Eye in the Sky - June 2014

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Sun 29 Jun 2014

Report by Neil Weymouth

After two walks up Bell Hill in light and variable winds I finally got a solid thermal straight out in front at 3pm. This took me to 3000ft and I continued back with plenty of lift around in gentle thermals. When leaving I noticed a strong whirlwind in the crop below, luckily no effect up where I was. Around Bloxworth there was a large area of 3up but looking behind I noticed a large grey cloud heading my way so decided it was time for a run downwind and landed at Wareham. After packing up there was a noise which I though initially was heavy traffic on the road but then lots of wind, seagulls being swept around and a patio umbrella taken up to 100ft, I was glad to be on the ground! 

Report by Roy Menage

Having found myself with a potentially flyable day and no instructing duties,  I headed to Bell Hill in the hope that the wind might come good and I could get some airtime. When I arrived around 12:15, there were a few people on the hill but nobody flying (and a very limp-looking windsock). But the thermic cycles promised something despite the rather overcast state of the sky. As the cycles came, several of us took off and worked the weak thermals for about 10 minutes or so before finding ourselves back on the ground. I managed to work one up to about 500ft over the back field and then pushed forward and stumbled into a second one (also very weak) and then another. This enabled me to eek out a flight of about 20 minutes. Some time later, another cycle came through offering the same brief flight but I managed to work that one up to about 1000ft, once again with very little drift over the back (still no further back that the middle of the field). Once again, I pushed forward and connected with more lift (this time a rather more ominous looking cloud) and was able to just push forward going up all the time. The lift wasn't particularly strong (less than 2m/s) but, not being keen on the idea of getting sucked into a cloud, I started heading towards Ibberton and the end of the ridge. Progress was very slow so I gave up on that idea and headed back to takeoff, still not really loosing much height, and in fact finding still more lift. I guess it was one of those days where you could easily stay up if you could just connect with the clouds. By now, I had had enough and decided it was time to land. I took the opportunity to experiment with the spiral dive point on the Nevada. It was easy to get into a nice tight 360 and then dip into and out of the spiral (unlike the Golden that was reluctant to go back in once I had eased out). So all-in-all, with all those short flights, I managed about 2 hours of airtime. Very satisfactory and I am very pleased with the wing too.

Sat 28 Jun 2014

Report by Alastair Florence

Today's forecast had not been very inspiring, but a look out the window was a bit more promising.

I thought I may as well take a look up at St.Aldhelms as although Sunday looks a better day I have other commitments.

On St.A's the wind felt ok but off South a bit, the sea had White Horses here and there and almost wind streaks making me think maybe it was further off than it appeared and I wasn't feeling the full strength on the hill.

I thought I may as well see what would happen anyway.

It was a hard push out to Emmets Hill but once there the direction sat much better.

I gained about 500ft ato out by the Coastguards and thought I may as well try a glide direct toward Houns Tout, I have never tried going from this far South before but it worked fine and the crossing was comfortable (although my legs always seem to start shaking part way across, must be memories of the times it hasn't worked out) I rebuilt my height on Houns Tout and almost couldn't be bothered to go any further, but thought I may as well as I had come this far.

Eldon Seat was fairly easy to get to and I wanted to try and get enough height to get onto Smedmore Ridge, I couldn't find enough so settled for a bimble up to Clavells Tower and back.

There was some low cloud forming now and the air was getting a little gusty so I decided it was time to fly back to the car and go have lunch.

An unexpected flight Peachometer 7.

Fri 27 Jun 2014

Report by Everard Cunion


Ringstead - Too windy all afternoon to fly, but calmed down enough late evening for a short flight. Another hang glider flew too.

Wed 25 Jun 2014

Report by Alastair Florence

I had the now rare opportunity of snatching a short notice day off work.

Monks looked like the place to be. After a couple of flights there I sort of felt (same as most others) that it probably wasn't really going to happen as the wind was off West most of the time and there did not seem to be anything much connecting with a cracking looking sky.

This was possibly a mistake after seeing the XC league table later, but maybe it wouldn't have happened for me.

Anyway I thought I might try Swallowcliffe, this was working in thermic cycles but didn't really feel much better than Monks. Oh by the way I discovered here that the Carrera recovers from a frontal collapse in about the same time as it takes to say 'ooooooooooooooh sh1t' to yourself, which is handy especially if you are near the ground.

