Diary 2012

Welcome to the diary page. If you want to see what I have been up to lately with my gliding then this is the place to look at. Every time I go gliding I will add an entry to this page. Note that Lasham is about 600 feet above sea level, so for example 2000 feet QNH / ASL is 1400 feet above Lasham.

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2012 Gliding Pictures

Saturday 8th December 2012

It was a mild start as overnight weather cleared. I started out in the dark. I went to the caravan before the ballot to set up the solar panel and check the caravan over. All ok. In the ballot I grabbed SH4 then had breakfast at 8:30AM. I attended the briefing 9AM before someone kindly helped me rig. Meanwhile the temperature dropped early morning as clearer air came in and I had issues with ice and a misted canopy for a while. I planned to have straight forward winter hops in SH4 (i.e. up round and down). But the air was unstable with the possibility of a few shallow thermals.

My first launch at 11:25AM only got me to 1100 feet as there was a light crosswind. Reduced sink kept me up for a while. My circuit was slightly high and it got bubbly below 700 feet. I felt a little rusty but had a smooth landing after 6 minutes. A few low clouds started to appear just after landing. There was a long winch queue so it was rather slow going waiting for the next flight.

I launched again at 12:12PM to 1300 feet, which was level with wispy cu's that were popping and giving hints of lift. I tried to soar but the only useable weak lift was too close to the winch. I scratched down to 600 feet along the circuit before giving up. It was another slightly high circuit but I didn't overshoot too much, and landed after 10 minutes. Now I was 8th in the queue...

I launched one last time at 1:08PM, again to around 1300 feet. Again I tried to soar. I reched cumulus at 100 feet and drifted with it. I couldn't maintain my height though. The best lift of course was at 500 feet on the end of the downwind leg. I had a straight forward trailer landing after 9 minutes.

I stopped at the clubhouse for chips and then headed to the launch point. On the way I agreed to mutual derig with another pilot. So the glider was put away by 3PM after a clean. Then I wandered to the caravan to put the solar panel away. Then I headed to the SGM at 4PM before leaving at 7PM in the dark. A fairly standard cold crisp winter's day with a hint of thermic activity to liver things up a bit.

Additional note: It transpired I had won a trophy for best flight in a Lasham single seater on the ladder in 2012. This could only have been my rather slow 300km flight on 19th June. I am sure others did better than me but I guess they didn't put their flights on the ladder. So their loss I guess. It does show what a poor year it was too. Alas the SGM overran so much I had to leave before the awards near the end. So I will collect it next time I turn up at Lasham.

Tuesday 16th October 2012

I got up in the dark! I certainly don't miss that... It was a smooth drive to Lasham on roads damp from bad weather overnight. Early cloud cover was clearing up as I arrived in the morning twilight. I went to the caravan first. I got solar panel out and prepared the caravan for winter since I don't plan to sleep in it again this year and we've now had first frost. Then I grabbed SH2 in the ballot (I had the whole fleet to myself as the place was deserted). After breakfast someone kindly helped me rig. I was ready to tow out by 9:35. I then peeked into the briefing room which was deserted! SH2 and a couple of 2 seaters were all that was out, and just a handful of us at the launch point. After a short break I towed the glider to the launch point. It was breezy! The launch point was set up right at the back end of runway 27 with a 3000 foot winch launch in the wind the target. I let another pilot fly SH2 first off the aerotow before it got soarable. He took an aerotow to 3000 feet, his first flight on type and practice before going to Aboyne next week where SH4 is currently. I took over when he landed and winch launched as soon as possible as it was looking soarable.

At 11:59 I launched to 2300 feet (still my highest launch of the year if not the 3000 foot target) and soon got away in lift. I found 3 kts to a 2800 feet above Lasham cloudbase. Then I struggled down at 2000 feet for a while in scrappy lift. With the strong wind many thermals were broken and distorted which added to the entertainment. I had to watch my drift and the ClearNav was showing 25kts from the West South West at flying height. A field of solar panels and dark compost piles to the North of the airfield seemed to trigger good strong narrow pulses of lift to keep me up. I also noted the many planes from defunct airlines like BMI Baby and others parked at ATC again. (I later counted 28 jets in a picture I took.) Then as a big street approached I got away in good lift to a 3800 foot cloudbase. The strong, narrow cores distorted by the wind made centring a challenge and I was turning as tight as I could to stay with them. At this height it was now easy to push upwind a bit. However the bigger clouds were not always working. I guess this is the result of a short thermal cycle as some of my nicest climbs were under wisps and even in the blue a bit. For a while it went 7/8s locally as the street spread out. I flew through a light shower and cloudbase dropped to 3500 feet. After retreating a bit to where the sun was shining I had fun going up and down the streets as cloud amounts reduced again. In this wind any spreadout was rapidly blown away down wind so not so much of an issue for ground heating. Eventually the streets ended and it cycled down a bit. I was down to 1500 feet when I found several small thermals under wisps and in the blue that got me back up to 2000 feet. Upwind it was cycling up again but I couldn't quite get that far and fell down at 14:50, after 2h51m airborne.

So not bad for mid October! I bonus soaring flight and again probably my last soaring flight of 2012. As local soaring goes this was pretty entertaining with nice challenging conditions. I'll still be on the look out for other late weather windows. They can happen at any time in the right conditions. Meanwhile I handed the glider back to the earlier pilot who took 2 winch launches and managed to soar a bit too. I helped out at launch point for a while. The woolly hat was out for the first time this autumn in the cold wind! It was lovely and fresh though. After the other pilot's 2nd launch I returned to the clubhouse and caravan to pay up and pack away. Then as SH2 landed near trailer I went to help derig and put it away. The wind was now dropping too making derigging easier. We put the tie down strap on as lots of bad weather was in the forecast starting tonight. Then I relaxed in the clubhouse for a while, hoping that waiting until 6:30pm would allow me to miss the worst of the rush hour. It was nice to get chatting to other members and swap stories, and saw a nice sunset too. I arrived in twilight and left in twilight. The wooded parts of the local roads were dark and spooky in the twilight. It was a smooth drive home too. Waiting for the end of the rush hour did the trick.

Wednesday 19th September 2012

I had booked glider SH3 on Sunday as today was looking nice. It was a cold start with a clear sky. Sunrise was on the road as it's now so late in the season! I had the glider rigged and DI'ed by 9AM. At the 9:30AM briefing it was like a busy summer's day! The soaring window was possibly 11AM - 6PM and tasks were set. I soon got the glider to the launch point but didn't winch launch until 13:31 as cloudbase was a bit low before then. It took me a while to get away. I had decided to plan to go South first towards Amberley before heading Northwest towards Avebury.

