After a slow and somewhat disappointing start to the season (bombing at 20km and 40km when others have gone on to do over 100kms, and being in the bottom landing field when the thermal came through that most people got away in, on a day when two people flew over 260kms), things are finally looking up – I’ve had three great flights recently – 98kms, 106kms and most recently on “Big Sunday” (7th June), 150kms 🙂
The first was on Thursday 21st May, when I had a lovely flight from Whitesheet, a beautiful hill to the east of Shaftesbury. The day didn’t start terribly auspiciously though – Mike Humphries and I had battled across Bath in the rush hour traffic on our way to Worcester Beacon and were on the M4 when it became apparent that it was going to be too windy, so we about-turned and high-tailed it fifty miles south to Whitesheet, where we arrived at 1100 to find perfect conditions.
The climb out after a few minutes soaring was beautiful, but thereafter it was pretty tricky, especially having to do a fair bit of cross-winding to get round Southampton airspace. It was great having Steve Newcombe as company – I’m not sure either of us would have made it as far as we did without helping each other. I had declared a 102km goal at Guildford, but alas didn’t quite make it, landing at 93km (straight line) in Farnham.
Here’s a short video of the flight…
Two weeks later on Thursday 4th June I finally clocked up my first 100km of the season (better late than never) with a 101km (straight line) flight from Golden Ball. It was breezy, off the hill, and looking less than epic when we got to the hill, but after I’d taken one climb up to 2,000ft but left it (thinking that the sky downwind looked poor), I figured that maybe the day would turn out ok. It then took at least another hour before I climbed out slowly with Carlo Borsattino, Pete Douglas, and a blue and black Niviuk (Steve Watts?). We had drifted apart by the time we left the Marlborough Downs, so I flew very conservatively until past the M4 when a gaggle caught me up, and I have to say, the company was nice. We flew the next 20km together until we were caught up by Wayne Seeley, who joined us for a couple of turns in our thermal then shot off towards Nailsworth.
At this point I thought, right, Wayne knows this area like the back of his hand, and I like his fast flying style, so I shot off after him thinking he’d know where all the house thermals are!
However it didn’t quite work like that, there were no booming thermals to be found, and we minced over Minchinhampton, slid over Selsley, and stuttered over Stroud. Then, very oddly, Wayne got ground/pub/car/home suck and headed off to the left towards the M5 and landed… Alone again, I stuck with it, and drifted over the high ground to the north of Stroud and got high enough to rejoin the gaggle south east of Gloucester. By this time the gaggle was down to five – me, Harry Bloxham, Steve Newcombe, Roger Turner, and a Gin GTO2.
Harry and I didn’t fare too well over Gloucester and we ended up down at 1100ft to the NW of the city in desperate need of a climb. Instead we drifted north sometimes going up, sometimes going down.
Sadly Harry never quite found the weak lift I was wafting along in, and ended up landed at 73km just before the climb finally came good, meanwhile I finally managed to climb to over 4000ft for the first time in the flight. From here I carried on towards the Malverns, with the GTO2 a little way ahead, and Steve some way behind. I was at about 90kms and I was enjoying the prospect of getting my first 100km flight of the year when I was woken from my daydreaming by the sudden screaming roar of a fast jet approaching – I spotted it (a Typhoon) as it passed a couple of thousand feet beneath me – wow!
I’d been in the air for four hours now (not counting my initial hour long flight) and was feeling tired and as I drifted past Great Malvern I was just happy to watch the distance from take off ticking over towards 100km, and when it finally did it I let out a big “yahoo”, and as I was down at 1500ft I ended up using the height to find a nice landing field alongside the main Leominster to Worcester road.
My success with hitching this year continued with me picking up a lift within five minutes – the very kind couple dropped me off right at the railway station where I arrived 15 minutes before the next train south. What’s more, the ticket was only £17.80 – a bargain!
All in all a really great day out, watch a video of the flight below… (Flight detail here).
And as for Big Sunday, well I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait until part 2… 🙂