Eye in the Sky - May 2004
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Wed 19th May 2004
Report by Nicole Barnard
I came to the conclusion that late-afternoon paragliding midweek could
be very dangerous for fellow commuters as I was frantically dashing back
from Portchester to get to Bell in time for the late-afternoon release.
Then, coming over the crest into Blandford, I could see a multitude of
wings high up in the air above Bell. Not a good sign - I was missing it!!!
So driving up Bell on a Wednesday at 7pm I was not too surprised to see
the Bell Hill Car Park packed to the brim. I had just caught the end of
it, but just couldn't get my wing out fast enough to get into the air
with everyone else before the magic lift died down. I took out the wing
nevertheless - even if I just managed some groundhandling I would be happy!
And playing with my wing above me, I finally felt a gentle tug and off
I went. I managed to scratch around alone in the bowl and land back on
t/o for after about 15 minutes. Everyone else was packing away except
myself and Dave T (sorry guys, I was way too concentrating on getting
into the air, I hardly clicked who else was on the hill!), and our patience
paid off as the last of the pack left the hill, with another 25 minutes'
soaring in the bowl. I tried another small hop just before sunset, but
just about made it back to t/o half way down the hill. We milked it to
the end. What a wonderful end to a Wednesday!!!
17th & 18th May
Report by Mike Adkins
Apart from the daytime thermic possibilities well exploited by Peter R, Adrian C, Dave F & others, the last two evenings have provided a strange but welcome phenomenon in that at around 1730 each day the sky cleared and a steady consistent NW breeze set in which continued until dusk. Many pilots, far too numerous to name all, but including, Dave F, Derek S, Martin F, Craig B, Harry D etc took advantage of this to have a lovely couple of hours' soaring with height gains of 500 odd ft with the odd thermal wafting through. Several pilots remarked that it was like restitution lift in the mountains but with a bit more breeze. I'm not enough of a meteorologist to explain it, but let's hope it continues - it makes a good complement to the 3 o'clock thermal!
Sat 15 May 2004
Report by RW
White Horse - Arrived at midday with Steve " Spinner" P. Stuart M., Derek S. & Martin ? from Westbury. We discovered Daniel P. & the "Bigman" trying to scratch, it became quite thermic but only on a small scale although there were a couple of larger thermals that allowed some height gain and several beats of the ridge.It is encouraging to see low airtime Pilots practicing their skills at every opportunity and the practice paying off!! Several others arrived later & more arrived too late. Good to see Nick & Gill Le G. long absence Gill but you got your feet off the ground! Sean Staines C.C. showing how to scratch but what about a reserve? Many others Dave D. Dave T. Aiden ? Simon C W.Peter W & apologies to any others. N.B. The cry went up" Why didnt anyone tell me it was flyable"? So to help others I am available most days & if it is flyable I will be on a hill somewhere in Dorset. I will NOT call you but you can call me on 07703341799 at about 0900hrs I will let you know where I think it is flyable, I will NOT answer texts! Remember you can check weather reports on our Web & links.
Thurs 13 May 2004
Report by RW
This was a "hard" day at the office! After an hour of scratching the front ridge Martin F. managed to gain enough height for a sojourn to the cliffs; I followed and had to work very hard in front of the 2nd house to make any progress. Martin F. was delighted with his ability to stay up ( I think its his new Gin Oasis) he said it was Pilot skill!! I eventually made 150' above White Nothe & was very pleased with the flight. It was good to see Steve P. practicing his ground handling & managing to beat the front ridge - ground handling always pays off in the long run.
Friday 7th May 2004
Report by Alistair Florence
After work I travelled home via Bell. I had assumed it had been flyable earlier although conditions looked fairly strong on the way out.
I arrived to see several hangies packing up and one assembling the glider ready for action. The wind was measuring a bit top endish but fairly steady. After several remeasures the wind speed seemed to be fairly stable. So in with the lead shot as discussed last night and up and away. The hanglider was airborne as well by now. I could just make headway against the wind so had a spent ¾ hour out in front of the hill. Richard M who had been HG ing joined on PG, I cant quite understand how he gets so much height with good penetration (nor can he).
After a bit we both encountered a nice wide patch of lift which took us both up to about 400ft ato unfortuneatly the lift was accompanied by a gust which began to make us both struggle to stay in front of the hill. The gust became a bit more prolonged and Richard admitted defeat just landing in the top field. I fought a bit longer with some speed bar but gave in (probably had no choice) again just making a landing within the top field.
The prolonged gust was becoming more permanent and getting stronger so
it seemed just as well to go home.
P.S flew Kimmeridge previous evening, there are some vicious thermals
coming off ploughed land to the SE of take off. On a thermic day these
could really be very punchy at the moment, be prepared for a rough ride
in places, take care. (good fun though).