My first attempt to leave Southwards ran into trouble as heavy sink in a big hole almost had me fall down. However I made it back to Lasham where I restarted. This time a lovely street took me to Arundel. I turned here instead of Amberley. Then I headed back up towards Lasham where it was starting to spread out. This got steadily worse, to 7/8's cover and huge gaps between streets. That plus 2C at cloudbase reminded me it's no longer summer... I got as far as HURstbourne Tarrant before a huge gap had me turning tail after turning under a huge slab of spreadout and tiptoing back to lift. There were some cracking climbs under the big dark clouds where the sun was shining. 6kts in places - strongest september thermals I've ever experienced... Cloudbase got up to 5000 feet in a few spots but there were plenty of lower bits too. I local soared afterwards for a while before I had enough of the cold and descended to land at 14:54, 3h23m after launch. I'd flown LAS-ARU-HUR-LAS for 159km in about 2h15m in the end which is about 71kph, before the local soaring started afterwards.

The views of the South Coast were gorgeous as always. While the flight wasn't that spectacular it was still good fun, and I was aware that this was probably my last cross country flight of the year, and maybe even the last soaring flight. It's been a rather rubbish season weather-wise, but thanks to a spell of unemployment atleast I was able to capitalise on some of the few weather windows mid week.

Wednesday 5th September 2012

Earlier in the week mum and I had decided we'd come today to do some caravan maintenance and have a nice day in the sunshine. It didn't look that great for cross country flying with blue conditions and not a great depth of convection. However we left open the idea of going for a jolly with mum as a passenger, and took a stool to help with getting in and out of the glider. After a leisurely start we left home a bit earlier than planned around 9:10-9:15AM and arrived maybe 10:30AM. I got a blue guest form filled in and sent a text to the CFI (at the launch point) asking if it was OK to take a passenger up. The K21 778 was parked by the hangar and unused so I gladly grabbed it straight away and got it ready, with parachutes put into the car. A quick test embark with the stool verified that mum was able to get in and out of the glider OK (where as earlier in the year when she tried it wasn't possible due to her knee replacements). Colin gave the ok for passenger flight and to use 778. I dropped mum off at the caravan and then went to the launch point to grab a buggy and a helper to get the glider out to runway 09 (handy as the launch point was close to the caravan). Then I returned to the caravan and collected mum. It was now around midday and it looked quite soarable with others staying up so we decided to launch now and eat later. I strapped mum in once the glider was in the aerotow queue, then got in myself.

At 12:20PM We aerotowed to 2000 feet not far from Fourmarks. I soon found a thermal with wisps on top and managed to climb to 2700 feet. Mum was enjoying the glorious view of the patchwork quilt of the Hampshire countryside. I then pushed Eastwards a bit and soared over Alton for a while. Then I headed North, staying high, and went past the Eastern side of Lasham Airfield and as far as the M3 near Basingstoke. Best height was only 2900 feet AGL about half way between Lasham and Basingstoke. At the M3 I encountered heavy sink and decided to turn back to avoid dropping out of range of the airfield. By now an hour had whizzed by. After one more climb close to the airfield we decided to land. We landed at 1:30pm, 1h10m after launch. It was a bit of a tight landing as the landing area was littered with other aircraft but we got down safely. I parked the glider at the launch point (it was going to be used later in the day) and grabbed the stool again so mum could get out. Mum enjoyed the flight and her first experience of soaring.

We returned to the clubhouse for lunch. The potato and leek soup and a veggie burger I had were delicious. Then we returned to the caravan. Mum had a snooze while I mowed the lawn. I also reopened a gap into woods that had overgrown and almost closed. Then we went back to the clubhouse for tea after packing caravan away before leaving for home at 4:20pm. 1h50m to get home. Yuck! But it was a nice day - a great day to take passenger up. I wouldn't have gone XC in blue to 3000 feet conditions. (Indeed as we left a number of trailers were preparing to leave to retrieve gliders that had landed out, including one of the Discuses and the club's Duo.)

Friday 31st August 2012 It was 6C when I got up. Brr! I guess the end of the summer is nigh. I'd booked SH4 and had it rigged and DI'ed by 8:45AM. Then followed a nice leisurely breakfast. I towed the glider to briefing. A big variety of tasks were set as the weather looked potentially good with shallow cumulus perhaps going blue. I planned a couple of options. First was a standard 300km triangle of Nailsworth - Towcester. There was also the idea of going South first. So I considered heading towards Arundle first before heading as far as Swindon then across to Buckingham and back via Didcot for a 330km. This also avoided getting near Little Rissington (right on track in between Nailsworth and Towcester) where temporary restricted airspace lay.

By 11AM there was good looking cumulus to the Northwest and blue to the South and Southeast. I launched at 1104 to just 1200 feet. I got away easily although the thermals fairly broken with narrow cores. With the cumulus forming to NW I decided to head that way with NAI-TOW in mind. Cloudbase however got lower the further Northwest I went and the clouds got very scrappy and hard to read. Many good looking clouds appeared to not be working. So after struggling for a while I bailed at Newbury South (NES) and decided to retreat Southwards towards Arundel. I had a good run downwind past Lasham. Now there were shallow cumulus to the South with bases 1000 feet higher than at Newbury South (which was 3700 QNH). I went as far as Cocking (COK) and turned there as beyond this point was a big blue hole.

I then decided to stay South as it was a bit better here, and headed towards Portsmouth to see if it could be possible to get to the Isle of Wight. Some people on radio had crossed and were soaring at St. Catherine's Point already. There were bigger cumulus clouds to the west and some good cores but still very rough and hard to centre. I then went South over Hayling Island to decent looking cloud right over the beach at the southern end of the island. I then tracked Westwards to Portsmouth but the climbs were weak. Cloudbase was 4900 QNH at best and I could see bits of cumulus out to sea. After procrastinating for ages I push South to a big cumulus in the middle of the Solent. Beyond that though was a big gap. That plus a 20kt NWerly at height meant I bottled it and headed North back to Portsmouth. After scrabbling back upwind I eventually turned Portsmouth North (PNT) before pushing back upwind to Lasham. I was exhausted and feeling rough from tiredness and the rough conditions so I decided to finish. I landed at 1420, 3h16m after launch.

I managed to hand over the glider to another pilot so I was able to escape by 3:30. It was still a horrible journey home though with lots of issues en route. Never mind... It was worth coming as this could be one of the last decent days of the season, with September looming. LAS-NES-COK-PNT-LAS was 149km done at just 60kph. I did actually fly further than that but there are no turnpoints in the middle of the Solent! Plus a grand view on the South Coast as it always is, and not often we get to go right to the coast and beyond so worth it for that.

Thurday 23rd August 2012

I arrived at 7:45AM. I had the ballot to myself so grabbed the only Discus available, SH2. It was nice to fly that Discus again. It made a nice change to have breakfast at 8AM before rigging as the restaurant was open early for the Juniors & Regionals comp. There was plenty of help with rigging as the competitors were all up to prepare for the day. SH2 was ready by 9:25AM. I also had helped rig 776 after a land out yesterday. Tasks were set to the Northwest in the cross country briefing by Colin at 9:30AM. I had the glider at the launch point and ready to go by the time the comp briefing started at 10:20. They were tasked to the SouthEast first, then similar to Colin's tasks after that. So I considered having a sniff that way first.

