Spending a day up on the Downs, in what was the hottest day of the year, was fantastic… if slightly exhausting..
The tug during my launch was slightly down on power, I had a slight tailwind meaning I was in the trolly for a lot longer than I am used to, when I released then had to pull in low descending to almost ground level before normal service resumed. After this I had a nice smooth tow however but am mindful that I was lucky not to be hit by any bad air while I was slow and vulnerable.
Once delivered to 2000ft I noticed a sailplane cruze past and went for his cloud, it worked a little but not convincingly which is when I saw Dave Matthews in what looked like a better climb downwind from me. I took off to find him, he had had exactly the same thought. Looking back I should have spent much more time establishing myself in the flight before darting this was and that looking for something better.
Not knowing that I then made the assumption that he was off somewhere interesting so I followed him. While doing so I spread out so we were flying different air and judged my glider against his which was interesting. I also picked out a target cloud upwind from the aerotow field towards Kingston. Again looking back following another pilot whoever they are is not about the air and that disconnection is a massive risk likely to put you on the ground. My attention was up in the clouds and with Dave so I missed, or chose to ignore, that I flew out of range of the landing field.
Dave at this point turned back, I made a choice not to follow as I was committed to my cloud so I kept on to test my choice.
It gave me only zeros, which was great but not great enough to distract me from my predicament, very few of the fields below me were nice to land on the one I liked the best was downwind and behind some HT power lines, this distraction and the very slow drift I had in the zeros was not a great situation, I was worried when I should have beed concentrating on the lift I had. I am happy I landed safe but at the same time upset that I was unable to focus 100% on the lift I was in however indistinct.
In the end I was not happy enough to decide to commit to the field and overfly the powerlines when I had plenty of height making a safe upslope landing without a crop and with plenty of space. I was personally disappointed however in not having the mental calmness to stick with the zeros when I had them even if it had taken an hour to drift back a few minutes was pathetic really.
Slightly hard work to carry out however especially in that heat, but I was happy with having tried and with sticking with my choices rather than play follow my leader and learn nothing.
However those who flew only an hour later than me found amazing air… I think the worst choice had been to launch early in fear of the sea air…
While we all laughed in the pub later though I felt happy as it was a full day and a good one – aerotowing is brilliant for that and I love it.