Now that I am home, I can look back and take inventory of the events of the past two weeks. I did not want to say anything at the time, but I had some trepidations about this years competition at Quest. This was due to the number of accidents that occurred last year, which included two fatalities and many trips to the hospital. I am happy to say that this year was a very safe year. The only injury I heard about was a bloody nose from a tree landing. Considering the number of hours flown, number of launches and landings, and the number of pilots, I would say that we had a well below average number of accidents. If this were a 9 day off road bicycle race with 100 competitors, I would expect a lot more carnage. After the meet I talked to pilots and tug pilots about this and many of them had the same thoughts.
The performance of the tug pilots, ground crews, volunteers, Quest air staff and pilots was absolutely the best I have ever seen. The comp went so smoothly I didn't really notice how many people were involved to make it work until they read all the volunteer's names and had them stand up. I would say that there was at least one volunteer for every pilot. I really liked the rigids launching first. Sure we would get some of the weaker conditions and the flex wings that flew later could usually get faster times, but all the rigids had the same conditions. The launch line seemed more relaxed than in years past.
In one way I am happy with my performance during the meet, and it others not so. My glider has a slight performance penalty than the top gliders, but I would be willing to bet that if Alex were flying it, he still would have taken 1st, so I can't fault the glider. Eric Paquette was flying a tailless Atos B with a Wills Wing control frame and he took third. The way to win is to be good. Watching Alex and David fly I could see that they are truly great pilots. Watching from behind, they seemed to be able to fly straight to lift and find the core within one turn.
One way I am disappointed with my performance is half the time I was using other pilots to find lift. I guess this is not so bad when I look at the top flex wing pilots who were using the slower rigids to mark thermals, but I really wanted to go out in front more, but many times I would chicken out. I am very happy with two of my days when I either flew by myself or left the thermal 1st to find lift most of the task. The thrill of finding my own way and doing it rather fast was much more satisfying than using other pilots the entire time and just completing the task. Both Jim Yocom and Ron Gleason seem to have little problem going out in front. I think that with all of the cost in both time and money for me to attend these comps, I want to do well. The thought of traveling all that way just to bomb out several times makes me more cautious.
Another thing that is holding me back is my not wanting to inconvenience anyone by landing out, far from an easy retrieve. As I found myself getting low, I would always gravitate toward a paved road, rather than what looked like better lift over a field that was down a dirt road with possible locked gates. I saw pilots low over swamps without even a landing field within reach. I just can't bring myself to do that.
Hang gliding is definitely not aerobic. I usually run about 20 miles a week. Today I ran for the first time in two weeks. Even though I was sore every day from hang gliding, my run felt like I had not worked out in a month. My time was a minute a mile slower then when I left for Florida. I strongly believe that if you are aerobically fit, it will make your hang gliding easier.
I would like to give a special thanks to Christoff Lohrmann and AIR for sending him to the meet. Christoff spent what seemed like most of his free time working on other peoples gliders. As far as I know he did not charge anyone for his services. Even on the flight line with launch time less than 15 minutes away I saw him helping others with their gliders. I have never seen another glider manufacturer support their gliders so well at a comp. In addition to all his work, he flew very well during the competition. He placed third on a very challenging day when less than half the field finished the task. Who knows how much better he could have done without all the distractions?
I guess I spent two hours every day working on my reports, sitting in my car (I needed the power to run my laptop) or under the big tent. At times I thought it was a waste, that I could be socializing or relaxing, but then the next day I would get a bunch of emails of encouragement which made it worth it. At home, I checked the statistics on the server to see how many hits I received and where there were coming from. It still amazes me how wide spread the internet is. This is a list of the countries from which people have read my reports from Quest and the Flytec Championships.
USA, Canada, Russian Federation, US Educational, Brazil, France, Australia, Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand (Aotearoa), Japan, United Kingdom, Greece, Israel, US Military, US Government, Mexico, Germany, Netherlands, Venezuela, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Hungary, Old style Arpanet (arpa), Austria, Belgium, Seychelles. If you're the one from the Seychelles (Islands off Africa) I would like to hear where you hang glide).
Thanks to you all who have sent kind words and thoughts.