I took a winch launch at 11:32AM, just ahead of the comp grid which went at 11:40. Cloudbase was just 2800 feet AGL / 3400 feet QNH so I local soared for a while in weakish lift, but managing to stay close to cloudbase. At 12PM cloudbase at Lasham was 3000 feet AGL so I set off across a gap towards Alton. But to the South cloudbase was lower and it looked rather scrappy with big gaps. So I went no further than ALW (Alton Southwest). I then turned Northwards but again it was slow going. Not all the clouds appeared to be working, and spreadout was appearing and getting steadily worse. There was already some cirrostratus too. I saw a nice 22 degree halo around sun. I reached Newbury South but at that point it looked rubbish to the North with large dead areas and spreadout so I backtracked to Kingsclere. Here I found a nice thermal under a big cloud, so I took a cloud climb. (Now SH2 has a T/S - the first time I've taken SH2 into cloud.) Cloudbase was 4200 feet QNH and I climbed to 6300 feet, about FL62, just below the airspace ceiling. Up here I was roughly level with the top of the spreadout layer. I took some pictures of course. Then with plenty of height to play with I headed Northwards into a gap containing just wispy lumps of cu below me as well as stuff in the spreadout layer too, and out as far as Newbury Racecourse (NEW) before retreating south as it looked dead at Chievely. I went as far as Whitchurch, playing with East-West lines of energy under the severe spreadout and jumping South over gaps. Now cloud amounts were atleast 7/8's, perhaps 8/8's in places with thickening cirrostratus above. I continued to play in the Whitchurch area with cloudbase between 4100 and 4600 feet. Up here I was in range of Lasham so it was extended local soaring from this point. Eventually I had enough and headed back to land at 2:36PM, 3h04m after launching.

I landed at the launch point as another pilot wished to fly. So I gladly handed the glider over after removing my stuff and retrieving the trace. Then after a quick check of the caravan I set off home at 3:45PM. LAS-ALW-NEW-WH2-LAS was only 84km and a fair bit of that was in range of Lasham. 2h30m was also only 33kph but a fair bit of time was spent playing rather than going anywhere. The highlight was without doubt the Kingsclere cloudclimb. It was a fun flight albeit nothing too special overall. Hoping for better conditions for a decent cross country before we run out of season.

Thursday 9th August 2012

I arrived mid afternoon yesterday. The ground was soaking but the sun came out some time after 3PM. I cleared the big weeds and then went to the clubhouse for tea. It had dried out a little by 5PM. So I mowed the grass at about 5:30PM and hoovered the caravan too. Then I made supper in caravan. Omellette, pasta and peas using my brand new utensils. That went well. I got the bed ready and then spent the rest of evening in the clubhouse. I returned to the caravan at around 9PM to retire for night.

I woke up early after a poor night's sleep. There was lots of top cover early on. However I rigged soon after 8AM with another Discus pilot. I was all ready except wing tape by briefing. The top cover was slowly burning off so there was optimism for the day. The briefing at 9:30AM hilighted the airspace around us as well as the weather getting good and tasks set via Newbury and to the North away from the airspace. I then attended the Olympics airspace briefing too. Around Lasham we were limited to 3500 feet QNH, while north of Newbury there was a letter of agreement to allow us to go up to 4000 feet. So this allowed for a little more confidence. There were no other notams to worry about atleast. I planned to get to Newbury and then try either Oxford - Whitchurch, or Graffham Water, Banbury, Cirencester for 153 or 374km respectively.

I then got the glider to the launch point on runway 27. However then the decision was made to change ends. Having put the tow out gear away I decided to push the glider myself along the runway to the other end. That was a long sweaty walk, albeit slightly downhill. Then after returning to the caravan to wash my face and drink I returned. I had hoped to launch around 11AM as it looked good then but just had to wait, and finally got airborne around 12:25PM.

After the 12:25PM launch I had no problem climbing away in weak lift. After trying out the local thermals for a bit and reaching the airspace limit just under 3500 feet QNH, I started the task at 1232. I had a slow tiptoe with weakish climbs and only able to go to 3500 feet QNH. There was also a lot of patchy top cover at the top of the cumulus too. I almost fell down near Brimpton. I made it to Newbury after what seemed like an age, and looked North towards the better airspace and could see nothing but a wall of grey murk. I couldn't see if there was any sun on the ground, and if it was soarable or not. So having come close to landing out already I bottled and backtracked a bit to a good climb further Southeast. Here I found a group of gliders doing better than me. They headed northwards past Newbury and I decided to follow them. Conditions were improving so I pushed on. It was nice to be able to get to 4000 feet QNH north of Newbury thanks to the letter of agreement. The vis was improving a little bit and I could see a way Northwards. Eventually after a little top up well over the top of the Harwell zone, I made it to Didcot and was finally clear of the Olympics airspace. The didcot cloudbase was only 4600 feet but nearer Oxford it was 5000 feet, as I got further away from the frontal influence to the South. I had no problem turning Oxford some 1h30m-2h after I started (slow!), and then decided to try and finish the Newbury - Oxford - Whitchurch task. Conditions were good now with 4kt climbs to be had but I was tired and quite happy to tip toe my way South again and finish.

Southbound was much easier overall. The top cover had mostly disappeared, and there were nice lines of energy. I dived down to 3900 feet to enter the letter of agreement zone, and then went a long way without turning. Soon enough I dived again to 3400 feet to get under the Olympics Airspace at Newbury. After a few weak climbs I decided that a gap to the South was crossable and I got close to Whitchurch. However I struggled here again, getting down below 2500 feet again. Nearby though while I was scratching in half a knot, a field was being cut. A plume of dust rose up from the centre of the field and marked a thermal. I decided to go for it. Sure enough there was a decent thermal over the plume, and I got away back up to just under 3500 feet. I then had a good run to and around Whitchurch, and then a straight forward flight back to Lasham. I topped up once more near Popham to make sure. Then I decided to head in as I was exhausted. I landed at 15:12, 2 hours 47 minutes after I launched. 153km in 2h40m was only 57kph although it felt even slower!

It took me a couple of hours to get the glider away and caravan packed up again. I then legged it as I was totally exhausted (bad night's sleep catching up on me?) and hit the M25 rush hour. Eventually I got home to collapse in a heap for the night. Not my best ever gliding day but a good day to keep current, having not flown since June! Now here's to the end of that Olympics Airspace nonsense so we can fly normally again.

