What an Amazing Day–Gavin Short

The weather forecast for Dartmoor wasn't very optimistic and there were puddles by the hangar following the heavy overnight rain. Not promising. But the blue turned into Cumulus and then started streeting from the West at 12 Knots.

I launched just before 1pm and got away from an unimpressive 1150' launch. I climbed and then followed the street downwind across Dartmoor. It got better near cloud base at 2,500' QFE (3,350 QNH) and I pushed on. Trevor Taylor in the Jantar 1 who was 600' below me on the way towards Princetown encouraged me, not verbally for once, but just by his presence.

I was well in the groove when a challenge came in sight. Some quick maths and then I dived out into the blue and turned the radio mast at Princetown, some 600' above its top, for the very first time - 5.6 Nautical miles from base, downwind at 2,050' QFE. It focused the mind especially as the crags come up to meet you on the way back. A horrible thought crossed my mind; what if they come up so high that they obscure the
glide path back to Brentor?

A good bit of dolphining and concentration and all was fine. Once over the site and relaxed I pushed on into wind and headed to Launceston in the other direction for about the same distance.

I turned back level with Lifton. Roadford Lake looked very beautiful in the winter's light. I returned to the airfield and burnt off height with various stalls and sideslips to keep in practice.

I gave my syndicate partner a go after an hour or so in the air but I could have stayed up for at least another hour (like the Jantar 1 did) just exploring the streets; but Martin and I were on a schedule that involved a reporter and photographer (but that's another story - or twelve) and he needed a go before they arrived at the airfield.

I certainly felt I had pushed the boundaries that day - encouraged by Trevor in the Jantar 1 below - he later admitted that he was ridge soaring as the ground rose up to meet us!

Gavin Short

Cutting The Apron Strings–Gavin Short

Weather forecast. North Westerly. Glider serviceable. Cross Country Endorsement completed. Drive to the club in anticipation.

Oh! Wind stronger than forecast. Almost 20 knots. Gulp. Seems to be working. Streeting even. Start to rig. Sage advice from further down the trailer park. 'Head up into wind until you are clear of Dartmoor'. Sounds good to me. Now be quiet, I'm rigging. DI. Pos check. Take CNN up to the launch point. Check out the sky.People seem to be staying up.

Deep breath. Ask the Duty Instructor permission to go cross-country. Yes! CFI chips in. 'Take a couple of climbs until you feel comfortable'. Sounds good. Final check of my gear.

Get on line. Strap in. Checks. Nerves.

Launch. Slow launch. No top field. 820 feet only. No lift. 6 down everywhere. Abbreviated circuit. Turn finals over the launch hut. Land OK. 4 mins. No glory here.

Better launch to 1300 feet. Bong, Bong, Bong. Still 6 down everywhere. Land OK. 4 mins. Get dragged back to the launch point. Frustrated.

1445: Take another launch. Still nothing happening. Hold on. What's this at 720 feet? Hold your breath. Concentrate. Up we go. Climb and drift back towards Dartmoor. 2,700 feet. Press forward back to the site. Head over to the NE. Take another climb to 2,700 feet. I'd like 3,000 feet QFE but the wind here is 330, 19 Knots. I have to push forward into wind. Wow, losing height! 2,500 feet. Take a climb to 3,200 feet. Left hand circles this time.Must be settling down. Push forward. What did the soaring manual say about dolphining? Not sure if I am doing it right.

Water. Roadford Lake. 2,500 feet. Why can't I be higher? Stay high they say. What a joke! Gulp. I could be out of gliding range of the site shortly. Press on. 2,200 feet. Haven't turned since I left Brentor. Well I would if I could.

Look for lift the good book said. Jink to find the lift in the street. Jink right. Now down to 2,000 feet. Oh that was promising. Wheee! Heading straight into wind. 2,200 feet, we are going up whilst flying in a straight line. This is more like it. Now holding ground. Holsworthy on the nose. Take a climb at 2,000 feet to 2,500. Why do these thermals always stop? I could be clear of Dartmoor. Go Northeast. Jump the street.

