Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 30th August 2020

Today the prospects looked good: wind northerly 8-14 kts, cloudbase rising rapidly and RASP giving 3.5 stars by 1430, thus enticing a strong field of solo pilots to attend (in addition to the usual loyal band of trainees).  

At first the wind was gustier, however, so in expectation that it would moderate we took our time setting up.  Returning member Ray Boundy was sent on a met sniffer and found some buoyancy both out in the north valley and along the ridge.  

Rich Roberts looking confident beside his Discus…
…and launching at 1230 for a 350kms O/R.

Rich Roberts was keen to get away so at 1230 we launched him on his declared O/R to Salisbury; following which, making contact below the grey sheet just downwind of site, he set off eastwards.  Roger Green followed him into the sky (twice), but the wheel had barely stopped revolving before it was time to put it down again.  

 All Out!  Roger Green launching in his ASW-20.
Other soloists followed suit.  Although plentiful the cumulus, far from the resembling the starched white energy filled cauliflower florets of the cloud posters, more closely resembled the flat old brown pancakes (crepes) you see advertised in the Brittany countryside.  We were forced to watch and wait – which glider pilots do grumpily.

 Steve Fletcher (aka Steve McQueen) prepares
his Open Cirrus for the Great Escape…

Until…by mid-afternoon the northerly wind eventually found a source and aligned some bumpy cumulus in our direction.  Returning from a spell on the winch, first to spot the street was Barry Green, who expertly centred the K-8 in a thermal which rapidly gave a return on his investment.  Suddenly, this was going to be a ‘one stop shop’ day, and all hands turned to getting the gliders into the air as rapidly as possible.  

 Hugh Gascoyne launches for (local) Flight of the Day in K-6CR FUB.
Dave Westcott preparing for flight in K-6 CEWO.
After passing its annual maintenance,
Ed Borlase is ready to go in K-6 CEWO.
K-6 CEWO entering its element.

Between 1530-1730 we had seven gliders up: Barry achieving a very creditable 4,300ft agl.  Others, including Hugh Gascoyne (K-6) (FOTD), Peter Howarth (Astir) (close second), Ed Borlase (K-6) and Gavin Short (Std Cirrus – see attached file of Gavin’s tour of SW Devon and Cornwall) plus a very happy Chris Matten in the K-13 all got to 3,000ft plus with durations of between 30 mins-2hrs 15mins.  

Gavin Short’s map of his 100km perambulation of
South Devon and Cornwall to a max of 5,032ft amsl.

Patrolling up and down the street, which extended between Roadford and Burrator Reservoirs, pilots were rewarded with consistently strong lift plus the opportunity practice good look-out/collision avoidance.  Phil Hardwick and Martin Broadway aspired to do the same in the Twin Astir, but just missed the Welcome mat.

Ed Borlase’s view from 2,500ft of today’s ‘One Stop Shop’.

So a day when patience, not a virtue found in abundance with glider pilots, was the name of the game.  However, the transformation from mid-afternoon pessimism to ear-to-ear beaming smiles at home-time was a revelation to behold!

Thanks for today goes not, as normal, to the long suffering ground crew but, as a long and frustrating day was drawing to a close, to the two solo pilots who, observing a glider land on top of the hill, there to remain for a long period, decided not to launch (the risk being in the event of a launch failure the crosswind could have caused either the cable or the launching glider to strike the stranded glider).  Bereft of information from the winch, launch point or the glider concerned, their decision not to launch (ie. pretend/convince themselves that the stranded glider was outside the 45 degree cone of safety or falsely believe that nothing could go wrong) was a positive contribution to Flight Safety for which they are to be commended.

At 1730 Rich Roberts rang in to say that he’d landed at North Hill after a flight of 278km, just 60 km short of the 350 km goal, but safe.  Great effort, Rich!

Martin Cropper

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