At least a couple of more posts today, but I just had to toss this one up, discovered in my morning rounds reading my friend Davis Straub's daily Oz Report. For better than ten years Davis has had the fortune to travel the world flying in hang-glider competitions and reporting on them. He's tireless, and a really great guy I've had the opportunity to meet in person a couple of times.
This 3-minute video is a recent competition in the flatlands near Forbes, Australia. Ultralight tugs tow up the hang glider pilots who then race cross country, typically for 80-100 miles, depending upon where the goal is declared.
I'm getting back to the weight and strength ratios I was at when I first began this great sport. Flying for a few days last August was far less exhausting than it had been over the last five years, causing me to fly less and less. So, it just may be that I'll be doing this more and more in years to come.
It is great compound exercise for the upper body. A hang glider is maneuvered by weight shift, i.e., you have to deflect you body's entire weight, suspended from a single point, both side-to-side and forward and back (with all compound positions imaginable to make certain maneuvers, coordinated turns, etc.). In one scene you'll see a guy shifting weight quite dynamically. He's trying to stay behind the tug that he being towed by. This is similar to the level of weight shifting required when circling up in a thermal. Most thermals are not big and smooth, but broken and raggedy. It often takes intense effort to remained "cored" in order to maximize climb efficiency.
If you're in the USA and are interested in learning more about this sport, you can find local chapters and clubs here on the USHPA website.