Sunday, July 1, 2007

Goodbye, Lakeview!

The last task day of the Nationals dawned with light winds and clear skies, and we were all hopeful for a good task after the cold front that brought us two days of strong wind. They called a 104 km task past the Abert Rim, a long flight over a beautiful terrain feature. But after we started the launches, it became clear that the wind was picking up just as it did on previous days, and the growing gaggle was struggling to stay up in the shredded thermals. I launched early to try and get comfortable with the air before the start window opened, and caught a good cycle that put me on top of the stack briefly. For a moment there, I was seeing the headlines: Colby Comes out of Nowhere to Win Final Task of PG Nationals. But I guess my daydream wasn't helping me focus on my flight -- I soon found myself in the same horrible position as on previous days, in the leeside of the broken thermals, dodging chunks of turbulence and just trying to stay up and in front of the ridge. At one point I took my biggest whack ever, a symmetric collapse that knocked my wing out of sight behind me.

After a while I started to think better of staying in that stuff with the big boys, and I headed out over the flats to see if I could find any friendlier thermals, or at least get some more ground clearance. I found little to sustain me, and landed soon after, just short of the LZ. Moments later, Mike called a stop to the task, due to the strong winds and rough conditions at launch. I felt sort of justified in my decision to bail out, but also sort of sad for the few pilots that might want to continue in these conditions. I heard that many pilots were not even planning to launch once they saw the early crew in the air. And most pilots in the air did land at or near the LZ. But I heard later on that four pilots decided to continue the task, and they flew about halfway through, to the beginning of the Abert Rim, before landing due to the strong winds up there. I know a lot of pilots were hoping for a good last day of flying, but the conditions just didn't quite come through for us.

The awards ceremony was fun, and we were happily surprised to see Bob get the award for 10th place in the serial class. Yay Bob! And of course we were very proud of our honorary Hawaii pilot, Frank Brown, who took first place in the open class. Yay Frank!

Later on Dave, Bob, Ray and I went up for a glass-off flight, and even though it was still strong, the air was smooth and sweet as the sun set across the valley. Dave and I flew solo, Ray took Paul's son Sy on a tandem flight, and Bob opted to skip the sky parking to drive the van down the hill. Don and Motorhead Paul flew the glass-off at the Abert Rim, and reported great conditions there as well. After we returned to the HQ we partied with the remaining pilots long into the night, and then finally went back to pack our stuff for the trip out of here on Sunday. Goodbye, Lakeview!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Another rest day

Today was another rest day: laundry, bowling, drinking, hoping for a good flying day tomorrow, the last day of the comp. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rest Day

Today is a no-fly day, because of strong winds predicted. Tomorrow may be the same. But Saturday still looks good for one last task. In the meantime, here is the roundup of Hawaii results so far.

Overall Ranking (with individual task placings in parentheses):

1 Frank Brown (15, 2, 1)
26 Brazilian Ray (26, 21, 40)
40 Quentin (34, 52, 20)
42 Fireman Dave (60, 18, 40)
50 Alex (41, 57, 30)
55 Bob (57, 44, 47)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Brazilian first in goal in today's task

A Brazilian was first in goal today, but it wasn't Ray -- it was Frank Brown, Brazil's greatest comp pilot, who we are hosting at our motel. He and twelve of the top US comp pilots flew a possible record breaking 148 km from Lakeview to French Glen for the third task of the Nationals. Quentin jumped over the back and made it some distance past the first turnpoint, but the rest of us got minimum distance by dirting near the LZ. It was very windy from a cross direction, and the thermals were shredded and very hard to work. I ran back up to relaunch but decided it didn't look worth trying. Some very good pilots opted not to fly at all today. But it was impressive to see how far the real serious pilots could go. I heard that their tailwind was so strong their groundspeed exceeded 100 km per hour, as they cruised near cloudbase at around 14,000 feet. It was basically the same task as yesterday, except with more than twice the distance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Laundry Day 2 (From Zero to Hero)

