some time to step out of the camera and watch what was going on from the spectators perspective. We had set up a huge net to contain the race area which meant you could get right up close and see the whoops whipping past. It was really great that we were able to turn the lights down, it really made the LED’s on the gates and on the whoops pop out of the darkness. With these it was easy to follow them around the track and see how they were getting on. It also made it easy to find them when they crashed! 

And crashes we had! Whoops were crashing on almost every lap. This is completely expected so we took a lot of time to cover as many cables as we could with matting. But still the little blighters managed to find a few nooks to get caught up in. The best catches were when a whoop got caught on the dive gate. A few times, whoops crashed while attempting a dive and ended up sitting on the edge of the gate. The pilots knew that to fly away they would need to crash-flip themselves the right way up. But by doing this, they would also fall 4 storeys into the basement – it added significant risk of whoop damage. The only way to prevent falling and hitting the deck would be to use acro-mode and arm and catch the fall manually. But this is very tricky so most pilots opted to just crash. But during the whole weekend and over 500 flights only 2 or 3 whoops that crashed from this height were unable to fly away. Its testimony to just how durable these little racers can be!

By the end of qualifying we had run 96 heats of 4 pilots giving everyone 8 attempts at getting their fastest 2 consecutive laps. In the table below, those who did not complete 2 laps within the race timer of 2 min 30 seconds show as blank and are in no particular order. This sorted our pilots into the three finals tiers ready for race day tomorrow!

Pilot CallsignQualifiedTimeFinals Tier
Kwadastrophe11:03.996Elite
GoProMaster21:04.586Elite
Carb_FPV31:04.634Elite
AleFPV41:08.248Elite
adiQ – TFS51:10.712Elite
admv! – TFS61:10.949Elite
OSCANOVA71:11.781Elite
jM81:13.977Elite
DanCarpy91:14.398Elite
MrE101:16.191Elite
ReeFPV111:17.849Elite
Nico121:18.108Elite
King Joshy131:20.056Elite
lightsail141:20.285Elite
MikeFPV151:23.059Elite
Glitch_FPV161:23.913Elite
antihype171:25.597Advanced
Rich181:31.063Advanced
Jaggers191:31.122Advanced
Minus_One201:31.485Advanced
InfinityFpv211:33.165Advanced
MikeWasTaken221:34.053Advanced
MaKenins231:43.264Advanced
Archie FPV241:45.789Advanced
KremooS251:47.141Advanced
Dirty McStinky261:47.191Advanced
Trankifpv271:47.313Advanced
HyperDan281:47.878Advanced
Devil291:49.258Advanced
InfernoFPV301:50.347Advanced
Lullaby311:50.373Advanced
Berat321:55.542Advanced
MDV_FPV331:59.788Hobbyist
XO XO342:10.169Hobbyist
RCManiac98352:13.973Hobbyist
Thorneberry362:15.098Hobbyist
JamesTX372:16.706Hobbyist
222FPV382:18.331Hobbyist
yggdrasil_fpv392:18.899Hobbyist
Blueprint402:21.769Hobbyist
Major DroneBona412:21.851Hobbyist
Viking422:30.444Hobbyist
Garc43Hobbyist
DavNav44Hobbyist
The Hann FPV45Hobbyist
Derpy Hooves46Hobbyist
Les Cargo47Hobbyist
Kiz48Hobbyist

BIRD 2024 – Setup

I woke up as late as I dared in the WhoopHaus. Not having gotten to bed until after 1:00 a.m. I wanted to get as much sleep as possible ready for the next three long days. 

It’s the Germans fault after all, they only turned up at midnight and it was so good to see these international friends we’ve made that we stayed up talking far too long. And then even later thrashing our quads around the WhoopHaus track.

We have been practising on this track all night putting pack after pack through our abused quads. The DRC boys had set out the track, and like last year, it went up one staircase along the hallway and dove down the main staircase. I’ve not released any details of the track I have planned for Millennium Point but this will be good training for them as I expect to include a dive gate at the event. A very special dive gate!

I grabbed my stuff and headed out to the van, trying to avoid the enticing smell of bacon and the excited babbel of drone friends coming from the kitchen. My job today was to load up the van with all the things I’ve been collecting over the last few months and go and set up the event space at Millennium Point. Tomorrow is the big day and we must be ready!

Of course, all the planning in the world can’t cope with some things. I’d received a call yesterday saying that the chap who was going to be running the BMFA simulators had been very ill and was unlikely to be able to attend. This would mean that the whole attraction would be out of actionI I don’t want anyone to be working when they are suffering ill health but this put me in an awkward situation as I’d been advertising simulators at the event for several months now. After some discussion it turned out that he was fit enough to run the stall but was not allowed to drive so could not collect any of the equipment needed. Well this was something I could help with. The WhoopHaus was an hour in that direction anyway, so whilst it was not on route to MP, at least it wasn’t too far off route.

After a quick stop at Greggs to get breakfast and do some preparatory food shopping I got home and started loading up the van with all of the kit needed. I knew I had a lot, but its a surprising amount of stuff when loaded in the back of the van. By the time I set off, you would look in the back and say the van was full but I’ve not even collected Cerb and all of his live streaming equipment yet. This might take some pro level Tetris skills…

Once again I was working with FPV racing Solutions to produce the live stream and manage the race directing for the event. Cerberus and RC maniac are a great team and produce some great work but this all requires a lot of kit. Boxes and boxes of electrical cable-ly craziness that you point at drones and you get all sorts of wonderful things out the other end. I’m convinced magic is involved, there is no other explanation. Luckily I was able to get all the boxes of magic into my van without too much trouble. It’s quite fun playing life size Tetris, but looking at the stack of kit I wasn’t 100% sure it was all going to fit. Maybe the boxes had extra-dimensional tessellation properties amongst the magic… I’m not sure what I would do without the van, it’s by far the best purchase of my life.

