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When I started waking up and going to sleep thinking about harness design and construction, I figured it was time to re define the lower level of my house.

Working long days sewing made me realize every insufficiency in the space that I was using and how efficiency is directly proportional to how organized your work area is.

Things that are important were apparent. Wide open, clean spaces, a table that allowed large pieces of fabric to flow easily, a place to hang finished products, good lighting and music are essential.

All coupled with a computer to work on design alteration and customer service while surrounded by photos of flying makes for a nice place to throw thread.

The newest carbon back plate is curing, sliders are being anodized and it's my #1 goal to have the next proto done to race in while running the costal ridge with "the boys" in Canoa. Hopefully, that goal will be realized and photos will follow.
Stay tuned

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I should have followed Derrick...

Day 7 was a fun one. We called a 97km triangle. The gaggles at the start were dense, and I lost my cool a couple of times. There are just a couple of pilots that maybe don't realize it's possible to collaborate in climb and eek out every foot of altitude at the same time.


One of the biggest thermal mistakes I feel pilots make are circles that are TOO big when there's a defined core. I love going tip to tip banked up high with Dustin or Zippy or Shapiro when the core is strong. Daisy chaining in huge circles isn't the way. Sometimes you have no choice. When the core is small and stronger, turn it up and twirl.

Photo by Carlos - Blu-eye photographer.

We were at 8300ft. at the first start, so how could we not take it. We had a wicked fast run to the first turnpoint staying high and getting good climbs.

Most of the way to the second turnpoint was spent in fast climbs and high. We were making good time, but Dustin and Derrick were gaining. They took the second start. Zippy was out front gliding to the second turnpoint getting over the cultivated areas instead of desert, and a significant gear change was necessary. Lift was dropping in strength dramatically.

Getting out of whack - launch sequence by Karen Johnson.

Zippy got stuck out low, the rest of us went back to a dust devil climb a km out of the way. We were all relatively low, so staying aloft was paramount.

Zippy called out 100fpm low, and I almost ran to him. I stuck with the group instead. His 100fpm turned into 400fpm and I could see him getting up well. I was now too far away to get in the same thermal. (I thought) I stuck with the group. I was near the top with Kraig and Robin just above me, so things were looking good. (Zippy would go on to win the day)

Photo by Karen Johnson.

Further into the last leg, lift was still light, and we were bucking a headwind to goal. With just more than 20km to goal, Derrick Turner flew 600ft. below me and headed to the north into the desert areas. I had decisions to make. I had Kraig and Robin in visual. They were south. All I had to do was cover Derrick and I'd stay in 3rd. That's not my style though. I didn't want to shadow Derrick simply because I wanted to ensure I'd keep my place in the meet. It seemed lame at the time. I watched Derrick go and saw him hit a climb. It looked like the same strength as the one I was in. I decided to fly my own race.

Photo by Karen Johnson.

There were several more light climbs on the way in, Kraig and Robin flew with me now and then. Robin made the comment later that he'd left me for dead a couple of times, and I'd come cruising back to hook up with he and Kraig. They were trying hard as I was to get home, and I guessed by this point that Zippy and Derrick had made goal. I tried to milk every foot and push into the headwind, and landed 7km short. Derrick had closed the distance and beat me by thirty some points. I'd made a competition error.

Photo by Karen Johnson.

Like Shapiro's told me, you can't fly comps expecting to win. You have to fly them to be the best and most consistent. Try to limit your mistakes. If you try to win, you fly into the ground most times. If you try to use others when appropriate, take risks when the likelihood of success is high, and fly to be flawless, you might win.

I felt I flew well for myself in the comp. I certainly had a TON of fun. I felt I minimized my mistakes, was consistent, and perhaps just a bit too conservative in a couple of instances to be the fastest. I'm still very much in the learning process.

We enter competitions for the flying, the fun, but ultimately the finish. I'll learn how to be more competition savvy and if it's appropriate to "cover" in the future to ensure a placing, I might resort to it.

