Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Goal Posts: 2023 Ozone Chelan Open

This is my soporific account of our annual paragliding competition in the dusty flatlands around Chelan Washington. The U.S. Paragliding Nationals just finished up this past week, with part time resident, Will in 7th place overall, down to JK who was grounded by the virus whose name shall not be spoken. Or maybe like Bettlejuice, you say it three times and you get it. But that is someone else's story.

The Ozone Chelan Open is a 'C' glider competition the week prior to the U.S. Nationals. Alex arrived a few days earlier to take part in the XC clinic put on by Nick Greece, Bill Belcourt and world champ Russ Ogden. Basically, he paid a good amount of money to be reminded in the queens English of his shortcomings. 'Alex fly faster, skip that thermal, why are you skipping that thermal?, etc.'

JK choose another tack, he arrived early to get some good practice in. He pulled the RV in behind Teague's new Italian pasta restaurant and asked if there was a good place to park his RV for a couple weeks. Teague kindly offered the parking space behind the restaurant in exchange for JK helping out making fresh pasta. I don't think JK had any idea that his casual job at the pasta machine would turn into a second occupation. It was fun to watch our friend, a high paid pilot at a major airline, have to rush off after flying all day to log his hours at the pasta machine. Priceless!


The Crew- We had a big show of Hawaii connected pilots; Marc, Alex, JK, Igor, Scrappy, Louie, Jeff, Patricia, myself, Ren (last minute entry). The real magic occured when Maui Louie arrived with a crew can F-150 and Maui Jeff's wife, Patricia offered to drive retrieve. All week the truck was driving the Monkey crew up and down the mountain with a small coffin sized cooler of beverages and a smiling Brazillian girl ready to roll wherever we went. I can't say enough how awesome it made the week!

Practice Day- Saturday was practice day so there were no retrieves available. Alex and the XC clinic had a retrieve and a scheduled task to Mansfield. Alex and Igor made it to goal for a nice practice day. The rest of us crossed the river and flirted with the flats before returning to the soccer park LZ.

I crossed the river and pointed to a small gaggle scratching and climbing in front of the powerlines. As I arrived at their location, the last couple of pilots had already climbed out. I found myself low in front of the massive powerlines diving toward a dust devil getting sucked under the powerlines. I was in big sink and the ground came up quickly. After landing, I wondered what I was even thinking in the moments prior and made a point no to fly stupid. I packed up quickly, alone by the powerlines for the dreaded rim job. It was clear that there were no pilots around, no nothing around. I had a lonely hour walk amid dust devils trying to at least get to pavement. Still not seeing anyone I tapped out and called Marc, who reluctantly offered to drive out to get me. At that moment an old pickup drove by, with the driver saying he was actually headed to his warehouse at Chelan Falls Park, where I needed to get to. I shared a lot of stories about his injection molding business and growing up in Chelan on the long drive. At one point he told me that the airplanes were out seeding the clouds yesterday and that it meant it would rain the next day. Huh! I nodded and just moved on with the conversation. To his credit, we did get rained out the next day, so what do I know!

He dropped me off at the soccer park LZ and immediately a silver F-150 rolled up and all I heard from the cracked window was 'winery, lunch, get in' and just like that the day took a quick turn for the better with the Maui crew.

TASK 1- After the cloud seeded rain day off, the task committee had us on a downwind trajectory out towards Coulee Dam. There was rain threatening all around the courseline, but none blocking our path. Everyone was off to a good start, getting high and moving fast with the tailwind. The course clouded up, but the thermals still kept pumping. The whole time a wall of rain was falling towards our final destination. Igor, in his full race mode, just missed the last turnpoint and had to fly back upstream to get it, putting him behind. Alex, seeing the curtain of rain over our goal field opted to go land early. But the rain at goal receded before our arrival and it was fine.


Results: JK 20, Marc 22, Dave 24, Jeff 29, Igor 30, Louie 33, Scrappy 39, Alex 66, Ren (scoring problem).

TASK 2- A great start for all, but rain on the courseline shut things down two minutes short of being a valid task. We will just call it another practice day.

TASK 3- An interesting task, this one had us bouncing between waypoints to increase distance. The interesting thing was that you could see everyone and run back and forth between known thermals. Near the end I could see everyone running ahead as Scrappy and I were moving low and slow. Scrappy's thermal came to life and I refused to move over into his thermal. Everyone above headed towards goal. I scratched for quite a bit longer and decided to take my chances to get to goal. Beneath me was still a group of gliders much lower having a difficult time finding a climb. My lonely final glide had me sinking all the way, goal was definitely out of reach, but  just on the other side of town I heard a slight beep from my vario over a pile of rocks in a field. I turned endlessly, determined to get enough altitude to get over the little town and in to goal. I came scudding in downwind into the crowd at goal to be the last person there.


