Aloha Rat Racers! I just received word that this year, the 15th Annual Rat Race is the finale of the best paragliding competition, clinic, and party the world has ever seen. This year is my 14th year of hucking and plucking hundreds and maybe even thousands of pilots at Woodrat Mountain, Oregon. Many Hawaii pilots have flown, raced, trained, and had the time of their lives during past Rat Races. Mike and Gail Haley are moving closer to their kids in Portland and have decided this is the last year to run the Rat Race at their amazing property in Ruch, OR.
Over the years the Rat Race has grown to include the US National Paragliding Championships, the Sprint Classic race for those not flying comp wings, and a Super Clinic run by none other than Kari Castle, the former 5 time world champion hang glider, and US National paragliding champion along with Ken Hudjorgenson who has been teaching HG/PG for over 40 years.
Woodrat mountain is located in Ruch, OR between Grant's Pass and Medford, OR in the Applegate Valley. With 2 huge launches capable of handling two hundred pilots or more with a North and West facing slopes is ideal for beginners and comp pilots. Huge LZ's are abundant in the valleys and very friendly wineries to land in.
Camping, fishing, hiking, World Class Wineries, and close to major shopping Applegate valley has something for everyone. Usually, the town is very sleepy and is a tourist destination during the summer months. The local paragliding and hanggliding club has some of the best XC pilots in the west. Typical XC flights flown by the locals are 50 to 100+ miles. Big fat thermals and typical convergence make this flying area challenging but consistent.
If you have never been to the Rat Race but always wanted to go, this is your LAST chance.
Registration is open now for the Race, Sprint (intermediate), and the Super Clinic (highly recommended for those seeking XC and thermal training).
Woodrat is easy to get to from Hawaii:
Portland, OR airport from HNL and rent a car with a 4 hour drive
Medford airport direct from SF on United Express with a 30 min drive to Ruch.
Hotels in Medford and Jacksonville
Air BNB all over Jacksonville and Applegate valley
Camping in Ruch or Cantrall Buckley state campground on the Applegate river (very nice with hot showers)
Or fellow pilots with homes for camping or room rentals at their places in Ruch such as Forest and Ravens otherwise known as "Ravens Landing" (yes, you can land there) or Christina's ranch around the corner.
Food and beer at the Ruch General store is good and cheap. My favorite is the breakfast burrito in the morning but they go fast. They also sell great Oregon Micro beers, local wines, and everything else under the sun. No hard liquor. That you have to purchase in Jacksonville nearby at Local legendary pilot Paul Murdochs store 'Gary West meat and delicatessen.
A typical day at the Rat Race is as follows:
1000 load trucks with wings and hop on a bus or someones Bronco for the 25 min ride to launch
1100 start launching students and wind techs if they want for mellow and light thermal flights to the big main LZ
Super Clinic launches depend on conditions
1200 pilot meeting on launch (sometimes many depending on conditions)
1300 -1400 start launch of Race (comp) pilots
1400 race start
Super Clinic pilots have classes all day and some get 2-3 flights a day depending on conditions
1330 - 1400 Launch Sprint pilots
Reaper leaves launch as pilots head back up from the bomb out main LZ for re-launches
Retrieve vans and Reaper start the hunt and chase the pilots
1800 hrs check in for all pilots begins as goal closes
Dinner and drinks usually following the check-in
But the fun begins when you return to HQ. There's a big pool, workout areas, BBQ, beer trailer, loud music, and lots of horseplay and pilot camaraderie.
Classes are usually held around dinner time with some of the best US and World pilots given lessons on Thermal etiquette, XC, flying techniques used by World class pilots, etc.
This is the most amazing paragliding scene in the US and second only to Coupe Icare in France.
I hope to see you all there for the last hurrah this year.
"We huck em, we pluck em"