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2018 Dayton Punkin Chunk

This year, after years of talking about it but never managing it due to scheduling issues, we made it to the Dayton Punkin Chunk to compete with NASAW! The event is held annually alongside the runway at the National Museum of the US Air Force.

When we arrived on Thursday it was pouring rain (between Wed. night and Thurs. night the area received 2-3" of rain!), so we merely dropped off the trailer and headed for drier locations (the museum of course!) for the remainder of the afternoon. Friday morning (Nov. 2) we were out on the field around 8 beginning the setup of NASAW alongside the other teams. We set up alongside fellow trebuchet team Chunkworks, as well as the torsion catapult Ethos. Conspicuously absent this year was the trebuchet American Chucker; due to extensive rework needed following a misfire in 2017 and team schedules, they were not able to compete this year, but assured us that they would be back for 2019! We designed NASAW from the outset to be quick and easy to setup, and years of refinement have shortened that time even more. It only takes us a little over 1 hour from arrival until we are ready to fire.

However, the last 2 years since the last WCPC (2016) have not seen much testing done on this machine. In fact, it was only a couple days before leaving for the event that we finally made new pouches to replace the ones destroyed at the 2016 World Championships. We had all of 3 test shots (all at our "low counterweight" configuration) before heading off, enough to prove that a new pouch design was promising, but not enough to get tuning and the like done. We took one test shot, now at our "full power" configuration, and threw the entire pouch downrange off the machine, along with lots of chunked up pumpkin. The material and stitching was simply not up to the loads we generate. Luckily we'd made another pouch, roughly identical to the design we've been using since 2011, so we hooked that on to be ready for our first official competition shot.

Competition shot 1 resulted in pie as well. We couldn't find anything wrong with the pouch setup after the fact, so we chalked it up to either a bad pumpkin or a slight chance the sling hit the pumpkin on the way out of the pouch (which has happened to us once or twice before). We loaded up another seemingly-solid pumpkin for shot #2, and this shot resulted in pumpkin bits raining down from the sky and nearly half of the cross straps on the pouch also raining down. The stitching on this pouch was also not up to snuff. In a last-ditch effort, we dug out one of our old, and only moderately-damaged pouches from 2016, and modified it a bit. Team Ethos also donated one of their spare really good pumpkins to us (ours were OK, but this one was a really good one!). We did NOT want to pie all 3 of our measured shots! Fingers crossed, we pulled the trigger, and away that pumpkin flew! It was a good, solid shot, visually not one of our best, but still a very strong shot, landing in the middle of the runway with a huge SPLAT! It traveled 2120'!

Our fellow trebuchet competitors Chunkworks had a great showing, putting their first 2 shots within 10n feet of each other, and well out past what we recall as their personal best. In fact, their top shot was a terrific 2354', easily topping us in this event. Congratulations to Patrick and his crew on finally realizing some of the distance they always felt they could get out of that machine!

Ethos next to us had an interesting event. Their first shot went out hard and fast, then all of a sudden took a hard right turn, the hardest hook any of us have ever seen. The pumpkin was never found, but was determined to be in a treeline downrange, likely over 3000' out. Their next shot went straight, and climbed hard, still managing to reach out to 3288', their best of the event. Their last shot was a pedestrian 2946'.

This event also has a "B" class, which limits machines to a 5'x5' footprint shooting 2-3lb pumpkins. We didn't get much time to watch them this year, but hopefully next time we can check some of them out! There is also a "C" class, which consists of an event-provided traction trebuchet (people pull ropes to power the arm). Teams can pay a small entry fee and use this machine. They are scored on 3 shots and how close to a target zone each shot lands.

We weren't fully prepared this year due to busy life schedules on the team (and we also were short one team member as Chris couldn't make it this year!), but we have already made a long list of plans for 2019. Hopefully it will be our best year yet, and if timing works out, we're hoping to return to the Dayton Punkin Chunk to compete again!

See a few pictures from the event.

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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!!!