30 May 2012

British Championships: Meduno (Italy)

The forecast was so dodgy that some people didn't even come. Yet so far we have had 4 taskable days out of four. Two were completed with some excellent but technical racing. Steve Senior, Emile and Jamie Messenger are fast and astute and are setting the pace on their Ozone Enzos. I had a good run today on my Mantra M4 and made goal, but only after having to move up and down the gears a few times. Yesterday I rolled the dice and threw a double 1 late in the race and ended up a few km short of goal.
The area is beautiful and the flying really enjoyable. On the the southern edge of the Alps and facing the flat lands, Meduno offers a great range of flying. The locals could not be more helpful and welcoming; they are even allowing us to use their category D air space!
Two tasks were stopped: one for a cu-nimb and the other for a helicopter which was picking up Neil Roberts. Neil clipped a tree on landing approach in strong wind and has stable fractures in 3 vertebrae and should make a full recovery. Get well soon mate!
                                                                        Looking west from launch, before the low level inversion broke.

The forecast looks promising for more flying. Rock on!

15 May 2012

Big Saturday

Saturday was a fantastic XC day and significantly better than an already decent forecast. Experienced pilots doing 100km felt like they had bombed.
Many less experienced pilots were left feeling disappointed as they were confronted by some tricky conditions on the hills around the UK. And this is often the case in good conditions for cross country flying. Rather than the meteo wind blowing smoothly up and over hill, the thermal activity causes some quite big variation in strength and direction. Launch conditions can become really tricky at times. In the air, new challenges present themselves. In between the thermals the sink can leave the ridge unsoarable despite there appearing to be plenty enough wind. As thermals release and build behind the hill the inrushing air can pin pilots above the hill, unable to penetrate forwards. And by no means least, the air can of course be pretty turbulent.
So how can pilots tackle this?

  • Pick your moment to launch. The ideal is in the relatively calm air just before the next thermal cycle really gets going. You will probably feel the wind starting to increase, but don't wait too long!
  • Be really practised in launching in all conditions.
  • Gradually build up to fly in increasingly challenging conditions. The aim is to incrementally increase your experience, build skills, develop judgement and become more at home in thermic air.
  • Be prepared to stand down for an hour or more. Often conditions calm down in mid to late afternoon, but there can be lots of XC potential left in the day. You can go along way between 3pm and 8pm!

Happy flying!

09 May 2012

Shower dodging in the Dales

Sunday gave me some challenging flying in the Dales. The sky was classic by 10am and over developing by 11! On Staggs Fell it wasn't even soarable, so my first attempt lead to a drilling, a hill side landing an uncomfortable walk up with a bundled glider.
Back on top, there were showers everywhere and the day looked finished. The only bright bit was our section of the valley, so a few of us were able to have a few hops, but no more. Then suddenly, one of my flying buddies climbed out on something really weak and headed east along Wensleydale and into the blackness. 30min later I was on my way and heading away from a big snow shower to the west of Staggs Fell. It was weak but patience was rewarded. With the state of the sky, I made a decision to stick to the blue or to the very edge of clouds and also to leave climbs at 3000' amsl. Walls of showers to the east, west and north pretty much defined my route, but there was enough space to fit in an FAI triangle. Between Bainbridge and Aisgarth, I nabbed the first turn point and set off to cross Wensledale to the south. As I approached Semmerwater, for TP2, a pilot on the ridge was building a wall ready for launch and I was allowing myself to think about closing the triangle. As glided in his wall flopped to the ground, shortly followed by me! This is getting repetitive; that is the third time this season I have fallen one climb short of an FAI triangle!
Later I was to learn that Hamish had left Staggs an hour later, as some of the showers dissipated and managed 70+km up towards Durham. Great decision making!

01 May 2012

Epic Flying in Scotland

The brutal English weather sent pilots from all over England up north of the border. Prize for the longest journey goes to Hugh Miller from Brighton although he did cheat by taking Easyjet!
Saturday gave pilots a 6000' cloud base at Glen Coe, however the NE wind appeared that it might be a bit strong for closed circuit flights. Some opted for downwind flights over some serious scenery with Trias the best of the bunch with 109km.
Photo: Ruth Churchill Dower

Photo: Ruth Churchill Dower
However, 8 pilots used the strong climbs, cloud lines and the terrain to complete FAI triangles. Mike Cavanagh  showed his mastery with a 111km score.
Sunday was predicted to blow out at Glen Coe and so it turned out. A group of us went even further north to fly above the beautiful Loch Glass, north of Inverness. The locals outclassed the rest of us with Julian Robinson and Brendan Reid both doing beautiful flights. Both had the confidence and skill to transit 20km+ of terrain with no roads at various points in their flights. Kudos gentlemen!
Me? I was happy to use my best height or 3700' to stay local rather than dive off into the boonies. I had a ball finish flying off flying the Artik 3 for the Cross Country Magazine review. Big thanks to Niviuk UK for letting me put 15hrs on their demo glider. Its the best EN C I have ever flown. Full stop.
Lessons from the weekend? A bit of planning goes a long way. It is not always possible to see roads before making big glides into remote unknown territory, but a bit of map work before launching helps take some of the guess work out of the flight.