Eye in the Sky - April 2013

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Sun 28 Apr 2013

Report by Paul Maidment


10 o'clock Kimmerdge, a cold overcast Sunday morning, Jules and I were surprised to see three people preparing  to launch, wind felt good but a little of to the west, but we would give it a go, Jules was off first and made a turn to the right flying low and tight to the ridge disappearing from view, I followed suit scratching a couple of feet of the ridge. After a couple of beats I managed to climb above the ridge, just a small part of the ridge seamed to be working but after half an hour things improved as the wind increased. Eventually the whole ridge was working, we spent the next hour or so wafting back and forth before I started to notice getting blown back, so it was time to land. We had a cold but enjoyable fly, just as we were leaving we saw a wing at St Aldhams, it looked like they were trying to make it to Kimmeridge..  I think it may have been Ali Florence.

Report by Alastair Florence

Todays forecast appeared to be SW increasing.

Todays plan was collect wife returning from holiday, drop wife off at home, go to St. Aldhelms as wind increases, fly to Houns Tout, fly onward to Kimmeridge, fly back to Square & Compass, have a beer. In the event couldnt get much beyond the Tout owing to too much West in the wind but did get back to pub. Quentin trying the same as well.

Report by Sean Staines

The Hive, Everything came together perfectly today for a flight at the hive. The forecast was for light but increasing strength SW wind. The tide was low and going out providing an emergency beach landing option the whole length of the cliff and the weather was cold and overcast, discouraging too many people from littering the bottom landing option.

I’d spoken to Richard Moseley and we arrived about the same time and rigged straight away. By about one O’clock the wind had strengthened to 14mph at take-off. There were a few white horses visible. The birds were doing well and Richard had had an easy launch and was soaring well. I took off and easily connected with the end of the low cliff and started to climb. The flight to the far side of Charmouth was then pretty straight forward.

I peaked out at 1425 ATO above Thorncombe Beacon on the return and was still 1000ft ATO after crossing Westbay. The flight was topped off by a good top landing back at launch.

Getting more HG airtime than PG airtime at the moment.

Fri 26 Apr 2013

Report by Stephen Whitfield

RASP was certainly indicating a very unstable day with big sucking clouds and it didn't disappoint. You know you are in for an interesting flight when you get bombarded with hail during rigging..
I took off at about 11 and the air was rough as expected, but the thermals were coherent allowing a couple of nice climbs to base at 2500ft ATO. I was careful to scoot away from the big black things above before I got sucked up. I landed after an hour and a half to give the cloud base time to lift and to rest my aching arms. Unfortunately the wind started to increase with gusts to 30mph. Sean did a no step takeoff and I quickly followed with a one stepper. The air was now very unpleasant, the previously strong but coherent thermals were all chopped up and we both called it a day after half an hour. Highlights can be found below.


Thu 25 Apr 2013

Report by Andy Ward

Ringstead - Several of us sat patiently waiting for the clag to clear. Mid afternoon the fog vanished and took the wind with it, leaving two optimistic pilots with a long trudge back up the hill. The wind picked up, but dragged more fog off the bay with it so ground handling and short hops were as good as it got before we gave up and went home.

Some video here of ground handling at cloudbase http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNwXN1ZK8gI

Tue 23 Apr 2013

Report by David Franklin


Bell hill - I decided to drop in to  Bell Hill on the way back from my earlier 18k jolly from Telegraph Hill. This turned out to be a good decision as the evening became a Bell classic. A beautiful 2 1/2 hour soaring all over the area with a lot of time spent around 800ft ATO.

Report by David Franklin


Telegraph Hill - An early start today with the expectation of flying Cowdown. Looking skywards from Adrian Cs garden it seemed as if the wind was WNW so we changed our plans and headed to Telegraph Hill. The wind on the hill at 10.30 seemed a good direction,although a little boisterous. We quickly got airborne and although there was plenty of broken lift I was soon feeling motion sickness creeping up on me so I hastly landed and sat watching Adrian. A little later having chewed through half a pack of Polos I convinced myself it looked a bit smoother and took to the sky once more. The air was still rather lumpy and the thermals fragmented but I was lucky enough to climb out this time. With a bit of a scramble I made cloudbase disappointingly below 3000ft. I then spent around an hour trying to stay there which was good fun. Near Milborne St Andrew with luck all used up, I found myself landing in a long field, as my feet touched the ground I could not believe my eyes as a dozen Buzzards took off from the same field and climbed away in a cracking thermal.

Report by Alastair Florence

Managed a waft on St.Aldhelms on the way back from work tonight.

Believe it or not first flight there for me this year. Pretty tame really apart from the odd squiff of orographic cloud but a nice chill out after a stressfull day at work. Darren G also in the air for company.