Rocking up to MP a cheeky amount of early, the event that was occupying the space before us was running a little late. This was fine, we just unloaded everything into a corner so we could get going as soon as we were given the nod.

The first job for me, was to run the rope work up to the balconies. This was for the two hanging gates out in space and was not something I could let anyone else do. It took some of my years of climbing ropework knowledge to construct, maintaining safety at all times. Even so, I was fumbling and having to redo things, feeling the pressure. While I had set this up at home to practise, it was a big commitment I had made to myself to get these gates out into space. With Eddy’s help, I also had to construct the Dive gate and hang that off the edge of the balcony. I am glad he was here to help because he does ropework all day long and so could double check my logic and knots. All together, this took much longer than expected and meant other areas of set up were neglected for too long. 

But David was here to help and I knew I could trust him to solve problems on the go. This meant the netting went up a lot easier than expected. Of course with Eddy’s help they made sure everything was neat and very secure. Luckily, the netting from Jagger’s was long enough to go the whole distance needed which was a relief. This left my shorter length to cover the critical “return from space” bit where pilots were likely to escape the race area without a net in place. We also had some netting given to us by the BMFA. This was really small and did the job, but was nowhere near as good looking as our string stuff. We used that for the spectator tunnel under the flight path from space. Lastly, I planned to use a 3x4m section of netting to protect the balcony pedestrians from uncontrolled quad crashes. When I was sizing it up at home, it looked huge, but barely covered the area I expected it to at MP. Still it was better than nothing and I had run out of netting now, so that was that.

It had started getting quite late so the ladies went off to procure pizza for everyone. This was very welcome by us but not very welcome by the events staff, especially when we finished our setup later than expected. Having sat around for half an hour of the time eating pizza they weren’t very impressed but working from 6pm and until 11 without food would also have been very undesirable. Still, it was nice to enjoy half an hour with everyone and give my brain a small break from feeling under pressure.

Of course, there was still a lot to get done including the all important track layout. I set the event staff off bringing up barriers to cordon off the pits area and I set the girls off on a task blowing up 20 or so inflatable parrot birds. This decoration was only there for fun, but they were not laughing when I said there was no pump with which to do it… Nothing I could do about it now, so… with an apology, I cracked on… 

The track was sketched out on paper after a long night watching Whooptopia so I knew roughly what I wanted to include. But until everything else was in place, I couldn’t see the size available to work with. There is an element of organic growth with a Whoop track. They aren’t like the 5 inch drone tracks that stand on their own in a field of unlimited size. Whoop tracks are all about exploring the space and using the building’s quirks as parts of your track… in my opinion. This takes time to see the space and fit in the elements you want, or adjust what you thought would work when you see it won’t in person. It’s also essential to get the right mix of speed, flow, technical and easy sections. You need all of them to give the wide range of flying styles something they will all enjoy and all feel tested by. 

I’d mostly used the Killakwads and BTW gates combined with David’s extra special light rods, making another appearance this year. But I needed a couple of gates stacked up in 2 specific configurations. WareFPV club were happy to help out and lent me their gates, power supplies and cables to make it all work and light up beautifully. Luckily, they arrived just as I was starting to set up the track which was perfect timing. 

All this time I had let Cerb and James do their thing. They had their boxes of magic and spent the whole evening getting the race directors desk, live stream computer and video control unit set up. Once I finally had the track set up, we could place cameras. Again, I knew roughly where I wanted them, but it had to come after the final track layout was complete. We picked some great locations and even managed to get one zoomed in on the dive gate, I was very happy.

Another thing I’d planned was the pits area. I’d organised 3 big tables for pilots to set up, and they all had power for charging. This worked out great, but I’d forgotten about a table to display the prizes, and a table for peoples bags, oh and a table for Midlands 3D to set out some of their stuff for display. It was getting towards the end of where we could reasonably stretch our welcome into the night and it was just about done. There are things I’d like to have set up differently but really it looked great. I was very proud of what we built in 5 hours and very thankful of my family and all the volunteers who helped.

It was time to get out before we were kicked out.

Cerb and James head home, just down the road and I can only imagine dropped straight into bed and lights out. Eddy, after having worked a whole day and driven 4 hours up here to then spend the evening helping me set up, was staying up here somewhere. In hindsight, we should have gotten a hotel together. But what we actually ended up doing was driving back to Oakamoor – an hour away – for 5 hours sleep. Before getting up and coming all the way back again in the morning. This was a dumb plan, but having planned everything else out so meticulously, I’m not surprised something stupid slipped through. 

Next year, we stay in a hotel nearby.

Return To Our Valley

We’re back in Singapore again! Our first flight was really not so bad. With the extra leg room it was very comfortable. We managed about an hour of sleep, which was good but maybe a mistake. Getting kicked off the plane in Changi it was hard to focus on where we needed to go.

I had been looking forward to taking the skytrain through the Jewel shopping centre, over the waterfall, but it had been stopped for the night. The delay in departing meant we should have arrived at 00:20 but we actually got there at 01:40. The skytrain stops each night at 01:30 for maintenance. Oh well, we get a bit of a walk.

Continue reading Return To Our Valley