Tuesday, July 03, 2007

2007 Oregon Competition Wrap-up

I guess there hasn't been any good flying on Oahu for the last month, since no one has posted an article or a picture anywhere but the chatter box. Either that or you guys all have writer's block. Maybe I can clear the creative logjam by posting a final report of our adventures at the Oregon competitions over the last two weeks.

During the last two weeks of June, a record number of Hawaii pilots attended two consecutive annual cross country competitions in Oregon, the Rat Race and the US Paragliding Nationals. This was Hawaii's biggest competition trip ever by any measure, with 13 competitors, 6 volunteers, and some free flyers and Hawaii expatriates joining the fun. This time we definitely supplied enough monkeys for the thermal research team to find cloudbase. We did better than that: we had 10 pilots into goal for their first time, and numerous personal bests in distance and altitude. The only thing missing was Doug! Our top-ranked competition pilot was holding out for the Chelan XC Classic, which is taking place right now. Fly high, far, and fast, Doug!

The weather for both comps was mostly cloudless and clear, but also a bit on the windy and high pressure side. We flew all seven days at the Rat Race, although one task was cancelled mid-flight due to strong winds. The Nationals were even windier, and three days were too windy to even call a task. Two of our three task days saw fairly brisk winds at launch, and we all got a lot of practice flying shredded thermals, in a crowded start gaggle, low over terrain. The last day about half of us launched into a very turbulent gaggle soup, but the task was cancelled shortly after it began due to the strong wind and rough conditions. So for those of us who went to both meets, we had a total of nine valid tasks, and eleven flying days out of fourteen. That's a lot of thermaling for Hawaii pilots!

Cross country flying is certainly not for everyone, nor does the pressure of a competition environment appeal to all pilots. But for those pilots who want to improve our cross country skills, a good competition can teach us more in a week than we might learn all year in Hawaii (that is, unless we're talking about Doug). We don't get too many good thermal days here on Oahu, and even when we do, we rarely feel compelled to push ourselves to cover much distance, or to land in unfamiliar spots. But a cross country competition gives us a chance to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones in a relatively controlled manner, with a team of expert pilots helping us analyze and judge the flying conditions, and designing tasks that will lead us into places we might not otherwise choose to fly. Not to mention landing short in some spot you never would have picked on purpose. Paul Murdoch put it something like this: when we're free flying we usually just try to find the best possible air to fly in - but in a competition we have to fly in any air that will take us down the task line. And in the process you will get to make friends with and fly with some of the best pilots from around the country and the world.

Hawaii has a long history of sending our pilots off to mainland competitions (or at least we try to send Doug). Here is the list of our comp visits as far as I can remember it - please correct me if you notice any mistakes.

1999Doug, Reaper, Mad Dog, BJ, Nalu and Duane compete in US Nationals in Aspen
2001Doug and Nalu compete in US Nationals in Chelan
2002Doug competes in Snowbird XC Competition
2003Doug and Quentin compete in US Nationals in Owens Valley
2004Doug competes in US Nationals in Telluride
Doug competes in Monarca XC Open in Mexico
2005Doug and Bob compete in US Nationals in Chelan
2006Doug competes in XC Open in Manila, Australia
Ray, Greg, Sandy, Jetflap, Bob, Don, Peter and Alex compete in Rat Race

One essential component of any good competition is a huge volunteer effort. This year we had lots of Hawaii folks helping out as volunteers at the Rat Race and Nationals. Pete was the extreme retrieve black ops commander, and Cheree worked hard as retrieve driver as well. Pete also helped with launching at the Rat Race, as did Hadija from Maui. Chris from Maui helped with the sign in sheets at the Rat Race. Thanks to all of the volunteers for helping making both events so fun and safe.

While we're feeling grateful, we should definitely say thanks to the Haleys and Kevin Biernacki for organizing such excellent meets. A huge thank you also goes to Paul, Whitney, Sy, Madison, and Hailey, gracious hosts to four very fortunate Hawaii pilots during the Rat Race. And finally, our deep gratitude must also extend to the Longsword Vineyard and the Deschutes Brewing Company for the healthful and restorative powers of their magical elixirs. I'm guessing that both companies will see a mysterious surge in revenues for the last two weeks of June.

For the day by day reports, see our dedicated Monkeys in Oregon website.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article Alex. You saved me from having to post one. I had told myself that I would write one first thing in the morning. I think you could add Doug's Monarca comp. to the list and as for the thank you's you will want to add Tom Chessnut, Motorhead and Don to the launch patrol who kept us safe and expedited the Rat Race launch que. My bump tollerance is off the chart compared to where it was when I left and I've got the rest of the Hawaii pilots to thank in many ways for all the encouragement and comradery along the way.
And yes, a huge Mahalo to the Murdoch family and their paraglider dude ranch. I guess I'd better post the pictures of Alex w/ his big black nipples, feeding the baby goats.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure there's some fetish site that would love that photo.

Alex said...

Oh no! How could I forget to thank my main sponsor! Thanks to Dorothy and the kids for sending me to two weeks of summer comp camp for Father's day! I know I am a lucky dad.

firedave said...

I both loved and hated the comp. I had wished to spend more time in the air ( as did everyone!). I found it very difficult that the crux was trying to climb out of launch, but once you did the flying got excellent. So either you went far or you ended up back in Lakeview, I know many shared that frustration.
On the up side, I did have my personal best flight. I bombed out and then relaunched. I got a climb over the back, flew with Ray, got to 16 grand and made goal at 11 grand. The conditions improved the whole flight and I probably could have done another 15 miles on glide.
I just drives home the fact that consistency is king if you are going to do well at a comp. Next year.
Thanks to all the pilots for making it fun and easy, See you in the air.

Brazilian Ray said...

What a great XC-periance it was! please check http://www.paraglidingforum.com/modules.php?name=leonardo&op=list_flights for some flights and stats!

besides all the flying, it was awesome to hang out with a cool bunch of people :)

Brazilian Ray

Doug said...

I must say between the Rat Race and the Nats you guys did great with many Hawaii pilots making goal on multiple tasks!!!! WOW! It seems like many of you may have finally cought the comp bug!

I did want to mention that we do have a lot of great thermal flying on Oahu but you have to be willing to earn/work for it.

The XC classic was wonderful. Got to meet a bunch of new pilots many of them hang glider pilots and they are not such bad guys :)

Chelan is an awesome place to fly! We flew all 7 days and There were many flights over 100 miles by the rigids and I did over 30 on 4 days but didn't meet my goal of a big triangle or long straight line.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed having the Hawaiians over for a visit. Such gracious guests, though you really need to let me get my wallet out occasionally.

Since you've been gone, Hazel has grown very large, and we have a new addition - a muskrat, for God's sake.

Hope to see you next year.