Wednesday, December 26, 2007

More on the Avax XC2

I guess you can say I'm getting excited about my new Avax XC2 which is scheduled for delivery in February.

I found some info on it's handling and specs and thought I'd share a bit:

Go to for the complete write-up, photos & specs.

The long awaited performance glider AVAX XC 2 is here. AVAX XC 2 has been tested extensively over a long period of time and by a variety of pilots before being presented to the jury. All Sizes 2passed EN (European Norm) as C rated gliders what is rating roughly corresponding to DHV 2. Gradient, however, suggests this glider should be treated more like DHV 2-3. AVAX XC 2 is a typical representative of the latest performance gliders with parameters close to comp machines. It has a formidable aspect ratio 6.38 and a high number of cells (73) to assure a clean shape of the airfoil. Its weight has been kept very low: size 28 weights only 5.8 kg. As usual, Gradient is not trying to dazzle the market by amazing performance data, but anybody experienced with Gradient gliders knows what to expect. Just making sure there is no misunderstanding: The AVAX part of the name is no indication this glider is a down-tuned comp machine. AVAX XC 2 has been developed independently from the scratch as a performance glider and there are no compromises. This should be glider for demanding recreational XC pilots and aspiring comp enthusiasts.

I also came across a video of 4 Avax XC2s flying at a great Czech site. . .My wing is either going to be the Grey/Red combo or the "Sangria" combo Red with Black leading edge.

I promise this is the last bit of excited gushing I'll do until I fly it - unless I get more info . . .


Sunday, December 23, 2007

My Birthday Present

Well, I made the jump. I've gone out on a limb a bit & I'm sure I'll have some stories to tell about my experiences. . .

Thanks to my wife, Mary, giving me the green-light, today I ordered a NEW wing - not only new to me, not only new - as in NOT USED. But I ordered a NEW wing - as in nobody has one in the US yet.

I've moved from my Aspen2 to the new (have I mentioned it's new ;-) Avax XC2. This is Gradient's highest performance certified glider. I will have one of the first wings to be flown in the US & hope to do it proud when it arrives in February.

I'm pushing my personal envelope a bit & will be cautious, but all the early flight reports indicate that the Avax XC2 flies very much like my Aspen 2 and has the light handling characteristics that Gradient wings display. It has been certified under the new CEN criteria as a CEN 'C' glider. This certification is quite impressive, as it indicates that the handling of the XC2 should be comperable, in skill required, as my Aspen 2.

The forecast performance will increase my glide ratio by 10% and speed by over 10%, so it should make it more possible for me to keep contact with the leading gaggles during competitions. This wing will, in no uncertain terms, allow me to evaluate MY performance during a competition without having to factor in a 'penalty' for the wing's deficiency in performance - No excuses. . .

I've put off moving to a wing of this performance for a while because the higher the performance class & speed, the higher the skill necessary to keep the wing in shape & over my head. I will conservatively fly this wing in the upcoming season & feel my skills will keep me out of trouble.

Happy Holidays!


Monday, December 10, 2007

New Toy -

One of our local instructors, Tom M. has taken delivery of a used winch. He has plans to install it in his ski boat so we can fly at Lake San Antonio. I love the idea (since I got a taste of some real acro at my SIV course in Oct.) I went to his house, last weekend, & helped him modify & weld the unit so that it would fit into the boat.

When finished with the mods, I mentioned that it might make sense to try the winch out in my truck to eliminate the natural "fiasco factor" that is added anytime you involve a boat in an endeavor. Tom responded enthusiastically, so we drilled holes in my Tundra & mounted the unit. I chopped the legs off a lawn chair to use as a control operator's station, which worked surprisingly well.

Sunday afternoon we scouted for the perfect site to test the rig. We didn't find that site, but settled for a dirt road out in East Nipomo. Tom laid out his wing & Peter drove while I manned a hydraulic valve that I was completely unfamiliar with.

We managed a safe launch & climb to around 150-200' before a splice in the used line let go. Tom made a safe landing with his share of the line. We proved the concept & are comfortable with the winch's design & function. The sun was setting so we packed up -

Now we need to get comfortable with its use & finish the installation in the boat. We also need to find excellent spots to tow on land.

Fly safe,

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fun Flying

Today was only my second flight since I flew at the SIV clinic in mid October. A couple of weeks ago I had a magical flight at Shell Beach, a beautiful sea-side flying spot that generally depends on on-shore breezes to provide a thin band of lift parallel to the bluffs above the beach. Tom M. launched early in spite of the general negative prognostications of the local experts and was able to stay up so I suited up. I was very lucky & had perfect timing since the wind was freshly blowing on-shore as I launched. Five minutes later it would have been impossible to launch due to the wind switching to a calm or offshore breeze.

What had happened was that a strong convergence line had formed between the on-shore and Santa Ana-like breeze that we experienced inland. As it moved across launch, I was able to just fly the convergence and Tom & I were treated to a beautiful flight that took us to heights unusual for this site. I carried no altimeter, but guess that I hit 1500 to 2000' above the sea. The view was great & a great first flight at the site.

Today we headed up to Cuesta - I had high hopes since my forecast indicated very light winds. Patrick, Eric, Jack, Dave & I all arrived at launch around noon. Eric & Pat launched first & didn't get high, but flew around launch altitude for 15 minutes. They were both able to top-land & wait for things to improve. I was ready to fly & decided it looked soarable, so I launched into a nice gentle cycle. A nice thermal was right off the launch & I went up about 50' right away.

Soon I was touring the ridge looking for any shard of lift I could work. Within 12 minutes I was down to 1200' MSL (about 200' above the pasture) & planning where I would land to minimize the hike-up the hill to launch. The I felt a great bubble of lift & it filled my wing from right to left. As I rolled into my turn, it filled out the whole wing & I climbed back up to launch - much more quickly and easily than if I were to have landed & hiked up. From then on, the day was ON. Lift was everywhere & generally, the down cycles were few & of short duration.

It's not uncommon to fly over the ridge & observe other sportsmen and yahoos in various activities. Today our entertainment was a truckload of mullets, beer, & shotguns, who parked up ridge& proceeded to make clay pigeons into dust. That wasn't the fun part - The fun began when the CHP arrived on scene & showed the proper protocol for approaching multiple guys who have guns. . . all the while I (and others) were lurking quietly above, watching the show ;-)

Anyway, it was a fun day with all of us having good flights. I flew for 2 hours & landed just because everyone else had. The top landing took a couple tries since there was a bullet of a thermal right in front of the spot - but it worked out fine.

Fly Safe.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Now THIS is cool!

Give it time to load - It's worth it.
This is definitely on my "Before I Die" list.
It's Aiguille du Midi - on Mont Blanc.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Competition Flying to Win? OR To Fly?

Recently, on a forum I frequent, I managed to derail a discussion about the relative safety of competition wings to the lesser performance - but safer - wings that us mere mortals fly. The certified, and therefor tested wings are rated from DHV 1 (beginner wings) to DHV 3 with performance increasing as the # increases. I competed on my Sport 2 (DHV 1/2) for a year and a half and now am flying my Aspen 2 (DHV 2).

If I ruled the world, we would have competitions that emphasized 'class' racing so there would be winners in each class. This would allow less experienced pilots to earn their 'chops' while competing against others in their class. I found that my response pretty well encapsulated why I enjoy flying XC and XC competitions so much. Here it is:

MadS. wrote:
As for registering for competitions year after year just to pimp and learn, well it sure isn't a game for me - I strongly feel that if you're doing comps then you must want to win - and in most cases you won't be winning on a DHV 2 wing, so it follows that you won't be having fun on said wing.

