Diary 2019

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.

2018 <- | 2019

2019 Gliding Pictures

Wednesday 3rd July 2019
Mini holiday part 2. Better weather than expected. Bext XC ever! 501km flown. First 500 since diamond distance in 2005. Faster too.

I had stayed overnight at the airfield in the bunk house. I had glider SH3 booked and it had been left out overnight. My alarm went off at 7:30AM. I got my stuff packed and ready before another big breakfast at 8AM. At 8:20AM I went to gather a parachute and batteries and get SH3 ready. A grid was already setting up on 09 very close to the trailer. There was hardly any condensation on the glider so it was ready to fly by 8:40AM. It was too much to resist - I decided to go to the grid. I pushed the glider a short distance into the grid at 8:55AM, about 6 rows back. So Iíll get thrown into the air behind a tug whenever they go. Cumulus was already popping soon after 9AM as the grid got a lot bigger with more people present than yesterday. I checked out of the bunk room just before the briefing and left my bike gear and laptop bag in the office as usual.

The 9:30AM briefing was packed again. A light and variable Easterly wind was expected today. No cloud or fronts were visible on the satpic in the task area, and high pressure was in charge. It should be soarable by 10:30AM with a 3000 foot cloudbase, but still a spreadout risk today. The inversion was not that high and rather strong. A 21/9 max temp/dew mix was expected and it might be blue into Wales. There was a big area to play with. A 4-4500 foot cloudbase was expected, maybe 5000 feet later. A sea breeze convergeance along the South coast could also be expected. There was no Farnborough airspace this time! Porton Down D127 we needed to avoid as well as D126 which was active. A parachute display at Dunkeswell meant avoid with a radius of 5 nautical miles. Otherwise it was pretty quiet out there today. A variety of tasks were set across the country. I was feeling confident today and liked the look of the 500km task to Hereford, Shipton-on-Stour and Melbury Bubb. It looked doable and unlike many of the other tasks had minimal airspace issues en route. I thought I might try that task and see how it went. (There was always the possibility of bailing back to Lasham on the 3rd leg Southwards back past the Fairford Gap if I didn't like how it was going.)

After the briefing I finished my preparation at the glider, drawing my map up and programming the ClearNav with the HER-SHP-MBU 500! The first grid launch was at 10:05AM, an early start. I got into the glider at 10:15AM, with 5 gliders in front. The timing was looking good. However then Colin in one of the tugs reported cloudbase was only barely 2000 feet (QFE Lasham) still. So the grid was put on hold for a little while which was fine by me. I got out for a bit until the grid resumed at 10:35AM. Soon Uniform Delta came for me.

I launched at 10:41AM behind Uniform Delta to 1900 feet where I released into a nice thermal that showed 3.8kts on the averager. I rapidly got to cloudbase which was now 2700 feet above the ground. Cloudbase was rising fairly quickly though so I made my way to the Lasham Start Southeast start line and set off at 10:52AM. At Basingstoke it was already 3200 feet above Lasham and 3500 feet at Newbury soon after. (Or 4100 feet QNH - following heights now QNH as I move away from Lasham). I stayed high and tiptoed my way outwards as it was fairly spreadout and I didn't want to get caught out. But cloudbase carried on rising to around 4500 feet or a bit above. I made straight forward progress to Swindon. Conditions this way were better as the sky opened up a bit. Getting through the gap between Kemble and South Cerney proved to be easy as I topped up just after Swindon and again over Cirencester. Conditions were gorgeous over the Cotswolds but then cloudbase was several hundred feet lower at around 4300 feet over the lower ground around Gloucester. The views of the river Severn were gorgeous and soon I had crossed it. Past here the cumulus was rather shallow and with bigger gaps but the thermals were still fairly good so I made easy progress all the way to Hereford. It seemed strange crossing the M5 for the first time, into here be dragons territory a long way from home! The Hereford Cathedral looked majestic as I flew over it. Soon after topping up to close to cloudbase I turned the racecourse HER.

Then it was a straight forward track upwind to the East, following cloud streets back to higher ground. Great Malvern and the Malvern hills looked picturesque as I crossed over the ridge. Iíd heard of the Malverns but not visited until today. Back to higher cloudbases I soon passed Evesham. Then I was flying in company with another Discus (from Bidford?) as we pushed Eastwards a long way without stopping. After a top up or two I soon turned Shipton-on-Stour, SHP.

