09/06/03 - Tom Mayne, 58.8km from Haresfield
Things with baby Iris have settled down a bit now, so I was able to get out for another XC:
Getting away was difficult, I think Haresfield is about the hardest place to get away from that I know. After 30 mins of struggle I was still on the hill, and the wind was getting a bit strong, I was going to have to go XC or land. With this in mind, I pushed forward into the bowl, and was below take-off height before I ran into a thermal. The extra space gave me three 360s before I had to make a decision, I was at 200-300ft, the thermal seemed solid, this was the last best chance, and I could see a suitable bomb out field behind, blocking out all second thoughts, I drifted rapidly off downwind. 3 minutes later with 700ft ATO the thermal went phut, it looked like I wouldn't even make 5km. I had flown through a number of thermals just before the one I took, so I knew I had half a chance, so I set off downwind searching. I got lucky and found a solid climb, which with some work took me too base for the only time in the flight.
The next cloud was inconveniently over the edge of Staverton ATZ, but it was quite close, so with 4400ft I felt I should reach it with ample clearance. I got there with 3200ft, so 1100ft to spare (Staverton is at 100ft). After searching around the cloud a bit I found nothing, but there was a growing wisp at the edge of the cloud fortunately in the right direction to get clear of the ATZ. I headed that way, this time it worked, and I had another climb, again requiring a lot of re-centring, and it took me within a couple hundred feet of base.
I now had a choice, I had been looking at the clouds on the way up, and there was clearly two possible routes, to the West a series of isolated clouds quite close together, or the East a more street like formation, in the middle a blue hole. I chose the westerly route from the long term airspace perspective, as with a southerly wind this gave me the best chance of clearing the Birmingham CTA. The flight became much more difficult from here on, so I'm not sure if it would have been easier the other way, but I wouldn't have been able to get much further anyway, so I'm happy with the choice.
The next climb was very frustrating, I kept losing the lift, searching locally, often upwind :-( finding a bit more, it took me half an hour to gain 1700ft, it didn't help that I couldn't see my vario on the new flight deck I was trying out, kept having to lean forward to see my pitifully low average. Finally impatience got the better of me and I glided off towards the next cloud with only 4000ft, cloudbase looked to be over 5000ft now. It wasn't long before I was looking at the ground for landing options, and possible thermals, and found a scrappy climb just past a small town. This didn't help much as the drift took me towards Worcester, and when I got there I was only at 2000ft, and the feeble climb had petered out. I decided I would have to land as the strong wind was constricting my options severely. The best fields where on the east edge of the town, so I picked one there, and set up.
I was ready to land now frustrated by the constant climbing, I was hungry and tied. I descended towards my field, initially at the upwind end, testing the wind strength, not wanting to be blown back past it. I had a little forward speed so I repositioned at the back end. The air was a bit bumpy down low, and I had a small symmetric (tiny really), I was very keen to be on the ground now. At 300ft, I flew into a quite a strong thermal, but I had decided to land, and the options downwind weren't great, so I was going to fly through it, 6 seconds later I was still going up, how could I refuse? Checking the fields downwind again, I took the climb, fantastic to climb out from so low, you get a much better sense of the climbing when low over flatland.
The thermal was nice and solid up to 3000ft, but again it broke up. I struggled on for a bit but eventually lost it, this time I really was on final glide, and landed another 13km on. My GPS said I had done 67km so I was well chuffed. It wasn't till a couple days later that I downloaded the track and whatnot, that I realised I had only done 58km, not very happy, It turns out I had done a "goto" on my Frocester waypoint instead of Haresfield!
Thanks to Howard for the retrieve, very painless, straight down the M5.