Thursday, July 05, 2012

Rat Race 2012: Rogue Monkeys in Oregon

The Rat Race has been over for more than a week, but part of me is still there, soaring over the picturesque peaks, valleys and vineyards of the Applegate and Rogue Valleys in Southern Oregon. I was on the fence about going this year until the last minute, but Dorothy told me I had to go, which certainly settled it for me, and I'm really glad I went. As always, it was an intense week of hard core flying and learning, but it was also a great chance to reconnect with flying friends from all over the country and the world.

This was my seventh time going, and the second year they've offered the easier Sprint event for newer competitors (or remedial ones like me). This year it was limited to EN-C wings, and thanks to Joey's boundless generosity, I was able to enter with his Gradient Aspen 4. I flew his clever new baby to goal four times during six tasks, which was by far my best result ever. Twice I came in seventh place for the day, and I ended up 13th overall out of 89 pilots. As usual for this event, the weather was consistently flyable, with a nice variety of conditions. We were blessed with six straight days of good flying weather, and it was almost a relief to sit the last two days out because of rain. My daily blog of the event is here.

Lots of current and former Hawaii pilots were there to make me feel at home. Many raced in the Sprint event with me: JD came down from his exile in Washington; John (Frosty) from the Big Island; Dexter, Abhay, Rick, Marty, Chuck, and Paul from Maui; and Jared's sister Rayna from Kauai. And it was great to see so many current and former Hawaii pilots in various volunteer roles: Reaper, Tom Chesnut, LeeAnn, Laurel, Tyler, Gaza, Eliasson, Berndt, Motorhead Paul, Dwayne, Chris and Big Island Eric helped out with launches, retrieves, and wind technician work. Thanks to all of those folks for making everything work so smoothly.

The Hawaii pilots racing in the Sprint event proved they are not just coastal ridge soaring monkeys, with at least two making goal every day, for a total of twenty-one goals achieved during six tasks, including five top ten finishes. On the practice day, Dexter, Rick, Marty, Paul, Chuck (for his first time) and I made it into goal. In task one, Frosty was 4th to goal (for his first time), and Dexter, Rick and Marty also made it in. In task two, half the field made goal, including Hawaii pilots Frosty, Dexter, Rayna (for her first time), me and Abhay (maybe his first, not sure). In task three, I was 7th, joined by Rick and Dexter. In task four, I was 7th again, joined in goal by Marty on a very high scoring fishbowl marathon of a flight. In task five, Abhay was 2nd for the day, and Frosty was 9th. JD had a tough time this year, but he stuck with it like a trooper, and I am hopeful that after a season of XC flying with Doug and Preacher in Washington, he will come back and show us how it's done. Results and track logs for all Sprint pilots can be found here.

Thanks to hosts Paul, Whitney, Hailey, and Sy for once again sharing their fabulous ranch with so many wayward pilots. Thanks to Paul and James for all the great mentoring. Thanks to the brilliant and fiendish members of the task committee for devising such fun and torturous missions each day. And finally, thanks to organizers Mike and Gail, and to Paul's amazing local club, the RVHPA.

I would love to see more of my Oahu flying buddies go to this event! For anyone who is already flying XC in thermal conditions in Hawaii, this event is a great opportunity to expand your horizons to mainland mountain flying, with help and mentoring from some of the world's best pilots. Even if you're not quite ready for the XC flying, the morning flights and the glass offs in the evenings are a good introduction to mainland flying, and volunteering for the event is a great way to be a part of it without having to commit to racing every day. I hope to see many of you there next year!


JD said...

Nice Alex! Not just the story but all you accomplishments at the Rat Race. You are an amazing pilot. I have the utmost respect for you having experienced those conditions. Thanks for the advice, comments and friendship. See you soon!


Thom said...

If Dorothy approves yet another Oregon trip to the Rat Race for you next year and you sign up for the Big Boys class. Maybe even I will show up.

Congrats on placing so high up in the ranks.

Also can't wait to see you flying that IP6.