Diary 2013

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.

2012 <- | 2013 | -> 2014 | -> Current

2013 Gliding Pictures

Saturday 28th December 2013
Winter Flying, Keeping Current.

I arrived for breakfast at 8:30am after a smooth drive in. Then sorted out my membership renewal when the office opened at 9am. Then we got the toys out. I got the nearest Grob102 out of the hangar, SH9. (Although when manoeuvring a K13 I managed to ding the rudder but subsequent checks revealed no significant damage so phew!)

We were flying from medium runway 23. Instructor Bob was at a loose end as it was very quiet so I went for a check flight with him. He pulled the cable on me so had some fun there. He was happy with my flying. After a 300 degree turn to the left I landed us on the main runway after 1 minute aloft. I then had 3 straight forward hops in SH9 (8, 10 and 9 minutes) before handing it over to Bob and another guy who wanted to fly it to keep current on that type.

By lunchtime I was done. So I returned to the clubhouse to eat my sandwiches. Meanwhile a shower was passing to the South so less sunshine and more of a breeze made it feel chillier. I think the morning was the best part of the day indeed. I set off home soon after lunch.

Saturday 23rd November 2013
Jaca Expedition Enrollment and Keeping Current.

It wasn't looking soarable today unsurprisingly for the time of year. However I had a plan. I had already booked the last week of March off to use up rollover leave before it expires and had been wondering what to do with it. Then the Jaca 2014 Expedition was announced. Perfect! Week 3 is the week I am off. The list opened at 8:30AM this morning. 3 of us at the office hatch got our names onto the week 3 list. Main objective complete and I hadn't even had breakfast! After breakfast I attended the 9AM club briefing and then grabbed Grob102 SH7. (Only one Discus was present and I couldn't be bothered rigging it.) However SH7 was soon put back again as the starboard undercarriage door was broken. I switched to SH8 (another Grob102 with fixed undercarriage) and DI'ed that instead. While waiting for a tow I went back to the clubhouse where I found Gordon, the guy in charge of maintenance, and informed him of SH7's defect. A little while later I got SH8 towed by buggy to the launch point on runway 09.

The wind was lighter than expected, but still a good breeze from the NNE - the right direction for the South Downs ridge but a little too light for my liking. But I was happy with a few hops off the winch to keep current anyway, which is exactly what I did. During the morning the sun was shining. It was only 5-6C but still felt warm out of the wind. I took 3 launches at 10:45, 11:14 and 11:41 of 10, 7 and 7 minutes each. Despite the crosswind and lots of correction, I got quite decent launches, to 1600 feet every time. Visibility was good if not spectacular. There were hints of weak lift but never enough to be usable. I tried playing with a weak thermal on the first flight, but on the others found more sink than lift and came down more quickly. On the last flight I got a little low a good mile or two away from the airfield but fortunately didn't hit more heavy sink on the way back and was OK. Just a tighter circuit than the wider more conservative circuits of the first two flights. All 3 landings were straight forward crosswind landings back at the launch point. After the last flight I parked up and offered the glider for handover to other pilots while we watched a pair of Red Kites fly low nearby. At one point one of them glid very low right over the launch point. (I wish I'd been quicker with the camera.) The plan was to come back after lunch and hangar fly SH8 if nobody had taken it. However, another pilot did fly it so that was fine by me! It also clouded over with top cover a fair bit at lunchtime, so I had had the best part of the day I think.

After chatting to other pilots about subjects related to medicals, Jaca and EASA, I left for home at 2pm. On the way out I saw one of the Red Kites quite close up flying maybe 50 feet above the road near the NE corner of the airfield. They are big birds indeed. Back home I did study the Jaca briefing notes which had been emailed to me and sent off questions to Colin by email. I also looked at the EASA license transition briefing notes (we have to change to the European system in just over a year and lots to prepare, and more money to spend alas) to get the ball rolling there.

Saturday 5th October 2013
Fun Local Soaring. Crazy Clouds.

The long range forecast last Monday looked like it might be soarable today after yet another run of rubbish weekends, so I decided to book ahead and bagged Discus SH3. My expectations were lower this morning though as the latest soundings weren't as good, but I generally expected a cloudy murky misty start, improving in the afternoon and a mild day for the time of year. It certainly was a slow murky start. So I arrived a smidge later than usual, in time for breakfast. It wasn't until around 10AM that I got the glider rigged, helped by the maintenance staff as they planned to use SH3 to test a microlight tug (a Eurofox) that was being demonstrated in the morning. The plan was to fill the water ballast tanks to the brim and simulate a competition or cross country grid launch from the grass. After I finished the DI I took the glider to the water tanks to get the ballast water in. But I soon found there was a leak, with water pouring into the fuselage from the wing roots just behind the batteries, before draining out somewhere near the main wheel. I had to abort and drain the ballast tanks. Plan B for the maintenance staff was to do the test with a private Ventus glider instead. I took the glider to the launch point before having an early lunch in the clubhouse from 11AM. At midday the sky was finally opening up. I joined the queue but then held back as a big gap came through. Cloudbase still seemed low but was finally starting to lift.

Eventually I winch launched at 1:21PM. I only got to about 1100 feet in the short run and light wind but I had the second cable and released straight into a weak thermal. So away I climbed. Cloudbase was about 2500 feet. But just a little way upwind cloudbase was 1000 feet higher, and I climbed at 4-5kts to 3500 feet above Lasham. There were still large amounts of top cover / spreadout around and the thermals seemed to be fairly localised. With such a big variation of cloudbases I had fun climbing up the sides of clouds and playing with wisps. I also took some nice pictures of the Lasham Grob SH8 when I flew side by side with it briefly. I initially went West about 10km before retreating a bit and then I headed Northwest upwind exploring some bigger clouds with lower bases. However beyond half way between Basingstoke and Aldermaston the sky was dead for miles under thick spreadout behind a large dark cloud street. I got as high as 3600 feet above Basingstoke before cloudbase upwind dropped a bit. As sun amounts reduced the large cloud street moved in. On the sunny side was a frill of low cloud (2600 feet) while on the Eastern side of the 'skirt' I climbed up to an upper cloudbase of 3200 feet. I stayed with this cloud street as it drifted towards Lasham, until eventually it started to collapse as the spreadout went 8/8 locally and the ground cooled down. I eventually fell out of the sky and landed after 2h45m at 4:06PM.

On the way down I had called the launch point to see if anyone wanted to fly the glider after me. Someone did! So after landing the glider nice and smoothly at the launch point (not trailer flying as I would normally do) I handed it over before heading home at 4:40PM. I hadn't expected much today, with the minimum target of 3 hops to stay current since I haven't flown so much this summer. But some soaring time was a great bonus and not to be sniffed at. (I've got all winter to do hops.) The crazy clouds also made for spectacular eye candy too. I took plenty of photos so look out for those in the Gliding gallery.

Sunday 1st September 2013
DNF. Bye Bye Caravan.

