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Competition is Fun!

posted Mar 4, 2016, 7:58 PM by James Cramton
By Ed LaCroix, 11248
SARA Contest Director

The SARA section provides lots of opportunities to fly low, mid, and high power sport rockets.  Yet for quite a few years, there hasn’t been the opportunity for SARA members to try their hand at another challenging, and FUN, aspect of rocketry- competition.

Competition is fun?  Really?  Yes!  

Unfortunately, when competition is suggested as a rocketry activity people tend to shy away because few expect it to be- fun. We expect competition to be about points, rules, and hard-nosed competitors not looking like they’re having any fun.  Who wants to be part of that kind of activity?

Well I suggest we all do to some degree.  And it’s important to note- to SOME degree.   Yes, competition does involve rules, points, and hard-nosed competitors.  But as one of those hard-nosed competitors, I say it’s possible to compete and have fun at the same time.  It’s the DEGREE to which each of us goes about competing that makes the difference.  If your competition interest is only to fly parachute duration because models with parachutes are your things, then fly only those events!  Who knows, exposure to streamer duration models might make you think that they look like fun too and suddenly you’re now flying two kinds of events.  And that’s how people’s interest in competition often grows.   I think people are more likely to come back for more competition if they start out flying what they enjoy flying since (I will postulate) enjoyment equals fun. Competitions then become an accepted part of a section’s activities because people enjoy it and want to continue having fun.  

In January, SARA held a small NAR sanctioned (meaning approved) competition. What is known as a “Local” meet.  SARA Local Meet-1 (aka SLM-1) was made up of three events- Open Spot Landing, C Parachute Duration, and Predicted Altitude.  These events were chosen because if a person wanted to, all three events could be flown with the same model. And all the events could be flown using inexpensive 18mm black powder motors.  The day started out windy and cold for the eight people who attended.  But by the time it was over about four hours later, it was sunny, warm, almost calm, and there were eight people kicking back and talking about all the FUN they had exchanging a little friendly trash-talk while flying those three simple events.  

There is a chicken and the egg argument about competition. No one seems to know if we are born naturally competitive or develop a competitive nature as a result of social factors as we grow up.  Regardless of the reason, if you’ve ever placed a bet; played a game of rock, paper, scissors; dared someone to eat a strange food, or simply called out, “watch this!”-  YOU have a competitive nature.  You like to know if you can outperform another person.  And that’s a good trait to have (IMO).  Why?  Because it implies you are willing to try new things, learn and master new skills, and then see if your results are better than the other person’s results.  So if trying new things and mastering new sport, mid, and high power rocketry skills has been your thing up to now, why not give competition a try? 
My goal as SARA’s contest director (CD) is to focus on holding competitions that will allow SARA members to enjoy competition as another fun flying alternative.  To try and offer events diverse enough to allow as many members as possible to enjoy flying at least one event when a contest is held, while also challenging those members who might want to fly them all.  To achieve my goals I want to encourage SARA members to email me with their thoughts, questions, and of course suggestions to help make our contests fun and engaging.  

In closing, let me emphasis that competition does involve rules.  And it’s a good idea for each of us to at least spend a little time looking at those rules.  The rules are contained in a document known as the “Pink Book” (PB).  Here is a link to it on the NAR website: http://www.nar.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2015Oct-PinkBook.pdf   

As I go forward with scheduling our next competition, I will do my best include information regarding the important PB rules that affect each event.  There will soon be another article detailing our next SARA contest.  Until then, I hope I will see many of you didn’t attend SLM-1 will consider our next contest a try because FUN is what competition rocketry is all about.


-Ed LaCroix 11248