Eye in the Sky - Nov 2008
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Sat 29 Nov 2008
Report by Alastair Florence
At Compton Abbas the freezing fog was forming into ice and falling off the trees making the road look like it snowed. Something possesed me to maybe think Westbury could be better. Certainly the other side of Shaftesbury the wind was lighter but still fogged in. I gave up and headed back.
Compton no change.
Next stop Okeford Hill, wind was on the hill and almost felt light, but the long grass was so wet I didn't fancy it.
Next stop Maiden Castle, Simon J just landed and reckoned it was OK, plus Dr Charles out walking the dog.
Had a chat to Simon and then wandered up onto the ramparts.
Cold, dull, gusty and damp, bit like last week, but not so strong, quite. The freshly dung spread field in front seemed to be pushing out lift, but also sink, strong at times and definately up and downy Had a fly for a bit but as the rain (ah, forgot to mention it started raining). got harder and more persistent and the wind more gusty and squally I gave in and landed in the dogs loo's.
About this time Dr C launched but soon decided it was not pleasant and landed.
Report by Simon Jones
I went shopping in Dorchester on the off chance that Maiden Castle might be flyable. I arrived at about 1.30 to find some very friendly aero-modellers using the North-facing slope. They gave me the low-down on what had been happening, and then headed home. I launched from the lowest rampart and had a nice 5-10 mins before getting a big pile of lift from the NNE facing slope. With a bit more altitude I was struggling to move forward. A bit of bar later, and I was well out front and pleased to be losing a bit of height. I hit a few lumpy bits and decided that it might be a good time to land. I even managed to avoid the dog poo in the landing field. Bonus. Dr Charles and Ali F turned up as I packed up. I think Ali got a good little flight - but the rain hammered in as I drove back through Dorchester. Well, I suppose there's 10 minutes we wouldn't otherwise have had!
Wed 26 Nov 2008
Report by Paul Hawkins
Managed a short flight on Bell hill today.I had to fly pretty slowly to stay up but the challenge of not going down in light lift made it fun. (all 10min of it!) Other's there were Harry D, Keith B (still serching for his lost cash!), Marcus W and the "Grandfather".
Tues 25 Nov 2008
Report by Mark Tattersall
Butser Hill (Skysurfer site) Had a lunchtime work meeting in Bournemouth so, ever the optimist, bunged my kit in the boot of the car just in case. At the end of the meeting there was a sitephone message that Bell was blown out, so I reckoned Monk's was probably also too windy, but a detour on my way home took me past Butser Hill, and the Wendy machine on Mercury (a couple of miles away) was giving reasonable readings, so had a look.
Got there at 3.30, it was grey, cold but pretty much on the north face (a bit to the west) and 9-12mph at take off. Gave it a go. Very turbulent, gusty once in the air, not very buoyant, and the kind of air that although I did not have any collapses, it felt like it was only a matter of time, so decided to cut my losses and land after 10 minutes.
On the ground it all seemed much milder again. No one else was flying.
Sat 22 Nov 2008
Report by Jeremy Calderwood
At about 1.40 I got a text message from Sean M saying that he was at Monk's with Shamus and were going to head off to Bell as the wind was a bit off to the west but might just be flyable. I was just texting back 'Good luck' when he phoned - 'Are you coming along?' What the hell - why not? It's over an hour's drive, it's cloudy, it's cold and it's probably blown out but it's a challenge and with only one flight in over eleven weeks I had to give it a go, didn't I? I arrived at about 3.40 to find Shamus, Sean and Ali already in the air and the wind a bit off to the north and definitely at the top end gusting from 12 - 17mph. Carl had also arrived and took off a minute or so before me just before 4pm. I was a little anxious that I'd be taken for a drag as usual but was very happy to find that the Loft readjusted brake lines meant no such problem. Wing up, tiny jab of brake then launch when ready into the rough grey skies now dappled with a few pink tones as the invisible sun dipped below the horizon.
Soon I was out in front but then I noticed I was creeping backwards into the venturi so pulled out the speed bar until I was just pulling back in front again. At full speed bar I was very aware of the distinct possibility of a collapse and kept the slack off the brakes. I could see the leading edge above the slots dimpling at times... a little disturbing. Everything felt very fast and rather unstable but I managed to get to about 230' ato at one point and bounced around with Sean and Carl as Ali then Shamus touched down. Just before 4.30 I followed Sean back to the top field for again a non-drag landing dropping my wing in time for Carl to follow in.
There was just enough light left in the gathering gloom to pack up before being last to leave the hill.
All a bit crazy but it certainly blew away the cobwebs!
Report by Alastair Florence
Worked today and planned to go surf Kayaking at the same time but with a strongish offshore wind the sea was flat.
