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Author: Zac 'Zippy' Majors Created: 7/24/2009 12:36 PM
Zac "Zippy" Majors was the 2008 US National Champion and calls California home.  This "mountain specialist" has been steeped in Utah XC during his seventeen years of flying and has been cracking off impressive flights in the Rockies, Wasatch front, and Sierras. He's also owned and operated a hang gliding school for the past fourteen years. Zippy's recent rise in the competition ranks has been impressive, with a notable fourth place finish and the top US finisher in the recent world championships.
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    So my trip was always just a bit in question because I was flying on an airline employee voucher thanks to Joe Bostik. I checked in with my glider and held my breath as they called one supervisor after another. Finally Mike from Delta's baggage came up and personally approved my glider and now it was just a matter of getting a seat for me. I had a couple margaritas to ease the tension and dull the possible agony if I didn't get on. As they were boarding the plane I was given a seat assignment and let out a sigh of relief.



    As I got off the plane a had a new concern; getting a ride from the airport. A pleasant surprise was getting to bypass the long customs line because of the size of my glider. As I weaved through the crowd and out the front door, I was stoked to see Jeff Shapiro off to my right. Jeff told me that James Stinnett was on his was to pick us up; it was the morning of new years eve.
    James arrived in a flash green Comador wagon, we loaded up and headed off to meet up with Jamie Shelden, Karl Wallbank and Dave Shields. Jamie took us to a great restaurant at Coogee beach, and we followed it a dip in the Tasman Sea.

    After a quick disco-nap we got ready for dinner that Cathrine had arranged and we met her and Gerolf. Lovely 4 course dinner, outside on the sidewalk, with fireworks to boot. We finished shorlty before midnight and tried to race up Brondi Beach to meet up with Jonny Durrand and his entourage. Well the cabbies wouldn't take us all the way and we walked to where we could see the Harbor Bridge fireworks as the year 2010 fell upon us. Happy New Year everyone! We finally caught up with our friends and we partied well into the morning hours.


    Day one: Totally blue. 138k? dogleg. I'm very turned around in the start circle (give me a mountain for reference!). Conditions are light and some people leave at the first clock. Most go back for the second clock and a group of us get low with about 8 pilots landing at the edge of the cylinder, but most pilots get on course. After grovelling back up for 20 min we're still only 2k outside the cylinder so about 10 of us get the 3rd clock. I didn't find out till later that I made most of the run to the first turn point with Blay from Spain. We are topping out about 4000', so not a lot of altitude to work with. I caught up with the leaders a bit after the turn point, but pushing too hard I found myself down below 300' (it would be so painful to land here after so much hard work), but I found a bubble and started to dig out. Somehow I made up the little bit of time I lost here and finished just behind the first guys. Having started 20 minutes later I won the day, my first day win in a major international competition.

    Day two: Very different. A sky full of beautiful cumulus. 194K dogleg in the opposite direction (SW-S) This time we're at 6000'at cloudbase for the first start clock. Having thermal markers out from worked so well yesterday, that we Shapiro wasn't ready to leave, I was happy to wait. Davis started anyway because a bunch of people left, and Larry Bunner waited with me. We left at the second clock and the race was on. It wasn't long before I started finding 700-900fpm. After the turnpoint the conditions got faster. Cloudbase had risen to over 8000' and it was a glorious day! I watched the kilometers click away. Getting a bit low over a town I saw a cemetery and gave thanks to those who came before the splendorous life us hang glider pilots enjoy. At about 35K out I saw Karl, Jonny, and Attila and figured I was probably in good shape. A couple short climbs together and we started our final glide about 20k from goal. For the last few Kilometers my GPS was not getting coverage more than it was (mabey because Atilla was blocking all the satellites)(Carl was having the same issue), we were racing down to the deck and I wasn't sure I would make the edge of the cylinder, I tried to have a look and cause a wiggle that allowed Jonny to snake by me to win the day about 1-2 seconds. (My GPS didn't indicate goal until I was flaring, and the score keeper said my time was 58 sec after Jonny, hopefully they can sort it out.) I haven't seen results yet, but probably 2nd for the day.



    Thanks to everyone who's making this dream a reality

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    So I battled Friday traffic through the middle of LA; it was grueling. I thought I'd timed it right, but I'm not sure that's actually possible in LA. I made it down to Wills Wing in time to score a free plate of food from their Christmas party. I'll drive a long way for free food...  but that wasn't the only reason I was there.

