The Secret Life of a Glider Pilot

Adventures of a female glider pilot in Yorkshire


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More flying…

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!

 

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On with the competition

Well, the wind did calm down and the heatwave gradually returned. Our first day of competition flying was on the 31st of July, and the team at Hus Bos set the bar high with a 375km task. We never again got a task that big during the week, but the smallest task we did was 200Km, so I can’t complain!

Day 1 31/07/18: 375Km
HB2 – Belvoir – Mundeford – Silverstone – Oundle – HB4

Never having flown from Hus Bos before, I’ll admit to being a bit nervous before the take-off. There were many new things going on: a new airfield, a new area to fly in (I’ve not flown in this area at all before), new instruments in the glider, and LOTS of gliders.

The 37 gliders were launched in under an hour, and the start sector became a manic place to be. The thermals weren’t very strong, and everyone was champing at the bit to go, and jockeying for position. The new FLARM unit gave an alarm every few seconds, warning of one glider or another, and their closeness took quite some getting used to! I was very glad when the start gate opened! I heard a few gliders start, and I was in a good position, so I started too.

It seemed like no time at all before we’d covered the 48Km between Hus Bos and Belvoir. The second leg, down into East Anglia to Mundeford, took a while longer, and I spent what seemed like ages staring down at the Wash, and then the Great Drain, which I’ve never seen before. But I was still going well, at nearly 100kph and the thermals had become good.

The third leg is where it started to go wrong. It was a 123Km leg, directly into at 16 knot wind. My hubby, watching my progress using Glidenet, said it appeared that I’d put the brakes on! My XC speed dropped from 100kph down to around 50kph. Half-way down the leg, the cumulus began to overdevelop and merge together, cutting off the sun from the ground. Climbs became a lot weaker and harder to centre. I met fellow Yorkshireman Mike in the DG800 at around the half-way point, and we took a thermal together. He went one-way, and I ended up going the other. I should have stayed with him!

It got hard after that, for a long while. Progress was slow, and I found myself concentrating on getting enough height to do 10km glides. I finally turned Silverstone racecourse, and headed towards the last TP, Oundle, which was 60Km distant. I’d been flying for a long time at this point, and I was getting tired. I allowed the glider to get low, and resorted to taking slow climbs to try and creep back. But I had the wind behind me so that helped a little. I started searching for another climb at around 5km from Oundle, overhead Lyveden GC’s airfield and Bakersfield airfield. My thoughts were that if I couldn’t make something of the climb, then I’d land at one of those airfields. Fortunately, the half-knot bubble that I began to turn in, turned into a 3-knot bubble, and the day was saved! I climbed as high as I could, until the Oudie told me that I had enough height to make it on the final glide. The final glide itself was just under 40km, and I wasn’t sure the Oudie was telling the truth! The new S100, which wasn’t quite set up properly, disagreed with the Oudie! But the discrepancy was around 200 feet, so I decided to give it a go.

Following the speed-to-fly figure, I held the glider at 63 knots all of the way back from Corby towards Hus Bos. It was into-wind again, and I didn’t want to risk landing out. I gained small amounts of height all of the way down the final leg, which put me onto a very comfortable final glide at 10Km out. Joy! OMG I was going to make it! I called Hus Bos at 10Km and 3Km as they’d asked us all to, and announced that I’d land straight ahead onto runway 27. On my way in, I saw a glider in a field, 2km short of Hus Bos. Oh dear! (On landing, I was told it was my dear CFI). Double joy (Sorry Andy)!

The flight was *very* slow compared to everyone else, at only 68Kph, but I’d made it back! And that for me, is the biggest part of the battle.

Day 2 01/08/18: 204.5Km
HB3 – Grafham Water – Finmere – Thrapston – HB4

At briefing we were told that the day would be blue, but there would be good climbs. This information worried me slightly, as I’m unused to flying in the blue, but I thought with 36 other gliders around, there’d be bound to be people marking thermals for me.