My Response:

I know many people who 'race' knowing they won't win. They race for racing's sake; for the experience and comraderie. They are happy as long as they see improvement. I think my experiences echo many.

I strive to win tasks & have worked hard to improve my skills and equipment so my ranking is higher year over year. I've only flown PG for 4 years & comps for two, so I'm in the position where my goals to fly competitively are bumping up against the limits of my experience. I've many thousands of hours in other types of flying machines, so I acknowledge my limits and try to push them without hurting myself (usually). I've had intermediate syndrome in sailplanes, powered A/C, and jets, so I know myself pretty well by now. I want to win & I know I won't on my Aspen 2 without a fluke.

BUT, I AM having fun. I'd hazard to say that I'm having more fun than some of my friends who have flown competitively for many years without breaking through their frustrating 'plateau' and find themselves shaken & spent, while flying their 2/3 in rowdy conditions. I'm 52 & I have over 25,000 hours & I'm bored in the cockpit. But put me on the hill, with 100 other PG pilots and the electricity is palpable. The singular focus of my mind while flying an XC task and the amazing insights I've come away with, make flying comps one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. Learning is fun. Even when I place 27th in a national comp, I am proud. Next year I hope to place 26th!

I will, eventually progress to a 2/3, maybe next year - but I'll know when - I won't query the forum. Wink

Tailwinds, and thanks for your contribution to this thread. What do you think about class racing Mads? Pilot vs. pilot - no bells & whistles. True competition. The 2/3 market is well represented by UP, could they use more Trango sales?


Friday, November 9, 2007

Upcoming Competitions

Dave S. and I are heading South to OZ in Jan. '08 to fly the Killarney Classic and then travel around looking for good XC for a week. The 2008 US schedule has been determined:

West Coast PG Championships June 6-14 (Ruch, Oregon)
Rat Race July 6-12 (Ruch, Oregon)
Chelan XC Open July 27-Aug 1 (Chelan, WA)
2008 US Paragliding Nationals Sept 14-20 (Owens Valley)

“Hang-On” HG Nationals Aug 17-23 (Lakeview Oregon)

Chelan Classic (HG & PG) June 29 to July 4 (Chelan, WA) Practice days the 27th and 28th

I hope to fly the West Coast Championships in June & the US Nats in Sept.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Simulation d'Incident en Vol - SIV

I was able to attend an SIV course at Lake San Antonio this weekend. The 3-day class was run by Eagle Paragliding (Rob Sporrer) and featured Brad Gunnicio on the microphone.

Friday started well & 9 students and a crew of 4 headed over to the SE shore of the lake at around 8 AM. We setup a day-camp & got organized. We each introduced ourselves & listed our goals for the weekend. Mine were:

1. Go through the collapse series on the Aspen2, emphasis on accelerated collapses.

2. Perform well developed & timed spirals & asymmetric spirals.

3. Learn the entry & recovery of full stalls.

4. Enter & recover from incipient & fully developed spins.

5. SAT

I was first in the line-up. Although cloudy, the rain looked like it might stay South of us. Cloudbase looked high enough to get some basic maneuvers in. I suited up in cold wx gear & made ready for the tow. Due to a South wind, we were launching on a tangent to the shore so my time over the beach was longer than the standard pattern (fortunately). Launch went well & soon I was at 100’, just about to cross the beach & fly over the water when Rob came on the mike, “Pin off ! Pin-off! ” I released & turned crosswind to land near our camp. Apparently, one of the drive belts to the hydraulics had slipped & filled the boat with smoke. I’m glad I stayed dry, ‘cause it was maybe 40F. outside. The rain moved in shortly thereafter so we piled into the boat & went to a cabin for lunch & a brief by Brad. The day was over & I had the highest tow of the day ;-) Jim Wells from SLOSA was also at the course.

Saturday I was first up again & we towed as high as the cloud overcast would allow. I did the collapses & basic maneuvers (B-line stalls, horseshoe etc.) that Brad asked for. The first tow or two Brad is building trust – I listened & carefully did what Brad said to do WHEN he said to do it. This way he knew that if I did more advanced maneuvers & got balled up, I would still comply with his instructions. We all got to do the basics & 90 minutes later it was my turn again. Launch went well & I was soon 2000’ above the lake & upwind of the camp a mile or so. Suddenly the tension on the line went away & I realized that I was not attached to the boat any more. First order of business, steer the jet. I headed towards the camp & glide looked good. Next, I pulled in the line until the drogue chute was in my lap & pinned it under my leg. I could now see the line all the way to the water & realized that the lower I got, the more drag the line would have. I was just digesting this info when Brad said to do what I was working towards, “Disconnect the tow hitch in case the line snags on anything.” Good call, Brad. Then I planned my flight path so I didn’t overfly any trees or boats & flew downwind of the camp, dumped the drogue from about 150’ above the beach & landed back in front of the launch. Kind of a fun exercise!

A splice had let loose & soon the boys had it repaired & we were back in business. I got the next tow (since I hadn’t done any maneuvers) and was soon spiraling and collapsing again. It was great to be able to screw the wing up & get it back into shape without any concern of impact with the ground. Brad was great at encouraging & coaching. He kept it up all day long without losing his sense of humor or attention.

I drove home Sat. night with a sense of excitement – Tomorrow I get to do full stalls & SATs.

Sunday the weather at the lake was a thin layer of fog. It started to break up, so Brad went up for a couple quick tows & did an airshow for us. I caught one of his landings –

At this point we had a couple of mechanical issues that really slowed the day down. Rob & the crew did their best to get things going again. After 90 minutes we resumed towing. My first tow was very high & allowed me to do 5 full stalls. I was anticipating a much more dynamic reaction from the wing. The entry & recovery were both benign compared to my expectations.

On my last flight we were able to do 4 SAT entries & a few spirals. The SAT entry was not very hard technically, but was harder to do physically than I expected. The pull to initiate the maneuver required a wrap and I found the pull on the brake line to be more tension around my hand than I liked – in fact, I still have a numb pinky. The successive SATs really scrambled my brains. After rolling out of the last SAT, Brad wanted me to enter a spiral. I was so dizzy that I just ignored him for a few seconds to get my bearings & breath back. When he says on the video, "you're probably dizzy as hell. . ." he was so right. Then I entered some of my best & most dynamic asymmetric spirals. I was able to get way over the wing & felt the timing when it was working. The Aspen 2 really has a lot of energy & SATs very well too.

Here's a video of my last flight taken by Mike W. with a good video camera, followed by a (not very good) video of the last flight taken with my little point & shoot -

Brad’s debriefs were very helpful & I’m sure that as I rerun the maneuvers in my head, I’ll learn much more. I’m looking forward to working with Rob Sporrer & Brad again.

My wife Mary also had an ‘active’ weekend while I was at the lake. She ran the City to the Sea Half Marathon & set a personal best of 1:55. She placed 6th in her age bracket!

A great weekend.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Owens Valley weekend

My Sun. Flight is HERE
My Mon. Flight isHERE

Jack G., Dave S. & I headed to Bishop to fly in the Owens Valley with the BAPA XC league. We had high hope for good weather & long flights. On the Friday eve drive North on 395 we saw the weather at left over the southern White Mountains (the East side of the Owens valley.) (click on pic) We saw some beautiful cloud build-ups & the Sierras were dusted that night with snow.

This proved to be the last of the weather though. Saturday dawned clear & beautiful. Unfortunately the winds were higher on Sat. than was prudent to fly, so we all had a recreational day in/around Bishop. Sat. night we all met at a pizza parlor to tell stories & celebrate Kari Castle's birthday.

Sunday looked good on paper, but had a very stable lapse rate, so lift was forcast to be weak & tops of lift - low. A task was called which ran us upvalley to Casbah & then South to Pupfish & across the valley to Keogh.

