I had the chance to fly the Team Challenge up at Henson's Gap earlier this month. This is a competition that I've been trying to make for years. Finally, the planets aligned and I got to spend a week hanging out with the coolest southern hang glider pilots on the planet. The Tennessee Tree Toppers has been organizing this competition for many years. The sweetest man on the planet, Ollie Gregory is the boss man and he does a stellar job!
What's most impressive to me is that there so much chatter here in the US about supporting our competitions program and encouraging more pilots to enter. But no one really steps up to the plate the way the TTT's do. I knew before coming to this event that it was a "training" event. But, I really had no idea how much they did apart from just teaming up newer pilots with experienced comp pilots. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on how you look at it) the weather wasn't exactly cooperative. What this meant was no hands-on cross country training of any consequence, but plenty of launch and landing clinics - every launch and most every landing the entire week was video'd. We spent days that we couldn't fly getting top notch instruction and tips from current and former world team pilots. I was really overwhelmed by all that they do here. I'm not talking about half hour talks in the evening, I mean full on 2+ hour sessions on cross country flying, how to use your 6030, reviewing and critiquing launches and landings, etc. etc. all afternoon and into the evening. It made me feel like crap for what pilots get for their money at my comps ;-). When we can't fly at the Rally or Santa Cruz, my first thought is how soon can I run off and do something without a bunch of nutty pilots. Here was exactly the opposite - they made incredibly good use of every minute. I hate to say it, but for the money, the Team Challenge is a way better deal, by far!!
Another really cool thing about this event is the club in general - the Tennessee Tree Toppers. I couldn't say for sure, but I would have to guess that this is the only club in the country that owns, outright, their own launch AND landing field. I know the club is most famous for their beautiful radial ramp, but I was thoroughly impressed with how well organized and established they are. How nice to never have to worry about loosing a launch or landing field to a fickle landowner!! And, they have a beautiful campground and clubhouse on launch. It's really a pretty amazing place and I can't wait for next year! I hear they're planning on going a bit earlier next year with better chances at good soarable weather.