Sun 21 Apr 2013

Report by Grant Oseland

An early start at Ringstead Bay this morning as the forecast was for it to pick up significantly by mid day. Tandems flights were made as well as first timers on the big cliffs out front. The wind was a fairly consistent SW and at times WSW but all in all a pleasant day flying.

Report by Shamus Pitts

It was already quite windy when I arrived at Eype about 11am.  There were already a few people in the air and it wasn't long before I joined them.  The wind was pretty much SW so there was plenty of lift all the way down to Charmouth and back, although there was the usual anxious moment pushing low around Golden Cap to get to the lifty side but apart from that it was pretty plain sailing.  When we got back to Eype Ali and I decided to try and make it down to Hive and back.  The West Bay and Freshwater gaps were crossed reasonably comfortably  and we even managed to make it back, although it was a bit tighter going that way!  With hindsight it was probably a tad windy to try for a top landing at Eype but I could see Martin F at takeoff and I hadn't seen him for ages so thought I'd try it... let's just say I got down, nothing was damaged and no-one was hurt....  a great 90 minute flight up and down the coast!

Report by Alastair Florence

I was contemplating Corton Denham today but then thought better of it and with a nudge from Shamus went to Hive.

Hive was pretty light and I decided that although it was probably soarable we would be stuck unable to cross the gaps.

I could see wings over Eype so met Shamus there. For anyone who has not tried to launch on Eype its a launch with 'issues' still got off after a bit and found some nice lift albeit fairly strong wind.

Firstly we boated up to Charmouth via Gold Cap, then back past Eype and over West Bay to Hive Gap. Then back over West Bay to Eype.

Eype is not the most straight forward landing either and after seeing Shamus top land decided it may be best to land on the beach. This was easier said than done as it was very lifty, actually I think we could have beach launched and saved the hassle of a rotor launch.

Anyway, nice bit of Gay coast bashing, all it needed was a bit more sun. Peachometer 7.5

Report by William Palmer

Imagine the disappointment when at 1pm I've landed at only 8km, far from roads somewhere in Wales. With the sky darkening and no idea where my retrieve would be, I had wasted my only opportunity after hundreds of miles driving to take the chance on this round of the BCC competition.  A long walk to the road, and a quick call to Andrea Staines and I was retrieved, now already 2:30pm and we were driving away from the hill to find another pilot. Needless to say when we eventually arrived back at the hill to see light winds off to the south, the droves of pilots leaving should have pushed me to do the same. However, 4pm isn't the end of the day. A gusting wind on takeoff hinted at some activity but I could hardly believe it with only a tiny fraction of the ground in sun. Joining 2 gliders in the air, and as the hoards of students looked on we found a few thermals, enough to maintain from time to time and then it came. Broad and mellow, an unfaltering 1.5 up! Knowing my last flight was a one thermal wonder this could easily put me right back in to the same quagmire as the last adventure, but once we arrived at base there would be only one thing to do. Keep climbing. A few minutes in cloud found the end of the climb so once again I continued from a height of 5500ft eventually popping out of my white room.  Gilding on I thought I would be able to make Aberdare, complete with a nice enough field near the centre of town. I'd get a signal there anyway and surely a pint too and after all, the ground was almost 90% in shade. Arriving over town with a little height I stopped loosing the last few feet, then the beeps came, occasional at the start before building in frequency until the vario started to consistently scream 2 up! Watching the lanscape ebb away I could no longer see the edges of the cloud as the patchwork blue holes disappeared and I entered the beast. Cloudbase at just over 5000ft was insignificant just making my horizon a little more abstract. The climb not abating inside, and the lift as smooth as butter I stuck with a touch of weight shift and maintained my usual position, following the lift as it took me higher. Time seemed to stand still. With nothing around me to watch as I thermalled I lost track of the space around me. Occasionally falling out of lift I found it hard to re-centre from time to time but this would turn out to be the last of my concerns. Building slowly at first, above 6000m I began to notice the wing, my harness, and I was becoming at one with the white room. Ice began to cover everything.