The leg North was straight-forward but lift petered out below 9000'. The field of 45 was littered all along the course. It was not a day to race - it was one of survival. I was able to hang with Jug & Rob S., thermaling towards Casbah. The guys decided to head out in the valley & tag the point & come back . I decided to hang back & work the last of the weak thermal. After gaining another 400' I too headed for Casbah. A mile from the turnpoint I found a great little core which bought me another 800'. I then tagged the turnpoint & returned to the foothills and entered the thermal the boys had found - this time I was on the top of the stack. This allowed me to work up high enough to make it down range & limp a mile of so farther than the field. Jug & maybe Josh C. were the only guys who made it further South than I. I put down in scrub near Susan who was headed to the waypoint. The scrub consisted of what seemed like barbed-wire tumbleweeds & it took 15 minutes to clear & fold the wing and another 50 minutes to cover the three mile hike to Hwy 6.
Miles covered: 15
Flight time: 1:40

Monday the forecast was for SE winds in the valley, & light winds aloft. Jug knew everyone was heading out on long drives at the end of the day, so a 25 mile task was called - Just a downwind dash N. to Benton (about 5 miles from the CA-NV border.)

A few pilots launched 30 minutes before the start & flushed to the LZ in spite of some gallant struggles. A couple of good pilots hung in there & eventually I launched about 5 minutes after the Start Cylinder opened. There was speculation on the hill, earlier, that it may be the kind of day where you may be lucky to exceed minimum distance (5 miles) but after launch I climbed well to 8300' & Dave was ahead of me with good altitude. It looked like the day was improving.
Since climbs were low, I headed out lower than I wanted to. 15 minutes later I was only 600' off the deck & looking at another long hike to the road. . . I needed some lift NOW. With only 4 minutes to landing left, I felt a burble that foretold a core nearby. Soon I was happily climbing back into the game. I hate getting low when competing - it just slows you down drastically - but a save from low altitude is quite rewarding & set the tone for the next 18 miles.

I soon found myself flying with Bill Belcourt & Montana (both of whom made goal, dangit). We climbed in a couple of serpentine thermals to around 8000' but they wanted to push deep into the high ground. I knew the potential for high climbs was greater over the high ground, but I was sporting a serious blister from yesterday & didn't want to hike more than a couple of miles. They were also on higher performance wings, so I played it safe & stayed over the fingers.

This worked for awhile, but eventually I needed to point at the goal, use the tailwind, & head into the flats. I was able to find a couple of small thermals in the valley but not enough to make goal. I eventually landed 3/4 of a mile from Hwy 6 and 6 miles short of goal. This time I found a nice spot with an intersection of two dirt roads that allowed me to land and lay the wing down, clear of any scrub. The landing went just as planned & the wing came down with nary a snag. Meanwhile Dave had his best day & landed a mere 1/4 mile from goal.

Miles covered: 20
Flight time: 1:42

Altogether Dave & I drove 12 hours & each flew about 3.5 hours. . . This is within my personal 4:1 acceptable ratio of drive/fly. To be able to fly 2 out of 3 days in the Owens is great. Jack was very generous to offer us the use of his Tahoe to shuttle pilots up the hill. Dave was a great flying partner - able to candidly debrief with meaningful insights. The breadth of experience in this weekend's competitor list was unprecedented in BAPA comps. We had 5 US National Champs (including 3 of this year's US World's Team members) & many more top 20 pilots competing. What a great learning experience. Jug has done a great job of building this league to a regional status. His attention to detail & professionalism has made us all better pilots.

A great weekend.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Cuesta with Dave, Patrick, and Mike

Today was a great day at Cuesta. I rode up with Mike & Dave. Patrick was already in the air when we got there. Mike went first & had a nice 30 min. flight to the LZ. Dave launched next & soon joined Patrick. I wasn't far behind & soon we were bouncing around at 1000' over launch. Lift was abundant but very rough on the edges.

We were able to move around today to areas that have been untraveled by me before. I found myself directly over the TV towers at 3300' (1200' over launch). An area of convergence lay right along the Cuesta Ridge & some of the thermals bumping through this area were very strong & sharp edged. The winds above 3000' were from the North and the winds below were from the SW. Patrick headed North but found this headwind to be a problem & landed at Cal Poly. He gets the prize for most adventurous for the day. Dave, on the other hand, gets a prize for most optimistic. Ask him ;-)

I flew for about 2 hours & finally landed due to bladder issues - I'm sure that it was working until after 5pm today.

My gear worked well, I had many chances to practice with my new speed-bar & my blue-tooth phone dongle worked while I was flying. Next weekend we are headed for the Owens Valley so I want everything in order. Last year I flew 115 miles in two flights - I can only hope for conditions like that this year.

A good day -


Friday, September 7, 2007

Why I fly

Today I headed to Cuesta & met Eric & Patrick at the top. Winds at launch were brisk but not too high between cycles. Patrick launched first & wasn't having much luck getting above launch for a while so I decided to work on some tweaks to my stirrup & new 3-step speed-bar. Eric launched after a while & the two guys were able to get up & move around the area.

I got into the air & found the air to be quite buoyant. Within 6 minutes I was bouncing around at the inversion at 2600' (500' over) I had fun exploring the area & noticed that today there were a lot of birds of prey & vultures soaring today. I was struck that many of the birds were just out enjoying themselves - flying for the same reason I was. One medium sized raptor was flying along just upwind of me as I flew a lift band - as he went by, he folded his wings & dove 100' only to 'zoomie' back up to my altitude and bank over the top of me. He looked at me with a "Try that" look.

I headed up towards the towers & got closer than previously. I didn't like the way the air felt up there so I came out front to avoid getting caught back on the shallow slope of the ridge.

The RamRace harness I'm flying is completely different than my last - it is a much more supine design and utilizes a stirrup. I have been getting some quite twitchy rides on it. I've been feeling like the signal to noise ratio was a bit low until today. Today I played with the chest strap quite a bit & got it dialed in. I was able to feel the core of the thermals as my wing cut into them - it felt, at times, like a strong bubble was moving laterally along the span of the wing. As I learn to interpret this information, my flying will improve & become more intuitive.

After an hour and a half of fun, I landed at the base of the ridge in some very active air. I packed up & hiked the hill to get back to my truck. On the 900' hike up the hill I stopped to rest a bit & was treated to a pair of adolescent vultures playing follow-me along the ridge. They explored lee-side & rotor areas in a kind of chicken game that I hadn't observed before today.

It was a good day.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Better a low save than no save -

Today Patrick had a bunch of us SLOSA guys meet him at Cuesta for a site clinic. Although I've many flights at the site, I knew that Pat's extensive palette of strategies exceeded mine & I would leave with some info that would be valuable. There were 10 of us at launch at 10:30 am. The wind was clocked at 12-18 mph so we did a walkabout to view the various launch options & top-landing spots. Patrick did a great job of talking about the site in a way that the newbies could use, while including info that more experienced pilots could use.

The wind was less stiff at the lower launch so Dave S. launched there. I walked back to the top launch & it felt like the wind was lulling enough to allow a launch there. I set up while Dave flew the ridge. Try #1 (which usually is sufficient) was just ugly - the wing came up & I didn't control it properly. It overshot while I turned & frontalled - flailing behind me. I gathered it up & reset only to bring the wing up with a healthy stick in the right side lines. I pulled the "C's" but lost one of them so only one side of the wing was killed. The flying side took me for a ride into the scrub to the left of the launch chute, landing me ingloriously on my ass. Keith assisted my reset & finally, after 20 minutes of ineptitude, I slipped the surly bounds.