Today I hadn't planned to fly. (It wasn't any good for soaring anyway. But dry and a bit cloudy is perfect for gardening!) I came with a mower and other gear. Renée came along for the ride too. I gave the plot a mow, hoovered and tidied up, and cleared out the last of my things including the generator. Then at 10:30AM the new owner and his wife (who by now had paid for the caravan in full) turned up. I handed over both sets of keys and made sure they were familiar with everything. At midday the handover was complete. Renée and I went for a nice lunch in the clubhouse. Then we decided to go to the Fur and Feathers for dessert before heading on home.

Monday 26th August 2013
Local soaring. Weird thermals. Sold Caravan.

The forecast looked interesting and consistent from mid range. I tried to book a glider the previous Tuesday but was unable to. I turned up for the 8AM ballot to find only one Discus available as one was booked and the other was U/S. I had expected a busy ballot and the backup plan was to clear up some belongings from the caravan and do some gardening. I had agreed to show another pilot the caravan with a view to selling it. After 4 years I have decided to sell it as I just can't use it enough to make it worth while. The maintenance was also a hassle from keeping it and the plot tidy to keeping it in good condition. However back to the morning, at the ballot it was much quieter than expected for a bank holiday with a good forecast. Only 3 people turned up, so that meant I was guaranteed a glider. In the end I came out top and got hold of the Discus, SH3. Then followed the usual scrum to get it rigged and DI'ed as well as a nice cooked breakfast. Outside it was a cloudy start but the sun was slowly breaking through, albeit slower than forecast. At the briefing a number of tasks were set, including one to the Isle of Wight. This is the time of year for it and I latched onto that task. By soon after 11AM the glider was ready and parked on runway 09 in a moderate Northeasterly. At midday though cloudbase was still rather low and not in a rush to rise. Eventually by 1PM it looked like things were improving and more small cumulus starting to appear. So I took a gamble and took a winch launch at 1:13PM.

In the air it was borderline too early still, but I managed to find a thermal, and hung on. After a fair while scratching I got up to 3000 feet above Lasham, but for ages could not get much higher, even though I wasn't yet near cloudbase. Eventually after an hour airborne bigger clouds started to appear and I finally found a climb good enough to take me to cloudbase, already up to 3700 feet. By now it was after 2:15pm and with it still looking scrappy I knew the bigger of the tasks were off for me. I was still struggling with the thermals. The clouds were weird too. The small clouds and wisps seemed to work, but then a cloud suddenly grew a tall tower which turned into a mushroom shape. By the time the tower was at full height the base was already decaying. So there seemed to be a weak inversion at maybe 6000 feet with energy pushing through to maybe 8000 feet or so. The cycle was quite short and many clouds I went to were no longer working by the time I got to them. Every time I tiptoed away from the airfield I ran into trouble. The furthest Northwest I got was maybe the Newbury South area. By then cloudbase was climbing rapidly as the forecast drier air arrived. I did get as high as 4800 feet above Lasham, maybe a bit higher here and there. At one point I went South as far as Fourmarks to see if I could push towards the South Coast but stopped when confronted by a massive gap and bottled. Then back North again. My averages were mostly 1-3kts with occasional better climbs. After 2 and a half hours I'd had enough and wanted to land. I took my time descending though and played around just North of the airfield as larger clouds with spreadout and bigger gaps appeared upwind. I landed at 4:17pm, 3 hours 4 minutes after launching.

Meanwhile in the air I could hear on the radio that some of the hot shot pilots had gone to the Isle of Wight and appeared to be shooting video too. I hope they put it on you tube for us mere mortals to see. :) I'd love to return to the Isle of Wight again one day. It's been 8 years since my last visit in the old S&H Ventus C. One day...

After landing I managed to get the glider away by about 5pm with help from the pilot who is interested in the caravan. I then showed the caravan to him including all the good and bad bits. In the end he agreed to buy for my asking price which was great! The plan is to complete the transaction next weekend. I hope he has a good few happy years in it just like I did.

By now it was 6:30pm and after removing some personal belongings from the caravan I headed home. I was expecting horrible heavy bank holiday traffic but to my surprise the roads (even the M25) were empty. I'm not complaining! So a reasonable local soaring flight if nothing special. Good to get back in the air again after a 6 week gap due to rubbish weekend weather. All of a sudden the season once again seems almost over before it's barely begun for me. If anything it's looking like I've done less than last year which was a dreadful gliding year, due to being back at work and all the good weather being during the week again. Oh well another year of ticking over. Hopefully next year I can reach the magic 1000 hours of experience as I'm still almost 40 hours short.

Monday 3rd August 2013

It was a straight forward start with Discus SH3 ready by briefing and a nice breakfast. I'd booked the glider almost a week ago as long range soundings looked good. Yesterday it looked borderline and still did this morning. It was quite windy, 20kts at height from the SW and showers forecast later. Unfortunately a soggy street of cloud blew over us from the Dorset coast and it was showery from mid morning. By lunchtime it was just not warming up enough and cloudbase remained low. With it being barely soarable and not much sign of improvement I gave up. I was also very tired too. By 2pm I had put the glider away again and scarpered. On the way home it clearly was much better inland, albeit showers still brewing. So unlucky this time. Hoping for better next time!

Sunday 14th July 2013
Hot! Slow start. Short XC.

I arrived mid afternoon yesterday as I had booked a Discus and planned to stay overnight in the caravan. When I arrived it was a baking hot 30C with little wind. I wandered around relaxing and helping people out. the caravan was an oven. So I wasted no time opening all the vents and windows and left it like that with the fly screens down. When others landed it transpired it had been rather difficult up there. Soon enough it was supper time. I had some Quorn sausage rolls that were already warm from the boot of the car. Delicious! Overnight it cooled down nicely and I was cosier than I would have been back in London. I was up early and soon had the Discus (which had been left out overnight) cleared of dew and by breakfast it was DI'ed and ready to go. After a leisurely breakfast and briefing, I took the glider to the launch point. After closing up the caravan I had sandwiches back in the clubhouse at 11AM and returned to the launch point with a lolly to keep cool as it was already hot and humid. By midday cumulus had started popping and lovely thermal gusts swept through the launch point. It was time to launch.

I launched at 12:27PM and more or less released at 1100 feet right next to a thermal. It was just enough upwind to not be in the way of the next launch. It was broken and tricky to use but I got away. For the first hour of the flight I struggled to get anywhere. Thermals were hard to find, with many clouds not working, and I struggled to get above 3000 feet (QFE Lasham) even though the small clouds were much higher. I guess a layer of more stable air slowed the thermal down at that height. I tracked a bit further west where there were bigger clouds, but struggled. At one point I was getting fairly low before I got away again having backtracked to the Basigstoke area. Eventually conditions seemed to improve and I started to get up towards cloudbase around 4000 feet. So I set off slowly for Isley. Many bigger clouds seemed to not work, but it was clear that the clouds were much bigger than yesterday. Further North it got easier and cloudbase rose. After turning Ilsley I eventually got as far as Oxford where cloudbase was 4900 feet and I was getting some 4kt averages. However, the plan of heading to Bicester was thwarted as beyond Oxford the air was very murky and dead looking. In the briefing a bank of fog had been present in Eastern England in the morning. Perhaps this was that air. So I turned OXF which was a little into the dead air before backtracking to a thermal over Southern Oxford. Then I trundled South downwind, crossing several big gaps along the way. But no dramas getting to Hurstbourne Tarrant, although not all the clouds were working well again. Down here some of the clouds were quite tall. After turning HUR I had fun for a while under a tall cloud just to its West. 11C at 5000 feet under here was bliss! Before finishing I decided to take a cloudclimb to 5500 feet above Lasham. Condensation was forming on the wings and around the DV panel. I then escaped, and as I was 2000 feet over glide to get back, I blasted back at high speed for a nice racing finish before landing at 4:07pm for 3 hours 40 minutes in the air.

