Sunday 7th June had been looking like a good day from quite a few days out, and for once the actual was every bit as good as the forecast! Most of the SW XC hounds descended on Leckhampton, with the remainder heading for Coombe Gibbet for the Advance British Clubs’ Challenge round being held there.
I took off at 1130 and spent about ten minutes soaring before climbing out with Nick Somerville, Gussay Guscott and Eddie Colfox among others.
The first decision point when flying from Leckhampton is which side of Kemble to go. As the wind was NNW and forecast to veer to the NNE through the day we opted to go to the east, after all, why make things difficult for yourself early on?
Now past Kemble it was time to try and head in a more southerly direction in order to give us plenty of time to get to the west of the Salisbury Plain Danger Area.
We had to cross quite a wide blue hole 10km either side of the M4, but with three of us our search area was much increased and we made it across without too much trouble, then once past Lyneham the sky improved with nice clouds marking the way.
It had been fairly slow going up so far – 3 hours to fly 60kms straight line – but with our crosswind dogleg I guess this wasn’t all that surprising, but now that we were almost round the Danger Area, and had a good line of clouds marking the climbs, it was pretty much a matter of joining the dots!
Unfortunately by this stage Nick had dropped back a bit, so Gussay and I cruised past Westbury at 5000ft and made much faster progress southwards.
It was pretty much plain sailing from here with Gussay and me working well as a team, and having taken just over three hours to get to Westbury, it only took two hours to fly the remaining 70kms.
Just before Dorchester I did a spot of surreptitious cloud flying, topping up to 5,800ft in order to maximise my chances of reaching my goal at Weymouth Golf Course, and from 17kms out I pretty much glided in on a lifty line. I wonder if the sea breeze from the east and west of Weymouth meets and forms a gentle area of convergence between Weymouth and Dorchester?
I had some spare height over the golf course so decided to get a bit closer to the railway station (and more importantly, to an ice cream!) so glided over Radipole Lake and then spent a good five minutes circling the car park at 300ft wondering if I could get enough height to make it onto the beach. In the end I decided discretion was the better part of valour and I opted for the car park.
I had just enough time for an ice cream on beach before my train, the 1756 para-express to Bath and Bristol! Nick didn’t join the train at a later stop despite landing near Maiden Newton after his first 100km flight (actually 125kms) – he ended up getting a lift most most of the way back to his car in Bath. I had driven my car to Leckhampton, but fortunately for me, my other passenger, Frazer Wilson, had managed to get back to the hill and drive it back to Bath – thanks very much Frazer!
I don’t know how many pilots made it to Weymouth in total – it must have been a lot as people were dropping in from Monksdown (50kms), Westbury (75kms), Coombe (109kms), Leckhampton (142kms) and The Lawley (210kms!) until about 7pm! It turned out that Sunday 7th June was the biggest ever day in the history of the UK PG XC League with some almost 12,000kms flown, with 53 flights over 100kms, including eleven over 200kms! (Note to self – must travel farther north on the next Big Sunday!) What a great day!
Watch out for the video will will follow in due course!
Flight details on XC League here.