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2021 Dayton Punkin Chunk

After nearly 2 years without competition, 2021 saw a couple events return, and one of those was Pumpkin Chuck Dayton. Having attended in 2018, we had wanted to return in 2020 before it was cancelled, so we were thrilled that it was going to happen in 2021! Despite the numerous issues we had at our last event, the World Championships of Punkin Chunkin 2019 in Rantoul, IL, we were optimistic for this year. We had the newly-rebuilt longer arm, which was just fine after that chunk. Our new pouch design seemed to work well (other than the sacrificial sleeve that disqualified our 2570' shot). Nick and Jason did some work in the last 2 years to properly fix the bandaged track gates that we messed up at Rantoul, and they replaced the winch bearings that were limiting the counterweight we could run at that event. Would this be the year we FINALLY got a hold of one and broke the 1/2-mile mark (2540')?

Pumpkins unfortunately were an issue. Western NY had a bad pumpkin season, at least for our preferred ammo, La Estrellas. Almost all the ones we had were under the 8-10 pound range that is required for the competitions we compete in. Thankfully, Matt was due to arrive in the Dayton area over a day in advance of the chunk. Thanks to tips from Captain David from Team Ethos, he was able to acquire 8 nice-looking, and in-weight estrellas. Nick and Jason arrived late Thursday afternoon (the Dayton Chunk is held on a Friday), and the team quickly had the machine setup and ready to go.

Friday morning we got ready for a test shot as the gates were opening. This would be our first full-power shot with the new throwing arm, though we had experience with a similar arm from 2013. One thing we immediately noticed while cocking the machine was how much better the gates were working after the fixes done to them. We winch NASAW's counterweight to the top of the towers in 2 stages. The first stage lifts the weight up through the gap in the horizontal tracks, and we let the gates close and set the weight on it. This is when we load the pumpkin into the machine as the arm is oriented in the proper direction, and the machine is safe in this state. In recent years, the gates were not closing together (more like a second or two apart), or sometimes one gate would even need a little assistance to close. This time they closed perfectly in unison, with one nice bang! Nick commented they haven't done that in years, and he was right. The test shot was decent, nothing amazing, but it was a clean shot (other than ripping off another sacrificial sleeve, so we just skipped those for the event). It was measured at 2227.6', and we had some information to tune off of.

Our first competition shot was a pie, our tradition of always having at least 1 pie per event continues with NASAW. This one puzzled us for a while. The pumpkin had looked solid, and it was a nearly 9-pound, pretty dense one, with no soft spots or other defects noted. We turned our attention to the sling: no issues noted there either. We've had plenty of sling/pouch issues over the years with NASAW, and we have gotten pretty good at identifying when the pouch is to blame - usually there is a telltale smear of pumpkin guts under/between straps. The pouch was clean. We also ruled out the sling spiking the pumpkin, as there were no guts on the sling and the high-speed video looked like it was a clean release. The pumpkin just exploded shortly after leaving the sling.

With no faults we could find, we ultimately just loaded a new 8lb 6oz pumpkin into the machine, and let it rip. This shot proved the last pumpkin must have had an internal flaw, because with no changes whatsoever we had a monster shot. It kept on carrying, and looked to land right near where Ethos was shooting, out in the 2800' range. Ethos thought we might have topped their best shot (they were de-tuned for this event, just shooting for around 3000'). We didn't think we were quite that far out, but we wanted to know if we finally broke 1/2-mile, it sure looked like it, but at that distance things can look deceiving. When the distance came back in at 2663', we were ecstatic. Finally, we had done it!

The last official shot didn't really matter to us. Sure, a bigger distance would have been nice, but we weren't expecting much as we didn't do much with the tuning (just a couple degrees more pin angle). The shot came out nice, but the pumpkin was slightly imbalanced and it rolled over and dove into the ground, just 1656.3' downrange. We did take one more shot for the crowd afterwards, and with the heaviest pumpkin we threw all event (9lb 14.6oz, just under the maximum weight), which traveled a respectable 2306'. We'd taken second place (of 2 machines...Ethos was the only other "Class A" machine, and they cleared 2900'), but more importantly we'd set a personal best and not broken a single thing. In fact, we didn't even have to fix a single stitch on the sling all event!

Watch a video of NASAW in action at Pumpkin Chuck Dayton 2021.

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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!!!