Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ready for the Sport Class Worlds in Annecy?

Why not take the best performing kingposted glider there is! My Litesport 4 has just had a full makeover, including a brand new code Zero inlay sail, carbon fiber outter leading edge, carbon fiber sprogs and all new wire set. It's all ready to go and virtually a brand new glider after the makeover. Asking $6500 - new with these option is $9500.   

The glider is currently in Australia, but can come back to the US with me in March.

Email me if you're interested:

Saturday, December 21, 2013

More fun at Rainbow

....more than anyone should have!

I wish I had Glen's video making skills.  I love this one ;-)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Shameless Plug!

Ok, it's time to beg for money again.  Linda Salamone and I are going to Annecy, France next summer to represent the US at the Women's World Championships.  We could both use all the help we can get (in more ways than one!).  So, if you like having women in the sport and you appreciate me organizing comps, please contribute to the team by buying one (or 6) of our commemorative t-shirts....we would both really appreciate it!!  And, just remember, if you don't buy a t-shirt, I'll just have to raise the entry fees at the next comp ;-).

To get one of these hot babies (the shirts, not the girls!), click here:

Here's a shirt modeled by the hunky Commander Shipley!

How good is Forbes!

It's so good that after flying there for the weekend, I abandoned my commitment to drive for Glen, Pippo and Kathryn so that I could fly myself in the comp ;-).  By the way, anyone interested in driving for a great international team for Forbes (US, Australia, Italy and Ireland!!)?  How fun would that be!

Glen and I drove out Friday night to meet up with Kathryn and a bunch of Canberra pilots.  It was nearly a mini-comp of about 15 or so with Andrew Luton (Theif) doing the task setting for Saturday. The forecast was for nicely unstable, good lift and a high cloudbase so the task was 215km to Gulgong. Pretty ambitious, but totally doable as it turns out.  Glen and Chop Lamont made it there (Glen after 3 tows!) and several made it within 40kms or so.  I wouldn't say it was a fantastic, classic Forbes day - I found the lift really rough and snaky and hard to follow, but at least there was massive sink between all that rough lift ;-).  I only made about 55 or 60 kms, but it was still great fun.  My new glider is so lovely to fly and again, I can't help but notice the exceptional glide it gets.

Day two task was to fly towards home.  Glen made 160km to the Bathurst soaring club and landed at their airstrip there.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Marshmellow Hill

Australians should rethink the names for their hang gliding sites.  Last weekend we had a great flight out at Brokenback in the Hunter Valley - it's just up the road from Crackneck.  Seriously?  Surely there are more appropriate names for flying sites.

But I'll forgive the choice of names since it's a super fun place to fly.  About a dozen guys (and gals) came out on Saturday, making it nearly competition like on launch.  The XC plan for most was to fly back to the coast (Dixon Park in Newcastle) just in time for the Newcastle flying club's annual Christmas party. Conditions were pretty darn nice and had I realized how close it was, I might have gone for it myself instead of volunteering to get the car with Kathryn.  Right off launch I got up pretty high and when saw the coastline I realized that it might have been pretty doable.  As it turns out, it wasn't - Glen, Adam Parer, Camo, Alby, Rory and several others got close, but not quite to the party.

Anyway, I preferred my landing field - at the Lindeman winery where I spent two hours wine tasting and crashing a lovely wedding (actually, I didn't crash it, the bride and groom invited me after seeing me land as they pulled up in their '67 Ford Mustang).

(How gorgeous is Lucy Blue, by the way ;-)

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Lea Kerr

Being the ultra conservative giant chicken that I am, I often think about accidents in hang gliding.  I think I'm not unusual amongst pilots in that as much as I don't want to die hang gliding, my bigger fear is having an accident that leaves me a paraplegic or worse yet quadriplegic.  The possibility is there every time we fly and we all know the risk we're taking, but we take it never the less as the reward is so great.  

Lea Kerr is a British hang glider pilot that had a terrible accident this past spring.  Much has been written and discussed online about the cause of the accident and things that we can do to make sure the same sort of thing doesn't happen again.  But, the truth is, no matter what happened, all I can help but feel is that (as someone once said and I don't know who it was) "There but for the grace of god, go I."  Whether you believe in God's grace or not, any one of us could have suffered Lea's misfortune.  He wasn't a careless or reckless pilot, he simply had some really crap luck and now is in a position that he needs the support of the hang gliding community around the world.  

