The 2015 Santa Cruz Flats Race/ Mark Knight Memorial Competition was one of those hang gliding competitions where the unexpected became reality. Overcast skies, dust storms, and unpredictable wind gusts postponed launching and threatened to cancel several flights during the competition, which ran from September 13th to 19th. Miraculously, there were no total cancellations due to weather, and Class 1 Open concluded with a win that was among the most unexpected parts of the competition.
Pedro Garcia dominated the week, leading the Class 1 Open competition nearly every day while Jonny Durand ranked far below at the beginning of the competition. Durand came in at ninth place for Task 1, but he gained enough points to win the competition when Garcia fell just three kilometers short of goal on the last day. The competition ended with Durand earning 5765 points to Garcia’s 5697.
Day one began with morning clouds, but when they dissipated and the ground began warming, gliders took to the sky. Day two saw moist conditions due to rain the night before, but that dried up quickly. Unfortunately, that drying of the desert ground brought with it rather intense dust storms. Strong wind gusts made the competition anything but routine, as dust made visibility nonexistent and had more than a few pilots eating a dirt breakfast. Once pilots launched and were at a higher altitude, all was clear, allowing for some beautiful scenery.
Notoriously unpredictable desert winds came in, blowing nearly 180 degrees from the expected direction. On day five, wind gusts attempted to lift several gliders off the ground, but the crew managed to hold them down. Captain Mick was not so lucky as a dust devil tossed him and his trike about and threw it on the ground. Thankfully he was unharmed but his aircraft was rendered unable to fly.
The dust devil that claimed Captain Mick’s trike left the launch crew with only three tugs to get all the pilots airborne on day six. However, fortune favored the pilots when a house thermal allowed the gliders to easily gain altitude, and they completed the launch rather quickly.
Flights commenced on all seven days of the 2015 Santa Cruz Flats Race/ Mark Knight Memorial Competition, and most of the competition was completed with declared winners in several other categories.
Chris Zimmerman won this year’s unusually competitive Class 2 Swift competition by only 17 points.
Floyd Fronius won the Class 4 Goat/Superfloater race and he was able to earn 212 points in Task 5 while his competitors scored 0 for that day.
Fred Kraemerer earned the win through his impressive performances on Tasks 1, 6, and 7 in the Class 5 ATOS competition.
Although John Maloney took Task 7 in the Class 1 Sport competition, Zachary Hazen earned enough points to best Maloney and take the overall win.
Desert weather, damaged aircraft, and surprise victories made for one interesting week in Arizona.