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Author: Dustin Martin Created: 5/20/2009 5:42 PM
Dustin Martin began his flying career in sailplanes at the age of 14! He made the transition to hang gliders at age 16. While he calls the skies over Arizona "home", he's mostly nomadic making competition forays down to Ecuador and Brazil every few months. In 2008, Dustin cracked off the third longest XC flight ever - 410 miles narrowly missing the world record mark.

I heard Alex Cuddy is glider mulin' down in southern Brazil. Their weather has been crap but just 7-800kms to his north, I'm glider-less and in agony watching day after endless day of streeted up cumies from horizon to ocean zing by overhead. It's a bit flat around here.. I've done a sweet 100k flight... ...from a nearby (hour away) hill but launch is about 300 feet high; definitely not comp worthy. Aero tow would be the go.
I'm guessing this moon can't hurt Alex's mojo..

and since they haven't been getting many flights in down there, I'm sure he is slayin it as we speak (11pm). Yea champion!!

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evolution of a coastal slayer..

the morphed keel pocket/haulback fairing

hidden nose cone top attachment

seal for the main center zip

first - neoprene inner seal where the main suspension enters the sail. next - milling off the front of the hang tee to get enough vg travel to bring the sail to its knees

looks bad ass, worth taping on just for that

pip pin surgery successful, also taped the gap around the tang/bracket interface

took a chance on a new tip cut... may be the beginning of something? I like the aesthetics.

It's my favorite event of the year, but we were missing the rest of the Wills team and Sylmar crew for sure - after losing the entire 2010 posse to financial problems or doubts about the stability of Ecuador, I finally decided to go alone and forget my problems on the beach in Canoa rather than in Florida mid winter.
It was a shaky start after being turned away at the check in counter by American Airlines in MIA. Customer service has finally been completely extinguished in Miami but I had a smooth (last ever) flight on AA a day later.
Arrival was traditional Guayaquil - the welcoming committee of hang pilots was in attendance and, in typical style, we drove straight from the airport to the club for an all nighter downtown.
Next day was perfect for assembling the glider, nursing the hangover, and making the half day drive to the cliffs. The weather when we arrived that night could have been any year I have ever been there. It is always the same - wind is always on, temp is always where you would have it if you could control it, the best seafood is always a couple minute walk down the sand...
The practice day is historically the day we flex our glider muscles and pose as hard as possible to crush the spirit of any wanna be podium finishers. This year was no different and, realizing Daniel Velez was the nearest opponent, I made sure he was crying by landing time. The truth is you never know how the glider goes until practice day drag races.
The race went for two days with the third drizzled out (we still flew the third day, but pilots were nervous about cloud flying with the misty, low bases). First day was a race, wind was on, pilots were keen. I am usually good at the start gate but spent too much time practicing a critical move on the new course so I was out of position for the first clock. Diving down to the compression behind Daniel and crew, I knew it would be too much work to catch up and I wanted to crush them the first day to have some breathing room for unexpected conditions the following days. I returned to launch for the next clock slightly humbled and ready to nail it. We were both in front of our respective groups so had identical zero-wake conditions and i got him by a little over three minutes on the approximately 40 minute course. Party time.
Hard to wake up on day two, clouds seemed lower or it could have been my vision. Wind was *light*... Effed the start again... Needed to relax. Daniel left nearly his entire gaggle on the ground at the first turnpoint.. it looked like a diver cemetary and the vario was silent for several kms. Definitely the lightest day of racing I have ever had in Canoa and both Daniel and I were alone on our own private race wondering if we would close the course. The T2 that I had labored over for so many late night hours at the factory prevailed with another one minute lead. Party time.
Day three - drizzle. Perfect conditions for a north cliff run after the day was cancelled. Decided to do a wave skimmer and flush some pelicans about 10 k's from retrievable territory just to see what the sensation would be. It's strange the sound of your own breathing inside the helmet visor when your powerless aircraft is zinging over the waves, vg rope skipping off the sea foam, the cliff wall that's towering above you is approaching .... and the beach you just sailed across is inescapable except by boat.. only tomorrow if they decide to look for you. Aaaaah..perfect. Party time.
Next day was a lesson in what should have been last night's moderation. Just like every year. Can't wait for 2011, bring it Moyes Boyz!

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Yesterday we all decided to try for Venice, probably the last chance this year for such a long flight. Last month the Quest crew tried for Venice but ended up leaving at 230pm and just ran out of daylight before making the final glide numbers. Yesterday we were prepared early and had favorable winds and clouds so the mid-November sun gave us just barely enough time to make the beach before sunset. The landing conditions were the typically perfect Venice sea breeze - 15mph mostly down the beach, slightly onshore. Pretty sweet to crack a hundred in the winter.

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Relaxing at JB's Fish Camp across the street from the beach south of New Smyrna

The first try a few weeks ago got me less than half way with heavy over development on course and all around. Yesterday, conditions lined up perfectly with breezy WSW winds, plenty of clouds and no overdevelopment on course.

After a morning of towing and tandems I was able to talk Mitch and Campbell into attempting the New Smyrna route. We all checked out the sectional and plugged in key airspace locations and set off around 2pm.

Mitch had bad luck and landed early, while Campbell and I blazed the first leg - it seemed too easy, and it was. From the moment we turned the corner at the edge of Sanford airspace and started heading east to the beach, the lift turned to crap and the clouds were rarely working. Nothing was making sense to me and I spent an hour stuck just southeast of Deland airport while Campbell eased ahead as if he was in completely different conditions.

