By Janet E. Rose Reprinted from the March 1987 issue of American Spacemodeling Keyboarded by Chuck Hemker, edited and HTML'ed by Jeff Vincent, 4/96
Despite the work, the aggravation, the frustrations, running a meet is worth it. There are no people like rocket people. Rocketeers are individuals, and the mix spans all backgrounds, professions, ages. Yet, when they're together on the range and off, they are a cooperative though not cohesive group; they make newcomers feel welcome; they are a special breed.
Running a contest requires work before and after as well as during a meet. The first order of business is to find a field large and open enough for a rocket meet and then get permission to use it. Next, contact your Regional Contest Chairman and request a Sanction Application. This form is filled in and returned with the fee to the Contest Chairman at least 30 days in advance of the competition date. It tells him the dates of the prospective meet, the events to be flown, and the name of the Contest Director (CD). The CD is a Senior NAR member who runs and takes responsibility for the meet. The best advice I can give anyone planning a meet is to READ THE PINK BOOK. In the Pink Book you will find all the rules for competition. If there is something you do not understand, call on your Regional Contest Chairman for interpretation. You must decide to run a Section, a Local, an Open, or a Regional Meet. The first meet a club runs should be a Section meet or Local meet as this type of meet puts the least stress on novice organizers. When selecting the events to be flown, consider the size of the field and the competence of the fliers expected to attend, as well as the number of events a contestant can fly in the allotted time. In addition to considering the needs of the contestants, the CD must consider the experience of the people running the meet. It is difficult to hold a craftsmanship event at a small meet. Set a reasonable, but realistic, meet fee. If you're planning tracking events, be certain that you have enough capable people willing to track. The Regional Chairman will send back a Point Award Sheet which shows that he has received the Sanction Application, has checked the events and the total weighting factors for the type of meet, and he has assigned a sanction number for the meet.
Now is the time to write to the NAR Technical Services (NARTS) to request and pay for CB-1-70s (personal meet applications which include all information required for crediting contest points, as well as the sportsmanship oath and the parents' signature when required), ribbon awards if you are going to use them, and Flight Cards. If you're flying craftsmanship events (Scale, Scale Altitude, Sport Scale, Plastic Model) you'll need judging sheets. You need a Flight Card per person per event. The Flight cards come in four colors, one for each division (A is yellow, B is green, C is pink, and Team is blue).
The CD must check to see that there are enough stop watches available for the timers, that the trackers and communication system are in good working order if there are altitude events, that a scientific calculator or portable computer is available to reduce tracking data (or a person who is knowledgeable, able and willing to do the calculations with a simple calculator), that there are poles and flags to delineate the range area, and that a table and chairs, an accurate scale (0-500 grams), and a metric tape measure are available for the Check-in and Returns people. Make sure your launcher is in good condition, that you have a reliable battery, the clips are clean and the clip leads are not worn, and that you have enough launch pads and straight, clean launch rods. If you're flying Eggloft, arrange to buy the eggs and weigh and number them before the meet.
If circumstances require it, usually for a Regional Meet, but sometimes for Open Meets, the CD should arrange for lodging for out-of-towners. Traditionally, clubs give out trophies and ribbons at Regional Meets, and ribbons at Open, Local, and Section Meets. When a club decides to give out meet patches, usually for a Regional, they must be designed and ordered at least two months in advance of the meet. There are a number of ways to publicize a meet. You can send information to Sport Rocketry for publication in "Launch Windows". You can design, print, and send out applications to clubs and individual modelers.
The range crew should be appointed early in the planning. A knowledgeable Range Safety Officer (RSO) and Contest Jury are essential for a successful meet. The RSO has absolute authority for the safety of the operations, is usually the most visible person on the range, and is the person who qualifies flights. There must be people in charge of Timing, Tracking, Check-in, Returns, Launching, Range Set Up and Break Down, and Judges for Craftsmanship events. At a small meet, one person can do two or more jobs. There must be enough timers and experienced trackers. Most rocketeers come to meets to fly and don't like to spend time on range duties when they could be prepping, flying, or watching other fly. Therefore, please take this advice seriously: get commitments from the range crew and hold them to their commitments.
