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Author Topic: The 'Bowden Trophy'  (Read 1047 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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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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Stewart Mason
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« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2017, 05:16:05 AM »

I think you have to look at what the Bowden was. When it originated it wasn't a bunch of people flying mostly vintage designs, because there were no vintage models then, unless you count rubber powered 'A' frame pushers etc. It was people flying more or less up to date models in an era of 'air mindedness' and aeronautical development. The book was very much still being written.
Today it is mostly a nostalgia fest, with the expectation of a laugh and a dollop of carnage. All that is needed is a PA system to broadcast the classic circus theme tune and it would be complete. The rules (I must download a new copy) shut the door on development with the stipulation for petrol, diesel, or glow plug engines only. Compressed air would be great!
There are some serious competitors, but few and far between. I think JO'D had the measure of it in some of his recent letters to SAM Speaks.
The competition has been rather 'Tomboy heavy' but then again if you are looking at the model as purely a tool to do a job, then it is as capable as any in the right weather and can be flown to the rule book as has been demonstrated.
It is probably time to overhaul the rules and bring a little dignity back to the competition. Losing the requirement for a cabin would be a good start, and perhaps anyone seen pushing a model has it fed into a shredder at the end...? Just saying...!
Perhaps leave the Bowden trophy for the nostalgia boys and introduce a new precision trophy to encourage model development. In my fevered imagination the PA system could then broadcast the theme from 2001 A Space Odyssey or something equally cheesy!


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DavidJP
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« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2017, 04:10:00 AM »

Interesting reply Stewart - and I like your suggestions for "music".  Yes the Event does what it does and works for quite a few.  I am not sure it is any more that scant nostalgia  for but a few although that said there have been one or two occasions when at the East Anglia Gala (Sculthorpe) it has been apparent that the nostalgia aspect and the "commitment" has been very marked.  My curiosity was much aroused because as soon as the event was done almost all vanished out of the gate. Sculthorpe is huge and in fine weather takes the prizes for a flying site.  So you think they would stay and have a bit of fun??

Whilst I often appreciated J'OD's words I think in his comments on the Bowden he might have just been putting hips own slant on it all but why not of course.

I certainly share  your suggestion - so aptly put - "that it is probably time to overhaul the rules and bring a little dignity back to the competition".  
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Hepcat
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« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2017, 08:40:22 AM »

We always get a reasoned reply from DavidJP and now Stewart has shewn he has a noggin that can separate the wheat from the chaff.  Although his suggestion to leave the ‘Bowden’ to the nostalgia people goes against my feeling that the colonel is not being remembered in the right way his suggestion of a modern precision event embracing the use of modern developments is what I was looking for.

Digressing from Bowden for a moment: David in #8 you mentioned applying for a job at Hawkers in th1 1950s and wondered who had interviewed you.  I applied for a job at Vickers, Weybridge in 1950.  I was interviewed by the Chief Draughtsman, Mr Bewsher. He employed me at £7 per week.  About fifty years later Dave Andreski said he had a 1933 plan for a Vickers ‘Jockey’. Although a rarely venture into the difficult area of scale models I thought that a 1933 plan would be interesting and Vickers did give me my first job so I asked for a copy. And I built one.  As I was building it I thought I would research it a bit and about the first interesting thing that surfaced was that it was designed by Mr Bewsher.  The other interesting coincidence is that I believe you are thinking of building one.
John
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applehoney
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« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2017, 10:01:15 AM »

A modern precision event sounds to be a promising move but how about for original designs only, to promote some creativity. People seem increasingly content to fly models designed in the past in most classes of F/F.  Other than FAI where most buy models built by others .....
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Stewart Mason
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« Reply #15 on: July 05, 2017, 11:50:01 AM »

I'd be up for a go at that. There's a schools or university comp (can't remember which) publicised occasionally in the BMFA rag, I seem to remember it's a load lifting challenge that attracts some interesting, and sometimes doomed concepts. Perhaps something similar for precision purposes for we 'career' Aeromodellers rather than students, for whom it is likely a passing interest.
I like the idea of different power sources, and recently bought a £5 toy car from a well know online auction site just to get at the little removable compressed air motor it contains. It looks exactly like a .049 size engine or so, just in plastic. It has a pump and separate reservoir. Goes like stink too, although not for very long with the litttle 1/2 litre tank. I shall be conducting experiments with props and with bigger tanks.
I would like to build some proper CA motors but unfortunately I lack a lathe at the moment. With small diesel motors being pretty expensive new, I think CA power is something that really should be explored more. I know it was played with at the dawn of aeromodelling and seems to pop up every now and then, but for some baffling reason it never became popular, even though it's relatively simple, can swing large props and is very clean. It seems rather ideal for short duration precision competition engine runs.

