First XC From the Forgotten Site

After watching everyone else fly xc after xc whilst I was busy at work I finally caved in and booked a last minute day off. Conditions were forecast to be ok for xc flying but not too epic locally. I briefly flirted with the idea of driving to the Malverns but it would have been a very long and expensive drive on my own. I decided to head to Chalton, our rarely used local easterly site.

Chalton is smaller than Mercury or Whitewool and has a lot of trees on the slope. It did have a lot of thorny bushes covering the top and slope but a scrub bash a few years ago cleared a lot and the farmer topped the hill at the beginning of the year. It is still not as friendly as the other two sites but it is greatly improved from the past. Another improvement we have made is to the parking arrangements. The site guide has previously recommended parking in a layby at the bottom of the hill and walking up, quite an unpleasant walk! We have found it easier to park next to the pub and walk through the churchyard and across the top of the hill to launch. This has the added advantage of every flying day ending at the pub.

I arrived at the hill alone at about 1030, usually I don’t like flying alone but it is a common occurrence at Chalton. As I got my kit ready I could already feel thermal cycles coming through and a few cumulus forming in the distance. I took off and immediately found the air to be quite rough with the thermals very sharp edged. A symptom of higher pressure more stable air.

I found some good thermals in amount the chop and a couple of times found myself 700ft above take off and dreaming of leaving the hill. Everytime the thermal bubble would fizzle out and I would drift back down to the ridge. I spent a lot of time scratching the trees for lift and even caught a full frontal on the brakes just as the leading edged started to give way (not pleasant when flying at treetop height). The scratchy conditions meant that I had made the walk up from the bottom of the hill several times by the time RJ turned up at 1230.

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Conditions continued to tease the both of us for another hour before I found a more solid thermal over the road to the north of take off. As I became to circle up I saw RJ screaming across the ridge on full bar to join me.

RJ caught me up as I hit a max altitude of 3000ft asl in a blue sky. The drift was to the south west so we decided to head for the coast rather than our previous goal of Whitewool. With weak thermals and a blue sky I decided to take it slow and milk the lift as RJ steamed off in search of something better. Unluckily he found nothing and landed near Denmead for 11.5km.

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I took a more southerly track staying over urban areas and managed to find another climb with took me to the high point of the flight, 3428ft. I glided for the clouds to the south of me and arrived above them!

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The wind was pushing me towards the radar on Portsdown Hill and I didn’t fancy having my nads fried so I crosswind towards Portsmouth. I didn’t have enough height to cross the built up area safely so I elected to land on Portsdown Hill safely away from the radar! I made 14.5km in the end, setting the Chalton XC record by default as no one had been xc from the site before! I think with a proper easterly or even ese wind and good xc conditions it should be possible to push north around Southampton airspace and onwards to proper distance.

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Video

Go Places – My Paragliding Adventures So Far

Over the long long winter I have set myself a challenge of going through all my old Gopro footage and making a compilation video showing all the amazing places that paragliding has taken me.

Spurred on by last years Wessex Club video competition, I have discovered that shorter videos are far more entertaining. No one wants to watch 30 minutes of someone ridge soaring the local ridge! I have decided to limit myself to 3 minutes unless I have a good reason to go longer (a story to tell or an instructional video).

To make it extra hard for myself I had chosen Isla de Encanta by the Pixies as the music for the video, a fast paced number that only lasts 1:41! Squeezing nearly five years of paragliding experiences into that time has been very tough and time consuming but I’m proud of the result…

New Site Record!!!

Whitesheet – 10th August 2013

The forecast wasn’t great but suggested westerly with a slim chance of xc so I dragged a few fellow Skysurfers along to White/Brown Sheet for a crack. I sent my wind dummies up who confirmed that yes it was a brown day so I decided to see if it calmed down whilst I ate my lunch. By about oneish we had convinced ourselves that the gusts were more sensible and the sky now had a bit of blue in it. Nick Warren and I took off and after a couple of beats of a good kicking we appeared to be going up. Rough and small it was but we both circled each other and hung on for dear life.

