Eye in the Sky - Feb 2011

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Sat 26 Feb 2011

Report by Gary Puhl





As the mist cleared from the sea front at Barton, the sun shone and the light westerly eventually turned WSW it looked almost flyable. Launching and expecting a glide to the beach I was surprised to gently rise heading west past the cafe. Kept going towards Chewton Bunny higher than you would expect on this rough cliff and wet ground. Suddenly the lift ended abruptly and it looked like landing in the mud. The tide was in but managed to skim across the mud and stop just short of the waves with the wing on the dry beach. Brian followed me and looked as if he would make it all the way along the cliff but he too hit the sink. Having seen what happened to me, he turned back but could not find the lift and had to run for the beach. Thanks to Chris for picking me up. Back at take off the wind was more westerly but occasionally a thermal gave the chance to launch.

Timing is all important, and my luck was in. Heading towards the cafe again, the glider rose smoothly and as I drifted away from the cliff gained 300ft. Looking back to take off, the westerly wind now prevented any further launches. The air was so smooth, I cruised towards Chewton taking photos all the way.

At the first sign of sink I headed back continuing taking photos. Brian and Chris were still trying to launch as I roared past. The windsock indicated an airflow off the clifftop. I now understood these magic conditions.

The beach runs east west and warmed by the sun produced buoyant air. The light westerly, bounded by the sea on one side and the cliff on the other condensed the warm air into a continuous band of lift.

Exploring the width it was possible to fly to the breakwater and back to the cliff but the best lift somewhere in-between.

As the day cooled, this band narrowed and the height reduced. Dropping to only 50ft above the cliff, the lift zone was only about 20-30ft wide. Looking at the windsock dangling over the cliff, decided not to top land. Moving to the seaward side out of the lift band the glider descended and once below cliff height, moved back towards the cliff to line up with the path below.

This was the line of best lift but at this height there was nothing. Brian and I sat outside the Clifftop Restaurant with a pint, watching the sun go down. Great way to end an amazing day.

Report by Simon Jones


I was out and about bright and early - too early actually, as the coast was still wreathed in mist, so I went for breakfast. I returned to a misty Ringstead and waited for it to clear. This didn't take long and we were soon grumbling about something else instead. The wind was off to the west a bit and a couple of forays into the air confirmed our worst fears - it was not absolutely perfect. However, perseverance paid off in the end and we all had a jolly boat about on the ridge for an hour or so before it got a bit too firm.

Pilots included the usual suspects and a few others: Gary M, Dr Charles, Keith W, Derek and John (Morgan?)

Report by Neil Mccain

When I was a kid, I used to get dragged out on walks by my family - my grandfather was the social sec of a community centre in west London and organised circular walks in the Chiltern hills most weekends. Today I felt like I sort of revisited the scene, 21st Century style.

I got to Whitesheet at about 2pm, and walking to take off I could see Marcus and Pete in the air, turning in thermals and with a good looking sky developing above them. Just before I took off, I realised they were in something and thought I'd missed it. I joined them in buoyant air and really felt something would happen. The clouds were flat, but they were forming into streets - surely we just had to wait for one to arrive and off we'd go! Pete had had 1200' ato earlier, but I was only 500ft up when I thought I was with the climb out thermal. For some reason Marcus had elected to land - I fancied I could hear him stamp his foot with every turn I made! But he needn't have worried. With dismay I realised that my thermal wasn't hiking me to base and worse, the cloud 'street' already seemed to be at an end. I squeezed the altimeter past 1000' ato before the vario fell silent and admired the view. If I'd been on a ramble, this moment would have been the apple break.

I felt I had little chance of hanging onto the broken remnants of the thermal, and setting this against the prospect of a long lonely walk back to the car, I headed north across the wind to take me down onto the ridge. As I came in to land a hare weaved about beneath me, presumably convinced I was about to pounce.

I packed up and arrived back at the car just as the other two drove up. My flight lasted all of 30 minutes, the whole excursion not much more than an hour. Still, as Dave said to me later, it's still February! Happy days.

Report by Marcus Webster



Sun 20 Feb 2011

Report by Alastair Florence


As Sundays go today had to be at least an overall 8 on the peachometer.

I am away from home all week at the moment so always find a list of things to do when I get home, but if it looks like it might be flyable and you want to fly then the only way you will do it is shelve everything else and get on the hill.

That said I can parawait Ballard from home if I know a trusted pilot is already on t/o.

Dave W was daft enough to head up early, I think the NE wind kept him nice and cool though. Meanwhile I had my lie in, washed the wifes car, helped out in the garden etc whilst keeping an eye on Ballard.

No sign of a wing up by 1300 hrs so sat down for roast lunch, by about 1330 hrs a wing would pop up occasionally and point due East.