Today was the second task of the Nats and I was anxious to recover from my bomb-out after the start in yesterdays task 1, and the shame of having to watch everyone (almost) skyout and flying far. Today looked nice and the task was a 65k trip over the back and out over the flats in fairly desolate high desert plateau. Everyone launched and Bob managed to climb away and get high while I was left unable to get up. So, after about 40 minutes or so of yoyoing around infront of launch, I bomb out on the edge of town and I figure I have 20 minutes to relunch before the official close of the start. I go and run for my car at the hotel and Alex comes to join me. We load up the car and rocket up to launch and get in the air again. Ray is also there,and the three of us relaunch. Into the strong cross conditions we go. Ray goes up, Alex goes down (sorry) and I end up somewhere in between. Eventually I find something to climb in and throw myself over the back into what I forsee as a butt kicking. The butt kicking never comes and I scratch and sink my way across the valley behind and approach the turnpoint. I look below and I find a hawk thermalling up, things are looking up, I park on top of the hawk and we fly for a bit to 11g's or so, then we head on our own separate ways.

I go on glide and i am still going up, I head for the next likely trigger and look over my shoulder to find Ray headed to me via a different route. I find us a nice thermal and we share a great climb back to 12g's hooting and hollering the whole way. We hit glide over a huge high plateau and right at the edge where the plateau drops i hook probably the best thermal of my life. i start climbing and look down at Ray who is still in search mode. Every once in a whike I glance down from my giddyness and possible hypoxia ( 16g) and see that Ray is still a speck on the landscape below. I actually write him off as landing near the turnpoint. See ray's story for more on his improbable adventure.

There are a line of distinct small clouds popping above and amazingly a glider is far above me underneath a beauty. I head out on glide and am amazingly still climbing, my hands are frozen and I look at my GPS for Goal and see that it is 16K in front of me. But at 16 grand, 16 kilometers is almost beheath me. I arrive at goal at a respectable 12 grand, and spend 15 minutes doing anything I can to burn off the substantial altitude ( it makes me wonder how far I could have gone with all that altitude and the convergence keeping me high. I land at goal with an unforseen 18th for the day, a cheap beer and a long van ride. We pick up ray on the long drive home. Nice.

Posted by Fireman Dave

Laundry day 2, the reserve revenge!

Task 2 at Lakeview: 69.4Km
It was looking good and almost everybody was climbing but me (Brazilian Ray), Cliff Curry, Alex and Fireman Dave. Me and Cliff found ourselves at the local bomb out LZ :( and took a ride back up, while Fireman landed close to his car and gave Alex a ride back up, even though Alex didn't really want to go up again. After the second launch (after some 3 pull ups in strong, cross conditions) we finally started to go up, and Cliff was the first to sky out and move on. I wasn't thinking about getting back into the task, but I just wanted to fly . . . until I found a great thermal and was above 10,000 ft ASL (6,000 over launch) and decided to go for the first turnpoint, so at least retrieve would be easy since it was following the main road. Then I found more thermals behind the valleys, staying above 9,000 ft for most of that leg. After tagging the second turnpoint I found a steady climb to my max altitude of the flight: 12,277 ft (that is twelve thousand, two hundred feet high!) But like every thing that goes up, it needs to come down, I was able to "find" sink places pushing me down at rates higher than 1,000 ft/min putting me at 8,000 ft in no time, which feels super low! Me and Dave were so far behind, we had no thermal marks but ourselves and it worked great! Dave was lower than me and when he hooked a good one I went to join him and we both climbed to 11,900 ft and kept pushing to the next point. It sounds easy, but the climb was gnarly and we would take turns being the higher guy. After that thing got bumpier and flying at speeds over 40 miles per hour I was sinking again :( In the bumpy air Dave found a good one and I saw him climb right above me, fast and bumpy, but he was going up. I tried going upwind of him and all over the place but it did not work . . . and he was just a spec now, go Dave! I thought I was gonna land and started getting close to the road when I realized I was flying over a butte, meaning I got "free" altitude, so kept going towards the next point . . . I am closer now . . . and then it really got bumpy :) look at my track log and you will see climbs over 1,000 ft/min after 15:00, but my vario registered climbs of 1,600 ft/min! If you zoom in you can see I was all over the place, but chasing that big one, looking at Dave as high as I'd like to be, thinking it would take me there and to goal, but it did not, instead, it threw me out of it and out of control. I was above 11,000 ft and had plenty time, so I stalled the glider a few times but couldn't recover very well and ended up spinning it, some 4 times. It was time to toss the laundry and check my silk. Once the bag was out and in my hand I looked for the clear spot and tossed there, just to see it coming back at me and hitting the lines. For my luck, the diaper bag got stuck in the lines and I didn't lose it. Before I could jerk the lines, it opened :) Thanks Skydive Chris for helping me in my last fold! I was still spinning so the next step was to grab a tip of the glider, not so easy with two gloves, but I manage to do so and used the glider as a long ribbon and could even steer with it like a rudder. On my way down I radioed the guys for my retrieve and waited a little more, trying to catch my breath again. I landed safely, about 1/4 mile away from the main road and some 13Km short of goal, making the retrieve a breeze. Back at the HQ, I had help repacking the reserve and untangling my lines, and I am ready to fly again ;) This was my best flight so far, and even though I landed with my reserve, it was a happy landing. Believe or not, I finish 21st today.

