This article is from the Model Rockets FAQ, by Wolfram von Kiparski with numerous contributions by others.
From Mark Bundick
Note: This is a condensed version of some competition strategies for
individual and team competitors, written by Mark 'Bunny' Bundick and
posted to r.m.r. Check the r.m.r archive server for the complete
posting. The full posting points out that there are many ways to win,
and the following is just what has worked for some individuals.
Some Individual Competition Strategies:
(a) Read the Pink Book. If you don't know the rules for the event, you
can't know how to win and how to improve. Figure out the scoring
for each event, how many flights are allowed, required number of
returned flights, the reasons for disqualification, etc. Reading
the rules will also give you some insights into how the contest
will be run. Start with the general rules then review the
(b) Practice for all events where your experience is low. If you
already know how to fly parachute duration (PD), don't waste time
practicing that at your club's sport launch. Instead, suppose you
don't do well in streamer duration (SD). Build a couple different
SD models with different streamers, and fly each of them at least
a couple of times BEFORE the contest. Take a notebook to the field
and write down what happened, or at least write it down after you
get back home. Such notebooks can be the lifeblood of your
competition model and strategy development.
(c) Improve one event a year. At the start of the season, it helps if
you pick one of your weak events for special attention during the
year. Review the existing models and strategies for the event,
look over the competition carefully during the contest year, and
practice this key event each and every sport launch or test flying
session you attend.
(d) Strive for consistent flights. Rob Justis, my old teammate from
the 70's, always reviewed our DQ's after the meet and separated
them into "DQ's for the right reason" i.e no return, and "DQ's for
the wrong reason", i.e. separation. We strove to avoid the latter
obviously. This made us terribly consistent, and with today's "two
flights count" rule, this is even more important.
(e) Fly all the events. Sounds simple, but many people don't do
this. You don't have to win the event, but if you don't fly it,
you're sure to get behind because you're conceding flight points
right off the bat to your competition. Over the course of a
contest year, you can concede 10% of your yearly total this way.
(f) Concentrate on events with high individual event weighing factors
(WF). If you have to choose events to fly, or are short of
preparation time for some of the scheduled events, prepare for and
fly the highest WF events first. Simple again right? But how many
people go to a contest and fly PD first thing in the AM cause the
wind is calm, and ignore BG which has a WF two to three times that
(g) Refine, don't abandon, your models and strategies. Rarely do you
get super performance improvements from forgetting all you know to
adopt a totally different strategy. I've seen so many people hop
onto a design when it didn't fit their flying style and then get
burned. They switch because some guy had a super performance at a
contest, so he must have the "Holy Grail" of models. Right after
Tom Beach placed highly at a NARAM with a flexie RG, I saw lots of
folks try them, and crash. Tom had lots of flexie experience that
helped, and when regular BG flyers tried to adopt his style
without the background, BOOM! If you're serious about switching to
a completely different model, say from swing wings to slide wing
rocket gliders, then take the time to practice, practice, practice
and build up the background in the new method. There are no quick
fixes to the winner's circle.
(h) Pick your contests carefully. If you can't fly helicopter duration
(HD) all that well, and the next regional you plan to attend has
two HD events, find another contest! Sometimes, this isn't
possible. But if two contests compete for your participation at
the same time, take the one that has more of your "strong" events.
(i) Casting Your Bread: Share what you've learned with others. A three
time national champion who shall remain nameless positively
stomped every challenger in his sight. But his desire for keeping
secrets and his unwillingness to share left him with few friends,
and after a brief time, he left our hobby, poorer himself and
leaving our hobby poorer for failing to let us learn from him. The
benefits of making new friends and sharing far outweigh any short
term competitive advantage you might think you have from being
secretive. As a quotation I once read went "We have all drunk from
wells we did not dig and been warmed by fires we did not build."
So go ahead. Cast your bread on the waters. You won't be sorry.
Hope this provides you competition types some food for thought. I'd
love to hear from anyone with comments, questions, brickbats, etc.