Wednesday 20th June 2012

I didn't sleep so well last night in the end and woke up very early. So at 6:15AM I decided to get up, tidy up the caravan and have an early breakfast. Then at about 7:30AM I went to the glider and started to get it ready. By 8:30AM the glider was ready to go to the launch point. I then decided to get one mucky job out of the way, to empty the portaloo in the caravan. Eww! Job done though and hands thoroughly washed afterwards! In the briefing John was setting tasks to the North. However, the forecast suggested lots of spreadout and dead areas that way. But Dave the weather guru suggested Lasham - Devises (DEV) - Oxford (OXF) - Lasham for 200km. I decided to plan this. After the briefing I helped a few people out and got the glider to the launch point. With the wind shifted round to the East we were on runway 09 today, where we had been on 27 the previous two days.

By 11AM it was looking soarable. I winch launched at 11:09 to only 1400 feet but got away quickly. Cloudbase was higher than this time yesterday at about 3300 feet above Lasham (3900 feet QNH). I took a little while to make it to cloudbase, but was setting off by 11:30. It was a good romp Westwards with regular good lift and cloudbase rising steadily past 4500 feet QNH. About 10-15km away from Devises the big cumulus ended and there was a bit of a gap. However before this point, right over Burbage, I found a nice tall cloud and got established in strong lift. So I cloudclimbed to 7000 feet. Then I had no problem gliding out across the gap to Devises. I could see the forecast incoming top cover approaching Devises so was happy to get in and out of there before it was too late.

There was lift close to Devises so I turned DEV and then climbed as patchy top cover moved in overhead. Cloudbase here was about 5100 feet and conditions under the smaller clouds were OK. By now I could see an easy way back across the gap to the bigger clouds. So I carried on, and achieved about 84kph from start to the Wantage area. At this point I slowed down and stayed high as the clouds were rather big and starting to spread out quite a lot. (The vis was also poorer today making it harder to see where the sun was reaching the ground in the distance.) I went round the South side of Abingdon and at that point I decided I didn't like the look of the sky towards Oxford. So I headed instead towards Didcot. What a great choice that was! As I approached, I could see there was a huge cloud above the power station which was switched on. I could also see the plume from the chimney where it reached cloudbase. Here there was a wispy funnel of lower cloud. I made a beeline straight for those wisps, and circled under them. Bam! Severe turbulence and vario going off the scale. I hung on and climbed rapidly, and soon went into cloud at 5200 feet. I carried on climbing high up into the cloud. Near the top I was struggling to keep in control in the severe turbulence. It was like riding a bucking bronco. However I topped out at 8200 feet, about FL81, just a few hundred feet below the airspace ceiling and 3000 feet above cloudbase. The cloud top was maybe 10,000 feet. I emerged to the south of the cloud to another glorious view, and a big gap to the south again. I couldn't resist rejoicing the Didcot Special over the radio! 'The Didcot Special! What a ride!'

I headed off South for a while, before realising I had forgotton to turn DID. So given that I was way above the airspace ceiling to the South I turned back to the turnpoint. A cloud was over the turnpoint but i managed to hit it by dipping a wing in the cloud. Then I proceeded South again, speeding up to 120+kts to dive under the 5500 foot airspace ceiling, and then shot way over the top of Harwell and carried on all the way to Chieveley. After turning CHV I decided that conditions were good here, and set off West to make up for the shorter distance to Didcot instead of Oxford. I wandered under a line of dark clouds under worsening spreadout and eventually turned Ramsbury (RAB). Then went back Eastwards. Meanwhile on the radio I heard it was severe spreadout and fairly dead back at Lasham. So I decided to play around the Kingsclere and Newbury area under some huge very dark clouds. Here there were large areas of strong lift. I resisted the temptation to cloud climb again as the clouds were too large and bloated (would have risked getting lost in them). Cloudbase was lowering from above 5500 feet. Eventually I decided to head back. I was about 1500 feet over glide so had plenty of margin for a fast glide back into the dead air around Lasham. I could see cloudbase lowering further as I got closer, with some lumps as low as 3000 feet to the South. I carried on back to Lasham for a nice racing finish to land at 14:24, 3 hours 15 mins after launching.

Task time excluding the pause around Newbury and Kingsclere was about 2 hours 45 minutes. LAS-DEV-DID-CHV-RAB-LAS was 215km so speed was about 78kph. So I was happy with that given the conditions! Much faster than yesterday, albeit not quite as far. Back on the ground we got the gliders away fairly quickly. I then scrambled to put the caravan to back to sleep and check the launch point logs before aiming to beat the rush hour home by leaving at 4pm. An early night beckons. After 3 days I've flown 11 hours 45 minutes, and 632km. I also broke even on the unlimited scheme too which is great. This flight also pushed me past 800 hours in single seaters too, and was my 200th Discus flight. So this starts to make up a bit for the long runs of bad weather we've had this year! I'm hoping for some more before the Olympics airspace kicks in and spoils it all for a month.

Tuesday 19th June 2012

Last night it was looking moister and more spreadout for today in the forecast. But this morning it looked much better than expected. I had a nice leisurely breakfast and tea in the caravan until about 8:20AM. Then I went straight to the glider and got it ready. At the briefing a club 300 task of Lasham - Avebury (AVE) - Olney (OLN) - Chieveley (CHV) - LAS was set for 301km, as well as a shorter task stopping at Westcott instead of Olney. A further shorter task was also set and there was an idea of Birdlip - Northampton South for another 300 option. I planned the lot and got the glider to the launchpoint. By 11AM it was already looking good up there albeit a low cloudbase so I joined a rapidly lengthening queue.

I launched at 11:16 and quickly got away in a 2-3kt thermal. A short while later I was at cloudbase at 2700 feet above Lasham (3300 feet QNH). I local soared for a while, waiting for cloudbase to rise. After about 40 minutes it was creeping up to 3000 feet above Lasham so I set off. Good conditions to Overton / Whitchurch area and then to the north a big hole. I dithered for a good 15 minutes or so wondering whether I could get across. Eventually some clouds appeared that I decided I could use as stepping stones. (I tried to cloudclimb first to give myself a better chance of getting across but only managed an extra 100 feet or so, to 4000 feet QNH.) Out in the gap I found it actually quite good, with a higher cloudbase, and soon was going past Rivar Hill. From here to Avebury and then across to the Abingdon area it was stonking with 4500-5000 foot cloudbase and good easy climbs. (This was where I pushed my speed up from 40kph at Whitchurch to a more respectable mid 60's.) I took it carefully as I squeezed between the Brize Norton airspace and Abingdon, watching a big jet in the Brize Zone circling below my height. Then good conditions continued as I passed Oxford (soaring right over the university) and Bicester areas. Past Buckingham the clouds were smaller and Olney was in the middle of a big blue hole. I followed a street to the north side of track, and tried to get as much height as I could. Then a cumulus appeared just North of Olney and I went for it. The climb there wasn't that strong and I lost it by 4500 feet. So I then tiptoed to turn Olney and then back upwind.

