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Author: Jeff O'Brien Created: 5/13/2009 2:45 PM
Jeff O'Brien revolutionized his life when he learned to hang glide in 1998. He dropped most other interests and promptly moved to Utah to fly full time. He's flown hang gliders on five continents and began competing in 2005. Jeff is probably most known for his wing mounted photography which can be seen in hang gliding publications and press worldwide.

Day 4

The past couple of days have made some people a bit tense :)

They called an 87km task to the NW. With winds aloft out of the east in excess of 20mph, as the gaggles got built by the tug pilots they began to unravel. The wind was too strong, the lift too light, and the course at an improper bearing. (We can't go downwind because of Orlando airspace issues)

Hey we're not flying today. Let's go to lunch...

A couple of pilots went out on course, and landed before the edge of the start circle. I played seesaw with the wind over the airport and landed after ninety minutes. I was the last person on the ground. By the time I landed, it was decided to stay at Quest another day. A bit more than 50% of the pilots didn't want to drive the 4 hours to Georgia.

Terry and Chris Reynolds' sick Maule. They're gonna head up to AK this summer and bum around in the plane. Epic.

Day 5

High cirrus, light lift, moderate crosswind, top of the lift at 4000ft, and 109 km to goal. A tough day at the races.

The gaggles were thick before the start. I wish other pilots would bank on up and twirl in cores rather than drive big circles. I think we'd all climb better that way.

It was an effort in patience today. I wasn't as patient as I should have been. I was running with the crew I should have been with and was just impatient when leading out. I should have been more willing to milk every last foot of the thermals and hang totally with the group. I headed out first, on my own, and eventually landed.

Filippo said the going was social and slow for a LONG time. He was in the air for over 5 hours to go 100km. It was a day where you had to make calculated decisions from previous experience. The type of task was not my forte', but it's a learning process, and hopefully I've learned a lesson.

Airtime: 3:30. Flights: 2. Miles: 25.

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It's a lot more than a competition...

As our time at The Florida Ridge came to a close, they treated us to a festive pig roast and social evening. The amenities at The Florida Ridge keep improving, the shade trees are getting bigger, new cabins are being constructed and the vibe is family-like.

During the week, there were two new solo pilots, Dana Nelson and Bill (Patrick Kruse's father-in-law) It was refreshing to see and hear their radiating energy after the new experiences. Dana exclaimed after landing, "I flew with a bird." I remember my first solo aerotow. A very memorable special experience for sure.

Dana after her first solo tow. On her subsequent second, she was escorted to 4000ft. for her float down.

The pilot community has been exceedingly supportive in many ways on this trip. Most mornings, Davis and Belinda would invite us over for good Columbian coffee. It was nice sitting on their porch and chatting about the day while the morning sun brightened our mood.

OZ Report World Headquarters - Enjoying morning coffee with Davis and Belinda.

In addition, Belinda was our driver for the meet and did an exemplary job. She knows exactly where we are even with the cryptic radio talk and is super savvy with retrieve.

Linda Salamone and Mark Frutiger prepared and passed out food without request. Perfectly seasoned breakfast sandwiches and burritos were delivered to me in bed. It's great to see Linda on the scene again after a year-long hiatus from a broken arm. There's a renewed enthusiasm in their flying, and they're going great.

One other key couple that I didn't get a photo of is Bent (sp?) and Lori from The Ridge. Lori would deliver fresh squeezed orange juice to our camp every morning. They have been a staple at the Ridge for a few years and are an asset to the community. Helpful and accommodating at every turn.

On to the first day of the Flytec Race and Rally...

Photo by Tomo Kudlaty - Waiting in the launch line.

Not much to say about the first task really. I went from third in the last comp to thirty something in the first day of The Rally.

Cloudbase was low, it was totally overcast and windy. I got stuck way in the back of the launch line, and asked for a downwind tow in the hope I could catch a decent start gate. I had a wicked rowdy tow, and never got established. The situation perhaps showed a chink in my competition flying skill set.

I was dropped off too far downwind to make it back for a tow, and never found a climb that was more than broken, disorganized lift. I searched diligently, and never found anything of substance. I was soon on the ground.

Seems like the landowners are pretty agro in the area. They've got powered parachute pilots circling their compounds while others come in on the ground and steal equipment. The farmers are literally hunting and shooting at things low in the sky. Shame things have come to that in south Florida.

We made it up to Quest without incident just in time for a torrential deluge. We cried uncle and happily got a hotel room for the night. Heaven to get a hot shower and dry sheets.

The second day of the Rally got emotional when marginal winds and opinionated pilots got in the ears of the safety committee who eventually called the day. I towed up and thought the day was reasonable. Flew for an hour and was able to drive upwind. Nearly 24 hours later, pilots are still discussing the call, so it was one with two definitive sides. Yesterday is gone, today is here and I hope the conditions allow a task.

