Eye in the Sky - June 2015

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Mon 29 Jun 2015

Report by Roger E


Every couple of years there comes one of those special days, a day that makes up for all the wasted hours sitting on a hill wishing it had stayed flyable for more than ten minutes, wondering whether you should have gone somewhere else or perhaps stayed at home and, Bod forbid, done some DIY. Monday at Southbourne was one of those days.

It was flyable from about 10:30 am. A perfect 12-13 mph on launch, a bit of west in it, the blue sky letting the sun cook the beach and trickle a steady flow of buoyant air upwards. And it stayed exactly like that all bloody day.

Sandbanks was reachable, with a bit of bar needed for some to press on into the westerly breeze, the piers having been crossed with impunity. I made the Bournemouth crossing with the loss of a mere 25ft, starting over 350ft above the beach. It was a day when you actually had to think about hitting the 500ft ASL ceiling ATC allow us, and so rare is that that many of us regularly forget about it. Even on full bar, determined to get to the final house at Sandbanks, I was at 400ft and not losing any height. My second run to Branksome Chine and back was done entirely without touching the brakes.

Gary Puhl stayed busy giving tandems to anyone he could press-gang into it, among them Richard Westgate's sister, Pam. She thoroughly enjoyed her trip to sandbanks and back whilst those of us taking turns babysitting her son John were lectured on the powers of superheroes and apprenticed into the arts of scooter mechanics. Jeremy ticked off both, piers not bad for his first flight here, Paul €˜Bladder the Size of a Planet' M wouldn't come down for five hours and we even had a visit from an old club member who was involved in the original Bell Hill negotiations all those years ago €“ a tandem flight was the only just recompense for David.

My only regret was not getting there earlier and witnessing the pod of dolphins that graced the beach shallows in the morning, but I suppose I could always nick Paul's photo and pretend it's my own.

Photos courtesy of White Nose

Report by Paul Maidment

Southbourne - this was the last couple of days to fly Southbourne before the summer shutdown so I thought I would make the effort to fly there ( effort being if you cock up everybody can see  )  I'm so glad I did as it was one of the most memorable flights I've had, I arrived at about 10 o'clock Gordon was in the air but it was a bit light on take off so I waited for it to improve,  which it did, I launched into fairly buoyant air and spent the next hour boating up to Boscombe and back no one getting enough height to cross the gap, then I noticed people pointing out to sea I was gob smacked to see a pod of 20+ dolphins chasing fish just of the beach an awesome sight which I will never forget, another hour past then I felt like it had picked up enough for me to give the gap at Boscombe a go which I did, wow first across and only my second crossing, I flew up to the Bournemouth gap I've never jumped this one, Brian M was a few minutes behind so I waited for him to go first and I followed,  I was low on the other side but no problems I followed Brian's lead up to Canford Cliffs where I seem to hit a brick wall, Brian slowly pushed on to shore road and I was stuck at Canford Cliffs - I should have used speed bar, spent the next two hours or so flying from Bournemouth to Boscombe then back to Southbourne for a well earned pit stop, I launched again and managed to get as far as the Branksome gap but I was not happy to cross this time, Paul H did seemed very low the other side I really didn't want to walk back from here so did not make a proper attempt back to Southbourne for a total flight time of 5 hours 50 minutes of the best flying ever for me awesome for days like this is why I fly. 

Pictures from Southbourne


Sat 27 Jun 2015

Report by David McKay


Eype - Shameless was not the only Pilot to have lots of airtime at Eype.

David Almond only stopped for lunch. Late arrivals myself and Russell W managed more than 3 hrs.

Although it took several into wind attempts to get round and above Golden Cap. Some poor Pilot got dumped on the beach far side of Thorncombe Beacon and had a long long walk up over after several launch attempts on the way he finally gave in and packed his kit ( brave man) I think I'm right in saying no Condors flew? Only a Wessex "posse". Two hangies overflew us and we joined them over Charmouth. Great day if a tad on the strong side.

Report by Alastair Florence


I had an enjoyable, albeit getting a bit samey, flight on St. Aldhelms this morning. Inland looked like it could be a bit hit n miss so choice was back to St.A's again.