The scenery on the next leg was relatively boring after the picturesque first two legs. But with a tail wind and strong thermals I made fast progress. Again getting through the Kemble South Cerney gap was easy. It was strange going in a Northeast Southwest direction. Further South the sky was opening up with some big gaps to cross. I just topped up to cloudbase and took any strong climb I could find. Some of them were 5 knots or more which was lovely. I soon reached Melbury Bubb and turned MBU. At this point I realised it was looking good for the 500 amazingly. My overall speed was up into the high 80ís at this point after that last leg.

At Melbury Bubb however, I struggled. I carried on past the turnpoint (as up track was a big gap) to the next cloud but struggled to find lift. I did eventually gain enough height to cross the gap to the East. This repeated itself with hard to use thermals under shallow cumulus with large gaps to cross between them. I was getting tired too now so the last leg was a bit of a slog and slowed me right down. However eventually I reached Chilbolton radio telescope. Here I had my highest climb of the day, reaching cloudbase at just over 5600 feet. Now I was just in range of Lasham I could start to celebrate and the rest of the flight was easy. I took a small top up on the way to make it less marginal but otherwise it was a straight forward final glide for a fast finish at 4:56PM and then a straight forward circuit and landing at 4:59PM for a flight time of 6 hours 18 minutes. That was a long flight but I DID IT!!! 500km for the first time since my diamond distance in 2005.

After dragging the glider to the trailer I set to work cleaning it. After so long in the air there were a lot of bugs to clean off! The other Discuses were still out and there was nobody around to help at the time. I put the batteries and parachute away while I waited for help and took my own stuff back to the clubhouse where I also collected my bike gear. After a break, back at the glider, I found some help and eventually SH3 was put away by 6:10AM. Then I had an ice cream and a short break. I was setting off at 6:40PM when I found Rick. We chatted for 10 minutes before I left at 6:50PM. I has a nice gentle ride home before I made sure I got my flight on the ladder, boasted on Facebook, then collapsed in a heap happy with the successful gliding minibreak.

After yesterday's 330km, today's 501km (LA1-HER-SHP-MBU-LAS) was epic! 82kph was quite fast for me too. I was pushing towards 90kph before the last leg which was a slog getting past the Compton Abbas and Salisbury area. Just getting round though was a major achievement for me. 832km and 11 hours 9 minutes in the air in just 2 days was a really successful minibreak. It would take me a while to recover and float gently back to earth.

Tuesday 2nd July 2019
Mini holiday part 1. Gorgeous on the coast. Severe spreadout inland. 331km flown.

I had decided to book SH3 on Thursday 27th June for today and tomorrow and the small bunk room overnight. The weather held up looking soarable albeit maybe spreadout. The evening before I was busy gathering everything I needed into a form that I could take by motorbike.

After a smooth pleasant ride I arrived at 7:45AM. Simon had booked SH2 but wasnít around. I had my usual big breakfast at 8AM, then headed out at 8:20AM to gather batteries and parachute and get the glider out. It seems it had been landed out wheels up yesterday but had been inspected and given the ok to fly. I didnít spot any issues so proceeded to get it ready. It was rigged by 8:45AM thanks to help from Jez Hood who was about to tow out to the grid already. Cumulus was popping aloft from quite early. DI and clean was complete by 9:15AM. Then I collected the bunk room key and moved my bike gear to the room. Then I went to the briefing. It was packed by 9:30AM.

A light NNW wind was expected today, so gentle conditions. Cloudbase was already above 2000 feet. 19-20C and 10-12C dewpoint was expected. Conditions were best South of the M4, especially towards the South Coast. Further North spreadout was expected to be quite bad. Maybe less spreadout risk was expected than yesterday when it clouded over badly later on. Strong climbs were also expected.

The main local issue was royal airspace close to the airfield until 11:30AM. Danger area D126 was active to the West, as well as restrictions around the Glastonbury Festival. Tasks were set along the South Coast, although the bigger tasks went inland all the way to the M4 around Swindon.

After the briefing Simon gave me a call. He had arrived. I was headed to the glider anyway, and helped Simon rig SH2 by 10AM. He then kindly towed me out to launchpoint by 10:15AM before going back with the tow out gear for SH2.

