24/05/00 - Alex Coltman, 26.3km from Merthyr

Hi Tim

I've Just got back from one of the strangest flights I've ever had. After driving a mini-tour of South East Wales sites Rich Harding and I ended up at Merthyr, it was off to the south but we were not going to drive anywhere else so rigged and had a couple of hops with Rich almost getting away in something.

After side landing a couple of times and some ground handling practice we both had a rest and sat down. While chatting to the two other nutters who had come out on a totally grey day we noticed a couple of birds climbing off to the south, over the quarry.

Once we were bored of chatting Rich launched again and I followed, I headed off toward the quarry, had a lucky couple of blips of lift on the way and found something a little way out in the valley, marked by swifts.

I managed to stay in this as it hoisted itself slowly skyward with a PEAK climb of 200ft/min till base at around 4000ft and then wandered off downwind, following a cloud street that was slightly darker than the rest of the sky. As I looked around for my next move I noticed that there was a step in the cloud base off to the north, I had heard about Julian Browns flight in the Club Challenge final last year in which he used convergence and took this to be similar so headed along my cloud street running parallel to the convergence line.

The glide under the street was good but by the time I got to Ebbw Vale I was not that high above the ridge and took a really good climb (400ft/min!) over the rubbish tip to 3700ft. Again the climb was marked by birds, sea gulls this time, who were just having a laugh, thermalling for fun, Superb!

On glide again, big ears and speed bar to stay out of cloud and just as I reach the Blorenge it starts to rain and hale, its only light but when I look back towards the West there is a curtain of cloud coming down the valley. Decision made, I top up to base again at 3400ft and go on final glide. The glide is good until I get past Abergavenny then becomes a constant sink tone to the ground at Brynrhydderch.

I land in drizzle which becomes pouring rain before I can finish packing up, my fingers are numb with cold and I can't stop shivering. Manage to call Rich who has been trying to follow by car and we're on the way home.

I was amazed to get away in the first place and really enjoyed the flight, particularly thermalling with sea gulls over the rubbish tip. It was cold and damp and we were all there just for fun, Great.

Nova X-Ray 22
T.O Merthyr Common - SO 079 032
L.Z B4598 near Brynrhydderch - SO 333 101
Distance claimed 26.3km