Once in the air I was having fun. The air was a bit choppy and the wind on the ridge was 8-10mph, but lift was abundant to the inversion at 2600'. I worked the full extent of the ridge and then was able to repeatedly press out front & then climb in thermals drifting back to ridge.
Eventually I headed out to the LZ only to blunder across a nice weak thermal at about 400' over the bluffs near the LZ. I playfully worked the lift until I found a core & then climbed to around 2000' before exploring a bit farther West. Eventually I found the LZ & landed.

A rocky start but an hour of fun flying.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Makin' Circles

Usually, when a "WUFFO" approaches me in the LZ, one of the questions comes out something like,"So, waddayado, keep circling until you go up?"

Today, was that kind of day. When Dave & Pat & I got to launch at Cuesta the wind seemed a bit fresh for a PG flight. Patric was game though & it wasn't gusty so he hucked off & flew at launch alt. +/- 100' for 15 minutes. I decided I was in & got plucked right off launch & found some good lift to Launch + 300'. We toured the area & found that there was an area of lift that must have been a convergence line. We were able to climb to 2600' (400 over) while flying straight. I was able to get to 2800' later in a rogue thermal that had been able to bust through the inversion. Dave was last to try a launch & had no assistance on the hill. He worked it for a good 25 min. until deciding it was too windy for him that day. Patrick top-landed on a finger & I flew out to the LZ to get Dave's car. Flight time: 1:15 with lotsa fun.

Later Patrick & I hiked Cayucos & had short flights in weak choppy lift. A good day.

Thanks to Tom W. for the photo of Dave & me above.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

BAPA comp at Tollhouse

This weekend I headed to Tollhouse with fellow SLOSA members Dave S. & Jack G. We all were looking forward to a good weekend of XC because the local conditions have been weak. Dave is flying a new Boom Sport & this weekend will be the first real test. It's also my first high flight with my new Ram-Race harness.

Saturday looked good with light S-SW winds forecast. The inversion looked like it would be weakened by 1PM. The task was a leg to the NW to 4-lane-turn at the NW end of Sandy Ridge, then to KNOB (in front of launch), then past Black Mtn. to Humphry's Station, then to Piedra - down by Pine Flat Reservoir. The task total distance is 26 miles.

I started off strong with a quick start & made it over to Squaw's Tit with moderate altitude. Alex & I climbed a bit to the inversion (at about 4500') & decided to head out ahead of the normal lead gaggle, which had found a bit of a hole. . . we made it to the first TP at 4-lane-turn. At this point, we were joined by Josh & Eric R. I found myself climbing alone in my thermal while watching Alec & Josh & Eric climb in a thermal slightly upwind. Their climb put them about 1/2 a climb ahead of me & I was comfortable watching from about 1/4 mile behind.

After hitting the next turnpoint I watched as A, J, & E headed due West over the back of Black. This course was upwind of the courseline by 30 degrees. I watched them as I topped out my climb. They really weren't doing that well so I headed directly towards Humphry's. By cutting the corner I saved some time & distance, but now I was flying over low terrain & risking my longevity on a flat-land thermal. I found some weak lift & was able to bubble-surf along towards the TP at an uncomfortable but adequate altitude. As I hit Humphry's, I saw Alex come in under me & we moved south to the low-lying hills on the south side of the valley. I was maybe 900' over the field & just loitered in bubbles until I got hold of a thermal that allowed a climb along the terrain. Alex tried to hang, but eventually landed below. It seemed forever until I was able to make a 360, but once I did the core carried me up to contact Josh & Eric who had gotten skunked farther South. The three of us carried on for the next 15 miles together. I wasn't able to use my speed bar (due to some new harness set-up issues) but I still stayed with the guys & was able to watch & learn from the best. I also did a pretty good job of pimping ;-)

About 5miles from goal Josh & Eric went into race mode & I was content to just make goal. Eric finished ahead of Josh by 15 seconds and they beat me by 7 minutes. I was so thrilled to be in goal with that kind of talent that I was happy to buy the beer.

Results: Flt time - 3:12 Distance flown - 26.2 miles 3rd to Goal behind Eric & Josh.

Dave & Jack had good flights also. Thanks to them for making the long drive to goal for the retrieve.

My SAT flight is HERE
Results will be HERE soon.


Sunday's flight was flown in challenging conditions. Lots of sink & lots of violent area of thrash. I can't say I was having fun, but I was enjoying the challenge. I made a slow, laborious trek down to 4 lane turn again & had the lead gaggle (which included Dave) in sight, but things weren't 'clicking'.

I found myself flying alone & got a bit more aggressive than I should've. I made a glide for the turn-point at the high school & tagged it low. I was depending on a suspicion, backed by some success of those ahead of me, that I would snag some lift. None developed & I put in to a small field with a nice big oak tree to fold up under. As I stashed my gear I watched, the more patient Dave, fly over head & proceed on course. Dave made it over Black Mtn to Nichols. His accomplishment doesn't go without notice on me - today was a hard day. He placed 3rd or 4th for the day. Not bad for a second XC on his new Boom. Jack made it to the LZ & was a big help in the retrieve again.

Results: Flt. time - 1:12 Distance - 10.1 miles - About 10 miles short of Goal,

My Sunday flight is HERE

Monday, August 6, 2007

Cayucos today

I've flown two 6-day trips to Frankfurt in the last 15 days (at my job in the 747) but have only flown one, short sledder since returning from Lakeview. I was ready to fly.

Patrick called me at 11:30 and said Cayucos was ON. I was doing Coffee House business, so I told him I'd be there soon. I got to the bottom of the hill just before 1pm. By the time I'd hauled my butt to the top of the hill, it was almost 1:30pm but conditions were perfect. Jessie & Eric were at the top with Patrick & were taking a break. I set up &launched into nice smooth lift that took me 250' over launch.

Today wasn't the kind of day to get adventurous or go big - which suited me fine - I wasn't in the mood either. I was ready to boat around, looking at the glory of the coast. I saw the Rock with a different eye - I saw the beach & surf and marveled at its beauty. It was the kind of day I just hovered in 0 sink, parked deep in the brakes, enjoying the view & feeling like a hovering kildeer. I flew for 80 minutes until I got cold & made a nice landing on the beach.

I'm waiting for my new harness to arrive - I made the plunge & ordered an Airwave Ram Race harness. It should be here any day.

Fly safe,

Monday, July 2, 2007

Home, at last.


The awards Ceremony - (That's me at far right)

Dave & I got home this evening after a 10 hour drive. It's nice to be in my own bed.

The last two weeks were very rewarding. The Rat Race was a lot of fun with flying 8 days straight. The Nat's had too much wind, and the flying was very challenging. I had two days at the Nat's where I chose not to fly in the conditions at launch and was fortunate that both day's tasks were called off. I never put myself in a position I didn't want to be, no risky landings and no botched launches.

I learned a lot of lessons that I'm still digesting & pondering - In 14 days I flew 202 miles - Total flight time 24 hours. I made goal at the Rat Race 3 times in the comp & once to declared goal in practice. Landed out 5 times without incident. Relaunched '0' times. I ate 10 Power Bars, 5 Crunchy Energy Bars, and 30 pints of water on the hill. I only had to hike once - 2 miles. Won two trophies and scored 5 T-shirts. Met a LOT of cool people & successfully met my declared goal by having more fun than anybody else at the comps!


Saturday, June 30, 2007

U.S. Nats Day 7 - We gave it a go . . .

We gave it a go today - Strong & crossed winds at launch and weak lift. The task called was a 100k downwind run.