Happy landings and aloha!
Brazilian Ray

Monday, June 25, 2007

First Task of the Nationals

Wow! The weather here today was gorgeous: light and variable winds, lift to twelve grand or so, and clear blue skies with only contrail cirrus clouds. They called a tough task with a herculean first leg of 48 km, followed by a couple of return legs that no one completed. Some pilots bombed out early on, and many more hit the dirt along the first leg of the task. A few pilots made the first leg and continued on a ways from there, but no pilots made goal today. I made it to a point 17 km from the first turnpoint. Ray and Quentin made it just a couple of km short of the first turnpoint. Way to go, guys! Many pilots saw personal bests in distance and altitude today. Bob and Dave hit the dirt on the early side, but they are both eager to try again. Don had a nice flight to the end of the Lakeview valley with Motorhead Paul. Finally, Pete and Cheree are helping out with the retrieve operation here. Dave pitched in with that job today too.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Laundry Day in Lakeview

We are here in Lakeview now for the 2007 Paragliding National Championship. Our first task today was canceled because of strong winds, but not until they made us all wait on the hill thinking we would have to fly in that stuff. They initially came up with a 102k task for us, and then shortened it to 48k after pilots complained about having to overfly a huge antelope preserve where we are not allowed to land (under penalty of gear confiscation). At that point the top guys were still raring to go (and so was Dave) but the rest of us had our doubts about the strong winds. Our Rat Race host Paul is here and flying as a wind tech - he and Rick Ray launched to show us how strong it was blowing, and that's when the meet directors made the call to cancel. Thanks Paul! The Rat Racing monkeys needed a break anyway - we've been flying thermic conditions for the last seven straight days. Stay tuned for more news from Lakeview.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Rat Race Final Standings

1 Dean Stratton (Bob's mentor)
22 Paul Murdoch (host of the basement boys)
57 Brazilian Ray
59 Jetflap Jeff
66 Alex
72 Nick
73 Quentin
76 Scrappy
78 Marty (Maui)
80 Paul (Maui)
85 Bob
86 Dexter (Maui)
88 Dangler Greg
111 RVC

All In

Just before we came to the Rat Race, Pete was spreading the word about the nightly poker games he planned for the campground, like last year. Bob was heard to say that he was "all in" for the games. I don't think he actually ever made it to the poker tournament, but I know he was feeling like a bit of a loser in the flying competition. The flying had been challenging for everyone, but Bob was having a lot of trouble getting his game on.

