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Day 7

We head an hour away to Mt. Subazio above Assisi. Completely open meadow atop the mountain. They call an 87km basket weaving task across the valley with four turnpoints. Our launch line is a sh*t show with total lack of procedure. I pack into the order-less pile and call a push. No reason we shouldn't be piling off the hill. A minute after launch as I'm happily climbing out, my instrument bricks up and the vario is one tone wailing at me. I wonder how long I can put up with the incessant scream. After a minute of chatting on the radio, Zippy tells me it's permissible to land and re-launch without scoring penalty. I dive through lift, and land on top.

"Dam, you Americans are pimp! Where can I get a bit of that action?"

I take the batteries out of my 6030 and reset the instrument without volume this time. My gecko is working and I've got the route in it. Fabian loans me his vario with simple GPS with no waypoints. Now I've got to get my glider over two barbed wire fences back to the downslope where I can launch. This is where my savior Catherine comes in (from Germany) Catherine is stout, and starts ripping fence posts out in quick order. I hear cracking timber as she reefs the last out and lays the fence flat for me to walk over. Sweet! Repeat on the other side of the road and I'm back on proper launching ground. Thanks to Jamie, Bob, Sue, Belinda, Fabian, Catherine, and a couple of other bros I didn't get the name of for helping me sort out the crisis.

I launch again and my primary instrument freezes instantly - bummer. I'm figuring out the sounds of Fabian's vario as I climb out, totally out of phase - brain scattered. I've missed the first start and sort out my other instruments. I ask the boys on the radio for some information and eventually burble across the start line 7 minutes after the second start. I'm alone and going seemingly very slow against the stiff head wind across the valley. Our first turnpoint is 32km away.

My gecko gives me a low battery signal. FU*K! I turn on Fabian's GPS, but it's in french. I try and get it to a main page and let the gecko die. I have no idea if I can piece together two track logs, but I'm still into attempting the task. Eventually I see other pilots are going better pinned up against the mountain range, and slide downwind to the higher terrain. It's slow going, but eventually I catch up with Zippy and Shapiro as we near the turnpoint. I'm heartened to catch up to my bros, and I'm just hoping I've got a viable track log. As I get within 1km of the turnpoint (which was a hillside castle), I turn on the gecko and count to 15seconds out loud to make sure I drop a track point inside the cylinder.

I'm trailing Zippy and Jeff by a minute and we all get LOW on foothills going back the way we came. It takes some effort to dig out on the low terrain and many pilots land in this area. I eventually hook a climb that develops and I'm whisked over the peaks again. Zippy and I run 30km back toward launch with Shapiro just ahead. As I near the next turnpoint, I turn my gecko on again and work to modify the route so it will tell me proximity to the turnpoint. In the process of punching buttons, the gecko shifts and flies free of it's mount. There's a split second of situation recognition as it drops past my reach. "Nooooo! NOOOOOOO!" is all I can say. I've now lost my back up track log.

I have no idea where the third turnpoint is and I have no idea how to operate the french GPS. I hook up with Shapiro and fly around aimlessly. After a time, I realize if I land out, I won't be able to communicate my location to my driver without a viable GPS. I head for goal. At least I can get a ride there.

After trying to download the french GPS and bricked 6030, it's apparent nothing recorded a log. On the down side, I've let down the team with my minimal score. On the up side, I dealt with adversity and still pulled off a good fly. In this game, there's so much to coordinate. Instruments, retrieve, radio, gear, etc. Gliders have to operate flawlessly in every way all the time. You have to launch, fly, and land safely in sporty conditions. That's what makes the game so engrossing.

Update - Apparently my french GPS DID have a track log. A few conversations have transpired and I will get scored based on how the rules apply to GAP2002

Davis and Belinda pick me up and we head to dinner in historic Spello. They choose a refined locale and we have a savory meal. Home around 11, chat about the day, and drift after midnight.

Spello alleyway...

