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Author Topic: The 'Bowden Trophy'  (Read 497 times)
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Hepcat
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« on: June 15, 2017, 05:51:47 PM »

The results of the 2017 Free Flight Nationals were published recently and as usual I looked at the ‘Bowden Trophy’ results.  That must seem strange to anyone who knows me because, apart from never flying that type of model round about 1950 I was ‘persona non grata’ for having a letter in the ‘Aeromodeller’ saying that Col. Bowden was wrong in proposing slots to stop models stalling. Actually, apart from that little spat, I admired the way that CEB was always trying to do something new in modelling.   As well as his long battle to raise the English petrol driven record to something respectable at a time from most people in this country had never seen a petrol model he was always trying something new.  He flew all sorts of models, rubber and gliders as well as power. I think he made a wind tunnel because I seem to remember an article he wrote about it called ‘Seeing the Spray’.  He made a cut-off timer from an alarm clock before others realized a timer was necessary. He was always experimenting and I gather quite happy to take parts from an old model to make something new.
The Colonel did not impact much on my life until about 2000 when I was chairman of the FFTC and if I recall correctly the ‘Bowden’ trophy was found after being lost for a long time and people were enthusiastic to resume a yearly competition for the trophy.  I know I was excited myself.  I thought nearly fifty years of development in model aeroplanes since the previous ‘Bowden’, what interesting aeroplanes we shall see.  With little time available I asked Chris Strachan if he would get things started, which he did most efficiently.
Unfortunately my hopes were dashed just a year or two later when I heard that a new rule had been added that a model must have cabin windows.  It now appears that that was just the start of a slippery slope down from the Colonel’s enthusiasm  for improvement into bog of useless frippery.  Looking down the list of the models taking part this year I don’t think a single one was an own design.
Let me quote a few lines from the rules.
The model shall have a cabin with clear glazing or a cockpit with suitably sized aperture and a clear windscreen.
General design and appearance guidelines
A stylish model with cockpit details, cowlings, fairings and undercarriage well executed.
Object.
This trophy is intended to encourage the design and flying of Sports Models with cabins or cockpits able to hold an imaginary pilots..
Neat building and finish. Clean and well presented
Those rules seem to me to give a completely unwarranted bias to one type aeroplane right down to the merest detail.  I do not see what relevance these rules have to the main challenge of the ‘Bowden’ which is to make two flights, each as near to 45 seconds as possible.
If the ‘Bowden Trophy’ event is held in honour of CEB then it seems to me that the above requirements are almost an insult when one remembers that the Colonel was famous for not titivating his models because he was too keen to get on with his next project.
PS I noticed that there were 36 entrants and only 6 who weren’t disqualified.  I believe that is typical. Surely there must be something wrong.
John
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BG
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« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2017, 09:31:24 PM »

Sounds like a pretty silly event in its present form John. I am with you. Ditch the frippery and for for originality and fun.

BG
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F1B guy but its not my fault, Tony made me do it.
DavidJP
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« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2017, 04:45:12 PM »

Interesting John.  I have never thought much about the Bowden Contest save that in earlier years it was was novel.  Reflecting though I didn't not really associate it with the Col.!  Not his kind of contest one would think.  He concentrated on duration and some of his flights did go on.  One occasion I remember was recovery by autogiro - he as passenger I believe.

I have only a vague recollection of him but he was the typical English Gentleman and his wife a good hostess as was demanded of their era and the circle in which they were located. 

I have no idea why the rules evolved as they did but there is a clue of course "intended to encourage the design and flying of Sports Models with cabins or cockpits......."  And of course it is clearly not a duration event.  So was the thinking at the time to open up an event for people who were largely sport flyers?  I don't know but may know some folk who were there so will enquire. Maybe too the original authors had in mind encouraging the casual competitor (can there be such) rather like the "Kit Scale contest" - with the idea that they would cease to become casual after a taster. I am not sure that the kit scale event incidentally may be losing it's identity and concept because the numbers of entrants is very healthy but there are some pretty able people among them with years of experience.  Yes it levels the playing field a bit but I could see some being discouraged by the "competition". But that is a personal view and introduced simply to suggest that if the object of the Bowden is "low key" then keep it simple?