Having got back so quickly it was still nice and cool inside. But when I opened the canopy a wall of heat hit me. Yuck! Still hot and sticky on the ground. Since the glider was in use again the next day it was nice to be able to just park it up again. Then soon after 5pm I was on my way home, with lovely air conditioning keeping me nice and cool... A hot but pleasant day. Only 60-odd kph going round LAS-ILS-OXF-HUR-LAS for 156km.

Tuesday 25th June 2013
Small XC under more severe spreadout. Trip to Chilbolton to retrieve glider and look inside radio telescope.

After a reasonable night's sleep in the caravan I woke up at about 6:30AM to glorious sunshine. There was still some altostratus to the South but it seemed to be clearing away. By breakfast at 8:30AM the glider was DI'ed and ready to fly without too much effort since it was already rigged. Just a lot of dew to wipe off the wings. Before the 9:30AM briefing I towed it to the runway where I hoped the winch queue would set up. The briefing set some tasks that seemed to task into the poorer areas according to Dave's forecast. So I decided on balance to have a sniff Southeast first (Arundel?) then come back and go Southwest towards Salisbury and beyond. It was looking like an early start too so I was glad I was ready. After the briefing it transpired that a movement was going to happen, so the winch launch point had set up on the South side. So I had to push the glider across the grass slightly uphill. That was tiring. But got there in the end. Then the first cables arrived but there were no blue links. So a K21 was launched while we waited for the links.

I then launched at 10:39AM on the 2nd cable. This was handy as close to the release point was a 4 knot thermal that took me straight to cloudbase at 2700 feet. Conditions were lovely and I explored around for a few minutes, getting behind the start line. After 10 minutes I set off Southeastwards as cloudbase slowly rose, crossing some gaps carefully. However towards Petersfield where in the morning the early top cover had been it was already spreading out badly, and under it I was struggling. So on the edge of it I found a good climb and then turned Liss. Beyond there it was a big gap to the next cloud to the Southeast so I decided to stop there and backtrack Northwestwards. I went as far as Newbury South before I decided to try my luck Southwestwards. By now it was starting to spreadout everywhere, but it was still working well with 2-4kts easy to find. Cloudbase was edging up towards 4500 feet QNH too. I had no problem reaching Chilbolton. But beyond there it looked fairly dead apart from a bloated spreadouty cloud in the direction of Stockbridge. So I decided not to proceed further. While I was at Chilbolton I noticed an air strip Southwest of the radio telescope. I took pictures of this before spotting a glider in a field right next to the radio telescope. I took pictures of that too before retreating Northeastwards. After tiptoing my way past Whitchurch I found a good 4-5kts climb under a large bloated cloud over Greenham Common. By now the spreadout was getting severe with not much sun left on the ground. I turned Newbury North and then decided to return to the Lasham area. I then had fun local soaring for a while. Cloudbase was quite variable. Generally the base was 3900 feet above Lasham / 4500 feet QNH. But it was often possible to climb up the side of the cloud a bit to an upper cloudbase a few hundred feet higher. At one point near Basingstoke I found my best climb of the day of 7kts, and over Basingstoke one cloud seemed to slope upwards to the north side and I was able to reach 4700 feet / 5300 feet QNH. I then had fun flying above and around lower clouds nearby before I dropped down again. Eventually I'd had enough and landed at 2:24PM, 3 hours 45 minutes after launch.

So a fun flight in the end rather than a long distance flight. I did do a very slow LAS-LSS-NES-CBN-NEW-LAS for 144km at about 57kph. It wasn't the best XC day for me. As well as some cracking climbs, there were quite a few weak ones too, and not all the clouds worked - a problem after crossing a big gap and getting low. Indeed once I got back to Basingstoke from Newbury, I could see while local soaring that the Newbury clouds were all collapsing. So I got out just in time. Given reports from other pilots I think I made the right decisions today. It was about 2C at 4000 feet, a touch warmer than yesterday but still pretty cold and I was glad I kept my longsleeve on despite being rather warm at ground level before the launch.

Back on the ground I found out that the glider landed at Chilbolton was one of the guys in a Discus 2 I had agreed to help crew for. Shortly after I landed another Lasham Discus pilot who was also helping to crew landed. So we parked our gliders and set off for Chilbolton with the Discus 2 trailer in tow. It was a fairly straight forward half hour drive there, and a great chance to see Chilbolton radio telescope from ground level, something I'd been tempted to do for a long time. The Discus 2 had landed in a field that used to be an old runway right next to the telescope. The grass was a meter high though and as a result he had caught a tip and had a minor groundloop. But the glider didn't appear to be damaged. (He got it inspected on our return just to be safe.) We drove the trailer out over the long grass to the glider and then soon had the glider derigged into the trailer. Then after parking up in the car park we were offered a tour of the radio telescope. Awesome! We saw inside the concrete column and also on the metal structure above, just under the dish itself. What a nice treat. After the tour finished we swapped contact details (I said I'd email links to pictures of the telescope that I have taken from above) and then we set off back to Lasham to arrive around 6PM. Then after cleaning the glider and preparing it to be left out overnight I returned to the clubhouse for supper and a rest before retiring to the caravan again for the night as it got dark. The following morning I decided not to fly as I was exhausted and the weather looked like more severe spreadout, maybe worse than Tuesday. Thankfully I managed to hand the glider over to another pilot who took it off me and was very greatful for it already being rigged. So that let me off the hook. After attending the briefing out of interest I headed home for lunch. I later heard I'd not missed much so good call.

Monday 24th June 2013
Fun local soaring. Severe spreadout.

I had decided to take this week off from work over a month ago. I had booked SH4 for Saturday to Tuesday but cancelled the weekend bookings due to bad weather. I decided I'd come today despite it looking like severe spreadout, and have some local soaring fun. Some short tasks to the West were set and I noted these down just in case they were doable. Through the morning and lunchtime cloudbase stayed quite low with nearly 8/8 killer spreadout. So I took my time getting SH4 ready and out to the launch point. I also prepared the caravan for use since I planned to stay over tonight. At 1:30pm the launch point shut down for half an hour while people had some lunch.

