10/7/99 - Tom Mayne, 52.8km from Hoel Senni
Had a great weekend in Wales for the Airwave Challenge (or whatever it's called now?), the highlight of which was the following flight:
The site for the day was a hill near Heol Senni. The wind was a reasonably strong North Easterly, with sky starting to look quite good, an open distance task was set. The window opened quite early at 11:30, I launched about 5 minutes later, and the first gaggle of the day started to climb out a quarter of an hour after that.
Unfortunately the gaggle disintegrated shortly after I reached cloud base, some pilots struggling to climb the last couple hundred feet to base, some flying cross wind to other clouds. I did what seemed the blindingly obvious option of flying straight downwind to the next cloud, which happened to be above Fan Gihirych, the next site downwind. That worked well, and there where a couple more clouds immediately downwind, which where also working. So there I was 8km downwind, at cloud base, the easy bit over, alone, and looking back upwind at the remnants of the gaggle all well below me.
Ahead the sky was looking blue for a long way, my options were to cross the valley to a small into wind slope, head straight down wind to a large quarry, or head to the south east to where some small ragged clouds were decaying. Being high I chose the clouds. there wasn't much happening under them, but it was enough to keep going till some redevelopment occurred and I got back to base. Below me someone had gone for the quarry low, needless to say it didn't work, I've always thought that quarries are a bit of a red herring.
Clouds where forming well downwind now, so that's where I went, had some good but short climbs back to base which seemed quite low at a little over 2000ft above take off. In the distance I could see the sea, and looking at the map I decided I was on the wrong side of the valley to get past Swansea. I made the crossing near Pontardawe, towards a good looking cloud clearly made up of three thermals. Unfortunately by the time I got there it was decaying, and I spent some time checking under a variety of clouds near by, but none worked. I eventually found something from a ground source when I was just a couple hundred feet above take off, and climbed out drifting across the M4 as I went. Looking to the SE I could see very clear signs of a blue sea breeze front moving like a murky tongue up the next valley.
From the now much lower cloud base I headed westwards flying just to the south of the Motorway services, finding some climbs on the way, but not using them for long as I didn't want to drift too close to the Swansea ATZ. I eventually reached the point where the sea breeze front had set up nicely near Gorseinon. As I climbed to it's base I thought about my next move, either continue to the north west and try to use convergence to get big distance towards Carmarthen but that was high risk because of all the inlets breaking up the sea breeze front, or just head down the Gower and try to reach Rhossili. I took the easy option and blasted down the convergence line with big-ears and speed-bar along the northern edge of the Gower. Unfortunately the convergence line ran-out fairly quickly, and I was on final glide. I landed two thirds of the way down the Gower just past Llanrhidian, with 52.8km on the GPS, best flight for two years, and only a couple kms off my personal best.
Date - 10-07-99
Distance - 52.8 Km