29/6/2006 - Jim Mallinson, 115km from Milk Massif
Both telephones were hot all morning and there must have been about twenty pilots at Golden Ball, including Nia H, Pete D, Mike C and Wayne S of the Avon massive. I texted in a goal at Evesham, 80km due north. There was a good breeze which kept it just about soarable even in the sink cycles. After giving up on one climb and soaring about for another twenty minutes or so I climbed out with Charles Norwood. The drift was taking us towards Lyneham so I left for a crosswind glide to what I thought was a good cloud and got nothing so wafted towards Paravion in the knowledge that Sam's car and keys were there and wondering how rude it would be to use the bomb-out car so early. Then I found a weak climb and drifted towards Lyneham again. I left at base to follow Charles across the blue to north of Marlborough. He got nothing but I was luckier and got a climb just as it started and reached base as the cloud started to form.
I was in and out of the whispies at 4000' or so above Charles as he landed at Liddington. Now that I was round Lyneham airspace I relaxed, untwizzled a Werther's Original and set off on glide over Swindon, confident in the knowledge that it always works. It didn't. As I got lower and lower I turned to the right over the Honda factory and found scattered zeros but it was looking desperate at under 2000'. Then over the end of the factory I stumbled into a cracking 5-up and reckoned I was back in the game. A thousand foot higher it threw me out the side with a nasty dive and disappeared. Nothing. Sink everywhere. Not fair. Oh well, that was the fun over for the day. I headed off to the NE of Swindon and amongst all the crops I spotted a suitable patch of set-aside in which to land.
As I got there at about eighty feet above the ground I spotted a buzzard turning. Worth a try, I thought, and to my surprise and delight it was a properly sorted low save. Some swifts showed me a better core and after a while I was back at base. Unfortunately I was now coming up against Brize Norton and Fairford airspace and it looked like I'd be stuck because the southerly wind was picking up. I went on a crosswind glide to a good-looking cloud which did the business. All too well. I was hoovered up into it, took a westerly bearing and tried to hold my course. Clouds tend to freak me out a bit and this one was no exception. I always think of how the others around have been looking and there had been a few bigguns but after what seemed like forever the grey whitened, I could see the faint outline of the sun, it grew brighter and brighter and then I burst out of the side of the cloud, 1500' up a cauliflower cliff, florets all around. I screamed with joy.
I glided down through the cloud plateaux, holding my westerly course and staying way above Fairford's 2500' ceiling. The next cloud had weaker lift under it but I held on and let it take me over Brize's 3500' stub. I was above 5000' but the drift was taking me further and further over the stub so I set off west again hoping that I would make the 3 km or so without dropping into the airspace. I did and then got down below 3000' before finding another climb under a cloud SE of Cirencester.
I was 40k from take-off and the flight had been quite a struggle. The next 40k were the stuff of dreams. I cruised along a cloud street all the way, rarely dipping below 5000'. At 4 o'clock the goal was within easy gliding range but I had to slide off the side of the street to go and get it. Perhaps I shouldn't have. Oh well, you can beat yourself up after even the best flights. In this game you can always do better!
I got down to about 2000' faffing about over Evesham before finding weak lift which was drifting towards Birmingham airspace. There were better bits over Redditch but I had to leave them to stay under the 2500' ceiling and landed at about 5 in a beautiful flower-strewn meadow.
After a pee, a lie-down, umpteen phone calls, a sandwich and packing up I was down at the main road by 5.45. Four lifts later and I was home at 8.30. What a day out, the icing on the cake after winning the nationals at the weekend. My luck is clearly in, long may it last!