Drones

What It’s Like to Be a Race Director, an Interview With Nelson Aquino

Livestream view of MultiGP Florida Championship

Last weekend Nelson Aquino was one of the race directors for the MultiGP Florida State Championship. He shared his experience with TLS about what it’s like to organize a racing event of that size

On July 10th, 30 pilots in competed Florida to win a spot at the MultiGP National Championship, and to win the title of best pilot in Florida. Navihawk (Abel Almageur) took that title with 33 total points.

We spoke with KruelFPV (Nelson Aquino), who’s also the spokesman for Team Gravity Goons, about what it’s like to be (one of) the race directors for the event.

Third Law Sports: Last weekend you were the race director for the MultiGP Florida State Championship. Were you happy with how it turned out?

Nelson: Absolutely! I wouldn’t say I was the race director, it was a joint effort for sure. There were three official Race Directors in the chain of command, plus we had four Flight Line Directors on site, and everybody rotated and made it happen.

I did request from MultiGP that my chapter host the Championships and I had a vision of what it was supposed to look like. I think we definitely exceeded that. We had an amazing team of about 20 volunteers, even the racers themselves helped out! We actually had to move the track between locations on Saturday and Sunday, which would have taken a lot longer if we all had not come together to make it happen.

My only regret was that we didn’t have the budget or star power to promote the livestream. I wanted to be able to present something that was watchable and I think we did that, but we haven’t had the viewership we hoped for. I hope that you guys can help us change that, it is so important that we show sponsors that live events are able to be done correctly and on time! I hope that people who rewatch the stream can see that.

Third Law Sports: Where can people see the livestream?

Nelson: Please watch the livestream! If you are looking to host an event and want to have the FPV Dream Team come to your town you’ll need money. You get what you pay for and having the very best isn’t cheap, but oh so worth it!

The more people that watch this stream and other streams the more sponsors will see value in putting their marketing dollars into it. Live events can be done and can be done right! To me, its not a sport without it. I only wish I had the star power or bigger budget to promote the stream for months ahead of time.

You catch the stream on YouTube:

Or on Twitch at Twitch.tv/fpvlive:

Full Livestream Part 1

Full Livestream Part 2

All in all, it was about 5 hours of total streaming. Here are the racing stats:

  • 30 Competition Races
  • 1 Re-Race
  • 3 TieBreakers
  • 34 Races in 4 hours and 20 minutes
  • Average of 4 Minutes and 25 seconds from green flag to green flag, 7 minute and 21 second cycles(or total time for each race)

We also figured while we had this Dream Team together, why not smash some records? So we decided to see how fast we can turn around a race and we did that in 1 minute and 34 seconds from green flag to green flag. That includes recovering the quads, checking the new ones into the timing system, setting them down on the pad, slating them with a Round Card girl and launching them.

My goal was to make this the most watchable live stream to date, and I think we succeeded.

Third Law Sports: How far in advance were you preparing for the event? How much time overall do you think you spent on preparing for it?

Nelson: We started working on it for about three months. We had a few practice events to get some of the volunteers up to speed and give them an idea of what to expect. Things really didn’t kick into high gear until about a month ago though, once we started securing sponsorship for the race.

I probably spent about 80-100 hours preparing for it, coordinating the teams, writing the script/schedule for the show, getting the banners printed.

Our team (Gravity Goons) also did a lot, including promoting the race on social media. In order to secure sponsorship we also had to run another race a few weeks prior to this one. So yeah, a lot of time spent preparing for it.

Third Law Sports: What’s something most people probably aren’t aware of that goes into setting up an event?

Nelson: A lot of planning is required. A really, really good team of people each of whom knows what they are doing is required. And as the person in charge of bringing it all together you have to be able to listen and make concessions when needed, and know when to stand your ground as well.

Having a team of really knowledgeable people really helps though. They will bring things to your attention that you might have missed. And they’ll be there when something always goes wrong at the most unexpected of times. But instead of complaining about it, just fix it in whatever way you can and move on. If you put the racers first, everything else will fall into place. As long as people are flying and racing, the event will be good for the pilots.

Third Law Sports: Joe Scully with FPV Racing Events and Todd Wahl with Drone Racing Club were your race hosts. How important to you was it to have them helping with the Florida State Championship?

Nelson: It was paramount to have them at this event. Part of the vision I mentioned was to have a real watchable live stream. Those guys are the very best at what they do and I would accept no less. I spoke to them about it months ago. Scully and I met on reddit and got into an argument about racing and transition times, which kind of turned into troll war. In the end we wound up meeting in person at Central Florida Drones and definitely had that discussion, where I conceded certain points and he conceded certain points.

