Eye in the Sky - September 2012

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Sat 29 Sep 2012

Report by Everard Cunion


A blustery day at Bell Hill: The thermals were broken and I did not gain more than about 500 feet above the ridge. (Others, mostly flying rigid wings, did better.) The majority of the flexwings there that day were Wills Wing U2s. As well as my Airborne Sting 3, there was one Wills Wing Sport 2, an Airborne Shark, and a new Avian Rio 2 (the first I have seen). The pilot of the Rio 2 had a new experimental seated/supine harness; like a paraglider harness, and a specially shaped control bar (base tube).

Sat 22 Sep 2012

Report by Marcus Webster

Under normal circumstances today could have been considered a good flight and nice day out, but these were not to be normal circumstances!   The getting away from Hambledon along with Ali, Neil and John had been almost too easy by Hambledon standards, with no scary side landings or sweaty walk ups, just a few beats and away on a nice thermal to just over three thousand feet, before the thermal became weak and hard to work and we spread out a little looking for lift.

This was about thirty minutes into the flight and where my slippery slide back to terra firma began. I have tried to analyse what I did wrong and have come to the conclusion that apart from €œhaving all the gear and no idea€, I let myself get detached from the gaggle as I went off solo hunting under a hazy blue sky with only the ground giving clues where lift might be and then fell into the trap of nibbling away at the front of weak thermals rather than opening up the search or trying to rejoin the others.

The next thirty minutes were hard work as I bumped along low (1500`-2000` asl) in broken thermals going from ploughed field to farmyard complex trying to claw my way back up to a comfortable height.

I eventually gave up the fight and landed, in the only empty field I could see, just off the A352 near Glanvilles Wotton next to a small farm with alpaca's and expensive looking horses in the adjoining fields.

This became a bittersweet moment as some friendly, curious faces appeared at the gate, these were Edwin and Lucy Parrott of Osehill Green Farm whose field I had landed in, and young brothers Freddy and William Procter whose family bred the expensive race horses I had seen from the air.

Tea and biscuits arrived as I packed away and all the usual paragliding questions were answered (Lucy Parrott even offered me the use of a small hill on the farm to try and get airborne again but it was small and facing the wrong way!).

As I stated earlier this would have been an enjoyable flight under normal circumstances but as I drank my tea and packed away, the other three had briefly paused down wind before climbing away towards the West where I could see wispy clouds forming and starting to take shape, it looked like it could be a good afternoon€¦..

P.S. a big thank you to Derek for getting me back to the hill in time for another short fly  

Report by Alastair Florence


I arrived at Hambledon thinking there was some chance of a short xc but half expecting an hours soaring before the wind went off East and stopped play, hence I was a little suprised later in the day to find myself on the outskirts of Tiverton after 4 hrs flying and beating my previous PB by 1 KM.

I walked up the hill with Neil Mc whilst John S flew above.

Marcus was kitting up on take off.

We all got airborne and boated round a bit. After a short while a nice wide but weak thermal let us all climb out together.

The lift was pretty scrappy in places but fairly consistant and although difficult to get good height there was very little sink so staying up was fairly easy.

Ceiling seemed to be about 2600ft amsl and so we slowly drifted East milking any lift we found, the sky was all blue with very little indication of thermals so I concentrated on ground sources. Ploughed fields were working well and lift down wind was almost guaranteed.

During the whole flight we all did our fair share of marking lift whilst the rest of the gaggle pimped in turn.

Marcus flew out searching for lift got low and despite hedge kicking for ages finally had to drop out.

John me and Neil then flew pretty much as a gaggle as far as Dunkerswell. As the flight progressed convection levels rose bit by bit peaking with base at 4000ft odd. After Sutton Bingham res messy clouds began forming which made life easier and helped speed up progress a bit.

I wonder if flying faster would have got us further or decked us earlier, we will never know.

Skirting Dunkerswell Neil went off North westish and ended up by the M5 whilst I continued East with John following.

