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Zukapult 2005
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The Ludlow Vermont Zucchini festival has been sponsoring a 'Zukapult' contest since 2004. As Ludlow Vermont is only a couple hours away, I felt it was important to pull one of our active catapults out of storage and go compete.

You can learn more about Zukapults at the Okemo Valley website.


The Contestants

Onager Jr was the only catapult I had on hand that fit the rules of the Zukapult contest which involves an upper size restriction (width + length <= 16ft) and a trigger rule (must be 20 ft away from the machine). The rules also include a wide weight range for the projectile between 1/2, and 2 lbs.

Because of the very small zucchini threat, I needed to build this new lift kit under the onager to raise it off the ground to allow for a longer sling. The longer sling will then allow for the smaller projectiles to avoid hitting the pin on the throwing arm.

Unfortunately Onager Jr started out wet due to rain and a bad tarp job. (rather, I forgot to tarp it.) It dried out a little, but things were still wet. We tightened it up and got one test-firing of a bottle that went straight up nearly sabotaging our neighbor's machine. The arm on that shot also put a crack in the top stop-bar.


Our nearest neighbor was the Ba-"Zucc"-ka, a rubber-tubing powered cannon. They started subtle, not wanting to practice shoot or reveal their secrets. Hmmmm.


Next on the line was "Death to the Vegetables", or, uh, something. This was advertised as using the leaf spring from a Toyota, but he had apparently broken that device yesterday, and had to do a quick sub it of a dodge spring. The Dodge based spring lasted all day. Huzzah!

Unlike the other machines, he had a nice electric winch for the pullback. Apparently a necessity as he was not interested in being nearby while car springs were breaking.


The returning champion (the machine name I now forget) came back larger than last year. This nice HCW rough hewn machine looked cool, and worked great. The size restriction for the footprint of the machine was quite a limitation for them. They were not able to use the full amount of counter weight that they would have liked.

These guys are also cousins of Chris Gerow, the captain of "King Aurthur" from the WCPC. Chris' trebuchet has won the trebuchet division for several years before being overthrown by "Yankee Siege".


This machine, named "unlucky" was built when the owner discovered that there was a contest to be had. Sadly, unlucky was just that and broke during pullback on the first throw.


The Competition


Ed addresses the crowd.

I drew a "1" by lot, which meant I got first dibs on zucchini from the armory, and also shot first. I then learned that the Onager Jr is incompatible with zucchini as the first shot sent bits in all directions, in addition to making a hell of a noise. I'd never had such a hard pullback on that machine. The wet rope still let the little guy really pack a wallop. So much so bits of the stop bar went flying off the machine, and the whole device moved 6 inches to the right.

To my surprise, they measured the shot anyway, and the longest ranged nugget was a bit over 100 ft. Easily beaten by a the rubber-hose ba-zucc-ka sling shot thingy. Hmm, better luck next time.


As I had never shot these veggies before, I had chosen three totally different kinds of zucchini from the armory. I tried the littlest one second. With added sling length I knew I'd be ok. Smaller zukes may be better in the sling, or so I thought.

I tightened up the rope bundle some more for good measure. On draw down of the arm, a mighty bang and a puff of mist let me know I had snapped a cord in the bundle. I knew it was time to retire that bit of rope.

I went on with the shot anyway. The good news was that the tight bundle saw no detriment to performance, even with the broken rope. The friction kept it all together. No luck with the launch, the little zuke was pulverized as well with some bits going 90 ft.


Our neighbors did much better with nice whole zucchini flying off about 150 each. (In the foreground you can see the forlorn "unlucky".)

On to the third shot. This time with the biggest of my zucchini from the armory. I did not tighten the wounded cord bundle. On draw down, the machine made a noise I recognized as that of my cat crunching the bones of a rodent (only louder). Perhaps more of the machine needs to be retired. I cranked on anyway.

I signaled I was ready to fire. The firing flag dropped, and the zucchini actually flew off in only 2 pieces. The big chunk landed over 150ft away. Hoo-rah! My three throws totaled 367', 2" which secured 2nd place by over 60 ft. The bungie cannon continued an ever increasing trend of shooting farther and dropped a zuke at a bit over 190 ft.


Then for the satisfying part. The crowd (about 150 or so folks) went to look at the machines. First-things first, they swarmed around the onager to see what was going on. They marveled at how no-one could pull the arm back off the (damaged) stop-bar. They all provided advice on how to not break zucchini at launch. They all wanted to know who invented this crazy thing.

Then again, perhaps Onager Jr was just first in line.


And with that, the 2nd place prize was mine. Huzzah!

On a technical note, I thought it'd be cute to take this type of picture. Then I couldn't get the certificate out from behind the arm. I had the climb on the machine and really haul on the arm while my wife plucked it from behind. Even with the breakage this little machine was still ready to go.


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