When they returned at 2PM a sunny gap was going through and good looking cumulus approaching. So I decided to take a launch. I winch launched at 2:10pm to about 1400 feet, and released straight into a thermal! As I was off the 2nd cable I could afford to use it. 2-3kts to 4000 feet. So during that sunny gap cloudbase had jumped nicely by as much as 1500 feet. There was some nice streeting for a bit so I pushed into a 25kph Northwesterly headwind to Basingstoke and towards Overton. However it was clear that further upwind there was a large amount of spreadout headed our way. So I decided to stay local and played in the thermals between Alton and Basingstoke. After about 90 minutes a huge gap had arrived. I was downwind of the airfield in one of the last thermals, my best of the day, 5kts to 4200 feet above Lasham. (Up here it was 0C and rather chilly under all that cloud. I'm glad I kept my jumper on.) Then I set off upwind into the gap. The air was totally dead. I could see cumulus and some sunny patches in the distance but wasn't sure if it was too far away. However North of Basingstoke at about 2500 feet (starting to get marginal for getting back if I found sink) I found some weak lift and scratched about in it while drifting back over Basingstoke. Eventually I found better lift nearby as the sunshine caused the thermals to cycle up. However there were more big gaps upwind, and spreadout above was thickening. The rest of the flight was pretty much scratching about between 2000 and 3000 feet upwind of the airfield, before I called it a day and landed at 5:39pm, 3 hours 29 minutes after launch.

Then it was simply a case of parking the glider up outside the trailer for the night, as I had permission to keep it rigged and have it booked again tomorrow. Then a nice relaxing evening in the clubhouse before retiring for the night to the caravan.

Friday 21st June 2013
Work evening airex group.

Today I brought 10 colleagues from work to the airfield for a gliding evening airex group session. During the week the weather had been poor, but there were signs that today, after a poor start, we'd get a small weather window and have a reasonable chance of flying. I headed home at lunchtime, and called the airfield at 3pm. At that time it looked borderline but just about OK. Indeed we were given the goahead, and I duely told everybody to get to the airfield as we were on. 6 or 7 people got on a train from Waterloo to Basingstoke. The others came by road. I went by car. My normal route via the M25 to the M3 had severe congestion due to a lorry fire, so I went out on the M4 to J11 near Reading then headed South on the A33 to Basingstoke. I arrived at the station 5 minutes or so before the train arrived. So that worked out well. The other road users also arrived to pick people up. Then we made our way to the airfield. By 5:30pm everybody was present and forms were filled in. By now the weather was rather pleasant with warm sunshine. The wind was a fresh Southwesterly so we were operating off the medium runway. After a briefing on the patio outside we walked along the peri track to the northern end of the medium runway. This was quite a good location for photography as the tug and gliders pretty much had to overfly us before landing. With 3 K13 gliders and 1 Roin tug, one by one each person flew, and all landed with grins on their faces. I didn't fly, but supervised on the ground and took plenty of pictures. One or two people saw 778 winch launching and fancied coming back to give that a go. By 8pm the last person had launched and we walked back to the clubhouse for supper. After chatting, eating and relaxing for a while we headed back home. I gave one person a lift back since he lives not too far from me. Thankfully the roads were empty going home.

Sunday 2nd June 2013
A shorter XC flight.

I booked SH4 a week ago. It was a bit of a gamble, but in the end the weather was looking OK. It looked slightly better yesterday, but having gone to a concert the previous night I hadn't planned to fly. I did turn up around 2:30pm though. To my surprise, the ballot had been very quiet and SH4 was still in its trailer. However the pilot of SH3 was about to put it away, so we agreed to help each other. SH3 was put away first then I got SH4 out to park up overnight (with the CFI's permission already obtained). SH4 was rigged by 3pm. I then headed to the caravan where I trimmed the grass and weeds around the edges, dusted it out and brushed it down after lots of debris had collected on the panels. I also did a bit of maintenance and set things up for a stay overnight. Then in the clubhouse I relaxed for a while before supper was ready. It was the end of comp party, but I was exhausted. I retired to the caravan and watched a few downloaded videos on the iPhone before going to sleep.

After a bad night's sleep and waking up far too early I was up early. Soon after 7AM I had packed the caravan again and headed to the glider to get it DI'ed. By 8AM it was all ready, and I was polishing off a veggie full English breakfast. Yum! Then I towed and parked the glider near the Brown Elephant. I found out where the winch launch point would be and took the glider there before returning for the 9:30AM briefing. The 300km task was an out and return to Kibworth (KWO). The next task up as a 550km task which I decided was too much. So I decided to plan for KWO and back with the option of extending it if conditions were good. However, things did not go to plan. Once back at the launch point, it looked soarable from 10AM to 3000 feet, but the winch was nowhere to be seen, and because so few club members had turned up it took ages to set things up. The competition grid launched at 10:45, and there was no chance of a winch launch into a gorgeous looking sky beforehand. So we had no choice but to wait. The instructor in charge had a log cabin not far from the launch point and kindly invited us all in for a cup of tea. That was nice. And a chance to look inside too. They are rather impressive. Good enough to live in permanently if one was allowed to do so. Eventually we returned to the launch point on the pan on the south side of the runway as the last grid gliders launched and I got ready to go, being second in line. Unfortunately the lovely sky of an hour ago had turned into 7/8's spreadout and it no longer looked that nice. But I was going to launch anyway and see what happens.

There was a 90 degree cross wind so I wasn't expecting much height. I launched at 12:28pm, and as expected only made it to 1000 feet. However, when I released I was, despite being in a gap between clouds, in lift. I launched on the 2nd cable so could afford to stay with the lift. It was weak, but enough for me to gain another 700 feet as I drifted downwind over Lasham village. That was plenty enough to go upwind to the next nice looking cloud which was over the Southwestern edge of the airfield. I found 2-2.5kts there which took me to cloudbase at somewhere over 3500 feet. I then pushed West to the start point, Candover Church, and after a top up soon set off northwards. It wasn't killer spreadout however, and there were plenty of thermals to be found. However there were a lot of large sunny gaps to cross which all contained heavy sink. The thermal cores under the flabby clouds were hard to find and centre in but 3-4kts once done so. Near Newbury I rapidly decided given the time of day and the slow progress into wind that the 300km was off. On the edge of a large gap with not much lift nearby I was forced to backtrack a little. However I eventually got enough height to cross and carried on North. Further north towards Didcot the spreadout disappeared and the cumulus got quite shallow. Alas the thermals weren't much easier to find. But atleast cloudbase was up to around 4500 feet QNH. Around Oxford the clouds were just wisps for a bit and in the end I decided to turn Oxford South (OXS) and retreat South. By now I had a migraine and was no longer enjoying the flight. It was an easy slow plod South. I carried on downwind to Peterfield West (PTW). Then I returned to CAC, with the help of some weaker thermals and then a 6 knotter to best cloudbase of 4900 feet QNH. After crossing CAC I thought about going to Newbury and back to make 200km, but I'd had enough. I landed back at Lasham at 3:55PM, 3 hours 27 minutes after launch.

