Welcome to Steve's Shipyard
THE FRAY AT BRAYS SPRING 1999
by Steve Reichenbach
Axis and Allied forces clashed in Tulsa, Oklahoma this spring, resulting in a stunning and overwhelming victory for the Axis. The Axis forces were led by Admiral Chris Pearce in his captured North Carolina class battleship, and Admiral Fluegel in his Baden. As a rookie, I asked for help with patching my sunken USS Houston after the first battle. Fluegel suggested I coat the silkspan with mayonaise, to prepare for yet another yummy “battleship sandwich”.
As a rookie, I was very excited about bringing my new USS Houston to my first battle. It was proudly displayed at the entrance to the pit area, and other battlers made many comments about it before the battle. While I thought they were admiring the new cruiser, I now imagine that they were in fact taking a good look at the one ship that must be baptised at the event.
With ships made ready, and Steve Milholland appointed the Contest Director, battle was called for at 10am. After the Houston posed for a few cheesecake photos, the fleet was assembled in the shallows of the pond. Lots of people mentioned how great it was to walk just a few feet from the lovely home of our gracious host to the pond. Unfortunately, the Lutzow was unable to compete in the first sortie. As the fleets separated, the Axis appeared to be underdogs. Here are thescores from the first battle:
Bob Eakin – USS Washington 53a, 15o, 18b, plus sink
Robert Rucker – USS North Carolina 75a, 10o, 22b, plus sink
Ted Brogden – HMS Invincible 44a, 3o, 15b, plus sink
Steve Reichenbach – USS Houston 13a, 1o, 21b, plus sink
Jim Ewers – HMS Exeter 9a, 3o, 5b
Chris Pearce – USS North Carolina 15a, 2o, 2b
Fluegel – SMS Baden 28a, 4o, 1b
Scott Bene – SMS Van der Tann 20a, 2o, 0b
Kevin Bray – DKM Lutzow 2a, 2o, 0b
Total Points: Allied 1,050, Axis 11,190
I was very excited during the first sortie, accellerating in a turn to bring my dual stern guns to bear on the Axis SMS Baden. It seems that Der Fuerer himself was commanding the venerable Baden to pursue my cruiser! I was even more excited to have the Baden between myself and the shore. Just when I began to fire my first rounds, the Baden spun around, and I discovered what a “hay maker” can do. I would have been better off just poking my thumb into my bow before the battle, as the Baden punished me for getting in close. Perhaps this looked like fun, because Chris Pearce decided to bring his North Carolina over, making meat of my cruiser in a battleship sandwich. I accellerated out of that predicament, only to find I was rushing towards shore, with a North Carolina lining up sidemounts. Rather than push a bad position, I kicked into reverse, and managed to punch a few holes into the bow of ChrisPearce.That was a mistake.
After hearing the sound of my guns striking balsa for the first time, Chris turned the North Carolina (wow, do they turn!) and put several triple stern shots into my port side. As I chugged away, my swampy cruiser pump started to labor, shooting a stream 7 feet high as I began to settle. Chris smiled, and said “I’ll let you go”, as I settled deeper. I called my five, and made slow circles as the swampy pump kept me afloat. It was during this time that Invincible sank. Before the second sortie began, Invincible was out with too many holes to patch, and Houston had to patch the bow.
Even after patching what the haymaker had done, my cruiser looked in big trouble at the beginning of battle. Not wanting to surrender, with the pump streaming, I positioned my cruiser in the middle of my fleet and prepared my strategy (empty my guns fast and call five). Unfortunately, my first target of opportunity was Chris Pearce’s North Carolina. Most of my rounds missed, but with my guns empty, Chris pounded me with his triple stern guns and sidemounts with impunity. The Houston assumed a very pretty list to port, and two minutes into my five, slowly sank in shallow water after making a graceful turn to port up to shore. As I looked around, cameras flashed, and folks actually congratulated me on being baptised into this magnificient obsession.