Anyway I haven't been to Westbury for ages and it often has a habit of coming good late PM as the sea breeze comes in from the Severn Estuary so that was next on todays list.

I had a couple of ok flights and was getting fed up watching Tim P a few thousand feet up boating about all over the place on his Sigma 9 when I caught a decent climb myself and then spent the next hour or so following him around the sky up to 4000+ft amsl. Some nice mellow climbs and not too much head wind.

Not quite the epic XC I had been planning but Peachometer 8 and no worries about retrieves etc as landed within a few feet of t/o.

Sun 22 Jun 2014

Report by Shamus Pitts

I had a surprisingly good 45 minutes at Portland East today with Dave A.  We got there for 9am because I thought the wind would go off to the south but it was NE when we got there and didn't go east until midday.  At takeoff the wind was blowing between 6 and 12 mph and didn't feel strong enough but after waiting 3 hours for it to improve (which it didn't seem to) and watching the seagulls I thought it might be better than it felt so took the plunge and ran off the cliff.

The air was actually pretty buoyant and I was soon 50' ATO.  I landed to tell Dave what it was like then took off again.  This time I pushed out towards the sea and found myself climbing all the way.  The lift band extended right down to the beach and I kept climbing until I was 330' ATO - much better than I expected!  Dave soon joined me in the air and we explored the cliff down to Church Ope Cove and back before I noticed bits of orographic cloud coming in so decided to land, shortly followed by Dave.  The orographic didn't come to anything but I had a few jobs to do at home so decided to call it a day.  It was still very flyable when we left though...

Sat 21 Jun 2014

Report by P.Maidment

Saturday first port of call Kimmeridge, pulled up at car park overlooking Kimmeridge, wind looked good but no one was there.  Strange, ok maybe its better somewhere else.  So I headed for White Horse, empty, ok, Ringstead, no one there either.  Where is everybody? Sod it back to Kimmeridge, got back there about 2 ish,  still no one, so I sat at take off for about 20 mins, no signal on mobile so I can't leave or receive site phone message, don't like flying solo but this is to good to miss. Rigged up and launched into good smooth lift to about 200ft ato, but only the ridge to the west of take off was working, spent the next 2 hours having the time of my life, one minute scratching then back up to 200ft in really smooth lift pushing out then back again for some more scratching, but all to soon it was over.  About 5 o'clock wind switched off, a cracking day can't stop smiling.

Report by Paul Hawkins

Well what a day we had at Southborne! Myself and Gavin Tew flew Tandem hopping both piers and waving and whooping at his wife and mother in law who were camped out in their beach hut below the Marriott hotel. We had stacks off height and the views were fantastic. Funny thing is I kept having to remind Gavin to be more excited as this sort of flight doesn't happen on a tandem that often!  Sorry no photo 's of the tandem flight Gavin wouldn't let me take my camera phone out of my pocket as it was unnerving him when I took my hands off the controls! Ha ha ha! Got say Gavin is a great co pilot helping with launch and top landing with his mighty leg power and doing exactly as asked quickly and effectively. Looking forward to taking him XC one day.

Gavin had to get back the family so cycled off back to the beach hut which left me with the afternoon to fly my Goose. What a glider it's like a flipping go cart, instant response to break input loads of performance swoops and dives and turns on 5 pence piece. What day.....who says coastal soaring is boring? It's not if you have the right wings for the right conditions!
Friday the 20th June was also a good afternoon of flying at Southborne I flew an Astral 7 which I have on loan while I wait for my Aspen 5 to be made! Nice wing excellent glide crossing both piers with ease. Broke out the Goose and had a nice wang about into the early evening. Nice to see Richard, and Simon (I think rubbish with names) on both days.

Top weekend of flying!

Thu 19 Jun 2014

Report by Alastair Florence

I took a little detour on Thurs evening past Okeford and had a short flight. It was a bit to up and downy for comfort really what with all the trees and a hard walk if you bottom land, so I took advantage of an up bit and got down on the spur.

This afternoon I had a fly on Ballard, no parachutists around, Quentin and Stuart also having a flight. The ridge was working ok with some little thermals coming through but the wind felt off to the West and after a while we decamped to Knitson.