I didn't like conditions at launch. The wind was crossed & gusting to at least 15 at times. The lulls were allowing launches so I decided to stay on the ground & see what kind of drift the guys were dealing with. My strategy was to launch after the start window opened & simply exit the start cylinder while making my first climb - that is, IF the conditions at launch improved. The conditions when the start opened were gusty & strong so I held back. About 10 minutes before the launch window closed the wind lulled considerably & I got my helmet on & was heading to launch when I was told the task was canceled. This was a good call since the lead gaggles were drifting a lot & only getting ratty climbs to about 1000' over launch. I saw two pretty impressive collapses in front of launch that illustrated the tough conditions in the lift. . .I was glad to stay on the hill.

The cumulative results are at

Top three are:

Frank Brown
Dean Stratton
Kyndel Banister

3 tasks in 7 days.

I'm finishing up in 27th place overall. 3rd place in both Serial Class & Masters Class. Dave is in 47th place.

Fly safe,

Friday, June 29, 2007

U.S. Nats Day 6 - Lakeview blows even more

Today was a no fly day. Winds at launch are forecast to be 15 kts. & winds aloft forecasts predict winds at 9000’ & 12,000’ to 30-40 kts. Tomorrow, the last day of the comp, is supposed to have light Southerly winds but winds aloft may still be strong.

The last two tasks were brutal for those of us on DHV 2 wings since we were unable to get to a point in space that would allow us to reach the turn point upwind of the working course line. The task committee had to assign the turn point to keep the 65 competitors near the main roads, but the tasks were near impossible for most. I’m hoping for a task tomorrow that will challenge my skills & decision making rather than the penetration performance of my wing. Don’t get me wrong – the second task did have three DHV 2 wings in goal – it was doable that day & I made a rookie mistake getting downwind of the proper line. But the third task just seemed to be impossible for the slower wings since we had to be flying South of the course line to make the turn point and there just wasn’t any lift there.

Considering the above, I’m feeling good about the way I’ve flown the tasks assigned. In a couple cases I didn’t go very far (18.5 K) but given the circumstances – I gave it a good effort & am happy I just got over the back & on course.
These two down days have allowed Dave & me to get out & see the countryside around Lakeview and, I’ve got to say, it is beautiful country. I’m writing this while sitting in the sun in a 100 acre meadow that I flew over the last two tasks. You can get to the boonies in 15 minutes around here – for the ME that’s a hermit, this could be heaven. I imagine the winters can be cold & long here, but the spring & summer is great. Dave’s out on another walkabout & I’m just relaxing – it could be worse ;-)

If you are reading this blog & are considering competitions, I would highly recommend them for improving your skills & increasing the quality of your flights. At some point, boating around your local site may get a bit tedious, as it did for me. When that happens, you need to have the skills, equipment, & experience to safely fly your first XC. One of the best places to fly your first XC is at a local comp. Generally, the first couple of waypoints are nearby with small valley crossings. This will give you experience at starts, strategy & experience using the GPS. Retrieves are usually simple & you’ve 10 guys/gals in the area with radios that can help you out. The best aspect of comps is the exchange of information by the finest XC pilots. At this Nat’s I’ve had the opportunity to talk with Frank Brown, Eric Reed, Josh Cohn, Dean Stratton, and many other top 20 pilots. The Rat Race was more geared for mentoring, but it’s hard to avoid learning just lurking & listening. Don’t be shy & don’t stop learning. Cross country flying is very challenging and very rewarding. Competitions are just a simple way to get in the air with a safety net that is organized.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

U.S. Nats Day 5 - Lakeview blows some more

No flying today & probably not tomorrow either. . .The wind sure does blow in this area. Dave & I went to the pilot meeting at 8:45, gathered our morning smoothies (Thanks Gail) & listened to the 10 pilots who made goal yesterday tell their tales. The scorers presented a nice flight analysis which showed the relative position & speeds of each of the top 3 finishers. We all applauded the accomplishment of these ten guys who completed the longest task in US paragliding comp history, 145 kilometers.

Yesterday I placed 26th for the day. For the day, I was 4th in the masters class & 2nd in the serial class. I'm now sitting 27th overall & very happy. My flying is improving and I believe that I'm thinking more about attacking the tasks rather than following gaggles. I still want to complete a task here, so it looks like Saturday will be the day for that.

Dave & I went to the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce to ask about hikes & were treated to a great tour & food orientation of the area. I've never seen folks so happy to have a bunch of paraglider pilots in their town. We have been constantly told, by shop keepers & locals, how much they enjoy looking up & seeing us launch. This launch is different than most - it's 700' directly above town. Every launch can be seen by EVERYBODY in the small town.

We decided to go hiking in the Gearheart Wilderness area. It's about a 35 min. drive West of town. We picked up some lunch & headed out. We hiked 9 miles total & climbed 1700' in about 3 hours. The scenery was great with pinnacles & palisades amongst thick forest trails. While hiking we ran into Hawaii Ray, Cliff, Frankie, and Tim K. They hiked back with us & shared a beer in the parking lot.

I'm not sure what's on the docket for tomorrow but the wind is forcast to blow & I'll be ready to fly if it doesn't.

Results for the various classes & overall can be found HERE.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

U.S. Nats Day 4 - Third Task

Today, as forecast, the wind was blowing at launch. Conditions were marginal, but there were definite lulls that would allow for safe launches, so a task was called.

The task started with a 13.5 mile leg to Cutoff (the turnpoint I couldn't reach yesterday because I was too far downwind of course line) and then a 75 mile downwind leg that was over Plush & proceeded North.

The Wind Techs launched without trouble & had little luck staying in the air until about noon. Additional Wind Techs were put in the air & they began to find lift but their drift downwind to the North was noticeable. The wind began to come up & most pilots were not too quick to launch. Dave & I launched about 15 minutes before the Start time of the task. We launched into a down cycle & had to grovel for 10 minutes before we found a thermal & started a bumpy, drifty, climb to 9000'. Dave left for better lift & found none & had to side-hill-land for a relaunch. Meanwhile, many pilots were dirting in the LZ out in front of launch.

I continued to search the area for lift & after reading "PATIENCE" on my vario I took a deep breath & realized I would be having fun if I quit being frustrated that I hadn't gone over the back yet. I worked a couple small rough thermals & finally found a smooth 400'/min. core that soon bloomed into 650'/min. steady climb to 9500'. Sam Crocker & I headed over the back towards Cutoff. I was wary of getting downwind of the course line this time. I stayed over the road & took climbs back a bit, but soon penetrated back near the road. I was able to travel 6 miles while working very disorganized lift towards the turn point. Eventually I had to make the decision to either push out towards the road or press on & land in the boonies while maximizing my track towards the point - I chose the latter. Dave has had two long hike-outs & I had none - it was time for me to experience the beauty of SE Oregon's wilderness first-hand.

Eventually I made a nice landing in, what might be called, a meadow. In truth, the slope I landed on was covered in sparse sage with softball & football sized volcanic boulders everywhere. As I approached the clearing I awoke a sleeping coyote & he ran off in a hurry. The landing went well & I made contact with Kevin on the retrieval freq. I told them I'd hike out & meet them at Hwy. 140. . . I was actually looking forward to a bit of a hike.

Today was a day of marginal conditions & contrast. The task was the longest ever called for a US Nationals competition, yet there were many pilots on launch who decided not to fly due to the wind & drift in climbs. There were also many good pilots in the LZ with minimum distance points. I wouldn't have launched if I thought it wasn't safe. Conditions when Dave & I launched were fine. The challenge was climbing high enough to cross over the back of the ridge without drift so far from the course line that I ended up in a position like yesterday's frustrating flight.

I know that at least 6 made goal today - probably a couple more.

My flight is HERE

Results will be HERE soon.