Scared in to old age, my lines within a minute became as white as an old man's beard, encapsulated in thickening ice. Only my constantly moving brake lines were spared, and I'm not sure of my wing as the wispy filaments of clouds didn't permit me a clear view. Topping out the climb at 7,200ft after my now dark grey refrigerator was becoming super chilled and I wondered how big this beast around me was. Maybe it would keep me here for longer? Maybe I would be stuck here flying along inside a cloud streak until the fast approaching nightfall? Eternally in cloud I eventually fell slowly back to earth, my lines now heavy with ice. Once passing through a big chamber in the clouds, harsh streaks of a dying sun warmed my face ever so briefly before I ducked back in to the white. My GPS alerted upcoming airspace at 5,500ft, but with no sight of the ground I worked hard to maintain a constant course to avoid it. Looking at my track log I must have been inside the cloud for around 15 minutes, but the experience was just magical. As soon as I was reunited with the ground, the ice melted to a stream of water and the hill above Tall y Bont was clear in the distance. It was a good place to land after 30km of unexpected flight, and just before the 6pm competition window closed.  The flight taking me to a new UK height pb of 7,200ft is a good reminder of why we fly, and how sometimes just a novel two thermal xc can be amongst the most memorable of experiences. http://www.xcleague.com/xc/flights/2013612.html

Report by Paul Maidment

8.10: text from Jules "Kimmeridge looking good"  8.20: another  text from Jules "get up i'm on my way", 8.45: we are on our way, 9.30: through sleep encrusted eyes im unpacking my wing on a windy kimmerdge slope , after a couple of attempts Jules is away and climbing nicely i'm not so lucky... brain asleep and lines in a mess, after 10 mins of faffing i'm up. I scratch along left  to the first hedge line and up I go, always get lift there, for an hour and  half we had the the ridge to ourselves getting good lift at each end of the ridge then sink then cracking but very choppy lift in the middle, bit of a roller-coaster ride but great fun. After some time we were joined by two others taking full advantage of the cracking conditions, Jules had to get back and the wind was due to increase so I was thinking of landing when I caught a thermal which saw 600+ on my vario, but it was time to go,  an awesome day.. thanks Jules for getting me moving.    

Sat 20 Apr 2013

Report by Shamus Pitts


A slightly disappointing day at Ballard Down today.  The wind felt quite strong when I arrived at midday but was a little off to the east.  It was flyable with a few people out on the cliff but despite the wind strength it was hard to get even 100' ATO.  As the day went on the wind dropped for a while before picking up a little later in the afternoon, although not for long.  In the end there was hardly any wind on takeoff so I decided to fly down to the beach, only to find a bit of lift on the cliff.  I flew to the end of the cliff and found the wind to be a little bit stronger and managed to soar for a while, up to 120' ATO at times.  As I flew back along the cliff towards TO the air got a bit lumpy and my ground speed increased as I crossed the grass by the path up from the beach.  Once on the ground there was hardly any wind but another trip out to the cliffs proved that there was still enough wind on the cliff to soar.  Eventually I flew down to land on the beach, after a total of about an hour in the air - not bad but not the epic day I was hoping for!
Fri 19 Apr 2013

Report by Grant Oseland


Test flew an Ozone Rush 3 today, didn't like it that much, can't put my finger on why, but it did get to Swanage.

Report by John Alder

Bell Hill. I arrived at midday to find one PG pilot about to take off and several others present. The consensus was that it was ‘top-end and gusty’ so I decided to rig my hang glider. Not having flown for 6 months (and that a 6 minute top-to-bottom in Spain!) I prepared with great care and some trepidation. In the event, I and my glider performed faultlessly with a good take-off, thermalling to near cloudbase (topped out at just over 5000 ft ASL) and an excellent top landing in the newly designated top landing strip. I also completed a 12 km triangle via Shillingstone, Childe Okeford and just short of Sturminster Newton during which I wasn’t lucky enough to hook into any major thermal lift. After an hour in the air my body was telling me it was time to land but what a superb way to ‘break my duck for 2013!

Sat 06 Apr 2013

Report by Sean Staines

I had received my new Mac Para Eden 5 paraglider a couple of weeks ago and had had about an hours flying to get used to it at Whitewool, before its second outing at Monksdown. I am light on it, and to start with the strong dynamic component made me inclined to stay out front and low, but things calmed down a bit and at about 1:30 I hooked into a good solid climb in the bowl to the left of take-off.

My GPS was set to show the distance to the nearest CTR, Compton Abbas, and I watched the distance tick down. It got to 250m before it started its alarm by which time I’d climbed 2300ft above take off. Not a huge margin but definitely not in it. I’d seen Grant climb out closer to the hill to about the same height.

I turned towards Tollard Royal for a short glide before finding more lift to circle in. Grant flew across to join me and we started our game of tag.

A really solid climb near Tarrant Gunville took me just below base at around 4700ft. I was so glad I’d purchased those mountaineering gauntlets at Christmas and still had warm hands. I could see Hambledon hill and Bell and considered heading for those, but it was Blue so I headed for a cumulus in the Blandford direction. At Bryanston School I found a blue thermal. Not very strong and not a lot of height gain, but a good keep going sort of thermal. Grant came in and out climbed me. I moved on and found another stonking climb at Winterbourne Whitechurch taking it to about 4500ft. I could see Grant a long way back at about the same height. Again he came in to join me but didn’t connect with the same lift, deciding to retrace his steps a bit. We parted company for the last time.

