23 March 2012

When is it safe to go XC?

Earlier this week a half decent XC forecast from RASP tempted quite a few distance hunters out to the Long Mynd.
Launch conditions were like what they often are on the good days, i.e. the meteo wind being supplemented by the thermal breeze. It was definitely a day to be off the hill and cruising the ridge early, before it got too strong to launch. At first we had 10km/h ground speed into wind at trim, but gradually this was decreasing as the forecast of strengthening wind was proved right.
Choosing when to leave the hill was a juggle. Weakish climbs were fading out quickly, the wind was strengthening and the terrain down wind is fairly threatening for the first few km. A gaggle formed in a slightly better climb but the decision to quit or stick was a tricky one. Half the group pulled out, leaving the others to fly a pretty rapid 50km before being downed by the airspace. Thankfully no one got low behind the Mynd and everyone landed safely.
So was it safe? On the whole yes; but the conditions were definitely the sort that pilots can come unstuck in, especially if not leaving a margin for error.
See you next time!

12 March 2012

The Five Thermalling Techniques

The ability to climb in thermals is the core skill for every pilot wishing to fly XC. For top level pilots, climbing fast in all situations will win races and break records. Climbing out in difficult conditions sorts the wheat from the chaff and adjusting your techniques for the conditions you face can be the difference between success and failure.
To read more about the 5 main thermalling techniques click here.