    Wills Wings Skunk Works department had finally processed the glydetonium for my new wing.  It was nice to see the crew and wish them a Merry Christmas.  Unfortunately, while on my rack, the glydetonium didn't do anything for my car, so I was back stuck in traffic again.

    Saturday, my girlfriend Erin gave me a ride up to the Alternator launch in Santa Barbara.  As I unfurled the sail and began stuffing battens, plenty of things were getting stiffer.

    I went up to launch sure it would only be a sled ride, but some paragliders showed there was at least a little lift to be found. US PG team member Matt Beechinor and Nick Greece of USHPA magazine were floating around in some little bubbles and were kind enough to share the air. We would gain every so often, but mostly we were sinking 50fpm. They had their cameras out so hopefully they'll share those photos soon.
    The glider handled better than I would expect for the first flight. Roll was quick tip to tip, and very predictable. There's something to be said for how nice the VG pulls on a new glider. With the sail tightened up like a drum the base tube came back about 6" and we were soon speeding along (I'm glad there's no cops or radar up there!). Doesn't make sense that a glider with great handling would also track exceptionally straight at high speed, but I'm not going to argue. I pulled a few wing-overs, to help seat the sail ;) and then set up my approach into the "T" LZ.

    Here is a video shot on a phone from the LZ:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_ZZgGIg6ww

    I'm in love again! Thank you to everyone at Wills Wing for a work of art.   I hope I can fly it with the skills it deserves.

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    In the spring, I had donated a couple gift certificates for tandem flights to the Ojai Raptor Center (http://www.ojairaptorcenter.org/). The center rehabilitates and releases sick and injured birds of prey as well as other animals in need (I was introduced by my girlfreind Erin who volunteers there). Today I redemed a certificate, and Allen paid for his wife to fly also. We met at the "T" landing zone in Santa Barbara (the local club owns this property). We drove up to the Alternator launch 4000msl (about 3500agl) as the SE winds favored this over the usual Eliminator/Skyport launch. After the preflight briefing, Valerie (the fearless one; was nominated to go first) and I flew off for her first experience of free-flight. She manuvered us to the places I thought might have lift, but alas it wasn't meant to be any more than a glorious sled-ride. I hadn't really expected much more as the sky was overcast. I was slightly disappointed with our landing which consisted of 4 steps before she gently dropped to one knee; then she made a comment about our "crash" ...really?



     


    The second flight was windier on launch and still a little cross from the East. Allen was eager to get his hands on the controls, so he flew until we found a bubble where I circled trying to maintain briefly. We glided on to a nice landing at the "T".




    Both flights we enjoyed by all, and I walked away knowing I'd contributed to saving the same bird who "save" me.
     
     
     
    BTW- these were two other top pics for my Red-tail tattoo

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    So this last flying season has been amazing. In Florida I had a great time with my friends and was excited to have finished 2nd in the Flytec Race and Rally against such a talented group of pilots.

     
    This post has been long overdue. In Europe my camera went missing on the same day our lunches disappeared. Maybe someone was confused, or really hungry, but I just couldn’t believe that anyone would steal my camera up on launch. After sending out a few emails, a friend (Scott Torkelsen, FAI official) replied with news that he’d found a camera that had been run over by a car (probably fell of the seat or something). He sent the SD card with the pictures to my PO box which I finally picked up in Tahoe – Thanks so much Scott! So here are some of my remaining pictures of flying with my buds at the World Championships in Laragne, France (4th place).

    Here’s Dustin saying “whuttup Bitch”

     
    I found a great picture online of me silhouetted above some cu’s. My girlfriend Erin bought a copy and framed it for my birthday. (Since it’s copyrighted, here’s my version featuring OB)
     
    On one of the days that the task was cancelled we were flying back to camping together and at my request Shapiro dove right below me and pull up straight over the top for a beautiful loop that I had framed perfectly, but alas a camera malfunction (operator error) meant I’d missed the money shot (sorry Jeff), but here’s one O’Brien gave me when I asked for a little undersurface.
     
     
    Getting to make new friends and catching up with old friends is an important part of our travels; this continued through the rest of the season, Ridge-racing at Torrey (2nd place – thanks Robin!), Big Springs (2nd, again), and Santa Cruz Flats (5th, where my dad and girlfriend supported me and got to socialize with the flying crew). I feel very lucky to have found hang gliding not just for the freedom of flight, but for the community (eccentrics and all).
     
     
    Pizza and Paella night at the Worlds.

    This is the remnants of a castle tower just above a fantastic restaurant we enjoyed thanks to Davis and Belinda.

    I’ll leave you with a scenic of the Alps and why everyone should take a flying trip in Europe.

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