Knitson felt very light but worth a launch. It proved scratchy but relatively buoyant at first. Then I think the wind picked up a tad and wafted lots of smooth lifty air through giving a nice end to the evenings flying.

Sun 15 Jun 2014

Report by Paul Maidment

Sunday forecast north east ok maiden castle it is ,last time i was  there didn't have a very good flight ,arrived in car park to see three wings in the air and looking good but was met by Russell who said it was very lumpy and strong not very pleasant at all ,so the parawaiting began after about half an hour it seemed to calm down a bit a lone pilot was on take off  after a couple of grass wind meters thrown in the air he was airborne and it looked ok that was enough for me i was off up to take , just as i was about launch the wind dummy landed by the car park, not a good sign i took off and pretty  soon realised i had made a mistake very strong wind and lumpy as hell i was having a lot of trouble pushing out but a lot of the time being pushed  back ,after about 15 minutes i had had enough , time to land so made my way to bottom landing field by the car park , big problem i had 500ft and i was above car park  so a couple of 360 to burn off height ok but now being pushed back again so applied half bar ok but i was coming down on the wire fence at the back of landing field so full bar just creeping me forward i made a conscious effort to land on the well trodden path to avoid the dog eggs in the long grass i was down phew , one guy went over the back but only made 2k ,probably one of my hairiest flights.   [ED: 2/10 for punctuation]  

Report by Everard Cunion


Monk's Down - Back on the Sting III 154 because it looked light and turbulent. (It was.) Similar conditions to the day before (wind quartering from the east) but the clouds were less tall and more widespread.

There was one other hang glider (the green Avian Rio 2) and, later, one paraglider flying the ridge during my twenty minute flight. And again, turbulence caused me to decide to land. The paraglider pilot said he landed for the same reason.

Sat 14 Jun 2014

Report by Everard Cunion


Monk's Down - My first flight on my new mystery glider.

There were two paragliders flying the ridge during my ten minute flight, one of which is visible in the photo, and I quickly rose above both by circling in thermals. Unfortunately, at a certain height, I encountered strong turbulence, which made for an uncomfortable experience on a new wing, which was why I landed after only ten minutes.

Mon 09 Jun 2014

Report by Neil


Southbourne. But this time with new boots and a new attitude (see last edition of Airmail for details). I was first to arrive. Assessing the conditions I noticed wisps of orographic cloud forming above take-off and figured that this was a good sign - warm, buoyant air rising would probably mean easy soaring at height. And so it proved to be. I took off and climbed up and up - without turning - so that I was easily over 150' ato before the eastern limit of the run. Perfect! Still climbing I cruised out over the sea and flew in a straight line to Boscombe Pier. I crossed the gap almost without losing an inch of height and then began climbing again as I approached the tall block of flats. There was a guy doing maintenance work on the roof and I waved down at him, still climbing. As I passed the hotels I noticed my altimeter read about 400' asl, My rule of thumb for sucessfully crossing the gap is about 150' less than that so I blatted on, zooming over the space where the IMAX (now the iMin?) once was. As I passed the BIC I was a little surprised that I'd lost so much height but as I still seemed to have plenty I continued waving to the crowds and headed for the chines. My vario was still making the right sort of noises but not with so much gusto. I looked for flags on the promenade, checking that the wind was still in my favour. It was, but only just and as I crossed Branksome beach I began to fly with much more attention began actively looking for the best areas of lift. I ditched my original target of Sandbanks in favour of the Cliff Drive viewpoint but had to give up on that as well when I felt my wing twitch in decidedly iffy air. I turned back, and headed back to all the points I knew I'd had lift on the way out.

