Eye in the Sky - March 2012

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Fri 30 Mar 2012

Report by Ruth Kelly

Funny day today - back at Monks Down for the first time in fifteen months or so. Strange to think that, when I passed my CP, it was the first site I flew on... and the only site, for about four months. Today not much use - just a spot of ground handling, and an attempt at a cobra launch. The wind was so light that all agreed it was more slow-worm than cobra. 

Will and I then followed Dave Ormerod over to Winklebury - a site I have visited at least three times, but never flown. At least it was sunny. After a bit more ground handling, though, some small thermal action started up, and for about an hour we managed numerous small hops. My best flight was all of five minutes, although I got to maybe 100' ATO. At least we flew :-)
Thanks to Dave O for the photos. 

Report by Gary Mullins

A stronger sea breeze helped provide a very pleasant afternoon at the White Horse today.

Plenty of buzzard action early on made staying up a doddling pleasure in the light wind. For the first couple of hours the only company I had was about 20 firepersons trying to damp down a €œcontrolled fire€ in the gorse which had somehow become..........uncontrolled. The upshot of it all is that practically the whole right hand side of the ridge is now a very dark black which could make for some interesting flying in the next southerly breeze.

Simon Jones joined me mid afternoon for a bit of €œkeepy uppy€, but by then the heat of the day was waning making it a tad €œchallenging€ at times. But good fun was had on a beautiful day beside the seaside. 

Thu 29 Mar 2012

Report by Neil Mccain

Monksdown was the venue for some entertaining flying this afternoon in the company of friends.

Steve W had had the sky to himself when the wind was too strong for the floppy brigade, but when it looked like it had calmed down, Adrian C led the charge, closely followed by Nigel R and me.

We were soon joined by Will P, Marcus W, Mark R, Steve H, Russell W, Paco and One Other (sorry about the fuzzy name check), exploring lift and sink in every part of the site.

The thermals seemed uncut enough low down but I couldn't seem to track them once over the trees. Will, Marcus and Mark were doing better with Will making a break for it whilst the other two came back to the hill. For a while it seemed as if Will might have seized the moment as conditions softened at the ridge and we all found it difficult to get much height.

Eventually another big thermal came through and this time I managed to stay in it, wheeling round with Marcus just above me and Nigel just below. Mark and Adrian were working a separate core and for a moment it looked like all five of us would leave together. Adrian elected not to come, for which the rest of us were truly grateful not long later when he made the supreme sacrifice and picked us up.

At just 1400ft ato we started bumping off the bottom of the inversion. The thermals weren't strong enough to punch through and we began frantic searches for more lift, any lift, to prolong our flights. As I was just higher than the others I watched their plans unfold - Mark heading for a large wooded area, sure that it would act as a trigger and frustrated and on the deck when it didn't; Nigel making a great low save to give him enough of a glide to reach Mark; and Marcus, teased by the weakest of weak lift landing just beyond them both. Being higher wasn't that much of a bonus - it just allowed me to glide further away from the pub at Farnham where we all met up later for a cheery beer.

When we got back to the hill, Wil c, Simon J, Martin B and An Other were enjoying mellow evening conditions. Flying with friends = good times.

Sun 25 Mar 2012

Report by Shamus Pitts


After a morning of scouring Google Earth for previously undiscovered sites Nigel B and I decided to go €œoff-piste€ and try and find an easterly site €“ here are our findings (so far):   The first hill was a small hill near Buckland Newton (I can't remember what it was called).  It wasn't very high, about the same height as Friar Waddon, maybe slightly steeper.  A true easterly face but no wider than Cowdown.  Some tall trees in the hedge line at the bottom so you would have to turn out early to get over them and bottom land.  The obvious bottom landing field was the width of the hill with no obstructions, sloping down towards the road.  As a site it was probably too small to negotiate use, there was probably only room for one wing at a time, maybe two on a good day. There were 4 buzzards in the air when we were there so there was some thermal activity.  Out in front the ground was flat all the way to Bell Hill which was clear in the distance.  There was also a small North face that was basically a vertical chalk cliff that had once been quarried.  There was a small area to take off but trees and powerlines at the bottom meant you would have to decide early to bottom land - another site too small to support more than one wing at a time.