Report by Dave Winn - My first XC
The weather reports gave light NW's so myself & Mark P decided work could go on the back burner and set off for Bell. The clouds were starting to form as we headed towards Blandford & every tractor,old git driver and roadworks seemed to slow our progress there.
Arriving we found about seven cars there with one wing in the air. One wing is enough so we both raced to get our kit on and almost ran to t/o with our wings to launch.
By now the thermals were wafting up the hill and we were both in the air quickly. Soaring the ridge it was a bit scratchy but as the thermals came through I was lifted straight up to 2000ft & kept going up, slowly increasing height & circling over the back I started to realise I was going to go xc. The vario kept up a steady beat & soon I was a few fields back from t/o when much to my frustration the beeping stopped & no matter where I searched my thermal had disappeared and there were no other clouds within reach so down to earth I went.
Not to be put off by landing a couple of km from t/o I trudged back to
Bell, had a drink and
set off again. About five beats along the ridge I found another thermal and using the same technique as before I slowly circled over the back & upto cloudbase ( I didn't know this at the time, I just wondered what the wispy bits of smoke were that kept passing by, until I looked up and the wing was in the cloud ) & a very slow drift took me overthe fields towards Blandford. Then I lost the thermal again and after trying to find it upwiind for ages decided to go find another one & as luck would have it right under another cloud the vario made a half-hearted bleep which got my attention & then it started steadily bleeping all the way back up to cloudbase much to my relief. Two other paragliders appeared under a huge cloud and distracted me from what I was doing & either the thermal I was in disappeared or I flew straight out of it heading in their direction. On the way I found another thermal & stayed with it much to my relief as I watched one of the others losing height rapidly.
Keeping the pylons to my left I wondered when I would find the time to
relax & have a drink ( there was no time at all as there was no way
I was going to lose this one & concentrated on staying in lift) it
was then that I realised that airspace was not far away & a slight
heading to the right would be required shortly & as I ran out of room
and had to make the turn there wasn't a cloud within reach and I drifted
back to earth with a first proper xc of 20 odd km.
Thurs 6th May 2004
Report by RW
John M. arranged to come down from Sky Surfers to ground handle as he has not been in the air for 18 mths. The forecast was West and it did not look possible anywhere. I asked him to meet me at Ringstead as he could use the field at the bottom. Anyway to cut a long story short within an hour it became eminently flyable and oft I jolly well went to the cliffs. I had a call from Ron S & Steve P who duly arrived. Ron went off in his Hangie to amazing heights & Steve P had an "awesome" first foray with the peregrines. The smile on his face said it all! Congrats to Steve.John M. decided to stick with the ground handling & Alli F phoned to say that he managed 20mins at Kimmeridge.
Monday 3rd May 2004
Report by Peter Robinson
When I arrived at Bell it was sunny but too strong in the gusts. After a rain shower and a general overclouding I thought that the prospects were so poor I should leave and do something else. Fortunately I met Martin Foley coming in the gate and by the time we had finished chatting the wind seemed to have dropped, so back up the hill.
There was a rain squall over Shaftesbury that was slowly approaching but one other guy was preparing to fly and I thought that conditions were ok for probably half an hour. No one else seemed keen though (Martin F was busy changing his boot laces). The lift was ok and I started to search for thermals, firstly in the general direction of the approaching dark cloud then off on the left on the sunnier side. Maybe just by luck this worked and soon after 3pm I was in a 2-3kt climb that went all the way to base at 3600ASL. This CB was higher than had appeared from the ground. Although the sky looked very dark and ominous back towards the NNW the air was no rougher than it would have been on any typical XC day, particularly at height. I should say, of course, that it was not a cu-nim sort of day.
Ahead the sky did not look promising and I thought that my only hope would be to stay with what appeared to be this precursor cloud advancing ahead of the squall. This is what I did, keeping at CB or just above, climbing up the front of it or inside it to the point where I could just see a circle of ground directly below. It seemed slow progress but the wind was taking me along. I made a couple of short transitions forward, never getting much below CB but always being careful not to outrun the progress of the friendly squall.
Approaching Wareham Forest I realised that I needed to get a bit further E if I was to have the right heading for Swanage, and there was a good cloud now to head for. I got under it at the lowest point of the flight, at 2600ASL. The climb here took me to 4200ASL, several hundred feet into cloud. I was a bit uneasy about this since I did not really know what the vertical development was and I was still going up some of the time even with big ears on. (Dave Moores or Richard Westgate would have loved it!) Anyway I headed SE on the compass and eventually popped out just NW of Holton Heath. (The Texaco garage at the traffic lights is on the airspace boundary.) I was really, really enjoying this, particularly as I could see a cloud street just ahead, on the nose for Swanage. Cruise ahead now, take a 6-8kt climb back to CB, then a last top up over the Ballard-Corfe ridge. Checking for windspeed I found I was doing about 5kph when pointing upwind with brakes off. I was a bit nervous about the possibility of the wind picking up as I approached the landing so I parked about 1km upwind of Durlston whilst I lost height, then glided to what was actually a light-wind landing.
