24 September 2015

An eventful season!

The September weather has allowed a bit of reflection time in between flying the new Skywalk Cayenne 5 for Cross Country Magazine and some necessary work. Big XCs at home and abroad, my first PWC for 21 years; a small but regrettable airspace infringement; my first reserve throw: its been fun!
I have loved flying the Boomerang 10 this season: the step up in performance; the handling; the speed. One of my favourite flights was an only moderate triangle from a site I have been flying for 25 years. It was a day when many didn't bother going out due to little instability and it frustrated a good few who gave it a try. Seeing familiar surrounds from a new view point was a thrill and only just getting back over high ground to close the triangle added to the excitement.

The best day of the year was June 7th with over 13000km flown. I did my first UK 200km from the Lawley to Weymouth. It ended in heart-break though: I'd gone over 200ft into a 4500' ceiling near Bristol. How did that happen? A combination of unfamiliar airspace, high workload at that point in the flight and a new flying instrument all combined to fade my brain. What a Muppett!

The highlight of the competition year for me was captaining the winning team at the British Champs in Macedonia. A beautiful place to fly, a really welcoming country and superbly organised event.

Photo - Ruth
The PWC in Portugal was staggering. The speed and tactical shrewdness of the pilots are truly impressive. The tasks, with varying amounts of wind, were characterised by multiple convergence lines if you could find them. The third task sticks in the mind. Early into the 135km task I had pushed ahead (not shrewd) with a small group (a bit more shrewd) and managed to find a good climb that the others missed (lucky). However the main gaggle was able to come in 1000m above me having detoured to take a buoyant line (that's how to do it!). They were able to get properly high and miss out the next two climbs that I needed. I couldn't get back in contact, but around the 100km mark got into a really good position close to the airspace ceiling of 3500m. My instrument said 35km to goal with a glide required of 14:1. That sort of glide is very achievable on the right line and so it proved. A couple of S turns were all that were needed to clear a small hill just before goal. In the last part of the flight I had seen very few pilots ahead of me and was getting excited about a high placing when I suddenly spotted the goal field with 40+ gliders already there and more bleeding off height to land. I had been beaten by over 20min and 60 pilots!
For task four the wind properly arrived and the task required flying into it for some distance. This was tough - the PWC showed its hard-core side! I changed strategy and aimed to find the best cores to get above the main gaggle even if it meant being a bit behind. As we punched into wind I could see the group ahead and below - this was paying off. Close to full bar in, in the now familiar choppy air, I eased the pressure on the B risers to let the glider pick up yet more speed. Bang! I took a big collapse. I mishandled the recovery and ended up with a cravat and 3 twists. Game over. The ride to earth of my Beamer 3 was calm once I'd gathered in the main glider and ended with a gentle landing.

To be honest that fried me a little, not least as I knew I had made mistakes. My last comp of the year was to be wonderful but demanding St Andre.
Big scenery - thanks to Lawrie Nocter for the pic.
I decided to take the pressure off myself and just enjoy the flying. I was very kindly loaned the wonderful Gin Carrera+ by the guys at UK Airports. I had a great time recovered my sanity; it was great to fly such a wonderful sports class glider. Big thanks to Patrick Holmes and Mark Stewart!

Continuing the Sports class theme I am now on the afore mentioned Cayenne 5. This has really surprised me (in a very good way) but you will have to wait for the review in Cross Country mag!
Photo - Ian Burton

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