09/05/03 - Jim Mallinson, 66.9km from Olivers
It looks like lots of people were inspired by Alex and Steve's words of wisdom on thursday. I had a lovely flight from Olivers.
I was in the air by about 10.30, inspired by Steve's early start on tuesday and the fact that I had to be on a plane out of Bristol at 7 that evening. I set a goal at my aunt's house 75k away, just the other side of Basingstoke. Everything looked good: the sky was great and the site was working. However, the early thermals were small, windblown and hard to core.
Lots of other pilots soon turned up but it wasn't until about 12 that Adrian became the first to get away (he went on to do over 100k). At about 12.30 one of those lovely thermals that take everyone in the air straight up to cloudbase came through, and there were eight gliders in the wispies at about 4700 feet. I was in a hurry and headed straight off on a glide to Golden Ball where I got a great 4m/s climb back to base. Then it was decision time: there was a lot of spreadout cu downwind. I decided to head south and hung around the edge of the spreadout until I got back up again. My next glide took me to the high ground just south west of Combe. After a bit of scrabbling about I managed a couple of good turns in a thermal when I noticed a helicopter heading straight for me. I left the climb to get out of its way and couldn't find it again. After a lot of curses and more scrabbling I was helped by the arrival of someone on a Firebird and we both got back up.
I headed downwind and dolphin flew in and out of cloud for 10k or more, reaching a maximum height of 5800 feet. I came down below the 5500 foot ceiling a few km west of Basingstoke and set off on a glide. The first half of the town was in sun and although the clouds above it had spread out and weren't looking very active I felt confident I'd get one more climb which would have given me the height to get to goal and the chance of a good retrieve. No such luck! I got nothing over the town and arrived at the other side a few hundred feet over the M3. I thought I'd try to land in a field upwind on the town side of the motorway and tried to get back across. The wind had picked up (I'd had 60+kph groundspeeds hands up) and the drivers on the M3 were treated to the sight of a paraglider descending pretty much vertically towards them. I bottled it and landed in a field on the south side.
It was 2.40 and I knew that if I didn't get back to the car very quickly I'd miss the plane. An expensive cab ride followed, I picked up my car, collected Claudia from home and we made it to the airport with ten minutes to spare before the check-in closed!