U.S. Nats Day 3 - Second Task

I woke up this morning feeling good - I had placed 19th in the first task of the US Nats! I made some good decisions & got lucky at the right times. Nobody made goal yesterday and there was a good distribution along the course-line. For at least today, I'm on the top sheet of the standings.

We got to the launch around 11:30 and the winds were perfect for launch. SW winds were forecast at altitude & I should have put more weight in my strategy to the winds. The Task was a 13.5 mile Xwind run to Cutoff & then a downwind 28 mile run to Plush & Flagstaff Lake. I had a great start, leaving the start cylinder at 3 seconds after the start time. Then I made a rookie mistake that screwed my whole flight.

My exit from the start was right on the course-line which meant that my first thermal climb to 11,000' took me downwind of the course-line. I'd penetrate upwind until finding the next thermal & then drift downwind until the climb petered out & then penetrate upwind until low enough I needed a climb & then do it all over again. . .and again. It became painfully apparent that I wasn't going to be able to get to the waypoint without dirting. I got a mile away from the point but couldn't get there against the increasing headwinds.

I watched many gliders hit the deck trying to head upwind, landing in tiger country (you don't know how far out "the boonies" are in Lakeview) so I swallowed my pride & turned xwind for a great spot with grass next to the main road. Getting to goal from the turnpoint was very doable in the 15 kt. tailwind - I just couldn't get to the turnpoint.

As it turns out, a LOT of folks had problems with the wind today - the results are out for task 2. I placed 35th today which puts me at 29th overall. I'm very happy with the points, but consider my flight today to be less than I'm capable of. Every task I've blown this last 10 days has been due to major mental lapses. Decision making - above all else - is what makes a consistent pilot & a contest winner. Guys like Josh Cohn, Eric Reed, and Bruce Goldsmith all use their noodles to consistently win diverse tasks that require more than good climbs and fast flying - they win with their brains. I aspire to achieve some level of experience & XC intelligence that will help me to improve my results.

On a more esoteric theme - I'm feeling the flying more this week. I mentioned the steep learning curve I was experiencing at the Rat Race last week. The curve has gone near vertical at Lakeview. The quality of the competition & camaraderie is conducive to fast information exchange. My paraglider flying experience is limited to about 3 years & only in the last two have I flown XC regularly. The 2-week full-immersion learning experience I've had is priceless.

I hope we fly more this week - the wind is forecast to blow, though.


Monday, June 25, 2007

U.S. Nats Day 2 - First Task

Today the wind was light at launch & Dave & I were ready to fly physically & mentally. A task was set early which had an entry cylinder at the Blackcap LZ & then a 29.5 mile leg to Ennis ridge. The next point was 10 miles down-ridge & Xwind to Simms Junction & then 2 miles to goal. I had a good launch & scudded around launch, low, for a while before I got into the gaggles boating around before the start.

The gaggles today were very orderly. After some rather exciting gaggle flying at the
Rat race last week, it was nice to fly with cooperative proficient pilots. I was a couple minutes late at the start & had to get low to get to the cylinder in a timely manner at all. As I climbed up to 11,500' I had a great view of the valley & of Abert Lake & the amazing Abert Rim. The cliffs are 1600' high & are vertical. I hope we head that way this week.

As I continued North along a low ridge, I was able to fly with other pilots & share the responsibility to find lift. The climbs were topping out at lower & lower altitudes as we continued North to the turnpoint. Looking down, I saw many early dirting of some good wings and good pilots that were racing hard in (what was becoming) marginal conditions. Lift was weak as we approached the waypoint and the valley wind was coming from the Abert lake area. I was with a group of gliders that all were in the desperately-looking-for-lift mode. We would scramble for any shard of lift & if anyone had a bubble & began to turn, the rest would pounce. All this effort only extended our flight a couple of miles towards the last turnpoint before goal. I landed in a wonderful field of freshly mowed hay with 5 other gliders. Fortunately a retrieval van pulled up & I hustled to get in it for the long ride home.

In the van I heard many stories of flights, but I began to realize that my flight was one of the better ones. I knew some of the top guys had flown farther than I had, but most pilots hadn't made the Ennis waypoint.

Dave had a similar flight as I had until he got about 10 miles from Ennis. He got low on the ridge & decided to land on the slope in a clear spot & hike out. He and Meredeth hiked about 6 miles to the road for pickup.

No one made it to goal today so it will be a fully weighted day. I'm very happy with my flying today - I was a bit slow, but that helped me pick my way along the course. It was a day of survival & I seem, recently, to be good at those if I am PATIENT.

Tomorrow may be a good day like today.

My flight is HERE

Results will probably be HERE soon.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

U.S. Nats Day 1 - Lakeview blows

Lakeview is an interesting, quaint town located in the high plains of SE Oregon. The landscape is filled with rustic ranches & alkali lake beds - wet & dry. It's the highest town in Oregon (so they say) at 4800'. Launch is at 6200'- a hill overlooking town that is only a ten minute ride up a dirt & gravel road. The wind blows here. . .it blows a lot. The winds were forecast to blow 15-25mph & that's what we had at launch at 12:30pm.

The Black Cap launch is a bit rough. There is a very nice road & a slope that's been cleared of boulders. The boulders are stacked down where the slope gets even shallower. It's not that high off the valley floor & it can be a stretch to make the LZ.

A task was called & it was a short downwind dash to a town called Plush. We hoped to get off the hill in lulls & manage a fairly safe flight. I had already suited up (to stay warm) but was not feeling good about things on launch. It seemed to me that there were going to be 60 guys all trying to get in the air at Start minus 20 minutes in marginal launch conditions. My strategy was to hang back & see how the gaggles were getting up & penetrating upwind to avoid loosing the start cylinder before start, before I launched, & then only launch if I liked the lulls. I wasn't going to screw up the trip with a flight I already didn't like the looks of. The task committee wanted to fly today (as did we all) but conditions were marginal. At 2 pm the task was canceled.

I'm sure some of the competitors would have rather just hucked & competed, but it had great potential for mayhem. The next few days look much better with winds less than 10 kts. & good temps. I expect some good flying in the next couple days. 100k (60 mile) flights aren't out of the realm of possibility.

My camera broke last week, so I'm not sure if I can get photos, I'm working on it.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Rat Race Day 7 - Final Task

I just got into a new Motel room in Lakeview after a 3 hour drive & it's late, so I'll keep it short.

Today the weather was great. The task committee anticipated high winds blowing after 3:30 pm so they designed a task that was doable and then they required all scores to be based on the position of the pilot at 3:15 pm & penalties to those who had not landed prior to 3:30pm. They wanted all pilots on the ground & accounted for by 4 pm.

I flew this task as well as I have flown any before. I only spent 10 minutes on Woodrat before diving over to Burnt Mtn. so the start could be staged correctly. All I needed to do was find lift & get high. . .

The start was a minute or two late but allowed me to renter the lift at Burnt with 20 other pilots working to also get high. I headed to the next turnpoint when a few of the top pilots did but knew they would run away from me on the upwind leg. I was fortunate & found a nice 400'/min. thermal that gave me the 2000' add'l altitude to hit the turnpoint & swing downwind for the glide to Poorman's. When I hit Poorman's I was heading directly for a thermal that two other guys were working. On the way to their thermal, I found one of my own - A 1000'/min. fat, beauty the gave me 2400' in only three minutes and about 9 turns.

Life was good - I had goal made & only 1 more turnpoint & goal to hit. On the way to goal I squeezed about 1/2 speedbar, which I considered to be plenty with the turbulence I was encountering. Some other pilots seemed to be more comfortable on bar. We had one injury & reserve toss today. There were 20 pilots in goal when I landed - I placed 29th for the day!