I was pretty much on task for 3 hours, so CAC-OXS-PTW-CAC was 166km at a sluggish 55kph. Not my most enjoyable flight but still useful hours under my belt nonetheless. Thankfully I was able to get the glider away quite quikly, and after putting my solar panel away I eventually I left at 5pm for a gruelling traffic jam packed drive home (lots of families returning from half term trips away no doubt).

Saturday 25th May 2013
First 300km of the year. Still a bit nippy loft.

I had managed to book SH4 earlier in the week, and I arrived at 7:20AM hoping to find some help to rig early. It was the 1st day of the regionals so I expected it to be busy. However it was still quiet. But the restaurant was open at 7:30, so I instead had an early breakfast. Then followed a busy period as lots of people rigged. I helped several people put their wings on. By the 9:30 briefing I was ready to tow out and parked the glider near the Brown Elephant briefing room. In the briefing I noted a club 300km task of Lasham-Birdlip (BIR)-Northampton South (NOS)-Lasham and a larger 500km task extending out to Burley Gate (BUG) and Ely. After the briefing I decided to take CFI Colin's advice to put the glider on the back of the grid rather than go for a winch launch due to the tricky cross wind forecast to go to a tail wind. With 80 gliders and 8 tugs it only took an hour to launch the entire comp. There were about 130+ gliders including non comp gliders! First comp launch was at 11:30, delayed from 11AM by low cloudbase. Meanwhile I saw SH3 take a winch launch to only about 1000 feet and fall down very quickly. This appeared to justify being in the grid instead. It was a spectacular grid too. We at the back had to move the gliders forward a bit. But then we soon got to launch competition style.

I launched behind FoxFox at 12:46pm. By now cloudbase was just about up to 3000 feet. I started to set off as soon as I could and was off by 1pm. I very soon decided it was too late for the 500km and the 300km was by far the most attractive task. The first leg was diagonally across wind, and I had quite a few gaps to cross. It was a slow slog to start with, but out towards Swindon I had a better run as I flew through what used to be restricted airspace around the now closed Lyneham airfield, allowing me to give Redlands a wide berth. Then I snuck between Fairford and South Cerney and off up over the Cotswolds. A few times I was tempted to cloud climb into the bigger clouds but didn't in the end. In the Cotswolds I struggled a bit more, but after a bit of a slog and a short period struggling to climb before I eventually found a good tight core I got enough height to comfortably make it across a blue gap to Birdlip and then out back to a good cloud.

The 2nd leg was much more fun. Although I was going more directly cross wind, I found plenty of lines of energy along track. Cloudbase was now rising nicely and by Banbury it was stonking with 3-4+kts to 5500 feet QNH. It was a straight forward romp to Northampton South with my average speed steadily creeping upwards. Further East the clouds seemed to be shallower but that could have been due to the rising cloudbase. Once round the turn point I pointed the glider towards Didcot where I wanted to pause to take pictures of Milton park. This is the location of the 'Abingdon Office' of the company I recently started working for. (I had promised to take pictures next time I flew over the area.) I took pictures from around 4000 feet QNH but then dropped down a bit and struggled to climb back up. I eventually scrabbled my way back up close to Harwell. I then nipped back over to Didcot for more pictures before resuming scampering downwind and home. Cloudbase was about 5600 feet and it was pretty easy getting back. I cruised back to land at 4:58pm, 4h12m after launch, and about 4 hours on task.

So that was my first 300km flight of the year (LAS-BIR-NOS-LAS for 305km), and a nice easy one too by and large. I had left my options open to staying overnight and flying again tomorrow as it also looked good again, but with a migraine kicking in as the flight ended, it was clear that today's flight was enough for me this weekend. I was also glad I had left my coat on as it was around freezing at cloudbase, so still a bit nippy aloft. Meanwhile my parents had arrived half an hour before I landed, so I joined up with them. After parking the glider (left out overnight on request) we went out for a meal to nice meal at the Pocher Inn in South Warnborough before carrying on homewards.

Saturday 20th April 2013
Warming up. Fun XC in the back of a Duo.

It was a misty and frosty start. That made for a pretty drive in as fog banks clipped the motorway in places. However it soon warmed up as the day got going. Alas I failed in the 8AM ballot to get a glider. So I took it easy and had a leisurely breakfast before attending the briefings. In the cross country briefing a pilot kindly offered me the back seat of his private Duo Discus Turbo. Nice! It was looking like a fairly blue day locally but to the West some cumulus was expected. It was not as cold as it has been but still around or below freezing at flying heights. We planned for the 300km task from the briefing - Sherborne - Oxford East for 302km.

The glider was a little less than half way along a 50-60 glider grid - easily the biggest grid of the year so far. Mid morning a Red Kite was soaring overhead so thermals were getting going indeed. Soon after 11AM the grid started launching as expected and small early cumulus had popped although they were retreating Westwards. We launched at 11:38AM. I was able to take pictures during the launch since I was the P2. That doesn't happen very often so was a good photo opportunity. After releasing a quick test of the turbo was made before we tried to soar. Alas conditions were still rather weak. We struggled to get above 2000 feet. After a while of scratching and starting to fall we pushed North a bit to try and find better lift. We could see gliders over Basingstoke much higher up. However at 1400 feet we bailed and headed back. We didn't recover and around 1000 feet up near Lasham an attempt was made to deploy the turbo. However it didn't start due to a mistake in the deploy procedure, so we ended up landing near the back of the grid engine up at 11:54AM, 16 minutes after launch.

Never mind. We rejoined the grid took a relight at 12:31PM. Another turbo test verified the turbo worked fine. This time thermals were a little better and soon we were climbing above 3600 feet QNH (3000 feet above Lasham). Before long we had the cumulus to the Northwest in our sights and set off. After a bit of tiptoing and caution we soon reached the cumulus. Then as we carried on Westwards conditions were stonking. By now the route to Sherborne was right over the middle of Salisbury Plain. So we stayed to the North side of it where there were better looking clouds than further South. I took control for a but while P1 had some lunch. Soon we had passed Devises and Melksham on the North side of Keevil, then passed over Frome. In this area cloudbase was about 5500 feet. Clouds were a nice size and further West they were bigger and it looked awesome. However we were headed Southwestwards to Sherborne. En route cloudbase suddenly dropped to 4100 feet (with much bigger soggier clouds where we first started to feel the cold now the sun wasn't shining on us so much), and then again down to 3100 feet. The air got a lot murkier too (different airmass). We suspected this was a sea breeze effect. However with the Duo's nice big wings we were able to get round SHB and then headed ENE'wards under a big low cloud. We were soon back up to cloudbase at 3100 feet. However beyond this point we could see cloudbase was higher, and I suspected this was the edge of a sea breeze front. Indeed we managed to climb up a 1500 foot wall of cloud to around 5000 feet. The views were awesome of course! By now we had decided not to go to Oxford. There were a couple of lines of cumulus to the East along track back to Lasham so we headed along them. For the most part it was straight forward. For a while I took control and had fun along the streets and past the Salisbury area. To our North it was blue, and to our South cumulus resulting from the sea influence were present. Eventually somewhere South of Middle Wallop Airfield the cumulus ended and we headed off Northeastwards back on track into the blue. There were small wisps of cloud near Chilbolton and here we had a good climb all the way to 5800 feet. Now we were a good 1000 feet above glide and had a clear run back to Lasham. A lot of people were returning so we had fun and games coming into land, and had to land long a bit but it was smooth and straight forward, touching down at 4:15PM, 3 hours 44 minutes after launch.

