11/05/02 - Alex Coltman, 48.7km from Fforest Fields
Had a great last day of the Bleriot Cup. Arrived on a blown out Fforest Farm not even expecting a task. The wind died to almost nothing and a window was set for 1:30 before someone spotted a sea breeze inland. It was decided to hold the window back to see what happened to the wind when the front it arrived.
Our goal was Castle Meadows in Abergavenny and the window was opened at 2:05. Everyone moved along the hill to get as close to the sea breeze as possible and, sure enough, the wind picked up to a soarable level and people started climbing in small weak cores. It was hard work to stay with the thermals as they wandered about, very unorganised, but things got better as we approached base at around 5200ft. We were about 500 ft above the clouds to our east but below clouds to our west, the ground down-wind was all in shade so the majority of the comp pilots just drifted back towards Hay Bluff with the front.
As soon as a glide was possible everyone went on a glide towards lord Herefords Knob. Most arrived high but some were dropped here as they arrived very low on the hill, those of us who were more lucky flew straight to a thermal marked by two sailplanes and three hang-gliders. This climb was good but was drifting us back into the Brecon Beacons where the ground was very dark. I left the climb taking two Frenchmen and Ans Khan with me and we started to race properly as we shot off towards the next climb at the Talgarth gliding club, again the climb was marked by sailplanes. Our whole gaggle climbed up the inside of their thermal and left for the ridge running towards Crickhowell.
This was easy and fast with no need to take climbs till the last bowl that faces WNW. Unfortunately the bowl wasn't working well(!) and we needed a good climb to get back to Abergavenny, I'd heard about a convergance line that was supposed to set up here, so took a glide away from the hill looking for something. After a good search I swore at the person who I thought had lied to me and returned to the ridge.
MAJOR PROBLEM, I was now an the shallow part of the ridge and loosing about 40 feet with every beat, I had blown it and the French were still soaring the bowl! In my desperation I noticed that there was a line of wispy looking clouds going straight towards Abergavenny and as I had no choice I flew round the corner and started a "glide of hope!"
It worked! There were climbs where there shouldn't have been, small and slow but drifting in the right direction (I heard them described as Fizzy drink climbs, just small bubbles but lots of them). As soon as I started to climb the French and Ans left the hill and joined me. Ans found the climb with a French ace; Jean-Michel (Boomerang) and started climbing slowly beneath me, but we had succeeded in dropping the number one French pilot, Max (flying Planet Proto) who went off looking for a "proper climb" and landed. We topped up our climb to about 1500 ft and I thought I could make it from there. The plan was to take a really necky glide, if it worked I would win the day!! If not then hopefully Jean-Michel would also land short and Ans would win the day.
The glide was very buoyant which made the final glide very fast. Unfortunately for the Brits the French Boomerang was much faster than my Whisper and he beat me into goal by about 5 seconds! Ans was about 4 seconds behind me and we thought we may have the Bleriot won. However after about 15 minutes two more French pilots got in and the game was over. Tim Guildford and Laurent, another French pilot, made goal after a struggle through the Beacons but it was over for the Brits for another year!
In the goalfield everyone was smiles, French and British alike, everyone had had a great last day and seen some of Britain’s best views. It’s a shame to lose the Bleriot cup but it couldn't have been won by a nicer bunch of people.
Flight to goal
The flight lasted about two hours 15 mins and take off was at 2:15.