I struggled here and took a while scratching under wisps before I finally found enough lift to get to a bigger cloud which got be back up to a decent height. Then I pushed past Newport Pagnell under bigger clouds. I was still taking it cautiously and staying high. 4kts or better on the vario and I tended to take a topup. Conditions were good though and I pushed steadily into wind, with the distance to Chieveley tumbling steadily. Around the Bicester to Oxford area cloudbase was about 5100 feet QNH which was the best I saw today. Near Didcot there were some big clouds but I couldn't find much strong lift and I tended to lose it close to cloudbase. To the South there was lots of top cover now, and some spreadout. At Didcot Power station I rode a Didcot Special downwind of the chimney (very turbulent narrow strong core) to cloudbase. Then I had a choice. Head directly for Chieveley or follow a line of cloud that would take me 45 degrees away from track to the West.

I decided that I was just in range of Brimpton airstrip via Chievely. This would make a good landing place if I couldn't get back to Lasham. So I set off gingerly across the gap after exploring some fairly lifeless clouds above the Harwell zone. At the Chieveley turnpoint I was at about 2500 feet. However there was a thermal right there albeit with a rather narrow shifting core that I found hard to centre on. Eventually I moved around and found better lift nearby. Soon I was able to move South to Newbury under a much bigger cloud. Here the lift was good and I decided to take a cloudclimb to give myself a better margin back to Lasham. Cloudbase was about 4500 feet QNH. I climbed to about 5100-5200 feet. Then I pushed to get out of the cloud. I was about 900 feet over glide according to the ClearNAV, giving me a nice margin across the next gap. It took me a while to clear the large cloud, and when I did I saw a huge dead gap in front of me. I'm so glad I got the extra margin. There was a fair bit of sink so I continued slowly and carefully across. I still dropped to just 150 feet above glide at Basingstoke. However some lift here which I pulled up in pushed me back to 400 over, which was enough to safely get back despite further sink en route. I was able to have a nice fast racing finish to land at 16:28, 5 hours 12 minutes after launch.

So at last, I have completed a 300km flight this year. LAS-AVE-OLN-CHV-LAS for 301km in about 4 hours 40 minutes was pretty slow at 64kph but I was happy with it, given the two tricky spots and the seat of the pants flying across the gaps to the finish. Another pilot in another Discus who set off a while after me was about 15kph faster than me. So it just shows that timing is everything, although I didn't want to leave too late given the expected deteriorating conditions South of Didcot later in the day.

After a busy scramble to put things away and again leave the glider out overnight, I went to get sandwiches and then parked myself in the clubhouse for supper. Then an early night in the caravan beckoned as I was knackered. 8 hours 30 minutes in 2 days? Nice! Even nicer, this flight pushed me past 900 hours total experience! Tomorrow I'll be back again as planned. Let's see what happens tomorrow again...

Monday 18th June 2012

A few days ago I had booked Discus SH3 for Monday. I arrived mid afternoon on Sunday, with the plan of staying overnight and for several days during a rare good soaring window this year. I got the caravan set up and mowed the lawn. I managed to get the fridge working too for the first time. At the clubhouse I also managed to extend my SH3 booking to Tuesday and Wednesday. I found a Tesco express a few miles away down a pleasant country lane heading into Alton, so I got milk, bread and cereal, with the plan of having breakfast in caravan for a change. During the evening I saw rain rushing in on the rainfall radar, so I swiftly retired to the caravan. In the gloom ahead of the rain there were some pretty cool looking clouds. I decided to take the solar panel inside overnight to avoid it getting wet. Rain arrived as it got dark, and kept going all night.

The fridge worked well overnight thankfully so my milk stayed fresh. It was raining still at 6AM but had stopped at 7AM when I got up. So I put the solar panel back outside. I had breakfast as planned. I also tried toasting bread under the grill, which went OK. So all I grabbed from the clubhouse was a nice cup of tea mid rigging. SH3 was rigged and DI'ed by briefing. In the briefing tasks were set to the West and Northwest. I planned for an out and return to Birdlip. I also kept in mind a task to the West too.

It had gotten thermic quite early, but with a very low cloudbase so soon after the rain had cleared. By lunchtime cloudbase was still fairly low and there was 8/8 speadout for a while. However, after a few large speadout gaps passed over around 1pm a street of cumulus at a reasonable height appeared just upwind on the south side of the airfield. So a number of us decided to launch. I winch launched at 13:09 and managed to get away, with cloudbase around 3000 feet above the airfield (3600 feet QNH). I managed to get to bigger and better clouds, and soon contacted a lovely big street of clouds. I followed this street westwards upwind until I was close to Andover. At this point the street started to disintegrate a bit and further upwind there was a lot of spreadout. So I bottled out of heading towards the Salisbury or Birdlip areas. I exited the street to the south and turned Chilbolton (CBN). However the cloud street to the south of the one I had been on was much weaker, and I struggled to find lift. I backtracked downwind towards better clouds, but I was down to 2500 feet QNH before I clawed myself upwards again. (I Was told later by other pilots that below this height it was pretty weak and horrible so good job I didn't get any lower.) I wasn't far from Popham with the wind being over 20kts at height.

So I turned POP and then went North back to the big street that I had soared earlier. Then I went back West up the street. After that I found some smaller clouds a little north of the street line which took me to the North side of Andover. Here just beyond the FL65 airspace was a large tall cloud that had not yet started to spread out. Underneath was the best thermal of the day, atleast 6kts and nice and wide. So I decided to cloud climb. I entered cloud at 4700 feet QNH. Soon enough I was climbing high, and condensation was forming on the glider as I got above 6000 feet. Eventually it got brighter as I neared the top of the cloud, and I emerged at 7100 feet! Looking back it was one of the biggest clouds in the area, and I was at or just a smidge above the spreadout layer (although no spreadout close to me but plenty in the distance to peek over). With so many big clouds of different varieties the cloudscape up here was absolutely epic! Out came the iPhone to take pictures and a video. I headed towards Rivar Hill, but between the clouds there was a lot of sink. I still got to Rivar Hill at almost 4000 feet. It was in dead air so I quickly turned RIV and then headed back to a cloud just to the Southeast of me. I struggled for a little while but soon was scampering back downwind back towards Basingstoke.

I could see Lasham was affected by a massive area of spreadout killing the thermals for many miles. So I decided to play around in the Kingsclere area where cloudbase had reached 5000 feet. However cloudbase was highly variable with lots of lower lumps of cloud. Under some large spreadouty clouds I had fun flying between tendrils of cloud hanging below the main cloudbase for a while. Eventually I decided to head back to Lasham. From Basingstoke onwards the air was fairly dead. I just cruised around from 4000 feet above Lasham, slowly sinking down mostly north and west of the airfield until I reached circuit height. Then followed a straight forward circuit and landing at 16:27, 3 hours 18 minutes after launching. So about 2 hours to fly LAS-CBN-POP-RIV-LAS which was a rather slow 116km at 58kph. Plus a fair bit of local soaring too. But the cloud climb to 7100 feet on its own made the flight worth while, so an entertaining and reqarding flight anyway. It was also my 500th single seater solo flight incidentally!

