Next time I may as well call myself an axe-murderer...!

April 18th 1998

Having arrived at the 14th hole at the St Mellons Hotel and Golf Club just to the east of Cardiff at approx 1230 on Saturday 18th April, I took off about 30 minutes later heading for goal at the Blorenge, getting away in a steady 4mph walk down the drive until I arrived at the junction with the A48 a few minutes later. From my vantage point here I could see a great looking 'street' heading NE - if only I could connect with something big I could make it all the way to M4 junction 26 on one 'glide'.

I decided not to hang around here and wait, so headed NE at a steady 4mph again. After approx 1 mile I came across an obvious trigger point marked by gently circling large bird. I decided to wait here and sure enough a couple of minutes later I was rewarded with a nice big one which carried me along at speeds of up to 40mph. It was a struggle coring it though - I had to scratch around finding the correct change before I really got going.

However the next major decision point was rapidly approaching: whether to carry on gliding down this 'street' - I could just make out Newport in the distance - or leave it and make the short dash to what surely must be another textbook trigger point, the slip road onto the M4. I choose the latter going for speed rather than safety, but before too long I was regretting my reckless decision. I had hit some massive sink, and spent the next forty-five minutes desparately trying to get back up again.

I must have tried every trick in the book in my efforts to find the next big one which would hopefully take me all the way to junction 24. Armed with my "Glider Pilot" sign I started off searching nonchalently thinking I'll pick one up soon, but soon I had to resort to being more adventurous, only moving out of the airlane when a large commercial aircraft came through - serious wake turbulence I can tell you!

Pretty soon I was reaching another major decision point - whether to crash and burn here, or to head back up the valley with what little height I had left and try to rejoin the street that I could still see a short distance away. I decided I had five minutes left to try to save the day here before having to retrace my steps. Unsurprisingly I suppose, the technique of appearing to be smiling whilst actually swearing "can't you read you f***ing w***er, give me a lift - I'm not a f***ing axe murderer" under my breath, failed to help me find that elusive climb, and so I was left with no choice but to cut my losses and go for the slow but steady route.

Well, at least I was making progress again, a steady 4mph once more, but not exactly in the right direction. However maybe twenty minutes later I came to another dead cert trigger point thoughtfully marked by a young pair of courting Spotted Newport Eagles who were too busy to pay me much attention. Sure enough though another big one came through, and after the now customary scratching around I managed to core it and found myself climbing rapidly towards the centre of Newport.

Unfortunately this cloud was destined to die, but I knew that by circling over the house thermal source I would be able to pick up another good one soon, which I would hopefully be able to stay with most of the way to the Blorenge, my defined goal. Ten minutes of frantic searching was rewarded with a beautiful climb out, this time heading north on the A4042 at 40mph.

By now I was well into the third hour of my flight, and after the euphoria of the big climb out I was beginning to feel tired. I started to relax, and almost lost it over Pontypool where I nearly made the wrong decision to head north to Abergavenny instead of staying with this one, which I could now see would take me all the way to Blaenavon on the A4043.

By the time I reached Blaenavon the cloud was definately dying and I had no choice but to head north to try to find one last thermal to get me to goal. Pretty soon a steady 3mph walk was rewarded with a fantastic low save which took me all the way to the aerials at the top of the Blorenge, from where it was a straight glide to the NE bowl.

Pilot: Tim Pentreath
Date: 18th April 1998
Straight line distance: 30.2km
Glider: Shanks' Pony (large)
Duration: approx 4 hours
Number of climbs: 4 (3 x Newport bus, 1 x Mark 3 Cavalier)

What a nightmare flight! And as for 'Glider Pilot', next time I may as well call myself an axe-murderer!

Tim Pentreath