Day 8

Woke tired to rain outside. Sigh. Headed in to HQ, indulged in a massage and some lasagna bianca for lunch. Took a 10k run in the heat of the day and met Birget from Germany on the road for the third time. She and I plunged in the pool after arriving over heated at home and chatted about skull collecting. She's an interesting bird.

It looked flyable, and Derreck, Jeff and I threw on the german van for a ride up the hill. Set up in a hurry and launched into a group of nearly 20 gliders. It was fun to get our strafe on for a few. After about 20 minutes, I decided to head west down range and promptly got flushed behind a spine. Discerned the wind in the valley had quickly shifted 45 degrees and was now parallel to the range. Got bounced around in heavy sink until I cleared the range and found buttery conditions in the valley. Worked light lift at full VG taking in the sunset scene. Counted 9 mountain ranges silhouetted by the sun to the western horizon. Long shadows cast by the trees across the rolling golden crop quilt below. Idyllic.

Chick preparation...

Stayed up until the sun got low and had a successfully succinct landing next to our compound. Popped prosecco and had a slack line while everyone finished breaking down in the garden. Headed in for dinner @ Pizza on the Piazza, toured party venues around 11, and headed home when we found nothing swinging. Learned of Amy Winehouse's death before bedding down. Bummer.

Trip Flights: 6. Airtime: 7:00. Task km: 120.

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Day 4 Continued...

Had an solo afternoon run of challenging distance. Since we're not flying or competing, we find other ways to engage in personal challenge. Activity that lends itself to discovery. On the run, a deciduous whiff let me relive a midwest farm upbringing. A song in my ears lets time get lost and I wake up a distance later. Seeing wildlife, snails, porcupine quills, birds of prey, etc. Swear I saw a raptor dynamic soaring the lee of a tree line. The increased air density in comparison to home has been noticed.

The affair at the castle...

The group shared a couple of bottles of vino and met as a team to discuss meet regulations. Afterward, we took the back roads to the castle where the affair was in full swing. Typical Italian heavy appetizers were displayed and the drinks were free. A DJ sat in a corner window providing a background beat. Hot scene. All it was missing was 200 Roman twenty / thirty-somethings in club gear. :)

Our world wide free flight crew represented just fine, but the party waned a little early for my taste. There was supposedly another disco ramping up in town, but I was keen on heading home. We figured out how to connect the iPod to the rental car sound system and had a mildly exhilarating techno-rally into town to drop off an Aussie hitchhiker. Back at the villa, we sipped wine talking sh*t until 2am.

Day 5

Woke to rain and clouds and it became quickly apparent we wouldn't be flying. Several cappuccinos @ HQ and some internet-ing. Took a run with Shapiro, enjoying the effort. Cooled off with a post run pool plunge and soaked in some sun on a lounger. Trip running: 61km.

Day 6

They were sending us up to fly. We met cold, wind, and cloud base at launch, donned all our lycra layers, and began to set up. Clouds rose, but so did the wind. A group congregated in the lee of my wing, lured by the beats out of the Jammy Pack, and we made a party under glider #76. I hiked around and took photos, and it became more evident it was unsafe for all to launch and have a task. The wind was so substantial, all started folding their gliders flat, nose into the wind.

sight seeing free fly...

Vinyard LZ.

As soon as the day was called, Manfred launched. I suited up, and after a SKETCHY Icaro launch, I was next. The Icaro incident was all wire crew error. The pilot was launching from the down tubes and not communicating to his crew. I had a south side launch. The Point of the Mountain has imparted a valuable skill set for high wind conditions.

Crime at the slack line...

I had an hour long sight see, taking photos and visiting towns along the range. Landed at home and had a sunny break down. Took a late lunch in town with the crew and spent the evening with vino rosso on the slack line. The slack line has been a new focal challenge. I'm digging it. Laid down @ 1.30.

Proper lunch...

Derreck preparing the BBQ...

Communal dinner...

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Day one of the worlds - cancelled due to wind.