Oooh. Sink. Lots of it. Faster. OK, lift now. Up into wind. Just like a yacht. Jump the street again. Down to 2,000. Climb to 2,600 and jump again. Halfway to Eaglescott. Probably made enough headway. Go East now. Let's go downwind. Downwind, not down I said. The fields are getting close.

Oh no! Start picking fields. 1400 feet. There's one. Maybe not. What about that one? 1350 feet QFE. The ground is lower than Brentor here so we are probably 1600 feet agl. Circuit time soon. Wait. Sniff, sniff. Turn carefully. Centre. Don't mess this up. Up we go. 2,500 feet. It's dying out. Head downwind. Hey I can do this. The training has paid off. Confidence boosted. Feeling good.

Downwind to Hatherleigh. At 1800 feet take a climb. Steady. Top out at 3,000. This is better. Try and follow the street. It's much more difficult going downwind in a street. What's that movement? Fine on the port bow. A Tornado. 4 miles out. Hard on the deck. 300 feet above ground maybe? The camouflage doesn't really work against the verdant green of the Okehampton fields. I am safe here. I scan quickly again and back on him. The noise. You don't need to see him coming. He goes past. Wow, the noise and then he fades. CNN is silent again.

A few miles north of Okehampton I call base. I talk to Ian Rolfe and let him know I am heading to North Hill and will probably be out if radio range soon. He wishes me luck. I am on my way. Navigation is easy. The railway stands out. Follow it. 2,000 feet. Bit of a climb. A better one. We're getting close to cloud base. Let's take this one all the way. Just over 4,100 QFE that could be Silver height. Hey that's 5,000 feet QNH. Never been this high before. Re-centre in the lift. Give it another go. Scrape the cloud base.

Lets jump the street again. Sink. Sink. Sink. Push. Push. Crediton West at 3,000 feet. Climb to 4,000 at Credition. This is OK. If I can just avoid the sink. I should be OK. Jump again. Have a pee. Nerves. Nobody tells you how difficult it is to pee in a glider. Keep crossing the street. Turn SE again, take a climb from 2,000 to 2,500. Jump again towards Tiverton just 2 miles away now.

Oh! We are low again. Where is all the lift? Here it is. It's a really slow climb. Making ground in the wind. Drifting to North Hill. We are OK. Steady. You were almost picking fields again back there. 2,300 feet it stops. That's no good I need some more lift. Do I? That's Cullompton there and the M5. The GPS say's it isn't far to go. Am I on final glide? I must be. I don't believe it.

Fly steadily. Try and dolphin where you can. I can see the ridge. We're going to make it. Enter the circuit at 900. Let's be cautious. RH circuit. There's the winch. Wind is OK. Make a radio call. Announce my presence. Nothing. Oh well. Trevor calls me up and congratulates me. He is some where over Bodmin.

Wow! Lift on the downwind leg. More lift. This is more than the ridge working. Hey, it's a stonking thermal. Oh well, let's give it a go. Up, up. Where is Dunkerswell? Think about the ATZ. The wind is drifting me away. No power in the circuit. I am out the top of the ATZ and beyond to 2,800 feet. What now? Let's head back.

Call Trevor. 'Do you really want to do that?' he says. 'Yes, of course'. Back at the motorway at 2,600. Press on. Look ahead. Where are all the signposts? The clouds are going.

The GPS says 28 Nm to my Okehampton waypoint. It's 1730. No. We are down to 1900 feet. Lets not land in a field halfway back. Turn around. Final glide. Call the circuit again. No reply again. Put her down. Roll to a halt. Step out. I've done it! Nobody about to witness it though. Phone Martin. He has just arrived at Brentor. 'Why aren't you coming back?' 'Look's too difficult'  I say.  'Wimp! On my way' says he. In the background the club members sound cock-a-hoop. Great. I risk a grin!

A car turns up. A towrope. I walk CNN to the trailer park. Find an OO. Signs my landing certificate. Get towed to the clubhouse. Get a cup of tea. A few congratulations. A female instructor who used to fly a Brentor congratulates me. The day is ending. We have another cup of tea in a caravan and wait for Martin. Derig. Go home.

Retrieved after my 50 Km. Done it. Amazing!

Gavin Short