09/05/05 - Alex Coltman, 123km from Leckhampton

Hi Tim

Sorry to do this to you but looks like I am shortly to join the ranks of the employed so may be a last hurrah!

9 May 2005
Leckhampton SO 949 185
Petersfield SU 738 234
Glider Airwave Magic FR (She's gorgeous!)

After a bit of faffing about and watching Mr Westgate leave the hill I took off and soared for a while, broken climbs coming through which would then switch off the whole site. All bottom/side landed and we waited for the next cycle. Seemed a lot of west in the wind so Gary S and I landed on the Eastern side of the bowl. Got off in the next good cycle into a scrappy climb. Garry pushed forward to a better core so I followed, then felt there was an even better core further upwind and pushed up to it. Got to base about 2500 ato and left on a glide to a small growing cloud.

Things got a bit difficult and very slow here as the cloud didn't really work and there was nothing else reachable. Slowed right down and dribbled along in weak stuff following the Cirencester road. Both Gary and I got very low near the lakes and were working something scrappy when Adrain T (who had left an hour after us!!!) caught us up. He flew straight into the core upwind of us, dumped his speed bar and cranked hard into the climb. Needless to say I flew to him! Garry was a bit lower and didn't make the climb any higher than 2000.

We then flew to a big grey cloud as we didn't really have much choice. There is a very narrow gap between Brize and Lyneham and you have to take what you can get here. The climbs under the cloud were bouyant and I wasn't too worried even when virga (sp?) and hail started falling from the centre. We flew along the edge of the cloud till swindon when we found a "good" bit and started climbing again. Here we both dissapeared into the white room.

I don't really feel comfortable cloud flying so initialy spiralled out which seemed easy. Once below the cloud I told myself that Adrain was probably going straight through, would exit on track way above base and make the coast while I sat on the ground (again!) so I took a heading and headed back into the cloud. It was OK for a while then the climb rate increased and I think I started to panic when I noticed ice growing on my harness and flying suit. I tried spiralling but anything I felt comfortable doing without a horizon still resulted in a climb. I tried speed bar and big ears but kept turning off course which was a problem as we were near to Lyneham airspace. Eventually I decided I had had enough enough and did my first B line on this glider. It was lovely and stable. Phew.

Once below cloud, after 3+ mins of B line, I headed off downwind to land in the sun and get my head together and the glider dried as water was now streaming down the lines making them vibrate in a very wierd (and worrying) way. And then I stumbled into a weak climb, well who could resist!

I climbed to 2500ato and noticed the big cloud behind me had a curatin of hail/rain stretching East/West a good way and was looking fairly menacing. I decided that I could continue with a self set limit of 2500. Whenever I reached that I would head off on glide and whenever I got low I just waited for the gust front/shadow line from the cloud to kick off somehting else. It was easy!

The convergance zone was great with birds and sailplanes whizzing along both ways. One sailplane pilot who had thermalled with me earlier in the day came past rocking his wings then did a 360 round me waving before disappearing into the distance, all the time with me waving and grinning like a loon.

I flew past Combe Gibbet watching all the other paragliders soaring about the other side of the rain (I find flying over other occupied flying sites a cruel but deeply pleasant experience) and basically surfed this till I just got too cold to think anymore. The killer was seeing a train pull out of a small town just off track and it was decided. I would land there where there were warm things, chocolate and an easy retrieve.

I left my cloud and pushed out into the blue finding lots of sink all the way to the deck at Petersfield. A 15 min wait for the train then a change with a 5 min wait and I was on the way to Temple Meads. Collected by Jo from the station followed by beer and grub at our local.

What a day!