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"Foot and Mouth" Summer 2001


Thursday 31st May

Report from Matt Charlesworth:

    A promising forecast and a great sky led to re-arranging the office diary and an early escape at lunchtime. John Alder phoned me from the hill saying it was superb so I hot footed over there.
    John (Airwave Crossbow) had been up for nearly an hour with Ron Smith (La Mouette Topless) but unfortunately the paragliders (poor loves!) were blown out by the brisk wind gusting up to and just over 20mph. As I'm still proudly flying a red ribbon, John kindly landed to see me off the launch (I was a Bell Hill virgin!) so off I went using slope lift over the small bowl to the right.
    After mooching about and getting about 500ft under me with occasional thermal bumps, better lift came through. Round I went with the vario screaming at me all the way up to 1985ftATO, "which was nice". You can see the sea from up there, I'd never realised. In fact on the days second flight, up to 2200ft ATO, I could see all the way from the Isle of Wight to beyond Portland. Quite an initiation.
    Ron and John were both staying higher than me as I had little penetration and had to leave the lift to push back forwards. I was still going up at that stage so could have got even higher. The top landing field was very turbulent but all got down safely. More paragliders turned up but much waiting, much looking at wind meters and general sky watching was taking place although the day was really just for the hangies.
    The wind didn't look like dropping and there still seemed to be plenty of lift around when I left just after 5 o'clock. All, in all, a great day. Worth taking the afternoon off for, and another hour and a half in the log book, I'll get that ribbon off soon then it's off to Ringstead.
    Once again, a great thankyou to John Alder.


Monday, May 28th

Report from Dave Daniels:

How great it was to be back sitting on Bell Hill in the glorious bank holiday Monday sunshine! How typical that the wind was 90 off !

    So - I can definitely confirm that things are getting right back to normal!

However, I did have great pleasure in removing the "Site Closed" sign from the gate post - I'll bring it along to the meeting next week for a ceremonial burning!

I spent a large amount of the weekend sat at the caravan at Durdle Door in thick mist - mist that was rolling past at a speed and direction that was just perfect for flying the cliffs .... if you kitted yourself up with head-up display 3D radar!

    Oh yes!  Things are most positively getting back to normal!

So - now it's Tuesday morning - a cold front has gone through and I drove to work with the roof down under cool and promising blue skies. In the office I phoned a couple of Wendys and ....... need I say any more?  Perfect for Bell Hill!

    Triple confirmation that Sod's Law is metering out his anti-paraglider rays!


April/May

Report from Matt Charlesworth:

A club pilots guide to getting more hours in your log book.
Rule number one: Buy an airline ticket and go somewhere where it doesn't rain.
Rule number two: Take with you your hangliding instructor and six other guys to share cars and driving.

So off I went to Padul, just south of Granada in the foothills of Sierra Nevada in Andalucia. It's a quieter area than some of the more famous sites, so less crowded (we saw only 3 or 4 local pilots) and more suited to a load of low airtime, red ribboners from the UK.
Our instructor is John Barratt from Sussex Hangliding and Paragliding. He drove down with the gliders and we flew down to Malaga to pick up cars at the airport. He's a very cool, and confidence building, instructor and is very experienced which was very helpful as day one started with putting gliders together then doing a couple of 1,500ft top to bottoms! WOW! It makes White Horse look a bit flat. I know that lots of people reading this will have experienced this before but it was quite an eye opener to us. Adrenaline ? I love it!
To cut a weeks story short, we flew at Padul for two days but the lift wasn't really there so went to Loja (60kms) for afternoon flying the rest of the week. I was wind dummy on the first day and expected a 2,000ft top to bottom. I went down 1,000ft with bumps of lift then got a bigger bump and worked my way up 2,700ft, to 3,700ft above the landing field. Not bad for an Airwave Calypso (Intermediate glider) and two hours in my log book. I was up for two hours enjoying the view but got airsick (work that one out with a full face helmet!) so worked my way down.
The last days we flew again at Loja at sunset, de-rigging practically by car headlights which was magical and also drove up to the top of Sierra Nevada (Pico de Valeta) to take photos in the snow at 2,500 metres! Now that's a takeoff. Maybe next year?
All in all a great experience and I'm all fired up to fly in the UK as soon as FMD allows.


