Jul 2012

Boom X Impressions

I jumped on the Boom X for the first time on day 1 of the Rat Race in June. Coming from a string of Gin competition gliders, the last of which was the Boom 8, the X felt comfortable, relaxing and easy to fly. The performance - although not quite as good as the Boom 8, was still respectable, and a fair trade for the lowered in-flight stress level. Unable to get my head in the right place after two bad tasks at the Rat Race put me in 35th position overall at the end of the week. None of the blame went to the glider though.

A few great XC days on the X in Bozeman put me back in the right mental state. I could still fly! I hopped in the truck and headed to Chelan.

Great weather during the Chelan comp, and plenty of time flying with numerous Niviuk Icepeak 6’s all week. There was time to fall behind, catch up, go on long glides with and without speed bar, there was turbulent air on and off bar, strong and light climbs, into-wind transitions - a little of everything.

I fly a small (90-100kg) Boom X with no ballast, and I clip in at 96 kg.

Here’s what I think about the Boom X:

Speed (full bar): Fast, but just a touch slower than the IP6’s. This makes sense, with two more C lines on each side.
Glide: Again very good, but ever so slightly lower than the IP6’s. This is also a product of more drag (C lines) than the IP6’s
Climb: Better than the Icepeaks. Historically I haven’t been able to out-climb other pilots, but with the Boom X, it is happening regularly.

Now, if I ballasted up and flew a Medium or a bigger pilot was on a large, would the speed and glide equal the IP6’s? Quite possibly. Small gliders are notorious for gliding less efficiently than bigger gliders of the same model. The shape of the wing is much different than the Icepeaks, and that could potentially outweigh the increased overall line drag. We’ll have to wait for a bigger pilot to get one to really compare side-by-side. I feel with the better climbing and very similar glide performance, it was basically a wash, and I never felt it was the glider’s fault when I fell behind.

Overall I’m finding the Boom X to be a fabulous glider that “brings the fun back” to comp flying, and really the whole serial class mandate has been a pleasant surprise for many pilots. Without much difference in gliders, the differences in flying styles and pilot skill can easily be seen. It’s also a perfect mountain XC/recreational glider, with its easy launches and gentle behavior. I’m keeping the Boom 8 in the case of a true distance record attempt, but short of that, I’ll be grabbing the X off of the shelf every time.

Chelan XC Open Awards

Well, I held on to third position! Good stuff.


Photo below is worth showing - Josh on the left, Greece on the right, Bradley up above. On glide just after cloudbase before the start.


Insights on the Boom X will follow shortly. Long story short - a great wing with great performance, and one that any skilled pilot would be happy competing on.


Overall Results

Andy’s SPOT

Chelan XC Open Day 7

Task: Sims Corner 38k Enter, Sims Corner 18k, Soccer 2k ESS, Soccer 400m goal. Total optimized distance: 76km.


The morning looked even less hopeful than yesterday, and we met at the park at 9am, took a vote on who wanted to go up and who wanted to call it good, and headed up the hill. Pilots are insatiable. Besides, nothing good comes from getting drunk before noon.

Got up to the top, sat around again, and watched the conditions improve. Large rain cells dissipated and moved on, and the sky opened up with sunshine and perfect cumulus stretching out across the flats. Another day of racing was in store. The task was made short for weather concerns and retrieve, BBQ, awards, etc.

Easy climbing above launch, up high to 2,500m again, which was cloudbase above the butte today. We had about an hour to get across the river and established on the flats before the start. We drove across the valley and dove into the flats feeling good. That good feeling soon turned to sheer panic as we got desperately low after the power lines south of Farnam canyon. The shards of lift we found weren’t going up fast, but at least they were turbulent. We pulled ourselves out of there, with Ty Sporrer taking the “lowest save” award - he held it together and got back up high from less than 30m off of the deck. Up high here as the lift and people came together, and we drove toward the large 38km cylinder around Sims. After all of the low save action, I hadn’t noticed the time. There were still several minutes left before the start time elapsed, so we all sat on the edge of a cloud at cloudbase waiting for the clock. With the edge of the cylinder still 2k away, the “Speed to Start” field came in quite handy today. When that speed matched our groundspeed when pointed in that direction, we left.