I waited until other people had started, then glid out after them. There were some small clouds, but they were very thin and scruffy-looking, with little height. However there were climbs under them, so I made my way towards Grafham Water. It was easy to see the other gliders turning in the blue (or nearly blue) thermals ahead of me, so I pressed on with confidence that I could afford to burn off some height, as there was a definite climb ahead of me. Other gliders were doing the same, meaning that we ended up soaring in large gaggles.

Approaching a large gaggle of competitive gliders is quite something. From a km or two away, the gaggle looks like a giant DNA double-helix. There are gliders at various levels, all turning tightly, trying to make the best of the climb. You as the joining glider, have to insert yourself into that hornet’s nest, whilst not causing anyone else to have to take evasive action, and start to climb with the others. It’s very daunting when you’re not used to it!

I got gradually more used to it during the week. I had no choice!

The flight proceeded like that really – climb in the gaggle, glide, turn the TP, repeat.

At times there were no clouds, so instead of looking at the sky for an indication of where to go, we all began to look at the ground instead. We headed for towns, where we’d be likely to find lift, and made or way around the task like that.

On the last leg, many of the other gliders had got away from me, and were starting to call the finish line. I got relatively low again very near the last turn, and since the last turn was a town, decided to search around for one last climb to get me low. I spent a few minutes messing around in a weak bubble and got a bit annoyed with myself. I set off on the final glide even though I was still too low, and almost immediately found a strong climb! Why couldn’t I have found that 5 minutes earlier?! I took it until the Oudie and S100 agreed that I was on final glide, and set off back towards Hus Bos. Like yesterday, I did another straight glide down the 35Km final leg to Hus Bos. Again, I gained energy all of the way in, resulting in me doing 100 knots from 15 Km out, and still having enough height to do a fast finish and go-around! That got me 28th place for the day, at a speed of 76.5kph, much faster than yesterday!

Post-flight analysis suggested that my thermal centring had improved, and I’d increased my speed between thermals. But I’d also spent a good few minutes faffing – making turns in which I’d intended to gain height, but actually lost more than I gained, thereby wasting time.

Hubby was pleased that I’d made it back again, and so was I!

 

More later…


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Day 1 disasters

We decided to travel to Hus Bos a day early (Thursday) as the weather forecast for Friday was horrendous. The journey down was relatively uneventful, despite KESY’s trailer being a handful to tow. But we got to Hus Bos in one piece and put the tent up. The weather was really hot – hotter than I’ve ever known in the UK. Putting the tent up was hard, hot work! We were finished by dinner time, and treated ourselves to a hard-earned Chinese from the takeaway in the village.

Friday was also really hot, but breezier than Thursday. There were showers and thunderstorms up and down the country, but they all seemed to miss Hus Bos!
We rigged KESY and put her covers on in anticipation of flying the next day.

The forecast for Saturday changed later, from dry and cloudy to wet and breezy, but by that point it was too late to de-rig KESY again. Besides, how bad could it be? (Famous last words).

When we awoke on Saturday morning it was relatively calm. However our leisurely breakfast quickly turned into a slight panic as the wind suddenly increased dramatically, and the into-wind side of the tent started to collapse!

Quickly we packed everything inside the tent up into various bags and boxes, ready to pull it out if we needed to. We went off to briefing and were scrubbed for the day, unsurprisingly. The forecast for Sunday also wasn’t good, with more rain showers and wind expected.

We returned to our tent, to find the motorglider that had been parked nearby had escaped its tie-downs, and blown backwards into our car! It had done some minor damage to the car, mainly scuffing here and there, but nothing major. The motor glider itself was undamaged luckily. We pushed it away just as the owner arrived to tie it back down.

Next problem: our tent was being blown flat. We decided that the best thing to do would be to collapse it and then put some weights on top to prevent it from being blown away. Some old friends turned up and helped us to do that!

Next we had to deal with KESY, and the trailer. The trailer had rotated slightly into another, though luckily no damage was done to either. We moved it to a club trailer space with a ball-hitch instead, temporarily, until the windy weather was over.

KESY herself was fine, but we made extra sure by tying her down. It was too windy to risk de-rigging.