We pretty much flew LAS-MEL-SHB-LAS which was 243km in about 3 hours 30 minutes, at a leisurely 69kph. A good day out and nice to be up in the air whether in a single seater or P2 with another pilot. After negotiating a minefield of landed gliders littering the airfield we got the glider to its resting place and put it away. Then after a cup of tea I was off home at about 5:30pm. Now I have a lot of new photos to process. Watch out for them on the Gliding 2013 gallery!

Saturday 6th April 2013
Still -7C. My first XC of the year.

I was unable to book a glider this time as someone beat me to it. But there was no fear as I was the only one who turned up at the ballot at 8AM after a frosty but quiet drive in. So I bagged Discus SH3 with SH4 being the one that was booked out. Since it was half an hour to breakfast I started gathering a parachute and batteries as the overnight frost started to melt. I decided to take the batteries to the glider, and a short while later the pilot who booked SH4 turned up. So we rigged and DI'ed both gliders before breakfast. After also helping with a couple of other gliders I grabbed breakfast before the briefing. The weather was looking good with a high cloud base over a large area and no spreadout despite early medium clouds (moisture aloft). Another cold flight was expected. I had bought another pair of foot warmers and had all my mid winter thermal layers on so I was prepared for that. I planned to go West to Wincanton before going Northeast to Calvert Junction and back for a 300km flight. I was ready to wich launch soon after 10:30AM when the grid started launching. Cumulus had started popping by 10AM and the sky was looking lovely with lost of Northeasterly cloud streets.

I winch launched at 10:45AM 10 1400 feet and easily got away. Cloudbase was rising to 3500 feet above Lasham (4100 feet QNH) and after 15 minutes I started the task. I had a good blast down the streets Westwards. I had to jump streets northwards periodically to avoid Southampton airspace. Around Popham cloudbase dropped back to 3000 feet and the lift became weaker and harder to centre. But I managed to push on past Salisbury, and got a good view of the cathedral. West of there conditions were ever weaker with almost blue conditions and cloudbase only just over 3500 feet QNH. Around Gillingham I could see a big blue gap ahead and was struggling to stay up. In the end I bottled it and turned GIL. Then I turned around to see behind me to see I was now in a huge blue hole with just a few wisps. I struggled to push into an 18-20kph headwind. Eventually near The Park gliding club I started to get rather low. At one point I was just 1000 feet above the airfield about to start a circuit to land out there. But after several attempts and a fair bit of effing and blinding I decided that heading round the North side of Salisbury plain as planned was a better bet than retreating round the South side. Atleast then I was upwind of The Park if I did decide to give up and land there. After an eternity I struggled my way to Warminster. From here there were better clouds, but progress was still slow in weak conditions until over an inactive Keevil better lift got me back above 3500 feet QNH. East of here conditions improved markedly, with cloudbase jumping to over 4500 feet and thermal strengths increasing. This allowed me to push upwind more easily. The wind was also dropping as forecast which also helped. Rather than carry on upwind to Calvert Junction I turned DEVizes and decided to go home. I was tired and cold and had had enough. So I tiptoed Eastwards across wind along the Northern edge of Salisbury Plain, eventually reaching HURstbourne Tarrant as conditions got ever better. I decided to zip out to Newbury South as this would atleast make up 200km, and conditions were good there with 2-5kts to 5300 feet QNH, my best height of the day. From that height I was in range of Lasham and raced back for an uneventful landing at 2:45PM, exactly 4 hours after launch.

So this flight was a big struggle thanks to the hole I got into near The Park. However that made it a nice achievement to make it home. I managed 206km at just 54kph but I was just glad to get a 2013 cross country flight under my belt this year, my first since last September. After logging my down time at the launchpoint I went for a nice warm cup of tea. The foot warmers had done their job again. So was well worth buying another pair as I measured -7C aloft. Eventually SH4 landed back at Lasham. It sounded like he'd not gone as far as me, but was up for longer. Others had also struggled too. We proceeded to put both gliders away at a leisurely pace. Then I set off home at 4:45PM.

Easter Sunday 31st March 2013
More local soaring. -12C at cloudbase!

As today drew closer it was looking like the better day of the Easter weekend. So it was a good choice booking the glider in the long range. Friday turned out to be a bit better than Thursday when I went, but never mind. Saturday had more killer spreadout than forecast. However today it didn't look quite so bad, but still a hint of moisture under an inversion. The clocks went forward last night from GMT to BST so I was getting up at a rather early 5:15AM GMT. The car registered -4C as I approached Lasham. It had been a cold clear night but the sunshine was starting to warm the place up. I arrived at about 7:45AM (BST) and headed straight for the clubhouse where I relaxed and had breakfast until about 9:45AM when someone agreed to help me rig. After a slight struggle due to a wonky jack under the belly dolly rails the wings were on by 9AM and by the cross country briefing at 9:30AM the glider was ready to be towed to the launchpoint. Tasks were set out to the West and Northwest downwind where it looked better with less spreadout. Then after marking my map and getting everything ready I was ready at the launch point by about 10:45AM. By 11AM a large wodge of spreadout was moving in from upwind and I was thinking I'd left it too late to launch. (To the North it looked lovely.) But I decided I would go anyway and hope I could still find lift before the cloud bank cut off convection in range of the winch launch. (Before I launched I also decided to use a pack of Toastie Toes chemical foot warmers. I was given them in 2010 on Kilimanjaro but never used them until now.)

