Two triangles in South Wales - 3rd June 06, by Ken Wilkinson
Rich Danbury asked for an article last mag and I didnt comply! I didn't seem to have anything special to write about. After the last weekend I feel I do!
The BCC has provided excellent fun for many and last weekend (3/4 June) was no exception, especially for me. The weather forcast was perfect for BBQs according to weatherjack, but in the weeks run up he indicated an inverted day with no or little cloud. I was more determined to have a good party on Saturday but was nevertheless was heartened to see the Lasham and Nymphsfield forcasts speak of good convection strength. It would be better in the mountains. So saying, with a light North Westerly we went to the N face of the Blorenge and sat out to enjoy the sunshine and beautiful views.
Even early in the morning there were high cumulus forming in the Beacons, and several pilots tried to get into lift, side landing as the weak cycles passed. We discussed the possibility of the Skirrid, Sugarloaf triangle and Lynn Rees, the Meet Director was happy for any scoring option to be considered valid. At around 1 pm several gliders, self included tried the air and 3 of us managed to scrape away, Al Davies, Graham Richards and moi all from the Avon Club. The climb was slow and we fed off each other feeling for the best lift, Graham doing particularly well on his Aspen. We eventually made 2000 ATO before the lift died so we crossed to South of Abergavenney where a large active cloud appeared to be growing. We got up well in this and I suggested the triangle to Al and Graham on the radio, but they seemed keen on a downwind XC. I was not happy that this would be successful as the sea air seemed to have come in and so decided to go for the triangle. I headed off for the Skirrid and got lowish, then hit 5m/sec lift off the lower slopes of the hill to near base.
Approaching the Skirrid
The clouds in the mountains appeared to be strongly active but the into wind leg was still to come. Heading north to the cloud I was surprised to see my groundspeed was over 30km/hr. (This is one of the most useful functions of a GPS). It seemed that in the mountains the drift was not there at height. This boded very well as I had visions of flying the Skirrid all afternoon trying to punch forward unsuccessfully. I got low to the east of Sugarloaf and recalled all the possible 'gloop points' (where honey would drip off if the profile of the mountains were covered in honey and turned upside down) and was rewarded with a massive, smooth 7m/sec climb to base at 6000ft. This now felt very good, looking down on Sugarloaf and seeing that the return to Blorenge would be easy. I wanted to maximise the triangle and there was a growing cloud over Crickhowell which I tried to go for, but 7m/sec sink persuaded me to go for a smaller triangle and be sure. I sauntered back to the hill, slowly loosing height, smugly watching gliders launch from time to time only to side land. I was over the moon, and realised that I may be even more annoying than usual, but Lynn Rees and Ian McKenzie were happy to offer congratulations. They had been jealously watching me all the way round, pinned to the ground. Score 22.4k x 3, i.e. 67.2k
Half an hour later I decided to fly down, and didn't bother with my jacket (like my first flight) as I had no intention of doing anything special, but a cycle came through and I was vacuumed up again at 5 m/sec. There was a stonking convergence cloud, which had been there all day and it would have been rude not to use it. I initially thought about going to Hay Bluff, out and return, 25k away, and this was certainly possible, as the lift was strong, and I was straight lining most of the way, only turning in lift of more than 2 m/sec. It was getting late and I was tired, but the clouds just kept drawing me forward and up, to 5900 max.
Looking north up the Pandy ridge
I got to the Pandy top take off and headed South to try to make another triangle but decided the clouds looked too poor that way so headed back for Castle Meadows, losing height. 7 m/sec lift soon put me up to around 5000 ft over Abergavenney, and I cruised along the convergence line losing very little. I cut North to take off, maximised the turn point and flew back over take off to go straight back to Castle Meadows landing at 5.30 ready for a well earned pint. (Thanks Rod! I needed it). This one came in at a 31k flat triangle, x2 = 62k, with just under 2 Hrs flying time. 130k in the XC League in a day. Phew!, and on a DHV 1/2 glider.
Avon had definitely won the day but the main memories will be the views of the mountains from 6000ft, in an exceptional day. I think the big triangle (Blorenge/Hay Bluff.Pen y Fan, 80k) will probably eventually be done on a paraglider if conditions are like last Saturday again. That would be one to dream about!
Ken Wilkinson. Glider, Nova Mamboo, Suppair Evo XC harness, Digifly vario