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Articles from Saturday and Sunday, 1/13 & 1/14/2001 [SD
Saturday] [SD Sunday Flight]
[SD Sunday Reserve Deployment]
[Ron Faoro Sat & Sunday] [Tom Beidler Comment] [Benson Flight] [Benson Observation] [Kevin Dumain Reflections]
I would like to say that SD's flight on Sunday was one of the most impressive events that I've witnessed in my two year paragliding history. "Performance Art" comes to mind mainly because I'm trying to avoid "Greek Tragedy."
Act 1 started at the Bypass where Tom launched in what he called a 2-3 and I would say was a no wind, but I was standing down at the end of the road, not where he pulled up. Things were interesting from the get go when he almost rolled over backwards in his harness immediately after getting airborne. This mustered up a rousing cheer from the crowd that had gathered which included paraglider pilots as well as two pickup trucks that we being stopped to allow SD to launch. The reaction from the pickup trucks, who were hauling their motocross bikes uphill, was more "yeah" and "where do I sign up" then "you guys are insane."
SD made a good glide out to the round house and began snooping around for lift popping in and out of view. I lost sight of him behind the antenna farm while he was making his transition to the rock. Thinking "will he or won't he" he soon appeared above the antenna farm, at first feeling out the thermal and then coring it like I've never seen. It was the first time I kicked myself for not having my video camera. This was text book flying and it was happening right in front of us.
The group consensus shifted to "lets get a move on" and we headed up to the Skyport keeping a vis on SD who was making his first attempt to head up the spine to the Thermal Factory. By the time we got to launch, SD was heading back to the Antenna Farm after unsuccessfully trying to gain ground on the spine. Nobody was giving him this one, he definitely worked for it.
I grabbed a seat at the Skyport for act 2 and watched as he tried another crack at the Thermal Factory. This one proved to be more successful and it seemed like it didn't take him much time to climb above launch. At times it's a pisser to watch someone have such a good flight while your sitting on the ground but the cloud development in front of launch was an getting my attention. It was like one of those Drug Free America commercials, "This is the air", crack an egg, add some clouds, "This is the air on drugs." Maybe it wasn't that bad, maybe those were good conditions, but watching those clouds mash together from two different directions, swirl around and climb up through some invisible smoke stack, made me think "So, who's the wind dummy?"
Not only was this cloud ballet beautiful as well as educational to watch, it provided the perfect infotainment while SD made his transition to Cathedral Peak. Once again, it's more comfortable to watch someone make that transition and think "Great glide" rather then make it yourself thinking "c,mon baby, you can do it" jumping in/out of the speed bar or my ever popular lean as far forward in my harness as you can as if this would help your glide.
SD seemed to hit Cathedral Peak high but he wasn't getting the left like he was earlier at the Thermal Factory or Antenna Farm. It appeared he was making his way back...
Act 3, "are you ready to rrruuuummmmmmmbbleeee!" The full on carnival effect had taken over at launch. There were at least 15 paragliders at the Skyport and a fair amount of hangies setting up at the Eliminator. Bill Bailey was the only one laid out at launch and no one was lining up behind him. Yeah, there were the usual "Hey Bill, that was a nice cycle" and a fair number guys were suited up but no one else was laid out. By now the obvious activity out front and the almost consistent down cycles that flushed through kept everyone at bay.
I had lost SD who was still making his way to the Holy Hills. Most everyone was caught up in conversation. Soon I heard a "whoa" from about three different locations from the crowd at launch simultaneously. I knew it had to do with SD. I didn't see his first hit but I saw the second one. It seemed like his wing was trying to recover from one thing when he got hit again, SPANK! I kept thinking, it's going to recover, it's going to recover when all of a sudden I saw his reserve open. Even now when I write this I get goose bumps. "YEAH!" Everyone yelled at the same time. I jumped to my feet and my arms shot in the air. "Did you see that!"
Luckily almost immediately we got the report from SD that he was ok which quelled the second thought I had. Classic SD also, "I'm ok, don't let this bother you. I think it's working good at the Bypass."
There was a definite buzz at launch. If a sport like football had an analyst/viewer ratio like there was at the Skyport there wouldn't be a medium with a bandwidth broad enough to support it. Everyone was giving their synopsis. Even Scottie Angel, a tried and true hangie, had to come down to the Skyport to get a piece of that action.
I was thinking to myself that it was the most impressive flight I've ever seen. From beginning to end it was as educational as it was entertaining.
I didn't fly that day. The cloud development and cycles at launch were enough to persuade me. Although I'm looking forward to launching the Bypass someday, that wasn't the day.
The day definitely ended on a good note. I felt the most important thing I learned was that while I was thinking "it's going to recover, it's going to recover" SD had already decided to throw his reserve. I recently crashed in Ojai with a similar situation to SD's and barely got my hand to my reserve handle before I hit the ground. I know I wasted a fair amount of time wondering what was happening, sensory overload. Reminds me of little league baseball when I first learned to plan ahead for all the possible things that might happen for each batter. Maybe that sounds obvious to some but I never consider throwing my reserve much. Every flight I check my reserve handle but that's it. I need to do way more "strategizing."
Epilogue. Glad to hear about SD's situation after. I was watching the ridge on the Holy Hills while we drove down wondering if I would see him pull up. Sounds like I left a little early.
I'm also glad to hear a number of others got to fly, especially Ron's flight. I'm looking forward to one of those flights in my future Ron.
The only last thing for SD. Think Hollywood, if you called the gas money fare "admission" you could easily charge theatre rates.
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