Sunlit sail in the sky, 1976

Home (contents) Hang gliding Painted history of hang glider design part 2 Sunlit sail in the sky, 1976

Sunlit sail in the sky, 1976

Sky Sports Merlin, 1976

Sunlit sail in the sky, 1976

Acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24 inches (46 x 61 cm) painted by Everard Cunion in March 2022

Feel free to make a print of this painting for your own non-commercial use.

I based this painting on a photo by Stephen McCarroll of Paul Courtney in a Sky Sports Merlin at the Hang Ten World Open Hang Glider Championship, held at Escape Country, near El Toro, California, on April 10-18th, 1976.

Tom Peghiny

Tom Peghiny in 1975 or 1976 by W.A. Allen

The Merlin was designed by Tom Peghiny in consultation with aeronautical engineer and hang glider designer Tom Price(2). Its advanced features included a large amount of double surface, although it did not enclose the crosstubes. Curiously, that double surface ‘wrap round’ of sailcloth — yellow in this example — was on the upper surface.

Similar to a Kestrel, but with more double surface, higher aspect ratio and more battens, it looked sexy and a little dangerous.

— Chris Gonzales (1)

Stephen McCarroll

Stephen McCarroll in 1975 or 1976

Stephen McCarroll was one of the early hang glider photographers. He also flew and he had Wills Wing build him a wing specially adapted for in-flight photography.

Tom Price

Tom Price in early 1983

Painting process

Original photo by Stephen McCarroll

Art derived from the original photo by Stephen McCarroll

Although the glider is past vertical in the original photo (and you can watch the maneuver in the video under External links later on this page) I feel it looks better at a less steep angle of bank.


Rotated for painting

For whatever reason (the shape of the wing and the view angle maybe) and the apparent close viewpoint accorded by the glider filling a large portion of the canvas, I felt that the original photo, which was taken at a distance, needed its perspective adjusting as if the viewer was close to the subject.

Perspective adjusted

Perspective adjusted

My usual image editor, Irfanview, does not seem to have a perspective adjuster, so I tried the ‘perpective crop’ in PhotoScape X and I found it excellent.

Sail blocked in white

Backdrop sky sprayed and sail blocked in white

The backdrop is sprayed and the glider brush painted.

More progress

More progress…

For more about how I use my computer to assist with painting accuracy, see Process in Painting the Eagle III and Method in Day at the beach.


Peghiny’s Bobcat in Day at the beach, another painting featuring a Sky Sports hang glider

External links

Hang Ten Hang Gliding World Meet, Part 3 video on YouTube starting at 4 minutes 5 seconds, where Paul Courtney performs an ‘aerial bellet’ (a required competition task in those times) in a Sky Sports Merlin. (The video also starts with Courtney flying an earlier task.)

Flying squad, a short history of the east coast U.S. hang glider manufacturer Sky Sports on my other web site, Hang Gliding History

Tom Price’s flying machines on Hang Gliding History (Tom Price assisted Tom Peghiny with the design of the Merlin)


1. Sky Sports Gliders of the Late ’70s by Chris Gonzales with photos by Tina Sheppard in Hang Gliding & Paragliding Vol47-Iss5 Sep-Oct 2017

2. Dennis Pagen letter in Hang Gliding, February 1994

2 Responses to Sunlit sail in the sky, 1976

  1. Chris Gonzales says:

    Great!. I like that the late day sun is casting a curved shadow of the crossbar on the sail. Really suggests the form nicely.

    • Fortunately I had some good photos to refer to for the structure of the Merlin, the peculiar shadows at the keel being rather puzzling initially. Clearly a great deal of work went into the design of the Merlin. The sail seams are at different angles from the battens, for example. Luckily there is also a short video clip of Courtney launching that shows the colors of his gear. Painting it all was a struggle nonetheless!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.