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2015 New Hampshire Extreme Chunkin

Since the 2015 World Championships of Punkin Chunkin ended up being cancelled for the second year in a row, we were once again left without a hurling event to go to. A number of phone calls and emails ensued, and we decided to go off to the chunk happening at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the Extreme Chunkin, which was only 2 weeks away (October 24 & 25) when the Delaware cancellation was made! We had not really tuned NASAW to shoot for distance in 2 years, but we really wanted to compete with some of our hurling friends again, so plans were set for us to go! Some last-minute tuning was done with about 3000 pounds of counterweight (roughly what our last shot at the 2013 WCPC was with), but unfortunately one of those shots resulted in bending a main section of the throwing arm. Luckily we still have the original throwing arm, which was the one we shot with in 2011 and 2012, so that was installed just a day before NASAW hit the road for the long drive from Western New York to Loudon, NH.

Upon arriving at the field for this new event mid-day on Friday, we found that many familiar faces were going to be there. Aside from the 5 New Hampshire teams (Yankee Siege II, American Chunker - the air cannon, Launch-Ness Monster, Tired Iron, and the catapult Chunk Norris, all of whom we expected to be there), there were also the teams of Onager, Mista Ballista, Sir Chunks-a-Lot, King Arthur, and more! It turned into a mini-reunion of sorts, with a total of 18 machines ending up competing, all of whom had competed in Delaware at least twice before. And with King Arthur's arrival, the champion of the trebuchet division for all but one year (2010) since 1999 was present on the field! This was because the original Yankee Siege was also there, not to compete, but to do what it always did best - throw cars, giant pumpkins, pianos, and more for the crowd.

Friday afternoon was filled with teams busily setting up their machines, and getting ready to do some free fire in the late afternoon. We were no exception, and we really wanted to get a test shot in since we now had an arm on NASAW that we hadn't thrown with since early in the season in 2013. We indeed got our chance, picking a set of tuning, and hoping it didn't look awful timing-wise. The shot came out well and analysis of the video footage looked solid on the tuning. The only issue, easily corrected, was that NASAW rolled off of its cribbing after the shot released! See, usually we block NASAW up on an extensive set of cribbing so that the firing loads do not land on the trailer axles, but on the frame directly to the wooden cribbing. As we usually set up in farmers' fields, one side always needs a little more cribbing than the other, and we never have more than 2 wheels in contact with the ground (and only lightly so). But we were setting up at NH in what was essentially a gravel parking lot, and it was dead level, so we didn't bother blocking up above the main cribbing. This meant all 4 wheels were still lightly in contact with the ground, enough such that the machine after release was able to roll off the cribbing, stopping only when the wheels rolled back into the blocks we put under the rear jacks, which in this case acted like wheel chocks. So we blocked it up again, but this time using a couple extra 2x4s to get all 4 wheels just off the ground. That problem was now gone for the rest of the weekend, and we didn't bother to take a second test shot as everything looked fine with the tuning. We were as ready as we were going to be for the competition.

King Arthur Machines Setup Torquing Onager NASAW Slid

Day 1 brought chilly morning temperatures but sunny skies. It was a good day to be hurling, and after a few morning remarks at the captain's meeting, we were off and firing. Unfortunately our troubles were not done yet. After loading our pumpkin, we began the second half of the lift to the top of the towers when our main winch line failed. The weight came slamming down onto the gates on the horizontal rails (which stay closed until we are ready to fire for just this reason - they are very stout), making a whole lot of noise. Several teams and one of the firing bosses came running over to make sure everyone was OK - we were, as was NASAW, but there was no way we were going to be able to replace the winch line in time to take our shot (in about 15 minutes). Letting the pit boss know this, we set off to removing the old winch line and replacing it - as this line has been using Amsteel Blue line for several years now, it is fairly easy to handle - no steel slivers to stab you - and we had lots of replacement line. That was easy to deal with, but unjamming the arm from one of the carriages turned out to be less so. During the sudden drop, the arm had slid sideways some on the main axle, and now one of the bolts on one carriage was jammed against a plate on the arm. This jam needed to be cleared before we could fold the arm back into position below the hanger arm. It took some doing, including some help from a couple folks from other teams, but we got this done, the winch line replaced, and everything back in order in a little over 1 hour.

There were still 6-7 machines to fire yet, so we let the firing boss know we could take our shot as soon as they were ready if they could accommodate us. Normally, if we were at the World Championships in Delaware, once your spot is passed on the firing line, they don't come back for you. But with the smaller event, the firing bosses and spotters worked with teams, and stated up front that they wanted to see everyone get their 3 shots in. And indeed, once they finished firing the other teams, and before they broke for lunch, the spotters re-positioned for us and we got to take our first-round shot. It was a decent, though hardly terrific for us, shot of 1941'. But hey, we were in the books! As the remainder of the competition unfolded, we ended up being only one of a couple of teams that fired out of order due to various last-minute mechanical failures.

Launch-Ness Monster Firing Line Yankee Doodle NASAW

Round 1 in fact wasn't great on distances from any of the teams. Most teams got a shot in the books (there were a couple pied shots), but no personal bests or anything near a record. Yankee Siege II only shot 2279', which still put them in first place for the event, but aside from us, no other trebuchet was over 1200' (there were 6 trebs in total). The human-powered catapult Shooda Noed Beter, operating with multiple humans turning the hamster wheel (and thus competing as a regular and not human-powered catapult) shot a terrific 2109', which led the catapults after round 1. And on the air cannon side, only American Chunker, the World Record holder, just barely managed to exceed 4000'.