I then planned my tasks at the launch point. It was already looking good aloft especially to the South, and the grid was starting to launch. I planned all three tasks as they fitted inside each other very well allowing me to switch between them easily. I had the 406km task set, to Goodwood, Blakehill Farm, then down to Chard and back. It started at Candover Church to the Southwest instead of the usual start point to avoid a Royal Flight airway that was active at the start of my flight. I then joined the winch queue at around 10:40AM. Some gliders landed back and cloudbase was a little low. So I was in no rush, especially as the launch rate was slow due to the grid launching.

I winch launched at 11:16AM to 1300 feet. I was in a hole and the cloud to the West didn't look that good. But behind me on the South side was a better cloud with gliders soaring. It was quite a long low glide to get there but I arrived at the thermal with 900 feet to spare so no problem. A 4 knot thermal soon whisked me up to cloudbase at 3600 feet (QNH). I then went West and got on the far side of Candover Church. Thermals weren't as good here but I was keen to go so started at 3500 feet. It was a fairly easy run Southwards to Petersfield and onwards to the South Downs ridge where paragliders were launching. Soon after that I arrived at Goodwood Race Course and turned GWD.

I found going back upwind slightly easier as cloudbase rose a bit and I had good runs along lines of energy. At one point I was formation flying with another glider (KE) and I took some pictures of him. I could see that further inland cloud amounts were higher. But with some strong climbs and good streeting it seemed fairly easy going. After sneaking past the edge of the Southampton Airspace, and past Popham and Rivar Hill, spreadout started to become more of a feature. North of Marlborough it got quite bad, but with a nice line of energy and plenty of strong thermals above the sunny patches I pushed on. Cloudbase was also up to 4600 feet which made it easier to cross the gaps. But by now I was taking it easy and staying as high as I could. After one last nice street I reached Blakehill Farm which was out into a gap.

After turning BLA, I retreated back to that last good thermal street and got back to cloudbase. The thermals were good here. I initially followed the street Westwards but looking up track was a huge dead looking spreadout gap. I decided not to push for Chard and after returning East along the street, jumped my way back Southeastwards until I got to a nice street that took me past Rivar Hill and Popham. By now as I got back to decent conditions and away from the bad spreadout, I fancied going back to the South Coast. So I passed West of Candover Church and Fourmarks and followed my way South and Southeastwards. Conditions were stonking now and I soon found myself back near Goodwood. I carried on East-Southeastwards along the coast until near Arundel I found the sea breeze front. I was tempted to go further but the sea breeze seemed to be coming in and there was a gap to my East. So I turned ARU and after playing with the low cloud of the sea breeze and taking in the breathtaking coastal scenery for a while I set off back for Lasham.

The glide back was straight forward. Although the thermals down South were all over the place, very rough and hard to centre in. Cloudbase was up at 5100 feet near Goodwood though where it was about 6C. After one last climb to cloudbase over Petersfield I had a straightforward final glide back to Lasham. I heard over the radio that they had changed ends from 27 to 09, as expected. So I went round the Western side of the airfield before finishing high on the North side before a straight forward circuit and landing at 4:07PM, 4 hours 51 minutes after launch.

CAC-GWD-BLA-ARU-LAS was still 331km (at a smidge under 74kph) and by far my best flight of the year so far so I was well happy with that.

After parking SH3 I went to the launch point and filled in my down time on the log sheet. Jordan, who was in charge, confirmed it was OK to leave the glider out tonight. I took my stuff back to the bunk room then had a nice tea and cake at 5PM. Then I went to clean SH3 and park it up properly for the night as well as retrieve my trace and look at the ClearNavs on all the Discuses. Then in the clubhouse I got my laptop out where I put my flight on the ladder. I had a nice fish and chips outside for dinner as I cooled down. Then it was back on the laptop to look at my pictures and video, and write my diary. Soon after 10PM I retired for the night.

Friday 21st June 2019
Spreadout but Improving Conditions, 200km XC.

After a dry Spring, June so far had been a soaking wet month with soaring windows few and far between. However I decided late yesterday that I would come today. The motorbike was already fuelled up so it was quick to get ready and turn up for the ballot.

I arrived at 7:45AM. The ballot was a quiet one. There were just two of us and the other ballotee, Katie, wanted a Grob. So I got SH3 which was the only Discus not booked in advance. After a nice big breakfast again Rick, Simon and I had the Discuses rigged by 9AM. Aloft there was a fair bit of medium cloud that showed the moist layer that forecasts had suggested. So a spreadout day was expected.