Back to accommodation: of course without the tent we were homeless! Our CFI is also flying the comp, and has a house not far away, so he offered us a bed for a night or two. THEN a lovely lady from the club called Lynne spotted what had happened to the tent, and arranged for us to stay in one of the instructors’ caravans whilst he was away. So I’m writing this from the comfort of a static caravan!

So all in all, we had a very stressful few hours! Hopefully the wind will calm down soon, and we can re-pitch the tent. We’ve found a more sheltered spot so hopefully this won’t happen again!

What a day!


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Defective instruments and muppetry

On Friday, I’ll be travelling down to Hus Bos (Husbands Bosworth) in Leicestershire with our glider to fly the Challenge Cup. I haven’t flown a Regional competition away from my home club before, so it’s going to be an exciting experience. I’ve been looking forward to it for months!

In the meantime, we’ve had our usual bunch of misfortunes. We’ve recently started to notice that our Flarm unit was misbehaving, and not giving reliable alert information on other gliders (even at reasonably close range). We couldn’t see anything obviously physically wrong with the unit aside from a bent aerial, and all software settings were as they should be. We bought a new aerial and installed it, and that appeared to cure the problem.

However, a week ago, the LX7007 also started to have problems. It would lose GPS signal halfway through a flight. Because it was linked to the Flarm, that would stop working too. This happened on 3 consecutive flights before we conceeded that the LX7007/Flarm combo was probably knackered. Less than 2 weeks before taking part in a competition was not good timing!

So we got our wallets out and bought a shiny new LX S100 and PowerMouse from the NavBoys. We had a slight delay in getting it, thanks to the Royal Mail, but when it finally arrived we installed it, set up the software and it worked straight away, to our surprise! We connected the S100 to the PowerMouse, and after altering the baud rate, it began passing Flarm Radar data to the Oudie. Sorted! Or so we thought.

Our first real opportunity to fly was Sunday, and I was one of the duty instructors for the day so Chris got the first go. He took off, and I began climbing in to the back of the DG500 with a Trial Lesson pupil. We were at the point of hooking the aerotow rope on to the DG500 when Chris called up on the radio. “983 downwind right-hand for runway 20. No ASI.”

Christonabike!

Logically, I know that Chris is a very experienced pilot and landing without an ASI wouldn’t be a problem for him, but of course as his wife, I couldn’t help but worry! Not to mention that finding a defective ASI now would probably end my chances of flying in the competition next week! So I delayed the launch until I knew he’d landed safely.
As soon as I knew he was safe, I closed the canopy and took off.

On landing, I found him eating lunch in the clubhouse as if nothing had happened! Cool as.

We went to check the glider and found that the problem was down to a kinked pipe. In installing the new vario, we’d somehow managed to put a kink in the pneumatic tubing, and air was not getting to the ASI. We simply replaced it with a slightly longer piece of tubing and voila, normality was restored.

Chris flew again to verify that it was all working, and found that it was. So we are going to Hus Bos after all!

I hope to write some updates during the competition, if I get time. You can also watch us on Spot the Gliders (my number is 983) and look at entries, tasks and results on Hus Bos’ website. Wish me luck!


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Long winter

It’s been brought to my attention that I haven’t written anything for a while, so I thought I better had. The reason for radio silence has been that there’s really not been anything exciting to tell!

Winter was long and snowy in the North, meaning that my glider stayed in its winter shed from early November until late April. The snow came late, and it came hard. There was really no point in taking poor KESY up to the gliding club so she could freeze on top of the hill. So in the barn she stayed.

In the meantime it gave us chance to do a number of jobs over the winter, including the panel re-fit I mentioned in my previous post. We decided that spending over £2K on a new vario/flight computer/horizon combo was not a possibility, and to be quite honest the LX7007 is adequate, especially when you’re running it alongside an Oudie. So instead, we decided to solve our cloud-flying problem by buying a Kanardia Horiz. This is a superb-looking instrument which combines an artificial horizon, direction indicator and g-meter in one unit. It erects instantly, and it literally sips a minute amount of power. You can run it all day and it has little impact on the charge level of the battery. We’ve flown with it once or twice but never tested its capabilities fully yet.

So the panel has been re-fitted, the redundant Bohli compass removed, and one or two other improvements made.