It was lighter than I expected at first but nice and buoyant with most of the flight at an easy 350-550ft ato. The wind seemed to steadily increase as time went on and by the time I landed I had little penetration as I dropped down behind the car park.

I made 2 x stress free crossings onto Houns Tout and pushed a bit further West but with a fair amount of Westerly in the wind decided the lower cliff towards Kimmeridge could be a bad idea.

There were 5 or 6 Perigrines wizzing about here and there, I guess it's this years fledglings out flight training.

On my 2nd crossing to the Tout 2 Peregrines passed under me close chasing a pidgeon, not sure if he went in their lunch box as they shot under and behind me but I don't think his odd's were looking that good !

Report by Shamus Pitts

Just the one flight for me at Eype today but it lasted 5 hours so I can't really complain!  The wind was pretty strong and well off to the west all day which made it difficult to get to Golden Cap.  I started getting troubled by rotor the first time I attempted to get there but tiptoed around the side of it and made it to the lifty parts unscathed.  I got low at Charmouth and found the front cliffs weren't working as well as I was expecting and only just made it back to Golden Cap (at about 200 mph!) and rebuilt my height.  As I was returning, Neil W tried to cross to Golden Cap but ended up on the beach at Seatown and for the next hour or two there was such a strong headwind as you got close to Golden Cap that it didn't seem possible to get there anymore.  Between attempts on the Cap I spent a good hour on and off soaring with a peregrine falcon which didn't seem bothered at all by paragliders and happily soared about 10' from my wing tip for a short time - if only my camera battery hadn't died an hour before!  I was just about to give up when I saw some seagulls soaring the cliffs towards the cap so I decided to join them.  This time, with liberal use of the speed bar, I made it on to Golden Cap where I built my height and trundled off to Charmouth again.  On my return Russell W had made it to the Cap, with Dave M not far behind.  I decided to head back to takeoff but Dave A convinced me (through the use of gestures) to have one last trip to Charmouth so off I went again!  Back to takeoff eventually for a surprisingly tricky landing due to the amount of lift about!

Wed 24 Jun 2015

Report by Grant Oseland


A frustrating day for some on the coast, The wind was SSW but a lot lighter than forecast on take off at Ringstead, with a milky sky and tales of large distances flown inland to boot. Timing was the key to getting to the cliffs, using the thermals when they came through to give the elevation needed. For those that made it around the White Nothe the lift improved and coast runs were made.

Report by Mike Drew

RINGSTEAD - A tricky day today, not as forecast. Very light  and thermic on the ridge.

However, those that were brave enough to venture to the cliffs were rewarded with a trip to Lulworth.

A note of caution to low airtime Pilots remember other Pilots are trying to transit to the cliffs "Do not hog the ridge" Warm and some interesting conversations on the hill.

Sun 14 Jun 2015

Report by Paul Maidment

Monksdown - after walking the dog in the woods behind launch and listening to the wind whistling through the trees I thought it may be a bit to strong for me but I got set up, as I built my wall ready to launch the wind died to nothing after a couple of minutes the wind was back and I launched, there was a little bit of lift but nothing major,  after a couple of beats I was at the east end of take off when I saw a young buzzard circling up from the field in front,  so  I pushed out and got above it and boom up I went up like a rocket and was joined by a bigger buzzard,  at about 1500ft the buzzards left me climbing hard  I took the thermal over the back on my own this time was not a problem as thanks to Cristiano at Flymaster I have working airspace on my gps now,   a warning came up on my Flymaster compton not a problem as there was a fair bit of west in the wind,  I carried on climbing up to 3400ft where I started to enter the white room I applied half bar and popped out the back of the cloud,  I stayed with this thermal for about 20 minutes until Bournemouth airspace pinged up on my screen, I made the decision to leave the thermal and track more to the west to get around airspace,  there was a nice looking cloud to the west, bar on but all I found was big sink not making it to the cloud I was aiming for,  as I was packing my wing I watched Gary P tracking more south than I did he was low but climbing and got 24k, a really nice smooth flight for 13k .  Big thanks to Doctor George for the lift back to Monks.  

