Sunday’s forecast was perfect for a classic BCC (British Clubs Challenge) day at the Blorenge – thermic but with very light N-NE’ly winds, which so often means death or glory. Or in other words, pot luck. And today was no exception – I had one brief flight soaring the bowl before the wind appeared to switch to the E, so most of us traipsed across to the shallow E takeoff, and then I had another short flight ending up 300′ below takeoff and facing a hot sweaty walk up through the fortunately short bracken.
By the time I’d walked back up and untangled my lines a couple of people had glided out and found lift of the town, however this was definitely a death or glory strategy. And it was very much looking like death for Jerry and me on our identical Sigma 8s after we found ourselves heading inexorably for Castle Meadows without so much as a blip from our varios. But the gods must have been smiling on us because Jerry (who was a few hundred meters in front of me) started circling when we were less than 300′ above the landing field! I quickly joined him and together we slowly climbed out in a gentle NW’ly drift. Jerry was definitely climbing better than me (I put that entirely down to him having an Impress 3 rather than me having poorer thermalling skills 🙂 ), and after five minutes he was maybe three or four hundred feet above me. But I persevered and actually headed in a more N’ly direction than him which took me over the hospital and the NW edge of town, compared to his route which followed the river.
And although my climb rate wasn’t great it was taking me closer to the south facing slopes to the north of Abergavenny. By the time I had left the town and was over fields again I was at roughly 1,500′, but then the climb picked up and I was at 2,700′ as I reached the slopes. From here I glided towards Sugar Loaf getting a climb on the way which topped me back up again to 2,600′. I flew right over the top of Sugar Loaf, but it was all in the timing and there was nothing happening so I headed SW towards the wooded slopes just to the north of the River Usk where I could see two or three other gliders climbing nicely. I was down to 1,200′ when I arrived, but after eight minutes I was up at 2,700′ again so I set off on a glide following Mike Humphries towards Crickhowell.
I eventually caught up with Mike near Magic Mountain (Pen Cerrig-calch) and after two intermediate climbs I stumbled into an absolute boomer which took me from 2,900′ to 4,700′ in four minutes… Sweet 🙂 My averager was reading over 4m/s for quite alot of those four minutes too – the strongest climb I’ve had in the UK for quite some time.
It was at this point I noticed that the wind was doing funny things – above Abergavenny the wind was definitely from the SE. Above Crick it was from the W, and up high it was from the N. Heading further W was going to be difficult into wind, so I radioed to Mike and said I was going to head back to Aber. Having topped up to 4,600′ again just north of Crick the glide back to Aber was easy, and in fact I decided to head back to takeoff to see if my car was still up there and to land if necessary.
I gave Nick S a call before I got there and he told me that Tim CC was on his way up to get it, so I did a quick pass 500′ over a couple of pilots on takeoff, then headed back over Aber.
I then spent the next fifty minutes boating about in the abundant lift all over town, and even at 5 o’clock there were decent 2m/s climbs to be found. I finally landed in Castle Meadows just after 5pm with a big grin on my face after 2 3/4 hours of fabulous scenic flying.
There’s only one way to make a great day even better, and that’s to share a pint in the pub with your mates, and with the rest of the Avon crew there that’s exactly what I did 🙂 Turns out pretty much everyone had a good day – Ben completed the Blorenge – Sugar Loaf – Skirrid triangle, Ken almost made it round, Nick made it to Crick, Declan landed on Sugar Loaf to have a chat with the walkers before taking off again, and Mike flew back to his van at the top car park on the Blorenge. Rob and Tim CC didn’t have quite such good fortune, but that’s just the way it goes in this funny old game…
I entered my flight in the national xc league as a flat triangle, which scored a respectable 46km. Click here for details.