Friday, August 29, 2008

Why do we fly?

I often ask others on the hill what they get out of the sport. The answers vary depending on their skill level, experience, and sanity. The common thread seems to be the freedom and perspective that flying like a bird gives one. Here's a short film entitled "Because" that explores why 'we' do what we do. . .

because... from Ozone Films on Vimeo.

If it doesn't load, try this link: or
This short film was created, written, and directed by Jorge Atramiz and Herminio Cordido, the same minds behind the epic film ‘The Never Ending Thermal‘.Whatever your reason or motivation is to fly, enjoy it!

Thanks to Loren for the link to the HiRes version!

My wrist is healing and I should be fine for the Nat's - Sept. 14th-20th. Looking forward to it.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Full Disclosure

Last weekend was a lot of fun & I included the high points in my email & blog. I hadn't been seen by a physician yet, so I neglected to mention that, after making goal on Sunday, I continued down the Dunlap valley to land near my truck at the school. I got popped up by some lift in the LZ and had to do some turns to burn the extra altitude. I misjudged my final turn & was at the bottom of a pendulum when I 'hit' the ground. It wasn't a crash or even a very hard landing, but I made the mistake of putting my right hand down while flaring. My wrist smarted a bit & began to swell. I had it X-rayed yesterday & have been diagnosed as a dumbshit with a significant break of the end of my radius bone. I'll be fine for Nat's (with or without a cast) but won't be flying for a while. . .

I used the harness padding & butt-slid the landing. I should have stood-up the landing, which would have protected my hands. FYI - I broke the same bone 18 months ago while walking across the street & tripping. . .

Be careful out there -


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dunlap BAPA Comp - August 9-10

The weather forecast for the Dunlap area called for light winds and good thermals to 6500' so I was looking forward to the weekend. Patrick from SLO joined me for the ride up & put up with my snoring in the pop-up.

The turnout was good, with all the regulars and a few first-timers. Jonas from SoCal (and the PG forum) was there and Greg B. made the weekend too. We also had Kaya and Ruth, who were very helpful in the role of retrieve drivers. Thanks ladies!

The first day's task was a variation on the usual valley tour and then a 16k leg from Bald Mtn. to Gage Station in the flats. After tagging Gage a 22k leg took us over Kaktus on the way to the pizza place in Squaw Valley. 68.6 Km. total.

I had a good start, but was a bit low at the first turnpoint (Sontag) - this didn't slow me much though, as I was fortunate to find a nice climb. I flew just behind the leaders for the first three turnpoints and then got slowed for a bit in front of the Dunlap Launch on my way to Bald Mtn. I took my time & got up high for the transition to Bald Mtn. I was able to cut the corner & went ahead of a few of the guys ahead of me until I got to Bald. There I overflew, without knowing it, Josh & Eric who had dirted while leading out. If I'd known they weren't ahead of me I might have taken a bit more time. . .

Anyway, Kansas was down low ahead of me on his brand new baby-blue Boom 5 and he made a great low save to continue on course. I flew by him but took a dumb line & got hammered by sink that took me to the ground about 5 Km. from the Gage Stn. turnpoint. Jug joined me about 10 minutes later and Tom M. was close. Kansas and Patrick (nice job!) managed to hit the Gage turnpoint before landing. Greg B. and Eric B. managed to get close to the Kaktus turnpoint to win the day with no one in goal.

A few of us voiced our opinions that, although it is fun to fly tasks that are long, it would be preferable to have tasks that get 20-30% of us in goal. It is more enjoyable and educational to have 'doable' tasks. I like long tasks, but this league is not just to challenge those of us on 2/3 and comp wings; it's also to promote and teach the techniques, tactics, and logistics of XC competition flying. I'm an example of a pilot who has benefited by participating and learning from the likes of Josh, Eric & Dean. Even when I was flying my Sport 2 and landing short of goal, I was learning. It is frustrating to never get to goal though & I'm glad today's task was a reasonable length that also was technical enough to make decision making as important as the longer tasks.

