Eye in the Sky - June 2012

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Tue 26 Jun 2012

Report by Neil Mccain


The small huddle of para-waiters were cheerful enough at Southbourne's grassy knoll, but the conditions didn't seem to match their enthusiasm. A thick sea mist made visibility very poor and it was only just lifting above the cliff top, the wind was quite light and everything was very grey. Still, it seemed to pulse through in cycles and when the breeze came through and two or three of us took off it was fun to get to base, albeit just a few feet above take off! Trips to Boscombe Pier were possible with care, but jumping the gap? The general rule of thumb is that you have enough height if you can see the rooftop of the flats on the clifftop just before the new block of apartments, but however much we craned our necks we just couldn't see over the parapet. Instead it seemed a good time to practice landing back at launch, if you could find launch through the fog.

At about 12.30 conditions seemed to brighten and Old Harry was clearly visible but did this mean the wind had improved? I thought about heading back to TO, ditching everything not strictly necessary to flying that day (dammit, even flying commando-style for the extra height if necessary!), but Gary P, heading in the opposite direction yelled 'It's now or never!' so I decided not to stop and wheeled round to head after him. Approaching the flats I could see Chris S and Gary start their attempt. I couldn't be sure at that distance but it didn't look like they'd resorted to naked flying in order to get the required altitude so I thought I'd give it a go too. I couldn't see the rooftop as I flew by but the vario was beeping and so I carried on. I passed Brian M who had decided to top up his height before committing to it - he followed with Roger E moments later. I think we were all riding the leading edge of greatly improved conditions because I continued to climb gently as I went past the new apartments and only began to lose height as I passed the pier. The lift between the piers was smooth and high and wide, perfect for a quick aerial display in front of the hotels. I let Brian fly past me and we started the Bournemouth Pier crossing with about 190' ato, just underneath wisps of orographic. The light was beautiful at this point: many different layers of cloud were clearly defined out over the Purbecks, and it was bright but not sunny so that everything below us was in a kind of hyper-detail: lush greens from the pines, yellow and scarlet satchels in circles on the sand staking out a school trip to the beach...

Ahead of us, I'd seen that Chris and Gary had been close to cliff height on the stretch through Durley Chine (although by the time we flew over we had plenty of height), but I noticed now that they were really quite high over Canford Cliffs. As we approached this point I was amazed at the height we had - my vario showed 252' ato, or 402' above sea level! The trip to the end of the cliffs was assured, although the reasons for it weren't really clear. At TO the wind was very slightly off to the west, and with that in mind I'd thought the Sandbanks end would be trickier as it faced more into wind. Yet here we were cruising well out beyond the end of the cliffs, well beyond Jazzy's Cafe, well beyond what you'd expect. In the post-flight analysis Keith W (who'd joined the party late) wondered if we'd been flying in a convergence zone made up of wind coming from both sides of the headland that is the end of the cliffs. It was super smooth and buoyant - easy flying putting big smiles on our faces.

Out in the bay a bank of incoming low cloud signalled another change in conditions and we started the return leg. I topped up my height at Canford Cliffs for an effortless cruise to the pier and to the hotels. I didn't need to get any more height there but I decided to see how much I could grab beneath my wing and set off towards Boscombe with 230' ato showing on the clock. I was now just above and on the upwind edge of the orographic and I flew in a straight line back to take off, losing just a miserly five feet in that time. I've never been so high above Southbourne (375' asl) and from the pointing and shouts from people below, it felt a rare occurrence. We arrived back just ahead of the rain (actually I think Keith flew through it) and decanted to the pub for a mellow chat.

As I hadn't flown for six weeks and the conditions had been so grey to start with, I decided not to fly with my camera (D'oh!) but grabbed a couple of still for posterity over Sandbanks.

Mon 25 Jun 2012

Report by Alastair Florence


St.Aldhelms was working this evening, although in hindsite I think Kimmeridge may have been better. Not that strong, 10-12 mph maybe and off to the South a bit.

Neverthless quite bouyant and useable.

Neil W joined me, a bit of sun would have been nice, but musn't grumble.

Wed 20 Jun 2012

Report by Alastair Florence

I arrived home to spot Nigel R preparing to launch off Ballard. Wind was well off East and Nige proved the main cliff was non flyable due to excessive East.

The Hotels were flyable just, although there was a head wind when aiming back toward Ballard. I launched as Nige landed and didn't stay up long myself as the wind seemed to be swinging even more Easterly.

Peachometer was reading about 1.5 on landing but this dropped to 0.5 almost immediately as it rained as I was packing up.

Probably not worth the walk up but hey ho, feet off the ground.

Report by Shamus Pitts

A disappointing start at Mere as we realised that the forecast had come true and conditions weren’t as good as they had been predicted the day before.  The wind was light and well off to the east but the occasional thermal came through to coax us in to the air.  Once expectations had been lowered the day turned out quite fun.  The sky clouded over, the wind picked up and the sea breeze arrived.  There was not much chance of getting away but as the wind and cloud increased flights lasted longer and thermals were still coming through to give us a bit of height (occasionally).  I managed about an hour in the air (although it was split over about 10 flights, the longest and last of which was 20 minutes).

Tue 19 Jun 2012

Report by Shamus Pitts


A good day at the White Horse today.  The wind was a bit light when i got there about 10:30 but by midday the wind had picked up a bit and the thermals were coming through.  Height gains didn’t go much above 400’ ATO but for an hour or two there was plenty of buoyant fun to be had.  After lunch the wind dropped off and went SSE but the occasional thermal still came through to lure people in to the air.  I left about 4pm but there were still people there waiting for the thermals to waft through.