After landing Colin (CFI) gave me the all clear to leave the glider out overnight. Another pilot who had booked SH4 was also given permission. So we parked them up for the night. I then went back to Tesco for sandwiches before heading to the clubhouse for supper. I also uploaded the above cloud video to you tube and updated my diary. Suddenly it was 9:45pm and getting dark, so I decided to retire to the caravan and get ready to sleep. Let's see what happens tomorrow...

Monday 28th May 2012

I woke up to a lot more cloud than expected after a good night in the caravan. However on the satpic it looked like quite a narrow band. I guess the old fizzled front to the SW yesterday was now passing over us, downgraded to a trough on the satpics. During the morning the cloud was clearing Northeastwards and the sun came out, so I proceeded to get SH4 ready after the briefing. I also had time to go round the caravan with a pair of shears to cut what the mower missed. I also put everything away except the solar panel. By lunchtime I had taken the glider to the launchpoint and eaten my sarnies while walking back out after dumping the car and tow out gear.

In the briefing I had noted the tasks that went Northwest to Avebury or Melksham then across to Woolley Down and back for a 144km or accross to Uffington White Horse and back via Chilbolton for a 203km. I planned the shorter task with the option to extend if it was good. Around 11:30 cumulus was popping but it looked fairly blue overall up there and not very high. However I took a launch at 12:54PM and got away, soon climbing past 3000 feet. I spent a while local soaring as conditions were still fairly blue. I followed small cumulus and wisps out to Basingstoke and eventually as things improved a bit and cloudbase went above 4500 feet (QNH) I tiptoed further out. One good climb to 5200 feet and I decided to go across a big blue hole to get to better cumulus clouds to the north. Conditions were better in the Newbury area. I had Didcot in my sights but from Chievely there was a huge blue hole. So I turned CHV and went West along the lines of cumulus. I spent a while near Membury eyeing a line of incoming thick cirrostratus and decided to turn Ramsbury (RAB) then head back towards Lasham. It was out here that I had my best cloudbase of 5500 feet. I went back via the cumulus at Membury before crossing a blue hole to get back past Newbury. Then I local soared in the Basingstoke area.

Meanwhile to the Northeast some spectacular towering cumulus were building off the trough line. They looked like they were building out of the mid layers and their distance and line of sight through the inversion turned them an ornagey tint. They got bigger and bigger, grey anvils and started to look rather nasty. Eventually as the cirrus got closer the thermals blued out. Last cloudbase was 5100 feet, a little lower than before. I landed at 16:10 for 3h16m in the air. I guess 1h45m for LAS-CHV-RAB-LAS, 103km, was only 59kph. But I was still glad to have a good jolly in the air. Back on the ground glider and solar panel were put away. I then decided to wait until about 6:15pm to leave, to avoid the worst of the rush hour.

So a pleaseant 2 days at the airfield and a welcome respite from so much bad weather over the last couple of months.

Sunday 27th May 2012

I decided to give today a go as after a number of hot and blue / not very good days (a shock to the system after being freezing cold less than 2 weeks ago) today was forecast to be better. Light Easterly winds and a high cloudbase. I had to brave the dreaded ballot but came out with Grob 102 SH7. After a slog digging it out the back of the hanger I had it DI'ed just in time for the cross country briefing. Less good to the Southwest with a front and to the East with not enough land track off the north sea. But good around Lasham and to the North and Northwest. I planned along the lines of Oxford and Devizes.

Cumulus started popping around 11:30AM and when it started looking more convincing there was a scramble for the winch launch. I got launched at 12:11PM and already cloudbase was above the TMA at 5500 feet QNH. I went Northwest to Newbury South but further North cloudbase was lower and beyond it looked fairly blue. I backtracked to Kingsclere where I was able to get to 6000 feet QNH. Thermals were a little hard to use but with strong 6-8kt cores. I then decided to go a bit further west as cloudbase climbed up to FL65. I went as far as the Rivar Hill area but by then I was feeling rather tired and also my back was being killed by the parachute. My best height was 6700 feet QNH (about FL65 or just above) near Rivar Hill. From that height I had a good blast back to Lasham to land back at the launch point at 2:30PM, 2h19m after launch. A fairly short (for me) local soaring flight (Rivar Hill from 6000 feet up was well in range of Lasham!) but worth it for the high cloudbase so still a pleasant day. On the ground another pilot took over the glider freeing me up.

Before the ballot I had set up the caravan's solar panel and gas. After a tea and ice cream in the clubhouse I mowed the caravamn plot's lawn, did some hoovering and a bit of maintenance in the caravan before heading to the clubhouse for supper. Then later on I set up to stay overnight.

Discus SH4 I have booked for tomorrow. So when the pilot flying that landed, I had it parked up outside for the night with permission from the CFI. Let's see what tomorrow brings...

Monday 16th May 2012

Another whole month gone between flights! The weather has been dreadful. Unseasonably cold and very wet. Ever since the hose pipe ban started... But today was forecast to be a reasonable day albeit with concerns over big spreadout in the afternoon. I thought I'd give it a go as there were no decent weather windows in the forecast after today. The morning started badly, with the wrong ballot sheet posted on the wall. So at ballot time it wasn't clear what had been booked by who and what was available to ballot. We decided to rig all the Discuses while we waited for the office to open, and worry about who was flying what afterwards. I assumed that I had SH4 since I was there for the ballot. By 9AM an office member had indeed found the correct ballot sheet and all became clear. Thankfully my dibs on SH4 was valid. I finished DI'ing it and then had a rushed breakfast before the briefing. In the briefing it was suggested it might be drier than expected and this might lead to less severe spreadout. I noted down and planned for a 300km task of Lasham - Nailsworth (near Birdlip) - Northampton South - Lasham. Other larger tasks were also suggested too which the big wings were looking at. Meanwhile outside it was already looking soarable before 10AM, albeit a low cloudbase. I wasted no time getting the glider to the launchpoint. I ate my sarnies on the way back out after dumping the car.

At about 10:30AM cloudbase seemed to be rising past 2500 feet so I put the glider into the winch queue. I launched at 10:55AM. I fairly quickly got away and found cloudbase at 3000 feet. So I set off Northwestwards. Plenty of reasonable thermals under the darker bits but already some evidence of minor spreadout and some big gaps. In the Newbury South / Rivar Hill area I struggled a bit and got low a couple of times, being rescued by weak lift under some wisps. Eventually I pushed to better clouds and found a pair of buzzards which were marking stronger lift. Nice! I went up with them all the way to cloudbase. I tiptoed my way a bit further past Hungerford. But the going was tough and with the sky looking more and more spreadout further West, and taking an hour to just get this far, I decided to turn Ramsbury (RAB) and then cross a gap to my North and head towards Didcot. There were some good thermals, up to 6kts+ at times, but often hard to use and scrappy at times. With big gaps north of Abingdon I turned Abingdon Bridge (ABN) and decided to head back South. I was already staying high and this helped slow me down a bit. The last leg was fairly straight forward, and after crossing some more gaps (during which the sunshine was welcome as it was below freezing up at cloudbase and I was starting to get rather cold) I made it to Andover SW (AND). Then I had a good blast downwind along a nice street (a rather spreadout one too but working strongly) back towards Lasham. I decided that this would do today. But I couldn't resist blasting up and down the street almost all the way back to Andover a couple of times as it was easy in the strong lift to stay at cloudbase without turning and pick up some decent speeds too. I was tempted to have a cloud climb but decided not to as the cloud depth wasn't that much.

