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August 2003 - Part III


Sunday 31st August 2003

Report from Gary Puhl

    The forecast and weatherjack convinced me Bell should be brilliant. Setting off early to get a parking space was worthwhile. (We will have to buy more of the hill to build a car park next)
    There was no wind and no sign of the 'bubbling clouds' as promised. On the horizon cumulus abounded. It gradually approached. A few launched in the hope of connecting with lift in front of the hill. We had to walk back up each time we tried. Suddenly a strong thermal slipped up the bowl right of take off and those that were ready got in.
    It was rough but big and soon only 3 of us - Sean Lovatt, the lovely Nicole and myself (not so lovely) - were committed to a trip over the back. To my surprise there was lift everywhere and I watched Sean and Nicole spec out east of my climb. I must have been 1000ft below them so pushed on to find something better.
    Each successive climb on the way to Wareham became stronger and cloud base went higher. By the time I reached Wareham, Sean and Nicole had merged under the same cloud and we climbed ever higher to a base of 6500ft - the highest I have ever known in the UK.
    It was cold (freezing) and popping out of the side of the cloud into the sunshine was a relief. The view was spectacular. This needed to be photographed. Portland to the Isle of Wight was clearly visible. The aim now was to reach Durlston Head at Swanage. There it was, tempting me to glide in.
    Resisting my usual urge to go for it and bomb out, the thermal over Corfe took me back to 5000ft before I jumped out. Pushing on to The point, all 3 of us merged to arrive together. Selecting our landing site we circled around Swanage back to Durlston hitting more lift than we wanted. We could have flown for hours but Nicole forced her way down as she was suffering with the cold. You had to find sinking air and core it to get down.
    After 12 years of flying I had finally made it to the coast. Nicole, (now warming up in the sunshine) announces this is her second XC. The first was 5km. This one was 39km. Sean and I discussed how rough some of the air was and how impressed we were with Nicole's flying. There's no way we could have given in. Nicole then declares the only thing that stopped her going down was following us around the sky. Gaggle flying is definitely better than doing it alone.
    Must do it again.

(Click on photo for larger version. Click on title for full-size 2048x1536 versions for your desktop!)

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Poole Harbour from the North West Wareham
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River Frome Brownsea Island
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Poole Harbour Corfe
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Kimmeridge Langton Matravers
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Sean & Nicole. Worth Matravers bottom right
- Portland miles in the distance!
Sean & Nicole - Durlston Head
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Swanage "Come in Durlston Head!
This is Nicole on finals to land!"

Report from Nicole "Cloud-Base" Barnard

    Bell Hill and nil wind was becoming synonymous when Sunday, just after noon, the experienced pilots all started to kit up when we saw and felt the first thermal of the day blowing through, ready for the next. I already foresaw another day of standing there, fully kitted up and nowhere to go, much like Saturday (for me anyway).
    The thermal started to blow through underneath this one really nice looking cloud. Then Gary Puhl, then Sean L took off. I decided to follow, but having just turned right into the bowl, I saw Sean getting g a 50% deflation, with Gary also being kicked around. "Do I really want to go there???" crossed my mind only for a fraction of a second when I saw Sean push out in front and going up like crazy. By now the air was full of gliders, but Gary cored something really nice and I decided to follow. Next thing I know we are behind bell and still climbing in a steady 4-up.
    When I looked back I couldn't understand why I was so insecure about leaving the hill before. The valley behind is one big farm (with Wareham forest in the middle) - with nice-looking landing fields all over the place! I kept working my thermal, still keeping an eye out for Sean who had hung back at the hill for a bit longer. But that wasn't for long. Next thing I know I'm calling to Sean at about 3 grand that my hands were freezing and I wanted to put my gloves on but didn't know how to without falling out of the thermal! That'll teach me to take off without wearing them!
    It was a slow climb to cloud-base which was at about 6 grand. Sean took over from being on top of the stack soon after we left the first cloud on the glide to the next, with his Brontes being that little bit better performing on the bar than mine. I never managed to catch up with him again. At Bere Regis we came across this huge working cloud that was sucking like crazy.
    Sean went up into it and I followed Gary through a wispy bit out into the brilliant sunshine on a glide to another cloud. He had finally decided to join us, having spent most of his flight on a slightly different strategy ;-) Sean had left us by that stage and glided out over the forest to Wareham. We all hit quite a lot of sink there, but the brown gorse on the other side made up for it! I was actually looking for a landing field, when I saw Gary find something really strong and I headed over. Sean, Gary and I were literally yanked out of our seats back up to cloud-base. Later, when we compared notes, we were both amazed by the strong, punchy thermals. By that time I was very cold and very tired, and seeing Swanage so close and yet so far was was getting tedious. But we still had two thermals and two clouds to go!
    Over Corfe Castle we found another working cloud, but by now it was easy one and two-ups and Swanage was coming conveniently closer. Only one more thermal, and we were soaring above Durlston head, looking down on the lighthouse. We were finally there! Sean and Gary flew around for a little while longer, but I couldn't wait any longer to get my shaking legs and cold body on the ground. I guess for any novice XC pilot, the first one is always the most memorable, but what an amazing XC to start me off in the UK! Much thanks to Gary Mullins who actually followed us in the car all the way and were there to pick us up when we landed, and thanks too to Gary Puhl and Sean L who stuck it out with the slower, and much more inexperienced pilot on the flight!.

