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2009 WCPC Post-Mortum

So it has been nearly a month since we returned from Delaware and the World Championships of Punkin' Chunkin'. It is time to really condense down what happened.

First of all, we still cannot get over how amazing the trebuchet division was this year! Last year was very competitive among the mid-tier machines, with a total of 7 machines from 4th to 10th separated by a mere 80 feet! We expected the entire field to improve, but WOW! There had never been more than 3 trebuchets in one year to ever break 1000 feet, and only 4 all-time at the World Championships. This year there were 9!!! And a 10th missed by barely 30 feet! Of these 9, 5 were machines that had never even come close to that mark before, one being a completely new machine to the competition, that being American Chucker, built by a bunch of aerospace guys from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. What a showing they had, with a shot over 1886 feet, and it could have been better! Their trajectory, while decent, wasn't perfect, and given a better trajectory, they well may have broken 2000 feet! Needless to say we expect them back next year and shooting even further.

Medieval Postal Service had a decent year, but we were doing better in testing. On Thursday, we took a couple of test shots, and the second one cleared a drainage area downrange that we were told would be a roughly 1200+ foot shot. Based on shots during the competition that reached this area, that number was right. The annoying part for us was that that test shot was at only 600 pounds of counterweight, and we needed 700 to break 1000 feet, at 1074 on Sunday. This is partly due to a tuning change we made on Saturday, which resulted in a lower launch velocity, and the mere 869 shot that day. Perhaps we should have taken this as a sign to go back to the old tuning, which would probably have gotten us a solid 1200 and maybe even 1300 on Sunday, which would mean that we placed 5th, with a shot at 4th, instead of the 9th that we took. Nevertheless, the primary goal was to break 1000 feet, which we did. NOTE: IF YOU ARE SHOOTING WELL AT ONE TUNING LEVEL, DO NOT CHANGE THAT TUNING MID-COMPETITION!!!

Our fall testing went well this year, as we got the machine set up and firing nearly one month before the competition, and despite losing several days to weather, leaving us a couple of 1-day weekends when we got far less shooting done than we could have, we were feeling good heading to Delaware. We broke the 1000 foot barrier several times before packing up, as well. One thing is clear, we are soon going to need a new range to fire at. The one we have used for the last couple years isn't much longer until we hit major trees, as it was this year we had to move to a different field on the same property and shoot over a narrow treeline in order to squeeze in the distance needed. If we start shooting in the 1300-1400 foot range, we will be losing pumpkins in the trees.

This brings us to our plans for next year. As Matt is due to graduate from R.I.T. in May, and Jason shortly thereafter, the team could very well be scattered across the country by the time fall rolls around. We certainly will enter again next year in the 25th Punkin' Chunkin', but what we do with Medieval Postal Service is likely to be pretty limited. We are at the maximum the machine can carry, as it was only designed for a 600 pound counterweight to begin with. The 700 was deemed to probably be okay, and it was, but simply adding more weight is not really an option. To shoot much further will require a new machine, something that we want to do, but will likely not happen for at least a couple more years. The new machine would be trailer-mounted and much quicker to set up than the roughly 5-6 hours it takes us with Medieval Postal Service. We need to make a new arm for MPS, as we found this fall that the repeated drops from 2008 slightly bent the arm to one side. Whether we do anything beyond that is unknown. The new actuation system and other changes that we made for this year worked beautifully.

In closing, we want to congratulate all the teams that competed this year, especially the trebuchet teams that made the division the BEST and MOST COMPETITIVE that was at the World Championships. Congratulations to Yankee Siege on finally breaking 2000 feet, but we do not believe that you are retiring! We will see you guys next year, we are sure. Also, congratulations to the Sanford Slinger team, a youth trebuchet team that set a new World Record for that division with a 852 foot shot! Pumpkin Slayer also set a new World Record in the Human-Powered Catapult division, finally knocking Gene's Machine off the top of the podium! While the torsion divison was weak this year with a string of breakeages, we expect them to be very solid next year. Team Ethos won this year, but they are going to have to shoot much further than the 2000 feet they shot this year to repeat as champs.

Happy Holidays to everyone, and safe hurling.

We have more pictures from our fall testing along with videos of testing and of other machines at this year's World Championships, we hope to get those up soon.

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Use "common sense" when operating trebuchets and catapults. Even little ones can be dangerous. Do not place anything you are not willing to lose in the plane of the arm rotation (this includes yourself, body parts, car windshields, cameras, etc). These catapults and trebuchets are capable of throwing just as far backwards as forwards, and the use of a backstop of some sort is recommended, though the use of one does not make the region behind it safe.

Also, just because the throw got away safely downrange does not mean the end of the danger. The arm is likely still swinging wildly along with the counterweight, and there is a sling whipping around. One thing many people fail to take into account is this sling; some people put a metal ring on the slip end of the sling and this ring can HURT when whipping around!

Have fun hurling, but please KEEP IT SAFE!!!