The briefing room was packed to the rafters by 9:30AM after 3 weeks of bad weather. It looked like a front to the South was fizzling. We had a moist layer as expected and was evident from the medium cloud. There was a westerly wind and 17-18C expected. The dew point was around 8C. So maybe 3500-4000 foot cloudbase. An early start was expected. The moist layer above meant spreadout. It appeared to look worse further North. Hopefully the moist layer would dry out a bit in the afternoon. It could be better further West. Meanwhile the airspace tomorrow was looking to be a nightmare but today was not too bad. A couple of parachuting events would not affect me and there was an aerobatics competition at Sywell. Tasks were set to the Northwest and North. I wasn't too keen on the big tasks today but I planned the 130km and 300km tasks. Out to Wantage first. Then if conditions were good I'd push Northwards out past Bicester. Otherwise I'd stay closer to home. The main fly in the ointment was a movement planned for 11:30AM, which was right when lots of launching would probably be happening. I hoped I would get airborne ahead of it.

After the briefing I did look around for a tow to the launchpoint for a while but once he was ready to Simon kindly towed SH3 out for me in the end. Much appreciated! It was there around 10:10AM. I joined the winch queue at 10:45AM just as the grid got going. Katie in the Grob joined the queue right behind me with the aim of getting her Silver Distance by going to Bicester and back. I wished her good luck. It was a long wait and 11:30AM got perilously close. In the end Katie and I were in the final pair of cables before the movement. That was cutting it a bit fine. Simon got delayed by that movement (but he too got launched soon after. Rick launched from the grid without any problems.)

I winch launched to 1400 feet above Lasham (2000 feet QNH) at 11:31AM. At first I struggled to climb. Nearby thermals were weak and hard to centre in. After a while I gained enough height to get to a better looking cloud and stronger lift under that cloud got me away to cloudbase at around 4000 feet. Meanwhile below me I could see the jet movement taking place and taking off. Cloudbase was rising quickly and I soon set off Northwestwards. After jumping a gap and soaring over the edge of the Aldermaston airspace (well above the top) I carried on past Newbury. To the North spreadout was worse and aligned into streets with big gaps between them. I was able to top up to cloudbase (now above 4700 feet) and cross the gaps. The last sreet before Wantage was a trickier one to find good lift. But after a bit of searching found enough to get to Wantage (in a large hole). Further on the spreadout looked worse so I bottled out of going any further North. (I later heard from Rick that after severe spreadout to Bicester it improved after that. He only went as he followed some more experienced private gliders to the better air.) I turned tail and returned to the last cloud that I soared under to my South. Well South of track I found a nice cloud street that then allowed me to fly without turning for about 23km almost all the way to Marlborough. On the way I was buzzing cloudbase which was getting lower the further West I went. I just converted height to speed to avoid getting into cloud. That was great fun though. To my North in particular it was a long way across a big gap to the next street. I also had one of my strongest thermals which showed at 7kts on the averager with gusts hitting 10kts. Then I turned back Eastwards. Conditions were improving with spreadout disappearing South of the M4 and the air drying out a fair bit. I decided I didn't want to finish yet. So instead of returning to Lasham I aimed for Basingstoke North. I had a straight forward blast downwind past Rivar Hill and Newbury. I followed the clouds round the North side of Aldermaston before going Southwards to turn Basingstoke North. Then I tracked South back towards Lasham to get to better looking clouds. I then went West past Popham and Bullington Cross. Here I found cloudbase had risen much higher than expected. I got to 5900 feet. Nice! Once past Andover I went Northwest to another street that took me to Burbage. On the way I noted some lower bits of cloud hanging from the main cloudbase. After having fun around and slightly above some cloudbases I reached Burbage. Then back past Rivar Hill I went up the sides of the lower clouds a bit to my best height of the day at 6050 feet. I then tracked Southeastwards to the more Southerly street again before following it back to Lasham. I stayed high and finished the task at height as I had noted interesting clouds to the South and wanted to explore them before landing.