After dodging the huge Deland jump plane on its five mile finals and sawtoothing back and forth into the wind in order to stay out of Daytona airspace, the fourth or fifth perfect cloud I flew under started to work. 3000 feet seemed high by then and this allowed me to head south back onto the original course and get into good clouds again. I took a very conservative 5200 foot final glide in case the seabreeze was strong. I made it at 6pm with 2000 feet to play over the Atlantic before landing on the white sand and having a bucket of shrimp across the road. Even swam with a random manatee that was cruising the waves heading south.

Turns out Campbell couldn't get high in the last climb and was being conservative as well, aborting his final across the 1.5 mile swampy inland waterway thinking there could be a strong seabreeze. The seabreeze ended up only being from the south and what got me there so high could have carried him over the swamp as well, but he ended up landing on 95 in the end.

Two coasts in three days, attempting Cuba tomorrow.

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The daily storm pattern took a break yesterday and the wind clocked around from the east northeast so I decided to head down to Curt's homeland 200kms to the southwest for a swim and some seafood.

Thermals were very rarely 5-600 fpm, more often 2-300. Wind was cross from the east but always had some sort of tailwind component. Cloudbase rose from 3500 feet near Quest at takeoff time to 5500 feet at the coast at 6 pm.

Conditions at the beach were identical to the first time I flew there with the Brits and Davis last year. The convergence line was within a couple miles of shore and the seabreeze was more cross than onshore so final glide and landing conditions were awesome.

Outskirts of Lakeland looking back north toward Quest and thinning clouds.

South of Lakeland heading into sparsely populated areas. Asphalt roads under me the entire way.

Getting into the convergence line for the drag race down the coast, looking west into Sarasota.

Final glide into the seabreeze over the Curt Warren spawning grounds.

Fisherman's Wharf right in the center of the picture, better food than Sharkey's.

Looking south down the coast to Venice airport.

Playing chicken with the coast, landing was at Sharkey's restaurant on the pier.

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Didn't quite make it due to the daily storm line convergence but got some cool shots. Went there anyway by car and it is the nicest beach I've seen in Florida. This is over Groveland heading northeast:

The route is tight and interesting weaving under and between some class b and c, some bombing ranges then a very tight final glide to the beach wedged between New Smyrna airspace and the space shuttle restricted area.

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..the elusive water devil

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A weekend at Bebe's farm in Paraguay: cold night sipping wine around the fire next to the hacienda followed by a day in the sky with 4 m/s thermals to cloudbase on a great out and return. All flights thanks to Bebe's farmer - who has learned to fly the dragonfly.

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Here is a photo log of a classic route from a very infrequently flown hill near Foz do Iguaçu in southwestern Brasil. The altitude from the manicured grass launch to the freshly cut lz is 100 meters. You dont launch until you see birds climbing out front, but if you get a good cycle its full on.

"Free flight club - West SIDE"

The view from launch. The hill isn't as low as it looks - it's lower.

Finally getting high enough to look downwind for a minute.

All good at cloudbase.

Epic scenery.

Loooong glides and loooong cloud shadows late in the day with amazing views ahead...

Sexy curves meet steel hard lines..

Goal, Aeroleve Airpark in Cascavel, the end of another classic route...

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Quick update from Brasil:

Jack Simmons and I flew down here for the first stage of the nationals in Sapiranga. Most locals don't like it for the lack of big distances and powerful air but I think it's heaven. Jack agrees. Out of 9 days we flew 7, probably around 3 hours average each day. Unfortunately the comp committee only thought 2 days were suitable for a task. The tasks were slightly overcalled given the fact that we were running over saturated ground, mostly rice fields. Goal was never made but the flying was still moderately fast and fairly tactical. Ferro is the current Brasilian champ and walked all over everyone else, winning both days. He wasn't gliding the best and he wasn't climbing the best (nearly), but he was clearly making the best decisions of anyone and walked away with the trophy.

The day after the comp we headed north with Eduardo from Mato Grosso and his awesome driver Flavia. We were intent on bagging a site on the precipice of the Atlantic range overlooking the ocean 50km distant. We arrived a day and a half later to find three wile e. coyote concrete ramps hanging over the edge of a cliff completely socked in by cloud. Long story short, we all flew, it was epic, and I consider it one of my best flights ever. About three hours after launching I landed just short of the beach in a beautiful field in a tiny village.

Next stop Betinho's chalet in Garopaba. Betinho Schmidt was good enough to lend us his chalet overlooking a lake next to the beach Praia do Rosa. We spent a day hiking the coastal cliffs and soaking up the sun. Betinho is doing great and planning a stand-up paddle from Floripa to Garopaba...too much open ocean for me. Good luck man.

Then Floripa - I had planned to show Jack some great island flying at some of the best beaches of Brasil. The wind swung too north after a frontal passage and left us stranded on Praia Mole, nothing to do but soak up the sun, sand, and surf for a day. I made a go at the PG launch above the beach but by the time I got up there it was simply unlaunchable. The guy up there saw me shouldering the wing on to the launch and questioned the wisdom of flying a hang glider there. He told me in all his years there he had only ever seen one hang glider fly there.. about two years ago.. gray top, yellow bottom with blue stripe? Yeah. Looping out over the surf for a couple hours? Yeah.. Ahh those were good times..

The group had to split up at that point. I headed due west to Foz do Iguaçu, and currently Jack and Eduardo are near the Pantanal and planning to fly Corumbá tomorrow.

Back in one week to Quest to take care of tandems and harness back plates. Deep in materials research right now, and after several protos the harness appears to be nearing production.

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