Now we’re just waiting for the weather.

As usual, the North lags behind the South in weather-terms, and while many pilots in the South have enjoyed good days, we in the North have had to wait. Except for Scotland that is, where they’ve had some spectacular wave and thermal days. So it’s just the North of England in the doldrums it would seem.

There were a couple of good wave days towards the end of June, and I managed to escape the office one afternoon to take advantage of one of those. I left the office at 12 noon, pulled the covers off the glider, and launched at 2pm. I got straight into the wave from a ridge-assisted thermal which transitioned into the wave, and had a peaceful 2 and a half hours in the sun at around 8,000 feet AMSL. Lovely.

So far I haven’t managed to get to the club on any good thermal days, so I haven’t done any cross-country flying at all this year. This is slightly worrying, as I’m supposed to be flying in the Hus Bos Challenge Cup this year, starting on the 28th of July!

There was a spectacular day (21st June), when there were 4 flights of 1000Km or over, 3 of 800Km and 15 of 750Km +. And what did we do at Sutton Bank? Nothing.

WHHYYY you might ask?

Well.

Sutton Bank is on a ridge which is, in most wind directions, bloody brilliant to fly from. But there are 2 notable exceptions. Anything stronger than a 10 knot Easterly is troublesome for launching. And moderate North-Westerlies are a no-no. Curl-over from our ridge piles straight down onto the runway, making launching and landing quite dangerous. One minute you have a headwind, the next a tailwind, and it’s rough.

Thursday the 21st of June was one of those days. We had a moderate North-westerly. So that was that. No-one launched from Sutton Bank on what was the day-of-days.

I stayed in the office and refused to look out of either of my windows. But I watched Glidernet all day, jealously monitoring the heroes doing their amazing flights, and wishing I was with them.

Since then, we’ve had hot, dry Easterlies. There are signs all over the moors warning of fire danger – the entire place is like a tinderbox. And it seems no end is in sight – at least not for the next week or two.

RASP and Skysight are quite optimistic for this Thursday, and also for the weekend at long-range. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll be good enough to go off and do a 300Km flight or similar, so at least I’ll have had some practice ahead of the Competition. I’ll let you know how it goes.


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Choices, choices

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote anything, so I thought it was time for an update. I’d intended to write about days 3 and 4 of the Northerns, but that was so long ago now that it no longer seems relevant. Better to write about what’s happened recently instead.

I didn’t fly the Kestrel again after the Northerns until a week ago. A combination of the weather and being really busy with work, family and stuff meant that I seemed to miss all of the good days (which have generally been during the week, when I’ve been stuck in the office.) However, last weekend we decided we’d rig and both of us would fly, just to get a circuit in. We’re intending to put her away for the winter so our opportunities to fly her are getting fewer.

We rigged on the Saturday, and just as we put the last bit of tape on, it started to rain. We didn’t even have the covers with us. So we taped up the static ports and the Brunswick tube, and headed off for lunch. Sadly the rain didn’t clear until the early evening, so we went home to get the glider’s covers out of the attic, and left her out for the night.

Sunday dawned looking brighter, but with some low cloud around. Chris and Elliott went swimming, and I hung around at the club in case the weather improved. The clouds lifted around lunchtime so I went and got the Kestrel ready to fly. Andy and Nora gave me a hand to remove the covers, and I lined the glider up at the launchpoint shortly after.

My timing was perfect. Cloudbase was low, but there were reports of weak wave to the north west. I asked Dave, our tuggie for the day to tow me to it if he could. Part of me still expected a sleigh-ride down to the ground, but we were lucky. Dave towed me right into the best part of the lift! (He told me later that the club’s new tug had no vario or VSI, so he’d guessed perfectly at where the lift would be).

The lift was weak, and only in a small area, but it was there. The gaps between the clouds in that area were small, and the clouds were towering Cu and not particularly wave-like. It was quite unnerving climbing in weak wave,m in a small gap with towering Cu both up- and down-wind of where I was climbing. I felt small. But it was beautiful, and thrilling.