When the applications start coming back, or the telephone responses start coming in, meet organizers often become excited about the number of people promising to attend and at the same time worry about whether the attendance will cover the cost. It is important to get the phone numbers of prospective contestants so that if there are last minute changes, the contestants can be notified. You must keep an ear to the weather station. If the report requires you to cancel the meet, inform the contestants by Friday night for a weekend meet.
We like to run a rather informal meet with time windows (specified time to fly an event) for tracking and craftsmanship events only. Not everyone is comfortable with running a meet this way, and few CDs prefer time windows for every event. In that case, contestants should be informed of the schedule before the meet.
When the day of the meet finally comes, and the skies are only a little grey, and the winds aren't really bad, you should be relatively organized and ready for action. Getting equipment to a meet takes preplanning. Each person should know exactly what he's supposed to bring. When you're flying a meet as well as running it, packing the cars can be an exercise in special relations, keeping in mind that two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time without crimping your super-roc.
A contestant must turn in a CB-1-70 before he can fly a meet. For you protection, you should make sure all fees are paid before a contestant flies a meet. When preparing for a Regional, it is a good idea to have contestants mail in the application and fee so that the paperwork can be finished before the meet. Contestants registering at the meet usually do so at the Check-in table where much of the meet paperwork gets done. Check-in gives out the Flight Cards, and when the contestant is ready to fly, he or she brings the model and the card to Check-in. At Check-in models and payloads are weighted, eggs are given out and the number on the egg is written on the cards, super-rocs are measured and the length is written on the card, the engine is checked and the engine type is written on the card. It is the responsibility of the contestant to make sure that the information on the card is written correctly. It is the responsibility of Check-in to be reasonably sure that the model is stable and appropriate for the event and to see that the NAR number is on the model. If the RSO needs to know something special about a model such as the use of flashbulb ignition or the color of the tracking power this should be written on the card. Check-in assigns a pad to the modeler and writes the pad number on the Flight Card. The Flight Card is given to the RSO who can choose to write flight information himself or he can give the card to the timers or launch officer and have one of them record flight data. After the flier recovers the model, the model is brought to the Returns Table (if required by the rules of the specific event) where it is checked and the Flight Card is signed. It is the responsibility of the modeler to make sure that the card is checked and signed.
Most modelers understand the difficulties faced by those running a meet and have a certain amount of tolerance for problems on the range. Yes, there are occasions where a competitor questions the judgement of the RSO, or when the wait at Check-in seems endless due to long duration flights, communications problems, or any of a dozen possible hangups. Due to the vagaries of thermal activity everyone wants to fly timed events simultaneously, and there aren't always enough timers to permit this. But disagreements are resolved, discontentment evaporates, and tempers cool. Flying and watching others fly is the point of it all, and every meet has at least one truly spectacular flight. Sharing among rocketeers is central to the enjoyment of a meet... sharing supplies, exchanging information, chasing someone else's model, helping with prepping. It is not unusual to see a contestant explaining his winning technique to his closest competitor.
The end of a meet is the time you will be glad of preplanning. There should be people committed to breaking down the range and people doing the results. The trophies and ribbons should be given at the end of a meet, but often this is not possible after a one day meet that ends at dusk with everyone exhausted. If results cannot be done on the range, they should be mailed out immediately after the meet.
For the contestants, the meet is over, but for the Contest Director, there's work yet to be done. The financial balance sheet must be worked out. Results have to be written up and mailed out, both to the contestants who like to see the results in writing even if the awards have been given out at the meet, and to the Regional Contest Chairman. When doing the results the organizers of the meet must read the Pink Book for each event. Make sure you know which events require that flights be summed, and which use best flight; which need a return, and which do not; which have other factors involved such as length of super-roc or unbroken eggs.
Within fourteen days of a meet, the Point Award Sheet must be filled out and mailed to the Regional Contest Chairman along with the CB-1-70s and the Flight Cards. The Point Award Sheet must be completely filled in, with the names and NAR numbers of individuals or teams in alphabetical order grouped by age division, the events listed and the points added up, and must be signed by the three members of the Contest Jury (Judges).
Once you've finished and mailed in the paperwork, you've completed the meet. You can relax and get some sleep. You can start planning the next meet. I know we tend to relive the meet and try to see where we can make the next one better. I wouldn't miss a minute of it. There are no people like rocket people.