03/09/00 - Tim Pentreath, 57.0km from Westbury
Having missed out on the Mere Bash the night before (on account of driving back from a wedding in Shropshire late that night) I consequently arrived at the hill at 1.15pm with a completely clear head, which is probably more than could be said a few other pilots! At this stage there were quite a few gliders in the air, and dozens laid out on Bratton Camp.
Time for a minimal bit of chatter before I took off at 1.30pm in fairly scratchy conditions and maybe 10 minutes later Jim, Rich and I were climbing out heading SSW tracking to the west of Warminster. I guess by the time we were over the quarry we were about 2000'ato and still going up in our large but fairly weak thermal. Rich was holding back slightly by this time, so Jim and I pushed on to Warminster where we got a reasonable climb.
We then glided towards Longleat Forest flying right over the larger of the two sailing lakes. Just to the south of the lake we found another climb which got us to about 3500' ato. Then it was over the Deverills towards Mere. The Mere Bash marquee was clearly visible a little way to the west of our track.
By now we had flown 20km and I shouted across to Jim that we had broken the site record. Still there's never much time for self congratulation when in the air and before too long we were out of the lift and on a glide. Jim headed due south and found something so I duely flew over to join him.
At about the 25km mark we were on another glide and this is where our fortunes changed - I made a 45 degree turn to the right in order to head over to Gillingham, whilst Jim carried on in a southerly direction. By the time I found my next climb a couple of km to the south of Gillingham Jim was getting very low and eventually landed on the side of a gently sloping hill which he had headed for in a last ditch attempt to find something. Meanwhile I was getting to base at 4500' for the first time in the flight, and I reckoned I could probably hear his curses as I climbed out! It was at this stage that I first noticed Poole Harbour and the south coast glinting in the sunshine and I thought it would be fantastic to make it all the way... I stayed with this cloud for a while before gliding towards Sturminster Newton where I found another climb which got me nice and high again.
I cruised over the Wessex members only site, Bells Hill, at about 3500' but after here things started going downhill (!). I followed the ridge along hoping to find some decent lift at the head of the valley, but from this point (about 50km) I only found small scratchy areas of weak lift which really did little more than put off the inevitable.
Eventually after 2.5 hours in the air I landed about 2-3 miles south of the village of Cheselbourne, just 5 miles from Dorchester. I packed up and at about 4.20pm I tried to call Rich on his mobile. I hadn't seen him since looking back when I was high to the south of Gillingham, and being the competitive bastard that I am on occasions, was extremely worried when I only got through to his answering service! Shit, he can't still be in the air...! I tried again half an hour or so later and still only got his answering service - surely he couldn't still be in the air an hour after I landed... It was only when he called me at 7pm that I stopped worrying - he reckoned he'd flown about 45km to give him a new PB.
Anyway we met up at Lisa's parent's house to swap the Mere Bash bouncy castle from his car to mine. Needless to say we also swapped thermal by thermal accounts of our flights over a quick beer!
What a day, what a flight! Next time it'll be the coast!
Tim P - 3/9/2000