During the lunch break, the original Yankee Siege put on a show for the crowd. They threw an upright piano, then a couple of 50-gallon water tanks at a castle (missing both times), and even an old 60s-era VW Bug! Unlike 2014, when they tried to throw a car and it got stuck under the trebuchet, the crew dug a deeper hole beneath the machine and made sure the car got airborne this time around. It was quite the crowd-pleaser, and the best part was the car landed squarely on all 4 wheels right on the dotted line of the road in front of the trebuchet!

Round 1 scores Yankee Siege VW Bug Projectile VW Bug Landing

While lunch was going on, we were thinking about what to change on NASAW to try to get our distance back up over the 2000' mark. The tuning on the first-round shot had been fine, the distance just wasn't there. So we decided to try changing our sling length some and give that a shot in the dark. Once the second round got up and going, we were ready at our appointed time, and let loose our shot. Unfortunately, we got showered in pumpkin guts as the pumpkin exploded. Video analysis later that night revealed that the pumpkin released from the sling cleanly, but then the free end of the sling whipped around and smacked it in the back, causing the explosion. This is something we've never cleanly caught on video before, but it happened this time, no doubt. We hadn't pied a shot with NASAW in over 2 years, dating back to the 2013 World Championships, and that counted well over 50 shots in that time frame. All we could do was hope it didn't happen again on our 3rd-round shot.

In the meantime, round 2 marched on, and saw better distances from many teams. Tired Iron cleared 1600', and Yankee Siege II hit 2703', which settled the top 3 trebuchets for the time being. The catapult Chunk Norris crept close to the 10-year-old World Record in that division with a 2680-foot shot, and Sir Chunks-a-Lot of the same division nearly cracked 2200 feet. On the air cannon side American Chunker stood in first with the sole 4000-foot shot of the event thus far, but most of the other air cannons were at 3500+ foot themselves, including Steve Seigers's (of Yankee Siege) brand-new air cannon Yankee Doodle (3499.99'). Only our pit neighbors Launch-Ness Monster did not yet have a clean shot (both shots pied on day 1).

King Arthur Yankee Siege II Onager Round 2 Standings

Day 2 brought a damp morning, though the light rain was ending as the captain's meeting began at 8AM. As there was only 1 round of competition for this day, it was decided to have a 90-minute "rain delay", and let our machines dry out a little bit and become a little safer to work on and around. This also meant that the crowd was starting to fill in by the time we started, as the damp morning meant they were slow in arriving. Keeping essentially the same setup as our round 2 shot, we had our solidest-looking pumpkin to shoot, and we hoped for a clean shot. We really wanted to get NASAW back over 2000 feet - for some reason that we had yet to figure out, we'd lost nearly 400 feet of distance from 2011/2012, despite significantly faster launch speeds. Unfortunately, we pied that shot as well. Video analysis suggests, but isn't 100% conclusive, that we hit the pumpkin with the release end of the sling again. And right before we had taken our shot, Tired Iron shot a personal-best 1955', putting them 14 feet ahead of us for second place!

Sir Chunks-a-Lot Chunk Norris Tired Iron Mista Ballista

Unfortunately for Launch-Ness Monster, they pied their third shot as well, which is a real bummer as they have a very cool machine that has cleared 2000 feet in competition, and they had a pretty nice-looking test shot the day before competition. That did however place us in 3rd among the trebuchets for the competition, which netted us a trophy. Yankee Siege II did not improve on their 2700' shot. King Arthur shot one over 1300', which is incredible for a machine that still only uses 600 pounds of counterweight! Chris told us that he was at or around 2000' on some test shots back home, which is even more impressive! On the catapult front, the usually human-powered catapult Shoolda Noed Beter had 2 shots over 2000 feet on the competition, with their best being the 2200-footer in the first round. Chunk Norris launched an absolute bomb of a shot, and it took out the decade-old World Record by a catapult (2862' by Fibonacci Unlimited II in 2005 and never even been approached before or since), shooting 2947 feet! WOW! Sir Chunks-a-Lot could not top that, instead shooting just over 2300' for their final shot, good for second place. The torsion machine Onager tested their backstop on their final throw (unintentionally), firing their pumpkin straight backwards (the backstop did its job). As there were only 2 torsion machines in this event, they still took first, with the giant crossbow Mista Ballista taking home second with a first-round 1031' shot. And then in the air cannon division, American Chunker closed the event with a shot over 4500', but not before Second Amendment Too shot just short of 4200 feet, and Chunkin Under Da Influence and Yankee Doodle both shot within sight of 4000'.

After the competition was over, Yankee Siege once again put on a show for the crowd. Another piano met its doom, and the VW was even launched again since it was mostly intact from the day before. The VW got pretty well smashed up this time around, spiraling into the ground nose-first. But of course everyone wanted to wait around to see a nearly 1000-pound pumpkin launched, much like they did in 2014 for the TV show Super Chunk. And once again, the pumpkin flew, and flew well, and actually almost landed right on top of the VW's remnants!

Yankee Siege Pumpkin and Car Final Standings

This was a terrific competition, with a great selection of some of the big names in Punkin Chunkin on the East Coast. While we had a disappointing showing with NASAW, considering that we had to replace the arm 1 day before hitting the road and we hadn't really been shooting for distance in a couple years, we still showed that we have a great machine, and a crowd-pleaser at that. Getting to see many of our chunkin friends again, and to do it while shooting some pumpkins, was terrific. The event was impressively well-run, especially for a new event, with all of the fun and very little of the frustration that we have all felt during the World Championships in Delaware in years past. It remains to be seen just what happens with the WCPC, but for now, there is a great event up in Southern New Hampshire. Will we return next year? You never know!

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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!!!