Report from Mike Bretherton

    Epic conditions at Combe Gibbet had loads of people away, climbed out in a gaggle, resisted the temptation to go on a glide with the rest and stayed with the lift till it decayed over Hastbourne. Glided to Andover where a low save got me back to base again. Then took a decision to go west and followed a street cloud but ended up flying very much into wind to get round the airspace. Zig zaged around near Romsey, in and out of the very large cumulus up to 5,600ft (very cold) and landed near Whiteparish with Adrian Leppard who flew alongside me all the way.

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Adrian Leppard @ Cloud-base Newbury The road to Romsey

Report from Craig Byrne

    Having taken the long route to Bell to avoid the steam fare, as I approached the hill it looked busy with cars and gliders but not much flying, the sky was looking good so I got suited and booted ready for the 13:00 thermal that I had booked.
    The 13:00 thermal arrived on time and very busy sky's, only Gary, Nicole & Sean managed to get away as we watched enviously from the hill, they all made the coast.... 'BIG RESPECT' :o)
    I now hatched a cunning plan; just go with the next thermal how ever low! Lots of small hops later a good thermal came and sticking to this one like glue I worked it for every scrap of lift, before heading off on a buoyant glide working the odd zeros on route before finally being decked at Charlton on the Hill 10.6k. ZZ, Luigi, Jim all made 9.5k.
    On the hill late afternoon lots had some good flights including new red ribbon pilots who flew very well in the on & off conditions.
    The day was finished in the time honoured way at the pub. Lets hope we get more of these conditions in the coming month!.
(You mean pub conditions? No probs! DD)

Report from Alastair Florence

    I don't know what's worse, a day when you cant bunk off work but the Devils Dyke web cam is showing a sky full of gliders or promising to spend (most) of the day with your wife, going for a walk along the ridge from Swanage - Corfe - Swanage and having to suffer the pain of watching Sean L, Nicole B and Gary P ( It looked like them anyway) (it was! DD) passing over your head at cloud-base on their way to Swanage. It looked like they had a few K's to spare over Swanage, shame the land runs out there though.
    On the walk back from Corfe there was virtually Zero wind and what there was seemed NW.
    Later I couldn't resist a quick run up to Kimmeridge and was surprised to find 11-15mph WSW. I had the hill to myself apart from the odd buzzard and crow. Some typically punchy thermals making for an exiting hour. Eventually some big dark clouds began to roll southward as the wind became due West. The air was getting wickedly rough signalling the end of the sea breeze and my flight.

Report from Dave Daniels

    Chances are there will be other reports submitted over the next couple of days - so, briefly ...
    Bell Hill - loads of people - Nicole B showed Sean L and Gary P how to ride cloud-base, and some more on the convergence reaching 6,400ft asl, all landing together at Swanage for 39km. Craig B managed 12km landing just before Spetisbury. Martin H went XC, cannot remember to where. And Luigi, Dave F and ZZ managed a gaggle flight to  Winterborne Kingston.

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        Gary D came 4th at the Bognor Birdman with 29m as opposed to the winner with 81m.

Eye in the Sky - August 2003 - Part II
Eye in the Sky - August 2003 - Part I
Eye in the Sky - July 2003
Eye in the Sky - June 2003 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - June 2003 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - May 2003 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - May 2003 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - April 2003
Eye in the Sky - March 2003 - II
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