Basically the first half of this year has been spent chasing down cash to fund the finale: the worlds. Arriving, unwinding, and flying the big air of Fiesch was a welcome decompression. To then reach Sigillo find the welcoming committee to be represented by the sprog police, Tomas Pellicci in particular, was an unfortunate twist in an otherwise sweet trip. Some people radiate positive energy; others are a drain on the world around them. If you are a comp pilot interested in having a hand on the wheel, I highly recommend joining a growing group of pilots who have become weary of the growing strangle hold on competitors at top level events. Go here with your comments:!/groups/118763844883239 We can go down with the current ship or put pilots in the driver's seat - comps should be for pilots, by pilots. Think: Hang Gliding World Cup...

My sprogs were deemed acceptably high. They are always among the highest. But off to the story:

Directly after the mid west comp in Illinois, I joined the Whitewater, WI crew as temporary tow pilot. The crew is awesome and things were starting to go well financially and weather-wise, but the slow start to their season forced me to abandon them and cruise over to Missoula to sew up Coverts. I wish I had less obligations and more free time because Whitewater and Madison would make a nice summer home. Greg Dinauer and Rich Cizauskas hosted me and we partied it up.

The next three weeks were spent feverishly constructing Coverts for more than a dozen customers on the waiting list. We made a huge dent in the now very short list, and each successive harness gave me ideas for my new harness - after Santa Cruz I plan to incorporate a few changes into my own harness and see how they fare in Canoa.

Fiesch was the first stop in the Euro itinerary. After a night in Swiss Nic's house in Baden, a hip little town close to Zurich, Blenky took a day to drive all of us and our huge pile of harnesses and wings to Fiesch, about four hours away. As we approached the Alps, it was clear we were in for some amazing views and huge air later in the week. Aside from one very rough day and a cancelled day, the flying was awesome. You need only to climb a thousand or so feet over launch to find yourself perched above a collision of three separate glaciers, sliding forever from the peaks around the Eiger. My bump tolerance is up a few notches or more after last week's event. Modern gliders are amazingly forgiving of unbelievable turbulence. We met some cool pilots, some of them flying their first comp ever. Quite an indoctrination.

And now we await the first task of the 18th worlds. For now, it's an ongoing party as old acquaintances keep reappearing in corners of the small village of Sigillo. We were fortunate to get a few days of great flying off the south launch up on Cucco before the start of the comp. The rest of the nights have been spent partying, and the days hiking - there is a trail from nearby Costaciarro up to the top of Monte Cucco that has one of the best continuous inclines I've ever found. More than 3000 feet of punishing single track with probably 95% of the trail at a continuous grade. Yesterday my mom and I made the climb to the 1566 meter peak in a little under 1:30. Clouds were raging by starting about 50 meters below peak height as they joined a growing cu nim between the mountain range and the Adriatic sea.

Tomorrow looks a little worse for weather but we expect to fly on Thursday. I'm just happy to be here with the health to do what we do. Here are a few pics of the journey - and my new sail. The Wills crew hooked me up with the best flying T2 I've ever had. Totally stock sail that has the most balanced and lightest steering yet.

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Day 2 - Sunday - Everyone has arrived and the vibe is social around the villa during the day. I took it easy making food, catching up on the computer, and visiting. The team popped a couple of celebratory bottles on our way to the opening reception.


We rolled to the Dominus where everyone congregated to drink and socialize. As we crossed the street to the hotel, the Columbians were hanging out the window, playing music on makeshift instruments. We ran up to their room. Daniel had a plastic kazoo keyboard, there were maracas, a couple of other noise makers, and a trash can as a drum. The beat was exceptional and we danced in the room. The South Americans are overflowing with fun.

90 minutes of drinks, food, lots of photos, and everyone staged in the street for the parade. We danced through town with cheering onlookers before stopping to stage the arrival into the main piazza. It was nice to feel important and walk as a representative of the states. Sigillo creates intense local support and hundreds of townspeople came out for the event. There were spotlights and speeches as we stood on the steps of the main square.

