Sunday, July 14, 2019

Chelan 2019: Ultimate Frisbee

We just finished up with the US Paragliding Nationals in Chelan. Alex, JK, Jorge, Reaper and I. We had five very different tasks, in different directions. Below are a few of the things I remember.

Task 1: A Fast Start.

There were lots of familiar faces about and Matty Senior, the colorful Kiwi meet director, decided to launch us on a classic 100k downwinder in beautiful conditions. The flying was great, up to 9000’+ cloudbase. Clouds shaded much of the course, but in Chelan the thermals don’t seem to care. I started poorly as usual, barely getting high enough above the Butte to cross the Columbia River to get started. Once high on the flats things got going and conditions were on. I flew with Alex and JK at times, but we all generally did our own thing. One crossing of Banks Lake was the only terrain problem to be dealt with. Flatland flying is awesome.

A bunch of thermals later and we all arrived at goal, including Louie from Maui. We were slow so all the Goal beer was already consumed, but Reaper was there to blaze us back to Chelan in that Crusty Old Bronco. So what if it reeked of leaking gasoline and dog piss, we were stoked to have made our first goal and stopped for some good beer to celebrate. Reaper made short work of the long drive home and we enjoyed a little celebration.

Task 2: Oh Canada!

A new day and a new place to play. Matty called a 130k day north to Oroville, which is right at the Canadian border. This task left the pilot with a lot of route tactics to be considered. The big boys would hit the flats and blast north, but getting high on the flats wasn’t a gimme. I had my eye on the rocky hills on the West Bank of the Columbia River, slower but much more manageable, at least that is what I thought.

High over the Butte at the start most of us Hawaii guys were high together. Jorge told me to follow him, but he took off on an angled route on the course line and over the river low. It looked too risky for me as goal is really my goal. As it turned out lots of great pilots bombed out early including Jorge. Not that the safe route was much better, I got really low a couple of times as did pretty much everyone else. At the town of Brewster I was reduced to ridge soaring a lump above town. Just then a pair of hawks came soaring up underneath me to show me where the real thermal was. A little bit later one hawk dives in front of me like a bullet, pulls his talons out as he passes and locks talons with the other hawk as they fall from the sky before pulling out and resuming thermallling. Mating ritual or maybe juveniles play fighting, it had me puzzled.

After climbing out from there things got easier. We all fly with our phones using the FlySkyHi app as an instrument and with it we can keep track of each other. It is fun to see where your friends are at any time. After gliding on I can see that Alex is very close, it takes me a while to find him glued to the clouds above at 9000’. We trade positions a couple of times, but he definitely sticks to the high line more often. On the last 10k to goal I lose a lot of altitude, he flies over me thousands of feet higher on full bar passing me on the way to goal. JK glides in. I am stuck kicking and soaring recklessly over a rocky ridge that stands between me and goal, but eventually make my way in. The Hawaii pilots aren’t great at working together, but somehow we arrive at about the same time. The three amigos ride in the van home, with Matty, beer and someone’s weed pen for entertainment.

Task 3: A Different Kind of Day

Task 3 was a 100k day to finish out by where we flew the task prior. This day had a Turnpoint out in the flats which were forecast to be windy and would have us fighting the wind a bit. The rest of the guys got off pretty well with Jorge in goal, JK almost in goal and Alex down on course past halfway. I struggled with getting high at launch as did most. At one point JK and I were going up in a ripper, but I lost it and JK got real high, i was left trying to limp on course, looking to get over to the flats. I glided in to the other side of the river super low and set about to try and climb in a canyon. I was stuck mostly ridge soaring and sweating 50’ off the ground for 40 minutes. During that time a pilot hit a dust devil on landing and was badly hurt, another pilot threw his reserve nearby the injured pilot narrowly missing the monster sets of transmission lines and another pilot crashed dramatically but uninjured at launch. There was a lot going on and Reaper had his hands full. I had finally climbed out of the canyon to try the flats but quickly bombed out for my first ‘rim’ job, as it is aptly called.

Task 4: The Floater

One of the top guys in the comp is the open distance record holder, Donizette Lemos, from Brazil. He had his movie showing for everyone on the non-flying days. Weather wasn’t good, grey clouds and no wind on launch. A task is called and then downgraded in the weak conditions, I think 40km. Lots of people launch including the top dogs, flying for hours never climbing above the launch. The gaggle either landing or getting lower and lower. But behind the Butte in the apparent leeside climbs three gliders, Donizette, Gunniscio and Cady right at start time and they head out. They lose Cady and both fly on to goal amazing. Shortly afterwards the sun pops for a bit and people start launching, climbing and going on task. The sun goes away and most of us bomb out pretty soon, but amazingly pilots scratch and hang in with 20 making goal. But Donizette shows everyone why he holds the record.

Task 5: James Bond

A commotion starts on launch, something about a paraglider getting stolen, people are tracking vehicles racing downhill with the apparent stolen goods. Aaron Price quickly launches in his glider James Bond style to intercept the villain before he can hit the main road. The crowd on the Butte goes wild cheering for him. He lands 10 seconds late and the assumed thieves are stopped by the police prior, but it isn’t them. The glider theft mystery deepens and Reaper searches the mountain in vain. Just a typical morning.

The conditions are looking great but a 70km downwinder is called to get everyone back for the awards party. Booming thermal conditions speed everyone to goal. Mike, a housemate, who bombed out all week blazes into goal early, Jorge 17th, the rest of us later. Great finish with the now iconic margarita bar in goal.


Big party to wrap things up. Another housemate wins a new glider. Lots of smiles for the week. Jorge 21 (nice), Dave 70, JK 74, Alex 77, with his most goals ever.


Thom said...

God, I miss traveling with Dave. thankfully he has taken on the writing task as well. I am betting Alex didn't get many videos there at the Rodeo, so a nice long coffee read is the ticket for all of us not there.

Great wrap up Dave. Chelan is not for the meek, cause they will definitely hit the earth.

The launch there can be challenging. I was watching pilots launch from all edges of the Butte....hmmmmm.....I asked a top dog, "What happens straight up there?" Pointing at the area high over the center of launch where all these up drafts may meet. Response," Oh, you dont wanna be there."

Glad to see our Hawaii Guys making Goal. This may have been the highest Hawaii Goal Count in any comp.

Thanks for the read Dave.
It was more of a wine/whine read as its late and I wish i was there.

firedave2 said...


We missed you last week, my humor only goes so far without you around. I am sure that Alex was getting tired of my ‘not’ bunion jokes. The good news is that Alex took lots of video in flight, he says it is a lot to edit so stay tuned. The video above is pretty slick until then. Pilots and equipment has gotten so good it is hard to keep up. Loads of fun.