ST. PAUL, MINN — The 1996 U.S. Hang Gliding National Championships — this year known more briefly by its sponsor name: the Just Fly Nationals — is over. Several tidbits of information resulted from the gathering and good ole, late-breaking "Product Lines" is here to tell you some of them. Since Meet Director, GW Meadows, is a regular Hang Gliding writer, you’ll read a thorough article in a later issue. But as I write this at the end of July, Meadows is presently enroute from the Nats to the giant Oshkosh airshow. He was willing to stop along the way and call in a few stats to my voice mail… so, thanks in part to the layout of this back-of-the-book page, you can read a few essentials now, barely after the meet is over. (As this column was completed, the rest of HG is already done and in final preparation for printing. "Product Lines" enjoys some last minute news potential because of the way this page is presented. Enjoy!) ••• Sponsored in large part, wholly organized by, and meet directed by Just Fly proprietor GW Meadows, the 1996 event was different than any in recent memory. GeeDub says, "This meet was the largest Nationals in modern hang gliding, with 144 competitors and pilots from 11 countries." He indicated that, thanks to the large and highly qualified turnout, the ’96 Just Fly Nats will definitely offer "the most WTSS Points of any non-World or non-pre-World Meet in the U.S." ••• The meet was "incredibly successful," says GW, obviously pumped up from the satisfying experience. "We flew seven out of eight days." Lots of pilots told Meadows it was the best meet they’d ever attended, that the organization was good. Oh, I’m sure a few bellyachers will surface. What was it Abe Lincoln said about pleasing all of the people all of the time? ••• "We also had really good workers," GW reported, relying as he did on a small bunch of folks to assist his direction. As promised, the staff also had a cache of prizes to give away and give away they did. While not a required part of the Nationals, such incentives add fun and interest beyond the rigorous flying. ••• The main prize was victory of course. Here’s what you’ve been waiting for… The winner was Manfred Ruhmer, hot pilot of the Italian Icaro gliders. He was followed by Tomas Suchanek on an Aussie Moyes glider, while Larry Tudor came in third in his Yankee Wills glider. Tudor thus becomes the National U.S. Champion. Congratulations, Larry! In addition, kudos are due to Kari Castle, the Women’s National Champion. The Sportsmanship Award went to Tony Barton, who was beset by various troubles during the meet including a car break down that cost him an entire day. ••• Cross country-wise, the event was also a success, with lots of pilots making goal and turning the event into a qualified distance meet. While the tasks weren’t a cakewalk in challenging DinosaurLand, many completed goal. GW’s wife, Jan, told me Ruhmer made goal every day. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that’s how he won. However, other top ranking pilots also made goal regularly. Dinosaur, Colorado is clearly able to deliver the goods this time of year. It’s done so in the past and, if GeeDub has his way, it will do so again. ••• Meadows says he’ll bid for the World Meet using the site. However, he’ll submit nearby Vernal, Utah as the base of operations. A larger town than little Dinosaur, Vernal could actually handle the throngs of a World Meet. "Dinosaur couldn’t," declares Meadows. ••• Obviously a businessman himself, and one who has been asked to partially sponsor other meets (that he didn’t direct), GeeDub set about assuring that all those who helped him got a fair shake on the advertising value. While not the main point of the Nats, his efforts may help increase the likelihood of future meet organizers finding sponsors. One such idea was the "Sponsor of the Day" program, a limited-slot opportunity for one company to "buy" a day. A company in which I have an interest, US Aviation, was willing to purchase one of these days. Meadows priced it reasonably and promised to take care of sponsors, making it a reasonable gamble. Too often in the past, donations to meets earned virtually no measurable results, making the cost of sponsorship hard to justify. Sponsors are needed to do it up right. Why, look at the Olympics just concluded. They can win or lose depending on their extensive, multi-million dollar sponsorships. Same for many of the individual teams. ••• Meadows had also gone to great extents to reward any pilots who chose to come and compete with the world’s best. Prizes were part of it but other distinctions helped entice as well. For example, several competitions-within-the-competition allowed others to take home some glory of the U.S. Nationals. Well, a more detailed story is coming, I know. I can’t wait! Concluding for now, I want to offer a hearty congratulations to GW and all the pilots, participants, and staff members of the Just Fly Nationals. Job well done. Be proud! ••• Oshkosh awaits. Let’s see what new aerial toys are offered. So, got news or opinions? Send ’em to: 8 Dorset, St. Paul MN 55118 USA. Fax or V-mail to: 612-450-0930. E-mail to CumulusMan@aol.com. THANKS!
Published in Hang Gliding Magazine