But they didn't seem to be there! Now I was on talking terms with the crowds I'd been waving at, skimming over Branksome Dene as though I was arriving for a fly-in. 'You can do this!' I said to myself, 'Now get a grip!' I headed for the cliff in front of the Marriott, a guaranteed oasis of lift that would see me rocketing skywards. But as I flew over the Durley Chine council yard just before it I could almost read the text message being typed by the yard foreman. I whipped into the safety of the Marriott's cliff and... I got nothing. The flag by the cliff lift was flying and a gull went past but they were both decoys, battery powered or something, because there WASN'T ANY LIFT! I turned as tight as I dared and went back , my harness shaking hands with the foliage, my wingtip perilously close to the fence, lamposts, onlookers, more posts.... I seized on a solitary beep from the vario - 'Here it is!' I muttered, 'About time!' But it wasn't and I cranked round again, a foot lower on my pass this time. As I got to the cliff lift there was a glimmer of hope and I went up two feet but by the time I'd turned it back to the cliff I'd lost the advantage. Dammit - I was stuck! I went back again and again, realising I was drawing quite a crowd. Sometimes they were looking down on me, sometimes we were eye-to-eye, but I couldn't get above them, try as I might. I really didn't want to land and I was about to give in when I thought my trial was over and I got as high as the lamp posts. At this point I expected the better air to catch me and lift me up as it was forced over the hotel but with a terrible sense of foreboding I felt the height bleed away and I was back to surfing the bushes. I could see from the flag on top of the hotel that the wind had become very light and that was the reason for my difficulties.

I could also see another glider heading towards me from the east. It was Sean and I hoped he'd spot me having trouble and back off from making the second pier crossing. He had reasonable height too, and although I couldn't work out why I didn't it was reassuring that if I could just hang on, it might come good for me. More dashes across this tiny stretch of cliff followed and I almost gave in for a second time after botching a turn left me lower than I'd been all the while. And then, as though the Wind Gods got bored of teasing me, I felt everything get better. I made a turn in lift and gained twenty feet, my new track still taking me up. Wonderful! I rose majestic, my mood now as light as my wing, almost instantly able to look down on the hotel's roof. I'd been pleased with my flying to have survived the 10-15 minutes at cliff height but I had nothing to do with this, the elements powering me back up to 250' asl. I crossed the gap with ease, connecting with more lift and topping out at about 455' asl as I passed the flats. When I eventually landed (a heel-pleasing soft one on the sand below take-off) it was with a smile that summed up why we do this. What fun!

Sun 08 Jun 2014

Report by Sean Staines

Beer head - I've long dreamt of flying my hang glider at Beer Head and  doing the coastal run from Sidmouth to Burton Bradstock. It's been done by Hang Gliders and Paragliders before but is very technical and committing. I didn't make it but had a great flight nonetheless. I've posted a video on Vimeo, see https://vimeo.com/97747243 Definitely one for the future.

Report by Alastair Florence

For a long time now I have wanted to try and fly from Ringstead to Swanage, so when Nigel R suggested a few days ago that this weekend could be worth trying just that I said I was interested.

Saturday turned out a bit of a damp squib and we decided early an early start Sunday looked most promising.

I've been only flying the Carrera since I bought it,so it seemed like a good day to blow the moths out of my Mantra for a change.

We met up in Whiteways car park before 0900 hrs with Paul H tagged along too and checked out the conditions, pretty much Southerly and strong, perfect.

We had decided that Durdle Door would be an easier launch so headed for t/o there.

It felt strong on take off but quite doable.

So,all off launch clean and headed for White Nothe, there was a tad of West in the wind making it a hard push to White Nothe. Ringstead cliff was soarable although we didn't gain as much height as I would have expected. The wind seemed to lighten up quite a bit and I almost thought we would not get must past Durdle Door on our way East again.

My philosophy of coastal runs is if there is lift to be had have as much as you can, height is king. I hung back a bit at White Nothe milking all the height I could, this paid off as I arrived at Lulworth Cove higher than Nige and Paul which meant I could look down on them getting a thrashing low on the ridge behind the fossil forest whilst I was in nice smooth air a couple of hundred foot higher.

We moved onto Flowers Barrow which was working ok but I did not think I had enough height to get onto Gad Cliff.

Gad Cliff seems to be the default route for anyone who makes it this far. I have always wondered what it would be like flying along the back ridge over Whiteways car park. Actually when we were there earlier I think I said we would probably get trashed in rotor if we tried it.

But that said it seemed like it was worth a try so onward, I did notice Paul and Nige waited to see what happened to me before following, probably quite sensible.

The first km or so was fine and I was relaxing when I started hitting some hefty but manageable rotor. I perhaps would not recommend this route for the faint hearted although obviously it was passable.