After helping wash up I took a drive to the beach and found the wind just south of east. By the time I walked up Dave, Russell dub, Alan W and Simon H where having marginal scratches one at a time Neil W was out walking and later came back with wing. By 1500 hrs the wind came on a bit more and picked up giving some reasonable lift on the cliff.

After a bit of carefull investigation we found the main cliff not too bad, the ridge was not working as it was too easterly, The cliff down to Old Harry was working excellently as were the hotels and with a bit of built up height you could glide further up the beach than I have ever managed before. (recognise the flower beds Shamus) Shame it did not come on earlier but all in all one of the best days I have ever had flying the sites extremities.

Many thanks to Dave W and co for sitting on the hill for 4 hrs marking the wind when they could have been at home doing important things.


Report by Shamus Pitts


I had a crafty half hour at Bowleaze cove today, I must have left just before Simon J turned up! I almost didn't bother, the wind was off to the East and gusting up to 19mph but I'm trying to bond with my new harness at the moment so I decided to have a go.

Surprisingly the whole (short) cliff was working, probably more to do with the wind strength than the direction, but height gains were limited to about 130' ATO at best. After half an hour I decided to land and surprised a couple of people walking their dog as I silently descended behind them!

Sat 19 Feb 2011

Report by Marcus Webster


Bell Hill. Arrived a little later than I would have liked (15:35) and picked up Brian "M" as he walked up the track.

As it turned out we timed it to perfection, and enjoyed a good hour of soft thermals and 360ing up to cloud base (1200ft ato) and on a couple of occasions having to Big Ear out of cloud along with Karl.

Report by Craig Byrne



On arriving at Bell it was a tad windy so settled into a spot of Parawaiting. It eventually eased and we gave it a go, conditions were nice but top end at times. Eventually a few more pilots took off and joined us, I then spotted 4 pairs of Buzzards thermalling under a nice dark cloud. This worked and after what seemed an age of working zero's and one up climbs made base over Stickland at 2000ft ASL. Just drifted slowly working what I could till landing at Winterboure Whichurch. 10k. Arriving back at Bell it was still soarable with now quite a few wings in the air. A nice day :-)

Report by Shamus Pitts


I had a surprisingly good couple of hours at Bell Hill this afternoon. When I got there about 10:30 cloudbase was well below the bottom of the hill and it was quite windy, but eventually the cloud lifted, the wind dropped slightly and one by one we took to the air.

The sky was pretty dark at times and the wind gusted up a bit occasionally but the dozen or so of us there all had a decent flight, with Craig B even going over the back! It looks like the season is starting early...

Report by Paul Hawkins


Still flying at gone 4pm as I left! I wonder how far Craig got?

Mon 14 Feb 2011

Report by Paul Hawkins


Interesting half hour at Southborne this evening. Lots of big looking storm clouds about but a nice clear patch from take off to Bosvagus soon had me in the air.

Launching was fun as I found myself stood on the cross bar of the white fence for 5min eventually taking the plunge and finding lots of lift.

The seagulls had the most fun flying up into the abundant clouds! Sent from my HTC

Sat 12 Feb 2011

Report by Seve Whitfield

Had a lovely afternoon at Ringstead with John A, Richard M and others. John arrived early and the wind was light and very westerly. Fortunately by lunchtime it had come around to WSW and was blowing about 12-16mph. It was my first opportunity to try out my new video camera (drift HD170 Stealth) and I am very pleased with the image quality. YouTube compression does not do it justice. As expected my 3y.o PC had a hard time processing the HD footage but it got there in the end. The result can be found below. I had two flights with a prefect top landing on the first and a not so good one on the second. As is the way with such things I only got the second one on tape. I was basically too cautious with my flare and went down on my knees. It was good to get some decent airtime after a winter of crappy weather, roll on spring! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSXc0sHGbuY

Report by Roy Menage

Corton Denham 12th February Since it was looking too strong on the coast, I headed for Corton Denham. The wind was just right so I wasted no time getting airborne. James and Guy from Condors had turned up and later, Wayne and one other from Southern arrived.

After a short boat around, jut about maintaining height, I stopped to leave a sitephone message and had a brief chat with Wayne, then Guy. By the time I went to fly again, James was gale-hanging at times although getting good height and it felt rather too strong to get off... and I didn't really want to be just pointing into wind. So I decamped to Cowards Bowl but by the time I got there, it too was blown out. Oh well, at least I got off the ground.

Report by Jeremy Calderwood


At last... my first flight since October! The Sitephone messages from late morning told of the wind on the hills out west were strong then blown out with a strong westerly backing round to south westerly. Just as I was beginning to think my first chance of getting back in the air was evaporating Brian M left a sitephone message late in the afternoon saying that there was a good breeze at Barton although there was rather a lot of west in it and no one else was there.

