13/06/03 - Tom Mayne, 45.1km from Worcestershire Beacon
I got a bit over ambitious with this flight, but I learnt lots in the process.
There had been lot's of discussion of where to go at the club meeting on Thursday night, but clearly no decision was possible until the morning. It seemed Westerly and very light. I decided Frocester would probably be very frustrating, so I decided it was about time I went to "The Beacon", a members only Malverns site, which I had joined the Malverns club specifically to fly, this was to be my first visit.
The sky looked fantastic, with very little wind, just thermals coming up the slope, and after checking out the site, I set up. I had two short dummy flights before I took off into a fantastic thermal, and climbed straight up to base at 4,700ft. The drift was quite slow, and I was only 1.5km behind the hill, it would be slow going on a straight downwind XC, but the sky downwind looked excellent. I set off, hoping from cloud to cloud with generally very short gaps between, often straight lining it with lots of speed bar at cloud base. About half an hour into the flight I had the strongest climb I've ever had, peak climb was 1660fpm and the average 800fpm. It was an absolute cracker of a day, and I was starting to have ideas of doing an out and return, particularly as my ground speed was very close to airspeed, and the thermal drift was very low.
I continued downwind, and thought increasingly about if and when I should turn back. The problem was, I didn't want to throw away an excellent flight by turning back and going down, I kind of wanted to get a respectable distance before starting the return journey. So at 20km out I decided to continue to 25km, at 25km I thought just one more cloud, and finally at about 30 kms I finally decided to return. 60km out and return was now my task, with double distance points this would be 120km in the league, I should have realised I had overset.
I think it would have been do-able if the conditions had remained the same, but of course they didn't, I had noticed this small increase in wind speed before I turned, but the bluing out only became apparent a little later. Of course I ran into trouble almost immediately, I got low over Evesham, kept struggling with weak climbs and searching further upwind under the cloud that was there. I eventually found myself in front of the cloud with 2300ft, the cloud upwind out of reach. I had no choice but to turn back downwind. Fortunately the cloud was redeveloping and I got back to base, but I had lost nearly 2kms. Some good air followed, and I was able to gain a good bit of ground without to much turning. Soon I was on a sinky glide again though, and after the next climb to base, I found no more lift good enough to turn in (zeros, but they're no good when going upwind).
So after 31.5km out and 13.6km back I was on the deck. What had gone wrong?, well clearly I should have turned at 20km when the conditions where still very good, or just carried on for straight distance, or even better gone for a 30km FAI triangle (90km in the League), which given the day would have been well within reach. As to these distance multipliers, they certainly are no easy option!
Oh, and the retrieve was a real pain, 4 lifts and miles of walking. The last lift was a good one though, from another unemployed IT contractor, who was interested in taking up the sport, he took me all the way back to my car.