Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 26th March 2017

It’s always very reassuring to know that, as Spring follows Winter, and the clocks go forward, there are some things you can always depend upon, even if they remain invisible to our primary senses. But more of that later, for the determining factor at the start of the day was, you guessed it, the weather: and with a forecast easterly of 13kts gusting to 35 kts, and the windsock hanging at 45 degrees, it posed quite a dilemma. Initially, we played it long (when with hindsight we could have profited from some early launches), waiting to see if those gusts materialised – which, truly, it has to be said, they didn’t (the windsock never quite reaching the horizontal all day…) although windspeed did ‘oscillate’ throughout.

 And so by late breakfast, or early lunch (depending on your body clock) – call it mid-morning, and with a healthy flying list to work through, we got the toys out. With Roger Appleboom on hand to assist we alternated in flying members Phil Sellwood, Chris Owen, Dave Downton, Bob Sansom, Robin Wilson and Jorg Beasley, not giving check flights as such, but enabling them to regain currency, whilst also searching for wave.

 Launches to 1,400ft certainly put us in the zone, and reduced sink was commonplace, but with no clouds to mark the lift searching to the north proved unproductive. It was not until mid-afternoon when ‘wave tactician’ Bob Sansom launched, with his ‘remain over the winch and circle’ technique that positive results were obtained, taking him to 2,600ft in a little under 30 mins. All our flights today came with a ‘health warning’: beware the wind gradient and have plenty of height in hand on your final turn, a warning which was heeded by all – even with a 700ft final turn the landing run could be brought to a halt well before the west end windsock.

Returning member Dave Parker prepares to aviate with Roger Appleboom
whilst Chris Owen hooks on.
It was really good to see returning member Dave Parker on site today, claiming that the boredom of a 10hr out and return to his honeymoon in the Caribbean had driven him back to us for some excitement – I think we ticked that box! We also welcomed a visit by ex-member Steve Clark, recently returned from flying in South Africa.

Tavistock from 2,500ft.
The airfield from 3,000ft, looking east.
So what’s all this ‘reassuring dependability’ stuff? Well, as previously stated, with no clouds to mark the wave, when Jorg Beasley took the last cable to launch ‘into the zone’ all that could be relied on was the folklore (or received wisdom if you like), that in an easterly the wave lies “between the winch and the sugar factory” (that’s folklore, not wisdom!) And so, with the vario moving up to zero, that’s where we went, reaching 1,500ft overhead the sugar factory at the end of the first beat. On Beat 2, with the vario needle remaining stationary but the faintest, slow beep coming from the audio, we got to 2,000ft. Turning back into what appeared to be into wind (from the SE), with Beat 3 we progressed to 2,500ft east of Tavistock and, on our fourth beat, eventually made 3,000ft back over Blackdown. Now that’s reassuring: – you can’t see it, but at some time in the distant past someone at the club told you that and, when you went ‘looking’, there it was… dependable as ever. And so, as Eighties super soul band 'The Whispers' would say, "...the Beat Goes On..!" Except we didn't, preferring to break off (not wishing to be met by a mutinous horde desperate to get home on our return); but we could have continued - to who knows what height?

Jorg Beasley about to break the 3,000ft barrier.
Thanks go to Dave Downton and Robin Wilson for winching, and to all attendees for their patience and teamwork in today’s testing conditions.

Martin Cropper

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