To the South of me were what looked like sea breeze clouds much lower than the cloudbases inland. So after the task finish I went South between Alton and Fourmarks and explored it. These large clouds were spreading out badly though and I couldnít find much lift. So I retreated back towards Lasham, getting fairly low. I did manage to eventually scratch my way back up to cloudbase. The sea breeze clouds didnít look so good now. So after one more visit to Popham (I noticed cloudbase was now starting to get lower and the clouds were getting bigger) I returned to Lasham to land on the dot of 4PM, 4 hours 29 minutes after launch. LAS-WAN-MAR-BSN-BUB-LAS was 219km flown at just under 70kph (that included some playing with the clouds on the way to and from Burbage). So nice to get another decent flight in. It would be easy to say with hindsight I should have pushed through the spreadout North of Wantage but it doesn't matter. I had fun again after another uncomfortably long break (due to the weather this time) and that was the important bit.

Rick was already down. We proceeded to clean and de-rig the gliders. Simon soon landed too. As we were putting the gliders away someone came to prepare a retrieve. Katie had landed out, but not before turning Bicester and getting part way back. So well done to her for getting Silver Distance! I hope the retrieve went well. The Discuses were away soon after 5PM. I then went to retrieve my gear from the office. I saw on google maps the estimated journey time home was over 2 hours. However having departed soon after 5:30PM I got home in just over 1 hour 15 minutes. Yay for the motorbike yet again! With a long spell of warm humid weather and a thunderstorm risk in the forecast for the forseeable future I wasn't sure when I would next fly so I'm glad I made use of today.

Wednesday 22nd May 2019
First XC of the year (200km), cloudbase up to 6000 feet.

Yesterday looked epic from mid afternoon but I was busy alas. Today was not looking quite so good with top cover and spreadout but might be ok with RASP suggesting a good day so I decided to get to Lasham anyway and see what happens.

I arrived at 7:45AM on the motorbike. There was a balloon aloft so the wind was very light to start with. Top cover was shifting Eastwards but I suspected it would improve.

I got SH3 in the ballot. Rick had SH4 booked and had left it out last night. After breakfast at 8AM Rick helped me rig SH3 and get it ready before the briefing at 9:30AM as the top cover cleared a bit and it warmed up.

High pressure was beginning to slip South allowing influence from warm fronts to the West. Southwesterly upper winds were to be expected with light and variable wind on the ground. The air at Lasham was very dry, with moister air to the North. With a max of 20C, and a 5-7C dew point, 4500-5000ft cloudbase was to be expected at Lasham. However, if dewpoints dropped to 2-3C it may stay blue. This was quite different to what I expected (I was expecting larger clouds, lower bases and spreadout)! So who knows what might happen. The inversion was strong so needed some heating to burn it off. The West Country and East Anglia were looking ok. There were no notams to worry about.

Back outside I paired up with a 2 seater glider and we got both gliders out by buggy. SH3 was at the launch point by 10:30AM. I then took the tail dolly back to the trailer as I waited for the weather to continue warming up. On the way back to the launch point I noticed cumulus starting to pop by 10:50AM. The dew points appeared to have risen slightly which was a good thing. I got the glider ready including the map and ClearNav. By about 11:15AM I was in the winch queue as despite the passing top cover it was starting to look soarable with small cumulus already very high, above 5500 feet (4900 feet above the ground).

I winch launched to 1300 feet above Lasham at 11:41AM. It didn't take me long to find a couple of knots of lift just South of the airfield. It was hard to stay with it as it seemed to be cycling fairly quickly. But after a few more climbs and finding stronger lift under a bigger cloud I eventually bumped my head on the base of the TMA at 5500 feet QNH just East of the airfield. Conditions were quite good now. (I think I chose just the right time to go.) I decided to go to another cloud North of the airfield by the start line. Once I crossed the line though I just went for it and soon was passing Basingstoke and heading out West-Northwestwards. Once clear of the lower airspace I took a climb to cloudbase which was around 5600 feet. Past Rivar Hill the clouds were a lot smaller and it was nearly blue towards Marlborough. There was also a lot of top cover, but this was clearing nicely as I approached Marlborough. Above I saw some nice optical effects such as a 22 degree halo and a parhelic circle. Over Marlborough were some nice thermals but to the North and Northeast of me on track was a huge blue gap. I could see wisps in the distance to the Northeast, about 10-15 degrees left of track so after getting as high as I could at Marlborough (just over 5000 feet) I set off on a long glide Northeastwards. I did find some top ups somewhere to the West of Wantage. I then headed more directly towards Oxford, with a top up West of Abingdon.

