James Yocom

2012 US Hang Gliding Rigid Wing National Champion

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US Rank: #1 Race-to-Goal (R2G) Hang Gliding Rigid Wing National Champ

Event: Santa Cruz Flats Race to Goal US National Championship
Hometown: Watertown, SD
Current City: Golden, CO
Years Flying: 32
Skills: H-4, P-2, Examiner, Member of 4 US World Teams – including 3rd place Team finish at 2002 Worlds
USHPA# 27723
Local Club: RMHPA (Rocky Mountain Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association)
Gear: Air Atos VR 10, Rotor Vulto S harness, Flytec 6030 vario
Sponsors: Only me, and of course my wife Rose!
Longest Flight: 150 miles – Big Spring, Texas
Favorite Aspect of Hang gliding: Competing! Meeting pilots from all over the World. I enjoy flying every day with other pilots who are committed to flying a task, even when it is difficult. One week at a competition is worth a year of free flying experience.

A List of Comps You Participated in 2012:
2012 Santa Cruz Flats Race to Goal US National Championship, 1st Place Rigid Wing
2012 Big Spring, 1st Place Rigid Wing

Comps recent:
2011 Big Spring, Santa Cruz Flats
2002 3rd Place Team Finish at Hang Gliding Worlds

What got you into competition?: Brad Koji was one of my local heroes and friends who talked me into going to a comp, along with Terry and Chris Reynolds who exchanged some legal work I did for them for the US Nationals at Dinosaur for an entry into the competition.

How have your skills improved since you got into competitions?: Incredibly! I remember my first competition at Dinosaur. I landed in the Snake Pit three days in a row, while other pilots were flying 100 miles! It took me almost ten years before I even made my first goal. I think I was a slow learner … Now I am disappointed anytime I fail to make goal!

Tell us your most rewarding moment in your flying history / experience?: Wow, every flight is like a dream come true for me. I am one of those guys who grew up gluing together model airplanes and hanging them from the ceiling in my bedroom. I dreamed about stretching out my arms and running off a mountain – now I do that!

I remember one particular XC flight where I took a thermal to over 17,000ft MSL while watching a bird climb up from below. It was a juvenile golden eagle. Once reaching my altitude, he just looked at me curiously – no aggression at all. I went on glide for about 10 miles before finding another thermal and after a couple turns, there was the eagle again – he followed me! We climbed again together and he looked at me one last time before heading out perpendicular to my course line. It felt so natural being together in the sky.

Describe a routine that you use to prepare for a competition, or habits that help you before, during or after your flights?: Prepare all your stuff well in advance of any trip or competition. Make sure everything works – varios, GPS, and radio. If you intend to purchase a new glider or harness, do so well before the competition and fly with it several times. There are so many new things to learn, you do not need the extra pressure of trying to use unknown equipment. It is much better to go to a competition with your old glider and harness than try to learn how to fly brand new equipment at a competition.

A lot of pilots worry about setting up retrieval before coming to a competition. Although having something arranged is helpful, don’t let that stop you from coming! I remember a competition at Wallaby Ranch where I drove alone from Colorado to Florida. I did not know any of the pilots in the competition. I was new to competing and not assertive about asking for a ride, so I launched the first day without any driver. I decided that I would fly the course the best I could and if I had to land, I would land near other pilots in the hope of getting a ride. I did just that, even giving up a few extra miles a couple times. After a couple of days I found a group of pilots who had room in their truck and I had a retrieval! Every competition today begins with an orientation meeting where pilots are asked if they have a driver and I have never seen anyone left out without one. Most of the drivers/pilots you meet and fly with will become instant friends!

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Owi6pow-dnU