Wind direction had been in our favour being mostly due east and was now maybe wandering off slightly south of East.

This was about 1545hrs now and the day was closing down. John was getting lower and was tempted by Tiverton Parkway train station. I pushed onward and made the far side of Tiverton.

Retrive consisted of cab to the Parkway, train to Exeter, then change train to Gillingham where John very kindly collected me after catching an earlier train. Followed by a de-brief in the pub, home by 2200hrs.

Impressively Neil who had left the hill without money managed to hitch back before me, must be that honest looking face (coughs).

All in all a pretty perfect day, very clear (but cold) sky giving views of South coast England and South coast of Wales at the same time (so long as you turned your head), flying in a highly co-operative gaggle working togther and flying a reasonable distance. Peachometer reading 9.75 (another 8km would have guaranteed a 10+) Total distance just under 92km with turnpoints although the turn points added next to nothing as we flew pretty straightline.

Report by Neil Mccain

I nearly didn't go. It was only the gloomy forecast of a week of rain and my hungry inner rat that persuaded me half an hour's soaring at Hambledon was better than nothing. However, my lack lustre approach was to have major repercussions as I decided to leave my wallet at home....

Ali F, Marcus W and I joined John S in beautiful conditions over the NE face, a ploughed field in front of the eastern end pumping thermal after thermal towards us. It wasn't long before we were all carried up by a humdinger - big and super smooth - into the blue sky above us. There wasn't much of a drift to it, and when it fizzled out for me at about 1800' ato, I was convinced I'd soon be back on terra firma. The discipline of our little gaggle fizzled too as we searched for lift, only to be marshalled into regular circles by another thermal. For the next hour or so we bimbled along - sometimes it seemed as though we were almost scratching to stay up in the weak thermals, none of which seemed to have the pzazz of that first climb out. Progress was slow. I tried to gear down, be patient and enjoy the view, not to hurry and to stick with the zeros until better times came. Luckily for me the incidence of ploughed fields seemed to match my need for them, in that if I was in a large patch of sink I could glide downwind and connect with a likely thermal source before I got critically low. I thought I'd made a terminal mistake when one group of brown fields around Glanvilles Wooton didn't send me skywards as expected, but something at the village did, and I climbed away safely with John. Marcus's luck wasn't so good and he landed at the Dorchester-Sherborne road.

Ali joined us in the climb and for a long time then we flew together, almost taking it in turns to be the top of the stack. Lift was plentiful now and it began to be marked by little fluffy clouds, the bases of which were getting higher all the time.

Another couple of gremlins (hatched from my pre-flight laziness) were beginning to taunt me: I didn't have any inflight snacks or drinks organised, and my hands were getting quite cold as I'd left my glove liners at home. For a while I thought about binning the flight to get warm, but as I clicked past 40km, downwind of a cloud, the sun shone and made me forget my worries. I went on a big glide to catch up with the other two and arrived a lot lower than them over Crewkerne. The thermal was (satisfyingly) just where I expected it to be and once in the core I was soon on level terms. The views were incredible! I could see the Jurassic coast to the south, Hinkley power station and the Bristol Channel to the north. I'd dreamed about flight and now it was happening! I glided toward what looked like a country manor/conference centre. It turned out to be Cricket St Thomas Country Park which has wildlife in it(including jaguars and wolves if I recall), so I'm glad that once again I connected with a wonderful thermal above it that took me straight to base over Chard.

With Ali and John some way below me I decided to have a peek into the White Room - I didn't like it one bit! I expected to be disoriented from being completely cut off from any visual clues but what freaked out was the pitching and rolling - because I couldn't see anything, I had no yardstick for how violent these motions actually were. I looked down at my compass and headed for the exit! I cane out of the side of the cloud into a lovely calm, breathing hard and giving myself a good talking to.