Sun 07 Jun 2015

Report by Andy Ward

Paul Wade, Charles Campion-Smith and I headed up to Westbury as the forecast looked good for a run down to the south coast. Despite the five star forecast it was very cyclical and scratchy at takeoff so it took ages to get away. Once in the air there was abundant lift all the way back to Portland for a personal best and first declared goal flight.

Report by Grant Oseland


Westgate day as Sunday has now been called! I went to Coombe Gibbet for the BCC round and did my part for the biggest XC day ever recorded in the UK. Lots of pilots on the hill with most going XC and many making PB of distance or height gains and the like. I made the choice to fly west as much as I could to get around Southhampton/Bournemouth airspace which put me on a flight path close to Monksdown. So obviously a cheeky radio check was required from cloud base, which was just over 5500ft, to fellow Wessex members on the fly past, at this point my PTT accidentally got stuck pressed in for a minute when I was in a strong climb, which I'm sure they all appreciated ;-) There were para gliders all over the sky and I crossed tracks with the guys that had set Weymouth as there goal as I was pushing on West eventually landing at Bridport. 6 hours in the air. Good times!

Report by Mike Bretherton


Combe Gibbet - My first Xc of the year, in fact almost my first flight of the year and it turned out to be my personal best in the UK, over 5 hours in the air, 97k straight distance or 101km with turnpoints. After I landed I thought I had only flown 60km but then realised that I had my GPS set for miles and not kilometres.

I think the day had to be the best I have ever experienced in the UK, smooth air, gentle but consistent thermals, very little sink (2m down max), small clouds everywhere, they were all working and even in the blue it worked in places. Cloudbase was high at around 5000ft but pretty chilly so I was glad that (a) I borrowed my friends jacket on the hill as I had not brought one and (b) I was wearing my new heated gloves which worked very well.

I had expected the Xc to be short as I was likely to run into airspace but I decided to fly aggressively crosswind to the west following some nice clouds. It worked because as I got to Andover I was already west of it but then a myriad of airfields lay out in front of me, Thruxton, Middle Wallop, Boscombe Down and Old Sarum. They were everywhere, an impenetrable set of overlapping MATZ and ATZ's. But then I remembered that you can legally fly in MATZ and I was high, really high, heh, heh, I will just fly over the top of those ATZ's. Chuckling to myself as I watched aircraft take off and land at Thruxton and Old Sarum way below me.

Then on to Sailsbury and climbed out nicely again over the Cathedral (I have always wanted to fly over Sailsbury), pushed hard again into crosswind and flew into Wessex country, I saw the gliders flying at Monks Down but was just too south and east of them to join in the fun there. Nearing Blandford I got quite low for the first time, but had a low save and slowly climbed out again. I was now getting very tired, cold and in need of the loo, how much longer could this go on for ?. It was now 6pm, the clouds were thinning and the climbs were weak. I did not want a long walk so I hopped between villages and saw Dorchester in the distance. I assumed that there must be a train station there so I tried to make it there. I made it comfortably and landed on the edge of the town.

Met up with Garry Puhl and a couple of others, and shared the train journey back to Southampton arriving in the dark at past 10pm. And as Simon Herbert had given me a lift to the hill in the first place I had no car to retrieve, paragliding doesn't get much better.

Report by Everard Cunion


Light and variable thermals at Monk's Down again provided some good sport for the paragliders, but a struggle for the hang gliders.