Lea is a good friend of Carl Wallbank and in speaking with Carl recently, I asked him to tell me a little about his friendship with Lea, what happened that terrible day last spring and how Lea is doing now, a half a year down the line:

"I first met Lea whilst he was under flying training at Peak air sports during 2009, he was learning to fly with his long time friend and work colleague Terry Rice. Lea appeared a very likeable quiet guy who listened more than he spoke, a quality not many of us have.  At the point of both of them just gaining their flying licences Terry was sadly killed in a hang gliding accident in early 2010.  Lea and other North Wales pilots where witnesses on this black day.  Obviously loosing your friend and training partner would have a massive affect on any of us.  But although now even more cautious Lea still followed his dream to free fly. Lea was soon integrated into our small yet close knit North Wales club, and I personally fed off his enthusiasm and hunger to be airborne. Lea always appeared careful and cautious in his preparation, yet he had a natural skill whilst flying.  Seeing all this, I took him under my wing in 2011 to help him progress and we've grown as good friends on a personal level even away from hill...despite most of the drinking in the pub talk still being about hang gliding (as it is for most of us I guess).

Lea had no issues landing or taking off on his Moyes Max and eventually upgraded to a Litespeed S4 in 2011. From his first flight, he showed no indication that he'd upgraded to early, pulling off good landings in the right spot on every occasion.  As I've already said he appeared to be a natural.

My main focus with Lea was to get him going cross country - he was so hungry for the first one.  UK is not like the rest of the world - making the transition from hill soaring pilot to cross country pilot is a big leap, certainly not helped by our lack of thermals and lower cloud bases over here.  Never the less in spring 2013 he was ready and it was only a matter of waiting for the right day to appear.  

The day before the accident the UK was having some great flying weather, I was offshore at work and Lea had been flying with friends at Llangollen.  I was Facebook chatting with Kim (Lea's girlfriend) to find out if Lea had actually managed to free the nest and go cross country.  I could tell by her chat that Lea had been on the phone telling her about his day.  Although he never actually landed out, he left the hill and did a small out and return. He was obviously extremely happy on this evening and Kim sounded very proud of her man.

The next day as we now all know, had a very different ending.  What appeared no more than a commonly seen "nose in" resulted in something that can only be described as uncommonly life changing, a massive fracture of the C6 area.  After 10 days or so in ICU and 19 weeks lying down not being able get up, Lea is now up in the chair and making remarkable progress each day.  Fighting bed sores has been a problem from day one and still remains a problem today.  Whilst I say he's making remarkable progress, this fight is long from over and he has many challengers ahead.

Despite all of this, Lea still won't stop talking about hang gliding.  He's so hungry to get in the air again and I'm sure with good continued progression in his rehabilitation this hunger can and will be turned into reality.  Even in his condition today we laugh and joke about having a set of Velcro gloves and he could stick his hands to the basebar and go flying.  I most certainly would love to be his pilot in command on his first duel taster flight."

This past weekend, Carl organized a 100 mile bicycle ride down to Lea's hospital and back to raise money to help Lea with his recovery.  Lea is a self-employed builder and while we can't make his injuries magically disappear, the international hang gliding community really is a family and we can all pitch in to help with his recovery.  

The bicycle ride went well - Carl, Myles and Jeremy Kynaston and Phil and Chris Donn gave it everything they had and made the entire distance in just about 8 hours.  Showing the ultimate in empathy, Carl is now getting to see what Lea is having to deal with now - having sores in very uncomfortable places!  They were even joined for the last portion of the ride by Stu Lloyd.  Stu is a paraglider pilot that suffered a collapse and is also now in a wheelchair. He's only been out of the hospital for two months!  Carl says he's a "machine" in his hand bike and has an amazing outlook.  

Anything you can donate will be greatly appreciated.   I hope we can all show that this "family" we're all part of can pitch in and show all the support in the world for Lea.  The easiest way to donate is via Paypal to

Thursday, November 28, 2013

50 Things

I've been feeling a bit crappy and missing family knowing that my favorite holiday is today and it isn't even celebrated here.  But, just because Aussies don't celebrate, doesn't mean I can't.  Rather than feel sorry for myself, I went for a walk and tried to come up with 50 things I'm thankful for - was pretty darn easy.