But on the last day, Bob went all in. Just like in a poker game where you gamble all your stakes on one last play, Bob gritted his teeth and flew his heart out on the last day of the competition, making it all the way to goal for the first time ever. Bob got to goal right behind our local host Paul, who is a top comp pilot here. And he was the first of the Hawaii pilots to goal! He was followed by Ray, Nick and Jetflap. That was the most pilots we got into goal during the whole meet. It was actually a very difficult day, with the strong winds shredding the thermals at launch and making the gaggles into a chaotic mess. I tried to escape the main valley but finally gave up and hit the dirt along with Scrappy and Greg. Quentin made all the waypoints short of goal.

We don't have the final Hawaii standings yet, but we think Brazilian Ray has claimed the title of State Champion. I am proud to pass it on - he has been flying like a serious competition pilot. Now we are at the Nationals in Lakeview, and we have been joined by Fireman Dave. Today will be our first task - stay tuned for updates.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Another day of strong winds, but the task wasn't called off. Tons of folks landed in the main LZ, including most of Team Aloha. Our landings were death-defying elevator rides through strong turbulent winds - Greg hit the ground hard after his wing went parachutal. But Quentin persevered, along with about 30 other pilots, and made his waypoints before bailing out of the valley towards goal. We haven't heard from him yet, but we're hoping he made it in to represent us. The final celebration BBQ is tonight at the meet HQ, and then there's one more task tomorrow. Some of us will continue on to the Nationals in Lakeview tomorrow night after the last task, and our first task for the Nationals is the next morning. More details soon!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blown Out

The task today was stopped in the middle because of strong wind, after more than half the pilots had already launched and were trying to work the strong and shredded thermals. Everyone had interesting strong wind landings wherever they could manage -- I followed a couple of guys to land in a field next to the vineyard, and some of the other Hawaii guys landed nearby, so we headed over to do some wine tasting. We tasted some great wines, and bought (and drank) some bottles of our favorites. We got scolded by the meet organizers because we forgot to check out of the task. Whoops! Anyway, after that we retired to the pool hall and then went to Costco to stock up on supplies. Tomorrow is another day! - Alex

Man, it got windy!
After noticing penetration of less than 10km/h once I drift back on a thermal I just wanted to get out of there! On my slow way to the front I got some good bumps and I was in the top of the gaggle! Real cool to see everybody coming at you! then I started to push towards Rabies with less wind and better penetration, and some folks were "following me". when I start feeling bumpy air and less penetration I decided to bail out and go landing, so I followed Alex to a nice field where Nikki and Quentin joined me.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sole Survivor

Today we saw the best weather we've seen all week, with good thermal development and higher inversions (9000 feet or higher). So the task committee called a 72 km task with a really difficult set of turnpoints. Finally we had a task that the serious top competition pilots were happy about, and one where a smaller and more average number of pilots made goal - about a third of them. Of course that means that only the serious top competition pilots would be among that select group. Like Nick for example. He fought hard and pulled off many low saves to make goal today, his fourth comp day ever, on the longest and hardest task. No other Hawaii pilots made it -- the rest of us hit the dirt all along the course route. But thanks to Nick, we are continuing to make sure that Hawaii is represented at the goal line every day of the comp so far.

Preliminary overall standings for Hawaii pilots after four tasks:

51 Alex
56 Ray
59 Jeff
68 Dexter (Maui)
69 Marty (Maui)
73 Scrappy
76 Nikki
79 Quentin
80 Paul (Maui)
84 Rick (Maui)
90 Greg
99 Bob

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Today's task was almost canceled because the lift was so weak at Woodrat, but they ended up calling a very small one at the last minute, after we'd waited on the summit in the sun all day. Six Hawaii pilots made it to goal (3 from Oahu, 3 from Maui). The task wasn't worth very much in the overall results because it was such a short one, and the top pilots flew it so quickly. But it was still very challenging for us newer competitors. We saw a very common phenomenon here that we don't often see or recognize in Hawaii, where the wind flows together from two different directions, and the convergence of the two air masses creates a very strong and swirly mixture of lifting air. Once you got into that stuff it was all going up everywhere, and there was no need to turn - everyone just headed straight for the next turnpoint or for goal.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Goal Post

Some of you may know that Don has tried to nickname me Goalpost, because over the years I've had a few incidents where I found myself strung between two masts or trees on landing approach. I don't know why he thinks that's such a big deal - don't we all try to thread the needle every now and then? Well, Ray has taken that nickname for himself as of today, and I am posting about making goal myself today, so this is my Goal Post.

