Forty teams rocked up to Hibaldstow for the BPA Nationals 2019 – 13 Open, five AA, 13 A and nine Rookie – and the forecast was the best in the last decade! By the end of the first day, there had been 80 lifts and 1,183 jumps; the judges were churning through the rounds and the scoreboards were hotting up. Day two saw the competition complete easily and the presentations take place, leaving plenty of time for the party and then some big-way loads (or hungover lie-ins) on the Bank Holiday Monday.
Our AAA athletes were competing for an added accolade this year. As well as being crowned British National Champions, they would also be presented with the Queen’s Cup of the Royal Aero Club. This prestigious trophy, made of Irish silver and dating back to 1719, was gifted to the RAeC by Her Majesty the Queen in 2010. Airsports organisations such as the BPA may bid each year to hold an event to determine the winner of the Queen’s Cup, and this year we were successful in our bid. NFTO, as well as retaining their National Champion title, are therefore the winners of the Queen’s Cup for 2019.
The road to the AAA medals was an interesting one, with the sensible money all going on four teams for the top three places. NFTO were the reigning champions and this year’s favourites, with newest member Kate Lindsley delighted to achieve a 10-year dream. They topped the leaderboard from Round 1, increasing their lead to seven points by the end of Round 6. The top spot was far from secure, however. Eros had shared the Round 1 top spot with NFTO by matching their 21-point score and, having also matched them on a further two out of the first six rounds, were providing some serious pressure from second place. Meanwhile, Chimera were just two points below Eros and 4mula were also hitting some big scores despite just 21 training jumps together – 15 of them the day before Nationals!
Chimera scored an absolutely blistering 22 on Round 7, picking up four points on NFTO, and then bagged another two on Round 8. Having leapfrogged Eros, they
had now closed the gap to just three points away from gold. Round 9 saw NFTO pick up a much-needed three points at the top, while Eros moved up into joint silver. It was all going to come down to R10, and both Chimera and Eros crept the jump-off round after landing from their 10th lift. However, in the end, it wasn’t needed – Chimera matched NFTO’s 19 on Round 10 to take the silver with a new record 18.7 average. Eros were rewarded for their season of hard work with a bronze medal and an 18.5 average, scoring 22 points more across the competition than in 2018. A special shout out also goes to those lovely Irish rascals, H4O, who made it to sixth place with their 13.1 average and set a new Irish Record in the process.
All three medal-winning teams are now training hard for the re-match: they will represent Team GB at the World Cup in Eloy in October. Joining them will be the Pajama Pumas, who took fifth place at Nationals behind 4mula with a PB 14.4 average, and last year’s AA champions Alola who have stayed together and stepped up to AAA, learning a lot this season.
Talking of AA, it was a close-run thing this year with multiple leaderboard shuffles, but the eventual victors were RAFSPA Phantom with 91 points in eight rounds. The brilliantly named Hench (Pench, Kate French, Henry Chow…) were five points behind for silver and Nebula took the bronze. In Single A, British Army Volt4ge finished a brilliant season by adding a Nationals gold medal to their three UKSL golds with a convincing 81 points in eight rounds – the first time in 10 years that an Army team have been crowned National Champions. Algorhythm took silver on 73 while bronze was a fight between the Jersey Beans (now with 60% less Jersey but still full of beans) and 3 Ring Circus (who formed as a scratch team the day before the competition). Despite some serious to-ing and fro-ing in and out of the medals, it was 3 Ring Circus who take home this year’s bronze. A special mention in Single A has to go to Ice Bank Mice Elf 2 with the best name of the comp (try saying that one over the tannoy…).
Finally, the Winged Hussars took the gold in Rookie, with a tight race for second place seeing Random Precision take silver and Shadow the bronze.
Photo by Martin Marinez