As to disqualifications well I have watched a few Bowdens now and can say that sometimes several contestants give the model a "shove" on
take off - probably by habit.  Others have been disqualified because of an engine suddenly becoming obstinate.  I don't recall noticing disqualifications due to no cabin or cockpit for example but could be wrong of course. I have not made a study!  And am relying on memory which is not always wise these days!

So as a matter of interest what do you see (in principle) as the acceptable alternative for a Bowden Trophy contest - is it one that encourages the development of model aircraft from the point of view of performance (which the present set up does not to any great extent). Bowden does seem to be "fun"  but I know some of our brethren hold the view that flying model aircraft other than in (proper) competition is incomprehensible and to no purpose.  Fine each to his own it does no harm to hold views and be able to express them freely.

Duration might be more akin to the Colonel's quests of course and so far as I can remember his models were in the main no more than "reasonable" when it came to being "stylish" and well executed.  By the way the somewhat squat appearance - short moment arm and large fin was due to him needing to transport his models in the dickie seat of his car of the time - an open Aston Martin.

Thanks though for the encouragement to disturb the great cells - selected ramblings perhaps?     
 
   
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DavidJP
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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2017, 07:16:11 AM »

Had a bit of a browse.....

The 1937 Bowden Contest was won by a model that had no cockpit/canopy - Carol Krupps (USA) and a drawing in in the 1938 Zaic year book.

I have not yet been able to find a copy of the original rules, save that according to Alex Imrie (with whom I would not have argued) they were strict and a points system was used where general appearance, engine starting ability accuracy of flight time and manner of landing were all evaluated.  The war introduced a four year ban on flying power models and the Col. produced his "Bowden Contest" in about 1945. This had a "cabin".  The winner in 1946 had a cockpit. Did this idea evolve perhaps (rather than become a rule until much later) in the endeavour to present a pleasing appearance which might have been thought to have found favour with the judges?

I am inclined to think that the modern rules may be following the current practice to dumb things down to make it easier for people to take part in an activity or not to feel inferior. I have never been convinced that "every one ought to fly model aeroplanes" and that we need to get bums on seats.  I think this philosophy has operated to our detriment.These views I know are not popular.
    
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Hepcat
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« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2017, 07:36:46 PM »

Thank you DavidJP,
Pertinent and thoughtful as usual.  I had forgotten about the American win in 1937.  I immediately pulled out Zaic ’38 and said ‘Oh yes’, Herby Fish although I did not remember the builder’s name was Krupp.  A very purposeful looking model but what took my eye was the model on the facing page – Carl Goldberg’s ‘Valkyrie’.  Considering the theme of this thread the juxtaposition of the two plans is amazing because just a short time afterwards Bowden made his ‘Big Stuff’ which could have been drawn up from ‘Valkyrie’s three view. So much for the Colonel liking clunky high wing monoplanes with little glass windows for imaginary little men to look out of.  Like most Free Flight modellers he realised that efficiency, streamlining and beauty all come together.

As to what I would like to see in the contest is a little difficult because I am confident that Bowden would have embraced (no grabbed) radio control with both hands when it was workable.  On that basis perhaps the competition could be something like tests for full size aircraft between the wars. Short take off and landing.  Perhaps things like in the university challenge where one must carry as many tennis balls as possible from one place to another within a limited time.  The competitions would be something to take part in and to watch.  If you have ever been to a ‘University challenge’ you will know what great entertainment they are.
 
If R/C is out, think what FF has developed: dethermalizers, auto rudders, variable incidence tailplanes, incidence changing wings.  All these should be permitted and anything else you can work from non-radio devices. 
Do you wonder that I think the ‘Bowden Trophy’ contest needs an overhaul?