On the next climb I noticed that Dunkeswell airspace was right in the middle of my likely track. I eventually decided to push north of it but I think my delay in deciding which way to go cost me a few km, as John and Ali went that way quicker and more decisively. I glided towards the little town of Hemyock and connected with a gentle thermal rising up the back of the Blackdown Hills. I was low for the first time in the flight so I checked for suitable landing options but as I got above the top of the ridge I was scooped up by surging, rock and roll air. I didn't really have the fight in me to take it to the top and wussed out early. Instead I glided across the M5 to land at the edge of a copse. My GPS reckoned it was 75km in a straight line back to take off - a PB by a long stretch! My fingers were painful with cold for a good five minutes then, and I began to wonder how I'd get home. The flight had taken just over three and a half hours - could i get back in lea than that? Without a credit card I'd have to hitch. I walked round a couple of fields to get to a farm and ask for directions. 'Wellington is a good six miles away!' said the farmer 'Tell you what, I'll give you a lift!' And so my little adventure home began..! I knew Ali and John were making their way back by train, and Ali had kindly (rashly?) suggested that wherever I was he'd come and get me once he got back to his car. I thought I'd see how close I could get! After a long wait at Wellington, I got a lift from a sky-diver who'd been at Dunkeswell (glad I missed him there!). From Taunton to Ilchester with Marius, a Lithuanian expat zoo-keeper, whose satnav was set to his native tongue and sounded heartily amazed that we were following its directions! Then with a chap who worked at Yeovilton air base who insisted on giving me some apple juice as I got out of the car (weird). As the street lamps came on, Richard, a sports cameraman who'd done his paragliding EP in the Himalayas (now that must be a serious first TTB!), took me to Sherborne and then a bit further - putting me at the top of the hill on the Bishops Caundle road. And just as the light began to fade completely, a nice man said he'd take me to Sturminster. After I told him my story he said he'd take me back to the car! This snazzy piece of luck meant I arrived back in Child Okeford, in the dark, at 8pm. Four and a half hours, and ahead of Ali! John had eclipsed us both and was on his way to Gillingham to fetch the record breaker, nice one. As I drove home, I realised I still had that floaty sensation you sometimes get after a good day's flying. That should keep the rat fed for a bit! Happy days...

Report by Mark Tattersall

After a day walking the dog and wife in the sun on the Dorset coast I decided the Easterly wind had enough south in it to soar the hotels at Swanage, since I was there anyway. On the beach the wind was east and light, and no white horses, on the edge of the Ballard estate green it was on the hill and felt a bit top end, but looking at the seagulls they were soaring pretty slowly into wind as the windspeed 50-100' up was clearly a fair bit higher, so decided to walk up with a 17M miniwing. On top of Ballard it was strangely only about 10mph and SE, but as soon as I got over the cliff the windspeed picked up to about 20-30mph and East - and too far to the east to make it to Ballard point and down to Old Harry, esp on a mini wing, so I spent about an hour or so soaring the hotels at a fair clip (esp on the downwind legs), then home for tea. A pleasant end to the day, and glad to squeeze it in before the unpleasant weather forecast to come.

Thu 20 Sep 2012

Report by Shamus Pitts

Had a fun afternoon at Barton today, despite the wind being fairly top end and well off to the west for most of the day.  By about 4 o'clock the wind had dropped enough for Marcus to take William up so that the film crew who had turned up could film him for "Caroline Quentin's National Parks".

Wed 19 Sep 2012

Report by Alastair Florence

I decided to take a days leave as it looked like it could be an ok day and i'm doing holiday relief for someone at RollS Royce factory in Goodwood which is a long drive each day and very boring when I get there, so the thought of some flying was welcome.

Got to Bell fairly early as Derek S was preping to launch, I had about 50 mins in increasing strength and increasing gustyness until it just wasn't fun anymore.

Then went for a walk, then sat round for a while, then as it calmed a little went flying again.

Still strong and gusty at times but enjoyable.