We both arrived at cloudbase (Nick for the first time) and I set off for the next cloud with Nick at my side. The cloud produced a broken climb that was a challenging battle of up and down. I was slowly building height but Nick had had enough and flew on. He found something better that got him back up to my height and we both headed onwards. The sink was very bad so when I found some zeroes I hung on for dear life. At this point Nick pushed on and eventually landed for around 15k on his very first xc, bloody excellent in these conditions!

I was spinning around on my own at around 3000ft passing to the south of Salisbury when I spied a building cloud and made a fast glide thought the sink. It was text book stuff and got me back at base. The next couple of thermals zoomed but I was getting pushed towards Southampton airspace.

I didn’t think I would get anywhere near this far so I hadn’t been making an effort to clear it early. I took a thermal right to the edge of the airspace (LK8000 on the gps I bought off of Ruth was excellent for this) and then pushed north and up wind towards the nearest cloud. I found a nice strong but rough climb, well it found me! I was pulled in so hard I had to bury the brakes to stop the surge and then it was straight back into the roundy roundy until the airspace got in the way again.

I was making progress north and eventually squeaked round the airspace to the A303/M3 junction. On the home straight now I had two choices, a fairly close cloud over Popham airfield to the north or a cloud with a sailplane climbing under it further away but directly downwind.

Not wanting to risk getting low over a really busy Popham I headed off to chase after the sailplane. The vario started playing its sad song so I got on bar to clear the sink as quick as possible. Unfortunately it didn’t end until the ground got in the way. I tried for a valiant low save over a tractor but the wind was ripping the thermals to shreds. I spied a nice green lawn next to a massive manor house but thought better of it and picked a recently cut field and put down for a no step landing.

I was collected by a friendly farmer who dropped me at the entrance to the farm (probably just wanted me off of the farm) with instructions that Basingstoke was 8 miles north and Alresford was 8 miles south with no mobile reception and not a lot in between! Apparently I had landed on Preston Farm, owned by Lord Sainsburys!

After a couple of miles of walking down a national speed limit road with no path I decided to knock on a door and a kind couple let me use their house phone to call Nick for retrieve. A few hiccups and a couple of calls from a phone box and he eventually found me! Ended up being 74km which is my personal best and a new Whitesheet record. I still can’t believe it really happened, feels like someone else was flying.

Tracklog http://www.xcleague.com/xc/flights/20132566.html?vx=28

This one can display the airspace so you can see where I got stuck http://www.xcontest.org/world/en/flights/detail:dukeofted/10.8.2013/12:39

Richard

An Amazing Flight Over the Brecon Beacons

Round one of the BCC (British Clubs Challenge) at Nant y Moel on 20th April 2013. We were moved from Talybont due to stronger than forecast winds and arrived at Nant y Moel to find a great looking sky. It didn’t last too long and the clouds spread out covering much of the ground in shadow. Initially hard work to stay up and difficult to get to base, conditions picked up over the Brecon Beacons and I was at base and cruising. A mistake with my GPS (map was zoomed out!) meant I turned to avoid a danger zone way too early and flew into the leaside of Pen y Fan. The bad sink caused me to deck on the outskirts of Brecon just as a couple of pilots were climbing out over the town. One of them, Alistair Andrews went on to fly 130km!

Still, at 37.7km it is my best UK flight to date, and what amazing scenery to fly over!

Tracklog is at xcleague.com/xc/flights/2013667.html?vx=28
Photos – plus.google.com/u/0/photos/110064813345877055043/albums/5873525551212576097

Richard

It doesn’t Always go to Plan

I tried to sneak in an after work fly at Stubbington (Dune de Meon). It had been very windy all day but forecast to drop in the evening. I arrived just after Alasdair and the wind felt good but by the time we had set up it had started to drop. At stubbington, there is no where on the top of the cliff to take off so you have to kite the wing to the base of the cliff and then run like hell along the cliff until you get lifted off of you feet. This takes very good ground handling skills and this site is definitely not for beginners!