One more note. My final glide was into the wind. I eyed up a set of power poles that were about 100ft. high from 1/2 mile away. I vacillated about whether to push it and pass over them, or s-turn and land just short. I know it's stupid to push things for a few points. Points are never worth risking safety. However, sometimes the demons get the best of you and with a twitching nose, (from the nervousness), I pulled in, sank below the tops of the poles, pushed out clearing the lines, and milked my last 100ft of altitude.

Airtime: 4:45. Flights:1. Miles:56.

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Dustin and his mom Bouchi... Great supportive mom.

Since there was a stiff NE breeze expected, we went to a different airport as the treeline here might prove difficult.

I towed up early and had a great time in the start circle. The lift was more prevalent and we were staying up easily. Zippy, Davis, and a couple of others had the idea to work way upwind as the start circle was an entry circle around the first turnpoint.

The lineup at our remote airport.

Zippy, Davis, Larry Bunner, and I were lined up perfectly for the first start and took it. We glided 15km and lost 4000ft. and found nothing. We had to stop at 1800ft. agl for a slow climb. We hung on long enough for a couple of dust devils to break off just upwind and went to them. We were rewarded with a good climb and continued on. Stopping in the light stuff cost us time.

Visible elevator to the sky.

Up and over the mountain range, we again floundered in 200fpm. We should have left this lift early, but tarried a few minutes too long. Zippy and I headed off with Davis just behind.

Two gliders heading toward the devil.

The lift beyond the first turnpoint was more reliable, and Zippy and I pulled away from Davis, but we were being caught from below by other pilots who'd taken a later start. I was first into goal with Zippy just a minute behind, but Kraig and company came in just three minutes after I did. They'd made up 12 minutes on us. It was a fun day despite being slow.

Airtime: 3:00. Flights: 1. Miles: 43.

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Yesterday was windy without the chance of flying. After working, Dustin, Lucas, and I hiked up Picacho Peak.

On the way up.

Looking north.

Looking south east. The birds were out soaring the peak and we watched three Peregrines play together. A mated pair and a young one? Evening was spent watching sunset from the top of the tower roof.

Photo by Alex McCulloch

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A full day at Casa Grande...

no flying... too windy.

Alex McCulloch's blog post today:


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We stopped by a Saguaro Cactus "park" on our way home and took a walk through the prickly country.

We've been having 7 to 11 filled days. Up at 7am, breakfast, blogging, pilot's meeting, setting up, staging, flying, driving home, dinner, e-mailing, and bed by 11pm. It's the best kind of busy-ness.

Saguaro's take up to 75 years before they sprout "arms". They live for 150 years. They're found in only a small portion of the desert US.

A 70 mile zig zag task was called. I was the fourth person in the air and was able to stay relatively high during the 90 minutes before the start. As the first start time ticked over, I was topping out outside the start circle and decided to drive upwind to catch a climb inside the start circle and get the second start.

The bloom of a barrel cactus.

This ended up being a huge mistake. Others stayed back in light lift and everything upwind was going down. Anyone who drove upwind lost thousands of feet and in the end we had to go outside the start circle to get partially back up before tagging the second and last start. I'd played a horrible start game and was penalized.

Soon Davis and I were down low, and when he found 100fpm, I ran to the hills to hopefully catch strong lift on the high ground. I found broken lift, while Davis' climb totally turned on and he gained thousands of feet on me. This was mistake number two. Others were beaming out while I was stuck lower and struggling to find strong lift. I was definitely frustrated seeing others blaze ahead.

I had a mostly solo run between the first and second turnpoints crosswind trying to link up stronger climbs and not get too low. Things were going ok, not fast, but reasonable. This trend would continue.

The internal ribs of a dead Saguaro.

I just couldn't get up into the power band of altitude over 7000ft. and find strong climbs. I was always groveling between 5 and 7000ft. I dove into the second turnpoint low, and worked the mountain range which wasn't producing. I got high enough to cross the interstate to Picacho Peak where I found more mediocre lift.

