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March 2003 - II


Sunday 30th March 2003

Report from Adrian Bull

    I went out to Monk's Down today in a hope that I might get my first un-supervised flight in since leaving the Flying Frenzy training school. 
    As I drove up towards the site I could see two or three paragliders and a hang glider already up. I must admit I felt a little apprehensive about flying out side the safety of the school and would like to thank Sean (sorry didn't get your surname) for talking me through the site and the other pilots for giving me so much room. I think I might have over done the length of my red ribbon!

Report from Andy Dawson

    Arrived on Monks late morning to find it slightly off and gusting up to 20. Was this going to be a wasted trip?. 
    After hanging about for an hour with the wind dropping and ground suck weakening I launched half way down the hill only to find I had a line over the wing. (LESSON 1: MUST BE MORE THOROUGH IN MY PRE-FLIGHTS!). 
    At the second attempt I found large gentle blue thermals which I would have been tempted to follow if I had my vario with me, by the time I landed, chatted and re-launched they had lessened. (LESSON 2 ALWAYS PLAN TO GO EVEN THOUGH IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE IT). 
    Anyway, a very pleasant 2hrs+ of flying and over 1000ft ato in sunny warm weather with large lazy thermals and as it being Mothers Day the skies were not packed. Went home and supped wine on the patio- not bad for March.!

Friday 28th March 2003

Report from Alastair Florence

    Decided to give my site a job and knock for the week, we knocked it on Thursday so Friday was free.
    Called David D for info on Sky Surfers sites and David kindly provided directions and weather check for Mercury.
    I arrived at 0900hrs with just one hang glider kitting up. Waited for a bit until a paraglider arrived and then spent the rest of the day there until about 1530hrs when the wind seemed to die. It started off at 15 mph and decreased over the day. Very hazy I managed well over 2 hrs in the air and best height gain was 290 ft (probably not very impressive but it seemed good to me!) The site was pretty quiet with a max of 8 wings around at anytime.

Tuesday 25th March 2003

Report from Alastair Florence

    I'm still working at Waltham Abbey so keep an eye on conditions for Dunstable Downs. Tuesday looked most promising so I took a look at it. Beautiful warm sunny day but very little wind. A few local pilots were scratching for a few minutes at a time, I tried and promptly sunk out, still nice day for a walk back up. This prompted me to decide to change my Epsilon wing on which I'm overweight for something bigger. Trouble is I bought the replacement and have not yet sold the replaced Epsilon (check out the add in for sale dept if you want to help stop the **it hitting the fan when Mrs F checks the next bank statement).

Saturday 22nd March 2003

Report from Nick LeGras.

    I regret that It would appear that you missed another excellent morning at Mercury.
    At 0830 winds on take off were 15mph it was sunny and hazy. The spring thermals that developed a little later were very small and very punchy. I was quite glad someone warned me what to expect as I got slatted around as they came though. Unfortunately, they were not big enough to do a great deal with (for me anyway), but as the morning developed they got larger and more sustained. I recorded +8 up as max climb with max height attained of 358m ato and had two flights totalling 2hr 40mins,
    I had ham egg and chips and a pint in the pub, and was home by 1330. I was happy and grateful for that.

Report from Richard Westgate.

    Amazing day on the Malverns - 22 paragliders, 3 hg's and 1 rigid at one stage
    Moderate easterly quite strong on top at times, a few rusty takeoffs! Inversion 1000ft above take-off rising to 1500ft later on. Drifted over the back for about 5km, but landed in no-mans-land and had a long walk to a road with cars on it.
    Test flying new Ozone Vulcan - very agile, good speed
(Tell us more! DD)
    Evening spent floating down to Worcester beacon and back, someone had set fire to it
(and donwed a PG!), play just upwind of the smoke watching the firemen trying to beat the flames out!°

Saturday 22nd / Sunday 23rd March 2003

Report from Dave Daniels.

    Lies, damned lies, statistics, fantasy and weather forecasts!°


    Friday's forecast a pleasant 10mph from the East on the S Coast became 30+mph for most of the day. 
    Sunday - Friday and Saturdays forecasts both gave Easterly @ 10mph, increasing slightly around lunchtime and then veering to S @ 8mph by 5pm. This materialised as NE @ 14MPH at 9am, that then easterly @ 8/12mph for the rest of the day and never went south at all. 
    For the record - from Monday to Thursday last week the forecast had been for SSE/SSW @ 8/12mph for the whole weekend. 