My ultimate hope for these two weeks of competition was that I would make goal one day. Now I guess I've achieved that goal on the second day!

Yesterday the conditions were very difficult (for average pilots like me) and our local guru Paul described the thermals as Snot Rockets. That was a fair description, I think. Former Big Island pilot John Ivey came down under his reserve after a collision in the start gaggle. I had a really tough time yesterday, and spent a very long time just trying to stay up, and also struggling to make each waypoint on the task. I finally made all of them, and headed down the last valley towards goal, but by that time I was so wiped out that I just meandered down the middle of the valley for a landing 6k short of the goal line. But still there were a record number of pilots in goal (51 out of 108) and four of them are Hawaii pilots: Marty and Rick from Maui, and Ray and Jetflap Jeff from Oahu. Jeff cut it very close coming into goal and snagged a tree as he landed.

Today, the weather conditions were the same, and a similar task was called with the same goal point. But the conditions were even a little bit snottier than yesterday, and there was a hard low inversion that made it hard to get very high.

But still a new record number of pilots made goal - 55 today. The fastest pilot made it in something like 57 minutes. I was the very last pilot in goal, at 2 hours 9 minutes. But I was in the air for over three hours, since I took the first chance to launch, an hour ahead of the start time. Ray was there waiting for me, and Paul, the local pilot we're staying with. Scrappy and Jetflap came close but didn't quite make it. Greg and Bob also made all the waypoints but didn't make goal. It was a tough day. The weather is supposed to get nicer - cross your fingers! The official results should be posted soon on the Rat Race website (check the link on the right). But in the meantime here are the cumulative results for Hawaii pilots after two tasks:

46 Brazilian Ray
58 Martin Herne (Maui)
63 Jetflap Jeff
64 Me
66 Paul Smith (Maui)
67 Scrappy
69 Dexter (Maui)
72 Quentin
80 Rick Wilson
87 Bob
88 Dangler Greg
98 Nick

We made it!!

Lucky day for Alex and me (Brazilian Ray), we both made it to goal today. Alex for his very first time (4th task ever)!!!

I made a very, very noticeble landing.... I was so low, I flew between some trees for the crowd's amusement. As everybody was cheering, my GPS started to beep indicating I made goal, so I turned upwind just inches off the ground for an upwind landing. In the meeting everybody was asking were you "that guy" -- maybe I shouldn't wear my SOL shirt. Congratz, Alex! Aloha, Ray

By the way, is "Murdoch" a Hawaiian name?? Man, this family knows Aloha!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Snot Rockets

Basement boys did well, except me. Ray made goal as did Flappie. Bob, Nikki, Scrappy Greg & Alex hit all way points except final goal. More details to come. Aloha, Don