While in the pits, I learned that I was not the only one to sink. Bob Eakin (Allied Admiral) and Robert Rucker both suffered propulsion woes and sank (spun prop and damaged gears). This added up to four sunken Allied ships, with the Axis escaping with relativelyfew holes to show for it.
Because of the one-sided nature of the first battle, it was decided to battle red-black. Here are the teams and scores for the second battle:
Chris Pearce – USS North Carolina 91a, 8o, 10b
Scott Bene – SMS Von der Tann 39a, 4o, 4b, sink
Ted Brogden – HMS Invincible 47a, 7o, 13b
Steve Reichenbach – USS Houston 7a, 0o, 2b
Kevin Bray – DKM Lutzow 9a, 1o, 0b
Bob Eakin – USS Washington 20a, 4o, 14b
Robert Rucker – USS North Carolina 68a, 8o, 24b
Fluegel – SMS Baden 23a, 4o, 6b
Jim Ewers – HMS Exeter 8a, o0, 0b (and an uglybow!)
As I prepared for battle, I knew that my recently sunk cruiser was in trouble. The not-yet-water-proofed rudder servo was chattering badly.
As soon as the CD called battle, the cruisers took off in high speed towards deep waters, with the battleships behind in the shallows. I went into a hard turn to port, which I was unable to change. My rudder was frozen hard to port. I sullenly called my five, deciding to bring in my ship and dry it out. Meanwhile, Kevin did a wonderful job of staying ahead of Jim’s maneuverable Exeter. As my five ran out, Fluegel came across my cruiser up against shore. I smiled as my stopwatch beeped and I lifted my cruiser out of the Baden-infested waters.
After drying out the rudder servo, the Houston was better prepared for the second sortie. Kevin and I played a fun game of tag with the Exeter. As Jim had learned to ignore my rookie ship and bad aim, Kevin led him into my stern guns, and I popped shots into the Exeter bow, tearing up those two inches of hard area on the port side. Later, I was able to lead the Exeter into range of Kevin’s dual stern guns, which punished the starport bow. Kevin and I were elated later that day when someone asked Jim if a triple stern had done that damage!
While we brought our ships onto five, we noticed that Kevin’s friend (a Navy SEAL) was suiting up. Scott’s Von der Tann had gone down in four feet of water, which was a good enough reason for a dive. Afterwards, it was discovered that Red fleet had won the contest “by a Von der Tann”.
After the battles, the group went to dinner, and exchanged memories of the battle. Fluegel got everyone at the table to tell their best five seconds of battle, and their worst five seconds. Sure enough, Fluegel’s favorite 5 seconds with his Baden was the same as Ted Brogden’s worst 5 seconds with the Invincible. My favorite was hearing my shots enter the bow of Chris Pearce’s North Carolina, and hearing Steve Milholland yelling “there you go, Steve!”
I am very grateful to everybody for their great advice, and for friendships that will last a very long time. Foremost, I must thank Kevin Bray for hosting a great event. It would be wonderful if every event was located a few feet away from a well-equipped garage, a shower, a kitchen, and sleeping quarters! I would also like to recognize those who travelled to the event, making it very special for me. Especially Chris Pearce who practically sank me in his sleep, and Troy Cormier who drove up from Louisianna to video tape the battles. I’d also like to recognize Steve Milholland for doing a great job as CD, reminding everyone to follow the safety rules, and keeping us on track, and for opening up the Swampworks store later that day (I personally recommend the Swampworks pump).
Steve also added humor to the event, as dusk found Kevin and I going one-on-one with our cruisers, and Steve offered to “take the controls” while I cleaned my glasses for at least 2 minutes. Kevin was a good sport, as he glanced back and realized that he had been battling Swampy! Still, the Lutzow is an excellent ship, and performed very well, giving moredamage than it received.
As I drove home from Tulsa to Houston I realized that I had lived one of the best experiences of my life. I built my first radio-controlled ship, battled, learned volumes about how to make it more effective, and formed new friendships that may last a lifetime.
click here to return to the battle reports page.
click here to return to my home page.