Those clouds moved downwind, so I flew further west towards Thirsk to see if I could find better lift upwind. But all I found was sink back down to 2,000 feet above the site. I resigned myself to landing back shortly. But no! The instruments started to indicate weak lift. I turned 90 degrees to the wind, and parallel to those lines of cloud I could see upwind. The lift continued. It was weak – only about 0.5 knots. I felt my way along it until I reached the ‘end’ of the bar. The sky above me was totally blue, so I flew a reciprocal course and found the lift again. I managed to keep going like this for about 45 minutes, then finally I lost it and sank back towards the airfield. The whole flight time was 1:21, the second longest flight of the day by 2 minutes. I had the biggest grin!

Less fun was washing the mud from the underside of the glider, then putting it away and hurting my back in the process. The Kestrel is very heavy!

This weekend (15/16 October) had a good forecast for wave in prospect. We had to hedge our bets on which day to fly as we owed our son some time to do things he liked. Saturday initially looked like the best day, but as the weekend approached, the forecasts changed. On Saturday morning it was clear that we wouldn’t fly until later in the day, so we decided to go do the things with our son.

Sunday’s forecast was mixed again, but we decided that we’d rig. It was a pleasant morning in Thirsk, with blue skies and hazy sunshine. The airfield was a different matter!

After 23 years of gliding at Sutton Bank, I shouldn’t be surprised to see Orographic cloud sitting on the hill when it’s a lovely day elsewhere. But it never fails to catch us out – and we ended up rigging in the fog! “It’ll clear” I said, with my fingers crossed.

It’ll clear… honest!

Lunchtime came and went… and it was still foggy. 1pm came, and the cloud suddenly started to break up. It rapidly lifted and broke up, leaving quite a hazy situation. Several two-seaters ventured into the sky, with me close behind. I asked Jim the tuggie to take me to the wave if he could, and he towed me to a hole west of Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe. There was lift there, but the visibility was truly awful, and I also noticed that the cloud-hole was closing up around me. I dropped the flaps, pulled the airbrakes and dropped 500 feet, back below cloud, just as the hole neatly sealed itself above me. The Kestrel doesn’t yet have any cloud-flying instruments you see; even the turn-and-slip doesn’t work. It makes a lot of noise but doesn’t move at all. I had been in lift, so I might have risked a cloud-climb IF I’d had some working cloud-flying instruments. Another of our experienced pilots did just that… and eventually climbed to 15,000 feet.

I spent another 30 minutes or so flying around in the weak lift and sink, gradually losing height until I joined several gliders on the ridge. But the ridge wasn’t working very well, and the visibility was so awful that I decided to land shortly after.

So… guess I need to get a decent cloud-flying instrument sorted ASAP. There goes another £2K or so! The choice at the moment seems to revolve around the LX suite of instruments, but do I go for an S80, an S100 or LX8080. Choices, choices indeed!

 

 


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Days 1 and 2 at the Northerns

Well, what a year it’s been for the Northern Regionals. Or at least, what a year for me!

At the start of the week, I had the grand total of 8 hours of flying experience in the Kestrel 19. After 4 days (so far), I’ve tripled that, and also done nearly 750km in the glider. Compared to the last few years, the weather has been great, and has given us 4 flying days, with the possibility of one more tomorrow. Here’s the story so far:

Day 1: 393Km Distance Handicapped Task (DHT) (scoring distance 356Km).

Not having flown any competitions in several years, I’m new to the concept of Distance Handicapped Tasks. For those who are also unfamiliar with these, basically, a maximum task distance is set, but the size of the ‘barrel’ around the turnpoint varies with the glider’s handicap. So the glider with the largest handicap, in this case, 111, has to go to within 0.5km of the turnpoint. The glider with the lowest handicap (85), can turn much further from the TP. I have a mid-range handicap in the Kestrel 19 (102) so my barrel was set at 4.8km from the TP. These makes it a much more even playing-field than standard tasks, giving everyone a chance of getting around, and making it a true race.

Day 1 was forecast to be a really good day, so they set us a task which covered a good distance, and consisted of a yo-yo around Yorkshire – over the Humber estuary and into Lincolnshire, twice.

