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Rat Race Article and interview with Jose Rosas

Copyright Dixon White July 21.2003

Mike Haley, what an amazing guy! Master hang and para pilot, contractor, carpenter, marketer, mechanic, administrator and all with no ego - he’s a bloomin’ genius in my book. Mike casually started putting together the Rat Race about 2 years ago. Mike envisioned a friendly competition that would serve as training ground for aspiring competition and XC pilots. Mike called me regularly reviewing the scope of his intentions and with ever more refined details. I’ve worked with Mike on other projects and knew that everything he touches is done very well. I was honored that he asked me to be the meet director. The whole team was terrific, Gail Haley, Kris Wick, Bill Gordon, Jose Rosas, Katia Rosas, Kevin Lee, Hayden Glatte, Dan Combs, T.White, and the whole Cascade Paragliding Club. Mike surrounds himself with talented capable people – everything went like clockwork and we all loved working with each other. We had great shirts, I.D. tags and the computers quickly summarized everyone’s standings each day. No accidents, but we had everything ready to go if there had been, thanks to Dan Combs. Kris had even secured formal permission from land-owners throughout any of the zones we might task.

BUT, the “real” test, is how well the pilots loved the event – and I’ll tell you, I’ve never heard so many people go out of their way to rave about an event!! It’s the most favorite event I’ve ever attended in paragliding and I can’t wait to do it again. If you hear that this event is being scheduled, don’t wait to sign up, you’ll miss out – it’ll fill up FAST. If we do it again we plan on having it last up to 4 days, which will be better than the 2 day event we ran this year. We lucked out that the 2 days were so perfect, phewwww. 45 competition pilots, most of them first timers, feeling like they had died and gone to heaven.

We’re talking detailed training sessions covering everything from GPS usage to course strategy. Between all of the staff we were able to answer everyone’s questions and make sure they completely understood all phases of the “get high, stay high and fly far” ballgame. The staff reviewed the race course just prior to every competitor’s launch as well as confirmed that their GPS and other pre-flight items were ready to fly.

The meet headquarters, walking distance from the primary LZ, was well decorated with goofy photos of everyone, motivational posters and loads of para-gear just waiting to be bought and used. Food and drinks were always ready and the port-a-potties at the LZ even had hand wash stations. Plenty of drivers scurried folks right back to launch and retrieved those that landed out. Our “big” dinner (included with the event), excellent I must say, at a local eatery, was filled with happy laughing pilots. The first day 14 pilots made goal and the second day 22 made goal. Brett Harding won the event and this was his first ever competition. 2nd place Tim Pfeiffer and 3rd place Hayden Glatte. Both tasks were just under 15 miles and included some interesting turn points. A fast pilot could complete the courses in about an hour. Of course, almost everyone went back up to fly the brilliant evening conditions that made for at least 2 hours of soaring.

Maybe the best part of this event was the camaraderie. It was as though we had all been friends for years. One of the new friends I made, Jose Rosas, has an incredible background. I had heard of Jose for years, he’s made quite a name for himself as one of the top XC pilots in the world, certainly one of the most prolific pilots in terms of flights, (5,000 tandems and countless solos) and hours (4,500). I was fascinated by his stories and it’s these kind of encounters that can make these get-togethers all the more valuable. Whenever Jose spoke at our meeting he had the complete attention of everyone – he effused a sense of the sport that was almost mystical and he was enthusiastically involved in organizing the Rat Race.

Jose learned from the Swiss pilot Franz Schilter and Jose now lists Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Columbia, the USA, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Austria and Denmark as countries he has flown. One story he told, “Mike Haley and I went for a Urban XC... (XC in the cliffs of Lima Coast) we went to a place were no locals ever goes because is too dangerous, that’s the part of the city that makes the bad parts of L.A. sounds safe, we knew landing there would mean leaving the stuff and running for our lifes... that was much more exiting than the strongest lift I ever had... can you imagine an American dealing with these guys? That was pure adrenaline, and high excitement. The rule, NO landing at all!

I asked him what moment in flying was his favorite, “The day I won my first national championship, I was back then a heavy guy (370 pounds), It was so really special to me because I could beat my weight problem and become a recognized pilot. I was the heaviest professional pilot in the world. Nowadays I weight 188 pounds (he has been in about 45 comps, and was twice national champion). I had also some XC interesting flights and moments but no one better moment than when I set my record to 6026 meters (almost 20,000 feet) in a tandem flight! I did it in a tandem flight with my female friend and pilot Giuliana Wong. The moment the Vario anounced 6000 m. we just scream a huge yahoo while entering in a spiral, my fingers got frozen and we needed to get down fast.

He shared with all of us continually, never a moment that he wasn’t helping or offering support. I asked him what he thought of our little event. He responded, “ It was a paragliding picnic. I have enjoyed in a beautiful way. A great feeling of friendship, no tensions between pilots, and smiles everywhere... I just love it!” I asked him if he thought this was an appropriate training ground for new competitors? “Thats a question that I’m sure 99% of the people involved will say Yes! No other environment can be better, like kids in school, playing while learning I had a BLAST and I’m not a beginner. Every pilot felt self confidence to make any kind of question, the expert guys were teaching, the beginners learning, and the intermediates having fun in the mean time. So how did it stack? well... just great! A#1.

Seems hard to believe that someone so immersed in paragliding would have time to do anything else, but Jose is a busy man. “I have a bungee site (400') and extreme sports theme park in Cusco we have three continental records and two world-records.” You can see his website at www.actionvalley.com Jose also owns Perufly, which manufacturers the unique and wonderful Perufly flight suits, this is the kind I wear/distribute – and I love it; built in balaclava, hand mitts, etc. MPH Sports, Mike and Gail Haley’s company, is the importer for these suits. Jose hopes to start manufacturing a variety of other paragliding products as well.

Jose was just recently married to Katia, they fly tandem together almost daily, and Katia has her P-3 so she’s always ready to take over if Jose needs a break to enjoy the scenery.

Well, I’ve gone on with unbridled enthusiasm about the Rat Race and folks that I’ve met. Make sure you put the Rat Race on your schedule as soon as they announce that we’re willing to host another!