This is the second time I have used the lift in front of a large rain
squall to do the Bell-Durlston run, both times an easy flight. So, if
the vertical development is not too much and conditions are not too gusty,
showers may not be a bad thing!
Report by David Daniels
I must wake up earlier! I thought I was pretty off the ball arriving at "a little known site near the caravan" to fly the light westerlies - but on arrival they were no longer light - the surface just starting to "streak" - so off to Kimmeridge ... followed by Dave W and Mark P - for 20 mins in ever descending orographic in very westerly air, and all landing with very wet wings.
Several coffees at the caravan later, and the sky in the north looked to be clearing - so we went to Bell.
The new wind-sock greeted us as we rose over the brow of the track with the correct direction and almost the correct "angle-of-dangle" The air was light - a couple of quick beats to the magic tree and back and then maintaining on the third flight and gaining height - Stuart M arrived, followed several by others.
The weather, however, was not playing ball, cycling several times (very quickly!) through too light, too strong (for PGs and too wet. So extreme were these changes that Matt C rigged, de-rigged, re-rigged and flew his HG, and Peter R arrived, departed, returned and flew to Durlston head. (So - that must be the magic ingredient for a 40km XC - fooling the weather gods with your departure only to sneak back when they are off their guard!?) Several others were asking "will to ease off later?". The forecast was for strong winds to come in - but the sky looked like a day that would go silky smooth and ease when the sun got down. I never stayed for that - but driving over the Lulworth ranges to Sean L's house to sit my pilot paper (at last!) - everything told me that I had probably missed a fantastic Bell evening.
Others on the hill and, spasmodically, in the air were John A (HG), Richard
M (HG & PG), Gary M, Jeff D, Grant O, Derek S, Harry D, Jim C, Stuart
M (tandem), Martin F and Steve "very red ribbon at the top of the
stack" P (nice flight Steve!).
Report by Matthew Charlesworth
A clearing forcast had me up early on Monday morning to do jobs before the weather improved. Surprisingly the weather pretty much behaved as forecast so when I got to Bell just after 2pm things looked great for hangliding. There were quite a few PG's there but all shaking their heads at too much wind. I rigged quickly as John Alder was already half set up but an ominous looking cloud was approaching from upwind so I didn't launch. Pete Robinson did though, taking the first thermal that he found all the way to Durlston Head. Genious.
After the cloud the wind dropped and went a bit to the North so lots of PG's had a few short flights and just as I was packing up, thinking that it was not going to be flyable, the wind came back on the hill and increased. I rapidly put my glider back together again and shot off straight into lift and within 3 minutes was at 230m ATO in the first thermal, and the second got me to 370m ATO. John had launched into a hole in the sky and ended up at the bottom but Richard M went way off to the aerials and got up to about the same as me.
Things died off after half an hour so I top landed as dinner with Mum called as usual, but the wind stayed up and as I left Richard was just landing, Dave Moores had turned up without a glider and things looked like they were still going to be flyable for a while. The PG's were still waiting to fly again as many had flown when I had my flight, but some had got pushed back and landed in the fields behind the hill, I presume because of the increased wind strength. I'm sure one of them will do a report.
It's a late start to the season but a nice afternoon nevertheless.
Sunday 2nd May 2004
Report by David Daniels
The day broke to brilliant blue skies, zero wind and thick mist just
from the coast. The mist burnt off into small Cu and a sea breeze started
but remained very weak. I sat on the cliffs at Durdle Door for a couple of
hours hoping for them to kick in - and when I eventually saw that some wispy
orographic was moving SW to NE, I moved to Ringstead to join others playing
the waiting game, and more followed. Another 4 hours later and there was a
glimmer of hope as Peter R, closely followed by Martin F and then myself,
headed off to the cliffs.
As Peter and Martin dropped out of sight I was mid-way across, contemplated
turning back (couldn't do that when the power cables were there!) and
decided that if I managed to stay up when they had not - that would be much
more fun! We all three landed on the beach. Whilst we packed Jim C hooked
into the cliffs after his crossing got him there much higher - and even made
it back to t/o.
One advantage of being club sec and a technophile is that I have every
member's phone number on my mobile phone, so I was on the beach scrolling
through the names to find someone that would grab my car and do a retrieve.
Gary Pocock obliged - but, ever one ahead of the flock, Peter R had his own
game plan and walked up to launch off the cliffs.
Determined - I made a second crossing to the cliffs - with Adrian B close
my heels. Again I went down, but Adrian made a valiant attempt at staying up
scratching the cliffs for a good 15 mins before also landing on the beach.
OK - that's it! I weighed myself and all my kit a week ago - I know I'm over
weigh - so the diet commences! :)
Others para-waiting and ground-handling were Ron S, Stephen A, Keith
Grant O, and Derek S
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