April/May

Report from David Daniels:

    Following on with Shaun's theme of "Britain is not where it's at ..... ", I've just returned from Bassano in North Italy on the southern limit of the Dolomites - 55km NW of Venice airport serviced by an 88 return flight with "GO".
    I obtained my CP back in June 1999, and the 7 weeks I've previously been attempting to clock up some hours in France and S. India had amounted to almost nothing, and as we entered the year 2001 my logbook showed a total of just 45 hours.
    Last November one of my weeks in S. France was an XC course with Bob Drury - but the weather meant that the flying part of the course never happened. However, Bob struck a spark somewhere in my paragliding mind and rekindled the initial enthusiasm I'd had for the sport, and immediately upon my return I booked another course with him for this coming September. When I received an email, just three weeks ago, that he was running an XC course in Bassano at the end of April I leapt at the opportunity.
    The first morning as I looked out of the bedroom window at 6:30am was already justification - a towering range of mountains with the road to takeoff  just  yards from the hotel, a brilliant sun drenched sky and almost no wind that developed into a sky full of perfectly formed Cu as the day progressed, and a large landing field also just yards from the hotel!
    Six flying days out of seven meant that exhaustion from flying was the greatest danger for the week.
    My thermalling skills to date have been rather untested and, whilst I was thermalling, I was not matching the efficiency of others around me. So, on day 3, when another in the group who had damaged their wing borrowed mine, I went for a tandem flight with Bob that lasted the best bit of 4 hours and covered some 34km out-and-back. This was an incredible experience! To be flying a paraglider without having to think more than which way it  was needed for me to weight-shift meant that I had time to think about what was actually happening. The difficulty, if anything, was discerning that anything was being done by Bob so efficiently and so effectively did he fly as he drew upon his thousands of hours of experience to find and exploit thermals. I shall be drawing on that experience for many flights into the future.
    The following day we flew from Feltre, a town in the first E-W valley of the Dolomites north of Bassano.
    This launch site, as on the previous day, was a site to make any Brit envious. Forget the height, forget the 10,000ft cloud base and the perfect thermic conditions. To be on two hills in two days that are devoid of rocks, trees, bushes and covered in a grassy/mossy matting is just incredible. Add to this a large rounded dome shape of a hill that permits launches through some 90degrees of direction and a vast area for top landing - and one is in paraglider heaven. Add the 4,000ft height above the valley floor and one has the manifestation of paragliding utopia!
    Most of the XC group managed a 72km out-and-back that day (I alas managed only the first few km), one of the group only having some 30hrs. He, in fact, remained in the air for a further 2 hours once he had returned to t/o!
    Despite not managing to make the enormous distances, flying tandem one day, choosing not to fly on the last day and weather preventing flying on another day - I still managed to add over 10hours to my total to date. A 25% increase in one week!
    My other personal achievements in the week? My first 3,300ato (and that was a 4,700 t/o!) - my first 1,200fpm climb - my first reaching cloud base - and that was at 8,000ft asl! It's going to take one helluva week to do more than that in 7 days!


March - Part II

Report (or novel?) from Shaun Parsloe:

