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We're going back for the ULTIMATE glide ratio contest - Dustin is residing at the WW Wing Mine fashioning parasite killers. Shapiro's KEEN. Zippy too :)

I've been "busy" as well. ;)

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Day 5- It was even hotter in the paddock on the 5th day but the forecast was for that additional heat to help create stronger lift. I had a decent start with Zippy, Jonny and Craig. Carl and Ben were above and only sightly behind as we headed out on course. When we got to the first mountain about half way to the t-point, we found one of the sweetest climbs of the comp. It was a smooth 500 that felt coastal. Literally like butter. After climbing as high as we felt we needed to and gliding off, my feelings were confirmed by Dustin on the radio saying " that climb was UNBELIEVABLE!".

Task Committee hard at work- photo by Dave Aldrich

As we pushed through the t-point, Zippy, Dustin and I lead out but weren't finding anything. Dustin went one way and Zipp and I went another as we continued to get lower. Luckily, out in front we saw a field break off several small dust devils that soon turned into a house sized pipe of spinning dirt. I was a little worried because we were low enough that we would intersect it just at the top of the dust. I griped the bar tight and flew just down wind of it. I was a bit surprised to not only not feel turbulence but I didn't feel lift, not a bump. Zipp went one way and I went the other and fortunately found 500 that we both climbed in as the gaggle caught us from behind coming in much higher above us. It was a fight for position for the rest of the day and I was not where I wanted to be at the end of the task. Getting close to what should be final glide and I was lower and behind but I felt that my numbers were acceptable and snuck under and away from Jonny, Robin and Dustin as they were taking their last climb. I was definitely sweating it a bit as my numbers got worse for a portion of my final but in the end, I squeaked into goal and won the day.

On glide- photo by Dave Aldrich

Day 6- We had some big dustys roll through the launch line adding a bit of spice to the first part of the day.

Dustin coming out of the cart- photo by Dave Aldrich

Once in the air, it seemed to be a repeat of the conditions we had the previous day. It's funny, during a task it seems like so much can happen and this task was no let down. I got low at the first t-point and HAD to take a climb without getting the t-point. Even though I was less that 2ks from it, I was so low that I was worried I would land if I didn't climb. Unfortunately, the entire gaggle had already tagged it and to make matters worse, the thermal drifted us away from the t-point. I had to leave the climb early to tag the cylinder and drive on course to find some lift. I hear on the radio that Zipp had gone down and I knew it was going to be a little sporty on this leg.

Zippy getting a pull from Greg and his trike- photo by Dave Aldrich

I climbed with Davis for a while and then dove down course line when I saw dust devils busting out of a field out ahead. It was a repeat of the day before and again I was rewarded with a good climb, this time 700fpm, which got me back in the game catching up with the lead gaggle. We turned the next t-point and while on our way back over the resort, it became painfully obvious a gear switch was necessary. Lift went from 4-500fpm to 50fpm and we all struggled to stay in the air. Dustin called that he was getting a stellar line toward the last t-point and I left with less than marginal numbers. I was hoping to get one more climb. Turns out, I didn't hit a bump and with most of the group, landed just inside a couple of miles from goal. Joe Bostik won the day on his T2C with Dustin getting in 2nd. Craig, Carl and Robin were the only others to make it in.

It was a privilege to have a crew of pro's out to film the comp. Zippy's a super star

Last day- I knew I needed a good finish for the day to have any hope of moving up in the standings. It turned into a really good race day which is a good thing because Zippy, Craig and I all found ourselves in a horrible position, leaving the start cylinder almost 12 minutes after the last start. The saving grace was that the first leg was slow and difficult, causing some to land and allowing us to catch up pretty quickly. We ended up catching the lead gaggle when, in the latter half of the course, we all climbed to almost 11,000'. I saw Jonny and a couple others go on final but I was still lower than the gaggle and thought I needed a bit more height. As I climbed, I watched their line and saw that they were getting a killer glide so I left early, taking a risk, sneaking off onto final. The air was indeed buoyant and I got between a 12 and 20:1 most of the way. It was super fun standing on it as fast as I could fly for the last couple of miles, finishing with a strafe of the folks hanging out on top of the resort roof. Turned out that Larry and Robin had both landed short (which was a shame because both had flown consistently well during the comp). This made my 4th place finish for the day just enough to move into 4th overall. Now all that was left was to clean up and party down.
Overall, we flew 7 out of 7 days and had racy conditions for all but 2 of the days. Santa Cruz Flats was run with professionalism and efficiency and I highly recommend it as one not to miss, whether your open class or sport class. Thanks to all who made it possible.

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Unfortunately, neither Zippy, Dustin nor I have taken any photos but I wanted to give a quick update of the first 3 days of the comp. We've been either flying, sweating or sweating while flying in the 100+ degree heat. Other than the hot sun, this place is once again about as easy going a venue for a hang gliding contest as I have ever been to and we are loving it.

