Day 3 02/08/18 196.7Km
HB2 – ELY – SNS – COR – HB4
Day 3 looked a little dubious. We had an overcast sky, but with signs of convection underneath. We squatted on the grid for the best part of 2 hours before launching, during which time the sky began to clear!
There was still a lot of cloud around so I set off towards Ely tentatively. The cloud base down the first leg (88.5km) was only just over 3000 feet AMSL, but I weaved along under likely-looking bits of cloud, finding lift where I needed it and not really needing to stop to turn very often. I set a minimum height of 2000 feet. If I reached that, I’d stop and find a thermal as soon as possible. I only had to do that once on the entire leg!
I went to the north of track, where I thought it looked better and made my way in towards the turn point. All of this time, I hadn’t seen a single other glider. This was either a very good, or a very bad sign!
As I went around the turn point, the track out was at 45 degrees to the track in. Other gliders had gone to the south of the track towards Ely, and were only just coming in, opposite my own track. I was ahead!
Not for long though. The faster gliders caught me up on the second leg towards St. Neots South (45.5km), and we glid and thermalled along together, leap-frogging each other occasionally, then stopping to turn in a gaggle.
Rounding the turn at St. Neots, we had all got down to around 2000 feet, and started to search for a decent climb. I lot time there, messing around in a weak climb near Bedford, until another glider (one of the faster gliders) managed to hook a decent thermal. I joined them and we climbed away.
The third leg to the control point at Corby (42.5km) was very exciting. There were 8 or so gliders, including myself, all climbing in gaggles, then gliding. Cloudbase had gone up to around 4000 feet AMSL and the thermals were averaging 4 knots, so I turned up the MacReady setting on my vario and flew faster! Racing along, I was overtaken by LS8 8T, ASG29 S9 and the DG800 345, but several other gliders stayed with me. We glid around the control point at Corby and were on final glider with 20km to go. I could see from the Oudie that I was at the head of the queue – with at least 5 gliders behind me. I trimmed the glider out to fly at 70 knots and just sat it out, with all of those other gliders queued up to do the same.
I made it down the final glide easily and had plenty of height for a fast-finish and go-around.
Home three days in a row – Woohoo!!
I came 21st for the day, at a handicapped speed of 81.1kph – not bad for an old Kestrel! However the winner, LS8 ‘8T’ got around at 108kph.
Day 4 03/08/18 332.5km
HB2 – POT – WHN – OLN – NOR – HB4
Day 4 started off OK, though the cloudbase in the start sector was only around 3000 feet. There was talk of wave upwind of Hus Bos, and I wa right at the front of the launch queue, so I spent some time before the startline opened trying to find the wave. I was hopeful a couple of times, but it wasn’t the Yorkshire wave I was used to, and I didn’t manage to make anything of it. But neither did anyone else!
The start line opened and I made an early start, like a lot of others. We had a big distance to cover, and the met. had mentioned the possibility of high cover or overcast later in the day. The first leg to Potton (66.7km) went fairly well, as did the second leg to Whittington (71.34km), with good climbs and regular battles with the gaggle on the second leg.
The third leg, to Olney (95.5km) was another matter. It started off well enough, but then I began to notice that the high cover was coming in earlier than expected. It quickly got thick enough that it began to cut off the sun from the ground, and climbs became noticeably weaker. I heard other pilots who were further down track talking on the radio, saying it wasn’t looking good. I took a weak climb with the other Kestrel CZR but neither of us made much of it. He set off back towards Hus Bos to try and scrape home. I looked at the distance to be covered and discounted that as an option as it was too far with the height I had. I couldn’t see anything in that direction which might provide lift. I was near Bedford however, and there was still sun on the ground there, as the overcast hadn’t reached there yet.
At this point I had 13km to go to get to the Olney turn point, but I couldn’t see anything which might provide lift in that direction. Looking at the fields over there, all I could see was crop. Should I risk a glide out there, knowing there was no lift and no certainty over where to land out, just for a few more points? No. I made the safe decision and turned 90 degrees to track to fly towards Bedford where I knew there were good landing options – Bedford airfield itself, Old Warden and Sackville Farm.
Several other pilots made the same decision.
As I flew around Bedford’s ATZ towards Sackville Farm, I saw a couple of gliders start their turbos and climb away. I noticed that one glider has already landed at Sackville Farm, and as I flew around it gauging the size, slope, wind etc., another landed. It was my turn next so I put the wheel down, and deployed the landing flaps. There were high trees on the approach, so I’d need to approach steeply. 52 knots and full landing flap, with full airbrake produced a nice steep approach and a short ground run.
As I got out, the pilots of the other two gliders (Mike in Libelle 466 and Richard in DG200 EDM) helped me to move the Kestrel off the runway, as another 3 gliders joined us in quick succession. It was a landout party!
We were all fine with no damage, so we called up our crews to come and retrieve us. It took some time, but we got back to the airfield with the Kestrel at 9.45pm.
We learned later that not a single competitor had finished the task. Those with turbos had flown back to Hus Bos, but the majority of us ended up in fields across Bedfordshire! I came 29th of the day, having flown 201km.
Stay tuned for days 5 and 6, coming soon!