15/06/03 - Tom Mayne, 65.7km from Worcestershire Beacon
I think I'm getting the hang of this XC thing...
Very light westerly, so off to the Beacon again. I got there at about midday, the day looked like it was starting to work, but unfortunately not near the Malverns. I was sat in a massive blue hole. The site itself was working, as shown by a modeller, but I thought I would wait for a bit more indication of a second thermal. Three quarters of an hour later, small CU were appearing everywhere so time to set up. In the air it seemed quite breezy but not much lift, I landed again while Brian Hindle scratched around. At this point Tim Crow appeared, speed walking up the hill to take-off, had just enough time to say Hello, before Brian started climbing. I launched into the thermal and climbed away, but clearly Brian had the best of it and I was 2000ft below him when he reached base and glided off. The climb weakened and I struggled on to reach 3700ft, at least 1000ft from base, before the climb stopped.
I had a choice, follow Brian into the blue (he appeared to be climbing slightly, or head North cross track to some dubious looking clouds and the good source/trigger of the edge of Malvern. Blue is bad, so I headed North, all I found was zeros, and I had a long struggle at about 2000ft first just to stay up, then eventually I started slowly gaining. The big problem was the clouds weren't working, or rather they had a very short growth and decay cycle, so by the time you got there only scraps remained. I finally got with in a few hundred feet of base just past the M5, after nearly an hour of struggle.
Unfortunately it wasn't long before I was grovelling again. I'd had constant sink on the glide to Pershore, and I arrived under the cloud there at 1500ft. Another long struggle followed, but eventually I found proper lift and reached base. Speed bar on and gliding along under cloud, the day finally seemed to be working properly. I hit more lift, and the world greyed out and vanished, big ears on and back on the bar but I was still going up. Normally I'm not too perturbed when I find myself in cloud, just fly out the side, but this time there were a couple of problems. First there were lots of sailplanes about, and the gliding fraternity have no qualms about cloud flying, they even have a radio frequency dedicated to it, which obviously I wasn't on. The second problem was I didn't have my compass, and trying to hold a course using a GPS is really horrible. Just doesn't feel real watching a little arrow on an LCD screen, not like my big fat Silva 70, and I started to feel increasingly disoriented, I felt like I was turning right but the GPS said I had a left turn. I considered doing something a bit more drastic than big-ears, but the Carbon is horrible in B-lines (it shrimp stalls), and I didn't fancy spiral diving blindly, that really would be disorientating.
Eventually the greyness became whiter and brighter, and a few moments later I popped out the side, a beautiful sight. I seemed to be in a clear hole in the side the cloud, with cloud below me, to left, right, and behind. Ahead was open sky then another cloud a short glide away, perfect.
After Chipping Camden I started to feel very tired and uncomfortable, so munched on some nuts and raisins which made me feel a lot better, as did the next climb over Shipston on Stour, which was an absolute ripper. Although only 600fpm average, the core was very tight and violent, constantly trying to spit me out, I had to work very hard to keep it all together, but had the great pleasure of massively out climbing a sailplane.
The cloud gaps were getting bigger now, and next decision put me on the deck. Ahead were two clouds close to each other, I chose the one with the circling Sailplane, which was a mistake as it was a K13 training glider. I found a little lift but nothing much, I tired to work out which cloud was better, the other one looked bigger and darker, but I thought it might be decaying, I stayed put. It didn't work out and all a really got was an extended glide.
Very pleased when I landed with 65km, especially after some tricky flying. Next problem was the retrieve, Nigel Dewdney offered to come out, as Tim Crow also needed a lift, but I thought I would first check out trains in Banbury. Unfortunately wap.kizoom.co.uk was down so I couldn't find the times before setting off. I had a instant lift all the way to the station, and so was sucked into the blackhole of Banbury. Got to the station at 5:30, and found the soonest I would get to Great Malvern was 9:00, ouch. Tried the bus station next, asked about buses in the Evesham direction, "best we can do is Chipping Norton, but it doesn't leave till tomorrow!". I then attempted to hitch (walked) back out of Banbury. Gave up when I got to the edge and waited for Nigel to arrive, got back to the car at 8:30, owing a big favour.
I've since checked, I missed a train by ten minutes which would have had me back at Malvern by 7:20, and wap.kizoom.co.uk no longer exists and has been replaced by wap.nationalrail.co.uk.