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The Push/Pull Barrel Release - Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Ollie Gregory recollects the incident that spurred him to make a better barrel release...

Was towing at the first east coast championship at Ridgely MD. Think there were three tugs and a trike. The trike pilot was green. First time to tow at a comp. he was towing very fast. Almost 40 mph. The only peeps who didn't care were the rigid wings. On the first decent looking day of the meet, I hooked on his line and started towing out pretty early. Several wind techs had towed and sunk back to try again. The tows were fast, so I put very little flap on my ATOS VX. The tow was damnably smooth for a long time. We were climbing at a bout 150 fpm or les due to the trike's crummy climb rate and fast speed.

At about 1200 feet, the trike hit the boomer thermal on the fat. It was the first hint of lift on that tow. From going 40 mph with me on the string behind, the trike driver pushed out hard and climbed to the right at full throttle. I, of course, slid under and to the right of him at 40 mph even though I was doing what I could to slow down by pushing the ATOS's nose up.

Anyway, all of a sudden, I was looking at loops and loops of tow line all ahead of me! The took of the prop hub release was throwing giant ATOS lassos in the sky. I grabbed my pro tow release to get off, but with no tension on the line at all, I had to let the control bar go completely to grab the line ahead of the pro tow release to keep tension to pull against for release.

Guess what happened in the next few seconds. Since the trike driver felt no load, he assumed I was off tow. Instead I was below him and to his left as I was desperately trying to get off the slack line! Of corse he did what triggers do. He turned left and dove! Suddenly all I could see was rope everywhere and the top of the tugs sail as he dove right by my nose cone! I instinctively let go if the line and grabbed the control bar with both hands just as the line came taunt and broke the weak link with the line pointing straight down!

I could have been hit by the trike tug as it went by, or been tucked by the line yanking down hard on my bar while I had both hands off fiddling with the loose line to release. Weak link broke and I turned back to core that strong thermal which turned out to be my strongest climb of that day!

Needless to say, that evening, I gathered my tugging friends to go give the trike pilot a lesson in what to do when tugging and hitting a strong thermal. The trikenguy was a hang glider pilot originally and did what hang glider pilots do who hit a strong climb! He pushed out hard!

When I got back home, I grabbed Matt Taber and set to inventing the push pull pro tow release. No one was interested in marketing it. I gave copies to my comp pals cause I love em. I have two on my harness. They work great.



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