Conditions were really excellent. A sea-breeze front near the first turn point gave some of us a boost, and we raced down to Kirton-in-Lindsey. My best climb was a 6 knot average, to just under 6000 feet AMSL. The Kestrel and I were really romping along – what a fabulous machine!

With conditions being so good, everyone else was romping along too. The fastest pilots, Graham Bambrook and G Dale in the Duo Discus, went around at 103 kph. I came 14th out of 22, with a speed of 80.4 kph – very fast for me, but not fast enough! That was the fastest and furthest XC flight I’ve ever done, and it was magic!

Day 2: 205 Km DHT (scoring distance 188.2 Km)

Day 2 was not forecast to be as good as Day 1, and with a strengthening wind through the day. Again it was a ‘cat’s cradle’ around Yorkshire, dipping into Lincolnshire to visit Burton-upon-Stather. Once we got out there, the conditions were quite good – better than expected – with good climbs to around 5,500 feet to be found over the Wolds. I took a route up and down the Wolds on legs 2 and 3, despite it being well off-track on leg 2, but the clouds looked better over there, and I found some good climbs as a reward.

The last leg back from Pickering was a different story. The wind at flying height had increased to 22 knots, and the last leg was directly into wind, with the Hambleton Hills directly on track to Sutton Bank. The area between Pickering and Sutton Bank is a notorious sink-hole – it suffers from being in the lee of the Hambleton Hills, and so there is a lot of downward-going air. Combined with the strength of the wind, it made it very difficult for some gliders (including me) to get back.

I was struggling into wind, taking slow climbs which again and again caused me to be blown several Kms back towards Pickering with every climb. Slowly, even those climb-rates dropped off, but I thought I could see some wave-type clouds ahead, so I headed towards those. Around Kirbymoorside, those ceased, and the sky ahead went almost completely blue. The glide back to Sutton looked very flat, and the LX7007 and Oudie agreed that I was below glide. I joined an LS8 in a weak thermal, which he abandoned, and he set off towards Sutton. I knew he had a superior glide performance to me, so I stayed in the thermal, which promptly died!

Watching the LS8, he turned towards the start of the south ridge, near Ampleforth. He was about 3 Km away from me now, about 300 feet below, and gliding out. He didn’t look to be sinking any more, so I followed. However, for me at least, it was too late.

I hoped to find some lift along the south ridge, but it was still in the effect of the sinking air. Gradually my heigh decreased, and I began to look at the field-landing options. I spotted a group of large fields near Oswaldkirk – some ploughed, some recently cut – so I kept them in mind in case I needed to turn back. I carried on gliding towards Sutton, looking out into the valley to see if there were any suitable fields on the journey towards Sutton. If there were, I’d have risked carrying on, in the hope of finding some lift on the south ridge. Could I make it back?
However I couldn’t see anything in the valley-bottom that looked landable between my position and Byland Abbey. I should also say that I regularly cycle round there, and I am well aware that the terrain is unfriendly for gliders in some places! I called the club at 10Km out but said that I may be forced to land out.

Less than 2 minutes later, having found no further lift whatsoever, I made the decision to return to the group of fields I’d seen, which thanks to the wind, were just behind me. I selected what I thought to be the best of the three – a recently-cut field, directly into wind, with an upslope and a low hedge at the near end. There was a tractor in it with a tanker on the back, so I landed well clear of him! (Turns out, he was muck-spreading, ready to plough the field in to match its neighbours!)

The landing was uneventful but short thanks to the upslope, the headwind and the hard stalks of Barley straw which were about 8 inches long. The field was enormous – big enough to land a Lancaster bomber into – but I estimate that I stopped 40 metres from the hedge at the approach end! So I had a long walk up the field to the gate to wait for my crew!

Still, that was my first field-landing in the Kestrel, which is always a good one to get over with!

Needless to say, having landed 7 Km away from Sutton Bank, I didn’t score well that day – placing 19th. Hey ho, I wasn’t the only one to land out, and that’s the way it goes sometimes! I was glad to get the glider down safely, and not to have taken unecessary risks by trying to get closer to Sutton.

More coming soon!