The task set was 42 Km. in length and had us fly from Launch to Hill 49917 to Turkey to Sontag, across to Airstrip then to Delilah and Sampson on the main ridge, then over to Bald Mtn. & then to the Ranger Stn.

I launched about 45 minutes before the 12:30 start time & got high until the start. I hit the cylinder right on time & got to the first 3 turnpoints in the lead gaggle. The transition from Sontag to Airstrip was a 6 Km. glide & I really didn't want to arrive low over Granny. When Greg B. Josh, Eric R. and Kansas all headed across, I started to follow but REALLY didn't like the look of my chances so I turned to the ridge & climbed out in front of launch. The decision was conservative and slower, but it was validated when I arrived over the airstrip & saw a couple of the leaders folding up their gliders in a field short of the fix.

I soon was climbing up again to cross the valley to tag Sampson & Delilah (behind launch). I could see Josh & Eric but there was no way I was going to catch them so I took it a bit slower to assure goal. Eric was on his way to Bald (going West) as I approached 49917 (heading East to Delilah) and showed me the thermal of the Day. 800'/min. to 7400' put me in good stead for the loop to hit Sampson & Delilah without needing to stop for lift & then refueled me for the last leg to Bald & the Ranger Stn. I left the lift with 6.5:1 and there was enough lift to bring the L/D required to 5:1 so I was on as much speed-bar as I could stand for the final glide.

I placed 3rd for the day & Eric B. (a very good pilot) made me feel good when he said he was working hard to catch me on his Ice Peak but couldn't catch me. Today I feel like I flew smart and fast. This has been my goal for the season - to learn to fly with the comp wings and fly fast but know when to let them go.

It was a lot of fun flying with the group and Patrick flew great.

My Sat. Flight is HERE and my Sun. flight is HERE

Scores will be HERE on Tuesday night - So far, I think I'm leading the Serial Class!

A great weekend.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Chelan Day 6 - Task 3

Overall winners:

1st - Santiago
2nd Matt Dadam
3rd Eric Reed

Today' forecast was for climbs to 10,500' and light winds from the W and NW. When the throng of eager pilots got to launch around 10am Cu's were just starting to pop to the West and within an hour they were also forming on the flats to the East. We were going to go big and a triangle was in the plan.

The task committee huddles for a long time and then announced (what was to be) the perfect task for the day. A 120k triangle East to Farmer, then a North East leg to Leahy (the goal on Task 1) then return to the LZ in Chelan.

I launched as soon as the window opened - about 65 min. before the start. This wasn't my best decision of the day since the 120k task would take a while.

By the time I landed in goal, it had been 6:09 since launch. The lift was abundant and high in most places but there were still some cruxes along the route that dirted many good pilots who didn't realize they had to change to a slower pace for a bit. The air at the top of lift was very cold. Even with my balaclava, winter gloves, & hot hands, I was very chilly at altitude. We were topping out around 9500' over launch and I had plenty of time to practice runs at the 1.5k entry cylinder for the start. The gaggles formed above launch and, with 5 minutes to the start, I found myself in pretty good shape for the start. I entered the 1500 meter cylinder about 3 seconds after the start time in the perfect quadrant to tag the 400 meter cylinder & head out on course.

We all got low for a bit but were able to get up well as we moved East. I was doing well into the first turnpoint, but felt slow & low until I hit the best thermal of the day over Farmer. It solidified into a solid 1100'/min. thermal for 5 minutes and took me to 10,400'. I then caught many of the guys ahead of me as I headed down the second leg. Going into the second turnpoint, it looked like many of the leaders were very low & grovelling at the turnpoint so I tanked up as much altitude as I could before going in to tag Leahy. This paid off & I caught many of the lead gaggle (which was beginning to break up). Soon I found myself getting low & alone & had to wait for scattered lift to solidify into solid 5-600'/min. I was looking at 15 miles to goal & it seemed like forever until I was on my final glide.