I headed for Cumulus forming over Puddletown forest with a certain degree of trepidation. The Cumulus looked the most active I’d seen and the forest looked very black. Sure enough there was another very strong thermal, 4m/s on the averager. It was filling in and darkening above me and I didn’t feel the need to stay in it. I went of a glide and continued climbing, heading for the golf course near to White horse, off the Dorchester to Weymouth road.

What to do next? Plan A – Head for the beach on the Weymouth sea front. Look Cool and have an ice cream. Plan B Head towards Portland. I decided on Plan C. I could see the White horse / Friar Waddon Ridge running towards Abbotsbury and decided I would try and make it to Bridport. I found a climb at Friar Waddon and was joined by a Seagull. The drift was taking me South, away from the ridge. I left it too soon and bombed out just short of Abbotsbury. Grant said it was sea breezing so If only I’d made it round the corner I might have been able to soar the sea breeze to Charmouth (in my dreams).

My GPS was setup to show the distance from take off. On the final glide I watched the distance ticking away 48.2, 48.3…. I was shouting come on you Ba@~$ard at it to make 50km and was delighted to land at 50.5km straight line distance. A new personal best for me.

Report by William Palmer


My first opportunity to xc this year, and it didn't look great from the start at Monks as an easterly component in the wind saw the thermals drifting well in to airspace. Thankfully after watching a glider drifting off over the back an hour before, I found something for myself and soon set off on my way. After getting very high just before Blandford, I took a call from Neil on the radio offering tea and biscuits in town so decided to burn off my 2000' with a spiral, SAT's and a loop, all(most) over the water of the Stour, ending my flight by landing just on the edge of town. A much more civilised end to a flight than the usual hitch back from who knows where. We even bumped in to Roger Edwards who kindly gave us both a lift back to the hill for some late afternoon soaring. Lovely stuff. Could not ask for a better day. http://www.xcleague.com/xc/flights/2013394.html?vx=06

Report by Neil McCain

The Wessex ran their own aerial version of the Grand National....

Avinitlarge (11-3) won by a several lengths over the course at Monksdown. The lime green Omigod, piloted by Grant Oseland, thermalled superbly all the way to Chesil Beach as many of the club managed to slip over the back.

Crow Wannabe with Sean Staines at the reins was second (2-1 joint favourite), with Skydog (11-2) and FitasaButcher (16-1) also making the coast.  Bubbles' Brother was sent off the 2-1 joint favourite, as pilot Marcus Webster attempted to reach goal at White Horse. But his steed faded, eventually landing at Dorchester with Kiteloop (Craig Byrne).

However, it was Webster's fellow xc-panellist Gary Puhl who got away late in the day to jockey up beside the leaders. Skydog came from well behind the main field and in completely blue conditions to make his late bid.

But it was Oseland - in his first Monksdown departure for some time - who had already scooped the prize. Using the E wind at the coast he cruised to a strong finish at Chesil Beach.

"There are no words to describe it," said the smug git. "I got a dream flight. I didn't know what do do in the thermals and I still made it here. What were the rest of them doing? They're all rubbish!' "I couldn't fault the wing - he loved every second of it. He was just class." Oseland gave up xc flying for a while to concentrate on flat racing at gay coastal sites before being tempted by the chance to fly higher than his old rival Webster in a head to head race.

He paced his wing carefully at the start and didn't panic when early leaders Air on a D Wing and Palmer Violet got away from the rest. Pilot Neil McCain lost touch with the rising air at Blandford and Will Palmer pulled his mount up short there too, winding off his height with SATs over the town's brewery to join McCain for an early cup of tea.

Improving conditions may well have been the key to the Omigod's win.

"I knew the air was lumpy and hoped for the best really. Some say there are a lot of monkeys in the club - well I'm the King of the Swingers now!' After a long lay off because of poor weather, there may have been some concerns that the spring conditions would catch pilots out. Thankfully this wasn't the case and no one was unseated. Awkward conditions at the start meant some fancied wings didn't get away from the hill. Others that did manage to break the starter's tape included Simon Vacher on Weekend Adventure (landed short), Nigel Rendell on OK K-Bay (PB for height) and veteran Richard Moseley on Gone Floppy which pulled up with motion sickness.

(Thanks to the beeb's GN report for the inspiration and format)

Report by Grant Oseland

I very good day at Monks today, with what appeared to be half the Wessex club in the air at the same time. Many people got away and landed all over South Dorset. and a few personal bests as well. The air was very rough at times, especially at take off which made it difficult to get away, once up high the lift smoothed a bit but still had some very rough edges, at one point I had a full asymmetric on 3/4 bar! All in all a good but cold and rough day.

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