Airtime: 1:30. Flights: 2.

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It's been a couple of days. I need to finish up the account of the Rob Kells Memorial and jump right into the Flytec Race and Rally.

The last task of the Rob Kells Memorial was a bonafide 111km task with a dog leg into a cross head wind the last leg. I was calm and confident about the day in second place before the task.

I was in great position for the first start, but it wasn't the right timing. I was in great position for the second start, but it wasn't the right timing. Two minutes after the third and last start, I found myself at 800ft. directly over the florida ridge. I was supposed to be 3000ft. higher and 3 miles away. I had just dug myself a monumental hole and obviously wasn't happy. There went a chance of first place and I'd just probably lost second place if not more...

Rather than race down for a second tow to the edge of the start circle, I decided to lie in the bed I had just made and dig myself out and on course. I did so and about 15 minutes after the last start, I crossed the cylinder and headed out on course.

Tree at goal on the last day.

I resolved to get in a better head space and simply go for a fly. I'd be alone for most of the day, just out on an XC flight. The first leg went actually pretty well. I wasn't getting high, but there were decent clouds to fly.

The second long leg was somewhat frustrating. I got low a couple of times and just wasn't finding any strong climbs. Lift was broken and strong cores would seemingly vanish.

Some of the sport class boys. Great to have them at the event. PHOTO BY Tomo Kudlaty

I survived the slow section and the couple of areas that were sparsely populated or heavily treed and hooked up with a couple of pilots near the last turnpoint. I again got low working into the wind, but the lift was frequent and strong enough to allow one more save.

I ran into goal with an 11 to 1 that progressively got better. I'd done well considering my start circle debacle and flying the course alone. At the end of the day, I'd give up a place to Dustin, but finish third overall for the meet.

The top three LtoR - Me, Jonny, Dustin. Photo by Tomo Kudlaty

The flying throughout the week at The Florida Ridge was fun, and James Tindle and his staff really went out of their way to put on a welcoming event. I enjoyed the presence of the sport class folks and hope they all found the experience worth the time and financial sacrifice.

Airtime: 4:00. Flights: 1. Miles: 69.

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Out of the box

Shapiro landing at goal.

I met Dave Whittle yesterday morning. He's a local pilot who's got a new T2C and we discussed his impressions. In short, he's loving the new glider. He feels it's got ample performance and is allowing him to make flights that used to be impossible feasible. It's more than the performance though, he feels that due to the glider's handling and landing characteristics, it's less fatiguing on a multi hour flight and inspires confidence when landing in restricted LZ's or uncertain wind conditions.

Zippy's machine.

I find the T2C to be a world class machine right out of the box. In stock configuration, it's got loads of performance, handles like a kingposted glider, and lands so nicely. If you're racing, there is no need for elaborate tuning to get world class performance. Lower the sprogs one or two turns, take the VG limiter out and perhaps re-tie the VG so the keel sled makes it all the way back to the hang post, and you've got a ROCKET. Oh yea, and it's $8300.

It was good to meet and talk with Dave. I'm glad he's feeling rejuvinated enthusiasm and having a great experience on his new glider. On to the day:

Some sport class competitors:

Greg, a Santa Barbara pilot popping out of the cart.

Ben, another Santa Barbara bro rolling out.

Matt Barker on his U2 about to roll.

They called a lightning bolt out and return 74 miles to the NW. I towed up and had terrible luck finding lift. I'd have to return to the park and relight. I slipped into ground effect just after Bobby in the tow plane and was expecting to get hit by his prop wash. It didn't come until the last minute and dropped me running to the ground. Sprained my ankle a bit from the hard contact.

Julia from Russia. She's flying awesome.

Was having poor luck with the second tow, but scraped around until I did find myself in good position for the second start. All the boys were waiting around for the third start, so I'd be fine. On the way out, things went pretty well. Zippy, Dustin, Jonny and myself were running together and we rejoined Shapiro and a dozen when we got slow and our paths converged. I found the lift to be mostly disorganized and the clouds weren't reliable. It was somewhat frustrating.

Seemed like the further we were away from the airport, the worse conditions were. It was disorganized climbs and slow progress as we started back. Jonny got a better line, two better climbs, and I wouldn't see him the rest of the day. The last two legs sped up for me, and I was able to make a quicker run back home.

Dave Prentice on his flip flop harness. Climb seated, glide prone.

I had a 12 to 1 to goal, then went 1.5km off course to a budding cloud and took the turns I needed to ensure goal. The US team made it in well, but Jonny did well enough to move into first with me 100 points behind. Today is the last day and we're all looking to fly our best.

Airtime: 4:00. Flights: 2. Miles: 74.