I also got hold of an ancient book of aerofoil section coordinates and patterns, so there's obviously something brewing in the springy door-stop I have that passes for a brain...

Penny for your thoughts? Interesting discussion this.
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DavidJP
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« Reply #16 on: July 07, 2017, 02:14:41 PM »

Yes.

But iI have also discovered the Col. was in fact using radio in 1950 if not earlier.  An article by him in the December 1950 Aeromedeller and subsequently February 1951 confirms this.
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Hepcat
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« Reply #17 on: July 07, 2017, 06:16:59 PM »

I had the pleasure of attending several of the Universary Challenges with my friend John Taylor. John was a keen aeromodeller so naturally he started as an apprentice at AVRO in Woodford.  He was so talented he was sent to a London University to get degrees and things. He ran the windtunnel at one time and lots of other things and was Technical Director when he retired.  That is when I first met him as he had time for modelling again.  The challenge ran over a weekend and on the first night the teams had to discuss with John the design ideas and calculations that had gone into their designs.  The models were radio controlled and the teams could use their own pilots but BMFA had a pool of expert pilots that the team could call on if they wished.  The tests were usually in the form of weight or volume carrying from place to place so as well as the design as a flying machine there was also the aspect of loading and unloading the cargo.

Some models were not all that good and some were very good, which is not surprising because although I think the teams were free to get advice and help I think that most of the students were not modellers before they started on the challenge.  It means   there were lots of different aeroplanes to look at and the excitement and fun as the Challenge was flown made them memorable.
John
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DavidJP
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« Reply #18 on: July 08, 2017, 08:49:23 AM »

But all with a purpose John.

I was always rather intrigued with the PAA load events years back but these seem to be no more. It is also nice to see people who are not committed aeromodellers taking part but I ca't help wondering if the creations of aeromodellers might be rather interesting in the design and performance.
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Big G
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« Reply #19 on: July 09, 2017, 05:10:31 AM »

Quote
The results of the 2017 Free Flight Nationals were published recently

Where are they published? Not on the BMFA website as of yesterday.

Tx

G
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Hepcat
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« Reply #20 on: July 09, 2017, 09:26:06 AM »

Big G.
I am on Phil Ball's list of people to whom he send results of all the BMFA competitions so I have an email from Phil with four attached PDF files of the Nats results, one is for the 'Bowden'.  As they are PDF files I cannot attach them here and with my miniscule knowledge of computer matters I am not aware of what else can be done.  I think if I had your email address I could 'forward' Phil's email complete with attachments and then you could open them,
John (my email is in my Profile)

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Big G
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« Reply #21 on: July 09, 2017, 12:41:11 PM »

Hepcat,

thanks for this - it just seems like an unusually long time for our revered national body to get their act together. Also thanks for the offer of Phil Ball's results list - unfortunately your e-mail on your profile is 'hidden'. No problem, I'll wait for the BMFA to post results - I did attend the FF Nats this year, first time for a long time, but am no longer an active outdoor FF flier so in no real hurry.

G
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« Reply #22 on: July 10, 2017, 12:39:00 PM »

Hepcat,

I feel I must disagree with most of the original post.  I finished third in the Bowden a couple a years ago with an own design so feel I am reasonably qualified to answer.

The Col. always produced models with cabins, and I think it is good that a cabin is stipulated in the rules. After all, this a a fun precision event and I see nothing wrong with trying to make them look a bit better than your average competition model.  There are loads of different designs that could be used if the competitor wanted do, that they choose to use the known Tomboy type layout is up to them. There have been tailess and delta entries, I would have entered an annular wing but was working that weekend.

I have to say it was about time the rules were enforced. This is a BMFA event so BMFA numbers should have been displayed - nearly half the entrants could have been excluded if this was enforced. Push launches, second attempts even after bits have dropped off the model have been overlooked in the past when the flight should not have counted.   We have one of the most popular free flight competitions and just because you are not happy with it you want widespread changes.
Leave well alone
Doug
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