Good, fun cruising now over the next 20km to get to the slightly smaller (18k) cylinder around Sims, and I was now in front with a group of four: Kansas, Loopy, Webb and myself. We made good time and kept ahead of the large group behind us, and tagged the turn point, which happened to be slightly east of Mansfield. Here, Kansas and Loopy (Jan) went almost straight down the paved road west of Mansfield and did well. Webb must have been with them or near them because he wasn’t with me anymore. I was now with Marty, and we tanked up to cloudbase before pushing towards the soccer field on a more southerly line than the Kansas group. There was plenty of sun ahead of us, but Kansas’s line was looking better now. The rest of the gaggle had followed Marty and I and we were all in need of a climb. Right around this time the clouds to the south were getting huge, while a large cell to the north of Lake Chelan was dropping out and producing high winds on the butte. There was also a cell to the north of us on the flats that was getting large.

As I was pushing into wind looking for a low save with Marty, I had my hands all the way up. Hoping for that reassuring tug and climb, I got just the opposite - the wing disappeared and went behind me, my hands went to shoulder level, and the wing reopened going the opposite way. The great thing about putting your hands at shoulder level during a frontal is that you can easily grab your risers to keep yourself from twisting up. (Putting a bit of brake on during a frontal is something that should only be done on high performance wings. EN C’s and lower can still follow the good old “hands up!” rule.) Anyway, I turned back around and kept looking for that lift, this time with more active brake pressure. Happy Just then Doug came over the radio and stopped the task. Saved by the bell! Many pilots were near Mansfield, so that became the new “goal.” I found a bit of lift, made some turns, but ended up opting to land near the white van below me that was loading Brett Zanglein up.

When a task is stopped, the pilots are scored based on the height and position they were in 10 minutes before the cancellation. Their tracks are given additional distance based on a 2:1 glide ratio which rewards a higher pilot for being higher. It’s not perfect, because a lot can happen from that point to goal, but it’s a pretty fair way to score a task that may not otherwise be legitimate. I believe Marty and I were high and in front of most of the pilots 10 minutes prior to cancellation, but I think the day may go to the Kansas group - they were further in front and to the north of us.

Anyway, we flew for most of the flyable window today, and Doug’s call to stop was perfect, as rain, thunder, massive tornado-like dust devils and wind were all around us just after we landed. Super fun day, and such an amazing week of flying. Doug and Denise’s relaxed, organized and confident style of putting on a competition is refreshing. They are great ambassadors for the human race, let alone paragliding competition directors.

It looks like everyone has downloaded, so scores should be up soon, and I’m hoping to have held on to third place. Photo above is by James Bradley taken near cloudbase just before the start time elapsed.


Overall Results

Andy’s SPOT

Chelan XC Open Day 6

Task: Butte 2k Exit, Sims Corner 5k, Mansfield 2k ESS, Mansfield 400m goal. Total optimized distance: 59km.


Last night was another thunder, lightning and rain show in the campground. I had to get up and stash my glider in the passenger’s seat to keep it dry. We woke up to fairly nice conditions, but it was clear that there was moisture aloft. Many residual clouds and rain across the flats, to the west, to the north and to the south. The Chelan area was fairly clear.

Light rain on launch when we got there, and nobody was hurrying to unpack their gliders. We hung out and waited a bit, the sky started to clear, and a task was set. There was fear of thunderstorms in the afternoon, so the task was made short and the safety crew and competitors were on full alert for a task cancellation while in the air.

Anyway, launch was once again spicy down low, but we all managed to get away and climb high - 2,500m or so above the butte before crossing. Establishing on the flats wasn’t too bad, although a little slow. Pushed in a bit towards Mansfield and eventually found a tall climb to cloud base, around 3,000m. I was now with Dadam, Greece, Cohn, Steed and Webb. We pushed into the wind with 25km to go towards Sims Corner - another long battle with a headwind. Our group was efficient, and although the headwind made it a bit slow, we marched down to Sims without too much trouble. Somewhere in there we lost Steed. Just before tagging Sims, we tanked up as high as we could, knowing the downwind dash to Mansfield would be fast and furious. Dadam had somehow kept about 200m on our entire gaggle most of the way to Sims, and still had the same height advantage when we tagged the turn point. He was gone, while the remaining four of us jockeyed for position. Watching the final glide screen now, we found a climb and left with a 10:1, just to be safe. Full bar into Mansfield. Dadam (by a couple of minutes), Cohn, Greece, Macrae, Webb. Nobody else made it in. They didn’t have much time, as goal closed at 5pm for safety (thunderstorm) reasons.