Results are not on the web yet, but I placed 7th in the Old dude category. In Serial class I was 13th. Overall I was 51st & Dave wasn't much behind me - He had a bad day today, which hurt his score. It's just a warm up for the Nats ;-) Larry N. from Sprinville did a respectable 3rd place in the Old-dude category & went to goal almost every day.

I can't wait for the sun to come up on the dawn of the first day of the US Nationals tomorrow. I ready for some rock & roll flying to 14,000' - I hope all the talk of big air isn't bombast. The main concern over here, is that it's forecast to be windy. We'll see.

Wish Dave & I luck!


The flight is HERE

Results for the last day & cumulative scores will be HERE, soon.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rat Race Day 6

Only two more days. That's what Dave & I were thinking about, on our way to breakfast. Today's task would be the last long one since Saturday, after the awards, everyone going to Lakeview will be heading out for a three hour drive. The weather looked great at launch with cumulus popping in 3 quadrants. The forecast was for winds similar to those that cause the cancellation of yesterday's task.

I really wanted to fly far today and the weather looked like it might allow it. We held a hurry-up pilot's mtg. with the task announced - a 24 mile jaunt across the valley to Rabies - then a run to the Medford Valley with a couple tricky transitions upwind. Then a run to Donato.

I got in line to launch early. When it was my turn, I realized my risers were twisted. I had unhooked to refold my wing the night before & had hooked in wrong - a rookie mistake that cost me time. I wasn't going to compound the error by rushing the setup after fixing the problem, so I lost 15 minutes.

After a routine high wind launch, I worked many weak over-occupied thermals. Many times I left working lift to find less crowded conditions. When I found lift & began to climb, the gaggle would follow & claw for space in the thermal like piranha devouring their prey. I had a decent start & tanked up on altitude at Woodrat Launch. Many pilots tried to glide to Rabies (the next waypoint) only to get drilled as they entered the lee of the ridge. I held back & waited to see if anyone would find lift. Many pilots were landing in the LZ but some were beginning to circle low & it looked like I might be able to scramble back up, if I tried to tag Rabies. I glided to Rabies & was encouraged by decreased sink in a nice lift line along the convergence. When I was 1 mile from the turn point cylinder, I encountered some serious sink that threatened to end my flying day by putting me on the ground. I was .25 miles from the point when I decided I'd had enough sink & turned out (on a different line) to try to salvage the day.

I was watching the LZ below & noticed pilots landing while drifting backwards. The LZ winds were 15 with gusts to 25. Try as I might to avoid the LZ, I landed there & enjoyed the approach & landing.

Dave was also hanging back - but he deserves the prize for most persistence & fortitude in attempting, for better than 2 hours, to reach Rabies against a growing headwind.

Needless to say, I'd have rather made goal. I'm a pragmatist though. Let's just say I'm happy that I had no scares & no regrets in the strenuous conditions. A few other pilots ended in trees & stuck places that required herculean efforts to extricate themselves from harm's way...

There was good company in the LZ. Some sunk out (as I did) some got drilled & then had to deal with rotor that gave them fits, & others just didn't like the conditions.

I think I got a bit more mileage than those that sunk out early, but there were thirty in goal - they deserve every point - it was a tough day.

Larry did about the same mileage as I today but crossed the start 7 seconds early due to a GPS clock problem, so got minimum points. Thanks to Larry for these photos.

I just looked at the RESULTS. So far I'm 6th in the Master's Class & 15th in the Serial class. I'm proud of these standings since this is quality competition.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rat Race Day 5 - Task Cancelled today

Today the winds were forecast to be a blowin' but a 37 mile task was set. Noone was getting up in the valley or over launch so Dave & I decided to delay our launch until much later. When we launched, the task had already started. The top pilots were desperately trying to push away from the start fix since it was a 4km Entry start. None were able to get in a position to even start the task.

Meanwhile, the LZ was reporting some exciting arrivals by the skunked pilots as they arrived. The task was called off at 2:25 & all were relieved - Good Call Mike.

Dave & I will get some laundry done for next week.

Late addition: We attended an informational presentation tonight by Mike Steed to familiarize ourselves with the Lakeview area for next week's US Paragliding Nationals.

Dave & I have been hearing about the "HUGE AIR" in the area & inhospitable conditions all week. It looks like my survival equipment & hiking skills may become important...

In reflection on the last 5 days, I feel very happy with the way I've flown. I've been to goal 3 times (including my solo trip to Donato on Sat.) and have made some good decisions with regard to safety. There have been a number of dramatic accounts, 3 reserve tosses, and one injured pilot hospitalized - all related to "racing" when flying should be the rule of the day. I can say I've not flown anywhere or made decisions I wouldn't have made while flying my home site for fun. Above all I know that the only rule I need to live by is that I need to come home safely. On my flight deck I have the word 'SAFE' written. I must look at it 20 times on a three hour flight.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rat Race Day 4

Today I checked the weather & it looked like a fairly stable day. Our weather guru for the comp said his sources said it might turn out to be a good day. I'm pleased to say, he was right.

While conditions weren't easy, they were exciting and rewarding - I guess that sums up the two things I like to get out of a good XC flight. The task set for today was 43 miles with some late upwind legs that would require some good planning skills. I launched into a good cycle & climbed up to altitude with Dave close by. He & I have been trying all week to fly together without success, but today looked like it might be the day. We climbed up in front of launch & headed over to Rabies Peak for more lift so we could get a good start.

We found the lift we needed over Rabies & climbed to 8000' & proceeded to the start cylinder We were about 6 minutes late, but our altitude & position was impeccable. Dave & I glided back to the ridge low, in search of any lift. He began to circle & climb in light lift so I joined him, slightly below his alt. We climbed together for a bit & Dave decided to see what the other guys were circling in a few hundred yards away - At that point I was concentrating on maximizing my climb & lost track of Dave. When I looked for him, he was nowhere to be found. I assumed he had climbed well & proceeded on course so I pushed on. I ran into Larry N. over Burnt Ridge & we tagged the 3rd turnpoint together. He took a different line than I did to the next fix (I went directly to it & he went North to fly some Cumulus that were forming. I soon needed to tank upon some altitude & ran into Eric B. while thermaling. He & I climbed up high enough to tag the fourth fix & go downwind to the next. This was the beginning of my undoing - I had no business heading downwind low, when the next fix was another 5 miles upwind. I needed to get some altitude soon. I milked what I could from some weak lift & managed to hit Poormans fix but was unable to penetrate upwind. I climbed (drifting downwind all the while) and then lost the altitude while driving into the wind - gaining only .25 to .5 of a mile each time. Eventually I got low enough that I planned a nice landing next to Roger from LA. in a large field.

Today was the kind of day people get stuck places they don't want to get stuck & run out of options and ideas. . . Many pilots had scrapes or narrowly avoided scrapes while clinging to low ridges in swift turbulent winds. I avoided scaring myself today by avoiding such acts of desperation.

I completed 30 miles of the 43 and feel good about the day. I made some miscalculations, but I can feel the learning curve steepen a bit.

Dave, unfortunately, left the lift we had early to find better - only to find very strong turbulent sink. He landed soon after leaving the lift. Larry N. flew around 40 miles today - He's flown well every day.

My standing is now 53rd. Slowly working up the list. At this point I'm 10th in the serial class. I might even be in the top 5 on the "Senior" list. . .Ah it's great to be over 50 ;-)

The flight is HERE

Results for today are HERE
Cumulative results are HERE

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rat Race Day 3

View my flight HERE

Scores for the day are HERE

Cumulative scores are HERE

Today looked great when we stopped for our ritual breakfast sandwiches at the Pony Espresso in Jacksonville. The weather forecast wasn't so hot though. The valley was inverted to 6000' (which means there wouldn't be any lift below 6000' until the valley warmed to at least 78 deg.F.) In addition, the weather forecast called for afternoon winds to freshen to 20 kts. in the valleys.