John
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billdennis747
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« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2017, 04:36:14 AM »


Do you wonder that I think the ‘Bowden Trophy’ contest needs an overhaul?
Hello John. I see your point, but the modern Bowden is what it is - an event for non-original cabin sport models. You can't argue with the large entry - much bigger than most of the duration contests - so it obviously appeals to people who like to spend four hours watching Tomboys tip over on a runway.
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DavidJP
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« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2017, 06:11:06 AM »

Hmmm..... a case of what turns you on of course?  Certainly Bill I find the sight of a well trimmed FF scale model (preferably rubber) flying well about the best there is followed by FF gliders etc. I think the Bowden has become almost simply a fun event and lets face it the "crowd" in the main prefer to see Tomboys and anything else tipping over and more! So it gets bums on seats..... (iwhich is what is required)  and is better than the "chuck and duck"........

I agree John that the Col. would have grabbed R/C and any other technology as I think would have the Copelands Kordas and Warings and all...... why not?  Duration was perhaps the only aim to pursue then because "controlled flight" from the ground was not an option.  I like the idea of pure FF as it was - but that is based on sentiment only - and as you say non radio devices should certainly be acceptable because these are part of the evolution surely of the quest for duration?  RCDTs I suppose are OK but where then do you stop before the original FF concept becomes controlled for the ground.

I am not sure that the Col. was any particular genius as regards model flying but he was enthusiastic and committed - and fortunate in that he had the use of Fairey's airfield (Heathrow now) at weekends unless something was on, he was able to take his workshop with him on his military travels to build and fly a model flying boat from Gibraltar harbour (and also Porlock Bay I think with his chum Forster).  All such not available today.  So he was first a character in the aeromodelling circles and secondly a pioneer.  I think I recall too his mentioning paying £10 for a (Brown) engine - in the early days a very large amount of money (hundreds today) and beyond the reach of all but a few. So that gave him an edge.

I think it fair to say that most if not all R/C contests today are based on precision - be it scale reproduction or say pylon racing and flying has to be spot on! Diluted though by the limits application of the BoM.   So the Bowden as it is today is an in between event maybe - and the indictions are that as that is what people like so be it. If you want to there are other events that might be more challenging. 

I agree about the "University challenge" idea - and I like the thought of the Bowden event including not only the BoM but also extra points for "own design" to encourage "development" (but keeping it FF) but that would then hint at elitism which is not really acceptable?     
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mike
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« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2017, 07:36:13 AM »

DavidJP said, ".....  I agree John that the Col. would have grabbed R/C and any other technology as I think would have the Copelands Kordas and Warings and all......    "

Bob Copland showed me some parts of an RC Harrier he was building around the end of his time at 'Hawker's' where we both worked.  We met several times in the Cardinal Pub (Bob's local) near the Ham factory at lunch time and always ended up talking model flying.

Around the turn of the century, I came across a drawing at work that had Bob's name on it as 'checked by' in May 1944 - the part was a small spring used in the bomb gear on Tempest, Typhoon and Sea Fury.

Not just RC...  The 1944 Model Aeronautical Digest has an article by Bob on Control Line.  There is also his plan for a 1/12th scale C/L Typhoon.  Since there was a ban on 'petrol driven models' at the time there is no mention of any flying being done.  There's a 'postscript' printed in the front of the book that mentions publication being delayed due to enemy action.....
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DavidJP
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« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2017, 11:06:57 AM »

Thank you Mike - my remark was purely speculative but it is nice to know I was on the mark. But then no reason at all why those chaps should not have been inclined that way - it is the way things go! I think the "purist" attitude - "I have never held a transmitter in my life and don't intend to" is something that developed in comparatively recent years - another attempt perhaps at elitism? 

Oh and by the way I went for interviews at Hawkers in Kingston just before leaving school - I got accepted but it was an hour and a half bus ride from where we lived which may have been one of the reasons why I went in another direction...... I wonder who my interviewers were - it would have been early 50's.

Thanks again.
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applehoney
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« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2017, 01:11:45 PM »

>"I have never held a transmitter in my life and don't intend to" is something that developed in comparatively recent years - another attempt perhaps at elitism? 

Recent years?   I've held that credo through all my long modelling life but never thought of myself as elite !
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DavidJP
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« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2017, 05:58:17 AM »

I did say "attempt" but in your case may I suggest "bit of an ace" appropriate?
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