Ended up clocking a 10.9km flat triangle, Peachometer 5 (poor score owing to alot of parawaiting) Terrormeter also clocking a 5 on occasions !

Report by Shamus Pitts

A pretty good day at Telegraph Hill today despite the wind being pretty strong.  I arrived about 10am and found it fairly manageable and off to the west.  The clouds grew pretty quickly and the wind picked up and it was hard to stick with any climbs over the back, leading to a couple of landings a few fields back.

We stopped for a couple of hours at lunch time when it felt a bit too strong but after a while I thought it might have dropped a bit and took off.  It wasn't long before I took a climb over the back - I lost it about 800' ATO and went on a glide to connect with the Cerne ridge where it was horribly rough.  I was down to about 60' over the giant and thinking about landing but it was so rough I didn't know where to go.  I decided to try and get a climb to allow me to land on the big flat fields behind Cerne and after a while one came along....  it was the roughest, most violent climb I think I've ever been in.  Once I was about 500' up, as I turned I suffered a big asymetric on the left, it happened so fast I couldn't stop it.  I wanted to leave the climb but I was so low I decided to try another turn.... another big asymetric, left again.  I was getting higher despite the collapses so I tried another turn - two big collapses, left then right.... weird!  I inched away from the strongest lift and despite being rough didn't cause any more collapses.  I thought it might be that I was under the sea-breeze convergence and half my wing kept entering sink but I think it was probably just a snotty lea-side thermal from behind the giant...

I took the climb up a couple of thousand feet before losing it but there was a cloud street ahead of me (although I couldn't connect to it) and as I explored the area I found more lift, eventually climbing another couple of thousand feet.  As I drifted towards Bere Regis I found a climb which took me to cloudbase (about 5300' AMSL) and was joined for a while by two sailplanes.  I went on a long glide towards Wareham, hoping to pick up a climb on the way, but the whole of the ground was in shadow and I found nothing, landing at Norden for 39km.  As I was waiting for my wife to pick me up Sean Staines drove past having just flown his hangglider from Bell to Swanage, well done Sean!

Report by Sean Staines

Bell Hill - I arrived early to see Derek and Ali flying and quickly launched to join them. I managed a flight up towards the masts but it was picking up the whole time and I had to use the speed bar to get back so that was the end of the paragliding for me.

By now a few hang glider pilots were arriving. Stuart with his Atos, Ian, Steve W and I all Rigged with some discussion of the gustiness of the conditions. I was feeling a bit nervous, not having flown for a while, with 2 uprights broken out of the last three flights, so I chilled out for a while until Ian launched. He was doing ok so I joined him. I was getting some good height gains and flew around the hill for quite a while but I eventually got a good solid climb and stuck with it. Four thermals Later I was at Durleston head for a new personal best of 44k. Excellent. Big thanks to Nick for the retrieve.

Sun 16 Sep 2012

Report by Shamus Pitts

I had a better day at Corton Denham today than I did yesterday.  I arrived about midday to see Gary P in the air.  The wind was on the hill but pretty strong, we measured it from 12mph to 26mph, averaging around 20mph.  After waiting for it to drop a bit we both took off to find the air pretty gusty and rough at times with the occasional thermal coming though to stir things up.  Penetration wasn't a problem most of the time and it was possible to explore the ridge to the left of takeoff and also fly right out over the village.  By 3pm the sky had filled in completely so there was no chance of going XC so we decided to pack up and head to the pub.  The wind was still strong when we left but probably still flyable...

Sat 15 Sep 2012

Report by "Skippy"


Some pics from an excellent day at the "Office" (Ringstead)

Report by Everard Cunion


Britain's Torrey Pines was open for business again after the airspace ban for the Weymouth Olympics. Lots of paragliders and three or four rigid hang gliders were present; I had the only flexwing hang glider there. The wind was light and a bit west, which resulted in turbulence on approach for the hang gliders at the top landing field.