1 - That my default state of mind is happy.
2 - I have a gorgeous, happy, healthy and incredibly smart baby girl.
3 - My brothers made me tough and taught me to take (good-natured) abuse like a pro.
4 - I inherited my mother's ability to empathise with just about anyone, even the most unlikable people.
5 - My arms and legs are so long that launching and landing a hang glider is easier than it is for most girls.
6 - I have two loving parents who gave me every opportunity in life.
7 - Glen.
8 - I can work from nearly any place on the planet and don't have to sit in an office all day like most people in my profession.
9 - I have all my body parts and they are all in great working order still.
10 - There are very few material possessions I want that I don't have (or can't just go out and buy).
11 - I like to exercise - (if not for that one, I would be fat).
12 - I can whistle really well.
13 - Music brings me great joy.
14 - I tan really easily and rarely burn.
15 - The migraines I used to suffer regularly, have all but gone away.
16 - I no longer look like a 12 year old boy.
17 - I am very tolerant and forgiving.
18 - My only real vice (sugar) isn't too terribly unhealthy.
19 - My little condo on the beach.
20 - I can reach things on the top shelf for little ladies at the supermarket.
21 - Making a living doesn't consume all of my time - not even most of it.
22 - I have a beautiful sister who writes a birthday song for me every year.
23 - My friends are all over the planet and there's always one to meet up with most any place I travel.
24 - Anger doesn't stay with me very long - probably not as long as it should sometimes.
25 - I get year-round summer most years.
26 - I was born in America.
27 - I don't always act like an American.
28 - My fish face always entertains small children.
29 - My kidneys still function.
30 - Somehow I became quite independent.
31 - My family loves me even though I'm not around as much as I ought to be.
32 - I backed up my computer 2 hours before the hard drive crashed yesterday.
33 - I can speak a bit of Spanish with a pretty decent Mexican accent.
34 - I've never broken or seriously hurt myself hang gliding.
35 - For some strange reason, I love to wash dishes, and do housework in general.
36 - I only remember the good stuff.
37 - I can change, when change is required.
38 - My new glider flies beautifully, and perfectly straight.
39 - I have the most common blood type.
40 - I get to plan two giant hang gliding parties every year and all my friends come to join in the fun.
41 - My lung capacity is quite large.
42 - I'm good at launching a hang glider.
43 - I had a 7th grade history teacher that got me interested in travel by reading great adventure stories to the class every day.
44 - I have two homes.
45 - My resting heart rate is extremely low.
46 - I get upgraded most of the time when I fly.
47 - I can fall asleep almost instantly and can sleep pretty much anywhere.
48 - I've been able to spent all but one summer in Europe for the past 10 years.
49 - Most of the time, I'm right where I want to be.
50 - I don't mind being flawed.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Love American Style

"....truer than the red, white and blue - u - u - u...."

Most mornings I wake up with song in my head. Sometimes it's just a melody, sometimes is an ad jingle or a song I don't even really know.  Today it was a 70's TV show theme song.  I remembered all of the lyrics too.  The show aired from the time I was two years old until I was seven.  

What kind of sick trick does my brain play on me that I can remember song lyrics from a childhood TV show (not even a kids show that I watched regularly!), but I can't remember in the 10 steps it takes me to get there, what I was going to do in the kitchen?

Funny thing is that I recently got an account at It's a highly promoted website with prime time television ads that claim to offer neuroscientist-created games that are meant to improve your brain health and performance. My brother called me a "sucker" for getting an account and, to be honest, I don't have any idea if my brain performance has or will or is even capable of increasing.  But, the games are actually very fun and I suppose I see it as cheap entertainment, if nothing else. Right now, it's replacing my usual Sudoku games. 

So the really funny thing is that according to Lumosity, I am in the 95th percentile for memory. Unfortunately, that's the 95th percentile for my age group, which doesn't say all that much to me.  It doesn't give my ranking among all age groups.  After a month of "brain training" I'm still finding myself in a room trying to remember what I came there for :-(. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rainbow Beach Fun

My flying world has been rocked!  Yeah, seriously!  Last Saturday we arrived in Rainbow Beach along the Sunshine Coast of Australia and we've flown all day, every day since.  Over the past 5 days I may have had more take offs and landings than the last 5 years combined - between 15 and 25 every day!