Half an hour later I found Brian making very slow progress westward in a 15 mph wind. Being a bit rusty I decided that it was too strong so I took a few pics. Finally by 4:50 with the strength down to 12-14 mph and Brian's encouragement now he was back on the deck I laid out my wing. On the 3rd launch attempt I had it under control above me and pushed to the cliff and away - woohoo! I didn't get more than about 30' or so above the cliff, going westward was slow and eastward very quick but it was great to swoop about a bit for a little over a quarter of an hour and blow the cobwebs away after a gap of 16 weeks - far the longest non-flying spell I think I've had! I'm sending the wing to the Loft for an overdue service next week...

so there will probably be some beautiful early Spring soaring to be had while it's away!

Report by Adrian Coombe


Cowdown to Tarrant Hinton 11:00 Looked up from gardening and thought it was worth a go. 30 minutes later I climbed straight out. Got a bit low in the Cerne Valley but 6 Buzzards grabbed me and took me up to base. A lovely cloud street took me to Blandford but the drift was towards Bournemouth so I tried to jump to the next inland cloud...nearly made it if it hadn't dissipated in front of me!...

A real bonus this early in the year. Mark Russels Bowl worked well. Buzzards all the way enjoying their best day this year too! I' sure there was some sort of sea breeze element but I didn't quite understand what. Several clouds on my street had tendrils and also on streets closer to the sea as well. Some strong but gentle thermals.

Shame my alti vario didn't work... the batt's were flat. Strange, cos they were ok last autumn. Lucky had a back up audio.

Forget your peachometer Ali. - This was pure 10 grade passion fruit!

Tues 08 Feb 2011

Report by Brian Metcalfe

Barton, Tuesday 8th.

After hearing Chris' hopeful sitephone message I arrived at 1.45 in warm sunshine to see him and Gary wafting about in a light SSE. I rushed into my kit and launched just in time to see Gary top land and Chris bottom land! Needless to say I was confident that I would stay up so spurned the chance of a top landing by the golf course and pushed on towards the point, intending to creep round it and comfortably soar the S Easterly facing bit of a bowl, from where I would watch Chris slogging back to the top. Oh dear; "pride comes...." and all that. I sank rather rapidly as I approached the point, far too rapidly to think of getting round it, so I turned and whizzed back towards take off below cliff top height, but on getting a bit of lift halfway there I turned back into wind again still convinced that I could get back up. But Chris looked a bit lonely down on the beach so I landed by him, just to keep him company you understand.

We joined the others back at the top and talked parabolix and flew my granny for a while, waiting for beer o'clock. Then talked ourselves into thinking that it might be flyable at the point if we could take off directly into the SE facing bit. So we walked over there and found rotor all over the place. We wandered around trying to find a bit of ground where the wind was blowing in vaguely the right direction for an inflation and I eventually hauled my wing into the air while facing about 100 degrees away from the cliff, (that's a NE direction on a SE facing bit of cliff). The wing swiveled wildly round as it came up out of the rotor but luckily stayed inflated allowing me to step to the cliff edge and take off. There was good lift, but in an extremely restricted area, and I spent about ten minutes doing very short beats before the others got bored and started to walk away so I thought I'd better land.

Decisions, decisions; safe bottom landing but long walk up and get left behind while the others went to the pub, or dodgy top landing in awful rotor but the guys there to pick me up if it all went wrong. Having already walked up once that day and being naturally lazy I opted for a top landing. I did a dummy run, feeling for the rotor behind the cliff and then came in low where my wing kindly deposited me on my feet facing parallel to the cliff about three metres from the cliff edge and so clear of rotor. Result.

This might seem a long EITS for such short flights but they were full of incident and I learned a bit, which is always good.

Then we went to the pub where Garry showed us his Shackleton wannabe album and Chris had his nuts waxed.

Barton is still good, Lidia.


Thurs 03 Feb 2011

Report by John Alder

Ringstead Bay. I got organised early for once because (a) I had been unable to access my gliders (builders stuff in the way) and (b) I'd installed new parts on both my Airborne gliders €“ so I set off with 3 gliders on my aircraft carrier!

I arrived 10 o'clockish in glorious sunshine but very light WSW breeze: No PGs present surprisingly: anyway my priority (as usual) was HG and the forecast was for the wind strength to increase to unflyable levels in the afternoon. Rigged and flew my C2 successfully although the the wind strength (42km/h) and direction (only just south of west) at altitude were not conducive to extensive manouevres. Top landed after an hour in the air having given up on my plan to test fly the C4 as well because of the strengthening wind and incursion of cloud. Peachometer biassed on the high side at 7 due to my long enforced 4-month lay off.

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