Eventually I'd had enough and came down to land at 2:14pm, 3h19m after launching. In the circuit, having checked if anyone else wanted to fly, I landed back at the launch point as another pilot was there to take the glider off me. I was more than happy to hand it over and then escape early to get back ahead of the evening rush hour, once I had warmed up a bit. LAS-RAB-ABN-AND-LAS was 170km, which I did in about 2h30m for an unspectacular 68kph (so I must have gone reasonably fast later on to make up for a sticky first leg). Given the dreadful weather in the last month I was glad to go today and keep current let alone get some XC km in. So a good day in the end. Here's to better weather soon.

Monday 16th April 2012

I decided just yesterday to go gliding. Although yesterday was a very good day I could not go due to other engagements. Today's forecast looked a bit spreadout and with an early cutoff as bad weather was due to move in from the West. But with tomorrow onwards looking very wet (and then very showery), and having not been for a while, it was an easy no-brainer to give today a go. I managed to book SH3, with SH4 already taken by another pilot who I flew with earlier in the year. In the morning I had a nice smooth drive. Crikey I had to scrape a frost and it was below freezing out of town! Impressive for mid April, and shows how cold this arctic airmass is. The mist in the valleys next to the M40 at about 6:45AM was pretty. If only I could have taken a picture. At Lasham, after the ballot, all 3 Discuses got rigged quickly before breakfast, and by the briefing at 9:30 I had finished DI'ing and was towing out.

The briefing suggested the best place to go was to the northeast, away from the incoming warm front. So tasks were set in that direction. I liked the look of the shorter Lasham - Membury - Oxford East - Lasham task, with an option to go further north if it was good, but without being stranded miles from home if pre-frontal spreadout arrived earlier than expected. After the briefing I finished getting the glider to the launch point. By 10AM the first cumulus was popping in the distance. However it took a while to get going locally. By 10:30AM I had decided to get in line as I was 6th in line (half hour wait normally) and there was a problem with the winch caused by the driver running the parachute and connector rings through the drum (oops!). Meanwhile one of the Discus pilots who aerotowed before me fell down so the delay turned out to be good for me, waiting for conditions to improve a bit.

I finally got a launch at 11:17AM. Due to a slight tailwind I only managed 1100 feet. But this was enough. For the first 15 minutes I struggled to climb and hung on near the airfield at 1000-1100 feet above the ground. However eventually things improved as I found a better bubble of lift nearby, and I climbed nicely to over 4100 feet (QNH - 3500 feet above Lasham) and set off northwards at 11:35AM. A few climbs near Basingstoke allowed me to get a better feel of the thermals. Wind was only 5kts so hardly any drift. Before launch the weather station reckoned cloudbase was already 4500 feet above the ground, and it was not lying! I carried on Northwestwards and had no problem getting to Membury. Cloudbase en route varied a little between 5100 and 5300 feet QNH. After searching a little for a top up near Membury I had a good climb right over the turnpoint, and then romped on towards Oxford. All was good until Abingdon. Here the best thermal was right on the edge of Abingdon Airspace. I decided after gaining a few hundred feet I was getting a bit close and moved on. Below 3500 feet the thermals were weaker and more broken. So it was more of a struggle. I finally climbed over Oxford between OXS and OXF from 3000 feet, and made it to a 5400 foot cloudbase. After reaching Oxford East I decided it was getting a bit too cloudy for my liking (6-7/8's) so I turned back South. (Later looking at satpics I saw that further on the spreadout was severe so good call!). The wind was also stronger up here too.

Near Didcot I took a nice climb to a 5500 foot cloudbase and carried on inside cloud to 6000 feet. Up here it was no more than -9C! Brr! A great view of Didcot as I emerged from the cloud. I then had a good run Southwards back past Newbury. My last climb to cloudbase near Kingsclere took me to 5800 feet. Then back under the Lasham airspace at just 5500 feet. I decided to explore South of the airfield. By now, with a cloudbase temp of -8C, I was getting mighty cold. I stayed in sunshine for as long as I could to warm up between clouds. Under the clouds the thermals were strong at height (at one point I saw 6.5kts on the averager) and I had no problem pulling back up into lift and staying high without turning. I followed a nice street southwards, bumping my head on the airspace ceiling along the way. I eventually turned Petersfield South before coming back to land and defrost. I had to struggle and take a top up from just over 3000 feet en route as I was a bit too marginal. But eventually I cruised home to land uneventfully at 2:14PM.

On the ground the other Discuses were already down and parked up. So I guess I had the best flight. One pilot launched twice and failed to get away. The other had a shorter flight but still had fun. I first went for a cup of tea to help defrost, and then after getting my down time from the launch point we got the gliders away and then I was off home by 3:40PM to beat the rush hour. A nice day with LAS-MEM-OXF-PTF-LAS being 200km exactly, and achieved at 80kph. Not bad considering I wasn't rushing.

Monday 19th March 2012

It was a cold and frosty start. But nice light traffic (the other side was choc-a-block though) getting to Lasham for 7:30AM. It was nice to drive in the sunshine in the morning again. After setting up the solar panel I grabbed the empty gas canister and went to Medstead for 8AM for a refill. However the shop was late opening. At 8:10AM I bailed and returned to Lasham. After a quick breakfast the gliders were rigged (I had booked SH4 and a fellow pilot had SH3 so we banded together) and I was ready to launch well before 11AM. By then cumulus was popping nicely. In the briefing several tasks had been set going northwest then southeast. I planned to go along with that and see how far I could get.

After a jet movement I got to winch launch at 11:35AM. I only got to 1300 feet but quickly found lift and got away. I struggled to climb under wisps at first. Soon though I was up to over 3500 feet AGL and set off at 11:51. The first leg was pretty slow. Cloudbase was around 4300-4500 feet QNH to start with, but near Membury there was a patch of 3900 feet QNH cloud. However, pushing to Swindon it rose again back to around 4500 feet QNH. Much of the way I found the thermals difficult to use as they seemed to move around a fair bit and with narrow cores. Having forced myself this far, with scrappier looking clouds further upwind I decided to turn SNO (Swindon North) and completed an orbit of the Redlands zone in the process. By now the wind was up to 24 knots according to the ClearNav.