Once the dignitaries concluded, it was time for the show. A troup of artists went through a firework laden fantasy that was grounded in mythology. Lots of elaborate costume changes, actors on stilts, flying and dying myths, ghosts and angles. I appreciated the total lack of concern for safety as sparklers and torches lightly sprayed the crowd. Never in the states. We've lost that unsafe zest. Swinging torches and fire. It was an authentically cool show.

For the third night in a row, it was Pizza on the Piazza and Danielo's great food. A walk about town, and we went home to chat before crashing out. Fun event.

Day 3

In the morning at the mandatory pilot's meeting, they called the practice day and indeed, it's clouding up and the wind is high. I'll head home for leisure. Get rained on on a bucolic runabout.

Sigillo's dead folks.

Later - Shapiro and I ran to the castle where we ran into the caretaker as we circled the grounds. We politely started back the way we came and the caretaker waved us over. Thought he was going to be pissed we were lightly trespassing. (US conditioning) Instead - although we couldn't understand a word, he pantomimed directions and drew snakes in the dirt with his finger. There was a tractor trail up and over the hills, ending atop a ridge to run down back to the road.

I like the attitude - a landowner in the states would say, "Get off my land" and this guy was saying, "Come on, have an experience on this land and enjoy something new on your return." We made the right fork choices, it was better interval training than a treadmill could conjure, and ended up on a scenic ridge with views which was also perfectly downward graded for letting the legs fly. Sporadically cloud shaded rolling patchwork of varied crops.

Launch is the shoulder to the right of the highest peak.

It was hot and the 16kms. left us fatigued. The cool pool washed away the sweat, smell, and strain. The columbians came over and we told stories and tried the slack line in the garden for a couple of hours.

Dinner was next @... Pizza on the Piazza ! Four nights in a row - why change a good thing. Exceptional lasagna, etc. We hit the street and caught a ride 5k away to a makeshift disco at a gas station bar. It wasn't happening, so internet back in town and solo moonlight walk home.

Day 4

No flying today - too windy and unsettled. @ HQ internet-ing and will have a run later. Tonight we party at the castle - do you remember? I thought it fanciful last year:

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Presently St. Germain's soothing sounds are mixing with jolly Portuguese and a light night Italian breeze. The yellow moon just past full on the rise through the trees. Too much happens in quick succession to properly account. Quick synopsis so I can get back to the experience.

Packing assistant. Miss you man.

Thursday my sweet queen was nice enough to drive me to Denver and drop me at the airport. She was willing to turn around and come back so I could grab packing supplies when US Airways got agro about glider weight. It was 114lbs. and the check in counter supervisor was unwilling to budge. I even pulled him aside and used my most persuasive hush tones, but his mindset was locked.

Glider condom.

I was cordial as I placated by unpacking, removing, and repacking to conformity. The bag had to weigh less than 70... it was 69... The glider had to weigh less than 100... it was 98. It cost me another $150, 40 minutes, and some perspiration. Less enjoyable than sitting at the gate, but all well.

Travelers were talking about snow globes and tomato bisque soup, I was wondering if my life carrying device would get to Italia unscathed.

Getting abroad is a significant undertaking for most. Bringing a hang glider and accoutrements double the effort, and the politics of the world championships make the hassle exponential. More on that in a minute.

I walked up to Davis and Belinda at the baggage claim in Rome without the need to exchange texts. What a pleasure they are. They'd spent 48 hours in the same clothes, travel delays stateside. It was fortuitous for me - I'd have an easy ride to Sigillo.

The fashion around Fumicino airport is designer hot. Scores of dark, tastefully unshaven limo drivers in tailored suits held named placards and their position as I pushed through. Courtesy is minimal when you're lugging a glider through a busy terminal. A cordura bag in the ass or a shoulder in the side with no apologies. Once out in the bustling heat I noticed the women. Surely there must be a 24 hour disco within a stone's throw. Stiletto heels hovering smoothly over uneven concrete, curve alluring tight attire yielding a bit of bounce. Wish I'd brought a picnic to sit and watch the concupiscent smorgasbord before me.