I was inspired by Shamus's perseverence and headed for Bell after work.
Bell was freezing cold, dampish, dull and almost getting dark, verging on blown out, gusty and off to the North a fair bit and very little lift but apart from this, damm near perfect.
Shamus was already in the air soon followed by Sean M, then me, 20 mins was quite long enough by which time Jeremy C, Carl and Harry D had rolled up. All had a fly although I think we are all nuts, still thats what 5 weeks without any action does for you.
Report by Shamus Pitts
I woke up to a grey and windy morning so I wasn't particularly optimistic about flying, but by mid-morning XC weather was giving a fairly consistent 8mph at Yeovilton, so as I didn't have anything better to do I decided to check out Monksdown.
I'm not sure if I mentioned in my sitephone message, but it was freezing cold at Monks. The wind was slightly off to the west and blowing 16 €“ 20mph so I decided to wait and see if it was going to drop down at all. After waiting an hour or so Keith B turned up but it must have been blowing 20mph+ so he walked his dog and I waited a while longer. I was just about to leave when Sean M turned up so we decided to have a look at Bell hill as there was now quite a lot of west in the icy gale that was blowing up the hill! The wind at Bell was a bit off to the north and €œonly€ blowing 15 €“ 20mph although it didn't feel that strong, and further down the hill it was a fairly constant 17 €“ 18mph so we decided to have a go. Sean tried first, but the wind wasn't kind, so I had a go and managed to fly my wing upside down in to the top landing field! Hmmm, maybe it was too strong!
Having sorted my wing out the wind seemed a bit gentler so I walked halfway down the hill and had another go €“ success! Ali F turned up, and it wasn't long before Sean and Ali were in the air too. The actual flying wasn't great, the wind was well off to the north and 20mph+ at times but it was good to get in the air. There wasn't stacks of lift and I found myself gale scratching a couple of times €“ I didn't want to get too close to the hill for fear of getting caught up in the venturi, but sometimes had to scrape in a little to build my height back up.
After 40 minutes Jeremy C and someone else who's name I didn't get (drives a cool old Datsun) turned up so I decided to land and pack up.
Wed 19 Nov 2008
Report by John Alder
ell Hill: Arrived mid afternoon to find several disconsolate PG pilots earthbound so I rigged the HG and with kind assistance from Harry & Derek launched into some weak but peachy lift. Topped out at only 80m ATO and, with the lift giving out, just squeaked in to the top field for a poor landing after ½ an hour€¦. just as well though, because, by the time I'd finished packing up it was dark & I needed a torch to see to lock the gate! Was I the only Mighty Wessex member to commit aviation on this beautiful day?
Tue 18 Nov 2008
Report by Keith Burridge
Arrived at Bell knowing Simon J was on his way as (stated on the sitephone) Monks was off to the west. Derek S, Myself and Simon were then joined by John A and we watched the wind at Bell off and beyond North to the East. What to Do? John suggested a return to Monks. Derek declined so we all dashed to monks to catch a flight before sunset. We all managed to get our feet off the ground and so the chasing around the countryside was finally worth it in the end for the dusk flights of John and Simon and me.
Sat 15 Nov 2008
Report by Shamus Pitts
The wind was quite strong and gusty, blowing 14-20mph, and a bit off to the North. Not ideal, but I've had worse days on Cowdown so I thought it would be a shame not to give it a try. The air wasn't as rough as I thought it would be and it wasn't long before Paul H was in the air too. I never managed to get stacks of height, usually around 60 €“ 90' ATO but there were bits and pieces of thermic stuff gusting through so a couple of times I got to about 150' ATO, which still wasn't particularly high given the strength of the wind, but that was probably due to the wind being slightly off the hill.
After about 45 minutes in the air, there was a bit of a lull and Paul found himself too low to scratch back up and landed. I managed to stay up until the wind picked up, got a bit of height and tried to make it to the field by my house. Unfortunately the wind was pretty strong again and I seemed to be going slower forwards than I was downwards, so I landed too! We thought about going back up for another go, but then is started drizzling so we called it a day.
Wed 12 Nov 2008
Report by Sean Staines
I arrived late at Bell but was delighted to see about 10 Wings in the air plus a few pilots in the back field, obviously just landed. I took off with little delay into buoyant and very pleasant soaring conditions.
Almost as soon as I took off the remaining wings continued landing until there was only me and one other wing in the air. Marcus I think.
Gradually they all left , eventually leaving only me on the hill. It was beautifly watching the sun go down and the moon coming up, having the whole hill to myself. Beautiful lighting conditions.
The wildlife returned with Buzzards and a flock of crows joining me.
I did wonder what a magical experience it would be to fly Bell in the light of the full moon but without the Red warning light gliders are required to display at night I thought better of it.