The weather actually turned out to be fine all day, with no overdevelopment during the task. The shot above is coming into goal at Mansfield after the end of speed section (grassy football/track field on the right).

Another fabulous day of racing in Chelan. This week has been amazing. One more potential task day tomorrow - we’ll be tired and happy and ready for a party. Kansas has already been dancing on launch in the mornings.


Overall Results

Andy’s SPOT

Chelan XC Open Day 5

Task: Chelan Butte 2k Exit, Mansfield 2k, Douglas 2k, Soccer Field 2k ESS, Soccer field 400m goal. Total optimized distance: 71 km.


Conditions on launch didn’t look great for awhile, and the wind was coming from Lakeside all morning. A wind dummy (Armond) launched Lakeside and went up easily. The winds on launch began to calm and shift to east, coming up Ants and Rocks. After a couple of start time push-backs, the normal launch lines formed and pilots began to launch. The wind was rough and strong today, with drift from the south and east at times. It started to look like even getting to Mansfield would be tough.

Pilots were climbing high now though, up to about 2,500m over launch - much higher than in recent days. I was a little late in getting off the hill, and with 20 minutes left until start, I launched. Dean Stratton and I had a very rough patch of air that eventually led to a climb up and out (after it slapped us around a bit). I was a little slow in getting to the edge of the cylinder due to the east headwind, but more or less made the start with the lead gaggle.

High now and cruising towards Mansfield. Establishing on the flats was easy, although we were fighting a stiff southerly breeze the whole way out. The lead gaggle took an interesting course to the south of Mansfield while Marty, Jared, Ty and myself went straight. We ended up getting a good climb before Mansfield and tagging the turn point ahead and higher than the lead gaggle, but we were quickly scooped up during the push into wind toward Douglas. Groundspeeds were down in the 25kph range at times without bar, and around 40kph with bar. This would have been fine under normal Chelan conditions, but high, thick cirrus had moved in and started to shut down the day. With 30km to go to Douglas in a direct headwind, it was starting to look difficult. The large gaggle (25 pilots or so) was rich on talented pilots, and we pushed on. Each climb was a little weaker and topped out a little lower than the last. The kilometers ticked down, but Douglas was still far for the climbs and glides we were getting. The gaggle was like a blob that continued to reach out, thermal back, reach out again, shift left, shift right and generally move as efficiently as possible with the conditions we were given. Very fun to see what a group of good pilots can do in total shade.

As we turned in the last lift we could find, my glide ratio to Douglas remained at 8:1, indicating that the drift was now canceling out the lift. We all noticed this, and pointed into the wind and towards the turn point on a glide to the ground. May the highest glider win. Very fun watching everyone below hit the dirt like lawn darts. I was in a fairly good position, and landed in maybe 6th place or so. It’s hard to say for sure (until results are posted). Watching pilots hit the ground, it looked like Josh won the day, Nick was in second and Brett Zanglein was in third. Arnie, Jared and I were behind them in about that order. Josh was about 100m short of Douglas.

A super fun day, and with a little less shade the task call would have worked perfectly. If one were to have tagged Douglas with any height, getting back to the soccer field would have been an easy downwind dash - even in light lift.

Not sure about tomorrow’s forecast yet, but hopefully another couple days of racing. It has been a fabulous time so far.


Overall Results

Andy’s SPOT

Chelan XC Open Day 4

Task: Waterv 26k Exit, Omak 5k, Tonasket 2k ESS, Tonasket 400m goal. Total optimized distance: 111km.

A much slower start on launch today, with the early launchers struggling well below launch for quite some time. I think Josh Cohn (usually first to launch) had a 45 minute sight-seeing tour of the butte before finally getting up to a comfortable height above launch. I was in the group on launch that waited for that certain temperature when it finally “popped,” and was able to launch and climb easily right away.

We eventually got to over 2,100m over launch and headed to the flats. Pretty easy to get up here. A pack of grey IP6’s pushed into wind, off course-line to find a strong climb. Interesting choice, but one that eventually worked well for them. They got up over 3,300m and flew over the heads of the rest of us who were more on-course. We found a strong, tall climb just after they flew over us, but were now about 10 minutes behind them.

