Friday, July 05, 2013

To Comp or Not to Comp; That is the Question.

Wood Rat, Oregon has been an instigator for my flying. In 2006 I attended as a non pilot, I was a driver and a groupy of this band of monkeys. The launch there was clear and wide and after watching pilots for days, I thought, "I can do this." Five years later, 2011, I returned as a pilot and helped Reaper on launch, then when the racers were gone, I flew. This was the first time I got to fly with Motorhead. We landed in a vineyard and were handed a glass of wine. The Rat hook was getting set.

My answer to the title of this story was 'NOT'. I did not want anyone telling me when I could launch, where I had to go, when I could start and how small a cylinder I had to go through. Well, I was stuck by an old promise to Alex on the Rat Race. I had always told him that if he ever stepped up to the Race Class then I would enter the Sprint Class. 2013, I was reluctantly off to the Rat.

This year was our biggest Hawaii contingent ever. We had 4 islands represented with over 26 pilots and a surprise appearance of Sky God, Doug Hoffman, who came down from his perch in Washington. This year was going to be amazing.

We were so many that we had to spread out our accommodations.  Most of us were blessed with sites at Forrest and Raven's which was soon dubbed 'Camp Hawaii'.   Alex and Dave were housed at the Murdock Hale, Joey & Robyn found a nice B&B, Maui Rodney stayed with a friend in Ashland.  Some of the Maui Monkeys and Big Island Boys had separate abodes as well.  Camp Hawaii was No Ka Oi,  Thanks Raven and Forrest for housing such a motley crew.

Beautiful Launch View
After a cold first nights sleep we all met at HQ Saturday morning for the briefings and were
shuttled to the top for Practice Day.   It was a short run, just to get used to everything.  I made goal and it was a confidence builder.  A high five with Joey was going to be an ongoing ritual this trip.

The next few days were called off due to weather.  This was good for the first day or 2 to get caught up on rest and pow wow with some old friends.  This was also time to travel around the area and see the sites.  Now your in for it, my site seeing trip with Fireman Dave.

Two days had past and on the third day of no flying Dave decided to go to Gold Beach.  No-one was

up for going with him but I was up for it, there was a flying site on the coast and we thought we might just score.  Alex told us it might be an hour or so I am not sure the measurement of 'so' but it must be way longer than an hour.   Paul Murdock had tipped us with a scenic road that looked like a more direct route.  It was not.  The name of this route took us on a single lane twisting endless road named Bear Camp Road.  We never found any bears,  apparently they were smart enough not to travel this road.  We never saw much of anything with visibility of 20 feet,  most of the ride we were in the rainy clouds.  But traveling with Dave is always an adventure and full of laughs.

Dave and I arrived at Gold Beach over 3 hours later.  Gold Beach was more like Cold Beach and not
Oregon Beach Cooooold Beach
a sole around.  We headed back to Wood Rat shortly after arriving giving up any thoughts of flying this area now or ever.  We raced along the highway, this time, hoping to make it back by dinner.  We didn't make it, another 3 hours.  Dave and I had now been together for 6 painful hours, we were tired and hungry.  We had to park outside the city due to the Steve Miller band packing the crowds into Jackson so parking was all used up.  We started to walk towards town.

On the way I got a phone call from Alex.  He told me there was a problem, one of the Murdocks is at the Police Station.  Oh God, what did Paul do,  I figured he had had it with one of the incidents that had happened and took matters in to his own hands. I better hit an ATM.  Alex relaxed me by revealing the incarcerated family member,  it was Peppie. The smallest Murdock little dog had wandered off the estate and onto the highway. A kind lady picked her up and tried to track down the owners.  Peppie's tags had the Gary West Store number but it was closed.  So she drove Peppie to town found the Police who knew the owner, Paul Murdock,  small town.

It's not that small,  we walked to the Police station on the other end, only to find out that Miss Peppie is in the back of a police car on the other end of town.    When I arrived at the car, Peppie jumped out and was now on parole.  The story goes on but she gets returned home with a faint smell of skunk on her and around the yard.

Dave and I were now beyond starved.  We made it to the Mexican restaurant that we found out later was actually closing when we walked in.  They must have seen that look in our eyes and decided to stay open and feed us.  Now, well fed and numbed with margaritas we went home to bed. 

Wednesday dawned another yucky day. They decided to haul us up the hill.  What are they thinking?  The sky was thick with wet, cold clouds, but they have weather gurus here that are top notch.  Finally, it did clear just enough for the Race Class to get a task.  The Sprint was cancelled but most of us still flew to avoid the long ride down.

Joey & I handing in our Goal GPS
Thursday, a Sprint Task was set.  It was deemed the hardest Sprint route to date, great not only are they going to tell me where to go and when, they make it difficult.   The thermals were popping and the sinks seemed bottomless.  Some how my new Flymaster Nav led me towards each cylinder and eked the wonderful sound of turn point complete.  After 3 hours of getting tossed and twisted, Donalto's Goal was in site.  I made it,  Joey and I did the Goal dance.

Friday the humbler.  After gloating about goal, which is never a good idea,  Joey and I launched only to join most of our crew just below launch at Hunter's LZ.   I spent an hour and half groveling from below low launch to almost high launch.  I did not even hit the start cylinder.  Lesson learned,  shut your mouth and only thank the thermals for allowing you to use them.

Saturday Final.  Some of the roughest thermals I have ever experienced.   I am planning on down loading my track log so I can see where my only big collapse occurred.  I will then mark that spot on my GPS as a 'No Fly Zone'.  Every time I got low, I said this is it thermals you win, I am going to land.  For some reason I think they were getting a kick out of tossing me and would give me a gentler ride high up to the next cylinder.  I hit the last turn point very low,  Goal at Longswords seemed almost reachable, full bar.   I hit another big thermal and took it all, possibly wasting a lot of time as I hit the Goal cylinder at 4200 feet.  It took a while to land and Joey landed right after me.  No Goal dance this time just a big knuckle bump and a deserving chug of beer.   I scored 27th position out of approximately 80 pilots.  I felt pretty good.

These Comps, especially this one, are filled with the top pilots who are all too willing to give you their secrets, help you with gear modifications and encourage you to get out there and fly hard.  Of course they love having a bunch of floundering markers to bench up off from too, so we kinda help them in return. 

Thanks Forrest & Raven
This year they added the Super Clinic.  I am hoping to get debriefed from Bonnie and TommyRD to pick their heads on what they learned in that class. 

To Comp or Not To Comp, for me it is no longer a question.  Whether I ever enter one again is to be determined but Competition Flying definitely makes you a better pilot and is that not what we want to be.

It's Time to Fly Get Your Gear and Go!!!! Where they tell you of course!

1 comment:

Alex said...

Thom, I am very proud of everyone who went this year and all of their accomplishments. But I think I am proudest of you, for overcoming your natural reluctance to get involved in a huge organized event like this, and for getting so much out of it, and for doing so well. Making goal 3 out of 4 tasks is unheard of for first time Sprinters like you and Joey. You guys are my heroes! Joey's Aspen 4 was my ticket to Sprint success last year and you guys showed us what that wing can do again this year.

And I'm super glad you encouraged me to try the Race this year. I wasn't sure at first but it turned out to be the right choice for me to learn the most. Obviously I still have lots to learn!