Report by Jeremy Calderwood
At one point a Hercules transport plane rumbled past to the west at hilltop height and the sounds of horns and barking beagles marked a chase some 3/4 mile away - hope Mr Fox escaped attention. The buzzards soared, the sheep bleated, the horses chased each other around in the fields below and all was well with the world.
The sky did get quite crowded at times - at one point I counted 15 of us wheeling around in a big gaggle over the Magic Tree. It looked quite ethereal with its pale branches gleaming leaflessly in the bright low sun.
I achieved a personal best flight duration of 3 hours and 8 minutes - it certainly helped make up for the almost 10 week gap since a line damaging occasion on a sharp rocked Scottish mountain and resulting Loft repair and service.
Just one little wobbly moment - I explored my speed range and found the deep stall point. . . big sinking feeling and lots of rustling noises from above - I probably lost 80 feet or so before I dived out of it! Also seen taking the air were Brian M, Roger E, Derek S, Craig B, Gary M and new member Alex having a good time with his Ozone Buzz. Loads of others too but as I spent an inordinate amount of time off the ground I didn't meet most of you.
A cracker of a day - autumn/winter flying at its best. Let's hope we get a few more like this.
Report by Roger Edwards
I feel compelled to write this because I don't think Keith's report conveyed how utterly peachy the afternoon was. Having to miss the morning I arrived about 1:15 to find the wind smack on, about 10-12mph and wings in the air. After swing construction by committee (see below) I got in the air to find it buoyant and pleasantly thermic, and although the sky was mostly clear the odd patch of wispies occasionally formed overhead to tease us.
The air was very buoyant and once you got to about 300ft it was fairly easy to stay there and start playing with the little thermals that came through, and with everybody else who seemed to be trying to use the same thermal as you. Many people managed to get up to 600-700ft at some point in their flights but this seemed to be about the max. , though I once did start thinking about a short XC when over the back of the top fields at 500ft and still finding lift. I thought better of it as the themals were hard to stay in and the trees loom large below behind the east end of the ridge.
At 3pm there was a distinct change in conditions, the thermals dying to leave the air sweet and smooth. It was still buoyant in the dynamic lift, though only giving around 150-200ft, but this was consistent and easy to maintain. A lot of people started landing so I took advantage of the respite from the earlier bun fight to relax completely, drifting very slowly forwards in front of the small wood with my eyes shut, tuning in to the feel of the brakes and the gentle harness movement. I was half expecting something rocky to come through and shock me, but it didn't happen. I don't think I've ever been so relaxed in the air; it was that smooth that I could have dozed off. I hasten to add that nobody was near me (only three in the air), I was barely losing height and I was barely moving - sleeping in the air is hardly recommended practice :-) Though it was dying off it was still buoyant, making landing fun. JP had trouble making the final few feet down onto launch until he was hauled out of the sky by his legs by friendly hands, and I just parked into wind over the back field, descending as though in a very gentle vertical elevator. Late arrivals Sean S and Marcus played in the light conditions while we all packed up. All in all, a brilliant winters day. 9/10 on the peachometer, I reckon; only better if it had actually been XCable, even if only to Stickland, but it is November after all.
There is now a swing frame on the hill for anyone who wants to adjust their harness. We just need to add some chains/slings to dangle from.
It has been placed out of sight(ish) over the fence near the windsock, It should be easily visible as two lime-green legs stick up, akimbo.
I'm not sure how robust it is (rated at 45kg but I reckon that's for health and safety purposes) so don't give it too much abuse.
Report by Keith Burridge
Arrived at about noon after hearing the morning messages on the sitephone to se about 15 wings and a Hangie all airborne with reasonable height. The wind had actually picked up and was now becoming a bit top endy.
So after a lunchtime nap the conditions improved and once again everybody took to the air. Plenty of lift with separation in every direction meant the hill was not overcrowded with at one time nearly 20 wings in the air. Way too many people to mention.
Mon 03 Nov 2008
Report by Nicola Hawkins
G'day from down under Just a quick note to say hello from Tasmania from the random female on the red Hook that loiters around Wessex sites on an annual basis and then dissappears again for 10 months! I have to say its great to see all the same friendly faces each year .
Anyhow I just though I would send you a link to a short video of where I disappear to each year and how we get our flying fix in Tasmania. This little site has had a maximum of 4 wings at any one time (thats the whole paragliding population on the island!), is 30 mins walk from the car and the next land mass over the horizon is Antarctica! Visitors are always welcome! See you all next year - Cheers Nikki Hawkins
Sat 01 Nov 2008
Report by Simon Vacher
Hi guys. Here is a video to cheer you during these October autumnal months! I filmed this at Ringstead during August when we had a little warmer and sunnier weather. Enjoy.
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