From here on the ridge takes a very subtle twist inland meaning that the wind was funnelling along the ridge more making it feel off to the west.

A mix of low altitude,little rough broken thermally bits and not quite enough wind made for some pretty kick ass moments. It was a case of keep moving and hang on.

Arriving at Corfe gap we just couldn't find enough height to risk attempting to get over the castle so called it a day by the foot of the castle.

Taxi ride back for the cars, by now the wind had gone pretty docile. I didtry Knitson later in the afternoon but it was a way to light by then.

So Ringstead - Swanage is still a challenge for me but today scored an 8 on the peachometer anyways.

Report by Shamus Pitts

It was a toss-up between Friar Waddon and Southbourne today.  Dave A got to Friar Waddon early and let me know that it was blown out so off to Southbourne I went.  I thought it would be pretty top-end having seen the weather station in Poole harbour reading 12 to 15 knots so was surprised to find the wind almost too light!  Brian M and Dave W were in the air, scratching about 15' above cliff height so I decided to give it a try.

Conditions were a bit strange again (a bit like yesterday) with gusty, almost thermic lift.  (Maybe an anabatic flow up the cliff face..?).  To start with the wind felt a bit off to the west so I was surprised to find I could make it all the way to Sandbanks despite my ground speed dropping to about 8mph as the cliffs curved round.  Weirdly I had my best height here, about 200' ATO.  I managed to make it back to takeoff but instead of landing decided to try the run again.  I was only about 30' ATO when I started to cross Boscombe pier and was scratching hard when I got to the other side but got back above cliff height and continued my journey.

I made it down to Sandbanks again, crossed Bournemouth pier low and spent a while scratching again on the other side to get back up.  Boscombe pier stopped me though, I didn't have much height and landed just past the pier on a clear spot on the beach.  A walk and an ice cream later and I was back at takeoff.  The wind was now quite a long way off to the east but it was still working so I had another half an hour before packing up and heading home.  A far better weekend than expected, almost 4 hours in the air on beautiful sunny cliffs!

Sat 07 Jun 2014

Report by Shamus Pitts

Having seen the weather forecast for the weekend a couple of days ago I wasn't expecting to fly today so was a little surprised to find myself standing on Eype takeoff in glorious sunshine at about midday.  John P was already in the air so I quickly took off.  Conditions were a little strange - it felt more like thermic lift sometimes rather than the smooth easy lift you expect on the coast.  The lift band seemed to extend quite a way out over the sea but it was weak and patchy and the wind seemed to gust up the cliff face in big warm waves.

My first flight took me down to Golden Cap but I was so low by the time I got there that I was thinking about landing.  I didn't have the height to consider scratching my way up the cap so turned back and luckily managed to stay off the beach and connect with the cliffs to the east of Seatown and make it all the way back to takeoff.

On my second flight I suddenly found myself climbing slowly over Thorncombe beacon.  I had only managed 400' ATO before but I passed that and went higher.  Sitting in front of the beacon with a little brake on I climbed to 650' ATO before I noticed the line of big cumulus clouds forming towards Lyme Regis.  I decided to head for West Bay, not losing more than a couple of hundred feet on the way there and crossed the gap with ease.  Unfortunately the cliffs on the other side weren't working as well (the wind had gone a bit off to the south) and I couldn't get the height to make the return journey so landed on the beach.  A nice walk back in the sun and 2 hours airtime that I didn't expect today!

Thu 05 Jun 2014

Report by Sean Staines

Ringstead Bay - Steve on his Atos plus me, Ian, Richard & John on our flexwings had a great days flying. Probably the best conditions I've ever flow in I there. I topped out at 1650ft AMSL. There were thermals you could work with 2m/s cores capped by cumulus, maybe the mythical sea thermals people talk about.

I could soar take-off at 900ft, and ridge soar to right of take-off as far as  the road into Ringstead village. The cliffs were working as well, and I ventured down to Bat's head, never below 1200ft.  Steve made his first run along the coast all the way to Lulworth cove one way and Osmington the other way.

There was lift out over the sea as well. I flew parallel to the coast a few hundred yards out to sea all the way to the Ringstead village at 1200ft without losing any height. This was constant weak lift rather than thermic, more like convergence. I'll blame it on a wave effect from Portland for want of any better explanation.

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