Austrian Manfred Ruhmer has again set a world record in freeflight. For years, he was the unbeatable world champion in hang-gliding cross-country competitions (shortest time to goal, often in excess of 100 miles per round, 4-6 daily rounds in a row). Since he thoroughly and indisputably dominated and conquered that world, he turned his attentions a couple of years ago to foot-launched light sailplanes.
He flies a Swift Light, a lighter design variation of the Swift, designed by Steve Morris, a hang-glider pilot and aeronautical engineer right here in the Bay Area whom I run into from time-to-time.
483.1 miles, from morning launch at Zapata, TX to an evening landing at Lovington, NM. This breaks Robin Hamilton's record of 425 miles, set from Zapata last year. His only power was the thermal-generating power of the sun, and in fact, where normally they only decide to go if they've got a decent tail wind, Manfred needed to leave in a couple of days, so it was make or break and he flew the distance with a significant cross-wind component. Noteworthy is that Manfred also holds the flex-wing hang-glider world record of 432 miles, which he set from Zapata in 2001 and hasn't even remotely come close to being touched since.
You can read about the events of the day beginning from this bookmark on down the page, or hit this, this, and this. For wrap-up and analysis, start here on down, or hit the bookmarks here, here (with cockpit video), here (pics). Here's some YouTube videos.
My friend and one of my beginner instructors, Don Burns, writes Davis:
I just got back from 10 days of flying in the Owens Valley. I also just got finished viewing Manfred's videos in his Swift referenced on your web site. Man, he's kicking back, relaxed, moving a stick around and speaking in a calm voice. He might as well have been watching TV and drinking a beer from the looks of it.
My best flight in the Owens this year was 150 miles. I realize that this is the distance where you boys in Zapata are just gettin' started. However, when we fly the Owens, we freakin' work for our miles: we get hypoxic, we get cold, we get the crap knocked out of us, and we get fear of God beat into us each time the air threatens to flip us over. We fly into territory unretrievable, we risk long dehydrated walks in the desert, and by god we land on our FEET!
Then I read your report where Manfred claims he doesn't fly flex wings any more because "flying a flex wing is hard work".
Distance Shmistance. 200 miles in the Owens Valley is more respectable than a thousand in Texas!
Ha! Yea, it's a different sort of flying altogether. As Davis replies, "Been there, done that. I'm much more interested in enjoying the air in a intellectually challenging flight competing or going for a record."
Don is the guy I shared a thermal with to 11,000 feet a couple of years ago.