The task cmty. called a very optimistic task that was almost identical to the 43 mile task called on day 1 of last year's Rat Race. A long leg up/crosswind to grant's Pass OR, followed by a return to the Jacksonville area & a downwind leg to Donato (where I had flown all-by-myself on Sat. for practice.

As the launch window loomed, none of the wind dummies (free fliers who have volunteered to fly in the area & report lift & turbulence conditions) were able to stay in the air & optimism was waning. The task committee revised the task to "Go to Donato whenever you want & plan on a BBQ party when you get there."

We were free to launch & start whenever we wanted. I had a good launch & waffled around the Rat for 20 minutes. I decided to look for lift over Burnt Ridge but got there fairly low & struggled with rough bumps until I was 100' over the ridge. The thermal released from the hill & shot up through the inversion & carried me, over the next 15 minutes, to 8300' This looked like plenty of altitude to make the turn point at Cemetery, then glide to goal. It was enough, in fact, 2000' more than enough. I had a fairly good time (32 minutes) but could have saved 5-10 minutes by using my head & planning my moves more efficiently.

At goal the mood was mellow. Two kegs had arrived & the party had been in full swing for 30 minutes when I arrived. There were at least 50 pilots in goal & we all were very happy to have flown. The wait at the top of the hill was more than 4 hours & the sun took it's toll on us all.

That's it for now - I need some sleep... Tailwinds to you all & a special wing & a prayer to Bob O'Brien, who went on his own journey yesterday.

Results are out now today's task was devalued greatly, due to it's short time (leaders finished in less than 20 minutes.) My time was :32 minutes. Very few place changes occurred since the point spread was minimal. Now that my Day one score was finally fixed, I'm sitting 62nd & ready for some good weather. Unfortunately, today (Day 4) looks very stable & windy again. We may have a task today, but it won't be a long one - more later.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Rat Race Day 2

To view today's flight, go HERE

First I should explain what it is we are actually doing - Each day a task is set with waypoints that we have to cross. The goal is to make it to goal & get there as fast as we can. The start is a timed start - which means that we are not allowed to enter the start cylinder prior to the start time. All times begin at the start time so it's best to be right at the edge of the start cylinder at '0' hour. Points are awarded to those that fly the entire course the fastest & those that don't make it around score less.

Today's task was a couple of valley crossings and then another downwind leg to Mule-LZ - the same goal as yesterday. I have not made goal to this place in two tries so today I vowed to fly conservatively and make it to goal, no matter the time.

Dave & I launched about 45 minutes prior to the start window opening. We topped a couple of gigantic gaggles with 60-80 gliders at times. My luck was good & I topped a good bit of lift just prior to the start & was in good position to tag the first point & jog East 1 mile for the second point - A great start to the task.

I started getting excited & reminded myself to slow down & fly smart & conservative - I tanked up on altitude whenever I could. Yesterday I was never below 4000' & enjoyed the low stress flying - today I wanted the same. This flying style is more enjoyable but slower. Today I lost at least 15 minutes in a 30 minute period by climbing in thermals that were not necessary at that moment and actually drifted me downwind awayfrom the fix I was heading towards.

My final glide was not going to be the 'death-glide' I had yesterday. I needed help & was only going to fly if others were with me. At the top of a good thermal over Woodrat Peak, I chided the guys in my thermal - "Let's go" & we all took off for goal. We spread out to look for lift efficiently & I eventually found a shard of lift (I think a cougar farted) that slowly bloomed into a solid 400'/min. I climbed 2000' in this thermal & was about 6 miles from goal. My GPS said it would take a 7.4/1 glide ratio to make goal. With the 10 kt. tailwind I had, this should not be a problem. With 3 miles to go the GPS said I needed 6/1 - I had goal made.

Yesterday everyone at goal got beer - the landowners said no drinking, so today I made goal & I got a big smile. Both Larry from Springville & Dave S. made goal ahead of me.

Total distance of the task - 24 miles

I'm in 71st place at the moment - Scores are here. Hopefully, I'll be consistent this week & climb the ladder.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rat Race Day 1

Today's flight is HERE

Today was a glorious day with light winds and temps in the high 70's. A task was called that used many waypoints in the valley so that those who were not familiar could get acquainted. The task was a short one at 19.9 miles, but covered a lot of territory & would cross a few areas of convergence where the valley winds collide to create lift, sink, and sometimes, some very exciting turbulence.

I had a reasonable start & cautiously worked around the course. There were down cycles that were giving many pilots fits down low. I was able through sheer luck to get high today & stay high. I don't think I got below 4000' all day. This allowed me to get through the first 6 way points in good time, I was only about 15-20 minutes behind the lead gaggle when I found a boomer over Woodrat that took me to 7000' & it looked like I would make goal. I looked around for some other pilots to work with on the 10 mile glide to goal - there were none. All the gliders were either ahead of me (low) or behind me (also low). I didn't really want to commit to a solo run into the narrow valley that the goal sat in since I had no idea where the lift would be working. As it turns out, 5 miles later, I found myself in need of just one more thermal without any other wings to help me find the much needed lift.

Gravity won this one - I landed in a farmers field a bit less than 5 miles from goal. It was a good day to fly - the thermals were strong although rough at times & the convergence areas were fairly consistent in position and character.

Many pilots dirted early today - good pilots on comp wings. A LOT of pilots made goal. Some pilots made goal for the first time. My flying/roommate Dave S. made goal & so did Larry from Springville.

I feel like my pacing was good today. I was able to work around the course without the need to pull out a low save (My usual MO). I also was ahead of many pilots when I began my final leg to The goal. If I'd been with one or two other pilots & we had worked together, odds are good that the outcome could have been better. I'm not sure if loitering & waiting for wings below/behind me would have been smarter... I'm not sure I'd have been able to make myself do that. Obviously the choice I made didn't get me to goal. Many pilots behind me DID complete the task, so waiting for them was an viable option.

Good launch - good landing - big smile (bigger when I make goal) and a beer before bed... not a bad first day.

Scores will be posted HERE soon.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Rat Race Day 0

To view today's flight go to

Today Dave & I woke to cloudy skies & a forcast of wind. We had a nice breakfast & headed over to Rat Race HQ at 10am & did the normal check-in stuff. We saw a few friends from prior years. Larry & Raymond from Springville joined up with us & we all rode to launch in my truck. Low launch was windy at times but launchable & we headed up to main launch. When we got to the top, it was a beautiful day with the Cu's firming up nicely & good periods of light wind to launch - and yet - we were the only pilots at launch. . .We were filled with some doubt, but David & I decided we came to fly. Launch was smooth & lift was ragged & weak at first. We hung out on the main ridge for over 30 minutes until I was able to get a good climb down by the lower launch & decided to see how the trip across to Rabies would go.

I was able to make it to some weak lift & milked it for a while until it bloomed into a nice 400'/min. climb & I drifted over Burnt Ridge while I climbed. I called the guys, who were by now in the valley, & told them I had almost 6000' & was going to head down to Donato (out in the Medford Valley about 12 miles South) A map of the waypoints is HERE

The flight went well with abundant lift & subsequent climbs to 6800' at rates of 800'/min. The total flight was 16 miles or so.

I made a nice landing in the Donato LZ & was met by 'Donato' himself - He's my best friend since he had a cold beer in his hand for me ;-)

A great day with good indicators for the week. I was the only guy I know of that was able to get away today & flew the whole route alone. Looking forward to more miles tomorrow!