Essential groove gear.

It was a bit of effort to get the glider to the rental car, and Davis let me take the second 1/2 of the drive to Sigillo - he and Belinda were exhausted. I was happy to get dropped in the dust outside the Alba Rosa gate and made my way to the garden. No one home except for a Brazillian or two. I pleasantly unpacked in the grassy shade catching up on life with my South American mates.


The glider seemed undamaged and as I finished assembly, Moikano said we should head into town to deal with sprog measuring. I threw on their van and we went to HQ. The BS regulations about helmets, glider certification, pitch stability systems, etc. is unprecedented and unwelcome. I'm conforming, getting the necessary check marks on my file, and distancing myself from the drama. It's unnecessary to take ourselves so seriously. Let's maximize the fun, have a fly, and use common sense to ensure someone doesn't kill themselves.

It's always great to see my ground averse brothers and sisters from all corners. We may not speak a word of each other's language, but a smile, hug, and some affirmative nodding communicates. Never met people who live more passionately.

Shapiro and I caught up til 2... Sleeping pill... Zzzzz....

Goddess Monte Cucco...

Day 1 - Wake, caffeine, registration, groceries, gear tweaking, up the mountain... Set up, call a teammate 30 mile task, launch...

Get altitude, pull a couple of G's - nothing falls apart - smile grows - let's go get some.

Three minutes later I'm going tip to tip with Shapiro as the ground goes away. I get on the radio quietly, "It's been a long time coming man." He replies, "Indeed, indeed." The main range has some punch, as I top out and take extra circles looking around Italy... Ranges with patchwork in between stretching in every direction. Close to the clouds - FU&K! I'm over ITALY! The view was incredible.

The glider is fine, I'm climbing ok - we take our practice start gate and dolphin fly 10 miles down range. Get high in a 1000fpm smooth ripper up to 7000ft. Time to cross the valley to the next turn point. The Gubbio ridge is smaller with less lift at the beginning. I stay within a 5 mile walk from our home. I have no phone, so I'm on my own for retrieve if I land out.

KAVU brings in the mafia fan club

I get lower and make the decision to stay in the Sigillo valley. Leave the crew to the task and burble back over Alba Rosa and take a tour of the Monte Cucco range. After two hours, I've had enough and head for home. I'm expecting rotor behind our villa, and rather than land on the other side of the road, why not slider ON the road? There's a car rumbling toward me as I dive on to final, and the guy nearly drives off the road when he sees me approach. I should have stared him down at 60mph, but I float 10ft. over the roof and slide to a stop on the ball bearing gravel. Lovely.

Breakdown paradise.

Walk the glider into the garden and pack up leisurely over a couple bottles of prosecco. Jeff and I motivate for a 5 mile run at twilight, bats flying in between us snatching bugs with unreal deft. Lightening bugs come out as we head home (wink) and the yellow moon rises over the hill. Constellations appear.

competition ships.

We head to Pizza on the Piazza just before 11pm and they're open and willing to serve us. A beer out of the bar on the street after midnight with Sigillo on a Saturday night. More catch up conversation on the walk home. 1am... sleeping pill... twinges of mate missing... Zzzz...

Airtime: 2:04. Flights: 1. Miles: 25.

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Chute installation;

The purpose of this description is to detail the methods needed to properly install a parachute into your new Wills Wing Covert harness. Use the following description as a guide but if there are any questions regarding difficulty or specifics not covered below, please feel free to email me at

Your new harness comes with a deployment bag(s) that is specific to the deployment system designed for the Covert. It is a LARA style bag with an embroidered “paddle” sewn to the handle of the bag. Although your Covert comes with a LARA style bag, it can successfully be used with most if not all of the common chutes used for the sport of Hang Gliding.

