Bell Hill 19th February
The forecast was for strong winds but also good thermals. It looked like it would be blown out until at least 3pm, and the further west you went, the quicker the wind was dropping. With that in mind, I thought Bell Hill was the best bet. My usual wingman Neil was hung over so I decided to go it alone. Al Jones and Andy Hasler had headed off to Combe but I thought the chance of flight was better at Bell.
On the drive to Bell I could see huge CuNims over Dorset and I drove through a few heavy hail showers, not a promising sign! I arrived at Bell Hill around 2pm to the site of Craig landing on tandem. The wind was flyable but a little gusty for comfort. The CuNims were keeping everyone else grounded too.
By 2.30pm the clouds looked like they were loosing energy and the gusts were no longer as strong. Derek Sadler was the first into the air, not bad for someone in their 80’s! Everyone quickly followed and there was soon around a dozen wings in the air. It was surprisingly gentle in the air, a nice change from Butser on Friday. Gentle thermals were coming through and you could push way out over the road and just waft back in lazy circles, fantastic! After about an hour the lift died and everyone floated back down to land on top. Everyone, that is, except for the speck that was Alastair Florence! He had managed to connect with a cloud street out front and was following it away from the hill. After a while even he started to descend, eeking out the last of the lift to scrape over the bushes onto top landing.
It seemed to be all over and most people packed up and left. I took the opportunity to practice some ground handling. The lift picked up a bit and Sean Staines (back from a 25k xc on his hang glider) took off on his paraglider. He seemed to be doing ok so I took off and joined him. I managed another 15 minutes or so of floating around in the last of the lift. I packed up in the last of the light and walked back to the car satisfied.
Friday 17th February
It’s always nice when the forecast lines up for a bit of after work relaxation in the air. Unfortunately this time the forecast was strong and for a direction suited to Butser West, a site not exactly famous for its relaxing flying!
With nothing else planned for the afternoon, I thought it was worth a try anyway. Alasdair Jones disagreed with me and decided to stay at work.
Arriving in the car park, I could see two wings in the air, always a good sign. On take off it was strong and pretty gusty but seemed doable. A man and his daughter were asking me questions about paragliding so I thought it best to show rather than tell. Thankfully my launch was text book, although I was barely making headway in the venturi. A quick squeeze of bar got me out and away from launch and I quickly climbed up to meet my fellow flyers. There were weak thermals coming through, which was pulling the wind anywhere from NW to SW. This was causing quite a bumpy ride at times and I had my first collapse for ages. It was only a little one and I reacted well (even if I do say so myself) so it was a non event. I took a little climb in one of the thermals to a couple of hundred above take off and decided to try and push forward to Oxenbourne. This is a ridge to the south west of Butser and takes a north west wind. This little flight is a bit of a right of passage at Butser and I had never done it before so I was determined. The glide over was quite sinky and I had to use half bar to make good speed against the wind. I arrived quite low but soon climbed back up. It was much smoother than on Butser so I stayed a while before an easy glide back to Butser.
I made it over to Oxenbourne again just to prove to myself that the first time was a fluke. I made it over easy but the wind dropped and I couldn’t quite make it back to the ridge lift. I ended up landing in the bottom side field. When the wind picked up a bit I almost managed to take off from this field but there wasn’t quite enough lift.
A nice afternoons flying all in all and it was nice to finally get over to Oxenbourne.
Video is on Youtube and Vimeo.
Following on from the Wessex photo competition, I have narrowed down my massive collection of paragliding photos to my favourite 12 from last year.
You can find them here.
Has anyone else narrowed their photos down to a handful of favourites? I would love to see them!
Rounding Handfast Point in Swanage.
Just won the Wessex Club photo competition with this photo! £20 of Northern Paragliding vouchers to spend now. Thanks to Neil McCain for organising and for everyone who voted for my photo. Several people called me mental though for some reason 🙂
Tom Payne has released a new version of his excellent xc planner. It is currently a beta test and the address is likely to change. With winter firmly here now, what can we do but dream up ridiculous new routes!
A ridiculous 400km flight from Butser South.
How to do 400km from Butser South. You would probably need 20mph wind on launch and more at flying altitude and cunims forming all around. It might be possible on a rigid hang glider I guess, I don’t think the thermals would last long enough to make it on a paraglider. Even getting away from Butser South would be a massive achievement, let alone doing big distance. It would be hilarious if some sky god did a big distance flight from Butser, you would have all these top pilots flocking to one of the worst flying sites in the country!
A slightly more realistic flight might be Butser West to Margate, via Devils Dyke for 183km. Devils Dyke to Margate has been done before, and you can definitely do Butser to the Dyke. The question is, can you get from Butser to the Dyke early enough to take advantage of the sea breeze front rather than being decked by it?
Simon Vacher with help from Myles Dunlop and myself have updated our local clubs website to use WordPress. It is live now at www.skysurfingclub.co.uk. We have migrated the old content over so it is mostly there, just some styling tweaks to make to the theme and we are done. Comments welcome!