Funny thing is, it all makes me think of Wolfi Siess.  The first time I met Wolfi was at the French Nationals in Laragne in maybe 2003 or 2004.  Wolfi and a couple of other younger Austrian pilots were being mentored by Gerolf.  I was taking heaps of pictures all week and toward the end of the week I started to notice that all the pictures of Wolfi were especially funny.  Most were landing shots and not a single one showed Wolfi without a gigantic grin on his face - like he was up to something.  I always laughed about it, but I asked him not so long ago if he remembered that.  He said "sure, landing is the most fun part of flying!"  I thought to myself, "cool for him, I wish I felt that way."

For me landing has never been fun.  It's only a necessary chore.  I've never considered landing fun or even just ok.  Landing is almost always at least a little bit scary and often a lot scary.  I have a list that goes out the door and around the corner of reasons to land - I'm scared, I have to pee, I'm tired, I'm scared, there are no more good landing places ahead, I'm scared, I can't find anymore lift, I'm afraid to cross over the mountain range, I'm scared, etc., etc. - I could go on all day.  But never once has that list included "for fun!"....that is until now ;-).

At Rainbow Beach there's a giant sandblow created by nature especially for hang gliding I'm sure. Here's a shot of the sand blow from my iPhone.  Not the best, but you can see what I'm talking about.

Because it's nice rounded bowl and the coastal air is beautifully smooth, it's a place like no other where you can take off and land all day long in the most perfect conditions you could ever imagine.  It's pretty much impossible to screw it up.  If you come in too high, you just make another go around...too low and you turn back a bit sooner and land up closer to the edge.  I've never, ever had such a fun time landing....every single one is thoroughly enjoyable and brings a giant Wolfi-style smile to my face. Although I haven't yet tired of the touch and goes, for a little break, we ventured down the coastline about 15km to the south end of the little bay checking out the stingrays and sea turtles playing in the surf all the way there and back.  

With the 4:30ish sunrise, we've found other ways to entertain ourselves until the wind comes in - normally by 10 or 11am.  

But mostly we just played on the sand blow all day long....practicing fly-bys, spot landings, teaching a bit and general fooling around. 

I'm pretty sure I never want to leave!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

On the road again

So good to be back home with my baby....and what better way to kick off the summer than with a road trip up the east coast!  Glen picked me up at the Sydney airport about 8am on Thursday morning and we were straight on the road heading north toward our final destination at Rainbow Beach.  

Of course, you can't drive by the Big Banana without making a quick stop.

Since it was on Lennox Head we gave the new Freedom tandem glider a little test flight as we passed through town. Great little ridge on the beach, but the top landing field leaves a bit to be desired.  Luckily Glen's a pro ;-).

The 30km drive on the beach from Noosa to Double Island point was the coolest by far though.  More traffic than I would have expected on the beach, but the tide was low and there was plenty of roadway. We finished up the beach drive with another 10 or 15km of rainforest sand track.  What a gorgeous drive!

Next stop, Rainbow Beach!!

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Prize Giving

Congratulations to all of the winners of the Belgian Nationals/Ager Open.... and especially to my guy with his first podium finish ;-)

 Overall winners:  1st Place - Gordon Rigg, 2nd Place - Eduardo Oliveira, 3rd Place - Glen McFarlane

Belgian winners and the new Belgian Champion, Tom Haagdorens!

Catalan winners!

Rigid wing winners!

Sport Class winners!

Thanks to those crazy Frenchies who are always the life of the party, and a certain Brit team leader, we had a great celebration that stayed mostly in control ;-).

Much needed rest days

The last three days of the Belgian Nationals/Ager Open  were cancelled due to crappy east wind on launch.  We took good advantage of rest days and had some fun in some of my favorite Ager fun spots. 

Of course, the river gorge to the west of takeoff will always make me think of Luis.  It's so sad not having him, but I love having all the good memories of his joyfullness and that great smile on his face. For me it was a bit of a memorial going to the river, packing on the silky mud, hiking up through the gorge and swimming in the ice cold water.  

Yesterday we spent at the lake in Ager watching the boys (and girls) do their diving tricks.  Great fun!!