 The second hill was near Telegraph Hill, on the same ridge.  It was very reminiscent of Whitesheet being a similar shape, although maybe not quite so high or steep, with a tree line at the bottom. The flyable area was probably a bit wider than Cowdown, although on a good day it might widen more.  It would probably be best in an ENE due to the hills out in front that might cause rotor in a true easterly.  There were plenty of fields to choose from at the bottom although they were frequently divided by hedges, trees and lanes so a small amount of accuracy might be needed for landing!  Again, buzzards were flying so there was some thermal activity.    There was not enough wind to soar either hill but on the right day (and obviously with permission) then there might be potential, particularly with the hill near Telegraph.

Fri 23 Mar 2012

Report by Marcus Webster

Went to Mere today and entered the Friday Lunch time bun fight in the bowl, everyone was behaving themselves but it was scary to watch at times.

None of the photos were taken at the height of the madness, as taking hands off the brakes was not an option!  

Tue 20 Mar 2012

Report by Alastair Florence

I managed to get away from work a few minutes early tonight so headed home via St. Aldhelms.
Wind was pretty good for direction WSW and about 12-15mph on t/o.
The air was not that bouyant and it seemed to be switching on and off a bit. It was difficult to get more than 200ft ato.
With 100% cloud cover there was not alot going on and 1/2 hour was enough.
Still nice to start getting a few evening flights in.
Peachometer 3.

Mon 19 Mar 2012

Report by Alastair Florence


After watching sailplanes thermalling under some peachy looking clouds for most of the day at work I was getting tempted tp try for an after work flight.
I managed to get away a few minutes early.
There would have been to much West for Combe so I opted to head for Swallowcliffe/Whitesheet sort of area as that was next closest.
I went for Swallowcliffe as the wind seemed North of West in Wilton.
Walking out to t/o the wind was chasing me straight along the ridge, but as i got behind the mid clump of trees it felt better.
I thought I would see what happened if you launched behind the trees, no real problem, bit wobly maybe but no real rotor. The East end of the ridge was working best and it was actually quite pleasant. I gained enough height to be able to look at some options for runs beyond the site along the ridge, and look forward to a better day to try them.
Eventually I decided to fly as far back West on the ridge as I could and land. I was suprised how far back I got as it felt well into wind, I was expecting to get rotor off the end of the ridge but again nothing really noticable.
So i've done the site with too much North, too light and now too much West, it would be really nice to do it on a proper day.

Sat 17 Mar 2012

Report by Ruth Kelly


Having watched the wind at Highcliffe on the web thingy most of the day, it was Brian's sitephone message in mid-afternoon that finally spurred me to action. Rushing outside with my wing we were dismayed to find the Landy had a partially flat front tyre. Cue Herioc efforts by William with the foot pump (those tyres are huge) and a quick visit to the garage (closed - but tyre seemed to be holding up)... and we arrived at broken-bones-on-sea at about 16:30. Brian was in the air - all on his own, poor chap! - but the wind was more or less bang on the cliff and maybe about 10mph - perfect.

The wing was out in a jiffy and off I went. The wind piped up a bit almost exactly as I took off, and it was easy to get plenty of height, and use it to fling the wing around a bit. Brian was doing much the same, pulling some nice tight 360s out over the water and then zipping back in to the cliff to build height, and do it again. A very nice way to build experience with the new wing. With the wind becoming a little gusty and turbulent, though, I landed after half an hour, soon after Brian. Actually getting down was a bit of a trial. Burning height over the water and then blasting back at the cliffs was lovely, but I kept pinging up 50 feet or so at the cliffs. So eventually I wafted in quite high from one end, and edged back towards the road until I was out of the lift.. and the final landing was pretty sweet.

A very pleasant and unexpected treat. Got home without having to do any more pumping, too :-) Thanks to Brian for the photos. Video of the whole event can be seen here

Report by Alastair Florence


I took a look at St.A's after lunch today in the hope that it was flyable, low cloud and an un trusted wind direction put me off though.

Later I tried my luck at Knitson, the sky was much clearer now and the wind felt ok. As soon as I started unpacking the mad cows appeared moving swiftly in pack formation, it was a race to get off the ground before they started licking my canopy.

Once in the air I found it quite gusty, it felt like someone kept tugging at different bits of my canopy.

After 15 mins I had enough and went home.

Sun 11 Mar 2012

Report by Simon Herbert


My first flight of the year.

It's been so long since I last flew at Combe Gibbet, that they have built a whole new housing estate and roundabout on the route to the site near Andover. I thought I had taken the wrong exit off the A308 for a moment.

Hardly any dynamic wind but thermic cycles were coming through all the time and mostly quite smooth although over the trees to the west it what hoofing with very strong and punchy thermals. I think some guys who turned up earlier than me managed to go XC but I just boated around for a couple of hours playing in the thermals. I counted 25 canopies in the air at one point.