The final glide was also very tricky since the rim of the Columbia River Gorge is 2000' above the landing field at the bottom of the gorge. In order to clear the rim of the gorge you must not rely on the final glide on the instruments. . .The problem was, nobody knew when a safe final glide would be sufficient - 5:1? 6:1? I decided 5.5:1 would be enough & was fortunate that it was, but it looked bad for a bit as the rim was coming up to meet me as I was gliding into the goal. Many pilots had to land on the top of the rim or find lift at the last minute to make it into goal.

I made it to goal today & set a personal best of 74 miles (120k)& 6:09 flight time (of which 5 hours were for the task). This put me at 4th in the Serial class & 27th in the open for the day. I placed 7th in the serial class overall.

The mood at the soccer field at goal was very *up* since we knew that the task was very well suited to the day and we had worked hard to make it into goal.

I felt that something was different than any other time in goal. I realized, as I sat sipping one of Steve Forslund's signature margaritas, that I was watching others - many others - arrive in goal after me. It felt good!


Obviously I wish we'd been able to fly all 6 days but the three we had were great. Including my flight on the practice day, I flew 202 miles in 4 flights.

I made goal 2 out of three days and had great starts every day. I used my condom catheter on two flights and am happy with the ability to hydrate at will and yet fly comfortably for six hours.

A thanks to Doug & Denise for putting on such a friendly comp and to Kevin for running the show. The task committee and volunteers did a great job.

A good week.

My flight is HERE

Results are HERE


Friday, August 1, 2008

Chelan Day 4 – Task 2

Today the forecast was for lower climbs and 10-15 kts of wind at the top of lift. We went to launch & had light winds on the Northeast launch. A task was called from The Butte Launch to Okanagan, 42 miles. This flight took us due North and was very critical when it came to decision making. We had the option of shooting East, across the gorge, to hit the flats upwind of the course line and then fly the flats all the way to the goal; or to head North, over some hilly territory near the Chelan Airport, and then cross the river near Brewster and continue directly to goal.

I launched early again. I had little problem staying up, but many other pilots got caught in some substantial down cycles & had to land before the start. With only a few minutes to go to the start, I had gotten high but was North of the start cylinder, so I headed back South to hit the edge of the cylinder just as the 1300 start time elapsed. I turned North on course and was gratified to see about half the field, heading to the airport along with me. I don’t like being in the lead, from a strategic standpoint, so I was loafing along at trim speed to let some of the comp gliders get ahead. We soon were getting low but found a good core that gave us enough altitude to continue searching.

We pressed on Northward, until we hit Brewster. There I got distracted and all my thermal buddies got higher than I. I tried to find the lift they had climbed away from me with, but all I found was unorganized lift and sink. I continued on course until I finally, about 12 miles from goal, had to land.
I hiked out a few miles to get to a sign the tell retrieve folks what road I was on & soon a ride appeared.

The other option was explored by a gaggle who took the first crossing to the flats right after the start. They had good success and rejoined the other gaggle North of where I went down.

Mike Steed is leading the pack and Kieth McCullough is the top Canadian.

Today was very exciting, because I really felt I was flying well & staying with the good pilots on the best comp wings. I was also making good decisions that kept me in the race for 20 miles – Until I didn’t. Once I lost close contact with my thermal buddies, and allowed them to get away from me with 11 miles to go, that was the beginning of the end. I made a ‘Hail Mary’ dive into a likely spot for a thermal but had no love this day & made an uneventful landing.
There were 41 in goal today and I only got 320 points for the day, which moves me from 29th to 39th overall. Tomorrow will be a better day & I’ll have figured out what the heck I was thinking when I let it get away from me.

Cherie Silvera won the day, with Mike Steed not far behind.
I've dropped from 29th to 39th overall & from 4th to 8th in the Serial class, so I hope we get to fly again on Sat.

Results are HERE.
My flight is HERE

It's Friday morning and the winds are howling, so I doubt we'll fly today.