16/08/03 - Penny Robiinson, 16.3km from Kettle Sings
Had a totally excellent time yesterday! Howard dragged me up to Kettle Sings, parked his car at the bottom landing field and drove mine to the top (cunning plan).
Loads of people at take off, which made me slighly nervous, but most people were soaring out and disappearing over the back. Howard sugessed that I bumbled around the hill for a bit and to bottom land. Rizz appeared just to check I was ok with the launch.....hot air on back of neck...time to go! Vinny did his stuff on launch, straight up and no mucking about. Flew straight into the most massive thermal I've ever been in. I could see Howard just below me and as I gained stupid amounts of height at stupid rates of climb I watched him spiral dive out of it..... ok so the cloud was a bit dark but I could see a gaggle of about six other paragliders just down wind having no problems with it.
I'm guessing I got to about 3000' before I bit the bullet and decided that I was just not going to land back at the hill so I turned downwind and made a run for the gaggle a few km ahead. The cloud was huge and I was still climbing well, I put a few 360s in just to be polite! Speed topped 41kph on that dash according to the GPS!!!
Near the gaggle I got to cloud base at over 4000' and made a run for the edge of the cloud. Was a bit chilly at that point and my fingers started to tingle. The air was quite rough and I had a small asymetric. My mouth went a bit dry but a darent take my hands off the brakes to reach round for my water! I was amazed at the amount of rubbish in the air, loads of seed heads, leaves and a twig whistled past me. Sailplanes everywhere, shit they're quick aren't they?!
There was a fair bit of high stratus the other side of the monster cloud and very few sunny patches on the ground but I headed slightly north to get to one and was rewarded by a rather nice climb again. I'd lost everyone at that point apart from a guy on a red Octane who was flying a fair distance from me. I saw a race circuit ahead of me, lots of cars, bikes a dirt track jobby. I was fairly low at this point and thought if I headed towards it I would either land there (guaranteed lunch stop) or catch the thermal which was bound to be downwind of it. Sure enough I got the thermal and climbed out to 3000', my stomach would have to wait.
I flew over a few farms, big stubbly fields, soared with a Buzzard and some Swifts....lovely. I spotted a paraglider landing in a huge stubble field just ahead and decided to watch him land. As I circled over the field there was a punchy broken thermal that I wanted to climb in. But it just wasn't letting me play with it. Got fed up with it after ten mins with very little height gained. I looked downwind towards Hereford but the landing options were pretty small, to the south there were large pylons, eastwards I would have had to have flown over a large wood and to the north the land was hilly, had small fields and no roads next to them. Decided that I wasn't going to make it over the wood so I dropped into the field that the other guy was in....closely followed by a red Octane!
I let out a big 'WOO HOO!' as I touched down with a big grin plastered all over my face! Met up with the other two chaps at the end of the field. One of them had just flown his first XC too and the other was an old pro who'd just got back into flying after breaking his back and neck in a paragliding accident, oo err. Phoned Howard for a lift. Bless him, he'd been a bit worried about me and immediately asked whether I was ok. Then he said that he spiral dived out of the lift because the cloud was a bit dark and he ended up in the bottom landing field.
I've attached a PDF file with my flight trace on it. I'll enter it on the Avon XC table too. Even if I don't manage another XC this year I'll be happy. I got home on Saturday evening where Simon was raving about a 200km flight he'd just done.... I rekon I had more fun though!
Slight correction after checking Gartrip again my max speed was 49.2kph, which occured on the first dash out away from the hill, yikes! To avoid confusion, 'Vinny' is the name of my Vibe *blush*