Having screwed up on the first decent XC day of the year (14th March at Combe) and having missed out on big Saturday (6th April) due to family commitments, I was keen to make the most of a good forecast on Friday 19th April. For a few days before, RASP had been looking epic especially up in the Welsh borders, however by Thursday evening it was looking less good and I was having doubts about a three hour drive up to Long Mountain. I got up at 6am on Friday morning to make the final go/no-go decision, and I could tell that Polish Tom was very disappointed not to be going. However a text message from Nick Somerville got me excited about going to Liddington – a much better option, certainly in terms of drive time, than Long Mountain! The RASP forecast for southern UK wasn’t as good as Shropshire, but we decided it was worth a punt.
Following on from the mental beating-up I’d been giving myself after 14th March, I’d worked out what I needed to do in order not to make the same mistake again:
- Get to the hill early
- Commit to leaving the hill
- Stick with the gaggle
- Stick with zeros
So with 1) in mind I met Mike Humphries and Nick in Trowbridge at about 9am, then we picked Tom up en-route, before getting to the hill at about 1100. We were the first there, but it didn’t take too long before the usual suspects piled up…!
The sky was looking ok, but there was a lot of cloud around, and hence big areas of shadow. As far as wind strength went it was certainly breezy, but perfect for the site seeing as it’s low and shallow.
I think all four of us took off around midday and soared the hill which was largely in shade. Fifteen or twenty minutes later something came through and Tom, Nick and Colin Hawke managed to get into it and climb out. I got to it too low and decided to bide my time in the hope that something better would come through. Well, we waited and waited and a sunny patch came through but nothing happened – if anything the wind dropped slightly causing some people to bottom land (not very onerous!) – and I landed for a minute or two near the top of the hill whilst I waited for it to pick up. I took off again at about 1240 and then spent another 30-40 minutes flying around wondering if anything was ever going to happen. Finally at about 1315 I noticed three gliders (Bryan Hindle on a yellow Mantra 4, Tim Crow on a purple Hook, and AN Other on a blue M4) getting a bit higher than everyone else so I barred it over to them desperate to get into it this time.
The two M4s made the best of the initial climb, but I was very fortunate to be thermalling with Tim Crow a bit lower down. He was flying really well and between us we slowly but steadily climbed to base at 4,400′ at 1m/s where we rejoined the Mantras. By this time the 25km/h wind had blown us 8km downwind.
All four of us sort of did our own thing after the first climb, but Bryan, Tim and I regrouped a little bit further on and worked well together.
An hour and three thermals later we were approaching the A303/M3 split but I think by this time Tim was either getting low or had landed, but Bryan, the other M4 and I were making good progress even though the sky still wasn’t great…
The three of us continued to work well together and by 1515 we were approaching the 65km mark where the sky had improved markedly.
It was simply a case of climb, glide, climb, glide from now on – textbook stuff – although by now we’d lost track of the blue M4 and Bryan, who’d taken a slightly different route to me approaching Chichester ATZ and was a couple of kms east of me.
Fortunately my track was taking me a few km to the west of Chichester ATZ so there was no chance of me repeating the mistake of two years ago, and I cruised past before finding another climb to the west of Chichester which took me up to 5,100′
From here (96km) I decided to glide to the coast at Bognor Regis where I guessed there would be a railway station, and more importantly an ice cream 🙂
I had enough height to head along the coast to the Butlins and back, before eventually landing on the beach at the bottom of the photo above.
Whilst packing up on the esplanade I got chatting to this man and his daughter – turns out he was a Rusian rock musician he’d been imprisoned in before the wall came down for anti-Soviet music, and he’d eventually been kicked out of Russia without a passport and had settled with his wife in Bognor. Now if only I could remember what his new band is called…!
So, what a great flight – 109km straight line, 114km with turn points, my second furthest non-dsq’d flight, and a great way to come back after the disappointment of three weeks earlier. The retrieve was straightforward and was at home and uploading tracklogs and photos by 2230 🙂
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