A surprisingly good start to this years flying season for me, and by the sound of it combe was the place to be rather than bell.

Report by Marcus Webster


Bell Hill, arrived mid morning to find the Weymouth gang, Russell, Graham and Steve lurking in the mist.

A few uncertain hours past making phone calls to Pete Chalmers and Chris Sparham at Monks Down (you know how it is, your always convinced that the others are having a much better time, winding up to cloud base!) But it would appear that things were not much better over there.

As the afternoon progressed about a dozen more pilots arrived and scratched around the hillside in week thermals, with the occasional good climb over the bowl and out towards the Farm.

The long wait eventually paid off at about 4pm as the ground started to give up its stored heat (I think!) and those that had stuck it out enjoyed about an hour and a half of very pleasant afternoon flying.

Report by Alastair Florence

Anyone who didn't get out on Saturday missed a cracking day on Bell with cloudy start but turning out nice and bright with consistant flying all day (and evening), a bit thermic but nothing really going up that far and a low base. Maybe best day of the year so far though for airtime. And someone already putting in a strong bid for the covetted 2012 Volvo trophy ! Anyone who didn't get out Sunday in Wessex region didn't really miss much. I started on Monks with the wind off West and light, I didnt even bother to get the wing out the bag. Chris had a lucky launch on Winklebury and made the most of it for a short while. After this Me Paul H and Patrick ended up at Swallowcliffe where the wind was pretty much on, with small weak low energy thermals allowing just a few feeble hops.

There is a bit of rotor low behind the tree blocks by the way.

Look forward to flying here on a better thermic day, should be good.

Sat 10 Mar 2012

Report by Shamus Pitts


Flyable all day at Telegraph Hill today. Overcast to start with, with cloudbase about 600' ATO but still quite thermic. The cloud slowly dispersed and the sun came out and it was lovely, although a bit gusty, with small thermals coming through. Not many there, mainly Condors, although Martin F went over the back to land in Cerne Abbas. Highlight of the day was flying with a red kite, the first time I've seen one in this area.

Sat 03 Mar 2012

Report by Richard Mosley

Arrived early at Burton Bradstock (Hive beach) and rigged in perfect sunny conditions. Left a site message which prompted sean to set off from home.

An easy take off in the increasing wind strengh and great lift, however the wind was a few degrees off to the west which made the gap at west bay exciting and i arrived below cliff height on the other side, continued to Charmouth cliffs. The flight back was fast and high with fantastic lift from Golden cap. Arrived back to see sean unloading his glider. The wind by then was about 20 Mph. Sean managed the local cliffs towards west bay and made several perfect top landings. The wind was by now rather strong to cross some of the gaps.

As sean packed up i flew down to the village of Swyre to the left following the road and matching the speed of the cars, then back to Golden cap being a greedy chap.

Good day for us. could have been better with lighter conditions.

Report by John Alder

Ringstead Bay. As this was the first day of my holiday and might turn out to be the only flyable one, I headed for Ringstead in the afternoon expecting it to be too strong until late in the afternoon. It certainly was:- the SSW wind was reaching 26mph on the take-off slope and, under a cloudless sky, the view out to sea was quite hazy (probably caused by an aerosol derived from sea spray?). After a long wait, the wind abated enough (+/- 20mph) to encourage me to rig my C4.

I eventually took off at 5 o'clock and started climbing immediately. By the time I reached the cliffs, I was already 40m ATO and then started climbing more rapidly to 300m ATO. Progress laterally was in the form of €˜crabbing' until I pulled on full VG, but then I was still climbing fast even with an airspeed of 75km/h. I took a trip back to the launch-ridge to check that my landing options were OK €“ they were. I told myself that the conditions weren't dangerous, just not very enjoyable, so I persisted with the flight until the sun was approaching the horizon and then landed safely in the top landing field where the wind at ground level had, by now, dropped to near zero (showing how strong a wind gradient there was).

The reason I'm writing in this detail is to remind myself and others that, at this time of year, when we're more than usually desperate to get flying, take extra care to avoid putting oneself in a situation where a flight becomes an ordeal rather than a pleasure €“ this one fell just short of being an ordeal thanks to the silky sea air and great flying equipment, but my flight record tells me the wind was about 40 mph at 370m ASL!....Did I enjoy it? Not greatly, but I did get some practice in! Oh!....I forgot to mention ; there weren't any other pilots present.

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