The first step toward installing your chute properly is to remove the Covert deployment bag from your new harness and to transfer your parachute into that Covert specific D-bag. This is made easier by laying your Covert with the inside of the harness facing down and the harness opened up so the chute handles are facing the ceiling. The harness should be in this position during the entire installation process as this position allows for the outer shell material to be very loose and easy to manipulate (see photo below). Now, to pull the d-bag out of the harness, you first pull the handle and paddle away from the main harness body, separating the Velcro and clearing the paddle from it’s two triangular shaped captures. Next, use your fingers to separate the (3) zippers that close bombay doors to expose the area where your chute will eventually be installed. Finish by pulling free the Covert d-bag. Set it aside.

The next steps involve transferring your parachute into the Covert D-bag. Below is a series of photos documenting the process. It’s helpful to have 4 spare rubber bands on hand for the transfer process. The canopy of your parachute should be accordion in a width to fit by filling out the main compartment of the Covert D-bag as proportionately as possible. If done properly, the chute should be as flat and as wide as the bag allows.

This is a description of what is depicted in the photos above:
Start by removing the bridle from the rubber bands on the old D-bag. Replace with two of your spare rubber bands. This will begin to open your current D-bag allowing access to your canopy and shrouds. Next, remove the first shroud “butterfly” from their two rubber bands and replace with two of the free rubber bands you have on hand. This keeps the shrouds organized and makes it easier during the re-installation process. Now you have access to remove your canopy from the old d-bag’s main container and carefully place it back in to the main compartment on the LARA style COVERT D-bag. Next, remove the shroud bundle and swivel from the old D-bag and replace in the corresponding shroud pocket in the COVERT D-bag. Then, take the butterfly’d shrouds and secure the first cover flap by reattaching them to the bag with the rubber bands on the COVERT D-bag. Then, close the main closure flap by pulling the last two rubber bands through the grommets and securing the first fold of the bridle. Remember to remove the spare rubber bands that you placed to keep things organized during the transfer.

Now that you have your parachute transferred into the COVERT D-bag, you can begin securing the Parachute into the harness. The first step is to connect the chute to the harness structure by using an appropriate link to connect your chute’s bridle to the red “screamer”, or load limiter, that is securely sewn inside your new harness (behind your shoulders). With the chute door zippers open, reach up to the screamer connection and make sure, as it runs into the area where your chute will be stored, that it’s laying as flat as possible. Connect to your bridle with a 8mm Raptide link (or your preferred type of connection) to the 1” loop at the end of the screamer. Next, lay the screamer, with the bridle properly connected, inside the recessed section of the chute storage area (see photo). Organize your chute’s bridle by “butterfly” folding the bridle to fit inside that same recessed area. The goal is to make sure your bridle lies as flat as possible under your chute, and is organized so that in the event of a deployment, the bridle will follow the D-bag out without tangle.

When the entire bridle is stored properly in the recessed area within the chute storage space, lay the parachute (in it’s Covert Deployment bag) on top of the bridle and in between the neoprene flaps that will secure your chute. Make sure the handle and deployment “paddle” are facing up and in the correct orientation (see photo).

To begin the process of securing the neoprene flaps around your parachute, take a length of string or thin cord, approximately 24” long, and thread one end through one of the bungy loops sewn into the rear neoprene flap. Even up the ends and then thread both ends through its corresponding side flap grommet and then through the same side grommet on the front neoprene flap (see photo). Repeat this process with the opposite bungy to have both strings exit the grommets on their perspective sides. Next, thread each of the strings through the grommets to exit the outer shell of the harness and tie the strings together loosely on the outside of the harness to secure them for the remaining steps of the chute installation (see photo below).

