9/6/99 - Rich Harding, 19.6km from Hay Bluff
Sorry about the midweek flying old bean but:
TO: SO 243 365 (Just below the top of the path up Hay Bluff)
19.6km whch is a <FANFARE> Personal Best!!!!!!!!!!!!!! </FANFARE> by some way.
With no vario!! (Gave it to Axis Steve to send away this morning and his demo one is already out)
Took off 12.15, a little after Alex, who only just made it back to the hill after a failed attempt, with four others, to cross to Lord Hereford's. Rich T (Ha! Ha! - Firefly can call him Biscuit Man!) launched ten minutes later and, at about one, I found a super climb from 50ft below ridge height, right above the lower part of the walk up path where a school was training. I could tell it was a very good climb, despite my lack of vario, as Alex and Rich immediately hoofed it across below me as I rose rapidly above the trig point. Several people were just standing there in their harnesses watching, for some reason - mind you, they were just standing there in the compression when we turned up! There was very little drift and I reached cloudbase (apparently at just over 5 grand asl) whilst only a couple (literally) of hundred yards behind the trig point! According to Rich and Alex the climb was a 10-up plus.
Rich was the best part of a grand below me at his highest and Alex a hundred feet or so. We stayed with it for what seemed like forever until, only half way to the Southern end of the Cat's Back, Alex pushed on ahead and climbed above me into the wispy's. I followed and then he pushed further South, whilst I continued to circle in what must have been slight sink.
The cloud stopped working properly and I saw Rich sinking badly towards the valley between the Cat's Back and the Pandy Ridge. Then he hit a strong thermal and I flew towards him. Halfway there I started climbing again so cored that and stayed above him, soon regaining cloudbase.
We then floated on in weak sink mainly (I think - I was turning circles all the way 'cos the difference at that height between 1-up and 1-down is fairly unfathomable!) with Alex running to the Pandy ridge which was actually working (thermically) on the Eastern side where he spent about twenty minutes above Hatterall Hill. Rich found something near the ridge and I headed off back upwind (what there was) towards him, on the way encountering the only serious sink I noticed in the flight.
Again, halfway there, I found a ropey-ish climb and regained to an estimated 2200 asl (i.e. I could see over Sugar Loaf again and that's 2006ft or something) before it disappeared and Rich had to land. As I was sinking towards the Pandy bottom landing field two hangies appeared upwind and I also found a gnarly little climb. One of the hangies decided to join me (silly boy - his mate made Raglan!) and we kept going round in tighter and tighter circles - even closer than you and I fly, Marcus (!!) - all the way over the A465 and the small ridge beyond. After this the HG gave up and I went off on a low death glide to my landing field, arriving at 2.15 - just under 20km in 75 minutes - see what I mean about the negligible drift?!
3 minutes after I landed a training jet screamed directly over my head at approx 200ft!!!!! Unbeknown to me, Alex had had a miracle save somewhere near the Pandy bottom landing field (and well below the ridge) and made cloudbase again before unfortunately immediately bombing just South of Skirrid.
Alex thinks he made near 25 (probably also a PB) and Rich Taylor made 12-ish.