Report by Sean Staines

Had a pleasant afternoon at Barton but not too high on the peachometer, the wind was too light. Felt the need for more so I took the motor out for a spin in the evening past Lymington and Hurst Castle over to the Isle of Wight.

Mon 18 Jun 2012

Report by Grant Oseland


Yes it was windy, yes there were wind streaks on the water, yes there were lots of white horses, yes there was orographic cloud and yes people were stupid enough to fly.

Report by Shamus Pitts

Thinking the wind was too far off to the south for Cowdown I was surprised to see Adrian C take off and do quite well, so I hurried up the hill and joined him in the air.  The direction and strength were pretty good to start with but the wind slowly went more and more south and the strength increased and after a while it felt like we were soaring rotor most of the time.  We packed up and decided to head to Bulbarrow as it's the only Wessex site I haven't flown.  We met Martin F and Paco(?) there but the wind was quite strong and no-one was really keen on flying!  I decided to have a go and found the air pretty rough - I think it was probably the fact that the wind was gusting up to 23mph as much as the site that made it so rough but either way it wasn't a huge amount of fun!  It wasn't long before I was slowly pushing forward to land in the field at the bottom, suffering first one wing tip, then the other wing tip, then both tips together collapsing!  I was glad to get down but also glad to be able to tick  off the final wessex site.  Unfortunately my camera battery was flat so I couldn't take any pictures, although my hands were fairly busy keeping my wing open so I probably wouldn't have taken any anyway!

Sun 17 Jun 2012

Report by Roy Menage

The forecast for Sunday was for the wind to ease a little by the evening and come around SW. Rather surprisingly, it did and when I arrived a Southbourne, the wind was a pleasant 12-13mph and only very slightly off to the west. So having made the necessary calls, I took off to find it buoyant enough to get about 100ft ATO at times along most of the ridge. Going west was somewhat slow and on arrival at Boscombe, I found it not lifty enough to get across the gap. I made several attempts to get out the front of the new houses but it just wasn't going to happen so I satisfied myself with boating around the main ridge. I landed as it seemed that the wind speed had slowed a bit but then felt the need to give myself another short flight so carefully ground-handled over to takeoff. I found it difficult to penetrate forward enough to clear the wall from the grass so a careful step up onto the wall and I was off again. The wind seemed to have picked up a little so another trip to the pier was in order. I got further out above the houses this time but still no chance of crossing so went back and landed to be quizzed by a rather excited 10-year old and her mum before packing up and making my way very happily home.

All in all, a pleasant couple of flights. It was good to get my feet off the ground.

Report by Sean Staines

I flew the hang glider at Ringstead in lovely conditions in the morning. Nev, Wayne and Tim flew their Atos’ and Ian and me were on our flex wings. I was trying out my new helmet cam and hope I’ve got some good images. After an hour and 40 minutes I thought I’d come in for a rest but misjudged my landing, bending another upright.

It was still blowing 25mph on the top at that time so I decided to try the PG at the Hive. Richard was flying his rigid and after a quick chat I went down to the beach to check out the conditions. An ice-cream later I took off from the beach. Conditions were strong but I had no problem penetrating and no need to use the speed bar so I  set off down the coast. Crossing west bay was easy. Three pilots were on the take-off at Eype but it was clearly too strong to launch there. I pressed on, staying well out to sea and met up with Richard, returning from Charmouth, near to Thorncombe beacon. I was very careful to stay out of any venturi near Golden cap but it gave me plenty of height to press on to Charmouth. The return was faster than the outward journey and I passed Neil Weymouth on the East Cliff near west bay who had gone to the Hive after seeing me pass him by earlier.

I landed to fit the headcam and did the whole flight to Charmouth and back again. Hopefully some more good images.

Wed 13 Jun 2012

Report by Alastair Florence

t'was real nice to have a full day without, rain, gale force winds and plagues of locusts etc.

A couple of sitephone messages from Ballard (thanks) inspired me to get home from work and get out. Neil W was in the air already as I arrived on take off and got launched myself by about 1900 hrs.

Really nice smooth soft bouyant air although a tad off to the East.

Richard M turned up as well and we all had a good evening sesh with the main cliff working fine plus the hotels but not so good down toward Old Harry, nice chill out, shame its work again tomorrow, Peachometer 6.

Report by Grant Oseland

The rain actually stopped today and allowed some aviation to be carried out. Southbourne was working well this evening and I had the entire cliffs down to Sandbanks all to my self.

Report by Danni Capelin

Was in need of some gay coastal cruising, scrictly for theraputic purposes you understand, as I'm signed off work having got totally stressed to the point of not knowing what in gay hell I was doing (other than looking for a baseball bat with which to hit someone)..

It looked like there would be a chance of flying at Ballards down / Barton on sea this afternoon with direction improving later on.  Unfortunately I had to be back for 6pm so took a punt on Barton.

And what a fine day it turned out to be.  Arrived to find the site empty except for some stuggling seaguls & the wind off to the east.  With it being about time for lunch called in to the Beachcomber for a refreshing cammomile tea & some  most scrumptious lemon & merrange pie.  A quick check on the wind afterwards & well it was miles off so retreated to the car for some parawaiting.  After another 15 minutes the seaguls stopped flapping (something my project managers never seem to be able to acheive). A quick check & the wind had picked up & felt more(ish) on.  So I got my kit out, pulled it up & lobbed off !  A very slow ride towards the east ensued but there was plenty lift. Zoomed back to the beach huts & kept a school trip entertained / distracted for about 40 minutes. Landed back on top for some refreshments. After being quized by every man & his dog on the cliff top it felt like the wind had picked up so took that as a good moment to pack up & beat the traffic back home. Though wish I could have stayed for longer. Am now more relaxed than I have been for weeks.

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