Your next job is to zip up the harness chute doors. There are two #10 zipper gliders included with your Covert. You can find them in the top pocket of your harness bag. Take one of these zipper gliders and start by zipping up the door zipper that point toward your hip (if wearing the harness). Note: Make sure the paddle and chute handle are outside of the harness when the doors get zipped. Start at the handle side of the zipper. With the zipper glider facing down (or, inside the harness) thread the glider onto the zipper. Be patient and take the time necessary to line up the angle of the zipper so that it matches (see photo). If they are not aligned, there will be a wrinkle or pleat in the harness shell. Once aligned, zip the glider all of the way down the zipper, under the neoprene “hood” and off the end of the zipper. You can reach inside the shell to remove the zipper glider off of the end of the zipper. Next, repeat this process on the zipper that closes toward the center of your back. The best way to reach in to pull off the glider from the end of that zipper is to reach inside the harness through the main riser slot (behind your main). Next, repeat again with the zipper that closes toward the aero tow loop access zipper. You complete the process by pulling the zipper glider off the end of that zipper through the aero tow loop access.

Now, all of the chute door zippers are properly closed and your handle and deployment paddle are outside of the harness, along with the strings exiting the grommets on either side of the handle. One at a time, pull the string with enough force to see the bungy stretched outside of the exit grommet. With the bungy loop pulled out of the harness, thread the nylon rod (sewn to the handle “paddle”) through the bungy loop to secure the neoprene flaps inside the harness. At the same time, tuck the corresponding side of the “paddle” under its triangular capture that is sewn onto the exterior of the harness (see photo). Repeat this process to the other side.

As a last step, if necessary, reach in through the riser slot again (behind your main) and use your fingers to carefully pull all of the excess webbing (orange) from the chute handle to inside the harness so that the paddle can lay completely flat and to allow the paddle to be properly secured with the Velcro on and under the paddle. When you’re satisfied with the installation, pull the strings from the bungy loops to complete the installation.

Your chute is now installed properly. It is helpful to flip the harness over and make sure the bridle is contained in the recessed area. I like to hang in the harness at this point as well. This starts the process of getting the chute to conform around your body and to make sure the quick link isn’t out of position causing discomfort. It’s been my experience that after about 10 hours in the harness, the chute will be nicely conformed to your body shape and increase the overall comfort of the harness.

Note: the better your chute is installed, IE; bridle laying nice and flat, chute packed flat and wide to fill out the D-bag, quick link laid to not cause discomfort, the better your Covert will look and fit.

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Here's the start to the 2011 European tour that includes the Swiss Nationals and the World Championships.

Flew over to Zurich from LA with Jeff Shapiro on the 4th of July. Swiss Nic and Steve Blinkensop picked us up at the airport and we headed to Nic's home in Baden (originally a Roman town). Upon unpacking my glider in Zurich, I found a large dent in my leading edge tube.

Nic had a spare tube that need to a slight modification, so Blinky and Carole helped my get the tools to fix it. Dustin arrived later and we had some fantastic home-made green curry a la Blinky.
The next morning we were off to Fiesch with 4 gliders, 10 harnesses and 4 bodies crammed in Nic's sweet Mercedes. driving south past Interlaken we drove the car onto a train that took us through a tunnel deep through the Alps. In Fiesch we met up with Derreck and James to register and parade through town.
Weather looked pretty bad and there were doubts as to whether we would fly at all, but day one turned out great.

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This place has been pretty epic so far. Don't really know how else to describe it. Fiesch is a ski and mountain town situated in the Swiss Alps, surrounded by flowing glaciers. The Rhone is to the N.West, the Aletsch to the North and the Unteraar in between the two. Huge mountains such as the Matterhorn, Eiger, Monch and the Jungfrau are all close by and make for post card scenery.

Feisch itself is located in a fairly tight and deep, green valley offering some of the most picturesque flying I've ever had the privilege of doing. The lift is strong (very strong at times) and has all of the elements of the best of big mountain hang gliding.