    See an animation of their changes in mind over the previous 2 weeks for the synoptic for 12am Sat. When you look at this - it's easy to think that it don't change too much some days - but concentrate on S England and it's all over the place until +84 hours - but even when the synoptic stabilizes they continue to change their minds as to the wind we'll actually get an then they get it wrong anyway.

    The flying .....  (did I say "flying"?)
    Saturday - So - on Friday evening they decided it was going to be easterly 10mph - but after last weekend (and with the same inversion that metcheck,com blamed for the higher winds than anticipated still in position) I decided to get up early and fly before it was blown out. Great theory - and the wind WAS 10mph, but on Protland it was NNE/NE at 6am. I waited around for a while - stood under the Wendy Windblows anemometer that was giving E @ 10mph and measured NE @ 9mph - same at the Bill and on the causeway and went back to the caravan.
    Hearing that Jon Harvey was heading to Condor's easterly at Cooney Castle
(Jon tells me today that this site is now closed UFN for lambing!), I went to join him. Bang onto the hill @ 15mph seemed OK. Jon launched and went down, I followed. 15mph on a hill and NO lift? It seems that the very cold night (-2°C when I had got up earlier) and the inversion seemed to make the wind blow across the top of the valley and produce no vertical component. Others turned up and watched Jon demonstrate a couple more times, Harriet P launched and went up, followed by one other Condor's member. Then, several minutes later they descended to earth at speeds that suggested sink in wave from the hills in front.
    Surely the wind would die at the end of the day - so back to Portland to find ZZ and Paul K there with the wind howling - although Paul told me that it was perfect at about 10am but was reluctant to fly there on his own. Not willing to be defeated, Paul and I went for a coffee and returned 90 minutes later to find Adrian B also waiting for the wind to die down. An hour's wait and Adrian departed while the temperature dropped and eventually - with 30mph gusts only 20 mins berfore sunset - we decided to give it a miss.


    Paul and I had decided that early would be a good bet - but Wendy was giving force 4 at 5:30am so I went back to sleep.
    9am and ZZ was after a wind report from the cliff tops - and after putting on some clothes and walking in front of the caravan I was able to report NE/ENE @ 13mph - and texted this to several people lest they believe the SE @ 11knots being given by Wendy at both Portland and Pool. (In fact - so similar were the reports from these two all Sunday, Jeremy M was convinced that Poole was just a clone!).
    I was entertained by a couple of VARY large aero-modellers that were convinced there was a southerly component launch onto fierce rotor, one of them handing the controls to someone he believed more experienced in a state of panic - only for both to plummet to the ground totally out of control and destroy themselves on impact.
    The mobile phone went wild with people asking for, or offering, wind information - and soon it was obvious that, despite the wind being too east, several people were heading to Ballards to await the forecast SE/SSE.
    ZZ and Martin H greeted me as I parked, Jeremy M and Ian O greeted us at the top, Shippo demonstrated a top-to-bottom with beach landing after scratching at cliff top height most of the way to the end - and decided that although it might work around toward Old Harry - it was too much of a risk.
    At the top the wind was E at 13mph.
    Don returned from the beach (Don't you hate it when someone so much older than you is so damned fit!), Gavin Webb (new member, who's wife thought we were a school!), Sean S, Sean L, Nicole B, John R, Daniel C, made it to the top during the day - Alan B and Adrian Bull (new member) lurked for a while at the bottom waiting for us to prove it worth their climbing up (wimps!).
    Shippo, Sean S and ZZ all did a top-to-bottom after proving that there was no lift along the cliff, and later most flew down to the beach in despair before leaving, along with Kaye E and a couple of other SkySurfer members - Debbie and Phil.

    How sad! To be able, or willing, to write so much about so little!

    Monday is looking good from the office window, Wendywindblows and xcweather!   Hrrrmmph!

Thursday 20th March 2003

Report from John Welch.

    This photo was received from John with only the words "This is why we are buying Bell Hill". Enough said.

Bell.JPG (105761 bytes)

Saturday/Sunday 15th/16th March 2003

Report from Nick LeGras.