Following them into the hazy sky was difficult (skinny grey wings flying into grey haze), but we all made our way to the edge of the plateau just before Brewster. Here, I somehow caught up with Josh Cohn, Matt Dadam and Nick Greece. Up nice and high here this time, making the crossing easy and relaxing. Time to drink, think, and position for the next climb. The lesson of Day 1 was in my mind, and we crossed to the same flats to the east of the river. We were much higher this time, and drove straight into the belly of the high, flat terrain. Now in a group of 4, with Arun Moorthy, Cohn, Greece and myself, we climbed several times while scooting down the course-line over this high terrain. Back up to around 3,300m before crossing the Omak valley and tagging the Omak turnpoint. We actually crossed over to the left (west) side of the Omak valley towards small terrain features. We were getting low here, and starting to get a little nervous. Arun had hung back for more height before the crossing, so now it was Greece, Cohn and myself - good company, and ever since I caught up with Josh, I was determined to stick with him. We found a small climb over some of these hills that put us further up over a beautiful emerald lake, surrounded by trees and fields on the top of a hill. The terrain was getting very scenic, and this lake climb was a good one.

Somewhere in this area, Marty Devietti was at least 300m above our heads and heading towards goal. We only wished we were at his height and position for the final leg. However, Dean Stratton had been with Marty, saw us coming below, and stuck around to join us. In addition, we “pulled up the ladder” on this climb, leaving Greece low and looking for another climb. So now it was Marty charging for goal, with Dean, Cohn and myself grouped up behind and below him. Arun had found a nice climb and was pretty much with us, just a bit lower and to the east. The four of us headed for goal - my instrument showing a 14:1 glide required. A little high for my liking, but I didn’t care - Josh was going and so was I. Dean was even lower and in front of us both, pushing full bar, so it was time to go. We passed over Nick, who was filling in for The Badger, ferociously clawing his way back into the game.

Dean was into goal first, Cohn second, and Arun and I were close, but I think I might have been 3rd. Nick was a few minutes behind, and no Marty to be found. He had gone down just a few kilometers short, having not found the bubble he needed to squeeze in from his previous good position.

A beautiful flight, a surprising finish (none of us really knew we were in the lead), and a bit of good luck had us smiling in goal.

I forgot to put an SD card in the GoPro this day, so no in-flight shots, but I took a goal shot with the boom cam after landing.


Andy’s SPOT

Chelan XC Open Day 3

Task: Sims Corner 38 K Entry, Sims Corner 3k, Soccer field 10k ESS, Soccer field Goal 400m. Total optimized distance: 97km.


Today we awoke to a great looking sky and no fires, so it was up to launch at 9am as usual. A bit slow on launch, as it seemed to be stable and hazy. We launched around 12:30 or 1pm, and struggled to get high. Eventually most of us got to about 2100m before heading to the rims. For some reason it came together a bit better here today, and it was fairly easy to establish on the flats. Up to around 3000m over the flats now, with perfect cumulus showing the course line, jamming down to Sims Corner was fairly high and easy. The lead gaggle was a good 5 or 10 minutes ahead of “my group” by now. We turned around and headed straight back along the same course line. Good clouds were still showing us where the lift was, and even though it was a slight headwind, getting back to Mansfield was easier than I expected.

At Mansfield, I was now with Matt Senior and James Bradley, and we were getting quite low. Looking for a desperate save over some brown, dry fields that were below two other gliders climbing above us. A dust devil swirled below, the glider bucked and rustled, and we were saved. Back up high here, and starting to watch the final glide screen. Somewhere in there I joined up with a few others, so the group was now Kansas, James, myself, Greece, Arnie and Senior, who was now slightly ahead. Knowing that I had to leave early to stand any chance of beating the rest in, I pushed out and followed Matt Senior’s line. It wasn’t enough - they all passed me on the glide to goal, and just clicked the ESS in front of me. Doh! Gotta work on my finishes.

After the 10k ESS, getting over the rims and into the soccer field was a little tighter than I had expected with a strong SW breeze blowing in. Just squeaked over the terrain and got into goal without further issue.