The view out our window here in Fiesch, Switzerland

Yesterday, we had a fantastic day with fast racing and intense flying. It was the first flight here for Dustin, Zippy and I (Derreck and James had a chance to take a practice flight a few days prior) and we were stoked that our gliders flew straight after the plane ride over from the States. There's a strong field here with many skilled and experienced pilots from all over the world. We are treating it as an opportunity to learn and to gain experience for the up coming Worlds in Italy. Zippy was on and finished with an impressive 3rd for the day. Dustin was 8th in and I was behind him after getting a little slow and conservative on the last leg. I finished 18th for the day but in a strong field, I was still fairly happy with my flight. Zippy made a nice video on the GoPro that was edited last night and should be up soon.

driving on the train that took us under the mountains

Today, we went up the Gondola for another task. The weather was supposed to be iffy and was looking wet (from the previous nights rain) with clouds forming far below launch and building quick over and engulfing the peaks. After the task was called (94 k's with 6 t-points) we were briefed on the weather which included up to 45k's of wind up high. The problem was that the clouds were not higher than the peaks yet and many were worried about over development.

Soon, we all punched off in a building wind and were struggling with punchy lift and low clouds toward the edge of the start cylinder. I got lucky with good position at the start and began racing down the range with Zippy and several others. Soon, the lift became extremely strong and turbulent with the glider being pitched past 90 several times. Problem was that the lift was, at times, quite close to the hill and it was hard to stay out of the clouds. Wire slaps and holding on tight became the norm on the way to the first t-point. I grabbed the t-point and started back up the range and into the wind.

Soon, I saw pilots start heading out into the valley and spiraling down to land. The clouds were darkening and the wind was strong. Most impressive though was the turbulence associated with the strong lift. At times, it was totally reasonable but at times, I was quite concerned about the possibility of a tumble. I must admit that memories of my tumble at King several years back were on my mind.

After some battle, I was about 12 k's from the next T-point when James came on the radio to let us know that Zippy had landed at the goal field and he was going to do the same. They felt that the conditions were unsafe and made the personal decision to land, feeling that the risk was not worth it considering the Worlds are a couple of weeks away. I was climbing in punchy 1200 fpm and after a good sized keel kick, considered doing the same. Derreck headed to the field to join the team and I turned back down the valley thinking that I would make the same choice.

On my way back, Dustin called a climb from behind that was out in the valley and, although strong, was reasonably smooth in comparison. I flew over and took a nice climb back to base and headed back on course (after a deep breath). Leaving that climb was the worst turbulence of the day for me. I was alternately losing 1200+ fpm and gaining 1200+ fpm from moment to moment and experienced several wire slaps that had me pretty tight gripped. Soon, I agreed that I did not feel it was worth it as the path to the T-point was dark and the wind seemed to be getting stronger. There was a Northerly component which made it so we had to fly into the lee of the range to get the t-point and my fear and doubt eventually won out. I turned around and flew back to the field from almost 10,000' and landed in "sporty conditions". Dustin soon landed behind me along with Gianpietro Zin, a very fast and talented pilot from France. We all agreed that for us, it was a bit too much. Several pilots did make the course and made goal with Primos winning the day. I felt good about our team's decision but I admit, it stung when gliders started coming in from final.

Ready to fly

Funny thing about "fear and doubt". There is a definite difference between "it" and "realistic danger". They can exist apart and independent of each other but at times, one is caused by the other. Decisions are made and when the conservative choice is made and the outcome is good, it can evoke the question of whether it was smart or just giving into the fear. My reality is that the line is often gray and can change from day to day. When I'm on the line of trying to tell the difference between "fear and doubt" and "realistic danger", I can feel one way one day and the opposite the next. The truth, or my truth is, that when the outcome is that I am in one piece and my glider is intact, it was a good decision. The difficulties for me lye in the inner struggle caused by wanting to self reflect and that reflection not having the outcome that I would prefer (making goal) because of my head. I question the reality of the danger and question if it was my head and not the turbulence (although today, there was plenty) that caused me to run. Either way, tomorrow is another day and another opportunity to learn and I'm thankful to have the opportunity to participate in this game of self exploration through flying in the big mountains. Win or lose, I feel very lucky and never forget how fortunate I am to be here, now.

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