Well I’m not sure what happened to the 8-9 mph NW’lys that were forecast, but when Nick and I arrived at Batcombe at about 1130 we were greeted by winds of at least double that and much parawaiting! After an hour and a half of people popping up from behind the shelter of the nearby trees to measure the wind strength with a variety of instruments, there was a general opinion that the wind might have dropped from the 20-22 mph down to something much better, maybe 18-19 mph! Nick made the first positive move by unpacking his glider and I followed suit.
Meanwhile Shamus Pitts, who had flown earlier, quietly took off and although it took a few moments for him to penetrate forwards, he showed us that it was possible! James Lynch was off in the next lull, and I followed him a minute later, easily penetrating forwards, and going up nicely at the same time. In fact I pushed forward almost 1km and was probably 500′ ato before I stopped going up! (NB. Pushing forward is always a good plan for maximising your xc league distance!)
Shamus had already left the hill by the time James and I took off, and we were keen to follow in his footsteps. I headed back to the hill and after a few minutes we were both climbing nicely in a 1-2 m/s thermal and ten minutes later we were 4km downwind at base at 4,400′. The climb improved on the way up – by the end I was averaging 2.5-3 m/s! We both separately went into cloud and so I headed slightly to the west to give James a wide berth. By the time I saw him again he was quite a way to the north of me and by the time I reached Piddletrenthide he was 1/2 km north of me and 1,500′ higher 😦
However this was where our luck changed and I got a lovely climb over Piddletrenthide back up to base (and beyond – 4,900′) whilst James hit some horrible sink and fought bravely between 2000-3000′ for 10km or so before landing just past Milborne St Andrew for 20km.
From here for the next 15km all the way to Bovington I never got below 3,900′ so it was a very relaxing if cold stage of the flight.
Then there was a 8km glide across a blue patch to where I saw a sailplane thermalling nicely somewhere just south of the A352 between Wool and Wareham, and although he’d long gone by the time I got there I found a nice climb back up to 4,600′. Again it was a strong themal with climb rates of 2-2.5 m/s.
At this point with goal in sight I was feeling pretty relaxed and took some video and a couple of self portraits…
I wafted along under this cloud for a good 5km or more by which time Swanage was 12km or so away and clearly achievable on a glide from this height. And it was about at this point that I received a text from Nick saying that no one else had flown as it had remained windy and that he was coming to get me – top man! I think he was surprised when I phoned him from the air to say I was approaching Swanage!
At this point I was starting to think about landing options in Swanage, in particular not getting blown out to sea!
I did a 360 over the playing field in the foreground to check my into-wind speed and found that I was doing about 10-15 kph, so I decided to head to the grassy point to maximise my distance (and, more importantly, be closer to an ice cream vendor!).
The actual landing (to the applause of a group of onlookers) was very straightforward and I never felt in any danger of ending up swimming! I then proceeded to demonstrate a forward launch to a couple of interested blokes, and talked them through all my kit, so it was a while before I was fully packed up and able to enjoy the traditional ice cream!
So, thanks to the couple in the camper van who gave me a lift to Corfe Castle where I met Nick in the Castle Inn for a pint, and to Nick for coming to pick me up – it was much appreciated, especially as it must have been galling seeing me on cloud nine when he hadn’t flown.
Fingers crossed this is the start of summer rather than the end of the season!
More photos here.