Results: JK 9, Igor 14, Marc 24, Louie 33, Alex 39, Scrappy 58, Jeff 61, Dave 66, Ren 78.

TASK 4- A classic Chelan downwinder across Banks Lake and beyond. Alex fully in the grip of 'the virus' decides to fly today but is confined to the back of the pickup for the ride up to launch. Having said that he flew just fine today.

The task starts and everyone is off well. We all fly together most of the time, but we are mostly opportunists, ready to part for a better thermal and find new friends. We are climbing to 11k' and more, the lake crossing is nothing and the blue hole across the lake is popping thermals. Me, Louie, Jeff and Alex find ourselves together in the last thermal. I stay for an extra turn as they go on glide for the airport goal. I witness a beautiful sight, three of my friends high in the sky gliding with goal in the background. I think it would make a great photo, but I am pushing speedbar in bumpy air trying to pass my wingmen and my camera isn't setup, so it will just remain etched in my memory. As we approach goal it all starts going up, after spending a day trying to go up, we can't even spiral down. Funny how that works. The retrieve truck picks everyone up and off we go the awards party.


IDAHO: As we were all trying to get down at the Wilbur airport goal field a big group of free flyers were going far into Idaho. Matt Hoffman went 312km, Cody, Alexia and a bunch of others were making the best of a stellar flying day.


Results: Igor 12, Marc 35, Louis 58, Jeff 59, Dave 61, Alex 65, JK 71, Scrappy 75, Ren 84.

WRAPUP: The launches went nicely this year, I don't think anyone mentioned groveling below launch, like in other years. Most everyone made goal every day, many in top spots, which is also an improvement. The weather threw us a few twists, but the tasks that did happen were a blast!

OVERALL:  Owen 1, Austin 2, Russ 3, Igor 14 (after a long comp layoff), JK 19 (putting in the work), Marc 22 (silent but deadly), Louis 33, Jeff 44, Scrappy 47, Dave 48, Alex 63, Ren 86. 

The results don't show it but everyone had their own victories and adventures. Maybe we will see you there in 2024!


Patrick said...

Good stuff

JK said...

Excellent, writeup, Dave. So glad we have this one documented for posterity. It was a marvelous time in the air with the monkeys and all the other exceedingly talented pilots that swarmed the butte. I am continually amazed at how much better our USA pilots get each year. I know that we are not at the caliber of European (and other) pilots, but assuming that Russ is a slice at that level, we continued to show they are still above us, but the margin is reducing. And with the synergy from events like this that share all the secrets of how to get better, that margin should be reduced even further in the years to come. Good stuff!

But just for the record, the pasta/parking drug deal didn’t quite happen the way you described, Dave. I got to Washington early and decided to help out (aka - volunteer) with my time to the common good. I passed up some good fly days in the process. I dropped by NW Paragliding in Issaquaw to see what I could do in that time, and the boys there said, talk to Teague. If you can help him, that would be golden. So that’s what I did. I got to Chelan, camped the first night at Walmart and then went looking for Teague. He told me all about his new restaurant endeavor (Lago Pasta), and explained that it was a big time commitment. He said that if he could find the right person to make pasta, not just for the restaurant but also for all the volunteer dinners and the parties, he would be freed up to do what he normally does during the comps - run around putting out fires and enabling the logistics that only he can facilitate. It wasn’t until he finished training me in the art of making pasta on his $30k Italian machine, that I suggested setting up my camp spot behind his restaurant. That way, I would be close by and on hand to perform my duties. His response was, “Wow! What a great idea. Please do! There’s a space in back and having you close by would be crucial with last-minute demands.”. And so it was. Not so much a place to park. More a positioning to be on-hand. And so that’s all. In the end, it was a better place for a lot of reasons. The spot at the Volunteer Camp was still an option,, but being in town and close to where I could volunteer my time and to do my part was better. And it was a good place to isolate with COVID too. Teague fed me meals for five days and insisted I run my AC on his power connection. He was a prince! Oh, and he found another joe to train on how to make pasta too, so I wasn’t quite as indispensible as I might have imagined. I also put in two days of pruning the big willow tree and clearing branches and debris before the volunteers showed up. I got to thinking that 8 volunteers could have done all that in one day, so kind of a waste for me to have done that. In the end, I think I should have just spent my time flying and getting my bump tolerance back.

I really had a blast that first week. Alex’s lessons learned from Russ through Alex (that trickled down to me) really helped my focus. I can’t wait to put them to the test again. Such a revelation. I now know the difference between cross country and competition flying. After all these years, I thought they were much the same. They’re not!

Great write up, Dave! Did I mention that you are a phenomenal “Mr. President”! Keep it up!