    I did my first ever XC this month and was very excited about it. When I left on my first trip to SA in January I had only 3 hours in my log - I've now got 13!
    I sent the letter below to the school that taught me, maybe you can chop some bits from it and put it on the website. Regards, Shaun ----- I was in Wilderness, South Africa (about 4 hours from Cape Town) just after New Years 2001 - good ridge soaring with smooth lift off the sea but very little thermal activity. While I was there I met Tristam from Blue Sky Paragliding (www.blusky.co.za). He wet my appetite by telling me about the good thermic flying in Durban. On the 2nd of March 2001 I flew out to South Africa for my friends wedding and seeing as I was in the neighbourhood, I flew up to Durban to join Tristam. My goal was to gain a bit more experience in thermic conditions and hopefully to go cross-country.
    Tristam picked me up from Durban airport in a rattling Land Rover that was to be our chariot of choice for the next five days. It was the perfect vehicle for all the fording of rivers and climbing up tracks in mountains! It was a long drive, but we got to Bulwer in the Drakensberg Mountains mid-afternoon.
    Just to loosen up and get the rustiness out we did a bit of ridge soaring. It was amazing flying close to the mountain watching the wildlife around us. We even got a juvenile Black Eagle soaring with us at one point!
    Tuesday morning dawned clear as a bell and we were excited about the prospect of a good XC day. As soon as we saw the first cloud forming in the sky we headed up the hill.
    I caught one thermal while I was waiting for the others to launch and my vario went absolutely ape! I shot up at +12 (I think its measured in f/min x100) and I was worried that I'd get caught in cloud suck or something. It's quite scary being the only one in the air and whooshing up. I put in some large big ears but still was rushing up and finally I had to do a b-line stall. I'd never done one before and was bloody nervous about doing it. I couldn't believe how hard I had to pull on the b-lines to collapse the wing, I almost lifted myself out of the seat I was hanging on the straps so hard! The wing folded and I was soon rushing down (registered -15 on the vario). When I let go of the straps the wing recovered nicely but pitched forward quite a bit. (Luckily I remembered reviewing the documentation on the wing where they said not to come out of a b-line stall slowly else there was a chance of it developing into a full stall). I then big eared again but the guys were only just launching and I was rushing up again, so once more it was b-line stall time. (Really hurts the hands - wear gloves!) This time when I released I damped the forward pitch with a bit of brake and it worked quite well.
    I'd lost the big lift and this time I had to work smaller, broken up thermals to get up but managed to get to just over 1km above launch (3100 ft!) and then we turned and went over the back. It wasn't an ideal day as it'd overdeveloped and there really wasn't that much to work once we'd left the hill. I followed a gliding eagle for a bit but he couldn't find anything to soar and soon flew away. Patchy bits of lift from a settlement got me up a bit again and when that petered out I carried on following the route the other guys had taken.
    I managed to stay up for an hour and cover 12km (a shade over 7 miles) before finding a nice looking landing field where a tractor was mowing the grass.
    There was quite a good ground effect, lovely hot air simmering on the mown grass and I had a lovely long slow glide when I came into land. I surprised the hell out of the poor tractor driver when I suddenly appeared a few feet off his left shoulder and shouted "Hello!" as I glided alongside him. I'm afraid his lovely straight lines across the field were ruined!
    The landing was perfect, soft and into wind (I'd checked wind direction from the tractors exhaust smoke) and I stood there for half a minute just showing off, ground handling the wing above my head. What an awesome feeling - the mixed rush of disappointment that I was on the ground and the buzzing thrill of doing my first ever cross-country!
    I had a very long walk from there. I'd aimed to land next to a road but there was no traffic. I walked for well over an hour and a half in the heat with my pack and warm clothing until I reached a farm. I was exhausted. I popped in to ask for directions (and some water) and they very kindly gave me a lift back!
    That was the best flight of the week and my only XC. Wednesday we went to another site renowned for its valley release but after an hour of ridge soaring the wind died out and we couldn't get up into the air any more.
    Thursday was a rest day - I climbed the ridge above Rods cottage, but the wind changed direction and came up over the back so I did an alpine launch into almost no wind and glided down the back, around the spur and down to land by the cottage. There was lots of swimming in the dam, reading and relaxing. We were staying in a thatched house in the mountains - stunning views and not a person in sight. It was a torturous road up to the cottage, but it was well worth it just for the peace and solitude. Tristam commented that many overseas visitors come there to fly but are so caught up in the beauty of the scenery that they just land up hiking or swimming in the dam and not actually venturing up the hill to fly. Not that I blame them, it's just only a bit over 400ft up, but it's practically vertical and a killer in the heat.
    On Friday we only had about half an hour of flying out at "One Gum" in Durban. This is a big air site - a thin, almost spine backed ridge with very high cliffs that work well when the wind is right, and for us it was spot on! That was a bit hairy, had to use big ears a lot to get down - the wind was strong and it was very thermic - very active flying! I did a top landing there with full big-ears, almost fluffed it when I let them out and missed my C-lines but luckily Tristam caught me and helped me stop the wing before it went over the back!
    This last trip taught me a lot! I think an SIV course is definitely the next thing I want to do. I want to experience stalls and collapses and learn how to do things like spiral dives in a controlled environment so that next time I'm up and something happens I can know how to react. When I was getting worried and thinking that cloud suck had got me, I'd have loved to have known how to do a spiral dive to get out of that kind of situation. Big ears are ok, b-lines are better, but a spiral dive really looses height fast and sometimes that's very necessary. I've talked about lots of these things with lots of guys but there's a big difference in talking and in doing!

(Sigh! D.)


March - Part I

Report from Jeremy M:

Back from my tenth trip to the Hotel California (Spain). I managed to get a little more than an hour and a half air time in a week on the coast and inland at Otivar and Sabenas. The main problem was strong winds and a rain/snow inland. This is well below the average air time (5-10hrs a week) of the last few years and (of course) the weather was improving as we left. If you have not been before what better excuse than FMD do you need to escape to Spain and sample Dirk and Tracys' hospitality; especially as there are cheap flights to Malaga at present. Just be careful to avoid the hot embers on the beach.......... ask Dirk!
(Thanks, - took me a while to remember where I kept these pages!)


Eye in the Sky - Feb 2001
Eye in the Sky - September and October 2000
Eye in the Sky - August 2000
Eye in the Sky - July 2000
Eye in the Sky - June 2000
Eye in the Sky - May 2000