I cannot believe how lucky I am. After the last task of the Santa Cruz Flats Race, I packed up and started walking toward a friend that landed nearby. Bear in mind that we landed across the road from a large prison and the road was very lightly traveled—possibly only 3 or 4 vehicles drove by in the hour plus we were there; most cars turned into the prison. As I was walking a van passed by, and not long after I heard a door slam. Turning around I saw the van’s brake lights go out and the van speed off from near where my gear was.
A few curse words were said—especially since I was borrowing a friend’s harness—and I started running back toward my stuff.
“What else could it be?” I thought. “Stupid me for leaving it!”
I approach my gear and the harness is gone! The glider is there. The two nice tie down straps are still there. But no harness. (After flights, especially comp flights, I closely guard my vario pod and carry it with me everywhere.)
About to truly and sincerely freak out, I looked down the road where the van went and was now far out of sight. A few thousand feet down the road I saw a big black mound. “Could it be?”
I run toward the mound. Soon I realized that, somehow, someway, for some reason, that mound is my harness. Whoever took the harness either decided to play a prank on me, or checked out his or her loot and found it unexciting for cashing in on and possibly felt some remorse. No matter the reason, I recovered my friend’s harness. Opening up the bag I did not see anything missing.
A week later on my first flight since the race I noticed a crack on my helmet. Though I failed to see the damage before launching, I noticed it soon after landing. I like to think the rough turbulence on the flight caused the damage, but now I wonder if it was when the harness bag was thrown from the van.
The moral of the story is NEVER LEAVE YOUR GEAR UNATTENDED! I’ve heard too many stories of gliders and gear stolen either on launch or at an LZ, especially after cross country flights. Hide it as best you can if you absolutely must go, but it’s always best to stay with it—apparently even if you’re just walking a thousand feet away.