From Oxford Northeastwards I encountered bigger cumulus and better thermals so I carried on past the Oxford East turn point. I went as far as the Winslow area. But I noticed behind me a lot more thick top cover heading in fast. So I decided Winslow was far enough. Then going back Southwestwards into a strengthening headwind with weaker harder to find thermals (not all clouds were working) vindicated my decision. I noticed to the Northwest some intriguing lenticular clouds (wave) but they were too far away to explore. After passing the Bicester area I took a more Southerly track East of Oxford towards the Benson MATZ. Here I encountered a lot of heavy sink which seemed to last an eternity. I was down rapidly to 3000 feet by the time I found lift by the river Thame (just before it flows into the Thames). I tiptoed my way Southwards struggling to stay high. I managed to get to 5900 feet to the East of Didcot before diving Southwestwards and under the 5500 foot airspace. I cruised Southwards to Newbury where I paused for a while to see how high cloudbase was (I can go to FL65 here which today was about 6700 feet above sea level). Over Greenham Common and under a large cloud with patchy medium cloud above I got to cloudbase at around 6000 feet. I then managed to get up the side of the cloud a bit to just under 6200 feet which was pretty! Chilly too at 1C. I'm glad I'd put a fleece on for this flight. Then I started a fast final glide at 100kts back to Lasham. I finished high as I had plenty of energy and there was a lot of traffic at circuit height. I then came round for a regular uneventful circuit and landing by the trailer at 3:49PM, 4 hours 8 minutes after launch. Lasham - Marlborough - Winslow - Lasham was 222km and was done at a rather slow 60kph after getting bogged down by the top cover and headwind going back. But a fun day out and great to finally get some 2019 XC km under my belt!

I dragged the glider to the trailer and proceded to download my trace, put things away and clean the glider. Rick landed soon after. I also ate a very late lunch again (only possible thanks to a very filling Lasham cooked breakfast that kept me going until now). After retrieving my motorbike gear from the office Rick and I proceeded to derig and the gliders were away by 5:15 pm. I departed soon after at 5:25PM. Once again google reckoned 1h50m to get home but after filtering past miles of traffic jams I was home in 1h15m. The motorbike continues to rule midweek!

Sunday 5th May 2019
Very cold, Severe Spreradout, Local Soaring.

I had booked SH4 on Friday as it was looking potentially nice. Yesterday was also tempting but the showery forecast and very strong winds put me off a bit. I also had a bad back which was also a factor. But I decided to go today and see how things went. I wasn't well enough to fly in April do I was glad just to get back into the air. Anything else was a bonus.

I arrived at 7:40AM. It was a frosty start with 3C on the car thermometer. Traffic was very quiet. Wave clouds could be seen from the motorway in an otherwise fairly clear sky.

We rigged and DI'ed the Discuses before breakfast after I drew the ballot for the ballotees. Rick had SH3 and another pilot had SH2. Meanwhile aloft a layer of cloud was arriving from the North and clouding over. The gliders were all ready by 8:45AM so I then went for my usual delicious cooked breakfast. Stories of yesterday with snow showers and perhaps not as good as expected maybe unless you could get to Wales. Some epic flights for those that got West though. The briefing was at 9:30AM and the room was packed to the rafters.

The wind was light unlike yesterday and still coming from the North. So runway 27 was being used. Only 10kts Northwesterly at height. Avoid Abingdon as an airshow was taking place. We were tasked to the South anyway where it was all quiet on the notam front and where the best weather is. The freezing level was below cloudbase as expected. Expect a lot of spreadout. 4-5k cloudbase. It looked as cold as -5C at cloudbase.

I was ready to tow out by 10AM. The cloud layer appeared to be clearing and the sun was coming through and cumulus popping. I managed to grab a buggy to tow two Discuses out. After a little while I joined the winch queue soon after 11AM. I added foot warmers and put extra layers on as it was pretty cold aloft. More sun was getting through to the ground and I hoped it would be soarable by the time I launched. There was a small delay as the grid started to launch but that was all good.