I launched at 11:08AM. As soon as I started moving the shroud on the compass shot off into my lap and then rolled away somewhere! That was a surprise but I maintained my composure and carried on launching as normal, hoping that the shroud hadn't ended up somewhere where it could foul the controls. On releasing at around 1600-1700 feet I spotted a small but well formed cumulus cloud behind me on my left. So I banked sharply and headed under that cloud. Indeed it was working and 2-3kts got me to a 2500 foot cloudbase. That allowed me to jump North to Basingstoke and the better looking clouds which were already just above 3000 feet. I was however struggling to work out where the lift was under the scraggy clouds. They seemed to be cycling fairly quickly so the darker parts of the clouds weren't always the best areas. I found that often the paler wispier areas on the sunny side of the clouds were the best areas. That also allowed me to climb up the side of one cloud to 3900 feet at one point. Ideally I would have returned to Lasham to restart but it was now in the middle of a dead area. (Yes in the end I launched just in time!) Then after 20 minutes I noticed that the ClearNav had turned off. It appeared my rear batteries had failed. However the front battery was brand new and working fine so that kept me going for the rest of the flight. I switched over to it and everything came back to life again. (Putting one instrument with a voltmeter back to the rear batteries and watching the voltage plummet under load proved it was the batteries and not a blown fuse.) I was also feeling rather tired and I could see cloud amounts steadily increasing upwind tp 6-7/8's as it all started to spread out badly again. So I decided not to go far from the airfield and reverted to local soaring. Overton was about as far away as I got downwind. Upwind was into a 22kph headwind but it wasn't too difficult to push into it with 6 knot thermals here and there. I just stayed high floating around the clouds. I spent a lot of time in the Overton area where conditions were good. Some thermals were crackingly strong - 6-7kts with 10kt gusts. At one point I got up the side of a cloud to 4400 feet. Cloudbase generally rose to 4100-4300 feet at best, where it was a frosty -12C! The foot warmers did their job though and prevented my toes from getting uncomfortably cold. Although the ankles did get quite cold still. Later in the flight cloud amounts had risen to over 7/8's and cloudbase was almost level with the spreadout layer. This made it hard to find the thermals. The trick now was to head for a patch of sunlit ground, and find a darker area of cloud over that patch, and that seemed to do the trick. After 3 hours it was almost 8/8's as the sunlit patches shrunk and started to disappear altogether. But I'd had enough anyway, so I descended and landed at 2:22PM, 3 hours 14 minutes after launch. as I got out I found the compass shroud tucked under my parachute. So atleast it was in a safe place. I put it in one of the side pockets in the cockpit.

Atleast the visibility was more normal this time rather than the pea souper from last Thursday. Although it was nothing special, it was nice once again to just be up there. On the ground I got my down time, finished my lunch off (more Passover food) and after warming up with a cup of tea, got the glider put away. (Letting the tape warm up before removing again helped as it was less brittle and easier to take off.) Then after asking around for advice, I took the failed batteries to Colin the Chief Flying Instructor to replace before heading home around 4:20pm. That ends my Easter break. The weather's been amazingly cold for Easter and rather cloudy, but it was nice to get up there twice over Passover. The winter cobwebs are well and truely blown away now.

Thursday 28th March 2013
Second local soaring flight of the year.

Since my last flight I started a new job, so weekday flying is now a rarity once again. However I had a week off this week so was looking for flying opportunities. It's been very grey and cold with arctic air and some snow - impressive for late March. But yesterday morning I decided that today was worth a go and so booked SH4. I also booked it for Easter Sunday while I was at it as the long range soundings looked OK. It was also Passover, so I had a rather unusual passover packed breakfast and lunch to take with me. But it kept me going no problem.

I arrived at about 7:50AM with the sun shining (a novelty after so many days of gloom) and the temperature hovering around freezing. I went to the caravan first to check if the new sky lights were ok since there had been some heavy rain, snow and strong winds since I installed them in February. Result! It was bone dry and clean inside. I connected up the solar panel then went to the clubhouse for breakfast. Afterwards someone helped me to rig SH4, and I was ready to fly by 10AM. Yesterday had been a very short soaring window before killer spreadout later in the morning, and I was expecting similar today (but slightly better). It still beats low cloud and gloom though! So I had made sure I was ready to launch early. Indeed cumulus had already popped by 9AM and they were already large by 10AM.

At 10:15AM I took a winch launch from runway 09 to 1300 feet (above Lasham Airfield) and headed Southeast towards Alton. The clouds were already overdeveloping but in this direction the sun was reaching the ground and a nice looking street had developed. I only lost 200 feet before I found 2+kts of lift under some dark lumps of cloud and soon got to 2500 feet which was cloudbase. However I managed to climb higher up the sunny side of the cloud, and topped out at 3200 feet. I played around between Alton and the Southern side of Odiham for a while, where there were 2-4kt climbs to be had. Meanwhile cloudbase rose to just over 3000 feet and the amount of sun reaching the ground steadily decreased as the spreadout got more severe. Eventually upwind to the East the spreadout went 8/8 and the last chinks of sunlight drifted off downwind. I went downwind to the closest remaining patch of sunlight and found a nice 4 knotter near Fourmarks. I decided to carry on up into the cloud and reached 4100 feet before escaping South, emerging right over Fourmarks. After that I went back upwind into the gloom. There were still a few weak thermals under darker patches which I scratched around but they were dying. I went round the East side of the airfield and slowly sunk to circuit height near the North side high key area before landing at 11:55AM, after 1 hour 40 minutes in the air.

I was quite happy to come down when I did as it was -9C at 3000 feet (probably -12C at 4000 feet when I was briefly up there). I was starting to get rather cold. Since I was down in time for lunch I ate while I warmed up. Then I got some help derigging while a snow shower moved in. After helping another person derig and putting the solar panel away I was on my way home by 2PM. A nice day albeit a short one, and nice to fly again after the best part of 8 weeks. It was also my 2nd soaring flight of the season all before the clocks went forward, which was also probably a first.

Wednesday 20th February 2013
Caravan maintenance. DNF.

After the main skylight blew off on 31st January (see last diary entry), and the bathroom skylight blew off in August 2011, I had both skylights held down by bricks and leaking as they were perished and cracked. So last week after looking around for cheaper options and not getting very far, I ordered two brand new skylights on ebay. They arrived on Monday, and having missed some good weather yesterday I planned today to do some much needed caravan maintenance. This also being the last week before I start a new job, so a good week to get this done. The forecast was to be foggy damp and drizzly in the morning before the sun comes out and the breeze picks up in the afternoon to dry everything off. So a good morning to wash the caravan before the drier air arrives for the skylight replacement.

It was indeed a murky cold drizzly start but the damp made cleaning the caravan a breeze. I brought a hose pipe which I managed to connect to the nearby stand pipe. I borrowed a huge step ladder from a hangar and that allowed me to reach the roof which had years of dirt on it as a result of being parked next to woodland. The caravan was also virtually green with algae thanks to the sopping wet year we've had. But anyway I had the caravan a sparkling white again by lunchtime. Meanwhile mum, who came along too, had done some cleaning inside while the gas heater kept her warm and helped dry the caravan out. The carpet below was a little damp still but not too bad. Then after a lunch break I unscrewed and ripped off the old main skylight, chiseled off the old sealant, then fitted the new one which fitted nicely, using heavy duty weatherproof sealent I brought with me to keep it watertight. I then repeated for the bathroom. Meanwhile the afternoon sunshine dried things out nicely despite it being only about 3C. Now for the first time in years the caravan is clean inside and out and hopefully will stay dry. Although there is a problem at the front in that the wooden panel under the slanted windows has rotted. It seems there is a leak there. I think the problem was the front right window. When I tried to open it, instead of swiveling it just snapped close to the hinge with hardly any force. I guess it must have been cracked and perishing. That is facing South so has had years of perishing sunlight. So now that window is held shut and gaffer tape is stuck across the break so hopefully no more water will get in for a while. After further cleaning and hoovering inside we packed up and headed to the clubhouse for some nice tea and cake (I also dumped the old rotted skylight pieces into a large bin) before heading home into the rush hour.

Saturday 2nd February 2013
Caravan mop up and first soaring flight of the year.

