17/08/05 - Jim Mallinson, 85.1km from near Milk Hill
I had a fantastic flight on Wednesday which took me back over most of the route I flew with Hugh and Jerome almost exactly a year ago, slides of which I showed at the club meeting last week:
Glider: Gradient Avax RSE
Take-off: Near Milk Hill (SU126638)
Leg 1: 18.0k
I knew a group of hungry pilots were towing near Lambourn but since Golden Ball is only a mile from home and Claudia needed the car I got her to drop me there. No other pilots were around but the wind was bang on the hill. I texted in a goal at Castlemorton Common, 85km away.
Turning left from take-off I flew into a cloud of thistle heads and the glider took a whack. My heart was racing - there was no one to see me if I had a crash - but where there's whacks there's climbs. I soon got above the ridge and established in a poky little thermal that took me over the back and straight towards Lyneham. I had a beautiful red kite for company and worked the climb to about 3000' before it fizzled out and I headed off crosswind towards Paravion.
I found a zero at about 1800' and drifted over the A4 thinking that the game was already up. Just north of Paravion a ploughed field gave me a few hundred feet, just enough to make a crosswind dash for a flock of seagulls over another ploughed field, this one with a tractor in it. A strong and rough climb whisked me up to about 3000' and then I lost it.
Another crosswind glide and I found myself a few hundred feet above another ploughed field which angled up a slope facing the wind. Perfect, I thought, but nothing happened for a while. I hung around though and noticed a couple of buzzards going up not far off and sure enough it started to work. This one got me up to the haze caps at just over 4000' and I was now confident of getting around Lyneham.
By the time I got to the NE edge of Lyneham airspace, near Liddington, I was only about 18k from take off after flying for almost two hours! Now I was in the clear. I topped up a bit at the edge of the airspace and then glided out over Swindon. I saw a sailplane climbing low over the Honda factory to the east but then noticed haze caps to my west. This became a regular feature of the flight - the haze caps were always to the west of my course line. From about 2000' I got up to over 4000' again (and a small cloud) and glided out over a couple of sailplanes that were climbing well below me.
I then had the lakes at South Cerney to cross (where I later learnt that Richard Westgate had gone down). I was very conservative and went round and round up at the whispies until I was confident that I was clear of their influence. I then headed west of track again in order to get under the only obvious haze caps.
I eventually got up to them and then glided out over the Cotswolds. I spent an age in a very slow climb over a friend's farm before pushing on again, telling myself I had to get up high before going over the edge of the hills. No such luck and I slid over the edge with a few hundred feet to spare. It was nearly five and landing looked likely.
Once over the edge and near the M5, I found a zero and drifted over towards Gloucester. I was picking out football fields in the town to land in when the zero started to sort itself out. Again the climb was very slow but it took me to almost 5000' and now I was only about 20k from the goal. A short glide got me to another climb but that was the last good one of the day. A few hundred feet over some ploughed fields I found a zero but it never came together and I landed in the middle of nowhere 5km short of the goal.
Wondering how on earth I was gong to get back, I heard a shout and Johnno Rann, a Malverns pilot whom I'd met a few years back, came striding over towards me with his son Alex. He gave me a lift to Gloucester station where I got the direct train to Swindon and Sam Moffett came to get me and take me home. A lovely day!
See you soon,