    Dave, You were partially correct.
    Mercury on Sunday, I believe, was flyable all day and crowded skies reflected that - some near misses were reported paragliders/hang-gliders. I'm also told some p'gliders got away.
    The Saturday, I agree, looked perfect - and with a pass I was on the hill at 0800 (I was the only one!) and when I got out of the car I began to understand why. Wind on the hill, absolutely bob on, but gusting 18-22.  This was actually more than Wendy had indicated half an hour earlier. Great! more "parawaiting" but with no one to talk to ! 
    I stuck around a bit and monitored the wind. It began to ease imperceptibly, the upper values being 18mph-ish and lower 12's. At this point I was tempted and got out the gear. This felt strange in its self, cos I normally have a wind dummy and there were none about.
    This was truly my first potential flight completely unassisted by physical or verbal encouragement. I waited and waited, I started to get tired hanging on to the c's and then a lull, then off I went! It was clear that conditions were marginal as penetration was slow (a bit like when Sean popped off first at bell the other weekend).
    I pushed on out in to the lift band until I was over the trees where I had a thoroughly absorbing 50mins soaring with the hill to my self in occasionally rock'n' roll air and very lifty conditions.
    Rob Fish and Chris pitched up abt 0900 when conditions again began to deteriorate. This was confirmed when the hangies arrived.
    I was knackered as well, so landed. I was a bit slow with the c's and promptly got dragged, and Chris got the wing tip (Thanks Chris!)
    All in all I was chuffed. For a quid, I'd got up, got down, hadn't hurt myself and hadnt buggered any equipment. I should be very pleased if that happened a few more times!.

Report from Colin Davis.

    A great weekend for flying in the Scottish borders.
    Even with the big high pressure near there were plenty of thermals to play with and the use of quad bikes to get up the hills added to the fun.
    Beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, and you could fly until you were sick on both days.
    Well worth the effort of driving up.

Report from Dave Daniels.

    "A great weekend for flying in the Scottish borders" - perhaps - but I was at the caravan in Dorset and I would imagine that the majority of Wessex members were nearer to the Wessex sites than Colin.
    I'd already partly written off the weekend, albeit that Mercury was forecasted to be good and, according to WendyWindblows, was near perfect on Saturday (8-12 ENE when I called). However - having committed to being at the caravan I was determined not to drive past my own front door by going all the way to Mercury. Chances are I missed an epic day - or else I missed one of Mercury's most crowded days. I've yet to hear.
    Yet again the forecasters only tell you half the truth, and Friday's forecasts for five days of E @ 8 to 15mph that most were giving was fine unless you were on the Dorset coast where 32mph - gusting 45mph - was the situation at 11am on Sat at Portland East, at least. Chances are I should have hung around and waited for the wind to die late afternoon, but I didn't.
    John W and I batted meteorological concepts back and forward as to why it was so windy, but none of our ideas were supported by Bracknell's actual chart for mid-day on Sat.

    Sunday had me, John W and Alan B heading for Portland East very early in the morning - but not early enough. When I got there at 6:50am it was on the limit, and within 30 minutes it was up to 30+mph again!

    So - why was it so windy on the coast and at such variance from forecast? The guys at Metcheck.com responded to this question as follows ....

"    As for the wind issue, this was raised in a meeting we had in the afternoon as our wind recordings and forecasts were totally out and we thought that our data was corrupted it got so bad, here was a comment made by one of the forecasters on this issue which I hope clarifies it for you :- 

I believe the inversion was more pronounced and slightly lower than expected earlier this morning, effectively strengthening the low level flow as it became unstable (to about 3000ft). Initially strong winds were expected around the coasts in the SE but not inland. Warnings did go out though as it became more obvious that warning limits were likely to be reached at many inland sites and the 1322 TAFs reflected this. The profiles also suggested rotor streaming was possible today but this is probably more applicable to SW England.

Bl**dy weather huh?  "

    If nothing else - full marks to Metcheck.com for admitting that they got it totally wrong!

Eye in the Sky - March 2003 - I
Eye in the Sky - February 2003
Eye in the Sky - January 2003
Eye in the Sky - November/December 2002
Eye in the Sky - October 2002
Eye in the Sky - September 2002
Eye in the Sky - August 2002 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - August 2002 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - July 2002 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - July 2002 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - June 2002 - Part 3
Eye in the Sky - June 2002 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - June 2002 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - May 2002
Eye in the Sky - April 2002 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - April 2002 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - March 2002
Eye in the Sky - 2001 and before