Day one was a mix of surviving the shade cycles and occasionally running into a decent climb, although slow, in the sun. Dustin and I hooked up and worked well together with Glen Volk, Davis and Eduardo Olivera (sp?) and a few others on the way to the second t-point but through the mix of soft conditions and a blue sky we slowly became a smaller and smaller group. My day ended when I failed to recognize that I shouldn't dive into the t-point low in the shade, imagine that. Dustin knows the area and stopped behind me while Glen and I rounded the cylinder only to glide our last 1200' to the ground. Disappointing but it was a tough day and as we say, "it is what it is".

Day two was another stable blue day and was quite "social" at the start. Everyone was obviously wanting to stay together as the lift was far from strong and spaced far apart. We took a few long glides and finally found a climb that turned into 400 fpm. I thought that the day was finally turning on a bit and when we topped out, Dustin came over the radio and asked if I wanted to push out. There was nothing left to do and it felt like the right call so we went, along with Eduardo and a couple of others. Zippy was out in front and was low looking for a way to stay off the ground. When we were passing him, he still had not found anything and was flying back up wind to look so we pressed on over a very green area through the t-point. The air felt so smooth and I got that pit in my stomach, feeling that we were starting a death glide. All three of us spread out, looking hard for birds or any sign of lift until one by one, we made a single turn up wind and landed.

Later, about half the field landed with or around us while the other half flew over our heads (including Zippy who had found a good climb from low). Again, pretty frustrating but I'm really not sure what I would have done differently.

Day 3, we staged out at the tow paddock in hot sun and stable looking conditions. No one was rushing to get in the tow line to say the least. We all watched a few pilots circle for over an hour at a height anywhere from 300 to 1200' which further delayed an already skeptical group. Finally it seemed like Dustin (who had been one of the guys up the longest) was getting up and I laid down in the cart to launch just as the first start clock was ticking over. When I got off tow and started to climb, it was better than I thought and the day just got better and better.

We had a good start and traveled together as a group for a few glides until the field started to stretch out. Zippy and I were with a good group of pilots that included Jonny, Craig, Robin Hamilton, Glen, Larry Bunner (who has been flying his WW T2C in outstanding form) and a few others. We made a pretty good run to the first t-point and continued on a long glide over some small mountains/hills with a lot of tiger country below. It looked easy enough to be able to land but it seemed it would have been a nightmare retrieve making us extra motivated to not go down. We found a few good climbs luckily and as we got closer to goal, started to jockey for position, all looking for that last good climb to get us in quick. Craig found a climb on the way to a dust devil and I joined him a little lower. It was a good find as Larry and the others had shaded into the mountains and were climbing already. If Craig wouldn't have found it when he did, they probably would have beat us in. It turned into a race with Craig in front being chased by Zippy and me. We got closer to him but he was able to blaze across the goal line first with us right behind him. There was about 12 or so guys in goal. All that was left to do was to party for Russel Browns birthday.
Happy birthday Russel.

Today (Day 4), the forecast called for better conditions and it proved to be correct. The task committee sent us on a 51 mile "box" that would bring us back to a goal at the resort. After finding good lift around the tow paddock and in the start circle, we took the 3rd clock in decent position. After a long glide and a few slow, weak climbs, it seemed that the day wasn't as good as we thought. We were all low about a 3rd of the way to the second t-point. I watched several pilots land while we were working broken lift trying to stay off the ground. After finally climbing out, Robin Hamilton, Jonny, Craig and a few others caught us from the last start clock. I knew we were screwed and could only try to minimize the damage as there was little to no chance that we would make up the 20 minutes that they had gained by catching us. The slow leg hurt but the day was turning on in a huge way and the flying was really fun. Dustin and I flew as fast as we could toward a dust devil that was the size of our hotel. As Zippy and others came in above us, we all climbed out at 800 fpm to over 9000'.

We continued on to the next t-point and took another strong climb to around 10,000' before our numbers showed we could most likely make it to goal which was still over 20k's away. Some took the climb higher and, I must say, it was really nice being slightly cold for the first time this comp. We glided for a long way, through the next t-point and, with a cross wind component into goal, went for it. Zippy was the only glider in front of me but I was so focused on trying to pick a line that would get me in that I lost track of him. My numbers got slightly better only to get dramatically worse as I flew through massive sink. Luckily, I saw a long, stretched out gaggle of birds ahead and dolphin flew threw the lift they were in which made the L/D required become more encouraging. I ended up making goal a minute, give or take, behind Zach with Robin (who won the day), Jonny and Craig right behind. About 10 or 12 made it in and the benefit of goal being at the resort was in full effect. Get out of the harness, grab a beer and go jump in the pool. Got to love it here in Casa Grande.

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Ryan Voight makes a nose boom and Dave Gibson flies with it:

Check out the blog post: LINK HERE

Photo by Ryan Voight. Pilot: Dave Gibson.

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