5/4/06 - Jim Mallinson, 100.5km from Leckhampton
I've finally got around to writing up my flight on the 5th April.
I reached Leckhampton around 12 and people were already going over the back. To the west and east the sky was looking pretty good but downwind and upwind of take off it was blue. The wind was on the hill but quite gusty. Lots of the usual Avon skyvers were there - Wayne, Ken et al - but no one was in much of a hurry to get going. I haven't flown Leckhampton much and wanted to go with others who had, but eventually I couldn't wait any longer and launched.
I took off into a good thermal and climbed out straight away. Pete Douglas and someone else were above me. The climb became very weak at about 3000' and the other two went on glide. I hung around in the weak lift and watched them get low, so with no clouds to go for I stayed in my 1-up. After a while I saw Pete climbing well and went after him. By the time I got to where he had been he'd gone on glide and there was only a zero. It became a 2-up but then I lost it and was heading for the edge of Cirencester, low and picking out landing fields.
I spotted a buzzard climbing off to the east and headed over. He buggered off and after a couple of turns in a zero I was sinking again. Uh oh. I eyed up some fields to the south of the town. There were high-tension power cables my side of them but I was confident I'd make it in. As I got near the cables I knew that I'd clear them by a hundred feet or so but then I saw that every field had horses in. Oh dear. I was low - I could read the Tescos Extra sign on the side of the supermarket. Then over the car park I stumbled into a ripper and slowly but surely got to cloudbase at last.
Upwind all the way back to take off it was still blue. I had been expecting to see some canopies coming my way from take off but after Pete landed on the edge of Swindon sailplanes were the only other gliders I saw for the rest of the day. There was an obvious cloud downwind, but I was getting close to Lyneham airspace and needed to head east to get through the Swindon gap. With no signs of lift in that direction I took a chance and went for the cloud. It worked and I made it over 3500', the height of the Lyneham stub, at about one km from its edge. The climb continued up to over five grand and then I was able to cloud hop across the top of the stub and out into the free airspace that starts around Liddington.
It was freezing at base and I wasn't too upset when the clouds died and I had to go on glide. The sky to the south east, the best route to avoid the messy airspace around Salisbury Plain, was blue, so I headed for a cloud over Marlborough, a good 10km due south. I got pretty low but found a climb on the edge of Savernake forest and was soon back at base.
There was an inviting cloud street crossing the Plain and going all the way to the coast, but I pushed west towards Andover into bluer air to avoid the airspace. I found a climb after a while and then had an easy run, cruising along at 6000', way above the helicopters buzzing around Middle Wallop. There were no clouds ahead and I had to decide which side of Southampton to go. I was about 90km out and headed south, knowing it was likely that this was my final glide and hopeful that I'd make 100km.
But I hit big sink and before long I was gliding low along the beautiful Test valley. At about a thousand feet I spotted a police helicopter coming in my direction, 50-100 feet above me. It held its course and I turned sharply left while explaining in sign language that I thought it should give me a wider berth. It turned the other way when it was just a few hundred feet from me then flew around me and came back past higher and further away to my left. Charming.
It looked like I was going to be just short of the ton when I got a blip on the vario about fifty feet above the edge of a small wood. A punchy little bubble gave me a few hundred feet and I glided over the main road to land in a field next to a pub just after the GPS ticked over to 100km.
After my first pint in six months (they don't do 6X in India) I started trying to hitch. No luck in quarter of an hour had me back in the pub asking for some paper and a pen to make a glider pilot sign. Within thirty seconds of sticking my thumb out again someone did a u-turn to come and get me. It turned out his business partner is a keen paraglider pilot and had been looking out of the window all day cursing. My driver was giggling even more than me!
See you soon,