Report by Paul Maidment

Monksdown - after a 10 minute boating about the ridge to get into flight mode, I landed and waited for the next thermic cycle to come through, as it did I don't think I was ready for it as it dragged me across take off, ok next launch bit better but I was facing the wrong way after sorting that little problem out I was soon into a good climb with Doctor G below me for a change, at about 800+ ato I pushed forward this was the wrong move because as I looked back Doctor G was now well above me into a good  climb,  bugger  I got back under him ( where it looks like i belong ) and we were off, my first time over the back at Monks yahoo my next problem my f-------- flymaster is still not giving me correct airspace where is  Compton Abbas airspace, well lucky for me I found Shamus and we hooked into a good climb (or should I say he hooked into it and I followed him ) . At Winterbourne Whitechurch  I thought it was flight over but managed to save it and I was back chasing Shamus and the clouds  looked like stepping stones to catch him, as we approached Dorchester Shamus turned to the coast and I stuck with my route  tracking the A35 ( more chance of a lift on a main road was my way of  thinking} by now i was down to about 800ft asl, I was a bit cold and knackered by now as some of the thermals had been  very rough, it felt like the siv course I've just been on so I burnt off about 500ft doing a few small spirals and s turns, 300ft to go and beeb beeb beeb on my vario noooooooooooo I was tempted to go again but had my landing head on, I had a nice smooth landing for my pb xc flight another yahoo . Big thanks must go to Roger E for picking me  Shamus and Marcus up and to Shamus for showing me the way.

Report by Neil Mccain

Report from Neil McCain I'd hoped that the maiden flight on my new glider would be special somehow. You know, like a lucky charm or something. The first brand new glider I bought after completing my CP had a clover leaf in it, somehow caught up when it was packed at the factory after it had been test inflated. The lines of another glider I owned used to 'sing' to me when I was flying at trim, a hum of reassurance. And now this one has a whole heap of metaphorical rosettes pinned to it after its first outing, surely a portent for the future.

The sky was full of gliders at Monksdown when I was setting up. The buoyant, lifting air was tempting some to head out in front and other to consider the options downwind. I'd made my decision earlier while looking at RASP and xcplanner and tapped in the coordinates for West Lulworth to declare my goal. I've only done this a few times before - completely without luck - and expected to be stuck on the hill. Again. After about ten minutes in the air I was back on the deck, along with everyone else. Whoever switched off the wind, would they please switch it on again! I climbed out with Sean S and Darren G. Watching them circle upwards away from me made me painfully aware of my inefficient technique but the thermal seemed big enough to cope with my mistakes. Before getting to base Sean began gliding downwind. I followed, arriving underneath him by several hundred feet. However, I couldn't find what he was turning in and worse, he seemed to be flitting around the sky like a fly - here, there and everywhere. I lost more height trying to copy him before thinking some rather unkind thoughts. Just as I was about to give up I stumbled into a great core and whizzed up to base, somewhere above Larmer Tree gardens. Darren was way ahead but I was now higher than Sean so I thought I would push on a little and commit to covering some ground.  It looked to me like Darren was going to pass Blandford on its western edge. To reach my goal I really wanted to skirt the eastern edge of the town but he was so high I thought the better lift was probably there and allowed myself to drift towards him. I realised I'd been joined by Dr George - one moment he was 500' below me, the next he was climbing past me and then, as I gawped at the underside of his wing, he shot off to join Darren. (Has anyone heard from the good Dr? I'm assuming he'll need a retrieve from Brittany at the rate he was going!) Meanwhile, my lift had petered out and I was struggling to maintain height just south of Blandford. Downwind a blue hole had opened up. Although I was nearer a big cloud to my right, I decided to go left across the wind and try and reach some other clouds. If I made them, I would have more chance of keeping my task alive. My vario sounded a monotonous, moronic tone, confirming that I was heading for the deck. What a chump! I told myself not to give up but as the altimeter dipped below 100' ATO I took my feet out of my pod in readiness for landing. Just as I was about to get acquainted with some racing quad-bikers (I nearly lapped one of them) I was yanked upwards by the first of two wonderful thermals. It gave me a 500' lifeline, boosting me past all manner of obstacles and let me think I might have the luxury of huge field of grass to land in. Then the second one kicked me, booting me right out of the park and all the way up to base above Winterborne Kingston!  I'd been looking at the coastline from the very start of the flight, holding on to the dream of flying to it. Now it seemed doable - a glide, one more good climb and another, final glide and I'd be there. Wow! I checked my instruments, looked at the ground ahead of me and started to glide towards Wool.  Annoyingly I could see my track would take me straight over the glider club. I watched as a tug pulled a glider off the runway. It headed east, over the forest before much to my delight the glider unclipped and began bank round, climbing quickly. "I'll have some of that!", I thought. I gave him a 500' head start but it didn't take long to catch him up, climbing in the powerful centre of the core. I left the thermal below him so that we didn't risk crossing paths and flew on to Wool, trying not to hurry.