But right there and then I knew he was the voice of FPV. He knew the racers and knew how to get the crowd involved. Todd Wahl and Chris Toombs from FPVLive.tv were also a must, they are the very best at streaming and it was a no brainer for me. If I want my event streamed, they are the guys to do it. They are part of the Dream Team.

Third Law Sports: Whose job was it to set up the interviews and commercial breaks between races?

Nelson: We scripted in times for when racers were supposed to be interviewed or for when commercials were supposed to play. I set up the first few, and the team agreed to be flexible in case we needed to skip some or adjust interviews based on how the flow of the day felt. Lumenier, our title sponsor, provided us with a commercial to play for them, which Chris Toombs set up. Between Todd, Chris Toombs, his brother and myself we queued up the interviews and commercials.

But we actually created a minute by minute schedule for the entire event, and we pretty much nailed it. We started on time and ended on time.

Third Law Sports: Chris Toombs and the FPVLive.tv crew were running the livestream. Were you involved in directing the livestream too, or was that all them?

Nelson: Like I mentioned, I set up the initial script of how I wanted the “show” to flow. We had one meeting about it and made smaller adjustments to the timeline and they hit the ground running. I rarely needed to step in to say lets skip something or move something here.

We wound up taking a “break” for 9 minutes while the races were still going on and streaming. Todd Wahl is also part of the FPVLive.tv team and they had worked with Scully and MultiGP before, so it was like coaching the Dream Team, not much to be done except to give them an expectation of what I wanted and they nailed it.

Third Law Sports: Did Chris Thomas, founder of MultiGP, help you with the Championship?

Nelson: Of course! We worked together on getting the sponsors and he brought down a truckload of materials. Jefte Puente did an amazing job with our graphics and scoring.

If it wasn’t for Chris I would have never started organizing, he is out here putting in work in the trenches, more so than anyone else I know. I haven’t met anyone more passionate about drone racing becoming a mainstream sport than Chris Thomas. Last we spoke he mentioned MutliGP had ran over 3,000 races and we would start focusing on running bigger events. So DR1 and this race are but a taste of whats coming down the pipeline.

Third Law Sports: And which pilots are headed to the MultiGP 2016 Championship this September?

Nelson: I almost don’t want to say it because I want you guys to watch the LiveStream and find out! There were actually two Regional Finals going on at the same time. In Florida, Abel “Navihawk” Almaguer won Florida, and Brian “BrainDrain” Morris won in Texas.

As Third Law Sports posted earlier there are different ways to get into the MultiGP Championship, so now that 2 Regional Finals have been completed the “Super 16” List will be out soon.

Third Law Sports: And you also raced! Were you satisfied with your performance?

Nelson: You call that racing!? I sucked, I think I only had like one good heat. My personal best lap was 24 seconds (overall best lap was 20 seconds). I was more focused on making sure the event ran smoothly and it’s very difficult to do both race and organize at the same time. I had just built my quads and tuned them two nights before the race. Needless to say that is never a good idea, haha. I am going to take a day to practice for my next race.

Third Law Sports: Will you be the race director next year, or do you just want focus on your flying?

Nelson: I am actually torn on this. I became a Race Director because I wanted to create a competitive environment I could race in. I love bringing people together and accomplishing a goal. before running this event I was ready to give up on organizing.

But watching this come together so nicely, I think I would want to try doing bigger events once or twice a year and racing the rest of the year. Now that we have more volunteers coming online in my area I can step back and let them grow as organizers and mentor them. Then we can all get together and throw big events!

Third Law Sports: What’s next for Gravity Goons this year?

Nelson: We are getting ready to head out to Virginia for our Team Race and try to get into the team races in NYC, and also get more of individual qualifiers. We also have some other projects going that we have to keep under wraps….for now >=)

Third Law Sports: Any final thoughts?

Nelson: I just wanted to say Thanks to TLS for leading the way in reporting on our sport! I wanted to thank all of our sponsors. Our Title Sponsor, Lumenier, without you we would have never been able to pull this off. Our Platinum Sponsors: Atmospheric Adventures (DrC and Alan are the best! Atmo has been a strong supporter of our hobby from the get go!) and The United States Air Force, ( which is technically the biggest sponsor of a drone race and a first! The US Government has officially sponsored a drone race). Our Gold Sponsors: Horizon Hobby, Black Diamond Funding, Vista View RC and our Silver Sponsor and LHS: Maniacs Hobby!

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