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All photos by the Florida Ridge

It's really cool that there are a lot of sport class bros here. James Tindle's son Austin (?) who is 14 is competing in the sport class. Fantastic. We could use a hundred more his age to join us, but for now we welcome him and all the other sport class pilots who are hopefully having a great time.

They called an out and return 87km with a ninety degree heading change after a turnpoint. I had a good time thermalling with ospreys before the start. They were skittish as you dove on them. There was another big golden too.

Took the first start as it looked like things were going to overdevelop quickly. Had a pretty good run to the first turnpoint, but then got low with zippy and others as we approached a totally overcast section with some rain.

Found a strong climb in the sun before punching into the gloom. It looked bad for those ahead. Max from Brazil was just behind me and found a little breath of lift and I joined him for what would be the last bit before a death glide into the stormy section.

It was a quiet ride into a cross wind. I could see where Carl had landed ahead and made it to his field with 400ft. Just then I spotted Jonny who had landed a few hundred meters further hiding in the shade of a few trees. There were few dry areas, Jonny had picked a small island of dry. There was another slightly larger island of dry a few hundred meters further, so I dove in over a pond in the middle of a field and landed in a bit of a dryer crest.

After I brought everything to the highway, I noticed Chris Zimmerman at 3000ft. over my head. The sky had cleared and was looking pretty epic. The wind had increased a bit. Those who had gotten stuck back had a reprieve when the sky cleared again. Well done boys.

I was fourth for the day and moved into first overall with two days to go. We will see.

We've had fog this morning, but it's burning off and it looks like a great day.
Airtime. 1:35. Flights: 1. Miles 19.

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Day 2

picking a task

I took a test flight around 11:30am. I'd tweaked the glider and harness and wanted to see if everything was closer to square. Shapiro grabbed the tow rope, Dustin towed me up. No speed sleeves. Lift was ubiquitous, cloudbase was 2200ft. Tropical air. Everything was sorted. Felt like home. Nice.

Here's Jonny's video from the day: CLICK HERE

I struggled to get in position for the first start, Zippy and I would have to wait around. We played it right and came busting through the wispys twenty seconds after the second start ticked over.

Dana running a rigid.

The first few thermals were a bit cautious. They were there, but we weren't that high so you had to scope ahead carefully. Zippy got an unlucky line and found himself to 1100ft. I found a decent climb and floated on when I hit base. There was a great looking dark cloud line ahead, I hoped it was producing.

Cloudbase was around 3500ft., but the run to the first turnpoint was fast. There was seemingly 500fpm under every cloud and I could run at base with just two turns under the strongest lift skipping a climb when there were pilots marking lift ahead. I felt like I was gaining ground. Davis and Shapiro were out ahead and calling out their positions. It was motivating.

Just after the first turnpoint, we had to leave the strong line we were in and things got slow for a bit. I floundered with a climb, happy to have the help from many pilots around me and Zippy came racing back into the gaggle.

The final leg became a collection of memorable moments. I was climbing well in a thermal when I looked straight down into a large swamp pond to see the mirror surface reflect the sun and the sky. I was staring down through the water and up at the reflected sky all at once.

We were over a lush swamp area and I looked down to see five bright white gliders turning in unison for 1/4 a circle.

When I'm close to the clouds I don't pay too much attention to the ground. I knew we were over a road, but other details about the terrain are few. Just looking up, flying the sky.

Zippy and I came up on Jonny and in our second thermal, a large golden eagle came in turning with us. The climb wasn't that strong, but we all stayed, the scene was too good. To sweeten the deal a bald eagle flew in below with Jonny. The three of us went round and round with the birds. I pulled out of the thermal with the golden eagle and flanked him. Zippy had the same idea and we were 30 ft. apart with the eagle between. The eagle tolerated it for a few seconds.

Dustin and his precious.

A thermal before final, we came up on Shapiro and Dustin. Suddenly it was Dustin, Zippy, Shapiro, Jonny and myself going round and round. On final glide, we had reasonable numbers, but Jonny and Dustin found 500fpm and banked up hard to climb. I would have been lower in the stack, and we were still over 2000ft. with decent numbers to goal, so I kept going. The numbers kept creeping better and better and I got there first with the boys standing on it coming in right behind me.

I really enjoyed flying with my bros and working together.

Airtime: 3:00. Flights: 2. Miles: 64.

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Rob Kells Memorial - Day One

The story of the comp thus far has been rain. Seemingly torrential rain. I'm probably not in the proper head space for an all roses account, but it's all rain induced. On Sunday we had torrential rain for hours. We staved off boredom with a movie and lunch out, but "my home" in the back of my truck slowly got soaked. Those in tents have been sleeping in puddles.

Trying to dry out...