Report by Alastair Florence


There didn't appear to be much wind early so I gave the wifes car a service. By the time I finished there was a reasonable breeze. No sitephone messages from Kimmeridge but I guessed it could be worth a look.

As I drove up I could see a wing on St'A's and a few at Kimmeridge.

I went to St.A's, Quentin had just made it over to Houns Tout so I got launched and joined him.

From Houns Tout we both tried to connect with Kimmeridge but just couldn't get there. I think maybe it needed a bit more strength and a bit more South to make it easy.

After a while I spied Paul H at Kimmeridge and thought i'd do a fly/hike over there for a change. I got pretty much to the foot of Kimmeridge but landed. After walking part way up Swyre Head I re- launched as Paul flew off toward Houns Tout and St.A's.

After a while on Kimmeridge I flew back to Houns Tout where Quentin was still hanging around, then onto St.a's and a fairly easy transition back to Houns Tout. After several attempts I managed to get back onto Kimmeridge, then out to the front cliffs and up to Clavells tower, then back to St.A's and my car passing Paul on the way who incidently also made it back up to Kimmeridge.

I stopped for a de-brief with Quentin in the Square & Compass, all in all a brilliant day with 4 hrs + airtime, so no messages from me as was flying most of the time. Peachometer 8.5

Sun 09 Sep 2012

Report by Neil Weymouth

Unexpectedly good day at Hive, no one else to be seen except Shamus coming from Eype. After much indecision I jumped West bay and made it to Charmouth, on the way back the cloud came down, wind came up so from Golden cap back it was speed bar all the way to keep away from the cliff. Finally as I wasn't going anywhere near the cliff to get enough height it was a speed bar landing on West Bay beach.

Report by Grant Oseland

An early start this morning saw me sitting on take off at Southbourne by 08:30 with zero wind. Eventually the wind came on and aviation was committed. After about an hour and a half of good flying the strength started to increase to a bit more than was comfortable and the direction was moving more to the west. Not before allowing height gains of 600ft :-)  

Report by Shamus Pitts

thinking it might blow out quite quickly I arrived at Hive at about 9:30 to find the wind already quite strong and off to the east.  I waited a while and soon the wind was on the cliff but blowing 19mph.    The take off went fine and I was soon over on the west cliffs heading towards Freshwater Beach.  I crossed the gap - I arrived on the other side quite low but once I'd connected with the cliffs I was soon high again.  I thought I had plenty of height when I started to cross West Bay but as I approached the cliffs on the far side I realised I wasn't going to make it - it was close but I landed on the path up to the West Bay takeoff.  I tried to walk my wing up the path and takeoff higher up but the wind seemed too strong so I had to bunch it up and carry it.  The wind at takeoff was blowing a steady 21mph - I knew that once in the air penetration wasn't a problem but I was pretty nervous about taking off!  It wasn't the tidiest of takeoffs but I didn't kill anyone and I wasn't dragged so a success in my book!  Once I was off the ground I had to use a bit of speed bar to push forward but once out in front of the cliff everything was fine.  I flew up towards Thorncombe to get some height but by now the wind seemed to have a bit more west in it and it was slow going heading west.  I'd told my wife I wouldn't be long so gave up on the Charmouth plan and turned back towards Hive.  With the wind behind me West Bay was much easier to cross and I passed Neil W on the other side.  Freshwater was also a breeze and it wasn't long before I was landing on the beach at Hive, after about an hour in the air.  It wasn't as sunny as when I took off but it was still flyable.  A couple of others turned up as I left and Richard M cruised past on his hangglider so hopefully they had a good fly too.

Sat 08 Sep 2012

Report by Alastair Florence

By early pm there was just about enough wind in the garden to make me think a look at ballard could be on. It was pretty light but direction was ok. After waiting a bit there was slight increase in wind speed which Gave me 30 mins worth of scratching before it died again and i was deposited back at the bottom.

