August 23rd National Ride the Wind Day

Since the beginning of time, man has tried to harness the wind to bend it to his will and make it work for him. He made it turn large blades attached to giant wheels made of stone to grind wheat and oats and corn to make meal for bread and a base for many foods.

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Man figured out how to make the wind propel ships through water to move them faster than man could row, and with much less effort. The more sails the ship could hold the more wind it could capture and the faster the ship could go. Of course, when there was no wind, or very little wind, these ships floated calmly in the water. When storms would hit, ships could be blown off course by thousands of miles.

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But man always looked at the wind as a way to fly. He built model gliders to watch how they would respond to different winds in the hopes he could learn to control the flight. A few of the models worked for short distances, but it wasn’t until powered flight became available that the controls to make a glider work came along. While you could catch the wind, get the lift, and fly, you could not control where you were going, or whether you might suddenly plunge to the ground in mid-flight.

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During World War 2, gliders were used by nearly every army. The ability to fly more troops and equipment on course rather than haphazardly by parachute. Parachutes could easily be caught by the same wind the gliders used but the trooper could not control where he landed, the gliders could. Often the flights ended in tragedy but when they worked, they massed forces behind enemy lines in a way no other means could provide.

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Today we have learned how to harness those winds for sport. Building mini-gliders that can be operated by a single flier.

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And the windmills that ground grain back in the day now produce electric power all over the world. The wind indeed offers a great potential for all mankind and it’s just there for the taking.

How to celebrate – Come up with as many things as you can about how the wind affects our lives. Try paragliding for yourself. Find out what percentage of the power supplied to your town is powered by windmills.

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