Well I ran and ran and ran, most of the length of the cliff like a madman but there just wasn’t quite enough wind. After walking back a bit with a mushroomed wing I spotted a route up to the top of the cliff. I left my gear at the bottom and climbed up to take a look. The wind felt much stronger up here (even though it is only 30ft higher!) but there just wasn’t enough room to lay out a wing.

Ignoring this inconvenience, I carried my wing up to the top and laid it out as best I could. There wasn’t enough room in between the fence and the cliff edge to launch normally so I stretched the lines out along the cliff and did a cobra launch. Luckily the launch went off perfectly, they was zero room for error. All those hours of ground handling paid off again 😀

Unfortunately I was only rewarded with a 10 second flight to the bottom lol. Oh well, better luck next time. Winter will be here soon though 😦

Ringstead Again!

Good old Ringstead produces the goods again! After convincing Pablo, RJ and Kieron that it would be worth the long drive down to Ringstead (two and a half hours each way), I was hoping that we wouldn’t be disappointed! With four people, four solo wings and a tandem in one car it was a friendly drive but we were greeted to the sight of hang gliders flying as we drove up the road to the car park.

The wind on launch was off to the west a bit and quite strong. It seemed doable so the four of us set up and one by one launched and flew out to the cliffs. It was an easy lifty glide out and the usual massive lift band once on the cliffs. I grabbed some photos and flew around a bit but with the wind not south enough you couldn’t venture round the corner and down the coast, so it got a bit dull after a while. A few wing overs and spiral dives broke up the flight nicely and some induced collapses were good practice. Unfortunately the only one that came out on film was a rather tame frontal. After the excitement we all came into land for lunch.

 

Pablo decided now was the time to get the tandem out so I volunteered to be ballast. After a bit of faffing about with the reserve we were clipped in with RJ acting as anchor. At this point the wind had picked up and was very top end. Another tandem picked the wrong moment to launch and was dragged across the field, narrowly missing us. They managed to get it under control with just a few muddy marks to show for it.

 

It was our turn now and the cobra launch didn’t go quite to plan. The wing overshot and started pulling us across launch. We both managed to stay on our feet with the help of RJ and Pablo experted got the wing back over our heads and we were away. It was great fun to be in the front seat and just concentrate on getting some good film angles. Afterwards, Pablo took Kieron up for a bit too.

An excellent day and we all got a good couple of hours airtime in. Kieron started the day with 10.5 hours total airtime and left after his best ever day flying with 13.5 hours!

 

 

 

 

Mere Bash 2012

Whoever ordered the flyable weather over the Mere Bash, bravo! The forecast was for very light winds and not very thermic either. I would never have bother driving all this way on that forecast but Alasdair convinced me to turn up to the bash a bit early on the off chance of a bit of flying. Coming off of the A303 I could already see gliders in the air, funny how you suddenly start driving much faster once you see gliders up! Turns out it was actually quite thermic but with a low inversion. For about an hour or so the thermals were kicking off of the field out front nicely and it was easy to get 1000ft above take off. Mostly nice and smooth too and with no chance of going xc you could just waft around enjoying the view. After a while the clouds came over and everyone floated back down to earth. It remained flyable but scratchy, a bit busy for my liking so I landed for a chinwag. It remained flyable until sun down, with everyone getting their fill of airtime.

With that, everyone set up tents in the landing field and gravitated towards the BBQ’s. After that we moved on the marquee for some excellent music from Leatherat and Also Eden. Combined with cheap local Ale and Cider and a jolly good night was had.

It was even flyable on Sunday morning… if you didn’t have a hang over.

The rest of the photos can be found here.