Fri 07 Sep 2012

Report by Grant Oseland


Friday afternoon after work, first went to Kimmeridge were the wind was light and off to the West a bit, we had a scratch for a little bit but nothing that much was happening, then decided the St Albans would probably be the better option and it was.

Report by Andrew Fenton

Being mostly westerly, I headed for Whitesheet where Marcus and a few visiting pilots were parawaiting.  A few thermal cycles eventually came through each about 10 minutes long so we had a few hops with most of the lift being out in front of the trees.  Anyway, I then headed for Swallowcliffe where I expected some restitution around 5pm and wasn't disappointed.  Nice buoyant lift provided for an hour or so of respectable ridge soaring with a few end-of-day thermals to play with as well.

Thu 06 Sep 2012

Report by Roger Edwards

The forecast had looked hopeful but the day was poor, the wind barely tickling the trees I could see through my windows. XC Weather just confirmed the lack of wind. "Oh well, it's a nice day, I'll pop down to Southbourne and have a look anyway," I thought, expecting to have nothing more than a pleasant walk along the prom. I arrived to find the wind averaging 9, max 13. Not inspiring, but close. Then a wind dummy appeared in the form of Phil V, convinced that he'd stay up. And he did, with about 20 ft ATO, and then he started getting higher. It steadily got better and despite being a bit off to the SW I managed to cross both piers and get to Sandbanks. I just couldn't quite make it past the very last house on the end, that would've been a scratch too far and I didn't fancy a 9 km walk back! I breezed back across the piers with the wind behind me. Blimey, that wasn't meant to happen, not that I'm complaining.

Wed 05 Sep 2012

Report by Steve Whitfield

I had a very painful flight at Monks, fortunately not in the physical sense. It's not a good idea to go flying in an extended lunch break when you are desperate to go XC. The PG's were grounded by the noise in the trees so I had the hill to myself. To be fair, it was quite rough below 1000 feet but once you got above this it was lovely. I got a big gentle thermal upto 2500 over the back field and then I had to make a decision. Excuses started running through my mind-the car broke down, the cat got run over etc. The problem is, when you turn up at work with a hang glider on your roof everybody knows your intention. Very reluctantly I left the lift and flew forward right into another boomer. The fields out in front were really kicking off. Eventually I got down by coring sink and top landed just in time to get a lift back to take off by one of my clients who was passing in an enormous combine. The eight year old boy inside me quite enjoyed it. Oh well, there will be other days.......


Mon 03 Sep 2012

Report by Simon Jones

Good day at Southbourne. Arrived at two to find lightish winds which were also slightly off to the west. However I found enough lift to fly for a couple of hours, with the wind steadily increasing until I called it a day at about 5.30. Then home for tea and medals.


Sat 01 Sep 2012

Report by Steve Whitfield

I have just had two consecutive days of excellent flying. The good thermal forecast for Friday combined with the light wind forecast in the west country forced me to consider  other options. The wind was significantly stronger further east so I drove to the South Downs. I had a nice but turbulent flight at Firle, but when it got to 11AM and I was still in on my own I realised I must be in the wrong place and headed for Devils Dyke. The PG's were grounded initially due to the strong wind, but the usual suspect were all present on their Hang Gliders. I was rewarded with a lovely flight along the Truliegh ridge with some good thermal activity and climbs to 2-3K.


On Saturday I went to Woolacombe for the first time. The wind was slightly off to the south but a good strength. I had 3 hours in the air in total and spent most of my time playing with the VG and practising flying fast. The first attempts lead to some mild PIO's but I was beginning to get at handle on it by the end of the day. Compared to the Sting the U2 is very fast! I'm still getting used to the bar position at trim. It sits under your nose with the VG off. This means I am reluctant to let the bar forward on take off and run harder than I need to. The  bar position at trim on the U2 would correspond to a stall on the Sting. Still, taking off with too much airspeed is never a bad thing.


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