Monday broke and by the time we flew, the sun was drying things out. I cleaned out the truck and put an industrial fan on things for a couple of hours and the evening was epic. Lots of sweet evening air and people enjoying it.

Monday night before bed, the rain came in again, hard. Re-soaked everything that had been dried throughout the day. Spent another damp night in bed trying to ensure that electronics stayed dry. More stories of sleeping in puddles. At least we're getting to fly.

On to the day. I launched in the first 1/3 of the field, pinned off at 1200ft. as I though I was in good lift. The lift was disorganized and eventually I landed. I wanted to land near the front of the staging line and probably left myself with too narrow of a tolerance coming into the field. Got dumped behind a couple trees and had a powerline and van to contend with. It worked out, but tolerances were tight and I had less energy in the system than I would have liked.

Got re-towed quickly and took it to 2200. Found better lift and tried to stage for the start. Zippy and Davis went north one cloud just before the start while Carl Walbank and I stayed with our dying cloud. We only had a couple minutes to wait and I felt the cloud to the north was too far away considering the pilots climbing under it.

The cloud to the north was the ticket, and those boys immediately had a minute on us as we began the task.

There was a dark cloud line off course to the north, and I made the decision to slide over as the boys pressing out under the light cumies weren't getting anything yet. We were only topping out at around 3400ft. so there wasn't much room for mistakes.

After a season in hibernation, Kozmo is in heaven. Plenty of exercise and dogs to play with. One of the nicest evenings I've had with the dog.

The dark clouds provided decent lift, and I topped out at 4000ft. and popped out the edge of a cloud as I followed Greg Dinauer with Carl Walbank somewhere near. We hit the first turnpoint, and now had to head out in the blue.

I found the going difficult in the blue even though there were pilots around. Zippy and Max from Brazil got down to 800ft. or so as I struggled to stay over 2000ft. Things were disorganized and I just couldn't find the one or two strong climbs I needed.

I survived through the slow section, but by the time I found a decent thermal to get me up and over the few miles of trees before goal, Carl and Zippy had caught me. We took the 200fpm lift up until we were 9 to 1 to goal and had a moderate run in. (cross head wind) The goal cylinder was far away from parking or landing at our airport, so we didn't take final down to the deck. Burbled to the end of the runway, turned and landed.

Shapiro won the day over Jonny, then Dustin. It's his second day win so a memorable one for him.

The evening was magic. One of the still, sunny Florida spring days. My favorite. I had a great time with the dog, stretching in the field with Joe Bostik, and soaking in the last rays.

The weather is improving, so we should be able to fly everyday. Hopefully I just have to dry things out one more time :) Short task call yesterday, but not necessarily easy.

Airtime: 2:00. Flights: 2. Miles: 30.

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Wills Wing exclusive Covert album on Facebook


See photos of the harness in flight, under construction, and some production release information.

While you're there, become a fan and upload a photo to the fan album. Yee haw. Spring is here. Join the crew.

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Hang Gliding in Outside and Backpacker magazines...

Seth Warren, Mr. Nature Propelled, has landed a full page KEEN ad which prominently displays him hang gliding on a Wills Wing Sport 2.

For those who do not know what Seth has been up to, he's a bio fuel champion who has completed the longest journey propelled totally by bio fuel of any vehicle. He's made a couple of 'lifestyle' films based around our environment, how we play with it, and how to reduce our impact and keep it pristine.

Check out the links below:

The Oil and Water Project Where it all started.




Nature Propelled Trailer from Elements Tour on Vimeo.

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Manfred Ruhmer caught cheating :)

From Luis Rizo Salom:

The competition on Bassano concluded last week with only two tasks flown. The first task I heard was reasonable and the second was light lift, low cloud base and challenging. Manfred Ruhmer came away victorious over Robert Reisinger, who is now back on Wills Wing. It would have been great to see things play out over a fully valid meet. It seems that Manfred is interested to see what's causing all the buzz over the T2C. :)

Congratulations to Manfred and the top ten pilots:

1 Manfred Ruhmer AUT Laminar Z9 1935

2 Reisinger Robert AUT Wills Wing T2C 144 1894

3 Trimmel Manfred AUT Combat L 13,8 1890

4 Franc Peternel SLO COMBAT 09 13 1786

5 Voiblet Christian SUI X 13.2 1782

6 Elio Cataldi ITA Wills Wing T2C 144 1751

7 Weissenberger Tom AUT RS4 1737

8 Rizo Salom Luis FRA Wills Wing T2C 144 1716

9 Kaiser Raimund AUT Laminar Z9 13.7 1665

10 Karl Reichegger ITA Z8 14,8 1660

Special thanks to Robert Reisinger, Elio Cataldi, and Luiz Rizo Salom for their great showing on Wills Wing.

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