Going back downwind was so much easier and quicker. This was a much nicer romp. I had to be wary of a big blue hole to my south. But I managed to get past no problem and soon was back past the Lasham area and carrying on over Fourmarks. Here cloudbase was up to 5100 feet QNH. I had to cross quite a few gaps so I stayed high and took some strong thermals to quickly approaching Harting. I carried on a few miles further to a nice cloud street where a 5 knotter catapulted me back to cloudbase. Meanwhile the view of the South Coast was gorgeous, with visibility atleast 50 miles.

I then decided that now the conditions were stonking I'd push upwind again. If I made it to Newbury I could make it to 251km. Down here the flying wind was only 17 knots too so a bit easier going. With good thermals in between the gaps making them easily crossable I had a good romp upwind and soon made it to Newbury Racecourse. Beyond there was a big blue hole so I ruled out carrying on further. By now I was rather cold and tired so climbed as high as I could. From 4500 feet above Lasham and a tailwind I started final glide and cruised back to land at 15:20 for 3h45m airborne and 3h30m on task.

After landing I nipped back to Medstead and this time I was able to get gas. Then a scramble to put the gliders away before packing the gas and solar panel on the caravan away and heading off into the evening rush hour. What a lovely day for the time of year! I don't think I've done such a big XC in March before. Perhaps such a dry ground for the time of year (with a drought happening) helped there. I do hope this is a sign of a good season to come after a number of not so great years recently.

Sunday 19th February 2012

I spotted today on Thursday last week. The long range forecast showed a cold front going through the day before, and cold unstable air moving in behind. The soundings looked nice so I booked Discus SH4. Indeed the forecast held and today started crisp and cold. Around 8:15pm Another pilot offered to help me rig as soon as he finished his coffee. It was an ice rink outside the trailer as yesterday's rain had frozen into sheet ice. But I had just enough grip to rig safely. Then after rigging the other pilot's glider too I went for breakfast, then was out at the launch point by 10:30AM and raring to go. Cumulus was starting to pop. Around 11AM we were warned a jet movement had moved from 12PM to 11:30AM. Just when we were expecting it to get soarable. However I gambled on launching ahead of it and managed to get one of the last pair of cables before the runway was closed.

Fortunately the gamble paid off. Although when I put into the line the sky looked uncertain, I was able to get away and climb to cloudbase at around 2500 feet above the ground (3100 feet QNH). Meanwhile soon after launch the incoming jet roared in underneath me. I pushed gently into wind to the Basingstoke area but didn't go too far as the thermals cycled down a bit as a blueish hole came through and I struggled for a while. But eventually I started getting above 3500 feet QNH, where the wind was a punishing 30kts. I eventually struggled as far as the Brimpton area. From around 4500 feet I took a practice cloud climb to 5600 feet. Then as I descended I took cloud pictures. Then played around for a bit over Newbury. Then I turned Newbury North. Looking north to bluer air again and Northwest towards bad spreadout I decided to retreat. I was also starting to get rather cold. Up this high the wind was 35kts! On the way back I took another cloud climb near Kingsclere, from a 5000 foot cloudbase to 5700 feet. Then raced back downwind towards Lasham with a ground speed of over 150 knots. I then decided after a bit of local soaring to head upwind again under some huge clouds. Here I saw my best cloudbase of 5200 feet QNG. I turned Whitchurch before returning back to Lasham to land. After 3 hours in the freezer I needed to defrost. The day was slowly starting to die anyway.

I landed after 3h24m and handed the glider over to another pilot. Then after helping clear the runway for another movement (I think it was the jet that landed earlier taking off again). I headed back to the clubhouse for a nice warming cup of tea! By then SH4 was back on the ground. I helped put it away before heading home tired but happy to complete the day. Sunrise and sunset both seen on the motorway, while LAS-NEN-BGW-WH2-LAS for 86km made for a mini cross country. Plus later on in the flight the thermals were getting quite strong with 4kts seen a few times on the averager, and 5kts reported. -9 to -11C reported by other pilots (although my thermometer got stuck at -5C curiously). Awesome for February!

Thursday 2nd February 2012

I picked today to go as the forecast soundings looked interesting with the possibility of 0C on the ground giving thermals to over 3000 feet. I woke up to unusually dry air for the time of year. Crystal clear and no frost despite it being -2C. I had a nice smooth drive to the airfield where it was -3C on arrival and a fresh icy cold breeze. Brr! 6 layers of clothing kept me cosy though. I picked SH4 in the ballot as it was in its trailer (not in the hanger buried this time) and SH7 was U/S too. Another pilot helped me rig after breakfast and we shared the glider.

We were launching from the medium runway 23 as it was a brisk 15kt Northeasterly wind. The other pilot had a go first and found weak lift to the East of the launch point just beyond the wood. I then took the glider and managed 1500 feet on my first winch launch at 11:48. I went to the area where the other pilot had soared but found no useable thermals although there was a definite hint of instability. I landed after 6 minutes. I launched again at 12:13 to 1550 feet and went to the same area. This time I found weak lift in a street along the line of a small ridge aligned into wind, downwind of a dark field. There were 2-4kt gusts and I was able to surf my way slowly to 2200 feet from about 1300 feet, turning tightly to stay in it as the lift was very narrow. At flying height the wind was a gale force 31kts according to the ClearNav, and indeed I did drift rapidly. When I started to get downwind of the launch point I pushed upwind along the line of the ridge, staying in lift. Eventually though the lift died and became heavy sink, and I came down fairly rapidly to land after 20 minutes. The other pilot then took over again and had a similar flight, landing after 17 minutes. Then there was a break for lunch. I was first up after lunch at 14:20, launching to 1650 feet, where I found weak broken lift, and managed to gain about 50 feet before falling down after 10 minutes.

So a pleasant day despite the raw conditions, and good to practice in a stronger wind too. I then handed the glider over to another different pilot and headed home to warm up at 15:30.

Friday 6th January 2012

The roads were quieter than normal today. That was nice. Although I haven't missed getting up before dawn. I got to the airfield around 7:40 and went to the caravan to attach the solar panel before returning to the clubhouse. It was good to check all was ok after the recent storms too. (I heard some trailers got blown over even despite being tied down!)

At breakfast time I was happy to get SH7 out again but another pilot wanted to rig and fly a Discus. So we paired up and got SH2 out. Having paid my membership renewal after breakfast, I flew it first while he got a check flight done. Nice to fly a Discus again! Although the 2 winch launches were only to 900 feet (short run for some reason) leaving me with just 4 and 5 minutes in the air respectively. I landed nicely on the runway, rolling to a halt right by the launchpoint. I then took an aerotow to 3000 feet to get some more time aloft. The vis was surprisingly poor but it was silky smooth aloft down to 6-700 feet. I landed after 25 minutes, after which I handed the glider over to the other pilot.

I then headed to the clubhouse for lunch. Some scraggy cumulus formed but never looked that convincing. By 2pm it clouded over anyway as a warm front approached. After lunch I spent time cleaning the caravan before heading home as it got dark.

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