On Thursday afternoon I got a message from the Lasham Office reporting that a skylight panel had blown off. Oh no! Given the bathroom one was weighed down, it had to be the main one. After perparing to head to Lasham in the evening after supper, a message on Facebook was read by Luke Dale, who kindly went and found the panel several caravans away, and put it back on, held down with a brick and some tape. That saved me a 110 mile round trip that evening. So I planned to come today to check the caravan over and fly if the weather is any good. Soundings suggested it might get soarable so I planned to fly while I was around.

I arrived at 7:30AM not long before sunrise after a smooth journey out. There was a brisk Northerly wind blowing. I went straight to the caravan and set up the solar panel and gas. Then I mopped up as a fair bit of rain had got in (it must have blown off during a heavy shower in the morning. When it came through London there were some powerful gusts with it) and soaked the carpet underneath the skylight and the sink nearby too. I started the heater up to warm things up and left a soaked rug outside to drip dry. I went to the clubhouse for the 8AM ballot. I was the only one there so I picked Discus SH4. After breakfast at 8:30AM someone hoping to share with me helped me rig at 8:50AM. (Although it transpired that with the yellow sock up he wasn't clear to fly it today but never mind.) The DI book showed that it hadn't been flown since I last flew it in December. We had the wings on in 5 minutes. All rigged and DI'ed by 9:30AM. The launch point was set up on runway 09 so I took the glider straight across to the launch point. Then I went to the caravan by 10AM to turn off the heating and leave the windows open to air the caravan. I also took down the broken skylight panel and attached lots of tape to it to patch it up. I then returned to the launch point at around 11AM to get the glider ready to fly. I was ready to launch at 11:30AM. Above there was cumulus. Some nice looking clouds passed by just before I launched.

The first winch launch at 11:30AM took me to 1250 feet above Lasham. I tried to soar but the thermals were broken, distorted and weak. I fell down after 8 minutes. The second winch launch at 12PM was a genuine cable break. At 500 feet I lost the cable. I had enough energy to get to atleast 600 feet, from which I was able to do a mini circuit and land not far from the launch point. So that was classed as 2 minutes. I ballooned a bit and landed slightly heavily on the cross runway but nothing too dramatic. The curlover from the trees made it rather challenging... Back at the launch point there was an 8 glider winch queue and a movement due soon. So I decided to take an aerotow instead. Good call as otherwise I would have been stuck for over an hour and missed half the soaring window. At the launch point having wondered what I did wrong I was told about the genuine cable break. So atleast it wasn't my fault this time!

I launched behind a Robin piloted by Al Nunn at 12:18PM. He dropped me off close to a nice cumulus cloud which was working, base 2800 feet. It was streeting nicely too at times. I tried to push northwards up a street, and got to the north side of Basingstoke. I climbed up the side of some clouds to 3200 feet. (I always love doing that!) Then beyond the street it cycled down and I struggled a bit. My glide back to Lasham was getting marginal so I scampered back downwind at less than 2000 feet over Basingstoke. Back nearer Lasham I found more lift and got away again. After having fun locally for a bit a lovely majestic street moved in from the North. I had fun pushing up this street and eventually got as far as Basingstoke North (BSN). Meanwhile cloudbase topped out at 3700 feet above Lasham (4300 feet QNH). My feet were starting to get mighty cold as it was something like -6 or -7C. Wriggling my feet on the rudder pedals when I was flying straight helped atleast, by circulating the cold blood out. Flying winds were also 33kph according to the ClearNav which made it hard work pushing upwind. Even Basingstoke felt far away! Eventually I headed back and parked in a blue hole and circled downwards. At 2000 feet I headed towards the high key area. At 1500 feet I hit a strong turbulent core and couldn't resist. I circled and climbed at more than 4 knots, gaining 1500 feet easily. On the way up all the other gliders in the area came and joined me so I guess I had the best climb. At somewhere over 3000 feet I broke off and resumed my descent, now with airbrakes. A straight forward circuit followed. But again the curlover on the trees caught me out a bit. This time I touched down smoothly but boinged a bit on the end of the creoss runway, then touched down again. Flight time was 3 hours 8 minutes - really impressive for the time of year! Colin was passing in a buggy and saw my landing, but wasn't concerned though. He kindly towed me to the trailer.

Then after packing up the caravan and retrieving my stuff from the launch point (and verifying my flight times) I prepared the glider for derig. Meanwhile soon after my landing the thermals switched off so I made good use of the soaring window. The Imperial College people kindly helped me to derig. Then I left the airfield at 4:30PM. A little while later on the M3 I could see a gorgeous sunset in my wing mirrors, with cumulus lit up orange from below and a vivid cirrostratus orange background. If only I could have stopped to take pictures. I carried onwards home into the dark without any traffic issues thankfully.

Tuesday 15th January 2013
Winter currency flying.

I arrived at about 7:40AM after a filthy grit encrusted but smooth journey out. It had snowed yesterday hence the large grit amounts. Much of the snow had melted but there were still patches in places, including on the caravan. I checked it was ok and set the solar panel up. It was still too dark at 8:50AM for it to work yet and there was lots of low cloud. I returned to the clubhouse for 8AM. I saw a nice sunrise through a hole in the clouds. After breakfast at 8:30AM I handed in my membership renewal forms at 9AM and then helped to get the toys out. There was not enough help to rig a Discus and SH7, the nearest Grob 102, was buried. So I reluctantly agreed to share the K21's. However around mid morning I helped someone get another glider out. This freed up SH7, so I got it out to fly.

I launched SH7 at 11:56AM. Cloudbase was around 800 feet, but I winch launched through a gap to get to 1300 feet, above the clouds. I sunk quickly back down to circuit height. I tried to take pictures but my camera initially locked up and I almost missed it. But got a few shots just before I sunk back to cloudbase and circuit height. I landed after just 4 minutes.

I launched again at 12:24PM. Cloudbase had risen to 1100 feet but this time I hit a cloud and got chopped as the winch driver lost sight of me. I sunk to 900 feet, but at that height I found a weak thermal and climbed at 1kt back to 1000 feet. I spent a short while under the local clouds trying and failing to maintain my height. After just 8 minutes I was back on the ground.

At 12:48pm I launched one last time. Again I hit a cloud at 1100 feet, but this time I levelled off in time and converted some launch energy to speed. After releasing I sped under the cloud and pulled up on the other side to 1200 feet. I floated around the darker bits of cloud trying but failing to find lift. Despite failing to soar my flight still lasted 8 minutes so not too bad. I landed by the hangar to put the glider away.

By 1PM everyone had flown and the bus was driven back to the hangar. That saved me a trip to the launch point to get my bag. We had lunch first, during which I collected the trophy I won at the SGM for best Lasham single seater flight on the ladder in 2012. I then packed the caravan solar panel away before returning to the hanger. After lunch the toys were packed away and by 2:15pm I was ready to go home again. At this point it was about 2C but felt rather pleasant in the sunshine with cloud streets above making it look rather soarable. But mission accomplished and not worth busting a gut for some marginal soaring conditions. So a short, cold but sweet winter's day and current once again.

2012 <- | 2013