29/05/00 - Jim Mallinson, 131.8km from Llandinam
Well, I see you've already heard about my epic on Monday. News travels very fast in this pg world. My phone kept ringing on the train back from Birmingham! Here are the details:
After two frustrating days of briefings and re-briefings Monday looked perfect, if a little blustery. The wind (W to WNW) was on the hill above the campsite so up we went. At 12.00 a task was called and surprisingly it wasn't open distance, but a slightly crosswind 48k race to goal (this may have had something to do with Steve Ham, the UK distance record holder, being on the task-setting committee...)
About ten gliders launched as soon as the horn went and climbed out in a broken thermal. A few unlucky ones lost it and bombed out unable to have another go since only one attempt was allowed. I launched ten minutes later into a strong wind. I went straight up 200 feet before I even managed to get into the harness. Definitely windy, I thought. A broken climb took me over the back and I flew very cautiously at first, determined not to bomb out.
After a couple more climbs I got to base and, realising that it was going to be very tricky to reach goal in such a strong wind went on a crosswind glide and soon found myself pretty low and had to turn downwind to get to some circling gliders. I found a separate core from them and had a great climb, just me and a red kite for five or ten minutes, back up to base. Time to try and go crosswind again. This time, despite a promising cloud, I found myself even lower than the time before and again had to turn downwind towards some climbing gliders. I missed their thermal and got in very low at the top of a small valley where I found some broken one-ups and zeros about 150 feet above the ground. Never say die...
A couple of times I thought I'd lost it but found it again downwind. Baz Rhodes and Fiona Mac came in above me and we worked and worked it until eventually it sorted itself out and took us back up to base. A look at the GPS told me I was 14k from goal but when I pointed towards it I realised that it was now slightly upwind of me. The wind was strong - between me and goal was a blue hole, behind was a cloud street and a perfect sky, it was only 2.30, loads of people would have made goal already (in fact, no one did), we were miles off course compared to everyone else (no, Baz did a good job of getting forward and came tenth), I don't want to fight into a strong headwind and hit the deck on such a booming day, I want to stay in the air---these were the thoughts going through my head.
I listened to those thoughts, pressed mark and enter on the GPS and turned downwind. Baz told me later that he'd been in the same dilemma and it was compounded when he realised I'd headed off. For my part it was still psychologically tricky, having psyched myself up for the Nationals and then worked hard for two hours to get to goal only to give up and fly free. I didn't shake off the shackles of the comp mind-set until after I landed. However, je ne regrette rien.
The street worked a dream for about 15k, taking me past Shobden and out into the flattish land northeast of the Black Mountains. After the street I couldn't get back up to base but floated up and down between two and four grand. The flying was much easier once I was out of the mountains, clouds and ground sources marking the lift well. After a while I reached the north end of the Malverns where I met up with the Hangie nationals who were kindly marking thermals for me. I had a close run-in with a microlight and then headed off towards Worcester. At 4.30 (comp land-by time) I was back in comp mindset and losing height fast. Should I land and maybe claim some points from my GPS mark?
A solid six-up over Pershore put paid to any souch thoughts and soon I was gliding towards Evesham. Another boomer had me screaming up towards a lovely little street. Only trouble was a largish restricted area (yes, I was looking at my map!) right under the cloud I was heading towards. What to do? When I noticed that it only went up to 2200' and then saw a sailplane flying straight over the installation/depot or whatever it was at about 500' I knew it was OK. Back at base for the first time since Leominster, I cruised to the end of the mini-street. In front was a big blue hole with a lovely looking cloud about 20k away. Realising this was probably the end of the flight (and still thinking about the comp's 5.30 report in time) I put the bar on, lay back and went on a long glide through the sink from about six grand. I diverted over a couple of likely-looking ground sources but got nothing and landed in an enormous sheep field in a pretty strong wind. The GPS said 98k east of goal!
I checked in with the comp organisers and, after a great pee, lay back in the grass. After a while I packed up and, remembering the kids flying kites a couple of fields away, thought I better catch up with them to get a landing witness. As I set off they packed up and walked out of the field. I ran across both fields but they'd disappeared into the village. I knocked on the door of the first house, looking not a little deranged, sweating, panting and jabbering on about kite-flyers and landing-witnesses. I was pointed down the lane and soon found my man.
Three hours later I'd hitched to Birmingham from where the train took two hours to get me to Caersws at 11.15. Wow! What a day. If they'd set open distance I'm sure the record would have gone-I was flying pretty slowly and I reckon weight of numbers would have eked out at least another hour of flying. The reason given for not setting open distance was that cu-nims were forecast and I did see a few big storms but all a long way from my track.