I hit some 600fpm that got me to 9k finally just before the last turnpoint. It was 35km downwind to goal, and I stopped for a couple of short mediocre climbs to ensure I'd make goal as Zippy was reporting sink on the last leg. I'd spent the entire day trying to play catch up from a poor start and just didn't find the strong climbs I needed to make up ground.

It was a fun day of course, but frustrating. The important thing was I made goal which is keeping me consistent enough to stay in the hunt. I can only try and improve on my mistakes today.

Airtime: 4:00. Flights: 1. Miles: 70.

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Back at the Oasis... Santa Cruz is the comp with the sweetest facility. The resort has a nice restaurant, rustic bar, pool, jacuzzi, golf course, palm trees... paradise.

The local crew spent $7000 paving two runways out on the paddock... I think this place could hold a world championship caliber competition.

We called a 69 mile out and return with three turnpoints. I launched just after noon when the launch opened. Conditions were light for the first hour, and most of us were groveling at around 3000agl.

The last start time was 1.45 and it seemed every one was keen to wait on the day to heat up.

The run to the first turnpoint had Jim Yocum leading out on his sweet looking Atos VRQ He wasn't finding enough to pull away, so he was a good marker for the first leg.

The nature of the day had groups leap-frogging each other. The second leg started out well and we got to higher terrain before the second turnpoint. Dustin, Zippy, and Jim Yocum were out front, but lower and Robin Hamilton, Phil Bloom, Dave Gibson and I got the jump up and over the leaders. We went from our high point on the day to the deck three abreast. I couldn't believe we hadn't found anything.

I got the short end of the stick, and was stuck low. Eventually I found 700fpm that enabled me to catch back up. Around the last turnpoint, things started lightening up. Zippy and Dustin were out front and soon I'd see zippy land. Dustin was stuck low in zero sink, but I couldn't see anyone else climbing, so I headed for him. Misery loves company.

Dustin and four others eventually got out front when we passed over a dust devil that it took me an extra turn to find the core. Things were getting light, and the headwind had come in, so we had to be exceedingly patient saw-toothing into the wind.

I hooked up with James Stinnet and worked well together for a couple of slow climbs. Dustin was on the radio saying it was better out west, but there were rocky foothills to the east, I chose east. Dustin was in the middle, James shaded west.

I had to wait for a while, but the hills finally produced and I slowly worked it up to a 9.9 to one into goal. I was able to arrive home with less than 1000ft. into the headwind. A couple of pilots landed painfully close to home with the headwind. I thought the task call was great for the day. Not terribly racy, but rewarding and difficult (for me) to finish.

Airtime: 5:30. Flights: 1. Miles: 69.

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Dave Aldrich stopped by the factory a couple of days ago and took some photos in the sail loft.


Thanks Dave.

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Good stuff...


Some good ones after three minutes. Zippy landing on the train tracks, Dustin a meter off the deck downwind...

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Since my arrival back to Missoula it's been a whirl wind. Although we had a full schedule over my weekend in LA, it was fun packed, progressive and motivating. The motivation continued when I got home and I have been going pretty full on. Between research and spending free time ripping apart and organizing what will be a much larger space for my shop I've fit a few hours of sleep into before and after 12 hour shifts in the ICU. Yesterday, when I got off work, the sky looked inviting and knowing that I always feel more relaxed after a fly I decided to grab the T2C and go up the hill for a hop.

The direction was wrong and the lift was broken, in-cohesive and tough to gain altitude in......perfect. Sentinel has a way of delivering no matter if it's easy or difficult and it didn't disappoint. I spent an hour scratching with the occasional bullet to 7000'. The lift was strong and ratty but going up 800-1000 fpm in the strong ones but only 150 and broken in everything else. I kept strafing launch yelling down at the guys still on the hill that it felt like lee side and sure enough, it started blowing over the back, trapping the others. I felt lucky to spend the afternoon off the ground and the balance gained in my head was measurable. Not really an escape, more like a short vacation;-)

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