I made it!!
First time in goal was so cool!! But to get there I had to go thru some drama...
after setting up my GPS I changed the batteries and the navigation got mess up. Instead of showing the first waypoint, it was showing the 3rd one (but I didn't know)... after the race started and I noticed everybody going to the "wrong waypoint" it hit me... I lost a few minutes to figure that out, then fix the gps and re-start the race. The cool thing was being very high helped me. I went to "burnt" and find some crazy convergency lift and climbed quite high. After I fixed and re-started I got a big frontal, and the glider (sol Tracer) behaved really well adn was easy to regain control, building my confidence and raising the "bump tolerance".
The thermals were sharp, small and a bit bumpy. The gaggle was confusing and quite scary, with bullet thermals pushing guys above you very fast. We even had a mid-air collision with parachute deployment! I'd rather cruise away from it and I manage to play at the edge of the gaggle for most of the time and venture sometimes by myself, looking for lift, and it payed off!
After hitting the last turnpoint, I pushed glide towards goal, realizing I was too far to make to the next gaggle, I had to turn back to woodrat (launch) to tank up some more altitude. Quentin was there too and we shared some thermals. I was lucky and took some bumpy ones to get enough altitude but I wasn't comfortable in that rowdy air and went downwind at speeds close to 60KM/H to the next ridge. Getting there I realize I wasn't quite as high as I thought and I almost gave up and landed, but I decided to fly right over the low peak where 3 ridges met. Sure enough it worked :) I got high enough to check in my gps the glide to dest. was 7:1 so I went on glide. Sometimes in sink I thought I was not gonna make it but all I could do by then was to keep the fingers crossed, and it worked. I made it! Aloha, Ray

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Winding Up

We are in Medford now. Check back soon for updates. Aloha, Don.

Oh, and by the way, Quentin went holo holo while the rest of us stood on launch unable to muster the nerve to launch. Dangler had a nice flight, and landed in the LZ in bumpy air, but Quentin went to the other side of Jacksonville with Len Szafaryn and Mike Steed. These are both top shelf pilots, and Q did quite well, though at the time he figured he was just keeping up w/the Joneses. Something tells me that Alex has his work cut out for him if he wants to keep his title of Hawai'i Rat Race champion. Alex has vowed to repeat his victory of last year, and has some ideas of how to circumvent Q's competitive drive. Alex is also going to have to deal with some other motivated contenders such as Ray with his new SOL Tracer. Ray tells us that he intends to 'win one for Brazil' even though he's registered as an American this year. It's hard to know how serious he is, though, since he's been passed out for hours after mixing up a huge batch of caipirinhas. We'll have to see what he has in store when the morning comes. The Fussball tourney rages on. Out. Bob.

And now for the real news: Over 20 Hawaii pilots are scattered all over the Rogue and Applegate Valleys. Many are at the campground, some are at motels in Jacksonville and Medford, and four of us are in local pilot Paul's basement. Paul and his family are the most generous hosts ever. Their ranch is a wildlife wonderland, with horses, goats, chickens, beehives, three very personable dogs, a cat, a muskrat, a weasel, and a duckling-eating bullfrog. The weather the last few days was good, and many pilots have got warmed up nicely. But the four basement bombers waited out the strong wind today, watching Q and Greg brave the bumpy conditions and saving our balls for tomorrow's game. Bob and Don are trying to portray me as a serious competitor, but anyone who has flown with me lately knows I am a mediocre thermaller and I am at the nadir of my confidence these days. I plan to fly well within my comfort level, and I hope everyone else does the same, whatever that means for them. Comps like this are a great opportunity to learn a lot, but I think the trick is to stretch yourself without pushing too hard outside your comfort zone. More soon, Alex.

Besides the blast we're having from the north winds, we're having a blast with the other pilots and at Paul's house. Alex forgot mention about the cherry trees....yummy! At the headquarters we had some uploading: waypoints for the GPS and margaritas for the pilots.The hawaii team shirt is a big success and everybody wants one! Thanks Alex! We're all trying to understand how the weather and valleys winds work; Alex is figuring it out pretty well and he has a good flying plan for tomorrow, first day of comp. good luck to us all!
To those back home, some folks are being missed much :(
aloha! Brazilian Ray

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rat Race Countdown

The 2007 Rat Race begins this weekend! Over twenty paraglider pilots from Hawaii will be making their way to the Applegate Valley over the next couple of days. I am leaving tomorrow morning with Bob, Quentin and Don. After the Rat Race and Nationals are over, I will be headed to DC for five weeks to see my family and do some work, returning to Hawaii in early August. Stay tuned for updates!