There were a couple of curtain clouds asking the sea breeze front, one to the east of Lulworth, the other to the west. It didn't look very strong and I wondered how it might affect my flight, if at all. I decided that I had enough height to glide in (whatever happened) and headed for my goal field, memorised from poring over Google Earth on rainy days. I'd done it! Now I just had to figure out where to land. Then it dawned on me that there might be rotor off the big hills either side of Lulworth. But which way would the rotor go? If there was a sea breeze, then landing north of the hill would be bad. But if the sea-breeze was weak, perhaps the meteo wind would cause rotor on the south side. I decided to land on the top of Hanbury Tout, the hill everyone walks up to get to Durdle Door. I arrived with just a few feet to spare (I could hear the clicking of camera shutters as I sped past!) and saw gulls soaring to the south. Wahoo - the cliffs were working! I did a couple of celebratory wing overs for the tourists then headed for Ringstead. I remained cautious - the air was lumpy most of the way along, as though the sea breeze and meteo wind were scrapping - but it wasn't long before I got past the Nothe and headed down to the Ringstead cafe.

To complete the day my dear friend Gail (of this parish, but not recently) picked me up and drove me back to the hill. It felt like good karma for the new glider: first flight to goal, my longest flight from Monksdown, xc AND coastal soaring in one go, magical retrieve. Happy days!

Report by Shamus Pitts

What a great day at Monks today!  I haven't been out as much as I should lately so thought that it was time to try an XC again.  The air was buoyant and the thermals were big and strong from quite early on and by midday I found myself in a climb that took me over the back.  The cores seemed pretty strong and I had a few collapses when my 360s clipped the core but I modified the turn a bit and kept out of trouble.

I got very low over Pimperne and thought I was going to land but I kept scratching away and slowly the little bits of lift I found firmed up and became a climb.  Paul M flew over to join me and we made the most of the strengthening climb, although it was pretty rough at times!  I got in to the core and it was like activating a thermalling turbo and I was soon at cloudbase.  A top up over Blandford then another at Winterborne Whitechurch - I thought Paul M must have landed but then I spotted him a few hundred feet below me and also Sean S further inland.  Milborne St Andrew gave me a roughish climb to base, and while I was climbing I think I saw a yellow paraglider being packed up in a sports field.

By now my hands were getting pretty cold and I couldn't feel a couple of my fingers so I was hoping that I would lose a bit of height to warm up!  Unfortunately a climb over Puddletown forest put me back in the fridge and I'd lost feeling in another finger or two by the time I got in to the rough air over Dorchester.  I watched a glider being ground handled at Maiden Castle then strayed downwind of a tractor working a field and found myself going up again.  This was a bit of a battle, probably made to seem worse than it was because my hands were so cold and I stopped short of cloudbase to head off to the sunshine of Weymouth.  I decided I'd land near the road and hopefully get an easier retrieve.  I was sinking nicely and starting to warm up a bit then ran into the strongest climb of the day just south of the Friar Waddon ridge.  My vario was beeping in a high pitched tone I haven't heard before and I was going up fast.  My hands started to get cold again and the air started to get rough and in the end I decided to leave the climb 1000' short of cloud base.  I was starting to worry that there was going to be some sea breeze "roughness" although, apart from a couple of clouds with wispy tendrils, there was no evidence of a sea breeze.  The air was noticeably cooler though and I thought that it was best to be a bit cautious.

I glided off towards Abbotsbury, thinking that West Bay might be a nice place to land but the crosswind element was too much and I decided that I was going to land at Rodden but then decided to work a climb near the Chessil bank to give me a few more landing options.  I took it up about 3000' but the air was getting rough again and I was almost over the sea so I pushed in land a little and tracked towards Hive, eventually landing by the beach at West Bexington for a turnpoint flight of 61.6km.  Huge thanks to Roger E for picking me up and taking me back to Monks.

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