04/05/02 - Mike Andrews, 41.1km from Pandy
By two maps and an ancient tape-measure I make it 42K. My personal best. (Previous was 39k in Spain.)
I missed the first day of the comp as I had to visit sick relatives, but went to Wales on Saturday 4th May - fortune smiled. Seeing the comp crowd at the Blorenge, I went to Pandy and Mrs Clayton swore it was open and there were no sheep or lambs to be seen. I paid my two quid and on my second launch (after a hop) flew down the ridge to the right towards the base of a nice firm looking cu. and climbed straight to c-b at 4,500 ft. I then caught Robin Brown on the radio who told me he thought Pandy was closed. "Too late," I said. Over the back I played with the edges of the clouds and headed West. I got low approaching Crug Mawr but then got a lee-side thermal to base again. It was all unknown territory from there for me. I got low again west of Llanbedr, there was not much sun about and it looked pretty tough. I was looking for the best landing on the slope when I got a few beeps in the lee of a farm and very gently managed to scratch up the slope to the Darren above Crickhowell, overflying someone packing up. I then got back easily to 3,000 ft before the lift gave out. I put quite a lot of effort into really looking out the best lift and winding tightly when I got it.
I then more or less followed the Heads of the Valleys road. I did not fly north over the higher ground because there was no sun, and the moors to the south were too far off track. I am not too clear where I got my climbs - I didn't know exactly where I was - but I did take some photos. A couple of weak thermals and quite a bit of zeros kept me going. I headed for likely clouds, sun spots on the ground, and in one case a fire by a car-dump, otherwise the usual factories and car-parks! At one point I was so low that I was on final approach to a landing by a small lake on a hill-top when I got lift triggered by the edge of the lake. I scratched for minutes in tiny scraps of lift, but hung on and worked up and got enough height to find a better thermal. I had noticed a paraglider high above me as I struggled up, and when I finally got to c-b I looked and saw he was way below me downwind. I had thought he didn't seem to be searching for the lift very actively. I then overflew the pilot packing up, and a landed hang-glider as well. Judging by the number of burnt-out cars I was getting near Merthyr.
I had felt a few flurries of snow. It was b cold, and, skirting to the North of Merthyr I was now concerned by a sky full of dark cloud and what looked like rain ahead. I got another ride from a brief patch of sun, toyed with the idea of disrupting a cricket match by landing in the field, was appalled by one field which had five different lines of cables across it, and finally ran out of zeros and luck between Hirwaun and Rhigos.
I landed, negotiating a landscape strewn with concrete blocks, and an impressive power-line, and a policeman rushed up. "Is everything all right up there?" he asked. He pointed up the valley to a big scree bowl where I could just make out a couple of canopies spread out. I told him that a canopy spread out for long was a danger sign. In fact it turned out to be Robin's site X!! I even met Hugo and Nigel who had been with me in Brazil. They had had a long walk up and had only had one top-to-bottom all day! I even got a ride back to Pandy thanks to Rodney, one of Robin's students.
The icing on the bun was to find that only two people in the champs had flown further - I even got a better distance than Steve Ham who did 41k.