I winch launched at 11:45AM to 1100 feet. It wasn't high because there was a slight tail wind at launch. But it didn't matter as I released straight into a thermal which I could use as I was drifted away from the launch area before the next launch was ready to go. The thermal took me gently all the way to cloudbase at 4400 feet above Lasham, 5000 feet above sea level. It was indeed -5C as expected up here. A second thermal nearby took me to TMA at 4800 above Lasham / 5500 feet above sea level. So cloudbase was varying with the spreadout and top cover aloft and the variable heating it gave. Cloudbase stayed generally in this range for the whole flight. I didn't go too far from Lasham. Early on I explored South towards Petersfield but didn't go much past Fourmarks as a big dead hole was followed by total overcast downwind. After returning North and topping up nearer Lasham I explored between Basingstoke and between Fourmarks and Popham for a while before trying my luck further North and West. I eventually followed some streeting clouds as far as Newbury South, then after backtracking to Kingsclere headed out and turned Newbury Racecourse before heading back to Lasham via Overton. To the Noprthwest cloudbase was generally a 100 feet or so lower than at Lasham. I couldn't resist one more climb on the North side of Lasham to cloudbase at the TMA ceiling of 5500 feet above sea level before descending to land by the trailer at 3:07PM, 3 hours 22 minutes after launch.

On landing Rick and SH3 were already on the ground by the trailer. We wasted no time getting the gliders put away, which was completed by 4pm. I continued to extract a logger trace and put my gear, parachute and batteries away before walking to the launch point to check my log times.Then I promptly left at 4:35PM for a nice quiet drive back. (Thankfully the usual Sunday afternoon traffic was not present as tomorrow is a bank holiday. I wish home to Lasham and back was always as quiet as today.)

It may have been severe spreadout, freezing cold and local soaring for me but after the last month I was glad just to get back into the air. I hope it won't be quite so long until my next flight.

Sunday 24th March 2019
First Flights and Thermals of the Year.

I hadn't flown for four months. But today was looking soarable once a cold front wiped away a week of murky warm sector air.

I arrived at 7:40AM. It was nice to come by car with a heater, music and no traffic. I would have needed all my thermal layers on the bike. It was a quiet start in the clubhouse. At 8AM I had the whole single seater fleet to myself and do initially picked Discus SH4 before having the usual nice brekkie. Local stubborn orographic cloud formed for a while before eventually clearing nicely to blue.

I couldn't find any help to rig SH4, Grob 102 SH7 was at the front of the hangar and I was only after practice and local soaring. So I switched to SH7. I DI'ed it in the hangar before 9AM and then helped get the gliders out after the briefing had finished and people came out. I got SH7 to the launchpoint by 9:40AM. I missed the cross country briefing but I heard 300km tasks were set to the Northwest. I saw someone else rigging SH4 but that was fine. A cross country grid formed but I was happy at the launch point as I wanted to take it easy today and just have gentle fun. Wisps of Cumulus were already popping at 10AM. It warmed up very quickly and I soon felt warm. Around 10:10AM I decided it was time to take my first practice launch and pulled into the winch queue.

I winch launched nice and smoothly at 10:21AM to 1350 feet. From 1300 feet nearby I found a weak thermal under a wisp of cloud. As I had launched on the 2nd cable I took the thermal. It slowly took me to 1400 feet while a Red Kite kept me company. Once the cables were retrieved to the launch point I moved away to the North to avoid delaying the next launch. I never really found much of use after this. There was some more weak lift but I decided it was time to land as this was a practice flight. I landed smoothly at 10:39AM and I was pretty pleased with that. I didn't feel rusty at all. I pulled the glider back to the winch queue.

My 2nd launch was at 10:54AM to 1400 feet. By now the thermals were getting stronger and more numerous. I got away and after several weaker climbs I found a good one to cloudbase at 3500 feet above Lasham (4100 feet QNH). I then explored to the Northwest upwind to bigger clouds. Beyond Basingstoke looked to be a blue hole which was slowly moving in. I stayed under the bigger clouds and went downwind as far as Alton. Eventually small cumulus peppered the blue hole and I went back upwind almost as far as Kingsclere. The thermals were cycling quickly so the best lift was not necessarily under the best looking cloud. Cloudbase rose steadily. At times I had more buzzard and kite encounters. My last climb near Alton with another glider and a paraglider was the best of the day, 3-4kts to 4500 feet. Up here the temperature was 0C. So my ski jacket had been a good idea. Then I pushed upwind and slowly descended to land back at the launchpoint at 2:10PM, 3 hours 16 minutes after launch.

Another pilot interested in flying the glider made himself known to me very quickly. I gladly handed the glider over to him and helped tow the glider back to the winch queue. Then I got a kind lift back to clubhouse where I ate my sarnies before departing at 2:50pm.

2018 <- | 2019