I was probably around 20th into goal, with Marty Devietti and Josh Cohn coming in 1st and 2nd. At least another 20 or so rained into goal after me, indicating that most of the pilots in the comp made goal today. Lots of smiles and tired, happy faces on the grass. A perfect day of racing.

I forgot to grab my SPOT after yesterday’s hike to the lake, so no track for today’s flight.


Andy’s SPOT

Chelan XC Open Day 2

Task: Cancelled.

On day 2 we had a small fire on the butte that put a TFR on the area for most of the day. With thunderstorms predicted again in the afternoon, the task was cancelled and we scattered like cockroaches. Greg, Kansas and I decided to hike up out of the heat to a nice little alpine lake in the Cascades. The water was “refreshingly cold” and the hike was an easy 3.5 miles in. The air temperature was comfortable, so we stayed at the lake for most of the day. When we got back to the car around 7pm, the temperature was still around 90. We went to find dinner in the Bavarian town of Leavenworth, and found a great diner called Cafe Mozart. Great food and beer - even Kansas was pleased. Or should I say even Greg was pleased? Anyway, as we drove home through the shaded river canyon now around 9:30pm, we all had our arms out the windows and our eyes on the temperature gauge in the dash, cheering for every degree of drop.

Back at the camp and tired, we took showers and went to bed after a bit of chatting with others that were now back at camp as well.

Today looks like a good day so far, although I haven’t checked an official weather report. The cloud drift indicates strong south up high. Maybe another task to the north?


Andy’s SPOT

Chelan XC Open Day 1

Task: Chelan Butte 4k Exit, Simms Corner 30km, Omak 2k ESS, Omak goal. Total optimized distance: 78km.


After a practice day yesterday that had me stuck on the rims for too long with a desperate dash into the flats only to find the dirt, today’s task wasn’t looking too promising. We climbed to about 2100m over the Butte and went on glide for the rims as the start time elapsed. Stuck low on the rims for at least half an hour, scratching and fighting to stay in the air. So far it was an exact repeat of the day before.

Eventually we made our way deeper into McNeil canyon and found a rough climb that started to come together and put us within good striking distance for the Simms turn point. Starting to get nice and high now over the flats, topping out around 3200m. This is why Chelan is so amazing - huge climbs over the flatlands, cumulus clouds dotting the sky, 2000m over the ground, 10 minute glides and big distances crossed.

10 minutes behind the small lead gaggle now and feeling good. A few of us had come together and started to work as a group near the north end of the plateau near Brewster. Matt Dadam, Kansas, Joe Stermitz, Brett Zanglein, Loopy and I were working together to climb before the river crossing onto the higher terrain again. Dadam and Loopy were out front, and although I could clearly see Dadam, Loopy was somehow extremely hard for me to find - right next to Dadam and with the same glider. I caught a glimpse of him next to Dadam and felt good about having the company for the crossing, but the next time I looked for them, Loopy was gone. He had slipped off to the right, into the wind in order to get over the higher, flatter ground east of Brewster. This was a good move, and one I was contemplating during the crossing. The east wind up high would have put us in good position to climb and have a quartering tailwind for the 30kms left to reach goal.

The rest of us continued on what felt like a lift line, eventually taking us into the same higher ground that Loopy was headed for, but as we came into the terrain, we were just a touch low and the wind started to switch to a steady NW flow. Our only option was to ridge soar the terrain and try to get a few kilometers further, hoping for a low save out of the fields, just a hundred meters below us. Everyone in our group ended up landing in this area, and a bit later Arnie and Steed were down here as well.

Loopy made it to goal in good time, as well as about 10 other pilots. Some of them took the more western hills north of Brewster. This route seemed a bit into-wind for the final leg, but apparently worked out fine. Josh Cohn won the day. Again.

This task was quite enjoyable for me, because I had a great flight and landed with good company (Kansas, Dadam and I landed within a few meters of each other), but also because the mistake that we all made was obvious. Sometimes it’s not clear what you may have done wrong to end up short of goal, which can be frustrating. The correct route choice today was to commit to higher ground earlier, either the western hills or the higher ground to the east of Brewster. Plodding along down the middle of the two was not the right choice.

Crazy lightning, thunder and rain last night put on a great show and probably started a few fires. There is talk of a few small fires on the side of Chelan Butte. Hopefully it won’t create any issues with a task today.


Andy’s SPOT